10 Santiago (Valparaiso) Expedition Cruise Reviews

We were encouraged to join my sister and brother-in-law of their 25th wedding anniversary trip to the Galapagos. They were considering a much smaller ship, but after I saw Celebrity offered on of the biggest ships in the region I suggested ... Read More
We were encouraged to join my sister and brother-in-law of their 25th wedding anniversary trip to the Galapagos. They were considering a much smaller ship, but after I saw Celebrity offered on of the biggest ships in the region I suggested Celebrity and we joined them. We had been on their larger ship before in the Greek Islands. 1. We were immediately whisked from the airport in Quito into a van within 2 minutes and on our way to the wonderful Marriott ( very similar to the one I had stayed at in Palm springs). The hotel had a marvellous included large scale breakfast, and also a farewell dinner in their terrific Hacienda steak house. 2. Next day Quito city tour with guide and armed guard ( must be necessary) was very good, and included lunch at a local restaurant was top quality. 3. Pre-checked luggage at our hotel before heading off to the airport for their charter flight to the Galapagos , and short wait in a private lounge at the airport made life wonderful. The food was very good on the ship, lots of variety. Alcohol included, and we soon discovered if you asked the better bottle were kept below the bar in a cabinet. Bombay Saphire gin martinis! The nature walks and snorkels were wonderful. We are in our early 50's and did the harder (longer version) of all the walks. I did the snorkels from shore and saw tons of amazing fish, sea turtle etc. Did not do the deep water snorkels since I was not that comfortable. Saw tons of sea lions, crabs, birds, iguanas etc. Didn't disappoint in the amount of creatures we saw. They entertainment was basic but we met a lot of nice people and had dinner/drinks with them every evening. One night the naturalists put on a small music show, another night music in the lounge or karaoke . The overall experience was wonderful and the staff were very accommodating and friendly. A fabulous experience . Celebrity hit the spot. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
Our first cruise on the Minerva. This was a trip made up of two cruises - Timeless South America and Natural Wonders of Latin America. We flew to Santiago in Chile from London Heathrow with Iberia. The flight was poor with a 2 hour wait in ... Read More
Our first cruise on the Minerva. This was a trip made up of two cruises - Timeless South America and Natural Wonders of Latin America. We flew to Santiago in Chile from London Heathrow with Iberia. The flight was poor with a 2 hour wait in Madrid airport. The first section of the flight was considered short haul so any food or drink had to be paid for. This was not explained in advance so came as a surprise. We arrived in Madrid at night and all outlets for coffee, snacks etc were closed. There was food etc on the long haul section but this was a couple of hours into the flight so we hadn't eaten for over 12 hours. The aircraft was fairly basic and the cabin crew mostly non existant. However, on arrival at Santiago transfer to the ship at Valparaiso was smooth and interesting. We were soon in our cabin. The ship only holds a maximum of about 350 passengers with no dedicated facilities for children. Most of the passengers were of retirement age and above. There is one, small swimming pool, a spa room and a small but reasonably equipped gym. It has an excellent library. We spent half the cruise in a small cabin on the Aegean deck with an outside window. This was comfortable enough; clean; more than enough storage space (including under the beds for the cases) and a small but perfectly functional bathroom. The second half we transferred to a Balcony Suite on the Sun Deck. This was lovely; very comfortable with a large balcony. There was a big, comfortable bed; settee and armchair; coffee table with a fruit bowl which was regularly filled; desk with chair and fridge. This does come at quite an extra cost though (considerably more than bigger cruise ships). This deck was below the Promenade Deck and we did have a slight issue with the thumping overhead of the early morning joggers (as early as 6.00am). The ship is very nice with plenty of comfortable lounges. There is a very pleasant, covered outside seating area at the back of the ship where you can also eat. I cannot praise the crew enough who gave their guests their constant attention. Service was excellent and the quality of the food was consistently very high. Both restaurants are Freedom Dining and waiter service. We took most meals in the Swan Restaurant and the waiters soon got to know us along with our likes and dislikes. Most of them are Filipino and eager to please. Tips are included in the cost of the cruise. Particular thanks go to Sherwin, Mark, Danny, Randy and Willard. There are a series of lectures each day. Personally, we found the subjects too random and somewhat unrelated. We would have preferred them to be more aligned to the areas/countries that we were visiting and what we could expect to see and experience. Entertainment was gentle and more low-key than on a bigger cruise ship. The cocktail pianists were very good. There was a three piece band who were also very good but somewhat let down by a very average vocalist. There was also two Opera singers; these were particularly good in the second half of the cruise. The only show was presented by some of the crew which was very good fun. You have to admire their eagerness to please and to show off their national dances and costumes. Excursions were very varied and prepaid within the cruise price. There were plenty to choose from to suit all interests and physical capabilities. They were very good and gave us the opportunity to both see and experience the areas that we visited. As the cruises were marketed as 'Discovery cruises' there was little opportunity to spend any own time in the towns with no Shuttle buses from the ship. However, this was made clear at the time of booking. If you like a cruise ship with larger swimming pools, a theatre, cabaret bars etc then this is not the ship for you - it is a quieter, more gentle existence. However, although we enjoy the larger cruise ships, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Minerva. Thank you. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
The Antarctica was very high on our "bucket list"so glad we waited for the Seabourn experience to take this amazing adventure. We sailed on the last departure of the season...the best for last! Not only the wonderful Seabourn ... Read More
The Antarctica was very high on our "bucket list"so glad we waited for the Seabourn experience to take this amazing adventure. We sailed on the last departure of the season...the best for last! Not only the wonderful Seabourn treatment but an excellent expedition team lead by Robin West...we were really informed on the way down with wonderful interesting lectures...Geoff with his humorous take on history! Learned about penguin poo! Comes in different colors...watch your step! The actual embarking into the zodiacs was a well oiled machine...quick and helpful all along the way...amazing to move so many "older people" so quickly! We were really impressed with the attention to detail, way to go Seabourn! Capt Larsen was wonderful giving us so many trills like the whales that were all around us...so close you could smell their fish breath!!! Our 3rd time on deck 6...great location to everything..especially to the Grand Salon...cabin size is great, even with all the Antarctica gear we had plenty of space...bathroom is roomy....we had some Drakes Passage weather with wild seas but we were quiet comfy. This is an amazing cruise...not possible to tell in words you have to see for yourself! Make sure you have the Lobster Tempura!!!! a standout among standouts! Only problem was the 2 chain smokers at the end of the hall....stinky for the rest of us....BAN SMOKING SEABOURN!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
News on Antarctic cruises tends to favour the report of problems, such as being stuck in the ice, or beset with bad weather in Drake Passage. No bad news for this cruise - quiet seas, excellent weather, five days in Antarctica and 3 days ... Read More
News on Antarctic cruises tends to favour the report of problems, such as being stuck in the ice, or beset with bad weather in Drake Passage. No bad news for this cruise - quiet seas, excellent weather, five days in Antarctica and 3 days in South Georgia - more landings and zodiac cruises than anticipated, more wildlife than could be imagined. Expedition staff include a number of scientists with considerable polar experience, a couple of professional photographers, and some very capable zodiac 'drivers'. This is our fourth Seabourn cruise, and going to Antarctic has not compromised all the usual pleasures - even managed to dine al fresco at the Patio Grill while sailing off Antarctic Peninsula, albeit with parkas and beanies. My only Seabourn gripe is the muzak - sailing through such grandeur demands better than the typical and pervasive fare, or perhaps even turn it off. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
I am an Elite member of the Captain Club on the Celebrity Cruise Line. I did online check in which usually gets us on board in 10 to 15 minutes. 90 minutes later we finally walked on to the ship. It went down hill from there. My room was ... Read More
I am an Elite member of the Captain Club on the Celebrity Cruise Line. I did online check in which usually gets us on board in 10 to 15 minutes. 90 minutes later we finally walked on to the ship. It went down hill from there. My room was next to a family that had taken 4 cabins for 7 children and the parents, The 3 rooms for the children were next to mine. The parents room was 4 doors away. I did get my room changed but that was not easy to do since it was a holiday sailing. My next room was next to a man with 2 children. The AC in my room was terrible so I kept my balcony doors open only to be woken by screaming children on the next balcony. Nothing was done about this. The specialty restaurant that never allowed children under 12 yrs. bent their rules this time because there were so many children on board. Infants and toddlers were in the adults restaurant. They had to make every nickel and dime they could. There were so many people in the staterooms that it made this small ship very crowded, loud, and almost uncontrollable. Children running and screaming thru the halls and in the public areas. No one stopped them. Areas that normally were set aside for adults and quiet areas were over run with loud children and adults. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
My husband and I researched all the Antarctic cruise choices thoroughly. Some ships are very small without stabilizers but they allow passengers to make zodiac landings. Other ships are large but because of the limitations of the IAATO ... Read More
My husband and I researched all the Antarctic cruise choices thoroughly. Some ships are very small without stabilizers but they allow passengers to make zodiac landings. Other ships are large but because of the limitations of the IAATO rules which state that only 100 people are allowed to go ashore at one time, they do not make any landings. We picked Seabourn Quest because it is mid-sized, offered zodiac landings in the Antarctic, plus we knew we would be more comfortable and we thought they would look after us well. The Antarctic is an unforgiving place, the Drake Passage is one of the worse bodies of water in the world, and we wanted a ship with a strengthened hull and good stabilizers. The itinerary was excellent: busy but with some days at sea to rest a bit. We began in Valparaiso and made our way down along the Western side of South America. The Chilean Fjords are lovely, and shore excursions there interesting and fun. But everyone started to get more and more excited when the captain announced that, because there was an opening with good weather, he wanted to make a run across the Drake to the Antarctic peninsula sooner than scheduled. We would be in Ushuaia a day ahead and then head south. At Ushuaia we took on an extra pilot with experience in ice filled waters, who had previously served with the US Coast Guard in Alaska. So now we had 2 pilots, plus there was a large expedition team of naturalists, zodiac drivers, and researchers on board to help. The Quest took about 400 passengers, so we rotated in groups to land once we arrived at the Antarctic peninsula, and it worked out very well. We were always carefully looked after. They helped us in and out of our gear, helped with antiseptic washing down of clothing, equipment and the like, and were scrupulous in efforts to prevent contamination of the environment. We had extra landings whenever the weather permitted, and went to South Georgia a day earlier than scheduled, so had more time there where we saw more amazing wildlife. Captain Larsen was very flexible with the schedule, and seized every opportunity he could to show us more and more places. But we had to be flexible too - one day we were out in zodiacs when he blew the ship's whistle and all the zodiacs had to hurry back to the ship. We had to leave there quickly, because the wind had changed direction and sea ice was starting to close in around the ship. (At about this same time we were getting reports of a ship trapped in ice in the Roth Sea, and icebreakers had been unable to reach it.) We had wonderful lecturers, many with years and years of experience in the Antarctic. Of course Seabourn serves great food and the liquor is all included, whatever you want. Yes, Seabourn is a luxury line and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. But I will remember this trip as the trip of a lifetime. It was worth every penny. I can not think of one "con" about this cruise. Everything was wonderful.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
After a short flight from our home in Buenos Aires, we arrived in Valparaiso and joined the Star Princess. Our group consisted of 10 family members of which I am the only English speaking member. I have sailed with Princess before, so the ... Read More
After a short flight from our home in Buenos Aires, we arrived in Valparaiso and joined the Star Princess. Our group consisted of 10 family members of which I am the only English speaking member. I have sailed with Princess before, so the ship itself provided no surprises. One of the main reasons for picking this cruise was to visit the Argentinian cemetery on the Malvenas Island, otherwise known as the Falkland Islands. Unfortunately The Malvenas was cancelled and we were not able to pay our respects to family members lost. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. Our cabins were sufficient, clean and comfortable, we did not spend much time in our rooms. The Cabin steward was friendly and made sure we had everything we needed. We found the food on the ship to be good in most cases. We utilized the Crown Grill and found the quality and service worthy of the $25.00 per person surcharge. In the afternoons we would grab a quick bite at the horizon buffet, and in general found the food decent with the exception of the black beans and rice which in no way represents typical South American food. Our dinners were taken in the Portofino dining room where we found the quality of food and service to be very good. With 4 sea days, we found ample activities to keep us busy. We enjoyed the port director, Joe May who supplied us with the Spanish translation of all the shopping and tours available in the upcoming ports. The Spanish culinary demonstration and the Spanish relaxation session by the hypnotist Fernandez were excellent. Our group did not attend the dance shows or comedians but loved Lovena Fox and the Spanish hypnotist show, especially since two members of our party were hypnotized on stage. I did notice however, that the shows were much shorter and would have preferred longer shows.30 Minutes is not long enough when you are enjoying great entertainment. Our most memorable excursion was to Punta Tomba, where we were able to walk through the Magellanic penguin's natural habitat and see them up close. We wanted to take a helicopter tour in Ushuaia, but found it extremely expensive as were most tours for a family of our size. We really appreciated the efforts of the Argentinian Assistant Cruise Director Matias, who was in charge of all of the Spanish events, he went above and beyond the call of duty to make our experience the best possible. Without him, we would have been lost as we barely saw the British Cruise Director. Disembarkation was extremely chaotic and unorganized and something that Princess Cruise lines needs to address and correct. It was every man for himself and left a bad taste in our mouths after a memorable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Reviews of the Veendam are overwhelmingly positive for South American cruises and quite mediocre for Bermuda cruises, and I now understand why. The South America and Antarctica itineraries are wonderful scenic and adventure cruises, with ... Read More
Reviews of the Veendam are overwhelmingly positive for South American cruises and quite mediocre for Bermuda cruises, and I now understand why. The South America and Antarctica itineraries are wonderful scenic and adventure cruises, with strong history and naturalist support; but if you're the sort of person who cruises for the luxury-floating-hotel experience with an occasional glance out the windows, Veendam has enough niggles that it might become irritating. The cruise began in Valparaiso with a plethora of birds, as well as seals and whales, and this set the tone for the entire cruise. The presence of Chris Wilson as naturalist and Antarctic specialist made this cruise; he was often on deck as well as lecturing, full of information and identification. The list of observed wildlife covered two full sides of paper tightly spaced. For birders and others interested in wildlife this cruise is unmissable. The scenery is also spectacular; any 20 minutes in Antarctica contains all of the scenery of a complete Alaska cruise. We were unable to dock in Puerto Montt because of the levels of swell and the wind direction (tender port) but the 20 or so who missed the ship in Santiago managed to board via a local boat. Castro is a small, not very interesting town, but the cruise in and out are worth being on deck for. From this point on, until Puerto Madryn, penguins were common in the water. Chacabuco is likewise not of great interest, although trips into its hinterland are modestly interesting; but again the cruise in is as good as any Norwegian fjord and well worth getting up early for. The Chilean fjords and the associated glaciers are good (but nothing like Antarctica). Punta Arenas used to be a major city on the Straits of Magellan but is less significant since the opening of the Panama Canal. There are two large colonies of Magellanic penguins nearby. We went to Magdalena Island which has a large and accessible colony, as well as kelp gulls with babies, cormorants, and a teenage gang of giant petrels. We went on the ship's tour but others managed a tour via zodiac that was much less time-consuming. We had to miss Ushuaia because of strong winds, so off to the Antarctic. Heading out into the Atlantic we encountered large pods of dolphins and seals, as well as many sea birds, usually missed because this part happens at night. The Antarctic itself was foggy, rainy, and snowy which spoiled much of the views but seemed to bring out the wildlife: many whales, many thousands of penguins, and occasional seals. Itinerary around the peninsula is weather and ice dependent, so we missed the Lemaire Channel and Deception Island but managed most of the other high spots. Heading North we discovered we would be going to Puerto Madryn because of weather in the Falklands. Puerto Madryn is the base for two long excursions which were perhaps only marginally worth it (2.5 hours at least each way, and occupied all of the time in port). Montevideo seems to have improved since our last visit, and looks a bit more lived in. The architecture is interesting. There are high-quality shops quite close to the port. Finally, Buenos Aires, a moderately interesting city, but not one that I find as attractive as its publicity claims that it is. Now back to the niggles: HAL uses open-topped containers on hot metal surfaces to keep food warm in the Lido and this just doesn't work -- so all of the food, all of the time, is lukewarm. We really began to miss having hot food by the end. Something similar must happen in the main dining room because food there was never hot either. Sharing a table in the MDR guarantees at least a 2 hour meal. Often it was 25 mins before an order was taken, and sometimes 40 mins before the first course appeared. This is not a criticism of the waitstaff who work really hard; there are just two many tables per server to make the system work. So overall the food itself is of better quality than Princess, but it doesn't taste any better because of temperature. The ship is noisy. There are loud machinery noises on every deck and I don't know how some people slept in their cabins; even walking by was sometimes painful. There were a number of breakdowns: several (?3) cabins has major floods which meant people being moved to interior cabins for a few days; a sprinkler went of in the phone exchange disabling emergency and front desk phone access for a few days; there were rumors of a fire. Accidents happen, but at this level suggest some management problems. Entertainment wasn't strong (less of a problem on this itinerary). We seemed to be carrying 20+ entertainers who only gave one show (sometimes less) over the 2 week middle of the cruise. The HAL dancers only appeared on the first and last nights. The classical quartet were not well received by music lovers. The other lounge entertainers suffer from the availability of music today: who wants to hear a poor cover of a song when they can listen to the original on their MP3 player? The CD made announcements three or four times a day about the usual farrago of pointless retirement-home nonsense that cruise ships specialize in, but was mercifully brief in the theater. The "photographers" made their usual annoying tours of the ship (c'mon, folks, if we all stop buying this rubbish, they'll eventually stop producing it). The handwashing machines in the Lido are a nice touch. The gel dispensers are everywhere, but there isn't a staff member standing by them to "encourage" their use, which is a pity. The staff serve in the Lido for the first 48 hours which seems sensible and also seems to work. So no Noro for us on this cruise. There were very few smokers on this cruise so even the promenade deck was relatively smoke free (and not filled by smoking staff as it tends to be on Princess). Sadly, the major indoor smoking venue is the casino which is open in several directions so that its smoke fills most of the deck it is on. The gym was so hot that it was unusable. Apparently this was unfixable even though the outside temps varied from +35 to 0 C. The long flights needed to get to and from this cruise probably selected a demographic that's younger than typical HAL. There were only a handful of people with scooters or wheelchairs (who should NOT have gone on a tour requiring crossing a rocky beach from ship to shore). Mostly Americans, Canadians, Brits and Aussies. These big-ship Antarctic cruises are always hanging by a thread. So if you're interested in wildlife or the natural world, take the chance while you still can. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Our trip aboard the Veendam was nothing short of spectacular in every way. The entire crew, particularly the Captain and Cruise director made you feel welcome and even a little special. The Captain regularly addressed the ship and kept ... Read More
Our trip aboard the Veendam was nothing short of spectacular in every way. The entire crew, particularly the Captain and Cruise director made you feel welcome and even a little special. The Captain regularly addressed the ship and kept everyone informed about where we were, ice issues and whale sightings. The lectures on the ship and the scientists that boarded from the Palmer Ice Station really added to our enjoyment of the cruise and our understanding of the issues facing the Antarctic region. Our trip followed the harrowing storm in mid-December that made international headlines (140mph winds / 35 foot waves). There was some obvious damage to the ship when we boarded, but repairs went on throughout the cruise - largely invisibly, although the front deck had been smashed and many outside lights and doors were heavily damaged. We could not have had more perfect weather; which is well outside of HAL's control, but it was a spectacular trip. The natural beauty, the wildlife and the excellent opportunities to enjoy them on shore as well make this the perfect cruise for families & nature lovers. I had so much fun I never even started to read the books I brought along. I would also like to mention that my college age children enjoyed this trip enormously. Without the Internet, cell phones, friends, school and work we had more uninterrupted time together than we'd enjoyed since they were infants. There were not many other college age people aboard, but they did eventually find each other so that they could enjoy the dancing at night and some of the other activities on the ship. If there was anything on the ship that was less that great it was the food. It was good, and there was certainly a lot of choice as to what to eat and where, but just a little inconsistent. A few dishes arrived very heavily salted or over cooked, but with over 50 meals on board, the vast majority was very enjoyable. I was impressed that on a 3 week cruise we were consistently served fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a wide variety of dishes. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO) DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior ... Read More
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO) DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior we sailed on the old Noordam from Rio to Valparaiso on our honeymoon. We were excited to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (New Year's Eve) by doing this itinerary again. The added bonus of Antarctica, which had always been a dream for us, made this a cruise we'll never forget. AIR - HAL arranged the air from Vancouver to Valparaiso, and Rio back to Vancouver. We were booked on Air Canada flights from Vancouver to Toronto and then Toronto to Santiago. It snowed the night before we left Vancouver which caused several flight delays. We were extremely lucky our flights were not delayed at all. We landed in sunny warm Santiago on time at 12:30 PM, a 5 hour time difference from home. We went through two separate lineups - one to pay the $132 US each reciprocity (airport) fee and then through customs. A HAL rep greeted us in the luggage claim, checked off our names and then guided us to another HAL rep to a waiting bus. Our checked luggage was put on a truck that went to the ship and was delivered directly to our stateroom. It took about an hour from landing in Santiago until we were on the bus. The drive to Valparaiso was 1.5 hours. After check-in at the terminal we bought 2 bottles of wine which were free to take on board on embarkation day. We then went through security and onto another bus which drove to the ship. We arrived too late for our embarkation picture to be taken however we were able to get one made up with a picture taken later in the cruise. We just had enough time to drop our bags in our stateroom, freshen up and grab our life jackets for the lifeboat drill. It was 1 hour before sailing - which to us was cutting it way too close! SHIP The ship was decorated throughout with colourful Christmas trees. The front office was decorated with fresh flowers and poinsettias which looked quite festive. The tree lighting ceremony took place at 7:30 PM the first night and Christmas carols were sung. There was a nativity scene on the lower promenade level atrium and a few Christmas trees with white lights which were quite pretty. The lower atrium had a mirrored wall reflecting millions of colours. The main dining room was decorated with stars hanging from the ceiling and white poinsettia garlands around the upper inside. STATEROOM Our stateroom was 3345 - just steps away from the lower promenade atrium (and right beside the self-service laundry). This was the quietest stateroom we'd ever been in and we never heard any noise from the adjoining staterooms, above, below or the laundry room at all. The stateroom was quite spacious with 2 large twins put together, a love-seat and chair. We each had our own closet space as well as a closet for coats, shoes etc. There was storage space under the bed for our luggage. We were surprised to see that we didn't have a mini refrigerator. The washroom was average size with adequate storage space for our personal toiletries. The wall-mounted hair dryer got too hot after 20 seconds. Luckily there was a portable hair dryer (in HAL bag) in one of the dresser drawers to use instead. We were somewhat disappointed that we only received one canvas HAL bag this cruise. On the Explorer cruise we took 10 years ago, we each received one HAL canvas bag, rain poncho, small Spanish dictionary, small South America guidebook, mini binoculars, journal and wooden pen. SERVICE Outstanding. Our stateroom was attended to by Agus and Ikhwan who were quite efficient and not intrusive. HAL seems to have cut their staff as they seemed to be responsible for a great many staterooms. The same also seemed to apply in the dining room. DINING - We chose second seating dining at 8 PM at a table for two. We opted for formal dining as it was a holiday cruise. DH grumbled at first at the thought of bringing a suit, shoes etc. but next time will consider renting a tux, not to mention the extra luggage space that will be saved. Our waiter was Paul and his assistant was Theodor. Our wine steward was Dino and his assistant was Joseph. All men were quite pleasant the entire cruise and never stopped smiling. The maitre'd always stopped by our table each night, called us by name and would inquire how our day and meal was (how he remembered everyone's names we don't know.) The meals were excellent and nicely prepared. We enjoyed the chilled soups whenever they were on the menus. A latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate could be ordered after dinner at no extra charge. It was disappointing to note that some men and women wore jeans on formal and smart casual evenings (obviously they hadn't read their Welcome Aboard literature which clearly stated no jeans). Anyone paying this amount of money on a cruise can at least afford a pair of dark pants don't you think. The maitre d' should have gently reminded these people to either change or suggest eating in the Lido Cafe instead, but it seemed he didn't want to rock the boat. We once skipped dinner in the dining room and went to the Lido Cafe - where anything on the menu was the same as the dining room anyway. Then you could see what you wanted to eat in advance. We ate breakfast in the dining room just once. Several times we ordered in-room dining where the meals were always delivered on the dot. At the Lido Cafe there were a number of make-to-order stations for eggs benedict, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage. You name it they had it. Some days it was hard to decide what to have. For lunch in the Lido Cafe there was a great variety of pasta and sauces, wraps, grilled sandwiches and salads to choose from. We tried to avoid eating where people served themselves - not everyone used the hand sanitizer or used the tongs. The pool area had a few kinds of greasy pizza slices; also at the Terrace Grill you could order a hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger or hot dog. PHOTOS Each 8x10 picture cost $14.95 - pretty steep and the price adds up. Many photos were not bought - perhaps many more would have been bought if the price and size was reduced. Almost every night the ship's photographers were set up to do portrait or green screen photos. They were also visible on deck during scenic cruising and at the various ports. SHOPS Just a few "dam" souvenirs and the usual expensive jewelry. There were few people in the shops the entire cruise. The souvenir South America T-shirts were a bright cayenne pepper colour which we never saw anyone buying. Also for sale were light jackets with an Antarctica patch sewn on and these didn't even have a hood. CASINO This was one of the smallest casinos we'd ever seen on a cruise ship, and hardly anyone ever in it. There were penny slot machines with no one ever sitting at them. We usually enjoy the slot machine tournaments but there didn't seem to be much interest so we didn't bother. BINGO We never bothered to check this out. GYM We never bothered to check this out. SPA Did not use however DH had his hair cut for $25 and they did a nice job. ART AUCTION We never bothered to check this out (not even for the free glass of champagne LOL). LIBRARY We rented a few DVDs ($3 each) to watch in our stateroom on sea days - "Message in a Bottle" and "Pirates of the Caribbean - World's End" which was aired on TV just after we watched it of course. SHOWS The one and only show we went to in the Queen's Lounge was a comedian named Tom Sutton from Britain. He was one of the worst comedians we'd ever heard. His material was either political or quite dated - references to Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. Some people walked out of the theatre and I wished we had done the same - we should have chosen to do our laundry instead. DRINKS We purchased a card for $56 which entitled us to 10 cocktails. The frozen (strawberry or lime) margaritas were the best and ended up being $1 cheaper than you would pay individually. MOVIES Among the movies we saw in the Wajang Theater were the "Dark Knight", "Swing Vote" and "Christmas Vacation". These movies were broadcast on TV the following day. LAUNDRY $2.00 (8 quarters) for the wash cycle and the dryers were free. We found the best time to do laundry was after dinner otherwise everyone tried to go there at the same time, usually on sea days. CRAFTS Creative Christmas Crafts class hosted by the party planner who explained that HAL had not hired a crafts person this cruise. She brought a large plastic container filled with construction paper and glue she'd gotten from the children's area! Her suggestions were to either make a wreath out of hand prints (no thanks) or a Santa to hang on our stateroom door. Some ladies walked out at this point (I wished I had) but I stayed, made a lame looking Santa that I would have been embarrassed to hang on our stateroom door. I didn't attend any future crafts sessions. PORTS We had visited each port on our previous South America cruise. The only shore excursions we took were in Punta Arenas, Falkland Islands and Rio de Janeiro. Puerto Montt The tender took about 15 minutes and docked near the Angelmo artisan market (about 30 artisan stalls). We walked about a mile to the Paseo Mall. The mall had 3 levels with a food court including KFC and Pizza Hut, and on one level there was a tiny McDonalds kiosk selling ice cream. Ladies take notice - when going to the bano (bathroom) - take your paper first from a giant roll before going into a stall as there was no paper provided inside. The mall also had a large supermarket called Full Fresh where we bought pisco in a dark Easter Island decanter and Artesano pisco sour which was already mixed. We walked back to the Angelmo artisan market selling hand-made woolen caps, scarves, jackets etc. We had bought a lot of this stuff 10 years ago so we only bought a few postcards. Punta Arenas Patagonia Experience - Otway Bay tour (we did this 10 years ago). The bus ride was about an hour and we stopped a few times to see rheas by the road side. The weather was overcast but did get a bit sunny. There was a large parking area (a few people had come in taxis), washrooms, a small cafe and a few souvenir kiosks. It was about a mile walk along roped boardwalks out to the Magellanic penguins. We saw many penguins, which marched in comical lines down to the water. A viewing platform was available to see the penguins in the ocean. A trailer back on the pier sold woolen hats, sweaters, gloves and souvenirs. I bought a woolen alpaca hat (flannel lined) with ear flaps for $5, a souvenir penguin mug and a book on Antarctica. That alpaca hat was the best $5 purchase I ever made when we cruised in Antarctica!!! We split the cost of a taxi ride into town for $10 with another couple. In the middle of town was a square with a statue of an Indian with a golden toe - if you touched it legend states you'll return again some day (and here we were!). Around the square were a number of handicraft tables. DH bought a hooded alpaca sweater and a hat. Ushuaia, Argentina Very picturesque with the snow capped mountains all around. We docked at 1 PM and the wind blew fiercely as we walked off the ship. We went through a security building then out to the town. We walked along San Martin, the main street, with several souvenir shops. We stopped at Laguna Negra, a chocolate shop which had a little cafe in the back where we enjoyed bottles of Cape Horn pale ale. Cape Horn We were out on deck at 7 AM where it was windy and overcast to witness passing the tip of South America. We thought there was supposed to be a monument with an albatross but we didn't see one. Antarctica cruising (December 23) It was quite foggy and snowing lightly (how often can you say you've been on a cruise and it snowed?). We could just make out the mountains and the ice made it quite an awesome thing to see. We saw our first penguins far off on land in the distance. People wore an odd assortment of footwear - from flip flops with socks to high heel sandals. A group of people came on board from Palmer Station to give a slide presentation of the research they do which was quite interesting. In a corner of the Crow's Nest was a "Base Camp" which was a tent recreating the Shackleton Antarctica adventure. Maps were on display of where we would be cruising in Antarctica. A TV played a DVD of the movie "Shackleton" over and over. DH and I watched the 2 hour movie one afternoon with a tango class in the background so it was hard to hear some parts of the movie. This base camp should have been set up in a small room elsewhere on the ship. Antarctica cruising (December 24) A beautiful morning with spectacular views of icebergs as we retraced the route we went the day before, which was completely different without all the fog. Many people remarked this was a surreal experience seeing this and it was so awesome to describe. We passed by the Argentina and Chile research stations. In the afternoon we went up on Lido deck aft for the "Penguin Dip" in the pool. It was cold though the pool water was warm. Waiters were ready with cups of hot chocolate as we came out of the pool. Certificates of this event were delivered to our stateroom a few days later. Antarctica cruising (December 25) We started the day by seeing Adelie penguins on an iceberg! The sky was clear and blue but cold. We stayed out on deck until 10 AM - rushed in to have our pictures taken with Santa in the Queen's Lounge - then went back out on deck. We saw the Esperanza research station belonging to Argentina. About 42 people live there with 2 school teachers, and the children are considered part of the Argentinian school system. All the dining room staff wore Santa hats and most people dressed formally for dinner. We passed by Elephant Island just before dinner - DH went outside and took pictures but we were not close enough to see any elephant seals. Sundown was 11 PM and sunrise 4 AM. Stanley, Falkland Islands We had originally planned to do OBT Sparrow Cove and were wait-listed on the Volunteer Point Penguin tour. The night before we got confirmation for Volunteer Point. We got onto the tender at 6:45 AM, and the water was so choppy we almost didn't make it to the dock. If it had been any worse they probably would have discontinued the tender process. There were 48 people on our tour and we went in groups of 4 in Land Rovers (these are shipped to the FI, but the tires are specially ordered from the UK). Our guide and driver was Neil, born in the UK and now a resident of FI. Apparently he had been waiting since 6:15 AM for us to arrive (we were an hour late), and apologized for not shaving LOL. Neil told us about the FI war of 1982 of which there were still land mines in the ground but were roped off. He said when a cruise ship is in, everyone pitches in do driving - lawyer, doctor, dentist etc. All education is free in the FI and tuition and expenses is paid if you further your education in the UK afterward. Medical and dental expenses are also free. The countryside was pretty bland, bleak and very windy. Part of the way was off-road and quite bumpy in some spots. At Volunteer Point there was a small portable with toilets and info. Bag lunches were provided consisting of a ham or cheese sandwich, bottle of water, roast chicken chips and an apple. We had 2 hours to see the penguins. Ground rules were don't run, let anything flap, talk loudly and stay outside the ring of stones which served as a perimeter for the penguins. Inside the ring of stones there were a number of baby penguins still with some of their fluff. Wardens wearing bright green fluorescent vests ensured that everyone obeyed the rules. The king penguins we saw were awesome! They just stood there and posed while we took close-up shots. Down at the beach, the water was a tropical turquoise blue and the sand a very fine white powder like talc. There were king and gentoo penguins here. This was the most incredible experience to see these animals up close. The only other place in the world to see king penguins is on South Georgia Islands. Our tour guide let us off close to the whale bone arch where we walked back to the tender. We only had 30 minutes so we went into Capstan Gift Shop, a really nice gift shop selling penguin souvenirs, cards, DVDs, glassware and all kinds of things. Buenos Aires, Argentina We were awakened at about 12:30 AM by the captain announcing over the PA of "bright star, bright star, cabin XXXX" which sounded like an emergency code of some kind. We asked our dining room waiter about this and he said a female passenger had had a heart attack and passed away that morning. It was sunny and warm. It was mandatory to take a shuttle bus from the ship to the cruise terminal as the ship was docked in an industrial area. We walked up to the Florida pedestrian mall which stretched for 6 blocks and branched off another 6 blocks. We took a taxi to the Recoleta and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and then walked back to the ship. The Filipino crew show was awesome to watch - we don't know when they ever found the time to practice! Montevideo, Uruguay The cruise director announced over the PA that docking would be delayed by one hour so all tours would depart an hour later. Some people complained of this as we had only traveled about 87 miles from Buenos Aires the previous evening. The cruise director explained that the appropriate arrangements had to be made so that the husband of the deceased passenger could disembark with her body. It was overcast and a bit cool. We walked up the street where shops were just opening. Many buildings looked old and rundown, and the streets and sidewalks were uneven. DH collects stamps so at the main post office he bought a first day cover of Ano Polar Internacional canceled with a penguin stamp. The fellow who helped us apologized for dressing so casually - as it was New Year's Eve the custom around mid-day was that people threw their old calendars, day-timers and water from buildings at people below in the street!!! We later watched as a bunch of people getting on and off a bus got drenched with water. We were careful crossing the street but a few seconds later we both got wet - I just looked up, smiled and waved to the people laughing. I looked like something the cat dragged in LOL as we walked back to the ship. At a small wine store across from where the ship was docked we bought a bottle of Maria Zarranz MEtodo Champenoise Extra Brut wine from Uruguay ($25 US) which we used to bring in the New Year that night. We received a congratulatory card from the captain for our 10th anniversary. In the dining room we found New Year hats at our table. The New Year's Eve Gala Dinner included caviar and seafood cocktail and lobster. For dessert there was a chocolate tower filled with mascarpone mousse and crème de cacao and had Happy New Year 2009 in gold lettering. The maitre'd brought a small cake with a candle on it (white icing with chocolate cookie crumbs on the outside and devil's food on the inside) and he and our waiters sang a lively Filipino tune, wishing us a happy anniversary. We had the cake delivered to our stateroom. All of the public lounges were decorated with paper streamers and sparkly confetti. We went to the Queen's Lounge around 11:30 pm which was already half full at this time. We picked up blowers and noisemakers as we went in. We got a good seat off to the side, and each table had 2 balloons, black top hat and star confetti and paper ribbons. It was quite noisy with everyone blowing their horns and turning their noisemakers. Waiters made the rounds with free champagne 20 minutes before midnight. The stage had been converted to a dance floor with rails at the edge so people wouldn't fall off. Big screen monitors on each side of the lounge counted down the time to midnight. At midnight the whole lounge erupted with noise and a net of balloons was released from the ceiling. What a mess was left on the floors throughout but of course was all gone the next morning. New Year's Day We had New Year's Day brunch at the Pinnacle Grill ($30 each). We'd never eaten at a restaurant on a ship with a cover charge. There were about 25 people who came and we were offered a glass of champagne at the door. The buffet area was set up in the back and consisted of various seafood (jumbo shrimp, crab legs, herring, salmon and caviar), cold cuts and cheese, roast beef and salads. Breakfast items such as omelets were made to order. A dessert tray consisted of assorted squares, pastries and freshly dipped chocolate strawberries. White and red wines were served. DH had 5 servings of caviar. We were so stuffed we went back to our stateroom and rested for the afternoon. Went to the Dessert Extravaganza at 11:30 PM that was set up on tables around the pool. There were ice sculptures, a chocolate fountain, a few crepes stations and quite an assortment of pastries. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil We were out on deck at 5 AM as we sailed into Rio, past the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. We chose the 8 hour Rio Extravaganza tour for both days in Rio for these reasons: (1) in case the weather didn't cooperate one day, (2) we were guaranteed seeing the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf and (3) safety - we'd read it wasn't very safe to be roaming around in Rio (even by taxi). The first day it was about 33 degrees and humid. We drove to Sugar Loaf first. We were glad we were on a tour as we bypassed everyone standing in line for tickets. The tram stopped at one level where you got off, took pictures and then went to the next level. Our tour description stated lunch at a seafood restaurant but was at a barbecue restaurant instead. A number of tour buses were already there and we sat at a table for 10. We helped ourselves to the salad bar. Platters of food were brought to the table like rice, puffy cheese puffs, fried bananas and french fries. Huge skewers of meat (lamb, beef, pork, sausage and chicken) were brought around and were sliced onto your plate with a huge knife (careful not to move LOL!!!) Dishes of vanilla soft serve ice cream with fruit cocktail were served for dessert. Corcovado. The tram ride was 20 minutes through the Tijuca Forest with lush greenery on both sides. There were chachaka trees with large yellowish hanging fruits. It was quite an amazing incline when we arrived at the station. Again we were glad we were on a tour and bypassed the crowds. We boarded a narrow elevator (only 5 people at a time) then up a few escalators (the highest in the world?). There were a few souvenir shops all selling the same little statues and souvenirs. Back at the bottom of the tram station there was a Hard Rock Cafe kiosk. DH wanted to buy a ball cap but they would not accept US dollars (he bought one later at a HRC kiosk in the terminal where the ship docked). We bought a poster of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf signed by the photographer for $82 US. Our bus drove past the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches which were packed. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (disembarkation) We waited in our stateroom for our ticket (luggage) number and colour to be called for our tour. At the end of our tour, we would be dropped off at the airport. It was overcast and cooler which was a bit of a relief. Our tour bus was full and we went to the Corcovado first. It was quite windy and raining slightly when we got there. Once we got up to the top we were told the elevators weren't working as the winds were too high (felt like a hurricane). We walked up the few steps to the Corcovado. It was completely misty in some spots. Our lunch stop was at a different barbecue restaurant where the food was essentially the same as the day before but just as good. Our tour guide phoned ahead to Sugar Loaf in case the trams weren't operating. They were - it was windy with intermittent rain. We drove past the beaches again, completely deserted this time. We were dropped off at the airport around 5 PM. Everyone's luggage from the ship had been put onto trolleys but not in a totally secure area. Our flight to Miami was not until 10:15 PM but we got in the ONE lineup for international flights anyway. It took 90 minutes to get to the first security desk. An AA rep had our e-ticket printouts. Then we waited another 30 minutes to check in our luggage. We were given boarding passes for all 3 flights (Rio-Miami, Miami-Dallas Ft. Worth and DFW-Vancouver) however for the first flight to Miami we did not have seat assignments and were told to deal with the AA rep at the gate before boarding the plane. We went through security into a confusing mess of people. Half a dozen other people at our gate were also without seat assignments. We never thought to check our flight status on the Internet on the ship and we could have averted this confusion altogether. We managed to get home safely with all our luggage intact. Overall, we had an awesome vacation and would do this itinerary (especially Antarctica) again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008

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