1. Home
  2. Cruise Destinations
  3. South America Cruises
  4. South America Cruise Reviews

8 South America World Cruise Reviews

We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it ... Read More
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it was when we started. Felt the ship was fairly dirty when we got there and it took about a week for it to really look better. By the time we left 49 days later, it was looking really good. Experienced some of the same problems the lady from the previous cruise wrote about. Our commode over flowed several times, but they responded quickly each time. The ship was the coldest we have ever sailed on and there were MANY people sick with colds, etc. I swear you could almost see your breath in some of the spaces. Cabins in our area lost partial power several times but maintenance was right there. The food and service in both the dining room and the Lido deck were very good. The only complaint was that there were times when it seemed the dirty dishes would never be picked up, especially in the outdoor areas. Due to the length of the cruise, we may have had special entertainers, but all were very good. I couldn't have afforded to pay to see them on the outside. All of the staff were very friendly and the customer service people, ie. Future cruise, computer help,excursions, etc, kept longer hours than usual. We had several tender ports and in general, they went pretty smooth. Over all a pretty good cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Destination: The Amazon is an AMAZing place to visit. You need to see it for yourself. The P&O Adonia is the friendliest ship I have sailed on. The passengers and crew rapidly created a true community atmosphere, particularly values ... Read More
Destination: The Amazon is an AMAZing place to visit. You need to see it for yourself. The P&O Adonia is the friendliest ship I have sailed on. The passengers and crew rapidly created a true community atmosphere, particularly values as I am a solo traveller. Adonia's size makes everything conveniently accessible, with sufficient space and good temperature control. Staff: VERY courteous and friendly staff, whose smile reached their eyes. The best I have encountered on 6 cruises in 12 months. Cruise director: EXCELLENT. Cabin: Good space, comfortable bed and bedding, White Company toiletries. Tea, coffee and biscuits facilities. Free bottled water on arrival. Fridge convenient. Dining: Table stewards EXCELLENT. Head waiter: very helpful. Wine waiter: good sense of humour. Meals six courses, good range (frequent steak, excellently cooked), portions rather too large to have all courses. Petits fours with the coffee. Informal dining facility good with set tables and service. Range of informal buffets Indian, Thai, International, British, Italian. Select dining Marco Pierre White and Sorrento (Italian). Dress code of formal, informal and casual nights. Room service: Breakfast reliably delivered at the early part of the selected half hour slot. Other meals limited choice but mostly free of charge. Entertainment: Good range of the usual quizzes, line dancing, deck sports - winners' points cumulative for better prizes (incl DAB radio) - shows and cabarets, lounge music, lectures and recent films as well as TV. News, crossword and sudoku (too easy), jigsaws and games. Good library. Plus ongoing bridge, dancing and art courses. Sailaways from every port. Deck parties. Crossing the Equator. Village Fete: 15 events involving staff from all the ship's departments with top prize of Marco Pierre White dinner for 2 and visit to the bridge for 2. Photographers: Ran courses to enhance our skills, accessible and helpful. 'Stock photos' and video (high quality souvenir representative of ship life and ports) very affordable but individual photos £9.95 each. Shore visits: Resort information on all 12 ports visited handed out at the start of the sector to give you plenty of time to explore/compare excursions versus independent exploration. Information generally good (a few inaccuracies). Talks on each port by speakers and by excursion staff repeated on loop on TV. Excursions varied - in some places I felt they were contrived, but many passengers expected something to be arranged for them, either because of reduced mobility or because they did not have the confidence to explore independently. My three (Manaus forest and river, Boi Bamba show, Rio full day) were excellent. It was Carnival in Brazil which added to the special atmosphere but it caused some closures of churches etc. Services for singles: Coffees, and 'Travelling alone together' meetings on each shore day to ensure no one had to go ashore alone who did not want to. Facilities: Laundry good. I never had to wait - but may have chosen good times. Gratuities very reasonable £3.10, no expectation of extra and no gratuities on drinks Embarkation/Disembarkation Very well handled. On departure day there was a free tour and dinner for those who were due at the airport at 9pm. Value for money: The solo supplement is always a problem, but with the 'getaway fare' I achieved good value for money. At couples' rates it's a steal! Downsides: INTERNET EXPENSIVE AND SLOW and inadequate lighting for jigsaw table. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
There is so much to say about a cruise of this length, being on the same ship, the positives like the itinerary, the food, the entertainment or the negatives - the wait in line at the embarkation process, missing some ports, excursions, ... Read More
There is so much to say about a cruise of this length, being on the same ship, the positives like the itinerary, the food, the entertainment or the negatives - the wait in line at the embarkation process, missing some ports, excursions, many delays and the integrity of some parts of the ship -- so a rather long review! My Grand Adventure begins: Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale embarkation was a mess, unlike any other we have experienced. The Captain was apologetic and tended to blame everyone but the ship. The port authorities relegated this ship to one of the least desirable piers and the delay was so bad, everybody was complaining for days after sailing. No shade, no creature comforts like water or towels until guests had been standing for 2 hours in the sun. Cabin: C103 forward, Starboard side one from the bow: This cruise was booked out some 2 years before sailing and this cabin was one of the last choices at the time for all three sectors. I couldn't find too much information about this cabin anywhere even on Cruise Critic. So I will give a thorough description for future reference. Size: Normal interior size no bonus space. Layout: Same as all other balcony cabins, lacks decent wardrobe space for extended cruising, cupboard space half that of other ships we have been on. Brought my own plastic hangers to double up. Good sized mini fridge with soda and water to buy. Cramped writing desk, as both chairs were located in that area. Balcony: Larger than Baja or Aloha, room to move around with footrests, reclining seats and one of the best features on this deck. Overlooks the mini suites below but C103 had no neighbours above only crew quarters - more on that later. The usual rubber matting has been removed on all balconies leaving the water to slosh around when wet. The bridge is above, indirectly adjacent cutting out some sunlight and direct forward views but otherwise OK. The wind whistled and blew more this far forward on some days. Bathroom: A bit more space in the shower than other ships to alleviate the risk of falling out through the shower curtain to pick something up! Bought my own cheap plastic baskets to use underneath the vanity. This space is difficult to use, as the bottom shelf is too far back to reach down in comfort - a bad design fault. Had a few loud gurgling noises in the shower drain but it wasn't everyday. LCD TV: this is much better viewing than the old box type. It took quite a few days to get Scan on the screen to see where we were etc. A few random days of dodgy satellite reception both in calm or rough conditions which also affected BBC, FOX etc Internet: Depending on your onboard status and if you can afford it, there is useable Internet in the cabin with your own device. Routers are along the corridor but even that was useless and appalling on some days throughout the 49 days. People were sitting in the corridor just to see if logging on was better. There were lots of Elite and Platinum passengers and with each having a truck load of free time, some days were congested for Satellite use. Too bad if you had value added or had a prepaid plan -- very agonising! Noise: Gripe one - Most annoying neighbours ever-on one side -- thumping around, slamming drawers all throughout the voyage. Should have politely asked them to be more considerate but didn't have the courage! Gripe two -- Didn't find out until three quarters through the voyage that even though no passengers above, there are crew quarters. Spoke to Pursers desk, they couldn't find the solution. Went up one deck to see for ourselves and yes, two crew cabins, and one directly over us. Early morning, midnight thumping and dropping things suddenly got a lot better once we told the Purser's Desk about our sleuthing work. Gripe three: C103 is one cabin from the bow and we knew that we would get some noise or rolling motion in swells. What we hadn't expected was the shudders heard and felt starting at the feet up through the legs during a cross swell - a huge bang each time. Positives: quiet corridor area except for the whistling noise from the adjacent crew door (plus some paint smells). In the fire drill we were sent down that way to the Theatre. The laundry is about 12 cabins away, stairs half dozen or so and easier then making the long trek from the middle of the ship. The Grand only has stairs at either end of the ship -- no middle stairs only elevators. Loved the extra space on the balcony. Conclusion: If you are desperate for an Itinerary and this cabin is the only one left -- go for it. If you have a choice and want a bit of levity, more stability or a quieter cabin -- pick something else. True, you can't choose your neighbours but a cabin you can -- for us, never again on this ship. Shows, Entertainment, Food: Food: Apart from one meal in Da Vinci (nothing special) we dined entirely at Horizon Court and the incredible International Cafe. We did not tire of the self-serve effort and to be honest; the food was the best quality with so many choices of hot and cold items. One of the good features of this ship is the ability to have a Panini, soup, sweet dessert or decent espresso 24/7 or a good little continental breakfast in the morning at the Cafe! The only problem was, it's so popular there is not enough table and chairs! Entertainment/Shows: Did not go to one show with the Showtime dancers etc. Saw a violinist, and a Brazilian troupe in the theatre and the rest we watched in the Atrium and the bars. Thought the Tango duo were great (on the ship until last) and a Tango Quartet (best entertainment for us) and one or two excellent piano players. Bingo was run well, the Casino should have more non- smoking days (seemed to have them on Formal nights only. Topside deck parties seemed to be about the crew dancing all over the pool area rather than getting the passengers involved. Nearing the colder areas, it was not possible to have many open deck activities anyway. Itinerary, Ports, Tours, Ship, Crew, Delays: Itinerary: One word -- fabulous - except for the last leg in the final week of the cruise. Not enough ports, too many sea days. Tours: With the exception of one tour being below standard due to a late arrival in Port (reimbursed - small percentage) and another major tour dropped because of possible airport delays, we found the tours to be of a high standard - Coquimbo and Lima stood out the most for us. Be sure to book early online once available, you can cancel most with no charge and you can save some angst and wait time at the tour desk. There was a never-ending line and waitlist for 99% of tours on offer. Ports: Two huge disappointments - not unusual - missed the Falklands (Malvinas) due to tender conditions as well as Nicaragua. Otherwise the selected ports were great. Even got into Buenos Aires and Ushuaia without too many hassles due politics (that we heard about). Exception - once our tour to Quito was cancelled for airport reasons, Manta was a 14 hr wasted day with little to do. We were there to wait for passengers on tours to Machu Picchu or the Galapagos. Ship: It's an older ship, refurbished in the Atrium area, not in the cabins except LCD TV, the ship design is for some, a bit of pain with no stairs in the middle, the integrity of the pool area was awful at times. Many leaks from somewhere meant sloshing through soaked carpets inside Aloha deck on Starboard and many other leaks around the interior corridors. The smell was what you would expect wet carpet to be even though there were fans blowing it dry. Many times we had to walk gingerly across the pool deck to get to Horizon Court. No wonder the Grand was used for a cruise of this length! Crew: For the most part all crew were polite, courteous and helpful in some tougher situations. Had a change of cabin steward during the cruise and the difference was significant. Purser's desk exceptional but it's the Showtime dancers & singers, casino and some concession staff that were the most inconsiderate. On trips ashore that needed a shuttle off the pier, these folk ignored some passengers with infirmities and did not give up their seat. They were also first off the shuttle with little regard and treated their employment as their own personal vacation. Call me old fashioned but courtesy and kindness is valid anywhere. The most well mannered staff along with the hospitality guys were the 'below decks crew' that are never seen from day to day. Delays: Late out of many ports for one reason or another with some like Fort Lauderdale and Buenos Aires quite significantly delayed. All care, no responsibility by the Bridge but some did affect the quality time in the next port. Finally: Thanks for staying the course with this review. It was a long cruise with a lot to comment on. Hope it helps in some way next time you cruise the Grand. There are some negatives but overall this was an exceptional cruise both in length and itinerary. Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The ... Read More
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The food for the most part was very good. Service at our table was a bit slow, resulting in cool food. We switched tables to a quieter one, and the service and food temperature improved markedly. Cabin stewards were great, as were the rest of the staff. Met lots of interesting people, and lots to do every day. Biggest downer was once we got to the hot climates, the air conditioning was on full freeze mode in the Restaurant and show lounge and Ocean Bar... and my two travelling companions came down with severe colds... which they are still fighting several days after leaving the ship. Overall... a great trip and we would recommend to anyone. Details: Background Information Since we were travelling to the Cruise in Winter from Western Canada, we left 6 days before the cruise to get to Buenos Aires on Air Canada on a 20 hour series of 3 flights. This also allowed us to get over jet lag, and see some of Buenos Aires. Hotel Info There are many Apartments available on a Bed and Breakfast basis in B-A We chose one not right downtown, which worked out well, after we sorted out the lack of breakfast service, and bought our own to eat in the fully equipped apartment. We travelled in B-A on local busses, trains, and underground, and twice on a TAXI. The local transport is very good, and very inexpensive. Need to pick up a SUBE card at post office or other suppliers, for which you need your passport, and then travel is easy, as buses only take coins otherwise which are in short supply. The scheduling program on the internet is awesome... just click in your destinations, and it shows the whole route for five busses. Ship Info The Amsterdam was on a 112 day world cruise... still is, as I write this. In booking a segment, you cannot specify your room beforehand, and our request for two rooms near each other was not heeded. We would up with the one we wanted, but out friend had an "upgrade" from an inside what we thought would be across the hall, to a porthole cabin right at the front, down a deck, and half way across the ship from us. HAL did offer a closer room, but only for an additional charge, which was not accepted. We were not impressed. The world cruise attracts those who can get away for 112 days, thus an older crowd. We saw only one guest child on board! The ship was not quite full, and thus there was only minor waiting anywhere... elevators were quick, only a couple of people ahead of you at most in any lineup for food at the Lido, and choice of places to sit anywhere. The staff were generally very happy and helpful. Activities There were lots of activites on board, and the problem was to choose. Some entertainers were a bit amateurish, and the clientèle were very vocal in the hallways about this. Others were first class, and there was a good variety. The Mardi Gras evening was an all out effort, with special entertainers from New Orleans, awesome decorations, food, and drinks. Service Service was generally great in the Lido, but was slow in the La Fontaine Restaurant. We eventually moved tables to another area, due to the very high noise level at the back of the restaurant due to the low ceiling, and some very boisterous tables near us... and the service improved also. Port & Shore Excursions We chose to organize our own port excursions, and they all worked out. Most frustrating thing was that the independent travellers get the back of the line on the tender ports, waiting nearly 2 hours till the HAL tour guests, and the 4 and 5 star mariners (who comprise a considerable portion of the travellers on the world cruise, many who have made several world cruises on HAL) have got off. We feel that HAL should allow a small percentage... like 20 percent... of each tender to have independent travellers on a first come first serve basis, rather than holding them all. Both Falkland Islands and Easter Island were the highlight ports of call on this trip... and of course the awesome scenery in Antarctica. Stateroom We had an outside cabin on the Lower Promenade deck, just a short walk to be on the deck without the cost of a balcony. Facilities were good. We had a problem with the plumbing due to the rough weather, and it was repaired quickly. Note you need to bring a multi plug adapter if you have more than one thing to plug in. Dining We enjoyed having breakfast brought every morning to the cabin. For some reason, which we never found out, we only had 5 formal evenings rather than the 9 originally planned. I would have been annoyed if I had rented a Tux... There were probably 2/3 of the men with Tuxes, and the rest in business suits...we met some who didn't bring any formal wear and just ate in the Lido on formal nights. Food was quick and hot in the Lido. Lots of choice. Food was good in the La Fontaine, but we could see the repeats on the menu as the trip continued. There were many complaints we heard about the temperature of the food, and it seemed there was some effort to improve this. The general quality and appearance and choice was awesome, considering we were in the middle of the Pacific ocean many days away from "land". Disembarkation Since there were less than 300 leaving in Sydney, and the disembarkation was spread over two days, we just walked right off the ship, picked up the bags and walked through Customs... no hassles at all. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
This cruise was 30 days from San Diego to Lima and back to San Diego, 14 ports/7 countries were visited. Take this voyage for the wonderful ports not often visited by the masses; Guatemala, (visit Antigua); Nicaragua (visit Leon);Puerto ... Read More
This cruise was 30 days from San Diego to Lima and back to San Diego, 14 ports/7 countries were visited. Take this voyage for the wonderful ports not often visited by the masses; Guatemala, (visit Antigua); Nicaragua (visit Leon);Puerto Chiapas,(Tapachula). Make sure you do your homework and hire a private guide and visit the out-of-the-way small towns,thats how to get the real feel of a country.Visit archaeology sites and museums.Knowing a little Spanish goes a long way.Take a walk in the jungle of Costa Rica and Panama.Go to a local market and regular grocery store.Try the exotic fruits (peel them), try Pisco sour,cheech-cha (Chicha morada)and Inca cola (made by Coca Cola company).Keep a journal and take lots of photos.Have an open mind, it's their country and culture,that's what makes travel an experience. The Ship: Nice and clean until the GIS that arrived onboard while we were in Lima or before, then everything was wiped down with yucky stuff to stop the spread. We were lucky the Captain was in quick response to stop the spread. Good food, fantastic crew, the best,happiest crew, I miss them already. Music: 30 days of very,very old, slow music was the worst thing.Those are songs from the 20's ("bicycle built for two") to the Tom Jones/Frank Sinatra stuff.(they play what for 30 days??). Ship needs to have a variety and have some 1950's rock&roll (and up) music for us people who in our 50 and 60's and would like to dance. Beethoven is nice, but I fall asleep and can't dance to that. Need happy music. Enjoyed the Equator ceremony! This long cruise had older people than we were, I guess due to the length of the cruise. Needed more entertainment besides string and tenor music (snore,yawn). Liked the comedy and dance acts.Good crew acts. Forget the movies,get a DVD for your room. Summary: Would I do it again? Yes,Yes,Yes, didn't want this experience to end, wish I could do it all over again,I wouldn't change a thing except I wouldn't pack so many clothes. I had to buy luggage for our bought goodies! Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
We were around the Horn 11 years ago with HAL and had pretty good weather at the Cape. Not as good as we had the other day though. We were really fortunate on this trip, as the Star Princess had ran into some pretty foul stuff coming ... Read More
We were around the Horn 11 years ago with HAL and had pretty good weather at the Cape. Not as good as we had the other day though. We were really fortunate on this trip, as the Star Princess had ran into some pretty foul stuff coming around the Horn just prior to our voyage and they had to cancel the Falklands. We stayed overnight in the Intercontinental at Buenos Aires, just before we headed for the ship passengers came in that just got off of her. They were a pretty depressed bunch. One gal told me that "everything that could go wrong went wrong". Fortunately for us everything that could go right went right. I notice the recent trip comments on C. C. pretty much reflect our views too. Actually, I was a lot more impressed with the trip than I thought I was going to be. It was a super great voyage. There were a lot of folk really into spending time on deck and taking in the marine life. And the biologists Princess provided were super and spent countless hours with everybody. I know The "birders" were in all their glory. Albatross everywhere. We had to cough up $131.00 each in Buenos Aires. We found out though this is a fee for Argentina and is good for ten years. Like we will be going back again soon. Anyway, We paid out $459 dollars for port and government fees plus the $262.00 for Argentina. I'm not certain, but since we stopped in Punta Arenas maybe we had to pay that $100. each, for Chile. Anyway, those who complain about Alaska's $50.00 head charge are simply not paying attention. Thursday, (January 14th) to Seattle, Friday to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Houston on Continental. Saturday afternoon we boarded the Star Princess for 16 days. For a voyage directly to Antarctica, 4 days cruising in and around Antarctica, then back up the coast all around Cape Horn and into the Beagle Channel making stops at Ushuaia Argentina, Punta Arenas, Chile, then out the Strait of Magellan into the Atlantic cruising on out to the Falkland Islands, then north to Montevideo in Uruguay, then back to Buenos Aires and then fly home via, Santiago de Chile, Los Angeles, Seattle, then home late Feb. 4th. On the sea we traveled a total of 5503.9 statute miles. Princess Cruise line has a promotional film out for the Antarctic. It starts with something that goes like this: "Imagine a place where time ceased to exist, a place of unspoiled and unforgiving beauty. A place of quiet. Where peace is everywhere. Imagine no more. The Frozen Continent." That pretty much sums up what we witnessed down there. The Star Princess. In 2002, when new, this was the largest passenger vessel in the world. However, it is quite a ways down the list now. 109,000 gross tons, 950 ft long, 118 ft wide, max speed 23.3 knots, cruise speed 21 knots, 3100 passengers max (we had 2600) plus a crew of 1200. But I did notice that their deck layout schematic is goofed up, so is my Berlitz guide to cruising with respect to the "Star". But then, my guide is 2007. Fortunately for us, the mistakes worked in our favor, we were on the Caribe deck in a balcony cabin. Except, our balcony was twice the size of those on any other deck as far as regular cabin or mini suite cabins go. The balconies on the Caribe were twice as large as those on the Dolphin deck, and the Dolphin deck has all the mini suites. The mini suites were just like ours except they cut the balcony in half and extended the room onto the cut our portion. Most full suites were all on our deck, and all they simply involved was two regular cabins with balcony's, like ours, with the wall removed. Berlitz says you can see down onto the Caribe full suite balconies from above. Not true, half the area of those balconies have a roof. Quite a mix of nationalities on board. Us Yankees were about 45%. I like it that way, gives one exposure to what others think and do. Unfortunately, we don't all speak the same language. There were a lot of South Americans on board as well. The cruise lines have resorted to really cutting rates in order to fill the ships. Another nice thing, the crowd was much younger than we are used to. As we get longer in the tooth we tend to become more curmudgeonish. The Star was by far the largest ship we have ever been on. Almost three times the size of the Titanic. I did not think I would care for a vessel this large but I was pleasantly surprised. Orca, (Killer Whale) just like home came right down the port side of the ship and our patio was on the port side. I got a good picture. This occurred in Gerlache Strait. We had three naturalists on board. One fellow had worked in the arctic since right after world war ll, he gave a fantastic lecture on Shackleton. He had met and spoke to a number of the Shackleton crew who were on the Endurance in 1914 when it got stuck in the Weddell Sea. He wrote a book which I bought, "Antarctica from South America". The other two were biologists as well, with doctorates and had spent many years at stations in the Antarctic. They say that it is a myth to believe warm waters harbor more marine life.The opposite is true. Cold waters contain more oxygen, meaning more zooplankton and nutrients like "krill" which provide the basis for all life in the arctic regions. Hence, large mammals thrive, like whales, such as the Blue and Fins, millions of penguins, seals and birds. Nothing lives on shore though. It is all a marine life show. With humans now harvesting krill in unregulated huge fishing boats in this area, an ecological disaster might be in the making for all life in the Antarctic. About as far south as we got was 65 degrees south latitude. It was pretty cold on deck some times, mostly from the wind moving across it. Actually, we were still almost 1800 miles from the south pole. And over 3000 miles to the ocean on the other side of the continent. Antarctica is not the smallest continent. It's land mass is larger than Europe or Australia. In fact it is twice the size of Australia. It is 98% covered by ice. We were sailing in and around the Antarctic Peninsula. They say that 96% of the continent's coast is ice cliffs. But on the peninsula you can see beaches and rock outcroppings. They also say that during the Antarctic winter the size of the continent almost doubles if you include the winter sea ice. There is also thousands of square miles of permanent sea ice, like in the Weddell and Ross Seas which are not included as part of the official Antarctic Continent either. There is an east and west Antarctic. They don't know for sure yet because of the ice depth, but it is possible that if the ice melted there would be two continents instead of one as the low land between the east and west highlands would be a sea channel. On average, it is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent and has the highest elevation of all the continents. However it is the interior of the continent which is technically the largest desert in the world. The coast does get quite a bit of precipitation, however. The U.S. and Russia both have stations in the interior. The U.S. right at the pole. Russia's is higher up and colder though. They say a structure built at the pole will survive for decades with little snow around it, while a station on the coast will be covered by hundreds of feet of snow just after a few years. So, on the coast, they now build on stilts and keep adding to them as it snows in order to keep the buildings on the surface. That way they don't have to continually plow and move snow. The ships five swimming pools were covered with nets, which means "no swimming today". Even though we had one very sunny and beautiful day down there, the temperature was still around 34. That is the same latitude as Fairbanks except Fairbanks is north latitude, also in Fairbanks it would have been July 22nd. It snowed one day for a bit, I love to take hot tubs in the snow, but for some reason they closed those also when we were there. I took many shots of ice bergs. The huge tabular bergs were amazing. They break off the huge continental ice shelves and there are thousands of them around. I understand they sometimes go for over a hundred miles on top. They float around the ocean for decades. Sometimes their flat tops are over a hundred feet above the sea, and they reach down 700 feet below the surface of the water. There are also millions of smaller ice bergs. For many years they have called some of these "Bergy Bits", Britt speak. But they aren't being cute when they do so. Smaller ones than that are what they call "Growlers", hey, big surprise in Alaska, but there is a reason for this designation. The smaller bergs are what the crew is most worried about as they can't pick them up as well on radar at night and they can do considerable damage. Star Princess has a double hull. The huge ones are no problem to see and avoid. The Star Princess had an "Ice Captain" on board. He was retired Coast Guard and had captained our nation's largest ice breaker, the Polar Star, on scientific expeditions in the Antarctic for years. He spoke to us a couple of times. Right after we left and headed into Drake's Passage he said something interesting "I don't get into these "Global Warming" arguments because I am not a scientist. However, I will tell you this, my first summer here was in 1984, no way we could have taken a ship this size back then into the areas where we have just been. There was so much ice then that even a consideration of doing so would have been ridiculous." Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Our embarkation in San Diego was uneventful and we settled into our cabin quickly. We had early fixed dining (anytime dining has proved to be more trouble than it is worth for us) and were delighted with our table mates and waiters. ... Read More
Our embarkation in San Diego was uneventful and we settled into our cabin quickly. We had early fixed dining (anytime dining has proved to be more trouble than it is worth for us) and were delighted with our table mates and waiters. The food was excellent and seemed better than previous HAL cruises we have taken. Chef Karl did a great job of overseeing a good kitchen staff. In fact,the staff was excellent overall. Much more friendly than most HAL crews. This may be reflective of the more outgoing/less reserved attitude we have notice of late on HAL. Our cabin was very nice and HAL did a very nice job on the recent refit. The only part we didn't care for was the redone theater. Holland has refitted this into a cabaret setting and it just doesn't work well. Hard to see from the tables or the balcony where many of the seats face the wrong way. It is one of those "great in theory but doesn't translate in practice ideas. They have also greatly reduced the size of the stage so those who enjoy the Production numbers of old will be disappointed. It is now set up for much smaller acts which, no doubt, save them money. Overall, the entertainment was below our expectations. The production numbers were just not up to the standards of any of the cruises we have taken in the past. The productions themselves were not very good and, with the exception of the two (that's right two)dancers who were excellent, the talent was not very talented. About half of the other acts were quite good. As I said, we were disappointed (as were most of the other guests we spoke to). The highlight of the entertainment on this cruise was Steve the Piano Man. Steve mans the piano bar from 9PM until closing and was great. His area was packed every night. There are many ports of call on this cruise with the best being on the second half when you pass through southern Chile and round the horn up to Buenos Aries and Rio. The scenery is outstanding. In Buenos Aries we had the good fortune to obtain the services of an outstanding guide, Alan of Buenos Tours (www.buenostours.com). Allan had come highly recommended, but far exceeded our expectations. His tour of Buenos Aries was one of the highlights of the trip. His company offers many tour options but he will also tailor tours to your specific needs, as he did for us. A banker from England, Alan decided to spend a summer in BA to work on his Spanish and ended up staying and founding his own company. He can be reached at: www.buenostours.com We can't recommend him enough. Rio was somewhat of a disappointment given the fact that have to get both an expensive Brazilian visa and yellow fever shot (about $400 a person) to even get off the ship there. Yes, you need them even if you are just going to the airport to return home. The setting is beautiful, but there is a high crime rate and it is quite expensive if you stay in the Copacabana area which is the only decent part of town. Aside from the beach, the only major sights are Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer. The other tours we took were disappointing. Our opinion of Brazil was not enhanced by the Health and Immigration departments keeping us on the ship for over 7 hours while the shook down Holland America for bribes before letting any passengers disembark. If you take this cruise, do yourself a favor and get off in Buenos Aries. Rio is clearly not ready for either the World Cup or the Olympics. All in all, we enjoyed this cruise very much. Holland did a very nice job and most of the port were interesting. The debacle in Rio was not their fault and they handled it very well. We would recommend this cruise to other but get off in Buenos Aries. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Background This was our sixth cruise and our third with Holland America. It was our first experience with one of the longer "Grand Voyages." We are both 60, but in good physical shape and consider ourselves open-minded and ... Read More
Background This was our sixth cruise and our third with Holland America. It was our first experience with one of the longer "Grand Voyages." We are both 60, but in good physical shape and consider ourselves open-minded and willing to try just about anything once. At 68 days, this cruise was three times as long as anything we'd done before. Within the "cruising community," that makes us relative "neophytes" but we are more eclectic in our travels and don't concentrate solely on cruising. But even though we consider ourselves "well-traveled," we were awed by the travel experience of most of our fellow passengers on Prinsendam. Many had logged 20 or 30 cruises and a surprising number had done HAL's Grand World Cruise more than once. (Clearly they have a bigger travel budget than we do!) We were pleasantly surprised to find that, rather than making them more critical and more likely to find fault with things, the vast majority of our fellow passengers had learned that everything can't be perfect all the time and sometimes you just need to exercise a bit of patience and understanding. We were pleasantly surprised at how few smokers there were. I'd estimate there were fewer than 10 total, out of a group of about 700! Getting There & Back One of the big advantages of the "Grand Voyages" is the round-trip format. No long international flights! We had a routine flight from SEA to FLL and back. The check-in procedure was quick and painless. The was some kind of "communication problem" between HAL, our travel agent, and us which kept us from being able to ship bags in advance. This may have been a blessing in disguise as we met quite a few people whose bags didn't catch up with them until we got to Lima! On the way home, we did use the service and it worked perfectly. Yes, they collected our passports, which made us a bit nervous until we figured out the reason. We hadn't realized that the Customs people actually came aboard and stamped every single passport. And we were halfway through the cruise before we found out that, once the officials were finished with them, we could "check out" our passports and take them ashore with us. In some countries, money exchanges required the passport (not a copy) in order change even minimal amounts of money. The Ship We liked the smaller size of Prinsendam. Don't think that having 700 passengers versus 1500 or 2000 on larger ships is going to make the ship's common areas less crowded because, of course, those common areas are proportionally smaller as well. But we never found this to be a big problem. There were times when the Lido restaurant or the gym were quite full, but you simply learned when those "crunch times" occurred and avoided them. We really noticed the smaller size was when the ship arrived in the various ports. In those places where we didn't book shore excursions, we found that everyone dispersed quickly and we often wandered the town for hours without seeing any of our fellow passengers. It did seem that Prinsendam is showing her age just a bit, despite her 2007 refit. Examples include stains on the carpet here and there, elevators that broke down a lot, and the closet in our stateroom that had come apart and been sort of "jury-rigged" back together. But none of those sort of things in any way caused us discomfort or difficulty. The only thing that did cause some grief was a temperamental air conditioning system that quit working a couple of times. But the maintenance people responded with reasonable promptness and got it fixed. HAL even gave us an extra $200 shipboard credit by way of apology. Certainly we couldn't complain about that! Dining I'm always amused by reviews in which the writers complain endlessly about how horrible the food was. Apparently these people employ their own gourmet chefs and formal wait staff at home and consider anything else to be beneath them. We saw a few of them on the ship, including one lady at a nearby table who routinely sent her entire dinner back because it wasn't prepared to her standards. She even sent her coffee back! Give me a break! We found the food, both in the main dining room and in the Lido, to be, at worst, "good" and, at best, "excellent." There are always going to be situations where you don't like what you ordered. But it's not the chef's fault that you don't like squash! We did get a bit tired of the formal dinners, even though they reduced the number from the publicized 19 down 12. On a week-long cruise, you don't mind dressing up once or twice. When you have to do it a dozen or more times, it gets old. It's the 21st century. How much longer do we have to pretend we're all the Astors and Guggenheims sailing on Titanic during the Gilded Age? (Look what happened to them!) I'm quite surprised at the number of reviewers who say they really enjoy dressing for dinner and that formal nights are their favorite times. I suspect these are women. I talked to very few men who thought stuffing themselves into a tux or a wool suit and strangling themselves with a tie in tropical heat and humidity was the best way to enjoy dinner. And in most cases, the menu wasn't any different just because the dress code said "formal," including one night where spaghetti was on the menu. Getting into a tux to eat spaghetti? A lot of our fellow passengers seemed to agree with us. Dining room attendance dropped off noticeably on formal nights toward the end of the cruise and the Lido became more crowded. We are VERY pleased to see that HAL has finally been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern age and is now offering the "As You Wish" dining option. We don't begrudge the folks their "dress up dinners,' if that's their thing, but we dislike having it forced on us. Service Service was up to the standards we've come to expect from HAL. The crew was invariably friendly, courteous, and helpful. Naturally, the length of the cruise meant that we got to know many of them and they us. Though we tried to keep our onboard bill down by not ordering too many bar drinks, the bartender in the Crow's Nest quickly learned not only our names, but what our favorite drinks were. By the end of the second week, half the servers in the Lido knew us by name. Stateroom We booked an outside cabin without a balcony (Category FF). We'd had this category on our Panama Canal cruise and found it more than adequate for our needs at that time. On shorter cruises, we never felt a balcony was worth the added expense. The least expensive balcony cabin on this Grand Voyage would have cost us an additional $20,000 and we just could not justify that expense. But oh, do we wish we could have! Our cabin was comfortable and large enough for our needs, but... The most annoying problem (don't laugh) was that the salt spray on the window made it difficult to see out much of the time! It certainly wasn't worth another $20K to have clean windows, but being able to open a slider and get some fresh air would have been really nice. Fitness Facilities The gym was a minor problem at times. As a devout runner, I was a member of a very small minority on this cruise. The ¼ mile Promenade Deck was off limits to runners, ostensibly because of the staterooms located directly below. The "running track' was located on the exposed top deck and, in my opinion, virtually useless. Besides being a scant 1/10 mile per lap, there were bocci ball courts, putting greens, etc. that had to be negotiated—perfect for tripping or turning an ankle. And, of course, there was always the potential for coming around a blind corner and encountering an oblivious octogenarian tottering along right in front of you. That left the treadmills in the gym, of which there were only five. At certain times, it was difficult to get on a machine because the walkers had them tied up. Yes, I know they had just as much right to use them as I did, but sometimes it got frustrating. After all, THEY could go out and walk the Promenade Deck in nice weather. I had no choice but to use the treadmills. But as I said, a minor problem overall, usually solved by getting up a few minutes earlier. HAL "Gifts" An established tradition on HAL's longer cruises is "gifts," which appear in your stateroom at random times. On this Grand Voyage, some of these were pretty big items, including parkas, suitcases, binoculars, Delft dishes, etc. This became a source of controversy as everything tended to be in the "official cruise color" which was lavender. Lavender parkas? Great for the ladies and gay men. Not so exciting for us straight guys! Also, we had brought parkas and binoculars with us and getting additional ones just meant more stuff to pack home. Same goes for the suitcases. With some airlines now allowing only ONE checked bag, another suitcase was more of a hindrance than a help. It seemed somehow "unkind" to complain, but a lot of us would rather have the price of the cruise reduced and forego the gifts. Entertainment HAL offered an eclectic mix of acts, ranging from classical pianists to jugglers. On a cruise of this length there's bound to be a range of quality but there were only a couple of shows that we thought were "duds." Sure there were some we enjoyed more than others, but that's just a question of personal taste. Some of the acts we didn't particularly care for received raves from others and vice-versa. The ship's orchestra was a phenomenally talented group. We talked the cruise director into setting up a couple of shows that just featured them. All were established professionals in their own right, and we were amazed to discover that they'd never played together before this cruise. Overall, we thought the entertainment was excellent. Shore Excursions In reading reviews on this site, I've noticed that people tend to skimp on information related to their shore excursions. This is always the biggest gamble on any cruise and I'd like to devote a little extra space to it. One significant complaint we had right off the top was the on-board video descriptions of the shore excursions. On other ships, these have included video of the actual excursion. On Prinsendam, all we got was one still image with narration--the voice of the shore excursion director reading the written descriptions straight out of the printed brochure. To make matters worse, she was a poor reader, routinely stumbling over words and mispronouncing the Spanish names. It was painful! But we've become pretty adept at "reading between the lines" of the descriptions and, for the most part, picked some pretty good trips. So here we'll present a short description of our impressions of the various ports and our critiques of the shore excursions we chose. It's pretty long because this was, after all, a 68-day itinerary. For the shore excursions, I've included a "star rating," with 1 being "Don't Waste Your Money" and 5 indicating "Outstanding," along with the length of the excursion, and the cost. Georgetown, Cayman Islands We found Georgetown less than impressive. We'd seen it in '03 and it hadn't changed much. Lots of the typical "cruise-ship-backed jewelry stores" and the usual souvenir shops. We spent a couple of hours ashore and went back to the ship to go swimming. No doubt the rest of the island(s) are beautiful but I suspect that if you want to visit the Caymans, you should go there for a week, not a six-hour stop on a cruise ship. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica "San Jose Town and Country" (*** , 9 ½ hours, $89 pp) This was a nine-hour bus trip to the national capital. A lot of folks wouldn't want to deal with the long bus ride, but we sort of enjoy just watching the countryside go by and seeing how folks live in other countries. In San Jose, we visited the Teatro Nacional and the National Museum. Both were interesting, but we didn't have enough time at either. We also had a quick stop at an area of artisan shops where we could buy locally-made handicrafts. We were literally the last ones back aboard ship. They were pulling in the gangway behind us. Panama City, Panama The Panama Railway - Domed Car (*** ½ , 3 ¼ hrs., $199 pp) After transiting the Canal, the ship spent the night anchored off Port Amidor, giving us the chance to go back and see the Canal from the shore side perspective and some of the country. We opted for the more expensive dome car seats, which we felt were worth the $70 pp extra cost. The train ride was about an hour long, taking us back along the Canal to Colon, where we visited the Gatun Locks. Seeing the locking operation from the shore side was entertaining and interesting.. The trip ended with a 90-minute bus trip back to the ship. Overall, we felt we got our money's worth. Manta, Ecuador No shore excursion. We just wandered the streets and a couple of local mercados. Typical of many such stops, free shuttle buses were provided to take us from the port area to the middle of town. This early in the trip, the mercados were fascinating and seemed to offer more local handicrafts. Later, most notably in Brazil, we got a bit tired of them and they seemed to be filled with a bewildering and incomprehensible mass of "stuff." More on that later. Guayaquil, Ecuador No shore excursion. A longer bus ride into town—half an hour or so. The ride gives you a good chance to see the outlying areas, which are decidedly "third-world" looking compared to the more prosperous downtown. Guayaquil is located quite some distance up the Guayas River and the riverfront is attractive and interesting. There were surprisingly few people down there. Most everyone seemed to be crammed into a huge indoor mercado where most stalls appeared to be selling cheap Chinese-made knockoffs of popular American brands of clothing and shoes. Salaverry/Trujillo, Peru We arrived here in thick fog which, we understand, is fairly common along this section of coast because of the proximity of the cold Humboldt Current offshore. Salaverry is the port for Trujillo. The dock area was surrounded by miles of flat sand. From certain vantage points on the ship, it looked like we were stranded in the middle of a desert! Some local vendors set up kiosks right on the dock, but we found them expensive and not particularly interested in bargaining. Again, free shuttles were provided to transport us into Trujillo. Trujillo has an attractive central plaza and we found the locals to be friendly and more than happy to talk to the turistas. Few spoke much English and I'm far from fluent in Spanish, but everyone was patient and seemed to enjoy the challenge of communicating. Callao/Lima, Peru "Lima Highlights" ( ***, 3 ½ hrs., $47 pp) Some might argue with my "three-star" rating above, but part of what I'm rating is "bang for the buck." This was a short and comparatively inexpensive tour and I felt the content was reasonable considering the low cost. It was accurately described as being primarily a bus tour. The main stop was at the Plaza Mejor, the city's central square. There, we toured the huge cathedral designed by Pizarro and in which Pizarro is entombed, and had a chance to watch the changing of the guard at the government palace. We also visited an old monastery. There was nothing particularly dramatic or spectacular, but it didn't cost much, either. Callao was the end of the first phase of the cruise so the ship stayed overnight. A few people got off; a few got on. The second day, we visited the upscale beachfront suburb of Miraflores. While this cruise didn't push jewelry like others we've been on, the H. Stern Company was much in evidence from this point on. They routinely provided shuttle service from the ship to their stores and, to be fair, we must note that there was no pressure whatever to buy anything from them. It was the "Stern Shuttle" that took us to Miraflores. This is a nice area which, we are sure, is NOT typical of Peru in general. We saw all the "usual" American establishments, e.g. TGIFridays, McDonald's, KFC, Starbucks, etc. It reminded us a bit of the ocean front south of the Cliff House in San Francisco. A word here about the Machu Picchu trips. We chose not to do this, based mainly on the cost, but talked to several others who did take them. When all was said and done, we were glad we didn't do this one. The first problem was the transportation system. One of our dining tablemates booked the multi-day trip, which departed from Manta and rejoined the ship in Callao. He reported his flight was some four hours late at one point, with no explanation as to why. He had paid for "deluxe" train accommodations later in the trip and the delays ultimately resulted in his being placed in "standard" seats. I never heard whether or not he got any refund. But the biggest problem seemed to be the weather. Most everyone reported that, having spent big bucks and enduring a long, difficult trip to get there, they arrived at Machu Picchu to find it completely enveloped in clouds, making it virtually impossible to see the sights they went there to see! Bottom line: these trips are a crapshoot. You might have a great time and clear skies or you may see little or nothing. It's a lot of money to spend to see clouds. Northern Chile We didn't do any shore excursions at Arica, Coquimbo, or Valparaiso. We found it immediately obvious that Chile is much more prosperous than either Peru or Ecuador. Arica has several streets closed off as pedestrian malls. They were clean and well patrolled by the Policia Turistica. Again, the people were extremely friendly. We stopped into a little restaurant/bar for a beer and found they didn't accept US dollars. But one of the patrons gave us directions to a nearby money exchange and, when we returned for our beer, he and the lady behind the counter welcomed us back and wanted to talk about where we were from, how we got there, etc. When we finished our beers, the gentleman walked down the street with us to introduce us to his wife, who was operating a cart on the street selling various herbal medications. (We had to chuckle over the fact that SHE was out working while he was sitting around drinking beer with the tourists!) Coquimbo has a wonderful seafood market and an equally fascinating produce market across the street, all within easy walking distance of the ship. Valparaiso is the country's largest port and the gateway to Santiago. The shore excursion to Santiago would have wiped out the entire day so we made the choice to stay in Valparaiso for the day. They have a very modern rapid transit train that runs past the port and on into the city itself. Like many such systems, it makes perfect sense to the locals, but is virtually incomprehensible to strangers. Then add the complication of a foreign language. Fortunately, one of our fellow passengers, far more fluent in Spanish than I, helped us buy tickets to get us to an area called Vina del Mar and back. But in a scene reminiscent of "Charlie and the MTA," we arrived back at the port to find that our fare card wouldn't let us OUT of the terminal! We ended up paying more money to get through the "exit" turnstile. Puerto Montt, Chile "Petrohue Falls, Lake Cruise and Chilean Countryside" (****, 8 hrs., $148 pp) The trip began with a hour's bus ride to Lago de Todo Los Santos, where we took a short cruise on one of those big power catamarans. The cruise itself wasn't all that wonderful—it just went out around an island and back, but the scenery was spectacular. (There was another, similar excursion titled "Osorno Volcano & Petrohue Rapids" that appears to be identical but omits the cruise. At $126 pp, it might be a better value.) Next we visited Petrohue Falls. We weren't there at the right time of year to see the falls at their best, but it was still quite beautiful. We stopped for lunch at a German-influenced restaurant on the shore of another lake. They were obviously accustomed to dealing with busloads of tourists because the service was very quick and efficient and the food was excellent. Finally, we stopped at the little resort town of Puerto Varas. Again, the stop wasn't long enough, but hey, you can't do everything on one trip. We both agreed that Puerto Montt and "Lake Country" would be worth a return trip someday. Puerto Chacabuco, Chile Puerto Chacabuco won't appear on most maps. It's just a tiny village in the midst of the spectacular fjords. A larger town, Puerto Aysen, was about an hour's drive away. The taxis at the port dock wanted $40 each way so we opted to skip that. Walking around Puerto Chacabuco (which has a nice hotel and not much else) we noted a bus which ran to Puerto Aysen and cost about $2. We were tempted but, not knowing anything about the schedule, were nervous about getting stranded and having to fork out the $40 taxi fare to get back. As it turned out, the bus seemed to run every half-hour or so. The waters between Puerto Chacabuco and Punta Arenas are a mind-boggling stretch of glaciers and fjords. It is reminiscent of Alaska but somehow more rugged and spectacular. Punta Arenas, Chile "Patagonian Experience - Otway Sound & Penguin Reserve" (****, 4 hrs. $79 pp) This was another example of a not-too-expensive shore excursion that, we felt, delivered pretty good value. The bus ride through the pampas was interesting and the penguin rookery lived up to the descriptions. These were Magellanic Penguins, one of the smallest species. They nest in burrows, sometimes quite far from the water. Humans were confined to wooden boardwalks and, at the beach, to a sort of "viewing blind." While you couldn't get pictures of yourself surrounded by hundreds of penguins, you could get close enough to get some good shots. The trip left us enough time to visit the city itself. It was a Sunday so most of the shops were closed. Apparently the arrival of several hundred tourists on a cruise ship wasn't sufficient incentive to violate the Sabbath in the interests of making money, but there were a few open and a number of craft stalls set up in the central plaza. We talked to folks who did the "Antarctica Flyover." This was too pricey for us at $1755 per person, but those that forked out the bucks said it was spectacular. Everyone got a window seat on the chartered 737 and they got down to a low enough altitude that you could really see a lot. Ushuaia, Argentina Ushuaia is a fun place. It reminded us of a bit of Juneau and of ski resort towns we've visited with the added feature of a marine waterfront. It was blowing 50-60 knots which, we gathered, is pretty common. It was also surprisingly dry and dusty. Despite the area's reputation for foul weather, they apparently don't get a lot of precipitation, at least in the summer. One of the more interesting examples of bureaucracy in action took place after we left Ushuaia. Ushuaia is in Argentina, Cape Horn is back in Chile. We were required to stop at Puerto Williams, Chile, and anchor while the Chilean authorities cleared the ship BACK into Chile and the Chilean pilots came aboard. This despite the fact that we were only sailing past Cape Horn, not going ashore. We have little doubt that the most important thing that occurred during this stop was the payment of some type of fee. Next morning, it came out that the pilots had decided it was too rough out at The Horn for them to transfer back into their small boat for the trip back to Puerto Williams. As a result, we had no pilots aboard and were therefore required to maintain a minimum of three miles distance from Cape Horn itself. I don't imagine that HAL received any refund of whatever fees they paid! The weather was pretty bad and the wind was screaming so few people ventured on deck anyway. Antarctica Once we left The Horn, we had incredibly benign weather for the trip across Drake Passage and, indeed, our entire time in Antarctica. Two of our three days there featured clear skies and sunshine. Oh, yes, it was cold. Temperatures were in the low- to mid-thirties plus wind chill, but that didn't stop anyone from being out on deck. The tiny bit of Antarctica we saw was beyond description. Our only regret is that we couldn't go ashore. There is a treaty that prohibits ships above a certain size from landing passengers. We'd love to go back on one of the myriad of smaller ships that are allowed to take people ashore. South Georgia Island. South Georgia is important historically. It was a major center for the South Atlantic whaling industry and figured prominently in the legendary voyage of Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton himself is buried there. Access ashore is strictly controlled and we were only allowed ashore in tightly monitored groups. It sounds restrictive, but really wasn't. We saw everything we wanted to see. There was one rather irritating disappointment at South Georgia. We landed at Grytviken, leaving there about 4:00 p.m. and cruising past some of the other bays and abandoned whaling stations. Dinner came along and we dutifully reported to our assigned seat at the assigned time. It was then that we realized that the commentary that was being broadcast through the ship's common areas was NOT being piped into the main dining room. (Can't interrupt people's dinner with something as trivial as information about what's going by outside!) It was only when I saw lots of people running around outside with cameras that it dawned on me that we were approaching Stromness, the station that was an integral part of the Shackleton story. I left dinner to run back and get a coat and a camera and, by the time I got out on deck, I'd missed much of the commentary about the place. The Falkland Islands "Falkland Battlefields" ( ** ½, 4 hrs, $89 pp) We were one of the few ships that made it to the Falklands during the summer of 2008. The anchorage, such as it is, is wide-open and exposed and the wind blows unceasingly. But we did get there, thanks to the superb seamanship of Prinsendam's captain and crew. The Falklands are a pretty stark and desolate place. We had booked the shore excursion to the Volunteer Point penguin rookery to see King Penguins (8 hrs. $349 pp), but we were delayed in anchoring due to the wind conditions and the trip was cancelled because there wouldn't have been enough time to get there and back. We substituted the "Falklands Battlefields" tour. I had studied the history of the 1982 war prior to leaving home and choosing between the battlefields tour and the penguins had been a real dilemma. In some ways, it was a relief to have the choice made for me. This tour wasn't nearly as comprehensive as I would have hoped, but it wasn't terribly expensive, either. I would have liked to have seen the area where the British forces landed, near San Carlos, but we couldn't do that for the good and simple reason that there are no roads that go there! The tour we did take consisted of a trip out to Fitzroy, to the inlet where two anchored British supply ships were bombed by the Argentines, then a retracing of the route the British commandos took from there as they attacked the Argentine forces in the "mountains" south of Stanley. Buenos Aires, Argentina "Iguazu Falls" (* ½ , 12 hrs, $989 pp) Our biggest (i.e. most expensive) shore excursion was the trip to Iguazu Falls. It also proved to be one of the biggest flops. There was some unexplained delay in getting the ship cleared by Argentine customs, resulting in our being something over an hour late leaving the ship. It was clear that, from that point on, the main objective was to make up that time and we knew right away that they were going to do it by cutting our time at the Falls. It's a 90-minute flight from BA to Iguazu. Far from being out in the wilds, Iguazu is now a huge tourist attraction. It has its own airport and several large luxury hotels. There are no private cars allowed in the park itself. You are transported to the various points of interest on a narrow-gauge railway. And you won't be alone. There were literally thousands of others hiking across the metal catwalks to the "Devil's Throat" and, once there, jostling for position to get a picture of themselves and the Falls. There are commercial photographers there, too, who kept telling the rest of us to move so we weren't in their shots. Very annoying. Lunch was included and it was pure chaos. The restaurant was poorly organized for dealing with large crowds. The "salad bar," such as it was, was ROUND. Wherever you tried to get to it, people complained that you were "crowding in." But there was no way to form a line and take turns. Like I said, chaotic and stressful. After lunch, we were told we'd have "about an hour" to see the upper part of the falls, which was within walking distance. But after walking through the first section of the trail, which took maybe 15 minutes, we were directed back to the bus! Had to make up time, remember! They carted us back to the airport, where we sat cooling our heels for over an hour! Time that could have been spent seeing the rest of the falls. All in all, we didn't feel this one gave a very good return for the amount of money it cost. "Buenos Aires Highlights" (***, 3 ½ hrs, $53 pp) Buenos Aires was an overnight stop so we were able to do this basic city tour the second day. This was a good, general tour of the city which included the Ricoleta Cemetery (mausoleum of Eva Peron) and "La Boca," the older part of the city. It did not stop at the Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace, but we had time to walk back there later in the afternoon. Montevideo, Uruguay Easy walk to the center of this interesting city. Many of the buildings seemed somewhat run down, but the businesses in them were thriving. We heard a rumor that tax rates were based on the exterior of the buildings, which would provide little or no incentive for maintaining the facades. Rio De Janeiro Brazil Corcovado & Rio City Tour (*** ½, 4 hrs, $72 pp) Rio is huge, sprawling all over the place, and we had no decent map. It was confusing trying to figure out exactly where the ship was relative to downtown, Corcovado, and the famous beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema. This tour took us by bus to the base of the funicular railway that ascends Corcovado. Visibility at the top was poor, which we understand is not unusual. The tour description accurately indicated the possibility of long lines and crowds. Overall, about what we expected and a reasonable value. The H. Stern people provided transportation to their store in Lincoln Town Cars and we used them to get out to Ipanema on our second day. Nice area with lots of people and lots of shops and restaurants. Salvador and Recife, Brazil No shore excursions. In Salvador, the shuttle from the port took us to the Pelourhino district—a zillion little shops and restaurants. We walked back to the ship since it was downhill, using the Lacerda Elevator to do most of the descent. Recife is an attractive city, known as the "Venice of South America" because of the many waterways and bridges. We might have gotten a better look at it via one of the few shore excursions, but we had to draw the financial line somewhere. Fortaleza, Brazil "Cumbuco Beach & Buggy Ride" (***, 5 ½ hrs, $79 pp) By this point, we were burned out on wandering the streets through the shops which seemed to sell mostly flip-flops and kids' backpacks festooned with Disney characters. We decided to try something completely different. The dune buggy ride was much less thrilling than we expected. I think someone told the operators that they had a bunch of decrepit old farts from a Holland America ship coming and to "keep it tame." Consequently, we got the "A Ticket" ride rather than the high-speed "E Ticket" version. That was disappointing in that almost everyone who did this excursion was younger (by HAL standards) and in good physical shape. We'd hoped for a thrill ride and, instead, got a relatively mild trip. Belem, Brazil "Amazon River System Adventure by Riverboat" (****, 5 ½ hours, $73 pp) We started with a bus ride of about 45 minutes. The bus's air-conditioning didn't work so it was pretty hot and sticky. But, to the credit of our fellow passengers, no one complained. While we were off on our boat trip, the tour company got another bus so the trip back was fine. The riverboat trip was fun, taking us to a small tributary of the Rio Guana where we took a short walk ashore. Some of the locals demonstrated native techniques for climbing trees and showed us some of the native flora and fauna (the latter in the form of a satisfyingly large and horrible-looking, though harmless, spider). Santarem, Brazil No shore excursions. A relatively small river community that was easy to explore in a relatively short time. More shops selling flip-flops and backpacks. Boca da Valeria, Brazil I have to editorialize (pontificate?) a little on this stop. Billed as a "sleepy village in the Amazon Basin," we thought it was little more than a pageant for the benefit of tourists. As such, we found it somewhat disturbing. There were a few stalls set up to sell handicrafts, but mostly it was like a sort of "Halloween in reverse." Instead of going out after treats, the treats came to them. As we got off the tenders, the kids were lined up with their hands out, waiting to be handed money (preferably) or whatever else the fabulously rich American tourists had brought ashore for them. We took some t-shirts ashore, hoping to trade them for something. No way. They fully expected us to GIVE them the t-shirts, but the idea of giving us anything in return was clearly foreign to them. They even pointed to the clothes we were wearing and indicated that we should give them those! Kids dressed in "native costumes" lined the path, with parents standing by to collect the expected payment if you took a picture. The kids all spoke exactly ONE English word: "dollar." It was also obvious that people came from miles around to get in on the "booty" whenever a cruise ship stopped. We left feeling that we'd done more harm than good—reinforcing their belief that (a) all Americans are fabulously wealthy and (b) all you had to do was hold out your hand and someone would give you something. Quite the incentive to go do some actual work, huh? Manaus, Brazil "Alligator Spotting and Piranha Fishing: A Night in the Amazon Overland Adventure." (***** + , 2 days/1 night, $399 ppdo) Far and away the best of all our shore excursions, this one is not to be missed if you have a bit of an adventurous spirit. The destination is the Amazon Village Resort on the Rio Negro, a three-hour boat trip from Manaus. The description warns that there's no hot water or air-conditioning and limited electricity. This was enough to keep the whiners away and the people who did this excursion were a great group that was ready to try anything and everything. Lunch was ready when we arrived and was the antithesis of "primitive." Food was excellent and plentiful and featured lots of locally-caught fish as well as beef and pork. The piranha-fishing expedition included a stop at the home of one of the resort's neighbors who eked out a living raising manioc root for tapioca. We got to see and hold a small boa, a sloth, and a strange, prehistoric-looking turtle. It poured down rain but no one cared or complained. Piranha are NOT easy to catch. Amid many jokes about "just stick your finger in the water" we only caught a total of four. They tend to "nibble" at the bait (raw meat) rather than just glom onto it. After dinner we went back out on the river in search of alligators (more accurately, "spectacled cayman"). We kidded the guides that they had pet caymans stashed at known spots but, regardless, they DID find a small one. And cruising along the still waters of the river in the pitch darkness was great fun. The lack of air-conditioning made for a long, hot night but we knew it going in so, again, no one complained. They shut off the battery-powered lights about 11 p.m. and it was DARK. Half an hour later, I tried the "hand in front of the face test" and literally could NOT see it! Next morning we did a jungle walk. They offered two versions, one easy and one more difficult since, even in our gung-ho group, some were less capable of dealing with uneven trails than others. Once again, a very interesting and educational experience with a guide who had grown up in the area and was a wealth of information about native plants and how the indigenous peoples used them. Parantins. Brazil The big hype at Parantins was the "Boi Bumba" show. Everyone said it was a "not to be missed" spectacle. We gathered it was a sort of "Carnivale" in a small arena, from which you can deduce that we did NOT attend. Why not? What they didn't mention in all the hype was the cost. How about $101 US per person? Lots of people went anyway. Personally, it would have had to include Kirsten Dunst, Scarlett Johaansen, Jessicas Biel and Alba, and Gillian Anderson all performing stark naked before I'd spend that much money on an unknown show...and maybe not even then. We didn't hear anyone raving about how great it was afterward, either. Perhaps someone who actually attended can post a review? Devil's Island, French Guiana Trying to figure out just why we stopped here, we concluded that the answer was simply, "Because we could." First of all, you don't go to Devil's Island, you go to its neighbor, Isle Royale. No big deal, just a technical detail. It's interesting and historic so I guess as long as we were in the neighborhood, it made some sense to stop and see it. Be warned: there's a gift shop there that will make the high prices aboard ship seem like absolute bargains. Example: a simple post card cost SIX U.S. DOLLARS! Barbados "Barbados Turtle Encounter (****, 3 hours/ $59 pp) We went our separate ways here. My wife did this one. She had a great time and felt it was a good value. In addition to swimming with the sea turtles, they had the opportunity to ride various inflatable water toys towed behind a Boston Whaler or some similar fast boat. "Barbados Yacht Racing Challenge." (* , 2 ¾ hours, $99 pp) The description said, "Go head to head with a full match race to the end. Join experienced crew and be involved as much or as little as you like." I have cruised and raced sailboats most of my life and was looking forward to a "full head-to-head match race." The boats were as advertised: 80-foot maxi boats, veterans of the Whitbread 'Round the World race. The "race" was something else. It was only a race in the sense that there were two boats sailing in relatively close proximity. Yes, it was a nice ride on a big powerful boat, but the "heart pounding, exciting match race," was a joke. As for being involved "as much" as we wanted, four of us were allowed to man the big coffee-grinder winches and mostly we just stood around hoping that we'd get a chance to actually crank them. The rest of the paid guests were simply used as "human ballast." The skipper's instructions for tacking consisted of telling them how to move from one side of the boat to the other. We were never asked how much sailing and/or racing experience we had. They seemed to assume that we didn't know the pointy end from the blunt end. No one but the skipper was ever allowed to touch the helm and the paid crew did all the trimming of sails. And there was precious little of that as the "course" consisted of a beam reach out and back. We had to tack exactly twice to get to the turning mark and then gybed around it. Other than that, we just sat there while the skipper steered the boat, saying nothing and generally giving the impression that he was incredibly bored with the whole enterprise. The "other boat" was "crewed" by guests from a local hotel. They started behind us and to leeward and anyone who knows sailing would know that, from that point on, we should have dominated the "race." Instead, they sailed right through our lee and ended up "winning" by over a minute. The skipper and crew couldn't have cared less. Overall, this was the most disappointing of our shore excursions and pretty much a waste of a hundred bucks. Mayaguez, Puerto Rico No shore excursions. A few kiosks on the dock which offered little of interest. Getting to town required a taxi and since we were, technically, back in the US of A, they were expensive. Half Moon Cay HAL's private island, which we'd visited before. Nice spot to just relax on the beach, but the weather was cool and showery so the most important event of the day was lunch. Conclusion Overall, this Grand Voyage was an incredible adventure. We like traveling to places that not everyone else has been to and this cruise certainly delivered that. Given the 68-day duration, friends ask if we were "glad to get home." We reply that we weren't so much "glad" as just "ready." We'd had a great time, it was over, and it was just "time to go home." Would we do it again? No, we've already done it. We don't need to do it again. But we would like to go back and revisit Patagonia, Antarctica, and Buenos Aires. Would we recommend it to others? Absolutely and unequivocally. Would we do a similar cruise? Yes, and we've already put a deposit down on the 2010 Grand Asia & Pacific Voyage. By then, we'll be ready for another cruise. Meantime, we have other types of travel in mind. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click