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243 Norwegian (NCL) South America Cruise Reviews

This was our first Norwegian cruise; but we are experienced cruisers having enjoyed Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean in the past.  I learned that FREESTYLE Cruising means, free of taste in the dining rooms, free of all your money in ... Read More
This was our first Norwegian cruise; but we are experienced cruisers having enjoyed Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean in the past.  I learned that FREESTYLE Cruising means, free of taste in the dining rooms, free of all your money in the bars, and free of memorable experiences when you get home.  They are bunglers in every department.  The embarkation was painful and very disorganized in Valparaiso.  They just tell you what to do but don't tell you why.  The ship is adequate and pretty clean.  Our cabin with a balcony was small but organized.  However, they haven't upgraded the TV's in 10 years and they only get a few stations which was hard when there were days and days at sea.  The ship charges you $12 per person per day for gratuities, so nobody on the ship had to work very hard because their tips were assured.  It is pretty disheartening.  I never saw such a bunch of sad-sacks, unhappy servers, cross faces and bad attitudes.  They were just not memorable crew members.  The nicest person I enountered was a brand new manicurist in the spa who actually spoke to me and I actually tipped her.  The crew in charge of the desks, the computers, etc. were extremely rude most of the time, arrogrant and just not friendly or willing to serve.  The computers are a big JOKE.  OLD, no memory, very poor connection speed, gummed up keyboards, and highway robbery rates- $1.00 a minute while you waited for them to connect.  It was sad.  Nobody used the casino because the machines were rigged.. I mean the casino was EMPTY most of the time, even at night.  There were a couple of awesome ports on this trip- but the ship bused us to one town 20 minutes away and charged us $10 each and there was nothing to do there on a Sunday nor any excursions.  In the evenings the ship did have good entertainment, I thought.  We really hated the food in general and besides a lack of portion size, it was just odd and nothing memorable.  The buffet was poorly structured and you couldn't walk around it at prime times and if you did manage to get a plate of food.. you couldn't find a table.  They've really got some problems in that area.  We just ended up with room service as you could get served.   I am definitely not going to go on any more cruises with Norwegian as Princess and Royal do a better job.  This ship could use some upgrades.  Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
For our first ever cruise, Norwegian Sun seemed like a good choice. We liked the Freestyle concept and of course the itinerary was exactly what we wanted. Fortunately we where travelling with some seasoned cruisers and the tips they gave ... Read More
For our first ever cruise, Norwegian Sun seemed like a good choice. We liked the Freestyle concept and of course the itinerary was exactly what we wanted. Fortunately we where travelling with some seasoned cruisers and the tips they gave us not only saved us a lot of money. It also helped get the most from the experience. Embarkation: We arrived a bit earlier than advised in our documents. This ended up being a good thing as we where near the head of the queue and on the ship quickly I think we where on one of the first transfer buses from customs.. The customs process for us was smooth and the check-in efficient. We where on the ship having a look around and drinking beers on the back deck in less than an hour. Seeing the Garden Cafe Buffet in it's pristine form for that first lunch was nice and never to be seen that way again. Exploring the ship was fun and seeing how it gradually filled up during the afternoon was kind of interesting. Our cabin was ready just after 1pm which we where quite excited to see. We splurged on a balcony cabin. Given the nature of the cruise I am glad we did. Thanks to previous Cruise Critic reviews we had a starboard cabin which was perfect for the glacier watching. The Cabin: The size and comfort of the cabin was amazing for first timers like us. It was so clean and the bathroom was spotless. The pressure from the shower was fantastic and the soap products provided where very nice. Our cabin stewards, Wayan and Clarke where very pleasant and always up for a chat, though unlike what I had read about constant attention, we only had the room serviced once a day and a turn down service if we wanted. I did hear that due to the downturn fewer stewards now had more cabins to service. We pre-paid our gratuities but still left a cash tip for the guys. The Ship: The whole ship was clean, the restaurants inviting and staff friendly. If I thought really hard I may be able to find things to pick at, but I don't want to think that hard. It was so nice as a whole. Food: Wow so much and the quality was so good. Up front I will say that I thought the surcharges of the specialty restaurants were over the top. Especially the Teppanyaki at US$25 each, we pay that for a good one in Sydney. The French Restaurant (Le Bistro US$15) was our favorite and we celebrated 2 birthdays there. IL Adagio (Italian US$10) next, had 2 meals there. East Meets West at US$20 each was nice but a bit steep. Plus they all had special items on the menu that also incurred and addition charge of US$10-20. We only dined in the Garden Cafe (or mess hall we called it) twice. Getting a table was just too hard and when the meals in the 7 Seas restaurant where so good and brought to you, why fight at a buffet. Breakfast in 7 Seas was unhurried with so many choices of egg dish you could have something different everyday. We used room service for breakfast on two shore days. It was cold but being delivered to the cabin at 6:15 am (with a warning call) made it easier to get going for the day. One night after a show and some dancing, we ordered a pizza. It showed up 45 minutes later stone cold. The Great Outdoor Cafe was good for burgers if lunch was missed. Pacific heights also had good Pizza and Pasta at lunchtime. On the last day of the cruise (which was sunny at last) they had a barbeque on the back deck which some notice or announcements about would have been nice. We found it during the dying stages and just got some nice steaks before they packed up In regard to the Garden Cafe table availability. We noticed many people seemed to set up camp there for the day. I guess if I had an inside cabin it would be a nice place to sit, so was the observation lounge which was usually near empty. During primary meal times, they should try and prioritize tables in the Garden Cafe for people actually eating. The food in all the restaurants was amazingly fresh given how long it had to be stored for. Sadly the wine list was so expensive we did not enjoy as much wine with the meals as we would have liked. As an example, Annies Lane AUD$12.99 was US$36 on the ship and one of the lower priced wines. It worked out better to but good wine on shore and pay the US$15 corkage, rather than the hyper inflated wine prices on the ship. Bars: Other than the first and last days it was too cold and windy to really enjoy the outdoor bars. But the sports bar and the Observation lounge gave great views and brilliant service. The staff got to know us and always made our group feel special. The enthusiasm to get us drinks did get tedious sometimes, especially where the staff did not know us. It was like a constant mission to sell and get the subsequent tip. While talking about tips, or gratuity, we supposedly prepaid, but when it comes to the "Autogratuity" for drinks, it seems that does not come under the all gratuities umbrella. All gratuities is only the cabin, not the bar which seems an odd definition of all and I am still working on that. But from what I can see the 15% "Autogratuity" is actually a drinks surcharge which you pay no matter how good or bad the service is (we had no bad service). Americans may be used to this sort of rip off, but it certainly rubbed us the wrong way. Entertainment: The shows in the Theatre that we saw where very good, though the design of the theatre leaves a bit to be desired. The supporting pylons downstairs wipe out the few for large chunks of seating. Bands where good, on the last night we found the Sun band in the Observation lounge played from 7:30 till 9:00 what a waste having them up there all alone during dinner time. There seemed to be a huge focus on trying to get people to play Bingo. We went once, but after seeing the pathetic prizes offered for a winning ticket (US$80 to US$120) we gave it a miss from then on. I am a non smoker and nearly died when I went into the casino. So that was out for me. I had to cover my mouth and get through fast every time we went through there. We did wine tastings, which where fun and at $15 let us sample a bunch of wines that we may not otherwise have tried. Not the expensive ones either. Shore Excursions: The shore excursion prices with NCL seemed a bit steep for us. So we took our chances on our own all but twice and where very happy with the results and the savings. Walking out of the port areas there where always taxis happy to negotiate a tour and a competitive rate and most of the followed the equivalent NCL tour. In Puerto Chacabuco we took an NCL tour (we had some doubt about the availability of port transport) that was very good though at US$100 each was an expensive one. The quality of the guide, Michelle and the lunch they gave us softened the sting of the high price. When we got back, some intrepid soles told us how the got a local bus to the same places we went for US$7 odd, just no guide and no lunch. In Puerto Montt we joined Jeremy and a bunch of other CC people for a brilliant tour of Puerto Veras guided by Jamie from PatagoniaShorex http://www.patagoniashorex.com/. Jeremy lined this up before the cruise and we where lucky enough to get some seats at the CC meet and greet at the start of the cruise. Toured the lakes district and had lunch at a small local restaurant. Thanks for organizing this Jeremy. Itinerary: It seems we where blessed with the weather. Only 1 rainy day at Puerto Montt, slight to moderate seas and comfortable temperatures. Even Cape Horn though windy was relatively calm it seems. We visited every port, including Stanley on the Falkland Islands (If the fish and chips at the Globe Tavern are the best on the Islands then either they are the only ones who do fish and chips, or the rest are really bad). The Museum and National trust houses are worth the walk too. I won't bang on too much about the other ports. They all had great things to see and do. More time in Ushuaia would have been better value than the long day spent in Punta Arenas (to cater for the outrageously expensive Arctic Flight???). Photos: For our first cruise, we had to buy the embarkation photo. But after that at US$20 a pop or US$25 for the digital file I could not justify anymore. Going by the thousands still on the wall on the last day, not many others could either. What a waste.. Surely sensibly priced prints, files or cruise packages would see people happy to buy the photos. Not waste the resources as is done currently and make NCL more money than they would have to be making now?? Disembarkation: There was no express option at Valparaiso so we chilled out and waited for our color to be called. It all worked well. You can read about our pre and post cruise hotels at Trip Advisor I do want to mention Hector from Hector Travel Service http://www.infohub.com/travel_company/17748.html. We found him after we had arranged transfers but after doing a couple of tours with him and his associates, I wish we had arranged the whole Valparaiso / Santiago end with him. It would have been more time and cost effective to look around and stay in Valpo for a night then move to Santiago for a look around. Hector could have arranged that for us. Hope this helps you future cruisers. Overall happy with the Sun. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
South America - Thank You NCL!! My wife and I, a Canadian couple in our mid 50's, took the two week South American cruise on the NCL Sun leaving Buenos Aires March 29th. WOW! It was our third NCL cruise in two years and second on ... Read More
South America - Thank You NCL!! My wife and I, a Canadian couple in our mid 50's, took the two week South American cruise on the NCL Sun leaving Buenos Aires March 29th. WOW! It was our third NCL cruise in two years and second on the Sun (same cabin, in fact). We spent 3 nights at the Buenos Aires Wilton Hotel ($75US/night including a light breakfast) located near Recoleta (corner of Callao and Santa Fe), a modest hotel with a fantastic location. On Sunday afternoon, after a short cab ride and long line-up, we boarded the ship. Previous reviews have noted (some extensively) issues relating to inconsistent service, food and long cafeteria line-ups. So, yes, not everything will be perfect. However, our overall impression was very favorable. NCL got us to some GREAT ports of call, managed to get to every stop (including the Falklands where the Captain waited out some bad weather to allow us the visit) and offered room and board for a pretty reasonable price. The scenery itself (volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls - gee NCL even showed us a rainbow while going round the Horn) was breathtaking enough to overshadow complaints about slow service or iffy meals. When an issue did come up with us, most were resolved by one of the ship's 3 Stars (sorry but we're Canadian and used to picking 3 stars after each hockey game), Rebecca Burns (Assistant Maitre'd), Yaharaira Fernandez (Group Services Manager) and Errol Bailey (Food and Beverage Manager) who took a sincere interest in providing effective customer service. These folks were top notch! Let's start. EMBARKATION - the one area that could be easily improved upon is to park the buses 5 or 10 feet further away from the buildings. People and their LUGGAGE are getting out of buses and taxis to get into a line-up for leaving the luggage. If there is a line-up and someone gets out on the wrong side of the busses, it means anxious people with luggage are trying to get by (in the opposite direction) people with luggage in the line. With the busses parked close to the building, it made that aspect more of a struggle than necessary. Otherwise, we arrived at the port around 12:30 and by 2:00 were changed, sitting by the pool and server Wendell had provided a cold bucket of beer. Life was good! Note: one of the reasons this cruise was soooo good was we had an active Roll Call Cruise Critics group. In the weeks leading up to the cruise, no less than 6 private excursions were organized and individuals had made arrangements to share cabs in several other ports. We arranged to meet our first CC passengers on the plane to Buenos Aires, met others on BA tours (pre-arranged) so by the Meet + Greet, already knew a dozen from the group we would be spending quite a bit of time with. Much better than showing up cold. Montevideo: we had pre-arranged to get a city tour with another CC couple. Our driver, Ricardo Wall ( wall.ric1@hotmail.com ) was waiting when we got off the ship (7:45) and went well beyond the agreed 5 ½ hours (at no extra charge). He drove us around the city, to the naval museum (remember the Graf Spee was scuttled in the waters off Uruguay), to a winery outside the city, numerous neighborhoods and then walked us through shopping areas and a local market. He stayed with us until almost 2:00. The cost was $37.50US pp (and well worth it). He made sure we were in a safe area several blocks from the ship and ensured we knew the way back (as we all wanted to take another stroll through the shopping area). Puerto Madryn: we had organized a day long van tour for 12 to Peninsula Valdes with Nievemar Tours ( www.nievemartours.com.ar ). They provided the van (which met us at the gangway), a driver and an English speaking guide (Roger) for the day tour at a cost of $45US pp. We paid the admission fee to the Peninsula ($45 Argentinean pesos - roughly $12US) ourselves. The tour was GREAT!! The office person, Andrea, was very good to deal with, the guide knew his stuff and the driver seemed to know exactly where the wildlife was. The tour was fantastic. The only drawback was the owner's policy of demanding 100%, non-refundable payment up front. He also expected (unreasonably, in my view) me to send copies of my credit card (both sides) and passport by non-secure e-mail. We ended up using Western Union (which added a $3pp cost). We got lucky - paid upfront and everything worked. Still, we didn't like the owner's approach. TIP: if you are taking a private group tour, it is easier to meet on the ship so you leave as a group. Falkland Islands: Thank you Captain Myra!! We had rough seas and high winds on the way to Port Stanley. Most of the passengers didn't expect to be able to get off the ship. However, the Captain, rather than abort, waited in the ocean for the weather to improve and, despite arriving an hour late, we set foot on the Falklands around 10:30. It was a dark, cloudy day with showers. We had nothing pre-arranged so we ended up sharing a cab (the driver was a native Falklander) with another couple for a two hour tour - cost $20US pp. Because of the short time and weather (which restricted visibility), we were only 10 or so miles outside of Port Stanley but it was interesting to see what sites we could. Then back to Port Stanley (light rain by then) for some souvenir shopping. We were pleased we got there and pleasantly surprised to find any type of tour. The Horn: Okay, this isn't a stop but has to be one of the reasons people take this cruise. Boy, were we lucky. Smooth seas, clouds giving way to sun, breezy but not a gale and (YES, we're telling the truth) a rainbow that seemed to end just off the aft of the ship. It was INCREDIBLE!!! Almost unbelievable, particularly as it was the last NCL South American cruise of this season. Ushuaia: This is a very short stop - 7:00 to 2:00 (meaning back on ship by 1:30). We had originally signed up for the $79 NCL tour to visit Tierra del Fuego park. However, because the tour didn't get underway until after 8:00, leaving no time to explore the city, we cancelled and made arrangements with a number of the CC folks to leave as soon as the ship cleared, visit the park and still have time to explore Ushuaia. So, in the dark, just after 7:00, fourteen of us were the first off the ship and by 7:30, were in a convoy of cabs ($30US pp) headed for a three hour tour. In fact, we were at Tierra del Fuego so early that we got in before they began charging admission. We were back in time to tour the Maritime Museum (which houses the prison) and have an hour to shop. Glacier Cruising: The reason for the early departure is to allow early time to see several glaciers while daylight. AMAZING!! Punta Arenas: we had pre-arranged a day long tour in Punta Arenas with Francesca Baldecchi (who also was our tour guide) of Patagonia-Trips (shoreexcursionspuq@gmail.com) for $45US pp. In the morning, we visited Fort Bulnes (the first Chilean settlement in southern Chile) along with some surrounding areas. Lunch was on our own and the afternoon was a tour of the city including the cemetery (which showed mausoleums of the various ethnic groups settled there). We also had time to visit a public market. Francesca was FANTASTIC. Tip: if you are doing a private group tour in a tendered port, see if the Group Services Managers will get you tender tickets so everyone can meet on ship and leave on the same tender. Puerto Chacabuco: this is a tendered port and a short stop. We took the $99 5 ½ hour NCL tour to Simpson Valley and Coyhaique. The scenery was great, the city was interesting and the snack (including pisco sours and wine) was tasty. Some CC roll call folks found 3 hour tours for $30 pp so there definitely were private options. Regardless, NCL did a fine job with this one. Puerto Montt: every stop was different. A large CC group took GV Tours ( www.gvtours.com ) at $75US pp. Well, put together 4 volcanoes, a lake, waterfall AND the nicest day of the season and you have an incredible time. In addition, they offered to take those who wanted to stay on instead of the port, an extra hour to visit the fish and craft market. We got off at the port, found an internet place ($1/hr) then shopped the stores near the port. Entertainment: we didn't see all the shows. A few were good (thin German juggler, Jean Ann Ryan productions), some were huge stinkers (the Italian magician) and some we left. Most of the time, many of the seats were empty, there were very few people standing to applaud at the end and, with a few exceptions, the applause was barely polite. NCL needs to improve this aspect - otherwise passenger spontaneous talent nights would outstrip most of the ship's entertainment offerings. Where's Chuck Barris when you need him?? Lectures: maybe the presenters know the contents but they sure were dry. I've heard eulogies delivered with more enthusiasm. Please NCL, if the presenters can't present, give someone else the free cruise! Food + Service: I'll be brief. When it was good, it was very good. Servers like Candito and Madelina set the bar high. Most times, the meal and service was fine. The few times it was bad, it made McDonald's look like a specialty restaurant (incidentally, Le Bistro was fantastic). Fortunately, there were more good times than bad. And I was very pleased with how Rebecca and Errol (remember the 3 stars) followed up each time. Tip: learn the different breakfast and lunch places so you can avoid the crowds in the Garden Cafe. For example, at lunch, Los Ramblas was a quiet - and not crowded - soup and sandwich spot. Disembarkation: very smooth unless you're trying to smuggle fruit. We (a group of 12) had arranged with Christian (christianroymx@hotmail.com) AKA the VAN MAN to pick us up, give us an area tour and take us to Santiago for a short tour and then either the airport or Hotel Orly. Cost $60US pp. The next day, he picked up those of us staying at the Orly, gave us a fantastic city tour and then took us to the airport. $40US pp. He didn't drop us in the parking lot - he walked us to the gate. So, bottom line, while there were some service issues, this was the cruise of our lives. NCL took us to the end of the world to amazing places we had only dreamed of. Had NCL not made the cruise affordable, we would not have been to Argentina, the Falklands, Chile and, above all, around the Horn. Thank you, NCL!! We purchased the NCL Cruise Rewards Certificate and can't wait to find another adventure. David and Cheryl Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
ALBATROSS Reaches for the SUN Rambling notes recall the high and a (very) few low lights on a happy ship that sailed March 1/09 from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. Inclement weather is often a factor on this Cape Horn run but the Norwegian ... Read More
ALBATROSS Reaches for the SUN Rambling notes recall the high and a (very) few low lights on a happy ship that sailed March 1/09 from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. Inclement weather is often a factor on this Cape Horn run but the Norwegian Sun must have had contacts with the other sun as we had but one day of serious rain. The Sun was great, and so was the weather. The ports and en route sights, remarkable. What's left to say? I'll try to be brief and note please, that my observations are naturally subjective. B.A. Arrived four days early and the city needs that as the sights and size are seemingly endless. Stayed at the Hilton in the new "old port." Excellent value. Victor and Charles at the concierge desk were uber helpful. Take the ninth floor facing the city for skyline views. Being a photographer I'll dwell on angles. Break up a hot day with a dip in the rooftop pool. The hotel to Plaza Mayo (center) is a 10 minute stroll. We did the bus tour day one and Victor arranged a reasonably priced private car to take us back to our preferred areas on day two though taxis (radio cab) are very cheap. Saturday the locals go to the the Delta (train) and take tours on the canals in lovely old wood planked tour boats. Pictures at every turn. I recommend a compact camera with both HD video and 10x zoom such as the Panasonic Lumix. I also used more professional gear but in B.A. Valparaiso and Santiago the risk of theft is high, especially for women. Spoke to a tourist who was in a "safe" area of Valparaiso when robbed. She fell to the ground and her husband coming to her aid tripped on a cobblestone and cracked his shoulder blade. Avoid jewelry, carry only funds needed, a credit card and a copy of your passport. At start and ending ports you have to take a transit by bus but things flowed smoothly. Our first port, Montevideo, just across the wide LaPlatte Riverwas (for us) a small version of Buenos Aires with the addition of a stretch of parkland lining a sandy beach on a bay. For touring in general there are three routes. NCI excursions at a premium but usually fail safe. Mini bus/van tours you book on the web or sign up for as you exit the ship at generally half or less the ship price or gambling on finding a cabbie with a grasp of english. We'd find a compatible couple to share the cost 4 ways and always found a reasonably bilingual cabbie. The benefit was you could stop where and when you wanted and if the weather was inclement scuttle the trip without cost. Carnivores should try the indoor resto market near the dock for cold beer and mounds of colorful atmosphere. Then came a sea day and time to explore the Sun and her offerings. The first came on the balcony of our cabin 9265 in the form of a sociable albatross who happily rested in one of our deck chairs. Julio (as we called him) didn't want to leave even when we raised his chair to rail level. Eventually the environmental officer took him to the bow of the ship where he flew off that night. To his knowledge this was the first time the Sun played host to an albatross. The cabin was well arranged and my wife who packs what we need then doubles that, found a home for everything. The mattress was a tad on the firm side and the "huggable" pillows were anything but. Our room stewards, au contraire, were very huggable. We tried the buffet breakfast and discovered what others have mentioned. It's a feeding frenzy, morning, noon and night. Gratuitous gluttony unleashed, albeit tasty if you can find a seat. We normally opted for the traditional dining rooms where the wait staff created a more leisurely experience. Go for the fresh pressed OJ, the free alternative contains water and some questionable coloring. Puerto Madryn in Patagonia seasonally offers penguins and/or whales. Wales on the other hand is an all season event if you go to Gaiman settled by the Welsh in the 19th century with many traditions and tea houses intact. We visited the Punta Tombo rookery with more magellan penguins then you can toss a kipper at. It's a 2.5 hour trek each way over vegetation challenged scrub land that rises and falls in plains. For the sake of comfort make it a bus not a mini-van which you are often shoe-horned into. Another relaxing sea day followed. Compared to other ships, we noted the casino was, hey, a casino The shops were, well, shops. The spa (such indulgence) comes with a caveat. Prices are steep and the 25% discount card in our cabin for the first visit , extended to only one person. I got the discount and my wife who had double the treatments and costs got the full tab. Plus they'll gently (be fore- warned) recommend post spa essentials. Having been delivered of a deep body massage by arguably the worlds most stunningly beautiful masseuse how could I say no to a potpourri care package of eco friendly lotions and sprays guaranteed to remove all the wrinkles and bulges in my wallet. Welcome to Port Stanley and the Falkland Islands. WARNING. If there is one expensive ship tour to take. Take note. It's here. Don't worry about the limp state of your post masseuse wallet. This tour you'll have booked BEFORE you've left home. It's the King Penguin tour and sells out fast. How expensive? It'll cost more than that 10x compact leica lens camera I recommended and be worth every King of it. Beside the Kings, the magellans and gentoos are mere foot notes. But when walking they all have notable feet. Think Charlie Chaplin exiting the scene. Stanley also abounds in ancient ship wrecks, fish n chip shops, battle sites from the 1982 war for the Falklands with Argentina and pints of ye olde england at the pubs. Pick up a copy of the local paper, the Penguin News. The deal at Stanley is that the cruise lines have corralled the limited guides and 4x4's available. So damn the cost here. See the kings and leave feeling like a king. A tip. One gig cards are inexpensive and there are so many photo highlights on this trip that this way you can switch cards mid stream and not be at a loss if one card is lost or damaged. Another sea day meant more exploration of the Sun. If they mention a jazz brunch in the Bistro (sur charge ) go early , grab a window seat near the trio, and order a kir royale. The music, the sea, the spirits; pure ambrosia. There is a somewhat repetitive daily newsletter. Keep the eyes peeled for the small mention of the chocoholic buffet. I didn't and both my stomach and camera missed out. For the mind, the library and game room was popular. For the body the fitness center garnered its due and you could top that off with three circuits to a mile on the walking/ jogging deck that circled the Sun. Alas, most of my walking was confined to the ice cream stand on Deck 11. Sunset brought us to Cape Horn. There are two reasons to having a starboard balcony on this east to west trip; the Cape and the glaciers of Beagle Channel. Why? Open deck winds or if sheltered by glass, reflections. Cameras like neither. Looking north to the cape in these truculent waters the strength of the mind is unleashed. There is an overpowering sense of place that grips the imagination. In this mariners graveyard the pacific meets the atlantic and you are the fulcrum. To the left lies Vancouver to the right New York.You are at the bottom. All is up. Converging winds and currents slap the waves into a stuttering two-step that seems to keep rhythm with the booming loud speakers narrating info from the bridge..."the Cape was first founded...." Moisture laden air cloaked the cape in translucent veils as the setting sun threw shafts of fading light at it. I recalled the lines in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, At length did cross an albatross, Thorough the fog it came; As if it had been a christian soul, We hailed it in God's name. Where in God's domain was Julio I wondered. The Sun then circled the Cape to the north and we passed into the night. Ushuaia bills itself as the end of the world.Regardless , our cabbie, Daniel Saladino, made it feel like the beginning. The weather continued its blessing and there was no need for the "layered clothing," all the guides recommended. Here's the routine. Exit a pier and spot the gaggle of cab and van drivers. "Hola, who speaks english?" "Daniel, Senor, I do." Then get a rate for X hours leaving time for a stroll later. On average it was $120-140 for 6-8 hours. Add a tip and you've an avg of $40 pp. We always asked for more than the standard drive-by tour which is how we came to visit the wreck of the tall ship Lord Lonsdale in Puerto Arenas after we scrubbed the Ottway Rookery tour having been told there were only 40 odd penguins still there. Daniel took us to Tierra del Fuego National Park where we photographed the departure of the tourist steam train on its four mile run. An option is to take the train and have your cabbie pick you up at the end. Later we went to a vantage point high above Ushuaia to photograph the town and the Beagle Channel below. Reading material. Pick up a paperback of Charles Darwins, Voyage of the Beagle 1831-36, which was the genesis of his theory On the Origin of the Species. From Buenos Aires to Valparaiso his fascinating insights will be your guide. On the Sun, purchase Logbook-Val to B.A. $25, at the info desk. Due to its size the Sun doesn't take all the inland channels shown but for the two coast days at sea it does a fair amount of inter-coastal travel. Farewell Ushuaia, hello euphoria. Hour after hour we ghosted past glaciers. While the bridge rattled off statistics. Keep track on page 99 of the Logbook. The binoculars and camera will earn their keep. Tip. At 10x hold the camera ultra steady. How to end a fab day? Reservations at Le Bistro. On the Sun open seating in the Four Seasons and the Seven Seas is complemented by five cover charge locales. Never disappointed by service, quality or choice in the mainstream spots we decided to splurge on the latter as a sop to the good folks at NCL who were mostly denied our business on the excursions. The verdict. Kudos for the Bistro and East meets West (favorite of the ships officers) and the Ginza Sushi Bar. Acceptable for Il Adagio and the verdicts out on the Teppanyaki as by this time we had frankly reached the limits on what the stomach finds place for. We made a feeble stab at the seared scallops after duly blessing them with a jpeg exposure on our compact. Puerto Arenas. Welcome to Chile. Another cab. Another city stroll. We liked it and I think the affection was returned. The town felt clean and prosperous and the populace disarming. After a tour of the central square and craft hawkers we strolled east on Calle Bories to the Chocolaterie (north side) for sweets, espresso and cafe con leche. While my wife purchased jewelry at Joyeria Rachel (787 Bories) I waited outside and had to smile as dogs chased cars and boys ogled uniformed school girls parading to and fro. P Arenas reminded me of the Sun; a happy place. Do visit the local cemetery. With the landscaping and mix of monumental and homespun in grave markers it makes La Recoleta in Buenos Aires seem second rate. Another two sea days and more nooks to explore on board and fjords to photograph off our bow. For quiet moments with a view, a book and a drink we chose either the Champagne bar or the Observation Lounge. The combo Windjammer/Havana Bar offered atmosphere and light jazz interludes at night but could be offset by the endless wall of the official photo gallery portraits of passengers posed with or without some dummy dressed dockside in a tired penguin outfit. Irksome also was the use of part of the atrium deck as a portable portrait studio. With backdrop, studio lights and tape on the deck it made a visual eyesore and I never did see anyone being photographed. The open atrium only extended a few decks. The Dazzles Disco had a proto- industrial feel. The main theatre decor was minimalist. Heck, nothing is perfect and these are mere personal observations. For a treat go to Los Ramblas and try the spicy wings washed down with an Alaskan Amber beer. Puerto Chacabuco was an unexpected delight. Here our Hola routine produced Patricio, " a very happy man," who with his spiffy car supports a wife and family by driving contented tourists through a most sublime landscape. With our German friends Tinus and Alexandra, we marvelled at the lushness of this paradise, such a stark contrast to the Patagonian plains. The winding road led past mountains, waterfalls and farms bringing us to Coihaique nestled on a high plain and seemingly what appeared to be the last of the carefree Chilean towns for us. Patricio had a boombox in his trunk and I'll always remember the incongruity of the passing scene while we all sang to the Platters version of My Dream in exaggerated falsettos. Back at the port we had Patricio drive us along the shore to the wreck of the old passenger ship, Vina del Mar. Thanks Patricio. Pato_rubio66@hotmail.com. Morning heavy rain slapped us back down to earth. Puerto Montt failed our high expectations. The people were more brusque, the infrastructure more haggard and the few sights seen through the rain less than memorable. This was one of our few on-line arranged tours and due to overbooking we ended up in a mini-van with a guide who must have been called in from the bull pen. It's not that he didn't try. He simply threw more balls than strikes. Frutillar and Puerto Varas looked and felt as German as a pennsylvania pretzel. Later we met a couple who hired a cab and drove along the shores of Lake Llanquihue and stopped at inns and homes meeting actual descendants of the 19th century German immigrants and were invited in. Ergo, go smart, go four in a cab. Our last day at sea was one of warming weather and more people took advantage of the heated pools while we realized after two weeks the Sun was still hiding unexplored corners. We watched an art sale disguised as an "auction." They can be informative and entertaining but our philosophy remains, one mans art is another mans name. The Sun serves up music, entertainment, activities and diversions galore. Happy Ship. Happy staff. Valparaiso is a living cultural museum, that needed more than the two days we had. Granted UNESCO heritage status , we were privileged to see some hidden secrets thanks to an extraordinary guide called Michael the German Pirate. Michael comes equipped with patience, insights and pepper spray. If your interests lie in scratching beneath the surface of a city, he is the man and Valparaiso now is the place. But that is another story. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Reservations: I booked myself & 3 other couples which made us a small group of 8. I escorted the group and was responsible for most aspects of the cruise. I was shocked & dismayed when I booked two cabins as a guarantee category G ... Read More
Reservations: I booked myself & 3 other couples which made us a small group of 8. I escorted the group and was responsible for most aspects of the cruise. I was shocked & dismayed when I booked two cabins as a guarantee category G with the expectation that we would be likely to be upgraded since there was widespread availability on the ship when I did so. I booked a 3rd cabin for one of my group 3 days later and found out that the two guarantee reservations had already been assigned even though the ship was sailing in about 50 days, and there was still widespread availabilty in most categories. I had been assigned cabin 4001, the most far forward in category on the lowest deck which I consider to be the worst outside cabin on the ship. Through persistence on my part, I had a supervisor change the two guarantee category G cabins to EE cabins on deck 6. I had numerous conversations with the sales rep about this seemingly fraudulent guarantee policy which assigned cabins almost immediately instead of assigning cabins much closer to the sailing date which has been my experience on every other cruise line I have sailed with. She told me that their policy was to assign guarantee cabins at their discretion and could assign them at any time after booking. She even sent me the rules for booking guarantee categories. She said that NCL only guaranteed that we would have cabins assigned at our guarantee level, and there was no guarantee of an upgrade. I realize that, but to be assigned the worst cabin (in my opinion)in a category within days of a booking, is not a real guarantee since there is no real expectation of an upgrade. The sales rep told me after she checked with NCL corporate in Miami that nothing could be done for me even up to the day prior to the cruise. Prior to the cruise: Arrival in Santiago one day prior to the cruise: We stayed at the Radisson Empresarial for the night which we booked ourselves for $94 per room. It was comfortable, and the service was good. I arranged for a private tour for my group with Cristobal Yanez of Chile About (www.chileabout.com) (info@chileabout.com). The afternoon tour of Santiago was good one with Willy as our guide. The cost per person was $35. Next day, Chileabout provided transfers for us from Santiago to Valparaiso. Willy was the guide again. The cost of transfer for us and our luggage as well as a tour of Valparaiso & Vina del Mar was $56 per person. We arrived at the ship at 1:45 in time to check in and enjoy lunch aboard at the Garden Cafe. The embarkation process went fairly smoothly. We were able to board the ship within about 45 minutes & enter our cabin. Ship personnel were helpful and organized throughout the process. Cruising exeriences: Day 1 At sea: A glorious day to leave Valparaiso weatherwise. It was a beautiful city as we sailed away. Each evening my group of 8 ate together in the Seven Seas dining room. MEALS: Dinner at the Seven Seas was uniformly well prepared and very tasty throughout our cruise. However, the service was spotty and inconsistent. We had some excellent servers and some who seemed to be not well motivated to provide high quality service. For example, some nights we were quite rushed to complete dinner prior to the 9:30 show even though we were seated by 7:45 each day. On at least 4 nights, there was no offer of a beverage (coffee or tea) after the entree was served. For breakfast, I was surprised that a bar waiter came around offering fresh squeezed orange juice for $2.50 extra. I would think that would be complimentary if requested by the guests. Guests in my group found the pancakes very small. One day for breakfast it took me 40 minutes to get a glass of pineapple juice, an English muffin, and a cup of herbal tea despite the fact that the other 5 people at the table were served their orange juice, fruit plates, bagels, cereal, and eggs before I was served any of the 3 modest items I had ordered. I had to ask the waiter several times when no food or beverage appeared. I finally asked the maitre-d what the problem was with the service. After that the waiter was more solicitous and hurried to make up for his lack of service. Excellent servers at other meals were Reynaldo & Ika We ate breakfasts & lunches in the Seven Seas or the Garden Cafe primarily. The Garden Cafe provided a substantial amount of choice, and the food was prepared & presented well despite the fact that the Garden Cafe was a very busy place on many occasions. Tables were cleaned fairly promptly to allow other dinners to find tables without too much difficulty. Day 2: At sea: We played trivia every day as a group and enjoyed the experience, though some of the answers the ship provided were wrong. The staff was friendly & enhanced our enjoyment of the process every day. Ynochka & Pedro were good hosts. Bingo was also fun with the exception of the computerized games which took a great deal of the fun away from the traditional bingo where guests manually played their cards instead of passively watching the computerized screen. A highlight for me and several of my companions were the lectures - especially the photography expert, Ernie Pick. It was something we looked forward to every sea day. He was knowledgeable & entertaining. The historians aboard also presented informative lectures, which several of us enjoyed during our cruise. Day 3: Puerto Montt I arranged a private tour with GV Tours for 10 people. (info@gvtours.com) (gvstein@surnet.cl). The cost was $75 per person to be paid in cash. The tour with Michael was wonderful as we saw Fruitillar, Lago Llanquihue, Osorno Volcano, Puerto Varas, Vincente Perez Rosales National Park & Petrohue Waterfall. We also stopped for an included lunch and met with the owner Gail Stein. We were to meet our tour at 8:30, but we couldn't leave the ship until about an hour late. This was despite the fact that I had spoken with the ship's group coordinator, Yahira, who gave me tender tickets & told me we would be ashore by 8:30. Day 4: Puerto Chacabuco: We all arranged for the NCL tour of Patagonia Nature In Depth. Fernando, our guide, did not provide much information after his initial talk upon arriving in the park. Several of our group asked him to provide more information, but he was always too concerned that we arrive at the lunch place in time. We actually were one of the earlier groups to arrive for lunch. My wife and another guest in our group filed a complaint with the shore excursion personnel aboard the ship saying they wanted Nature in Depth & not just a walk in the woods & were refunded 15% of the cost of the tour. Day 5: Sailing through the fjords was cold and nasty as we started through the fjords. We went past the glaciers too early since the sun hadn't risen yet. So, it was dark & dreary as many of the passengers were freezing on deck. Plus there were poor conditions to photograph what should have been a signature travel day. Later in our passage, as the sun rose, the scenery became easier to see & enjoy. I would strongly recommend that for the photographers aboard that a passage through the fjords after the sun was up would have been much better. Day 6: Cruise through the Straits of Magellan: there were rough seas & several of my group were not feeling well. The scenery was great to see, and we enjoyed being on deck to see Chile's marvelous beauty. Day 7: Punta Arenas: Two of my group did a tour of Punta Arenas with Chile About with Francesa as the guide. It was a private tour, $73 per person. They came back raving about their experience. The rest of our group walked around the city - shopped, saw the sights, and went to the internet cafe near the cathedral. Day 8: Glaciers & Beagle Channel sailing, Ushuaia: We all did the ship's tour of the Beagle Channel on a catamaran & a visit to the National Park. This was our favorite day of the cruise. The weather was ideal, & we loved the chance to get up close to the animals as we sailed through the Beagle Channel. We even saw a whale in the channel. Day 9: Cape Horn: This day was rough as the weather was nasty. But it was quite an experience for us to sail around the Cape as the sun rose. Day 10: Stanley, Falkland Islands: 6 of our group walked around the island & the port of Stanley, shopping and seeing the sights. Two of our group chose to do the Stanley sightseeing from NCL. They enjoyed the experience. Princess Anne was in residence on that day, & we think she flew in a helicopter around our ship. Day 11: Sea day: We did the usual on board,trivia, bingo, lectures, & leisurely enjoyed the day at sea Day 12: Puerto Madryn: Another guest arranged a private tour which was $58 per person, plus $15 per person to enter the National Park. We saw Peninsula Valdes, Calleata Valdes, & Punta Norte. We saw sea lions, an orca, & penguins. The road was rough since we traveled 2 & 1/2 hours over mostly gravel roads. We were very unhappy with the guide and driver since we told them when we first started that our primary goal was to see the penguins. They gave us much too much time at the visitor center and Punta Norte then said the driver was concerned that we would get back too late if we went to the penguins. We insisted and said we would give up lunch and spend less than 10 minutes at what was supposed to have been our highlight. We got to the penguins with many other tours and made it back to the ship with an hour to spare. I feel the guide and driver just didn't want to bother - figuring lunch was easier for them. It was very disappointing, and everyone was stressed with the timing of the tour and our concern that we could even miss the ship's sailing time. Day 13: At sea day: Day 14: Montevideo: A private tour was arranged with msmtaiz@hotmail.com - our guide was Yanilla. The cost was $45 per person to be paid in cash. The tour was great. We covered much of Montevideo on our 7 hour tour. I highly recommend this tour. Montevideo was a famulous city with so much to offer. Day 15: Buenos Aires: We again had difficulty disembarking. There were extremely long lines again to leave the ship. I had arranged with Yahira, the group coordinator aboard, who assured me wy small group would be off between 8:15 - 8:30. We left the ship at 9:25. She apologized when I saw her as we left the ship and said the ship arrived later than expected. I arranged a private tour of Buenos Aires that was 7 hours. Our guide, Max, was great. We used Smart Choice (info@smart-choice.com.ar) Soledad was our contact. The cost per person was $55 & included a great & comprehensive tour of the city as well as storage of our luggage & later delivery of it to the airport. Entertainment: Overall we enjoyed the shows. The best shows were Mr. Producer & Que Noche. The last show, Cirque Pan, was overdone & disappointing. I think the company tried to do too much in the way of dancing, staging, and costumes. The company was very talented and proved that during each of their performances. We loved Bassilio, the funny & talented magician. The German Juggle Boy was entertaining as well as Elvy Rose, & a singer from the dance company. Stateroom: The stateroom was good with lots of storage space and a king-size bed. There was a couch that could function as an additional bed. The steward, Adolpho, was very efficient. Every request was treated quickly. Unfortunately, he had a dental problem and wasn't able to perform his duties for several days after his surgery. Other stewards filled in for him with the same quality of service. One issue came up with the laundry service which upset my wife. We sent a partial bag of laundry halfway through the cruise. Several hours after we did that, we received a notice that laundry sent in the next day, would be a full bag price - (we had only sent in a few necessary items a few hours prior). The ship's personnel said there was nothing they could do despite the fact the laundry had just been received that evening. Of course, after my wife was adament, they were able to send our bag back unwashed so we could add more items to it for the full bag price the ship offered that day. Summary: Overall we enjoyed the cruise. The itinerary was great. We enjoyed the ports we stopped in. It was great traveling with a group of 8. Most of us did not enjoy Free Style and though it worked for us because we were our own group, thought it would be a problem for people traveling by themselves. Every meal would be spent meeting new people and asking the same get acquainted questions without getting to know anyone or making friends with our dinner companions like we had on previous cruises. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
We are a family of four in our early 40's. We have two sons aged 8 and 12. It was their first trip outside of North America. We set off to Buenos Aires from Vancouver, Canada on March 6th. We flew via Toronto on Air Canada and had a ... Read More
We are a family of four in our early 40's. We have two sons aged 8 and 12. It was their first trip outside of North America. We set off to Buenos Aires from Vancouver, Canada on March 6th. We flew via Toronto on Air Canada and had a great trip down, albeit long. Arriving in Buenos Aires we took a taxi to the apartment that we had rented in Recoletta. We used a company called Buenos Aires Habitat and we were very pleased with them. The apartment was in a lovely area of town, one block away from the Alvear Hotel and three blocks or so from the Cemetery. It was a two bedroom apartment and was bright and airy. The rental company met us as planned and helped us with car services, etc. We were very happy with their professional service. They had left us some lovely snacks and beverages and the apartment was just as described. The first afternoon we set off for a wander of the neighborhood and to admire the architecture. We then went to Rio Alba (in Palermo)for dinner which was a Parilla that we had read good reviews of on Cruise Critic. The dinner was very nice and the staff firmly advised us that we had ordered far too much food and helped us select an appropriate amount. The next day we had booked a private four hour tour of the city with a guide recommended by another traveler. My husband had been quite concerned about our safety and therefore I had booked the guide as a precaution. He took us around most of the major sights. He was very informative and competent but seemed slightly ruffled that we weren't paying as much attention to all of his details as the kids were our priority. He would have been very well suited to an adult tour. We finished up at the Cemetery and I highly recommend it. Initially I had been puzzled how a Cemetery could be a tourist attraction but once you see it, you will understand. I could have easily spent more time there and even the kids enjoyed it. That afternoon we went to the Zoo to appease the kids. The Zoo was really good despite the fact that in principal I do not believe in zoo's. We had unfortunately chosen to go on a Sunday and it was PACKED. Do go during the week if you have the choice. It is an enormous zoo with practically every animal imaginable. It has some lovely architecture in it and was very reasonably priced. The kids were even free. We finished the day with dinner at a pizza place called Filo that Fodor's had recommended. It is in Retiro and I do not recommend it. While the pizza was good, the staff were indifferent to the point of rudeness. The next day we took the Buquebus to Colonia. We had booked the tickets prior to our arrival on the Internet. Do book ahead as it is VERY busy. And do arrive an hour in advance, as recommended, as you will need it. The Buquebus in nice and modern. I found the trip to be expensive. I believe we spent over $400 for the four of us to go round trip. Once you arrive in Colonia it is a very pleasant old city, with a more modern one attached to it. It was interesting to see the architecture but I am not sure it was worth the money spent to get there. I must point out that we did not do any museums or anything as it was not worth the hassle with the kids. Also our Spanish is almost nonexistent. People without children might have spent longer looking at museums, etc. The highlight of the day was that we rented a golfcart to get around and it was SO worth it! The funniest part was that the local dogs loved it and chased us round and around for at least two or three miles. Our family was in hysterics giggling and we got some great shots. We drove the golf cart to the beach and spent an hour or two there. It is an unremarkable beach as it is on the river and the water is very brown and not appealing to enter. But the day was gorgeous sunshine and we enjoyed it. We ended up getting restless and went to the ferry terminal to get an earlier return trip. They only had first class space left (which entitled us to slightly nice seats and champagne) so we spent an extra $60 upgrading. I do not think that you need a long time in Colonia and we were definitely ready to leave. That night we had the best dinner of our entire three week trip. We went to a restaurant called Republica in Recoletta. It had received a star from Fodors and it deserved it. We love our food and eat out a lot. It was as good as any meal that I've had in New York, etc. If you enjoy good food, do eat here. Our final day in Buenos Aires I insisted on doing an open air bus tour. I really enjoy these as I feel they give a good overview of a city and then you can decide where is worthwhile going back to to spend more time. A company called Turistique runs these tours directly in front of the Marriott in Plaza Martin. They have two different city tours (which we did) and a night one (which we did not). The cost was about $30 per person. I enjoyed the tours and it showed us some places that we had not done with our tourguide. It is a fabulous location to take photos from as you are up high with an open top, so nothing obscures your view. I would recommend this tour. After the tour we explored Plaza San Martin, which I really like a lot. I think that the Marriott looked like a great hotel in a great location. There was a huge exhibit in the middle of the square, which added to the attraction. Florida Street is close by and we had a stroll and looked at some of the shops. We had lunch at a place called El Palacio de la Papa Frita which is famous for their "souffle" french fries. Being french fry connoisseurs, we could not resist. The french fries were great but the rest of the food was very average! Tired out from out day we had a casual dinner at El Sanjuanino, an empanada place in Recolleta that had received good reviews. It was cheap and popular. We then packed our bags for our flight to Santiago the next day. GOOD THINGS ABOUT BUENOS AIRES: The architecture is beautiful!!!! But it is a South American city and is covered in graffiti and garbage. This drove my husband crazy. Taxi's are plentiful and inexpensive. You will have no problem at all finding one at any time. Lots of people speak English which made things easy. I would have loved to have had more time to explore the culture and museums. Maybe another time! I loved the Plaza San Martin, Ave 9 de Julio, all the beautiful green areas and parks and the cafes. I wish that we spoke Spanish as I always think it is rude to go to another country and expect them to speak your language. BAD THINGS ABOUT BUENOS AIRES: While I never felt unsafe, apparently there is a lot of crime as I heard firsthand from people on the cruise. I did not take any jewelry or expensive purses along, and my husband was always careful with our camera, etc. I did not find the food to be as amazing as I had read, with the exception of Republica. While the food was quite reasonably priced by North American standards, I thought most other things were more expensive than I might have expected. I did not like the shopping at all and felt that most of the shoes and clothing were dated by North American standards. We bought lots of souvenirs for the kids, but that was it. We flew to Santiago via LAN and it was a very pleasant experience. It had been VERY difficult to book the flights from Canada and I was quite concerned about the flight, thinking that everything would go wrong. LAN was very good and all went well. We stayed at the Sheraton Santiago and I was pleased with the hotel. Again the weather was amazing and we made good use of the pool. They upgraded our two rooms to the Executive floor and we enjoyed the appetizers, etc. We had to book two rooms everywhere we went as the maximum number of people to a room in South America appears to be 3. We enjoyed Santiago, finding the people to be very warm and kind. We again did the zoo, which was a little decrepit but the kids enjoyed it. We took the funicular and cablecar to the top of the San Cristobal and went to the large pool up there. It was remarkably expensive to get into (I think about $35 US for the four of us) and our older son promptly felt ill and we only spent about 20 minutes there. It would be great on a hot, sticky day although. The next day we did a bus tour. This one left directly from infront of our hotel and had about nine stops that you could hop on and off. There is not as much to see in Santiago and the architecture is not as interesting. But we still enjoyed it and felt more relaxed there then we had in Buenos Aires. We had one nice dinner at a restaurant called Enoteca on San Crisobal. Not as good as we had been led to believe but with a beautiful view. Taxis were abundant and inexpensive. We then rented a car and drove to Vina Del Mar. We got upgraded to a nice new Audi. The cars were noticeably nicer in Santiago than BA, and the city seemed to be less run down and have more money. The drive to Vina Del Mar was simple and the highway system very good. We passed through some lovely scenery that in turns reminded us of Palm Desert and Napa Valley. The vineyards looked beautiful although we did not stop. I'd love to go back! We arrived at the Sheraton in Vina and our rooms were great. All the rooms have ocean views and they were amazing. We drove up the coast in search of Humbolt penguins but unfortunately did not see any. Toured some little towns and explored. That night we ate in the hotel and had a dreadful dining experience where everything went wrong. We complained and the hotel was amazing and went out of there way to fix things! I can not compliment the Sheraton highly enough. To begin with, they totally comped the entire meal. Then we arrived at our room to discover they had sent us deserts and beverages on the house. And then they insisted on treating the four of us and the more formal restaurant the next evening for dinner, including wine. We were most impressed with the service that we received from the Manager, Luis San Martin. The next day was glorious sunshine and we relaxed by the pool all day and enjoyed our dinner from the hotel. Finally the day of our cruise had arrived and we took a taxi to the Port. This was the one and only time we got scammed. We had organized a car through the hotel but they forgot so had to call us a taxi. We jumped in the taxi and went the six minute drive to the Pier. The taxi driver demanded $40 US which we knew was far too much. But hey, that was our biggest complaint of the trip so far! EMBARKATION: We arrived to relative chaos. It would have been nice if NCL had more ground staff telling people the routine, or gave you the info ahead of time so that you knew what to expect. We finally figured out that we were to leave our luggage in an area (once it had been tagged) and then proceed inside. We were then given numbers which indicated which bus you were to go on when your number was called. I was slightly confused as I knew that being in a suite we got priority embarkation, but did not know where and when it began. We waited roughly 20 minutes and our number was called. We went through security and boarded the bus. For those interested, we heard from people carrying alcohol that they were able to bring it on without any hassle from this security checkpoint. One fellow brought on a case of wine. The bus took a couple of minutes and we arrived at the ship. We entered the atrium and went though a checkpoint. At this point our priority embarkation took place and we were whisked off to a private area where our concierge, Karen, met us and took care of all the details. We were then introduced to our butler, Armando, and taken to our room. This entire process was very enjoyable and swift. There were refreshments available and we avoided all lineups and confusion. OUR ROOM: We were booked in the Owner's Suite and it was great. It was quite large and had ample space for storage. You entered into a front hall with a powder room off of it. We stored all of our luggage here. The living room had a pull-out bed where the kids slept, a table with four chairs and desk, tv, bar area, cappucino machine, dvd and ipod docking station, fridge, etc. The master bedroom was a good size and had a seating area and king bed. The bed was VERY comfortable. There was also a tv and drawer space. There was a sizeable walkin closet with a sitdown vanity and hairdryer that I made good use of. The bathroom was very spacious with an enormous bathtub and full shower and two sinks. It was well equipped with body lotion, shampoo and conditioner and body gel. The cabin was the best part about the cruise as our family does not do well in small spaces. There were three sets of sliding doors leading to a very large deck with a table and four chairs and two chaiselongs (sp??) There was also a private hottub. The views were amazing from the deck. It was windy on the deck during crusing but fine during the sheltered areas like the fjords. We LOVED the deck and rarely went to the public deck facilities. We would fill up the hot-tub with cold water as a private dipping pool. The owner's suite was well worth the money and the only way that I would cruise again. I am so pleased that we had the Owner's Suite. It cost about $1000/day for the four of us and I think that it was good value when you consider that it saved us two hotel rooms a day, plus food and travel expenses. I would only travel with my family in a suite as we are used to a lot of room and my husband would be insufferable otherwise. SERVICE: I had read lots of negative things on various blogs regarding NCL, its service, its food, its accommodations, etc. I have to say we had pleasant experience all around and our expectations were exceeded. Our concierge was Karen and she was fabulous. She went out of her way to check in with us several times a day and accommodated all of our needs. She was very professional and got back to us promptly on all occasions. We were delighted with her. Our butlers were Armando and Ernesto. They brought us our evening treats and our daily beverages. They also brought us the DVD's that we requested. They were always prompt and courteous. Other than those functions, we did not see a lot of them, but I gather from other people who used them a lot more, they were very pleased with them. They were more than generous with replenishing our drinks (pop and water were complimentary) and brought us numerous treats from the treat menu each night. (choc covered strawberries, cheese platters, soft pretzels, chips, nachos, fruit, brownies...) The kids were in heaven! Our stewards were Jonald and Mario and both were delightful. About four days in we received our first towel animal. After discovering our delight, we then got them daily. They worked very hard and always had a smile on their faces and a happy comment. They replenished my conditioner and moisturizer daily - probably wondering how any one individual could go through as much! Most happy with both of them! Other than that, all the other crew seemed friendly and warm. We never once had a negative experience. DINING: As mentioned in Buenos Aires, we like our food and are spoilt with our selection of restaurants in Vancouver. With the exception of one evening, we ate in the Pay restaurants every evening. I LOATHE the garden lounge and refused to enter it. I can understand that people with small rooms enjoyed hanging out there to have more room but I found it painful to even walk through. The people that I saw there were pushy and rude. There was no regard for line-ups and the entire intent seemed to be to pile us much food on your plates as feasible. It was a most unpleasant environment and I wouldn't set foot in there. We are one evening at the Seven Seas and it was okay. The staff were pleasant and the food was average. We did not need to wait at all and they happily gave the kids's a children's menu. It was all very average. In terms of specialty restaurants, we ate at the following: Le Bistro: We ate there once and did not particularly enjoy it. I ate Cassoulet which is a challenging dish outside of France, so that was not particularly fair. We head other people say that they had enjoyed it a lot. Adagio: With our suite we got to eat breakfast and lunch free of charge and took advantage of it nearly daily. I am not fond of crowds and it was a lovely, quiet refuge. The breakfasts were very nice and we would usually start at the cold buffet and then order something off the menu. The lunches were average. I found in general that everything was quite "safe" and unadventurous to please the masses. Even things like bluecheese dressing seemed very bland and watered down, so as to not offend anyone. But again, we like our food. The staff in Adagio were very pleasant and welcomed up by name everyday. The children did not chose to eat lunch or breakfast at Adagio and usually grabbed something from the Garden Cafe (not as fussy as their mother) or room service. We also ate dinner three or four times at Adagio and I felt it was terrific value for $10!! The Osso Bucco was terrific. I was very impressed. The steak and pizzas were also great and my kids also liked the pasta. I was most pleased. East Meets West: We ate here three times or four times and it was my favorite of the restaurants. Incidentally, kids menus are available free of charge at all specialty restaurants and then only charged us half of the fee when the kids ate off of the formal menu. I had prime rib twice and the filet once and both were great. The Cagney's fries are also terrific, but best when very hot. The spinach was also good. At $20 I thought East Meets West to be fair value. Teppenyaki: We ate here once and it was good. A little pricey at $25 considering it is about $30 at home. They don't do all the tricks with fire due to safety but they were amusing and personable. SUSHI: We went once and it was average. We are spoilt in Vancouver with seafood and sushi, so we did not bother again. WINE: We drank wine every evening and felt that the prices charged by NCL were fair and reasonable value. It is a business and they have a right to make a profit. We tipped at all of the specialty restaurants at 20% of the food value, but not on wine and they have already charged 18%. KIDS CLUB: We unfortunately only used the kid's club the first evening. We had been pleasantly surprised that there were 30 kids on board as it was after Spring Break and also an adult oriented cruise. My 8 year old went to the Kid's Club the first night and really enjoyed it. The staff seemed very pleasant and personable. Unfortunately both my kids got sick the next day (bronchial related - not the fault of NCL!) and my youngest was quite sick for five days and after that was never really himself. I was impressed that we ran into the kid's staff several times after and they remembered his name and inquired after him. That was my one disappointment that my 8 year old didn't enjoy the kids and the kid's club, but again, it was nothing to do with NCL. THE SHIP: The ship was pleasant, smaller than I had expected. A little dated, but clean and easy to navigate. I did not like that the casino was right in the middle of one of the floors as I dislike cigarettes and it stunk. I plugged my nose everytime I had to walk through. I can understand that it is central to encourage people to go through and spend money. I found the shops a little disappointing. I would have preferred a higher end selection of things to buy. There was nothing at all that appealed to me personally. There were ample bars and cafes and areas to sit. We never took advantage of them as we preferred the seclusion of our suite. I found the photographs to be quite expensive and wonder if NCL wouldn't sell a lot more if they made them less expensive. There were dozens of photos of us, none of which we bought, and all of which they would have destroyed without realizing any profit. We took advantage of the library. We went to two shows and they were pleasant. There is reserved seating for the suites and we took advantage of that. The kids enjoyed the Pan production. We did not take advantage of any of the public talks, tastings, information sessions, etc, so I can not comment on those. We swam in the pool a couple of times and it was a very pleasant temperature. We never had difficulty getting a chair, although it did get quite busy at times. We did prefer in general to stay on our own deck. THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE: We used this, more than I would have liked. This was our one negative with NCL. As mentioned, both our sons were ill the second day. Our older son had an ear infection in Buenos Aires so we wanted to sort that out. Our 8 year old woke up with a very sore throat and temperature. $400 later, we had ear infection medication and antibiotics for a throat infection and thrush for the younger one. Our older son healed quickly but our younger one got worse and spent four days in bed. After two days of high temperature and vomiting we took him back to the Dr. to discuss whether or not the antibiotics were helping at all. We determined that actually they were making him vomit and get sicker so they gave him new antibiotics (more cost at Dr.) which then started to clear him up. I then felt a sore throat coming on so went to the Dr. as the interesting shore excursions were fast approaching. I was given vitamin C, tylenol and an over the counter throat spray, along with a $100 bill. The next day (Punta Arenas) I woke up with raging strep throat and my useless drugs. I bravely went on the tour feeling beyond miserable and went back to the Dr's office that afternoon in tears. I was then given antibiotics and another bill. After two more days my throat was still incredibly painful and went back for yet another kind of antibiotics and another bill. ONLY then did I start to clear up and feel a bit better. I do know that at home, in general when I go the the Dr and receive antibiotics, I start to feel better within a day. This did not occur for either me or my son and I did not have a lot of faith in the NCL medical clinic. I can only hope that my insurance company pays for some of the $800 I spent at the Dr's during our cruise! My other complaint about the Dr's office is that it is only open between 8:30 - 10:00 and 4:00 - 5:00. Other times they are open to visit you in your room at a cost of $130 versus the $75 charge. During the public hours, there were a lot of NCL staff at all times. I was a little concerned how many sick staff they had! Passengers got priority over staff but I still wondered at all the sick crew. I would say that the Medical Clinic was the least satisfactory part of the NCL experience. TENDERING AND DISEMBARKATION: NCL shore excursions get first priority off the ship. We were given priority passes that could be used anytime after the shore excursions. WE used them in Puerto MOntt where we had a private tour. The tenders were easy to catch back and we never had to wait. For final embarkation, we told the concierge that we wanted off as late as possible, which as 10:00 a.m. We left our luggage out the night before. She collected us off and led us to the front of the line and we walked off the ship onto a bus. Our luggage was waiting for us and we walked right through security. The entire process took 20 minutes top. Very impressive. CRUISING: I enjoyed our cruise and so did my two sons. I enjoyed it for its simplicity and relative comfort. There was not much to do on the days at sea and so I read a lot, which I enjoy! My kids enjoyed it for the icecream bar, the butler's treat and the unlimited access to play electronics. My husband, as expected, did not enjoy cruising at all. I think cruising is great value for sampling an area and deciding if you would go back to see it in greater depth. It would have been very complicated to arrange flights and hotels to all of our ports, so I found that very valuable. Without the cruise I would have never gone to the Falklands which ended up being my favorite port. I loved not having to pack and unpack. I loved having to not think (very much) about where to eat. Our suite was great. On the downside, I did not like a lot of my fellow passengers. I found a lot of the Europeans to be VERY rude and pushy. I also found the South Americans to be rude, which I hadn't found on land. It is funny how Americans get such a bad reputation, but they were by FAR the politest nationality on board of the ship. I was astounded at the pushing and shoving, the utter disrespect for line-ups, etc. I also found a lot of the elderly passengers to be very grumpy. Saying that, I also found a lot of them to be charming, so I am certain that is true for all age groups. My husband in general does not enjoy masses of people, so obviously that is difficult to avoid on a cruise. I do not know if we will ever cruise again. I wouldn't mind trying a Caribbean cruise to test out the area, but think I will find strong opposition from my husband. My kids both say that they would like to do it again. SIDE NOTES: I know that when I was reading cruise critic, as a novice cruiser, I was most interested in seasickness. We experienced the following. Our second night at sea was extremely rough. I was terrified as I had read about Cape Horn and we weren't nearly there! I could only imagine how terrible it might get! My older son and I stayed in bed as we felt most unsettled. Not seasick, but more just out of control. When we docked the next day, I was dreading getting back on board. Once back of board, I went to reception and got some seasickness pills. I had spent well over $200 stocking up on medications prior to leaving, but in the end I liked their free stuff the best. We had a rough night the fourth night, but other than not liking the rocking, I did not feel sick at all. The rest of the trip, we had beautiful calm seas, even around Cape Horn. We also had amazing sunshine and great weather the entire trip. We were so fortunate!! All in all I felt NCL did a very good job. I am sure that a huge part of our enjoyment was based upon our suite. I would not have had nearly as good a time in a smaller cabin. I had read complaints about the constant pressure to buy things. I did not feel this to be a problem. Again they are a business and it is their job to earn money. Just say "no". The food was average and akin to being at a wedding dinner. But in all fairness, it is difficult to cook for 2000 people and please everyone. All in all they did a good job. I was as happy with my steak at East Meets West as I am at any steak restaurant in North America and it was better by far than the steak in Argentina and Chile. I thought the staff were cheerful and positive, despite the very long hours that they work. As we disembarked at 10:00 am, I thought to myself how in a very short three hours, they would be doing it all again, with a smile on their faces. My hat is off to them! p.s. There is no place to discuss Puerto Chacabuco and Punta Arenas. We did not do Chacabuco as none of the tours appealed and apparently there was not a lot of infrastructure to support independent tours. We lay in the sun that day. Others enjoyed their bus tours. We did the NCL excursion to Magdalena Island to see the penguins. I was incredibly ill that day but it was still amazing. It was our first view of penguins and there were thousands of them, everywhere. So accessible!! Despite my discomfort, it was great. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
We had a good time sailing aboard the Norwegian Sun around the tip of South America. Since we're used to sailing smaller ships we booked a suite to get special treatment (given the lower cost and larger number of passengers to ... Read More
We had a good time sailing aboard the Norwegian Sun around the tip of South America. Since we're used to sailing smaller ships we booked a suite to get special treatment (given the lower cost and larger number of passengers to compete with for services) aboard the Norwegian Sun. Suite was enormously large given what we had experience before. Unfortunately it was at the back of the ship and you could feel the engines when we were sailing - especially when starting out and reaching port. We also picked NCL because we wanted free style cruising - no fixed dinner time and no need to lug formal wear on a cruise. Staff on the ship was generally friendly and good; their English language skills were generally satisfactory. We had a concierge who was very helpful and a butler who we rarely saw once we were underway. With a suite, there was also a private dining room for breakfast and dinner, but we were with friends so couldn't always use it and when we need a quick meal to get ready for a tour off the ship the service was too slow. We could order snacks (crudite, cheese and crackers, soft pretzels, chocolate covered strawberries, etc.) for the suite and often did so for small parties with our friends before dinner. The food on the ship was nothing to write home about with the exception of the steak and French restaurants. To be fair, we did not eat Japanese and someone had told us that they got ill on the sushi. There were nights at dinner when rather than having to pick from several choices that I wanted, I found it hard to find something that I'd enjoy (and I'm an only modestly picky eater). Service at dinner was good but not excellent. Breakfast was always crowded especially on port days. It was often hard to find some place to sit, especially as we headed south and it got too cold to eat out of doors on the deck. Breakfast food selection was fine but buffet style so avoid pancakes that may have been siting out a while. After leaving Montevideo, orange juice taste severely deteriorated to point where we sometimes splurged for fresh squeezed juioe (standard on the smaller ships we were accustomed to) or had not OJ at all. Once we got to Chile, this problem disappeared. Logistics on the ship were not well handled. Very long lines to get onto ship. Bags in our NCL booked hotel before cruise needed to be out the night before even though we didn't board until 2 PM the following day and we saw them take the bags to the ship around noon. There were long lines to tender off the ship and especially back on the ship. We tracked the ship of another cruise line on the cruise and while we waited on long lines in port, they always seemed to be able to waltz back the tender without a wait. At one port, in the rain, the had us off the ship between 30-45 minutes before the buses arrived, so basically we were outside in bad weather with little cover. At another port our tender captain took the better part of 15+ minutes to secure the boat once we were at the dock. It was like a beginning driver trying to park for the first time - really incompetent. We took lots of side excursions and I'll list them with comments. Also on other cruises, information about ports and showing what and where we would see we done more professionally. The material on NCL was really inadequate. It would have been nice for someone describing what we were seeing going around Cape Horn, the Beagle Channel and Straights of Magellen. We experience this aboard Regent ship in Alaska and it was really nice to have. Montevideo: We took a highlights of Montevideo tour which was half of day and gave us an overview of the city. Not sure, if you are Spanish fluent, you couldn't do better on your own. Puerto Madryn: I don't think there is much to do in town, so we took a tour to Valdes Peninsula. We spent a long time going to and returning from there with a relatively small amount of time (relative to travel time) seeing wildlife. Lunch was in a small restaurant which was clearly unable to handle the tour crowds and the food wasn't good. My suggestion, find something else at this port. Stanley: We took the Lagoon Bluffs tour which was one the highlights of the trip. You take a bus a short ride (nothing is very far on the island) and transfer to 4 wheel drive vehicles to drive over peat down to the shore. It's an exciting ride over rutted ground. Upon arrival there is time to see a large penguin colony and have an included snack at a building by the shore. Lovely cakes and a hot drink hit the spot. Not all ships get into Stanley because of weather (primarily wind which interferes with tendering). We were lucky because the weather was pleasant and calm. Following Stanley we sailed around Cape Horn and again weather was very good. Amazing site especially when you realize you are actually at the tip of South America. The ship had a ceremony to anoint folks to celebrate the occasion if you're into that sort of thing. Ushuaia: We took a tour of Tiara Del Fuego National Park. Scenery was nice but not as spectacular as one might expect. This was only a partial day tour, perhaps a longer one would have taken us closer to the Andes. Town was a shopping venue if you wanted to avoid a tour. Sailing the Beagle Channel and Straights of Magellan were spectacular and very similar to what one might see on an Alaska inland passage cruise. Leaving the Straights of Magellan was one of the few times we had rougher weather at sea. Nothing terrible. One other ship did hit bad weather at this location - dinnerware thrown around and so forth. Punta Arenas: We took two tours here. The first morning tour was to Otway Sound which has another large penguin colony (yes we were in to penguins) and it was a really nice experience. It was not a tour I would have wanted to do in really bad weather but once again we got lucky. Afternoon tour was of Punta Arenas itself but not worth the time. Shopping in Punta Arenas was very good, especially in the main square in town. I bought a pretty wool sweater for about $15. If you wanted several you probably could have gotten per sweater price lower. They're not top quality, but $15! Other local handicraft were available also. Puerto Chacabuco: This port is NOT ready for the big time. We took the Puerto Chacabuco & Surrounding tour which was a waste of money. But not sure what one would do at this port if you didn't take a tour. Puerto Montt: Some pretty scenery on Petrohue Falls and Lake Esmeralda tour. There was also a boat ride. Only problem is that the things we visited were very crowded and bus logistics not well handled. Santiago and Valparaiso: We took an all day tour since our flight home from Santiago was in the late evening. Tour is called Santiago and Vina del Mar, and it fit the bill. We saw the sights had a snack and lunch and were dropped efficiently, for once, at the airport. Only problem is they dropped us at 5 PM and airline only opened lines for boarding passes et al an hour later. So the lines were very long and there was no place to sit. Everyone had their luggage with them, so as you can imagine it was a madhouse. In summary, although we had a good time, I would think twice before booking on NCL again. Smaller ships may be more expensive but experience is better. We may not take as many cruises but will enjoy them more. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
We chose ncl because of the freestyle cruising. With young kids,the thought of eating when and where and with whom we liked appealed tremendously,and I cannot fault ncl with the freedom it allowed us. The ship was well maintained,clean ... Read More
We chose ncl because of the freestyle cruising. With young kids,the thought of eating when and where and with whom we liked appealed tremendously,and I cannot fault ncl with the freedom it allowed us. The ship was well maintained,clean and very comfortable. We had spent 4 nights in Buenos aires, staying at laprida suites, a very reasonably prices suite apartments in Recoletta. $ fun filled days with terrific tours, culminating in being dropped off at the dock on the Sunday,midday. Embarkation took about an hour or so,and was relatively painless. Luggage only arrived in our rooms about 5 hours later, a bit of a pain as kids wanted to swim. Relatively aggressive front desk staff handled our early queries re. fuel surcharge refunds etc, clearly on the first few days they deal with lots of aggro clients wanting free upgrades etc, so they are on their guard. Overall, I liked the Sun, but I must say.....a few negatives..one felt continuously hustled for extras..drinks are exhorbiatnt, shore excursions ridiculously overprices compared to what you can get them in he same ports for, and whats worse,they even go so far as to make the port information newsletters as useless as possible,with no relevant info re where to go,what it should cost etc, so be warned, plan ahead unless youa re happy to leave it to them and open your wallet...very wide! Continuos photo opportunities,but @ $20 per pic,no thanks. One wonders if they charged $5 per pic how many more they would sell..go figure! Dining was mediocre. The buffet (garden cafe) is the most popular,and was crowded,esp on cold days. A wide selection of mediocre food,but at least you cans see what you are getting. At the main restaurant (the 4 seasons) one gets the buffet main courses just plated more presentably,and served to you, with a few extra dishes on offer. If one is looking for calmer dining,the 7 seas aft restaurant is a very pleasant environment,but same food as 4 seasons. Ate at the steakhouse,$20 surcharge,not bad steaks but starters and desserts disappointing. Sushi was good, $15 surcharge. But best restaurant on the ship is il adagio, the Italian one. Very quiet,lovely menu,and only $10 surcharge. Las ramblas has some interesting tapas,and good nachos and salsa and Guacamole. The outdoor cafe has hamburgers,pizza and hot dogs at most of the times other restaurants are closed. Pacific heights is a good place for pizza of all things,and you can make changes to the one they offer,so do use that option! The sports bar has a menu after 5pm,with good buffalo wings The Childrens programme was amazing. we battled to get the kids out to come and eat (they don't really feed them in he club) The councilors were great,the programme varied, and it made our holiday a true pleasure. Its not available free during port stopovers,but a pay option is on offer if needed. tips,oh sorry,the service charge (still not sure what the difference is,despite ncl being at pains to try explain that it is different) are $12 per person per day,kids also $12 Service was polite and friendly, nothing spectacular,but that may to be more with he fact that the cruise was full,so staff were very busy. Entertainment in he main theatre was a mixed bag of mediocre shows. Best one being hilby the skinny german juggle boy. Casino was lots of fun, and not full at all. Gym was not bad, and well frequented, so at times hard to get a machine. Spa - I used their shower facilities after gym, rather unimpressive given what they re charging for treatments. The itinerary was amazing,more details in my port reviews. Disembarkation was a lot more painful then embarkation,with long queues, lots of hanging around waiting for late calling of your color tag that allowed you to go. Overall,a wonderful holiday, and a terrific break,but beware of all the extras you are continuously confronted with . Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
About three days into the cruise my wife said I was going to have to find something to complain about if I expect to write a review for Cruise Critic. Well, the weather wasn't always the best, a couple of nights the seas were rough ... Read More
About three days into the cruise my wife said I was going to have to find something to complain about if I expect to write a review for Cruise Critic. Well, the weather wasn't always the best, a couple of nights the seas were rough and the restrooms ashore weren't up to par. But that's part of the charm of a trip to the farthest reaches of the continent. We've been on 10 or 11 cruises and I always say my favorite ship is the one I'm on or just got off of. So the Sun reigns as my favorite at least until our next cruise. Pre-Cruise/Embarkation: After the normal airline headaches we arrived in Buenos Aires Saturday, the day before the cruise. We had booked everything through NCL so an NCL host was waiting for us at the terminal. We were driven by bus to the Marriott Hotel. This is an old hotel that has been refurbished, and we found it to be quite nice. The only watch-out we would offer is to handicapped patrons. The elevators are up or down a flight of stairs from the lobby. Handicapped access is via an old freight elevator located down a short ramp (6-8 steps) from the lobby. An NCL courtesy desk is staffed most of the day. After an (included) full breakfast we were transported to the pier. NCL must have read the stinging reviews from the previous cruise as they had made significant changes in the embarkation procedure. Clearing immigration was a breeze and then we were seated in groups for a brief wait for a bus to take us to the ship. We entered through a gangway and were offered drinks and directed to the Four Seasons Restaurant where twenty or more tables were set up for a fast and smooth registration. We were registered and seated in Seven Seasons for lunch before 12:45. The Ship: Our last trip was on the Jade and we found we like the Sun better. The Sun is somewhat smaller, easier to navigate and more tastefully decorated (the Jade was decorated for the Hawaii market and seemed somewhat out of place in the Mediterranean). We had a balcony cabin on each and the Sun's seemed roomier. We had more than enough room for the all-season wardrobe required for our trip "around the Horn". What we missed from the Jade was the Blue Lagoon 24-hour short-order restaurant. There's no equivalent on the Sun. English-speaking guests were definitely in the minority on this cruise. It's summer vacation time in the southern hemisphere and there were many family groups from all over Central and South America. There were also a surprising (to me) number of German guests. Andrea, the Cruise Director, speaks about eight languages and all the announcements were made in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and German. The predominance of South Americans made a big difference in the dining experience. They traditionally eat late so the main dining room was practically empty in the 6 to 8 pm time slot. We ate in Seven Seasons every night and several days at lunch time. There was never a wait and many times there seemed to be more waiters that guests. We usually were given a window table. The downside is we were never asked if we wanted to share so we dined alone every night. When the first show let out around 8:30 there would be a surge, but still no line. I understand the crunch came around 9:30 to 10 PM when large families started piling in. We don't do buffets at home and certainly not on a cruise when there are so many better choices. We walked through the buffet a few times and it was like feeding time in a shark tank. It's attraction eludes me. With the variety of meals, quality and service in the main restaurants we didn't see the need to spend extra money on the premium restaurants; can't report on them. One point on which I agree with previous reviewers is that the breakfast "orange juice cocktail" tastes terrible. The second morning at Seven Seasons we ordered real orange juice at $2.50 a glass. It took them a while to get it from the 11th floor, but I think we started a trend. A couple of days later they were carrying it through Seven Seasons on a tray offering it for $2.50. Ports/Excursions: A little background on us. We are mid-60's retirees and have some problems with a lot of walking and particularly with stairs. We try to do an excursion at every port after all, that's why we chose this cruise (definitely not a cruise to spend sitting around the pool). We use the NCL excursions because we have had good luck with them in the past and they're worry-free. We stick with "level 1" excursions wherever possible and prefer half-day trips which let us get back early or sleep late when we can schedule afternoon trips. Buenos Aires: After our plane trip we were too tired for a city tour but planned to book a dinner and tango show on our own. However, we found that the NCL desk offered a package for $65 which sounded like a good deal. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to La Ventana. There were 15-20 NCL guests from the Marriott and Sheraton for the dinner and show, so we got acquainted with several people we would see many times over the next two weeks. The steaks were delicious as was the chocolate amaretto dessert, and the show was good. Overall a good value and a lot simpler than doing it ourselves. Some of the guests asked if we could go by the "flower" sculpture at night. The guide graciously agreed and treated us to an impromptu midnight city tour. Montevideo: Weather was sunny and warm, around 80F. The ship docked at the pier very near the town. We did the "City Highlights" tour which we enjoyed and gave us a feel for the city. We toured business and residential areas and finished with a view of the city and coast from a hilltop. Puerto Madryn: Beautiful weather, 70F and windy. Again we were at the dock. The scenery during the 2 hour bus trip reminded us of New Mexico. The bus was comfortable and the roads were good until the last few miles. At the parking area we observed the people taking private tours packed like sardines in the small taxis they had enlisted3 people crammed in the back seat of a Chevy Aveo for 4 hours round-trip. It made us appreciate our comfortable bus. The observation trail is a long walk up and down small hills, at least 1-½ miles I would guess. They suggest you walk to the end and gradually work your way back. We turned around about half way there but still saw thousands of penguins "up close and personal". You can see plenty of them just yards from the parking area. The visit to Punta Tombo was a highlight of the trip. Stanley: Another beautiful day, light clouds, 50-55F, fairly calm seas. The crew said it was the best weather they had ever had at Stanley. The tenders drop you off at a pier right downtown. We took the $20 bus to Gypsy Cove where we saw a few penguins. A big letdown after Punta Tombo, but those who hadn't seen penguins at Puerto Madryn were impressed. Around the Horn: True to tradition the weather made a turn for the worse. It was cold, cloudy, hazy, raining and very windy it would be disappointing to have good weather for the Horn but the seas were calm enough that the captain was able to make a complete circle around Cape Horn Island. I tried to go out on the deck in front of the Observation Lounge to take photos, but it was like the TV weathercasters in a hurricane; you had to hold onto the rail with one hand to stay upright, and it was impossible to hold the camera still. I retreated to the relative protection of deck 6 for a few photos and then to Seven Seas where we dined and watched in luxury at a table next to the port side window as we completed circling the Horn. Ushuaia: Returned to beautiful weather, partly sunny, cooler at 50F. From the Sun's berth at the downtown pier we took the NCL excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park. I had my picture taken at the southern terminus of the "highway" that runs 17,838 km. from Fairbanks, AL to Ushuaia. It's an expedition I'd like to make if I were younger. The scenery is gorgeous. This is a place I could see myself living. Beagle Channel/Glaciers: By the time we got to the glaciers (5:30 PM) the weather had turned cloudy and the higher peaks were shrouded in clouds. Still lots of daylight left it's 17 hours from sunup to sundown in mid-January. We watched the glaciers go by from the comfort of our starboard balcony room. You can't beat that. Punta Arenas: Sunny, still, low 60'sF. This is a tender port for ships the size of the Sun. We had scheduled the NCL Magdalena Island excursion, but it was canceled for lack of interest, a disappointment but not too bad as we had seen plenty of penguins at Puerto Madryn. In its place we settled for the City Highlights tour. The tour was OK, we got a feel for the city and we could have spent a lot more time at the museum. Magellan Strait: Weather was foggy, rainy and overcast, 55F. Not much to see. The sea turned rough in the evening (I've experienced worse). Barf bags were placed at all the stairways. The captain slowed to 8 knots, then decided to change route overnight to an inward passage to get out of the rough seas. This meant we had to bypass some of the fjords the next day top make up time, but we couldn't have seen much anyway due to the fog and haze. Puerto Chacabuco: Rainy, very windy, 50F. Tenders again here and at Puerto Montt. We took the NCL bus tour to Coyhaique. The weather was better as we got away from the coast. Beautiful scenery and a wonderful guide, Michelle, who was a 20-year old university senior majoring in English Literature and composition. We had free time in Coyhaique for shopping at a craft mall. I sat on a bench in the square and watched the cab drivers compete to see how many tourists they could pack into a minivan. The answer is quite a few if they sit twisted sideways. The rear springs sag until the frame is almost resting on the rear axle. Sound like fun? On the way back we (and 4 other bus loads of tourists) were treated to a delicious snack at a restaurant near the Virgin Falls; empanadas, etc. local wines and pisco sours, very good. Puerto Montt: Cool, rainy, foggy, 55F. We took an afternoon tour to Puerto Varas and Fruitillar. Again, the weather cleared as the day progressed. We spent a little time in Fruitillar, a quaint town with an Alpine feel. The view of the volcanoes across the lake was obscured by clouds, but it's obvious it would be very picturesque on a clear day. This was the only bus we found without air conditioning actually it had AC but it was not working. Hot and muggy in town, too chilly on the highway with the roof vents open. Overall a mediocre excursion. Disembarkation: Since our flight wasn't scheduled until 10:30 PM we opted to take a 9-hour bus tour instead of spending 12 hours at the airport. After a tour of Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and Santiago (including a ride up the funicular and lunch at San Cristobal Hill) we were dropped off at the airport around 6 PM. The luggage was taken directly to the airport where it was waiting for us, already separated and on a cart. (Contrast with the irate Celebrity Infinity passengers who were searching high and low for their luggage which was all in one "pile"). Unfortunately, there was already a long, snaking line at the Delta counter which wasn't scheduled to open until 7:30 PM. The worst part of the trip was the journey home. My wife fell ill on the plane and was miserable for the remainder of the trip. But she's better now and back to looking at the cruise brochures. Let's see... maybe a river cruise next! Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
We arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina around 11:20am, after flying through the night. We collected our luggage and made our way to the group representative waiting for us in the terminal. It was quite warm in Buenos Aires, so were ... Read More
We arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina around 11:20am, after flying through the night. We collected our luggage and made our way to the group representative waiting for us in the terminal. It was quite warm in Buenos Aires, so were looking forward to getting on board quickly and being able to change from our winter clothing to something more appropriate. We arrived at the pier around 1:30 pm. The pier was looking quite congested as the Sun was joined by RCI's Radiance of the Seas. Due to the amount of people, we weren't quite sure where we were supposed to be, so I asked one of the reps stationed outside if there would be a special Latitudes embarkation. I was told there is no Latitudes in Buenos Aires. Not a problem, we got into line behind a nice British couple and happily started chatting away. The boarding was extremely warm and no fans or air conditioning were in evidence. We had many older passengers who could no longer stand in line due to the extreme heat and many were seated in the front area and quite a few others required wheelchairs. There was no water or iced ted provided and this is one of the worst embarkations we have ever encountered. We finally made it to our cabin around 3:30 pm after having our passport checked numerous times along with the required Argentine immigration forms. Our cabin, 4248, was located on the starboard side of deck 4. It was a reasonably, good sized, outside cabin with a large porthole. The cabin was clean and well laid out and we were happy to be able to shower and change prior to sailing! Muster was at 4:30pm and probably lasted way too long for all of us as we had just come in from the heat! We sailed around 6 pm towards Montevideo, Uruguay. We met up with some of our cruise critic friends and made our way to the Four Seasons restaurant for dinner. Service was mediocre for the evening meal and our dinner companion had to keep asking for a "diet" coke from the barman, not a regular coke. She had purchased a soda card and it appears at times if a tip is not forthcoming, you do not receive the best service with a soda card. This exchange actually resulted in a disagreement between the barman and our cc friends and we did speak with the Maitre'D at the end of our meal. Upon arrival in Montevideo, we grabbed a free shuttle to the one of the more famous leather stores; from there we walked around the Plaza Independencia as well as the waterfront. We had a nice day in port with beautiful weather. Our cruise critic Meet and Greet was scheduled for 12/9/08. This was a day at sea and our group events coordinator arranged our meet in the Observation Lounge, port side on deck 12. I arrived a few minutes early to put out name tags and pens. A table had been set up with cookies, something they called orange juice (this was truly a watered down version of Tang) and coffee. I believe we had about 35-40 people and we were joined by the captain and his senior officers shortly after the start of our meet. Quit a few of us stayed for a long time chatting about previous cruises and things we were hoping to see on this voyage. We had a wonderful group and my only regret is that we didn't get enough time to spend with so many others that we enjoyed meeting. We arrived in Puerto Madryn on 12/11. We joined cc members Wernew2cruising, Ljohio and Masik on the pier to see if we could get an independent tour to Puerto Piramides for whale watching. Masik had also brought along another couple, so we had 10 of us and we set out to find a large van. We were greeted at the end of the pier by many companies and started speaking with a young man about where we would like to go and what we would like to do. Unfortunately at this time, the other couple started arguing with our tour guides about the whales not being in residence in Puerto Madryn as was told to him by a former submarine captain from Puerto Madryn. To make a long story short, this couple argued with the tour operator, our guide and other cc members. This interaction had a very negative impact on our time spent in this beautiful, protected world heritage site. The cc members who took the cruise to see whales, refused to join this couple on the tour. The six of us who stayed behind had a pleasant lunch at a waterfront restaurant, then, we walked around the town to get some more photos. We spent a pleasant few hours on the Valdes Peninsula. The water is beautiful and we could see some sea lions with their young, many guanacos, birds and sheep along the way. Our tour guide, a teacher, was excellent and we enjoyed her pleasant narration on the long ride. We had a day at sea between Puerto Madryn and Stanley, so we decided to burn off some calories in the gym. The ship had quite a nice gym, not huge but well appointed for the size of the Sun. There were four elliptical machines, four recumbent bikes, about 8-10 treadmills, 2 stationary bikes, three elliptical type stair stepper machines, one regular stepper and an assortment of weight machines and free weights. As is the norm, treadmills filled up very quickly and many passengers did not adhere to the 30 minute limit signs posted all over the gym. After a few complaints, the gym managers started watching more closely in the busy morning hours. Steve and I made it a point to go very early or later in the afternoon! We had very nice weather tendering into Stanley and we only needed a light jacket or a sweatshirt as the sun was shining brightly. We were met at the pier by the buses from Gypsy Cove. It was $20 roundtrip and there was usually a bus available to return whenever one wished. This area was quite beautiful and we did a lot of walking around the cove. We were unable to get close to the beach due to the landmines still in the beach area, but we did see many penguins along the beach and hillsides and we took beautiful shots of the bay. We returned after a couple of hours and stopped in at a traditional English pub for lunch then, walked along the waterfront and did a little souvenir shopping before returning to the ship. We left Stanley around 4 pm and headed for Cape Horn. What had been a warm, lovely day, suddenly started to turn cold and blustery, and completely fitting for Cape Horn! We had rocky seas but nothing too bad and we did venture outside frequently to take pictures. As luck would have it, wernew2cruising had procured a front suite three days prior to sailing so we were able to enjoy our trip around the Horn in total comfort! Ushuaia, Argentina is the gateway to Antarctica and every bit as beautiful as its photos. We were told they had not seen the sun for two months prior to our arrival. Since our time was very limited, the six of us disembarked early to find a driver/guide to Tierra del Fuego national park. Naturally, there was no problem finding transport, the only problem was finding an English speaking guide! We paid a little bit more than the average $25 per person but we had a nice van, driver and guide and we were on our way to the park at the end of the world. The park is magnificent and a definite must see. There is a post office in the park where you can mail postcards stamped with the "end of the world" on them. Our driver provided an excellent history about the area and we have many postcard worthy photos of our time in the park. We returned to the pier around noon and did a bit of shopping on the pier. Tickets to the train at the end of the world and transport to the train can be bought at the pier for $60 per person. We left Ushuaia about an hour late and headed towards the Beagle for glacier cruising. Since we did the cruise from Buenos Aires, our cabin was perfectly situated on the starboard side of the ship. The weather was getting quite cool in the channel and we started the glacier viewing at around 5:30 pm. A disembodied voice over the speaker announced all the pertinent information about each glacier and a fact sheet was also provided in our cabin. The scenery is absolutely stunning, but make sure you have warm clothes! Hats, gloves, scarves and jackets are necessary and I used them all! We arrived in Punta Arenas on 12/15. Since this was a tender port, Ljohio was kind enough to get tender tickets for the all six of us as we had an independent tour to Magdalena Island scheduled for 10:15am. We had no problem finding the office of our tour operator about 3 blocks away. We joined our other cc members Cosalamx, luv2getaway and Masik on a small boat tour to Isla Magdalena and Isla Marta. Isla Magdalena is amazing and totally covered in penguins! We had a nice hike around the island for about one hour then, we all returned to the boat for a bumpy ride to Isla Marta to see the seals and sea lions. Wernew2crusing returned to the ship due to illness along with Ljohio, Steve and I struck out to find some lunch and shopping prior to returning to the ship. Our next two days were to consist of cruising the Strait of Magellan along with the Patagonic Channels. We had rough seas, high winds and cold weather. Many passengers were seasick and I know they probably weren't pleased that we turned around and headed back into the Strait when the captain received a distress call from the HMS Endurance. At the time, the captain provided us with very little information other than to tell us they were four hours from us and we were closest to them. I doubt that any passenger required an explanation about why we needed to assist a ship in distress, but many were upset that they weren't provided much information. We arrived in the area around 1:30 am and stayed until 8:30 am. Due to this call, we missed Puerto Chacabuco. Many converged upon reception for return of port fees! They were a whopping $5.13 per person! The captain said he would do some extra cruising through the Channels to make up the missed port. While we were disappointed, the Fjords were spectacular and we quickly forgot our missed port. We had an NCL arranged horseback riding tour in Puerto Montt, so, we headed down to the main lounge at 9:00 am. Our NCL guide took us down to back stairs and we were on the tender within minutes! It was a dreary morning and we were getting some rain. Unfortunately since it was not cold, I took only a light jacket, no hat. Luckily we were provided rain slickers at the beautiful El Colote stables. Our horses were well groomed and well fed and I could almost see mischievous glints in their eyes as we took off on our trail ride around the Lake District. Our guide, Yaqueline, provided us with lots of information about the area and answered many questions on the two hour ride. We ended our ride with a spectacular gallop down by the beach before returning to the stable to rest our sore bottoms! Our driver from the stable dropped us in town and we had a nice lunch before walking back to the pier. We arrived in Valparaiso early Sunday morning and disembarked amid the chaos even before they called our color. Eight of us cc members were taking an independent, all day, extended tour of Valparaiso prior to being dropped at the airport for our late flights home. Since Steve and I were the last ones to get our luggage, the other cc members set off to find our driver. They finally located him by the Infinity pier! We had a really great tour of the wine country, Valparaiso, Renaca and Santiago. Prior to being dropped at the airport, we concluded the tour with a visit to the Virgen atop San Cristobal hill. We were definitely ready to head home by the time we were dropped at the airport! Our overall view of the Norwegian Sun is that the Freestyle doesn't work well. The service goes from excellent to mediocre due to the fact you never form a personal bond with any of the help. The buffet line (only one line in the Garden Cafe) doesn't flow well and others are constantly cutting in and pushing in front to get what they want. The food in the buffet goes from adequate to very good. Food in the dining rooms is very good to excellent, but be careful what you order! If you think that baked flounder might not be the best choice, don't order it! Don't expect meals like you would have on other ships, there is no lobster night per se. The last night offered a seafood linguini which contained a lobster tail that was either under or over cooked along with scallops, shrimp and mussels. Another night, a good tasting roast beef was listed on the menu as "prime rib". It was good, but it wasn't prime rib! The pay restaurants are not worth the money that is being charged but we did feel our "romance package" that NCL offers for $79 was an excellent value. We had an excellent meal/service in Le Bistro. Il Adagio offers tasty food, but it is a far cry from good "Italian" food. Drink service in the sports bar/pool area was very good while it was downright rude in the Dazzles Nightclub. They now offer fresh juice on the bar menus only (quite a high fee from $2.50 to $3.50 per glass) and serve watered down Tang and apple juice in the breakfast area/dining rooms. Iced tea only during lunch. NCL asked what would be the one thing I would change on my comment card, this would be it. Offer iced tea, lemonade and punch as well as real juice. We will sail with them again and did put down a future cruise deposit for our $100 on board credit. I am hoping they will make some positive changes prior to our next adventure! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The problems started with embarkation and almost three hours of standing in line in a very warm building. There were only five check-in positions for about 1,000 cabins. Any competent person could have quickly calculated that it would ... Read More
The problems started with embarkation and almost three hours of standing in line in a very warm building. There were only five check-in positions for about 1,000 cabins. Any competent person could have quickly calculated that it would take too long to process the passengers and would have at least arranged for chairs and a number system, as well as provide cool drinks. The buffet was a complete zoo for the entire cruise. There were insufficient tables and chairs inside and it was too cool to eat outside for most of the days on the cruise. There were no trays in the buffet, so it was necessary to make a separate trip to get a cup of coffee or juice, and, if you left the table, someone else would sit there. Cards on the table to indicate "occupied" would have been helpful. The service in the dining rooms was mediocre. It often took over 20 minutes to get a pot of tea after dinner. The hours of the dining rooms could have been extended to accommodate the need for more inside dining space. The first day of tenders, we waited over an hour to get on a tender to leave the ship. It was as if we were being punished for not booking an NCL shore excursion. The tender service seemed to improve after that day, or perhaps it was only because we lined up for tender tickets 30 minutes before they started handing them out. The specialty restaurants were overpriced for the food and service provided. Generally, there was no feeling of being pampered, and there seemed to be no attempts made to solve problems. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This is one of those journeys I had dreamt of doing all my life. Look at a world map or globe & who would not admit to being excited about traveling round the tip of South America. I was & persuaded my wife she could be as well.I ... Read More
This is one of those journeys I had dreamt of doing all my life. Look at a world map or globe & who would not admit to being excited about traveling round the tip of South America. I was & persuaded my wife she could be as well.I had been to the Falklands in the 80's, & wanted to see it again, & explore some of the towns & cities of Argentina & Chile. Months of planning & research via Trip Advisor & Cruise Critic forums, the cruise was booked through an internet agency, the countdown began. And what a trip !We flew to Buenos Aires via Sao Paulo on British Airways from London, a 15 hour overnight journey. The flight was full, service was ok, but as always its a bit of a drag. Arrival in Argentina was on schedule, mid morning local time, & after a long wait for bags, sailed through the arrival formalities. ( thanks to advice gained on these forums about money exchange & taxis ). You forget about being tired, as you take in your new surroundings. We checked into the Inter Continental Hotel in central Buenos Aires. Got some sleep & set off exploring this great city. Over the next 2 days, we took in a tango show, a bus tour of the city, had some great food, & enjoyed the sun, about 30C. Embarkation On Sunday 3rd, at 1pm, we got a taxi to the cruise terminal. From our hotel, no more than 15 minutes. We always are really excited at this point, looking for that first view of our ship. In this case Norwegian Sun. We had cruised with NCL before & love the Freestyle concept. Couldn't wait to get on board, have a cold beer & some lunch. Well, the taxi stopped on the side of a busy port road, next to a high perimeter fence. Other taxis were dropping off passengers here as well. We got out, grabbed our cases, saw a gap in the fence, & followed others through. Hordes of people, no officials in sight, hot sun...chaos. It transpired two ships were checking in. Eventually dropped our bags off, only to join another long line of people for remaining formalities. The line moved at a snails pace, no air con., few NCL reps to be seen, no water provided for the many elderly passengers in line. It dragged on & on. Without doubt the worst experience to date checking in for a cruise. 2 hours in trying conditions. Come on NCL sort this out. These are not the first impressions you want to give your guests. On Board Having got on board, had a cold beer, ( & a complementary glass of bubbly ),& found our stateroom, everything went uphill from here. Our stateroom was on deck 8, starboard side. Plenty of hanging & storage space, very comfortable bed, ensuite bathroom with shower,( quality toiletries provided), TV with multiple channels including CNN & a selection of films, good furnishings, sofa & table, balcony( with 2 outdoor chairs & a table),small fridge, coffee maker & minibar. It was spotlessly clean. We really enjoyed our stateroom. Our room attendants kept it clean & well stocked. Sure, the odd item was overlooked, or a towel missing, but it was soon put right. The balcony was great. really pleased we opted for it. Made the most of the sunny days. Our impression of the Norwegian Sun was that it appeared to be a happy ship. With only one exception, we found the staff to be friendly, talkative in many cases, & eager to please. That doesn't mean that service was always tiptop or quick. Mistakes were made in the dining room. However, they were always rectified with an apology. Generally speaking we found the staff provided an excellent service. We always found if you smile back, say hi, & treat people with respect, you get genuine good service. Navigating around the decks was fairly simple.Really enjoyed the small library & internet cafe. Various $ packages were available, & internet usage was popular, even if speeds were a little slow. We went to a few stage productions, & especially enjoyed the West End/Broadway musical & Peter Pan. Stargazing with the Cruise Director one night was an event not to be missed. Over 200 people on the top deck being wowed with his commentary & the incredible clear skys. Will never forget that. What we particularly like about NCL is the choice available when it comes to food. For breakfast, we always sat outside in the Outdoor Cafe. There was a more limited selection here than in the Garden Cafe, but as they were next to each other, you could top up your selection & head outside. When the weather was poor, we simply chose from the buffet in the Garden Cafe & took it to the Sports Bar. Same for lunch. Choice was good, well cooked & presented. Coffee/tea/hot chocolate always available. One criticism would be the layout of the Garden Cafe. Far too cramped, never enough room, & a bit of a scrum at times. Layout needs rethinking. Dinners were special.We tried all the restaurants. Booked tables the night before with no problems. Speciality restaurants ( with extra service charges of between $10 & 20pp ) LL Adagio. Italian menu. Good wide choice & attentive service.Dined here twice. Steakhouse. Again great choice of steaks,chops,etc & all the extras. Perfectly cooked & with friendly service. Went here twice. Le Bistro. Premium dining. Good French inclined menu. Very attentive service. Twice here. Ginza. Sushi menu. First time we have had this type of food. Very tasty & again very efficient service. Other restaurants Pacific Heights. Good menu with an emphasis on healthier cooking & dishes. No extra charge but we found you did need to book a table. Main Dining Rooms Four Seasons & Seven Seas. Dined here 3 times around 8pm. Never waited more than 5 minutes for a table. Good service & tasty food. For a pre dinner drink & some nibbles, we would go each night to Las Ramblas. Some great tapas accompanied by live jazz. We found drinks quite expensive as a whole, especially wine. We were very lucky with the weather, especially in the first week heading south. It was lovely & sunny with light winds. Sea conditions were very calm virtually all the way to the Falklands. Winds got up a bit on the approach here, but on land the temperature was in the 20sC at Stanley. Going round The Horn, the wind got up but the seas remained fairly calm. It was misty here, but that just added to the mystery of the place. Going through the various Chilean channels, the water is calm, but the winds can be cold. When viewing the glaciers in the Beagle channel, this was the coldest day, with several layers needed. Heading north, when exposed to open seas, the ship rolled a little, especially in stronger winds. Medication against sea sickness was necessary for us. Excursions Took six NCL excursions. Sure they are expensive, but wanted peace of mind & security. Next time to this area would research independent trips. Montevideo. Highlights. 3 hours Saw most of the city from a bus. Very good guide. Puerto Madryn Punta Tombo Penguin Rookery. full day, long drive across the Pampas to get there, about 2 1/2 hours one way. Well worth it. Thousands of Megellanic penguins & chicks. You could walk among them. Had about 1 1/2 hours there. Great day. Ushuaia In Depth. Tour of the historical prison & into the mountains. Fantastic scenery & barbecue for lunch. Punta Arenas. Trekking at Andino Park. 1/2 day. Chairlift into hills above the city & Trekking back down through forest, great to stretch the legs. About 2 mile walk. Puerto Montt. Petrohue Falls & Lake Esmeralda. Full day on bus, with one hour cruise on lake. plenty of stops in lake district. Good views of volcanos. Santiago. Concha Y Tora. Full day on disembarking ship & dropped off at airport. Good tour of city, with funicular ride to a viewpoint, & excellent tour of winery with samples & lunch. We were on this trip to fulfill a dream. To see some amazing scenery & wildlife. At times we had to pinch ourselves. To do it in the comfort of a cruise ship, being wined & dined & in the company of some great people is something we will never forget. On this occasion we were more than happy with NCL & the Norwegian Sun. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I had a choice of going on Royal Caribbean's Radiance or NCL's Norwegian Sun. We have cruised on a spectrum of lines, from Carnival to Windstar, Princess and Crystal. I had the impression that NCL had a somewhat spotty ... Read More
I had a choice of going on Royal Caribbean's Radiance or NCL's Norwegian Sun. We have cruised on a spectrum of lines, from Carnival to Windstar, Princess and Crystal. I had the impression that NCL had a somewhat spotty reputation, but the itinerary going around the Horn was so much better than going down to Ushuaia and making a U turn up to Brazil that I chose NCL. And was delighted by the choice. The Sun overall provided an excellent voyage, and the variety of ports and Chilean fjords was even better than expected. The previous review gave a lot of good details about the ship and ports, so I'll limit myself to areas not covered. First of all, if at all possible, get to Buenos Aires early. Very early. Tango is the national pastime, and we went to the obligatory tourist tango show at Esquina Homero - just so so. But we went to a milonga at Salon Canning. That was great. Lessons until 11 pm, then people start filtering in. At midnight the band arrives, and the party goes on until the wee hours. All LOCALS dance...some extremely well, some like me. There was a wonderful couple in their eighties that looked gorgeous dancing together. And a little old guy who happily buried his face in the bosoms of his much taller and younger partners. In BA, we took a cab and covered all the key sights in two hours - for $19 BUT while the taxi driver was a licensed tour guide, he only spoke Spanish. My Spanish was good enough to understand most of what he said, but would limit this recommendation. MOST importantly, we spent two nights at Iguazu Falls. This is a two hour plane flight from BA, and I had serious doubts about the wisdom of leaving BA to go there. But if you can possibly go, GO. Stupendous. We stayed at the Sheraton - expensive, but a fabulous view of the Falls from the room. The best single highlight of our three weeks in South America. The food in BA is very reasonable and simply delicious. I don't often eat steak at home, but steak and a salad in BA was our evening meal every night,and never disappointed. Don Julio in Soho is a great example, but there are a ton of good restaurants in the city. Definitely not a place to be a vegetarian. And don't miss MALBA, the art museum. I'm not a major museum aficionado, but it's small enough to be enjoyable with enough good art for the art lover. Shopping in Soho made my wife very happy. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We booked our own air and traveled from New York to Buenos Aires on Mexicana. The first flight was on a smaller plane and was a bit tight (lasted about 7 hours). We switched to a larger (more comfortable) plane in Mexico city with a two ... Read More
We booked our own air and traveled from New York to Buenos Aires on Mexicana. The first flight was on a smaller plane and was a bit tight (lasted about 7 hours). We switched to a larger (more comfortable) plane in Mexico city with a two hour lay over. The flight from Mexico to Buenos Aires was another 7 hours or so. Mexicana was a pleasant surprise. They offered free drinks, a comfort gift, food and movies on both flights. Basically we left New York at 12:30 am and arrived the following night at 9:30. The cost of air fare was about $1,200 each - return (we were on a serious budget). Our friend who traveled separately, but traveled alone and booked 5 days before the trip got a much faster, more direct flight RETURN for about $1000 on AA (her flight home stopped in Florida, but the flight to Buenos Aires was direct out of NY). We arrived three days before the cruise and stayed at the Don Telmo Hotel in the (up and coming) San Telmo area. We had made arrangements for the hotel to pick us up at the airport. (They were a little late, we waited about 30 minutes). Husband tried to do banking at airport, but card was rejected (despite making travel arrangements with bank before we left - his card did not work for entire trip, making finances a bit tricky). Decided on The Don Telmo Hotel because: It was cheap, in a real part of the city (Not a touristy spot), and Don Telmo is the patron saint of navigation. We wanted a taste of the real Buenos Aires. The hotel was a small, restored, art nouveau/deco place with a lovely roof garden (but no pool). Our friend arrived earlier in the day and we arrived to find a note informing us that she had made a friend and gone to the Madonna concert. We enjoyed Buenos Aires enormously. Food was good, shopping and museums were great, subway and cabs very efficient!. We stayed out with old friends (who live in the city) until 5:30 in the morning at a real Tango place (not the tourist show). Buenos Aires really is the city that does not sleep at night (New York does sleep). When we left the Tango place the streets were still alive with people coming and going (mind you, it was a Saturday night). We had about 4 hours sleep before we had to check out on Sunday. After fond farewells (the hotel held our bags until needed), we did the famous street market in San Telmo (a short walk from our hotel). Then took a cab to the pier and the Sun. We arrived at the pier about 3. It was hot and the lines were long. We got on board around 5. There was no bubbly welcome (I think they ran out) and no escort to cabin). But our friend, who had never cruised before was still impressed. We were in an aft balcony, our friend was on 6. Our pre arranged Bar Setup was waiting. Room 8278 was adequate in size and had the perfect view, unfortunately it did have some noise issues. We were above the Stardust Theater and next door to a suite (both could be noisy). Despite the poor acoustics, I would book this room again, the theatre closed by 11:00 and the view was too spectacular. Our stewards were not intrusive, and did a great job of keeping the room spick and span. I did have to remind them twice to return used beach towels (NCL charges if you loose them), and they were unable to come up with brandy sniffers for our bar set up, but other than that, they were perfect. As expected, the Sun is smaller, with few bells and whistles. I thought she was in great shape, sailed well and had a good design. We spent alot of time in the aft out door area, in the Sports Bar (loved the chairs and great windows) and usually breakfasted in the waffle room (this room is a no charge, healthy food joint at dinner). I have cruised 4 other times and have never thought cruise directors were any big deal, but Andrea on the Sun was an exception to this rule - He was amazing! At night we partied a fare amount in several of the lounges. Food: We almost always ordered room service coffee and fruit for a wake up call and then proceeded to the Waffle room or Aft outside garden cafe for breakfast. Hardly ever had lunch on board, but managed to eat when hungry. Dinner was usually in the free dinning rooms. We went to three speciality restaurants. The Steak House — was okay. Teppanyaki — was fun, food okay. Le Bistro — was good, but compared to Le Bistro on other NCL ships, not up to par. In general, I was disappointed in the specialty restaurants, they simply were not that great. But I would still choose to try them, just for a change of pace. Excursions: We took two NCL excursions, The one to see penguins at Puerta Madryn was great. I convinced my friend to choose the cheaper option and travel with us. The expensive trip offered a van of no more than 6. Our bus only had 6 and it was great. The other NCL excursion, the catamaran ride on Lake Esmerelda and Falls at Puerto Mott was recommended by a review on CC, but for us, it was disappointing, way over priced and too crowded. Friends we met on board, took a cab, saw way more on a way more personal level and paid a third less than what we did. (Also we got into trouble for being late for the bus when returning to the ship-they almost left without us. I don't blame them for that, just giving you a heads up, not to be late). Ports: Buenos Aires: We loved it, but two couples we met on board had been robbed there. Montevideo: We took a free van to a leather store and walked a couple of blocks to main downtown from there. Enjoyed market, art galleries and architecture. Puerto Madryn: Saw penguins (very close and personal), also enjoyed long bus ride over wild west terrain. Stanley, Falkland Islands: This city was a lovely surprise with loads of (summer) flowers, penguins and quaint buildings. The weather was perfect, even warm and we felt lucky to see it. Ushuaia: Was incredibly gorgeous and everyone wanted more time in this port. The mountains reflect on clear lakes and the people were lovely. Would definitely go back again and think NCL should make this a two day stop. Punta Arenas: We hooked up with some CC members for a tour here. More penguins (getting tired at this point). Had a good lunch at a place called Luna and did the market. ALERT! I totally regret not buying some gorgeous wool items at this port, thinking there would be more to come - NOT, The quality of goods does not improve after this port. Rounding the Horn was amazing! Enjoyed the Glaciers of the Beagle Channel. Puerto Chacabuco: We missed this port because we had to go to the aid of a ship in distress in the Strait of Magellan and an emergency medical lift. Puerto Montt: Nothing too special (See above excursion note). Valparaiso: We rented a car and drove to an organic winery called Matetic. It was awesome, beautiful and spiritual. Then we dropped our friend at airport (only got a little lost) and proceeded to the International Hotel in Santiago. Excellent hotel (with pool), but we only slept there before catching a flight at 7 in the morning. Overview: It was a super trip, and we marvel at the fact that we got to see the tip of South America. Highlights: The Falklands, Ushuaia, Rounding The Horn, meeting lots of great people and star gazing! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Who should Go? This is not a Caribbean party cruise or a European cultural cruise. If you enjoyed an Alaskan cruise and want to experience a similar landscape in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the cruise for you. I have now seen the ... Read More
Who should Go? This is not a Caribbean party cruise or a European cultural cruise. If you enjoyed an Alaskan cruise and want to experience a similar landscape in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the cruise for you. I have now seen the Alaskan, Norwegian, New Zealand and Chilean Fjords and I enjoyed each one for different reasons. Our cruise straddled the Christmas-New Year's holiday, so there was a good mix of young and old since there were many extended families on board. NCL did a good job on the Christmas and New Year's Eve activities. Keep in mind most of the ports require tendering and the ocean this far South can be rough. There were significant delays tendering in Punta Arenas, Ushuaia and the Falkland Islands due to inclement weather. I spoke with people on Celebrity and they had similar issues. The cruise lines work very hard to make this a safe process, so patience is required. One note: Chile requires a $132/person visa for US citizens when arriving at the airport. Argentina has an $18/person departure tax. If you cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, I believe you don't pay either one and save $150/person. Probably not an issue unless you have a family of four and pay $600 in visa/taxes. Ship The Norwegian Sun was adequate for this type of cruise. A medium size of about 2000 passengers, it does not have a lot of the outdoor and sport amenities found on the Caribbean mega-ships, all of which would be useless given the cold and windy conditions experienced during most of the cruise. NCL uses a Free-style dining system and unlike some previous NCL cruises, we had no problems with waiting or slow service because we ate between 6pm and 7:30pm. The food was good in the standard restaurants and excellent in the specialty restaurants. The on-board entertainment was better than normal; maybe because it was a holiday cruise. We had an Oceanview room, which was fine. If you get a Balcony room, try to get it on the Port side if traveling from Valpo to Buenos Aires and Starboard the other way. NCL arranged several interesting lectures on the regions we visited. Embarkation I recommend staying in Vina Del Mar or Buenos Aires the night before your cruise. Both are excellent places to spend some time and eliminate the stress of rushing to the ship. In Valparaiso, where we started the cruise, the embarkation was slowed by the transfer bus availability from the immigration building to the ship. The actual cruise check-in was completed aboard the ship and went very fast. I think the delay was due to the number of buses available and checking in at the peak time. We waited about 1 hour in a comfortable lounge area with a bar and some small gift shops for the transfer buses. Ports/Shore Excursions I usually pick my cruises based on the port of calls, so I will spend more time on this portion. I normally like to do independent shore excursions but this cruise stops at ports that have limited independent options. I always recommend using a cruise line shore excursion if you don't want to worry about travel logistics and getting back to the ship on time. Also, the shore excursion people get off on the first tenders, which made a big difference on this cruise. Independent tour operators, restaurants and shops took US dollars at every port and city we visited. It is best to have smaller denomination bills for obvious reasons. Santiago/Valparaiso/Vina del mar- We arrived three days before the cruise started to see Santiago, Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. We stayed in Santiago one night at a great little hotel called Hotel Orly and toured Santiago on our own. Most of the sights are in a compact area that is pedestrian friendly and safe during the day. We took a full day tour with Think About Chile tour company to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. It worked out good because they picked us up in Santiago and dropped us off at our hotel in Vina del Mar and kept our luggage safe during the tour. We stopped at the Bellavista winery on the way to Valpo and then had a tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. It was $96/person but lower if you have more people. It takes about 2 hours from Santiago to Valpo without any stops. Puerto Montt- We booked a tour through GV Tours (Gail and Veronica) for $75/person. They use a nice mini-bus, which was full of people from our cruise ship. The tour hits the highlights of the Puerto Montt lake district area including Lake Llanquihue, Puerto Varas, Fruitillar, Petrohue falls, and Lake Esmeralda. The tour also included an excellent salmon lunch and a stop at a small farm. The tour lasted 8 hours and they claim they never missed a ship departure time. On a clear day Mt Osorno dominates the landscape. I highly recommend getting away from the Puerto Montt town and touring the lake district. There are several independent tour operators waiting at the port. I saw a short 2-hour tour of the lake district for $15/person. Puerto Chacabuco- Take a cruise line shore excursion if you ship stops here. There are no reliable independent options and nothing close to the port. We took a bus tour through the Rio Simpson valley, which was basically a 3-hour roundtrip bus ride to a National Reserve where we took a 30-minute hike. It is beautiful scenery but it rained most of the trip. The highlight of this stop was cursing through the Fjords that surround Puerto Chacabuco. The Andes drop right into the water here and the rainfall makes it very green and lush. The sun came out later in the day and we had a great sail through the steep Fjords. Sunset was about 10:30pm. Cruising the Chilean Fjords- We spent two days cruising in and out of the Chilean Fjords. The water was calm and scenery beautiful. A lot of waterfalls, islands and glacier capped mountains but surprising little visible marine life. Day time highs were around 50 F but windy. Punta Arenas- We opted to take an expensive cruise line shore excursion to Torre Del Paine. The trip was great. We saw a lot Guanaco's, rheas and condors. The lakes are an amazing milky-blue color and the famous Torre "horns" made a brief appearance. The weather is very unpredictable and changed by the minute, and it is always windy. This was on my list of "must see" places in the World, so I paid the steep $1100 for this one-day excursion. I don't believe all the cruise lines offer this trip, but ours was sold out before the cruise started so book early. The most popular day excursion at this port was the penguin trips. Ushuaia- Sailing the Beagle channel before Ushuaia was very scenic and this is the best chance to see glaciers up close. Six glaciers come down to meet the Beagle Channel. We passed these glaciers in the morning before arriving in Ushuaia. I believe you see these during the evening if traveling from Buenos Aires to Valpo. We hired a taxi with another couple in Ushuaia and went to see a glacier near Ushuaia and then Tierra del Fuego. The cost is $110 per taxi and 4 people can squeeze into a taxi. The trip was about 3-4 hours. Tierra del Fuego is beautiful and worth the trip. Ushuaia also has a nice downtown area for shopping and souvenirs. There are several independent land and boat tour operators waiting at the port. Rounding Cape Horn- This was a highlight for many passengers on the cruise. After a rough first two days at sea, we were concerned about the conditions around this infamous area considered to be the most dangerous in the World. Well, it was like a swimming pool. Our cruise director said it was the most calm NCL had seen in two years. We circled the Cape Horn Island and saw the lighthouse and Memorial. It is my understanding this part of the cruise is usually cancelled due to rough seas. Falkland Islands- We took an NCL shore excursion to the Lagoon Bluffs to see penguins. I think this is the best spot on the cruise to see penguins because of the variety, population and scenic backdrop. We saw Gentoo, Rock-hopper (cool eyebrows) and the famous King penguins (smaller cousins to the movie-star Emperor penguins). All the other stops on the cruise only see Magellan penguins. The tour is via 4-wheel drive vehicles and part of the ride is very rough. The Lagoon Bluffs is a beautiful beach and cove area where thousands of penguin come to breed. We saw a lot of baby penguins like the movie. Great photos. It had sun, rain, sleet and hail all in the one hour we were at Lagoon Bluff. It was fun to watch the penguins when it hailed. It was like a free massage for them. There is a small cabin that serves tea, coffee and pastries, which is included in the tour. Port Stanley is small but nice and scenic town. It is fun to go to the pubs and talk to the locals. The three we went to were Deano's, Victory and Globe taverns. Victory is popular with the British soldiers stationed in the Falkland's and they have some great stories. Puerto Madryn- Yes, our first port where we actually docked since Valpo. We had a late start since it was New Year's day and we stayed up till 3am the night before. We teamed up with eight other people on our cruise and took an independent tour to the Peninsula Valdez for $50/person. There are tour operators waiting outside the dock area to book independent tours. It was a long two-hour ride through the barren Peninsula Valdez to reach an area with Magellan penguins and huge elephant seals. A beautiful coastline on a very sunny and warm day. We also stopped at a small national park museum. We also saw a lot of Guanacos along the way but mainly in the distant. Many other passengers went to the Punto Tomba, probably the best place for penguins outside of the Falkland islands. Montevideo- Civilization again and we docked. Although there are several interesting shore excursions, I recommend walking around the old town and downtown area of this city. The port is less than 10 minutes walk to the old town and stop by the Port Mercado to see the grilled meat restaurants. We hit all the major sights in three hours, had a grilled steak lunch at a restaurant Hillary Clinton ate at, and went to the beach for a few cocktails at a cafe. There are excellent antique markets on the weekend. I bought an antique Kodak Brownie camera for $15. Buenos Aires/disembarkation- We were scheduled to fly out of Buenos Aires that evening, so we decided to take an NCL shore excursion, which kept our bags during the tour and dropped us at the airport afterward. In fact, we never touched our bags after leaving them outside our cabin the night before until arriving at the airport. We took the Best of Buenos Aires Tour, which included a three-hour tour of the city and then a visit to a Gaucho Estancia. I had been to Buenos Aires before and I recommend staying at least two days to see the sights and experience this great city. The Estancia was nice with folk dancing, music, Gaucho horsemanship, horseback and wagon rides, and a huge grilled meat lunch. It is a nine-hour tour getting to the airport around 5:30pm. The cruise met all my expectations. I will mention a few complaints from other fellow passengers: 1) Some had limited time on shore due to tendering delays, 2) The food was not as good as some past cruises, 3) shore excursions were pricey, 4) there should be more activities during days at sea. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Background: This was our fourth cruise with NCL . Having experienced Freestyle cruising before, we knew what to expect and have only cruise with NCL prior for this very reason. Pre Cruise: We flew in to San Francisco 3 days ... Read More
Background: This was our fourth cruise with NCL . Having experienced Freestyle cruising before, we knew what to expect and have only cruise with NCL prior for this very reason. Pre Cruise: We flew in to San Francisco 3 days prior, as we had not been there before. We stayed at the Hyatt Fisherman's Wharf and could not recommend this hotel enough. The rooms were very clean and modern, the bed super comfortable and the staff extremely friendly. It was also in a great location and only a short walk to catch a cable car down town. The rates were very good also for the calibre of this hotel. Embarkation: I have to say that it was quite disorganised. As we were staying in a Suite, we had access to the VIP lounge for check in. The problem was that it was not that easy to find and there was no one on the ground that knew where it was or how to get to it. We eventually fumbled our way through and once we got there our Concierge met us. The Ship: The first word that comes to mind when thinking about the Norwegian Sun is "old". It's in need of refurbishment for sure. It just looks tired. The lay out of the ship is a little awkward at first but you soon get the hang of it. I quite liked the size of the ship and there were always plenty of places to find some quiet time. The pool deck was quite nice with the two pools although the hot tubs are all placed together. I would prefer them a little spread out like the other ships. The Food: Fantastic. We ate in a few of the specialty restaurants and they were great. The service was exceptional and the temperature of the food was never a problem. It did not matter where we ate, we can't think of a time where we ate a bad meal. We had the luxury of eating in Il Adagio for breakfast and lunch and that was the culinary highlight for us. Very private and the quality of the food was top notch. The Cabin: We stayed in an aft facing Suite and while the location and design of the cabin was great, it was very run down. It was like staying in a 3 star motel room. The carpet was worn, the walls stained and the cabin furniture all marked and worn. Old CRT televisions, I could go on.... Entertainment: The jean Ann Ryan shows ere great although the rest of the production shows were very average. I am of the younger variety and I can say that the entertainment was clearly aimed at those over 60. Nothing wrong with that but it would have been nice to see some variety for all ages. Ports: I would certainly recommend this itinerary. The ports of call were very good. I wont list port by port suffice to say that the highlights were Arica and Coquimbo in Chile. There is really something for every one on this trip. Conclusion: I must admit that after this cruise I really thought hard about whether I would cruise with NCL again based on my Suite experience which was far from great. The cabin was underwhelming and not worth the money in my opinion. Having said this, Belkys our concierge was wonderful and the restaurant perks for Suite guests was great. The Norwegian Sun, while an ok ship, is far from the best I have cruised on. So in summary, yes I would cruise with NCL again, although not in a Suite and certainly not on this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Overall we had a great time!The ship NCL Sun is in need of refurbishing as it's showing it's wear and tear. We were in an "aft" cabin and have never experienced soot like we had on this cruise but the room stewards who ... Read More
Overall we had a great time!The ship NCL Sun is in need of refurbishing as it's showing it's wear and tear. We were in an "aft" cabin and have never experienced soot like we had on this cruise but the room stewards who were very good stayed on top of it.The cruise was about 75% full. Embarkment and Disembarkment for us was a breeze due to being Latitudes gold. Entertainment The Jean Ann Ryan Company acts were great as was the Skinny German. As for the rest of the entertainment I don't remember much. FOOD We found the specialty restaurants to be very good, we ate at them most nights with exception of Las Rambles. Reservations were never a problem at early seatings because people were just not spending money on this cruise.We found the food in the Garden Cafe to be fine as far as taste and selection. But because of the confined area there was usually some congestion. They need to make better use of the outside buffet areas "aft ship" and open them for the 3 meals, maybe by taking the most popular stations such as pasta and duplicating them outside. The Sports Bar had amazing fish and chips (real batter and fresh fish)and wings. NCL also ran 2 for 1 drink specials 2 to 3 times during the cruise including buckets of beer.We found all of the staff to be very friendly andpleasing. They also ran the "bags" laundry program 3 times for $20. Cruise Critic-Roll Call there were approx 30 people in our group. Two meet and greets were setup for the cruise ship where we got together to chat, share stories take pic's and talked about upcoming excursions etc. Overall it was a great group.A special thank you to those that did the arrangement of the above as well as some of the excursions. Some also got together for trivia games and bridge. PORTS San Francisco we stayed at the Best Western Tuscan Inn at Fisherman's Wharf. This was a great hotel, clean and freshly decorated and close to the pier. The rooms are a little on the small side but for 2 nights it was fine.We were able to walk to the cruise ship pier with out luggage we were that close. Would we recommend this hotel YES! $140 a night or two. Los Angeles we stayed on the ship. Acapulco We did the "Shotover Jet Boat Ride/City Tour and Cliff Divers" through Intersol Tours. The ride was a blast and if you haven't seen the divers then you have to go once. The tour cost was $99 and we thought it was good value. We paid for this tour in advance using PayPal. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala This was just an amazing, educational tour. It was arranged by some of the CC team who had arranged for transportation to Antigua and we then did a walking tour of this romantic and charming town. The walking tour was done through Elizabeth Bell and her Antigua Tour Company who comes highly recommended as we could see by the amount of people that were doing the same tour in small groups ahead and behind us.She has also written 5 or 6 books. This walking tour for those that are concerned about walking covers about an eight block area and it's all on flat ground and takes about 2 hours. The cost was $23 for transportation (8 or12 to van) and walking tour was $25. We highly recommend this tour. For lunch we all broke up and went our own way as some wanted to see more and others wanted to eat. We found this little hole in the wall restaurant, we decided to go in and found a lovely courtyard setting inside, we could see the open kitchen area and decided to stay for lunch, the meal was fantastic and reasonably priced. As we sat down we saw pictures on the wall of people who had eaten there such as Bill Clinton (minus blue dress) Ricky Martin and others. The name of the restaurant is La Fonda don't remember the street but I'm sure you can ask and get directions. Puntarenas Costa Rica We did another tour arranged by CC it was to Turu Ba Ri Park. Some did the tram ride while others did the zipline tour. The tour was done through "Greenway Tours" and was handled by Mario the president of the company. We had a guide and driver who were very good and their vehicle was fairly new. The park itself is about 600 acres. The tram ride had great views and those that did the zipline had a blast. Lunch was included and the food was amazing, fresh, hot and lots of it. The facilities (restaurant and bathrooms) were extremely clean. Note: for this tour you have to pay up front as Greenway has to travel almost 3 hours to the pier and can't afford "no shows". They were prompt at picking and dropping us off in plenty of time. Cost of tour was $99 pp. Manta Ecuador we did not get off the ship for this port. Callao(Lima)Peru This for us was our best tour of the whole cruise. We did an NCL ship tour called "Temples Treasures and Horses" as we really wanted to see the peruvian horses. The tour consisted of driving through the Pueblo Libre district to the National Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. We then drove through the shanty town districts to get to the ranch/hacienda which was called "Los Ficus". There are no words to describe this place other than it's picture perfect for an outdoor intimate wedding. The grounds are impeccably kept,as are their happy horses and their stalls. They put on a show of the horses and equipment as well as let a couple people ride them. They also had a 2 day and 6 day old colt. The meal was amazing! It was set up with white linen tables outside but under a roof. The food was fresh,hot and plentiful. They also grow their own organic product which was used in the meals. The hosts were extremely accommodating and couldn't do enough. This tour is only offered to NCL and is limited to 50/60 people. The ranch has only been doing this for about 6 months. The cost was $169 pp and well worth it. Would we do it again YES! Arica Chile Due to being under the weather we did not do the CC arranged tour. But after starting to feel better we headed out in the afternoon on our own. Just outside the pier gate's is a nice park with a market set up with asst'd goods such as alpaca goods etc. We bought a dozen alpaca scarves for xmas gifts at $3.50 each. We then took a cab (return $15 for 2) up the hilltop for some kodak moments of the city then walked around some. Nice port! Coquimbo Chile At this port we took a van from outside the pier for I think $5 to $7 pp (1 way) to La Serena, we walked around some and then went to La Recova market that was full of el junko. Wasn't impressed with this port! Valparaiso Chile (disembarked) At this port we had arranged for a private half day tour with Hector http://sites.google.com/site/privatetourguidechile/ We had Margareta as our guide and Carlos as our driver. This was a great tour as we would have never found these places on our own and plus Val is very hilly. It reminded us a lot of San Francisco with the different colored homes and all the hills. The tour ended with them driving us to our hotel in Vina Del Mar were we spent 3 nights. Cost was $70 pp and well worth it. Vina Del Mar Chile is the resort area near Val. We stayed at the Hotel Oceanic which was on a cliff hanging over the ocean with spectacular views and sunsets. Its a small family run hotel thats quaint and reasonable at $114 a night which included a great breakfast. Well decorated,clean and with comfortable beds. We ate a couple of dinners here and found the food to be very good, especially the fish soup and blt sandwich which was huge and couldn't finish. The diner was lacking atmosphere I guess because we were the only one's eating there. They also had a huge wine list list and prices were very reasonable. Would we stay there again YES! However you need to know that it's located about a $5 cab ride from the heart of Vina and the casino which we didn't mind as we just wanted to rest and absorb the rays for three days. Santiago Chile We did a full day tour again with Hector http://sites.google.com/site/privatetourguidechile/ We were picked up at our hotel at 9 am and drove to Santiago with Hector and his driver in a fairly new van. We stopped in Santiago visited the financial area, main shopping area as well as the gov't buildings area including the beautiful gov't palace and an amazing old cathedral. We then went to San Cristobal Park for fabulous views of the city and many kodak moments all the while Hector was giving us cultural and historical info along the way. He also drove us through the million dollar homes area. Then dropped us off at the airport in plenty of time for our flight. I cannot recommend enough to use Hector for private tours that he can curtail to your needs. He is young, pleasant very, good english and has lived in the USA. He also has numerous contacts for other places and of course Chile. Hector if your reading this thanks again to you and your team! In closing we would just like to say that we cruise for the itinerary not the ship but are loyal NCL cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Embarkation was on 4 Nov 08. After spending two days in San Francisco I was ready for our cruise to start. Check in at the VIP spot was a smooth process and we where on the ship at 11;30am—there was no escort to our cabin, which I ... Read More
Embarkation was on 4 Nov 08. After spending two days in San Francisco I was ready for our cruise to start. Check in at the VIP spot was a smooth process and we where on the ship at 11;30am—there was no escort to our cabin, which I thought was part of 2.0. At 12;30 we went to Il Adagios for lunch—it was fantastic the sirloin steak is from the steak house and it is great - I had this for lunch 4 times during the cruise The suite butler was not to be found—more of this problem later. The AC aft penthouse suite (9076) showed signs of wear but the layout is the best on any NCL ship—the reason we booked it. The new mattress and liens where fantastic—the bed was tremendous—really comfortable—my wife and I are still talking about it. The balcony had a bad soot problem for the whole cruise—kept the stewards busy cleaning it. Last time we where in an AC one deck up—the soot seemed to be not as bad. For the first seven days or so we had a problem we the temp of bath water—it was usually not very warm. We complained several times and finally the engineering officer cam up to sample it himself—the next day no more problem. After talking to several other cruise passengers on several decks it appeared that the whole ship was having a hot water issue—sometimes it was way to hot. Last time we sailed the Sun we did not have this problem. There were no flowers in the suite until I complained and then they showed up. Concierge service ( Belky Sanchez) was fantastic. She was really good and took care of every request we had. On the other side of the coin the butler service ( SATKI) was terrible. We could never find him out to sea or import. We complained to the Concierge but She apparently could not fix this—they do not work for her. I called NCL customer service and complained about this. I do not think Satki should even be a butler Food: Buffet was above average—crowded most of the time. The outdoor cafe was great along with the Sports Bar for snacks ( fish and chips to die for). . The outdoor cafe turned out to be a great place for breakfast and afternoon snacks because the weather was tremendous the whole 19 day cruise—in fact I think we saw sprinkles on only one or two days. Being in a suite we took most breakfasts and lunches at IL Adagios. The menus are fantastic for this suite perk—lunch menus changed daily with the steak always on the menu. We had breakfast in our suite only twice ( both times the butler was late etc.) The afternoon snacks were terrible—the options on the suite card are not very good—in my opinion NCL needs to go back to canapEs etc. I ordered nuts one time and the butler served ground up pecans that look like they came from the bakery or the ice cream station. There were no flowers in the suite until I complained and then they showed up. For specialty restaurants we ate at the East Meets West steakhouse twice—it was superb—the lamb chops are to die for—the porterhouse steak was very good. We had dinner at the Le Bistro one night also fantastic. Pacific Fresh in my mind was average. One of the highlights were the tapas in Las Ramblas—they were fantastic—the head chef told me that the tapas menu had been upgraded and it was excellent—he was right. Also had lunch at Las Ramblas on several occasions—the made to order and sandwiches are really, really good. Both main dining rooms were above average with great ne menus—it was obvious that NCL has upgraded the food and menu selections. Disembarkation: because the ship had rapped ropes and cables around the rudders and props) when backing out of he port of COQUMBIO we were late in arriving Valparaiso. We had a terrible night in our aft suite because of the vibration this caused to the back end of the ship. Curiously the Captain never made an announcement to this effect. It was so bad many people did not sleep the last night. We were off the ship about 10am. Customs and immigration were a breeze—drug dogs where all over the hand luggage. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
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