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58 Norwegian (NCL) South America Cruise Reviews

First let me say that before this cruise there had been some concern about previous negative reviews of the Norwegian Sun, Chilean earthquakes, negative reviews of 'Christian the Van Man', verbiage from Argentina about shipping ... Read More
First let me say that before this cruise there had been some concern about previous negative reviews of the Norwegian Sun, Chilean earthquakes, negative reviews of 'Christian the Van Man', verbiage from Argentina about shipping control in the Falkland Islands and on and on. To our joy absolutely every potential problem was NOT a problem for us. It is hard to decide where to start with this review since so much of what needs to be said is to provide some balance considering previous reviews. First of all, please understand that my wife and myself feel that fair value needs to be given at a fair cost. We knew the Sun was a little over 10 years old but found it to be well maintained and actually quite elegant. There was some age showing but nothing inappropriate. In all cases regarding the Norwegian Sun as far as food value and professional service we were well served. We ate at some of the premium restaurants and some of the no charge ones. All of the food was good. The steak and lobster at the 'East Meets West' steakhouse was excellent. Yes, there was a cost but we knew that in advance and chose to pay it. The entertainment aboard ship that we saw was also very good. Another interesting topic has been embarkation and disembarkation. All things considered, the crew did a VERY good job with both. The only thing we found that could do with improvement was the coffee in the Garden Cafe. Try Pacific Heights or the Java Cafe for a better cup of coffee. And just to address it up front, 'Christian the Van Man' sent Jose to pick us up at the Santiago airport and transfer us privately to the ship. This occurred flawlessly in a professional manner that was enjoyable, trust-able and appreciated! Our Cruise Critic group was active before the cruise. My wife and I scheduled several tours with Norwegian and several with Cruise Critic members. All of the tours we went on worked well and were very enjoyable. Thanks to Sandpiper34 a meet and greet was arranged where almost ALL of the ships officers, including the Captain, came to meet with us and addressed any issues or questions we had. It was a great way to start the cruise. I highly recommend doing it and thank the ship's personnel for attending as well as Sandpiper34 for having arranged the meet and greet. The short version of this review is that we had a GREAT time! With the many concerns listed earlier this could have played out very differently. Cruise Critic members, Norwegian Cruise Lines and all of the individual operators who assisted us are to be highly commended. And just in case anyone wonders about it, we have no affiliation with any of these entities except to be thankful for their good service. The following gives some specific port and tour information. Santiago, Chile: Private transfer from the Santiago airport to the port in Valparaiso was handled very well by Christian Montenegro, The Van Man. His email is christianroymx@hotmail.com. We recommend him. Puerto Montt, Chile: We took a tour with several other Cruise Critic members. This tour was with GV Tours (Annie) and was one of our favorites. They may be contacted at http://www.gvtours.com/. Puerto Chacabuco, Chile: NCL ship tour of Chacabuco and surrounding area. Short and inexpensive but a good value. Punta Arenas, Chile: NCL ship tour to see the penguins on Magdalena Island. Well worth the cost! You should be prepared for high winds and blowing sand. Especially plan on protecting any camera equipment. Ushuaia, Argentina: NCL ship tour cruising the Beagle Channel. The catamaran was almost new and the tour was very good. Stanley, Falkland Islands: Cruise Critic tour with Patrick Watts, pwatts@horizon.co.fk. We visited one of the last battlefields from the 1982 war with Argentina, a lighthouse and saw some penguins. Great value for the cost! Thank you too, Ian (our 4 WD driver)! Puerto Madryn, Argentina: NCL ship tour, Great Patagonian adventure. We visited Peninsula Valdez, saw many birds, penguins and sea lions, had lunch at the San Lorenzo ranch. This tour was relatively expensive but we would do it again in a heartbeat! Montevideo, Uruguay: This was a Cruise Critic tour of approximately 20 people. Ricardo Wall wall.ric1@hotmail.com arranged for several taxis and vans. We then all toured the city and visited a winery. The only thing to remember about arranging things this way is that the cost is for the taxis/vans but expenses are additional. We thought this was an excellent and affordable way to see Montevideo! Thank you Ricardo! Buenos Aires, Argentina: Fred B. with www.silverstarcar.com handled arranging to pick us up from the ship and transfer us to the hotel (Melia Buenos Aires Hotel-excellent location, great service, reasonable cost- consider it as an option). We spent a couple of extra days with Fred chauffeuring us around in his Lincoln Town Car. Once again, we had a GREAT time. We highly recommend Fred as an affordable private way to experience Buenos Aires and the surrounding countryside!!! We met some wonderful new friends through Cruise Critic and loved every moment we spent together in person aboard ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Some of these earlier reviews were so different than our experience that I feel we must have been on a different ship. Yes, the Sun is over 10 years old. But she is in great shape, and is well-kept up. There was absolutely no incidence of ... Read More
Some of these earlier reviews were so different than our experience that I feel we must have been on a different ship. Yes, the Sun is over 10 years old. But she is in great shape, and is well-kept up. There was absolutely no incidence of a virus while we were sailing due to the high levels of cleanliness and the crew's impeccable standards. She may need a bit of a facelift, but that is simply cosmetics. This crew was one of the very best we have encountered after over 20 cruises all over the world. They always had a smile and a cheery greeting and seemed to go out of their way to accommodate everyone. This standard applies to all- cabin stewards, cleaners, wait staff, officers, bar attendants, shop personnel,performers. The entire crew is extremely well-trained and very attuned to the passengers wants. Bravo! There is no way I could find fault with the food served anywhere. We tend to use the dining rooms for breakfast and lunch, simply to avoid the thundering herds pushing and shoving others simply to get another serving because they haven't eaten in a couple of hours. Most of the portions served are the size that we all know we should be eating. The bread at every meal was incredible, and the service would be rewarded in any fine dining establishment. We always ask for a shared table and have always met wonderful dining companions that way. The Bistro is an amazing dining experience and we also enjoyed Il Adigio. Both embarkation and debarkation were fast and well-organized. In fact from the time we arrives at the port, dropped our luggage and stepped on board ship was no longer than 15 minutes. We were a group of 10 leaving in Valparaiso for a tour, and everyone was outside waiting for our guide within 20 minutes of the first announcement. This is in part because we co-ordinated with the front desk to receive the same coloured baggage tags. There were over 60 of us in our Meet and Greet get-together where most officers including the Captain greeted us on our first sea-day. Here I met the Group Co-ordinator who was extremely helpful about getting our group priority tender tickets for any port where we had to tender. Our ports were simply fascinating and we enjoyed every one of them. We took either private tours, or did things on our own and learned tons of stuff. As the Sun is no longer doing this itinerary, I will not bore anyone with our experiences. I am just so thankful that we decided to take this cruise while the Sun was sailing it. We have booked a Baltic cruise B2B with a TA next fall and it is on the Sun. That is partly due to the great experience we had on this ship and partly due to the amazing value that NCL gives us. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We enjoyed every minute of our time on the Norwegian Sun and feel we owe it to the ship and her crew to say that, based on our experience of a 28 day cruise, we found much of the negative comment we have read in the CC reviews difficult to ... Read More
We enjoyed every minute of our time on the Norwegian Sun and feel we owe it to the ship and her crew to say that, based on our experience of a 28 day cruise, we found much of the negative comment we have read in the CC reviews difficult to support. ROCKY START: We had originally booked a cruise on the Star Princess, sailing from Rio de Janiero to Los Angeles. It was only after Princess cancelled the Valparaiso-Los Angeles leg of that cruise that we decided to book our cruise on the Sun. This was for two legs: Buenos Aires to Valparaiso and Valparaiso To Los Angeles. At the same time we booked flights from Sydney to Santiago and San Francisco back home to Sydney. From Santiago it had been our intention to travel to Buenos Aires by coach via Mendoza. In the aftermath of the earthquake in Chile we decided to fly direct from Sydney to Buenos Aires. When we made our booking on the Sun we asked for and were given a balcony on the starboard side. We reasoned this was the side to be on with the ship travelling clockwise around the South American coast. Several weeks after the booking was made NCL altered the second leg of the cruise. Instead of heading north to Los Angeles, the ship would be passing through the Panama Canal and on to Miami. We told our agent in Sydney that we would be happy to keep the booking and made arrangements to travel from Miami to San Francisco at the end of the cruise. Going through the travel documents about two weeks before leaving Sydney one of us noticed a different cabin number on our cruise ticket. It was a port side number. Somehow, when the ship's destination was shifted to Miami we were allocated a different cabin. After learning from the Sydney agent and NCL's Sydney office that the ship was fully booked with no starboard side cabin available, we phoned NCL reservations in Miami where Jack answered the call. Amazingly, Jack found one cabin available on the starboard side. Thank you, Jack! FIRST IMPRESSIONS: We have cruised on ships of Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean and others. We have invariably enjoyed these cruises. The Sun was our first experience of NCL. We had read some negative reviews of the Sun in CC and were a little apprehensive, wondering if we would be disappointed in the ship. We were not. From the moment we stepped aboard we felt relaxed and unhurried. The crew members we met during embarkation were friendly and cheerful and somehow the ship appeared uncrowded. We carried these impressions with us throughout the cruise EMBARKATION: Since the Sun will no longer be cruising in South America, there is little point in saying much about the embarkation process in Buenos Aires. Suffice to say, it was as efficiently managed as any we have experienced. It was 35 minutes from the moment we stepped away from our bags outside the terminal to the moment we entered our cabin. OUR CABIN: We had a balcony cabin forward on the starboard side of Deck 9. We found this a great place to be. More often than not when the ship docked the starboard side and the forward gangways were used, giving us plenty of entertainment. The balcony chairs appeared to be new and were perfectly comfortable. The cabin interior, whilst not voluminous, was more than adequate in size. There was no walk-in wardrobe as we have found on other ships but there was more than enough room both in drawer and hanging space for our belongings. The doors to the wardrobe and bathroom were opposite one another and there was need for a bit of care when exiting the bathroom. The bathroom was compact but we thought as well conceived as any ship bathroom we have encountered. The shower was superb and the shower curtains were fitted ingeniously with vertical rods which prevented the intrusion of the curtain into the cubicle. Cubicle is a misnomer; it was round and had an excellent non-slip floor. Soap and shampoo were provided in dispensers. We asked for and were given a bar of soap. In addition to the main queen sized bed there was a couch that could be converted into a bed when the cabin was occupied by more than two people. Initially we found the couch uncomfortable as it would slip forward whenever someone sat on it. Examination underneath revealed a couple of clips that had to be secured. It was fine after this. There was a coffee maker which the cabin attendants kept stocked with coffee/decaf filters. DINING: We had read the complaints about the paucity of space in the Garden Cafe, the standard of food on the ship and some rudeness amongst the waiters. The Garden Cafe was where we mostly went for breakfast and lunch. We found it no worse than the buffets we have experienced on other ships and, except on a couple of sea days when it was uncharacteristically crowded, we found we could mostly find a table in the buffet itself. A number of times we took our meal across to the Sports Bar where there was always somewhere to sit. At lunch pizzas and pasta were available in Pacific Heights. The pizzas were good and several times we had pizza with salad from the buffet. The Great Outdoors with its own buffet was a nice place for breakfast in the warmer weather. We ate dinner in the Four Seasons almost every night. We found the food and the service to be generally very good. We ate early, encountered no delay in getting to our table and enjoyed meeting the variety of waiters that comes with freestyle dining. Overall we found the food and service on the Sun to be as good as, if not better than,on any other ship we have cruised on. Our only serious complaint is that the buffet food was not kept warm. We would have thought this an easy problem to rectify. DISEMBARKATION: We chose to walk off with our bags. This was easy and convenient. For the first time a shore side gangway was connected to the promenade deck for disembarkation. Either this was not announced or, if it was, we missed the announcement. Whatever the case, we disembarked an hour after we could have. INCIDENTALS: 1. The port information provided by the ship was fairly slight and there were no on board experts whose talks we have enjoyed on other ships. On the other hand the Captain's messages which we really enjoyed and the talks that accompanied the rounding of Cape Horn and the passage through the Panama Canal were excellent. 2. Walking on and off the ship in port was, like the ship herself, relaxed and uncrowded. This was the case even when the tenders were being used. SUMMATION: The Sun is not as glamorous as some ships we have cruised on but has an understated elegance and charm, together with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere that we really enjoyed. It was no surprise to us that several of the crew we spoke to, who had worked on newer larger ships in the NCL fleet, said the Sun was their favorite. The trip around South America is fascinating and on the Sun it was a great, relaxing way to enjoy the experience. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We always arrive early - especially in spots we haven't yet visited - to savor the local culture. Booked 3 days in Santiago and 2 in Buenos Aires on NCL packages and were delighted with both places. Embarkation in Valparaiso is a ... Read More
We always arrive early - especially in spots we haven't yet visited - to savor the local culture. Booked 3 days in Santiago and 2 in Buenos Aires on NCL packages and were delighted with both places. Embarkation in Valparaiso is a joke and it's not a cruise line issue. Very tight spaces for buses and the terminal and ships are at least a mile apart. Once on board we we're charmed as usual by NCL's brand of hospitality. We book suites because of the perks - larger and nicer staterooms, a private dining room for breakfast and lunch, reserved seating in the theater and of course our concierge and butler - Karen and Roel are 2 of the best at what they do. We chose South America - Santiago to Buenos Aires because we hadn't been there. Totally awesome scenery, extremes in weather - hot, cold, rainy, windy and bright sunshine - sometimes all in the same day. Still an excellent experience. The only disappointment was not being able to go ashore in the Falklands because of high winds. We think NCL people are pretty great. Without exception, every crew member we met face-to-face smiled and greeted us warmly. There were so many gr4eat people that we probably did 30 positive comment cards. The people were funny, charming, witty and polite and worked hard to spoil us - and it worked. The ship we clean and well maintained. We saw very little wear and tear. It was easy to get around. The entertainment was great to mediocre depending on your tastes. Jean Ann Ryan dances superb as usual. Juggler and magician were really good. We ate in most of the restaurants - both speciality and main dining rooms - and found the service, selection and quality to be excellent in all venues. Especially great service and food in Le Bistro - Sushi was some of the best ever and Il Adagio, Pacific Heights and Seven Seas were always very good. Was everything always perfect? Of course not. However, about the only thing worth complaints were some of the most inconsiderate, self-centered passengers who pushed and shoved in lines, on and off elevators and took others seats on the tours buses. Thankfully, these were not the majority. All in all, a great trip to a part of the world we had not yest visited. We'll cruise with NCL again - booked on a transatlantic on the Epic and have 2 other opened bookings. We obviously like what they offer and sometimes wonder if we're on the same cruise as the people writing negative reviews. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Despite weather preventing an excursion to Antarctica, and a landing in the Falklands, we had a ball. It was our first cruise on a big ship, although we have cruised on Windstar sailing hybrid ships several times and a Blue Lagoon cruise ... Read More
Despite weather preventing an excursion to Antarctica, and a landing in the Falklands, we had a ball. It was our first cruise on a big ship, although we have cruised on Windstar sailing hybrid ships several times and a Blue Lagoon cruise in Fiji. Crowds aren't our thing so have avoided big ships, but this was a chance to get to Antactica rather inexpensively. We were pleasantly surprised. Embarcation was well handled and painless, our stateroom was in good shape and well attended to by steward Christopher on a daily basis. The mini-bar was emptied as requested immediately. We ate mostly in the Seven Seas, and Four Seasons, but enjoyed the Bistro and Tapas bar also. The food we had was always delicious, well prepared, varied, and served by efficient and friendly staff who took the sting out of the $12.00 per person per day gratuity some moron at NCL HO decided to label a convenience to the guest. In the end, based on their service, I had no problem with it, and our steward deserved and got extra. The entertainment was by and large most entertaining, and we enjoyed many of the varied performances. Dancing was fun, the pools and area are well looked after, and the gym had decent equipment in good working order. I did not talk to one person who had contracted Norwalk, although apparently there were a few. The precautions taken to prevent an outbreak were quite impressive although a touch inconvenient at times. I found that at the prices, NCL should be demanding more from their excursion contractors. That was the weakest area in my opinion. The cost of drinks is not outrageous, but a little pricey, as is the internet. However with numerous shore days that can be addressed if it's a problem for someone. Overall, this Norwegian Sun cruise was great value for the money! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
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
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 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
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