11 Princess Star Princess Holiday Cruise Reviews

Wish I could choose no stars. Half the ship sick as no sanitisation policy, sloppy management (Italian and S. American majority) art auctions...painting and easels all over our muster station, no checking of tender and shuttle bus tickets ... Read More
Wish I could choose no stars. Half the ship sick as no sanitisation policy, sloppy management (Italian and S. American majority) art auctions...painting and easels all over our muster station, no checking of tender and shuttle bus tickets so a free for all and chaos. Thankfully, no accident or it would be worse than a Costa disaster. Library not there...empty shelves! .. (Do not make money so took them out). Entertainment programme dire, as just hard sell all day... Promoting the spa, Effy Diamonds, shops....you name it. Anything interesting was lumped into the first hour so all day could be 'open your wallet'. Christmas and New Year very poor. Atrium is social centre...not big enough for such a big ship so pictures look good......but majority of passengers cannot see/hear/dance/use. Three days at sea and we left ports at 4.30pm?????? Could not see what we wanted....yet next port only four hours sail away?? One port was San Martin, a disused sandy area with NOTHING there......and they had the audacity to charge $16 each to be shuttled ten minutes away to a tiny resort....no taxis to do it yourself. Only there to pick up Macho Picchu excursions and cheaper than staying in Lima.....money, money money taken with no thought of the other passengers....the majority! Lots MORE but needless to say NEVER AGAIN ON PRINCESS. Check their history of diseases! In Nicaragua we had our temperatures taken as we left the tender....'"this ship has a bad record....we do not want here"!! NO sanitasation getting back on and folk going straight to eat at the buffet and restaurants...again sanitisation optional!!!! TempeLong delays getting off in places as immigration checking the loads who used the doctor...same numbers self medicated so iver 700?? Theatre was a cacophony of coughing, sneezing and spluttering but authorities NOT sanitising or cleaning banisters and denying any problem or sickness.......AWFUL! Think Carnival is now pushing money, money money.....so will not be using the other lines under their umbrella. Woukd rather sail, .....enjoy .....and survive!!! Sailed for forty years and this was the WORSE cruise, ship, management, sickness incidence numbers and programme/port times etc. Nightmare 31 days. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We are a family of 2 adults and 2 teens and we are Elite cruisers on Princess. We booked this 15 day cruise to be away for both Christmas and New Years. It was wonderful. Our last two cruises were Hong Kong to Shanghai and Yokohama to ... Read More
We are a family of 2 adults and 2 teens and we are Elite cruisers on Princess. We booked this 15 day cruise to be away for both Christmas and New Years. It was wonderful. Our last two cruises were Hong Kong to Shanghai and Yokohama to Vancouver in the spring (2014) on Celebrity Millenium. They were truly horrible cruises in all ways so we have dropped Celebrity from our cruising list and have returned to Princess. Everything with Princess was superior. Embarcation was quick. I've noted other comments on this cruise about the ship leaving late - but so what??? We were on the ship, getting comfortable in our 2 oceanview cabins, eating a great lunch and an even better dinner and watching a show. Whether we were in port or on the sea is totally irrelevant as far as we are concerned - we were on shipboard! Our cabins were clean, spacious and comfortable - loads of closet and drawer/shelf space. Our steward was unexceptional but competent. Almost all the staff were friendly and accommodating. There was very seldom a line-up at Guest Services compared to Celebrity were most of the entertainment seemed to be meeting hoards of people in the Guest Services lines because there was so much to complain about on Celebrity. The on-board entertainment was the usual, and included a couple of fabulous magicians and the theater is lovely. All the decor was attractive, bright and cheery. The food in the dining room was fantastic almost without exception. And hot. We thought the whole menu Celebrity was cold food only since none of our meals arrived warm on the Millenium. On Princess the fish was to die for. The beef was so/so, but we cruise for something different than we eat at home. We can eat good steak at home but fabulously prepared fish and lobster tails (served twice) are a real treat. The desserts were good too. Room Service was fine. Biggest complaint is the coffee which is crappy. But we remedied that by buying a few coffee cards which get you premium teas, hot chocolate and espresso drinks (lattes and cappucinos). Our girls enjoyed the teen club, although would have preferred less freedom and a few more structured activities. I had a great massage onshore in Ensenada and the 4 Hawaiian ports were also great. We rented cars on Hawaii and Kauai, taxied on Oahu and visited with friends on Maui. Our only complaint was on Maui. It was a tender port and the lineup to reboard was over an hour and a half. When we approached the front of the line we requested the top deck on the tender so we could get some photos of the ship and indicated our willingness to wait for the next tender we were referred the officer in charge who was a total jerk and a Hitler clone. We were treated very disrespectfully but refused to let it spoil an otherwise lovely cruise. You always meet the odd idiot when travelling. We took independent debarkation in S.F. and exited swiftly. All in all a lovely 15 days. Thank you Princess. We're already booked for 2 cruises totalling 35 days on Princess for 2016. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We had sailed on the Star in July, 2008, when the weather was totally sunny and the temperatures were in the 70's and 80's. This time we wanted to experience Alaska in more normal weather. While the weather this time was in ... Read More
We had sailed on the Star in July, 2008, when the weather was totally sunny and the temperatures were in the 70's and 80's. This time we wanted to experience Alaska in more normal weather. While the weather this time was in the 50s, we did have some sunny periods, and the visibility was always good. We arrived in Seattle on the Wednesday evening before our Saturday, May 11, sail. Spent two nights in at the Hampton Suites in Lynwood about 30 minutes north of the City. This proved to be an excellent location for visiting the Wineries and Indian resort casinos nearby. On Friday night we moved to the Homewood Suites on Pike, across from the Civic Center, and took in the Pike Street Market and our favorite restaurant, Elliotts Oyster Bar on Pier 53. Elliotts has the best in regional oysters, plus a great location on the waterfront. Took a cab to the new Princess north pier location; we arrived at the designated arrival time (a new Princess loading scheme), but had to wait an hour. The staff seemed to be disorganized first time experience in this our 5th Princess Cruise. Once on board, we were quickly impressed with the condition of the Star the same ship we had sailed on five years ago. The ship had the appearance of having recently been refurbished, although I dont think this was the case. Our favorite place to look out, the Sky Walker Lounge, was still in place, and had not been removed as it has been from the Stars sister ship, the Grand. Our cabin, C424, was great. The steward was very attentive and efficient, and the cruise so lacked any rocking, etc. that we thought we were on a lake rather than out on the Pacific for the first two days. The glacier state park at Juneau was beautiful to see, and we also were able to observe two bear cubs in a tree, as well as several mountain goats. At Skagway, we rented a car and drove one hour north to the Yukon Territory, and had lunch at the only restaurant just north of Carcross. Enjoyed spectacular scenery this is an option to the train at Skagway that I highly recommend. Cruising in the Glacier Bay National Park was the highlight of the trip! Ketchikan was good for shopping, while most of the shops in Victoria were closed when we arrived. Service on board the Star was uniformly excellent. The jazz performances were very good. Meals at the specialty restaurants were good, and the International Food Bar was excellent. Now the bad news. The food at the Horizon buffet was often cold, and not very tasty. The menu selection at the traditional dining room was very poor. Princess needs to do something, quickly I believe, to address their food preparation and variety. Debarking went smoothlyI recommend checking your bags through from the ship at a reasonable cost. The bus service purchased through Princess was a near disaster. The driver got lost in downtown Seattle, almost hit a car on I5, and drove between lanes on the Interstate. The trip to the airport took twice as long as it should have taken. All in all, we will cruise on Princess again, but we hope the food, especially, will be much improved. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We weren't too sure about embarking on a holiday cruise since we had never been away from the family over Christmas before. We were surprisingly pleased with the atmosphere created on board by the Princess Star. The lovely decor, ... Read More
We weren't too sure about embarking on a holiday cruise since we had never been away from the family over Christmas before. We were surprisingly pleased with the atmosphere created on board by the Princess Star. The lovely decor, special music including Christmas caroling with snow showers, the candlelight dinner in the dining room on Christmas evening,and MOST enjoyable for us was the special channel on the cabin TV that featured a crackling fire and the playing of Christmas carols. It was a lovely way to fall asleep every night for almost 2 weeks !!' Santa's visit for the children on Christmas morning was an added treat for them as well as games, face painting etc. for the kids (200 of them !) The gingerbread house decorating contest was amazing....what talented and creative people ! WE had absolute SMOOOOOOTH sailing for the first 10 days....like a lake! Next couple of weeks had some "rock and rollin' " for sure. The ports of call were a delight for the most part. The Princess tours were VERY expensive and not always rated correctly as far as E--M--S. For those with mobility problems that can be and WAS an issue where excessive walking was required on what was rated E. We saw some magnificent sights...especially "Glacier Alley"...the Beagle Channel from the Skywalker's lounge. That morning was worth the cost of the entire trip! Some of the ports were rainy or heavily clouded obscuring the view of the volcanoes etc...which is a shame....but can't be helped...nature is nature. We were blessed beyond measure to have a calm sea and SUN the morning we rounded Cape Horn...something the port expert, Joe May said he had NEVER seen in his 120 trips around the Cape. The ship food was outstanding...except for the temperature of some hot foods up in Horizon court....too tepid for fowl dishes. The entertainment was just OK....nothing to rave about....some really good....some pretty awful...some just mediocre. We happened to have a very uncaring substandard cabin steward...which is not our usual experience. Was disappointed in his performance...and we are NOT demanding kinds of passenger. I was disappointed in the service of the photo dept. as well. At several ports they were not out taking photos as usual. The service in the anytime dining room was usually painfully slow...almost always had to figure on a 2 hour dinner at a table for 6....not good ! There also needs to be a better informed shore excursion office and better communication skills. Overall.....I would give this cruise an 8 out of 10. WE thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, met some lovely people, ate some wonderful meals saw some awesome sights and had several truly relaxing "at sea" days. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We are seasoned cruisers, mostly with P&O but chose this one for the itinerary because it included Istanbul and Pompeii. We flew from Manchester to Rome. Oh dear, our experiences at Rome both arriving and departing from put this ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers, mostly with P&O but chose this one for the itinerary because it included Istanbul and Pompeii. We flew from Manchester to Rome. Oh dear, our experiences at Rome both arriving and departing from put this airport at second worst one on our list. Never mind, check in at the port to board ship was very efficient and we discovered we had an upgrade to a balcony cabin. Things were improving. Star Princess is a lovely ship, a bit worn in parts but we understand it is going for a refit after the next cruise. The staff were very friendly and helpful. In particular, Johanna and Roderick who looked after our table of 8 in Amalfi dining room 2nd sitting with great enthusiasm and professionalism. We had a pre-dinner drink each evening in Wheelhouse Bar and were entertained by Noelia and Ash with their bar tricks and puzzles. I emphasize ONE drink. The drinks were so expensive that we refused to be ripped off by drinking more. (16 dollars for a small can of beer and a small glass of wine)We did complain about the prices, as did many other passengers. I guess the powers that be realised that the bars were empty and 4 days into the cruise a specials price list appeared. Apart from that, the food was lovely and we were impressed with the choice at breakfast and lunch. Evening meal was mostly ok 4 days into the cruise we also got upgraded to a mini-suite after a problem with the shower plumbing. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Let me start by saying this. If you are thinking of cruising with Princess Cruises, DO NOT! Save yourself the time and money, they ship was terrible. Princess Star was a joke, the food was terrible, and I mean terrible. The buffet was a ... Read More
Let me start by saying this. If you are thinking of cruising with Princess Cruises, DO NOT! Save yourself the time and money, they ship was terrible. Princess Star was a joke, the food was terrible, and I mean terrible. The buffet was a 1.5 out of 10 (the 1.5 is only because breakfast was decent, but that's pretty hard to mess up). The restaurants where you had to pay for the meal were just as bad as the included meals, there were never more than 8 items on the menu and I had to regularly send the food back to kitchen. Steaks were never cooked correctly even in their steakhouse, they even managed to forget to put the sauce on fettucine alfredo. The staff are friendly enough and our cabin steward was great. The drinks were $11 or above for anything alcoholic, $4 for a pop or $7 for a mocktail. The water that they provided was usually brown in color and a bottle was the same price as a pop. Even the cream for your coffee at breakfast was sour. When you poured the cream in your coffee you could see it curdle at the top. The amenities on board were a joke, the swimming pools are only a couple feet deep and no bigger than most hot tubs. There were never enough lounge chairs for guests and people were always waiting for the moment anyone else stood up so they could take yours. They had movies under the stars at night, however for 2600 people they had less than 100 seats. The casino was good enough, exactly what you would expect on a boat, nothing fancy, but they had a couple tables and some slot machines. As for entertainment, they had a magician and a comedy show. The comedian was soo bad nobody even laughed at one of his jokes (not one person). The magician was even worse (I left, but my sister and brother in law stayed). Every morning at about 5 AM, the boat would be getting close to port and would turn on the thrusters. This meant every wall panel in the room would start vibrating to the point were it was so loud we would have to get up and hold the mirrors against the walls. We were supposed to arrive in Mykanos in the evening, however the boat did not have enough fresh water on board and the captain decided to circle around to collect water for the desalinzers instead of paying for water at port. His announcement to the public was "We will be delayed in arriving to Mykanos as our navigator has decided he wants to right his name in the water with the boat". We were told this only a few hours before we were supposed to arrive in Mykanos. Shore Excursions: Generally not bad, the tour guides were a bit weird though. In Croatia, the tour guide referred to the war as an "aggression" and that there general was a national hero and he shouldn't be tried for crimes against humanity by the Hague. (This is what she spoke about for more than half of our 6 hour tour) In Athens they told us Public transit and taxis would be on strike so if we wanted to leave the terminal we had to book with the cruise line transportation. (they told us this the day before we arrive in Athens, fair enough) However, when we arrived at port in Athens there was a long line of taxis waiting there to take anyone in to the city. Princess charged us 4 times the taxi rate. I mentioned Mykanos earlier so I won't talk about that again. Our other excursion was in turkey, that was good enough, however it was supposed to be their only religious excursion, people got so frustrated that our guide wasn't talking about the religious aspects of the tour they left our tour and joined other tours. Now one of the tours we were looking forward to, Hike a volcano and go swimming in hot springs in Santorini. The Volcano was a nice start, it was more like hiking up a rocky hill and wasnt really what I was expecting (I thought we'd see a huge crater in the center or something, but nothing like that). The Hotsprings were NOT HOT!!!!! Even our tour operator told us they are "warm springs" and only 2-3 degrees warmer than the ocean. He mentioned that he didn't recommend going into them, but if we wanted to it was at our own discretion, We were 2 of the 10 that went. the other 30 people stayed on the boat. The water was not even warm, maybe 15-16 degrees Celsius. Our tour description specifically said swim in the natural Hot Springs of Santorini on the side of a Volcano. This was not the case, and one of the biggest disappointments in my view. Our disembarkment tour of Rome was good, worth it for the transfer alone and not having to wait in line at the Vatican. Although most other people on the excursion were mad because the tour guide was rarely audible even on the radio system they had us wear. All in all, it was a terrible cruise. The only good thing about the cruise was the ports we embarked at. We always wanted to bring food on board from the ports but that was against the cruise ships policy. So for the most part on board we played cards (that we bought for $8/pack on the boat) and watched tv in the state rooms. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We flew into Venice the day we were to board the ship. We'd had an overnight flight from the US. That evening we went down to St Mark's Square and strolled around to see the sights. The ship had arranged a ferry ride from the ... Read More
We flew into Venice the day we were to board the ship. We'd had an overnight flight from the US. That evening we went down to St Mark's Square and strolled around to see the sights. The ship had arranged a ferry ride from the ship to the square and back for a small amount (I forget) and it was very convenient and a good start to the trip. We had an inside cabin and it was fine for sleeping, We normally get a balcony cabin on a cruise, but decided that we'd be so busy on this cruise that we would not pay for the upgrade. This was our second princess cruise. They remembered my husband had traveled with them before, but not me, which is interesting because I do all paperwork for the family. The next morning we left the port an traveling down the canals, breathtaking view, headed out to see. Next day was at sea, then Athens. Our shore excursions were arranged half through the ship, half though private tours. The private tour we signed up for were through Cruise Critics Roll Call site. Met some great people this way and had much more individual experience. I would recommend this approach. You pay at the end of the tour in cash, generally Euros. And don't forget to tip. Tipping in Europe is generally not as high as the US. Athens was a private tour and we were very busy. You should train for this trip. There were a lot of stairs, marble stairs, and crowds everywhere because you bring your own crowd when the ship arrives. Our small group was 10 people and a minibus that could go places the bigger buses couldn't. We had a very busy and great day, also it was hot, but better than summertime. He also got us back to the boat with time to spare and was very knowledgeable. My husband picked up a bad cold on the flight over so we missed the next stop. That day was when we missed not being in a balcony cabin since he basically slept most of the day, then was OK. Next stop was Istanbul. The water shuttle from the ship was not owned by Princess and we were told this. However I think some people were still surprised that they had to pay for the refreshments they were serving and my husband got incorrect change in the Turkish currency that looked very much like the correct Euro currency would have. Be careful. We were warned at every port to watch for pick pockets. We used a ships tour for this port and they did a great job. The ships tours were the only tours that had access to Topkapi castle and we wanted to see it and its harem. Again there was a lot of walking over stones and a warm day, but beautiful sun. We were back to the water shuttle for the last ride. Should have been 20 min. It took close to 2 hours with the ship not wanting to make a decision to leave people, then making the decision, then when we were approaching the ship reversing the decision and sending us back to get the late people. All well we were trapped on this shuttle with heavy gas fumes and no rest rooms (my husband finally located one-they weren't marked). This left a bad taste on the day and no apology was given for the mess. When we complained about this we were told they didn't own the shuttle; however they did hire them for this service so I believe they are responsible for managing this service. Next day was at sea, then on to Rome and Florence and Naples, etc. We enjoyed this cruise based on the itinerary but the ship board activities were so,so. The food was just OK. We had opted for the Late dining option and food was frequently lukewarm when served. Selections were not particularly interesting. We tried the grille restaurant and the steaks were good, but the fish tasted reheated. This was a full ship. In fact friends of ours tried to sign on late and were told there was a waiting list. Finally we enjoyed the cruise and saw a lot, but left as not fans of Princess. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We are a family of 7, my parent's being 82 and 75 years of age, my husband and I are in our late 40's, early 50's and our children are young adults, aged 24, 21 and 19. On 1 December 2010, our family of 7 flew out to join ... Read More
We are a family of 7, my parent's being 82 and 75 years of age, my husband and I are in our late 40's, early 50's and our children are young adults, aged 24, 21 and 19. On 1 December 2010, our family of 7 flew out to join the Star Princess cruise ship in Rome, where we had booked back to back cruises boarding in Rome on 4 December 2010 for our transatlantic cruise to Rio and then onto Antarctica before disembarking in Buenos Aires on 9 January 2011. Thursday 2 December 2010:On our arrival at Rome airport, Stefano, from Rome Cabs www.romecabs.com had arranged for us to be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel, (price for all 7 of us in large van with luggage was € 70). We stayed at the Marriott Grand Hotel Flora. Due to the fact that we had our elderly parents with us, we had booked their room for the night of the 1st as well, in order to ensure that they could at least get in and rest before official check-in time, as we were arriving early in the morning and did not want them to have to sit around for 5 hours. On arrival at the hotel, our bookings and rooms had all been mixed up, despite numerous confirmations. After sorting things out, we ended up staying in Room 608 which was wonderful, with a separate lounge. The hotel is situated on the Via Venitia and is close to lots of little restaurants etc. and is highly recommended. We had lost luggage problems and the hotel's PRO, Yolande stepped in and assisted us as best she could. (Our luggage saga sadly continued until the end of our first cruise where we were finally reunited with the lost luggage in Rio) Friday 3 December 2010:Had pre-arranged tour with Rome Cabs - (our guide was Maurizio who was absolutely wonderful). They had arranged wheelchairs for my parents as they struggle to walk long distances, (cost for 1 wheelchair was € 45-00, the other one was free) - they were an extremely professional company, who could not do enough for us. Due to our luggage saga, my husband and I had to miss out on some of the sights, but Stefano (Rome Cabs owner) arranged separate transport and a guide to take us to the airport to sort out the luggage, take us shopping to buy replacement clothing etc., to ensure that it did not impact on the rest of our family's tour. We were taken by Maurizio to the pyramid built for Caius Cestio, the ancient Roman Wall built by Emperor Aureliano, Circus Maximus, (the large ancient stadium for chariot races), Palatine Hill where the villas and the domus of the emperors were built, arch of Constantine, the Coloseum, the Roman Forum, the Piazza Venezia, Vittorio Emanuele Monument, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St.Peter's Basilica, the Pantheon, the famous piazzas and fountains that are famous in Rome, Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps. The tour price for all 7 of us in air-conditioned van was € 400-00, excluding entrance tickets which we booked on line ahead of time at Stefano's recommendation (Colloseum € 13-50 each, Vatican ticket combined with Sistine chapel € 19 each) but we also booked a Vatican guide for € 150, again at Stefano's recommendation, all very worthwhile. Lunch was at a very reasonable and delightful local restaurant recommended by Maurizio where the kids ate pizza and we enjoyed ragu (the authentic version of spaghetti bolognaise).Saturday 4 December 2010Sadly our luggage (which belonged to my elderly father) was still missing so once again we had to change our tour plans and Stefano again looked after us by sending us a separate van and guide to assist us with our final shopping needed due to lack of luggage. Late Saturday morning Maurizio transferred us to Civitavecchia port to join the Star Princess. This trip from Rome to Civitavecchia port took us approximately 1 ½ hours, (depends on traffic usually) the cost for all 7 of us including luggage was € 200.When we arrived at the port to check in for our cruise aboard Star Princess, both my mother and I (who have South African passports) were told we did not have our Moroccan visa's and therefore would not be allowed to board the ship, (we knew that we had definitely applied for and received them!) but after my husband took the passports back from the clerks involved, he found them in both passports quite easily! Once we had clarified the visa issue, we proceeded with our check-in and when we were handed our embarkation documents, we noticed for the first time that our cabin (E729) had been reassigned without explanation! When my husband originally booked this cabin a year before, it was confirmed that our cabins would not be changed due to us paying and booking so far ahead. We had booked these back to back cruises amounting to 36 days total and my husband had chosen this cabin specifically so that we could have a large enough balcony for all 7 of us in the family to be together in the evenings (E729 has a wonderful huge covered balcony fully aft so its also nice and private!)While upset that our cabin had been changed, we were delighted to find that the two cabins we had booked for our children had been upgraded from obstructed view to full balcony. And so it was with mixed feelings that we retired to our incorrect cabin grateful for the kids and disappointed for ourselves! After numerous calls late into the night, one of the senior pursers, Petra finally called me back to find out what my "problem" was. I explained my situation re our cabin and she said that she could not move us as there were no cabins available. When I explained to her that I could see plenty of available cabins on our original deck, including the one we had booked. She promised to phone me at 8am the next morning with a solution.Sunday 5 DecemberArrived in Florence for the day. Needless to say at 8am Petra did not phone me, luckily I managed to get hold of an incredibly sweet assistant purser, Carrie-Anne who was calm and professional and said that she would find out what was going on with our cabin and let me know. Petra finally phoned me just before 9am (when we were due to leave the ship for a pre-arranged tour) to tell me that they would move us to our original cabin booked, but she could not guarantee that we would be able to stay in this cabin for the duration of our cruises. (I still have not worked out why!)However after contacting our T/A Susan at Cruise Village who then emailed the ship we were able to remain in the same cabin for both cruises as originally booked!As we were now already late for our pre-booked tour, we told Petra that we would contact the front desk on our return to the ship that afternoon to move to our correct cabin. On returning to the ship late afternoon, we were at last able to move into our correct cabin, E729, where we finally unpacked and settled in!Monday 6 DecemberArrived in Cannes, France. Had great day touring with Michel of Revelation tours www.revelation-tours.com (pre-booked and recommended), who took us to Monaco where we enjoyed walking around the main shopping centre, but were disappointed to not be allowed into the casino as we were too early (it only opens at 2pm).After Monaco we visited Nice and had a brief look at the old town.Finally we also managed a brief tour of Cannes where we strolled along the La Croisette boulevard and visited the Palais de Festival site of the Cannes film festival where we had a chance to see all the stars handprints on the surrounding pavement and Nice. Tour cost for all 7 of us was € 490Tuesday 7 DecemberWe arrived in Barcelona, where we had not pre-booked anything, as we were not sure whether our parents would be up to so many day tours in a row. We were incredibly lucky to come across a wonderful guide by the name of Richard Naylor who had an air-conditioned van big enough for all 7 of us. His price was incredibly reasonable (although I cannot recall the amount now) and he was wonderfully attentive to my parents who struggled a bit. He took us to Las Ramblas, the Gaudi Cathedral, Picasso museum and recommended a wonderful Tapas restaurant very close to the museum, where we had a great lunch. When my parents were clearly tired, Richard took them back to the ship at no extra charge, leaving us to do some shopping. He then returned to fetch us. Our youngest son had always wanted to skateboard in Barcelona and he even managed to find a skate park for him to skate at! He looked after us from start to finish, went above all of our expectations, added in extra sights we hadn't thought of and was just overall an incredibly rare find. Unfortunately we have lost a record of what he charged, but recall that it was an incredibly reasonable amount. His contact details for anyone heading that way are + (34) 647806583 or email: r_naylor1@yahoo.es Wednesday 8 DecemberA most welcome day at sea for rest and relaxation. Managed to tour around the ship which is really lovelyThursday 9 DecemberCasablanca, Morocco and a great tour with Jamal Jamali from Jamal Tours jamaltour1@gmail.com Once again we had found recommendations for him on the internet. It was extremely hot, windy and dusty and quite honestly we couldn't wait to get back to the ship however Ricks Cafe was really worth visiting. Cost for this tour was € 45 per person and aside from Ricks Cafe, we were taken to the regular attractions such as the March Central Souks, Habbous Quarter, Royal Palace and the Hassan Mosque. Friday 10 DecemberAgadir, Morocco. The port was disgusting, it was extremely hot, windy, dusty and piles and piles of charcoal were on the dockside blowing directly onto our ships balconies due to the wind. My father was now really struggling with his chest and was taking huge strain. Once again, we had pre-booked a tour with Josie of Erlebnis Tours. We were obliged to pay upfront via paypal in pounds (£ 180). We were met at the port by 2 of their guides and a driver, the seats in the van were falling apart, extremely uncomfortable, no air-conditioning here! We were taken to the souk and to the medina and then to do camel riding. The cost of the camel riding was supposed to be included in the payment we had made however we were "nudged" into paying an extra $ 100 by our guide after only 4 of us actually rode on the camels. One of the guides also continuously took photos of our 20 year old daughter riding a camel (especially when her dress blew up in the wind) and made her feel extremely uncomfortable. We actually cut our tour short by a number of hours to get back to the comfort of the ship, as we were now no longer felt comfortable with these guides. I must complement Josie however as I contacted her on our return and they have agreed to refund us the $100 dollars (which was not the point, but appreciated) and also asked us for a report to enable them to take the necessary disciplinary steps.I must say that we could not wait to get out of Agadir (and Morocco for that matter) and have no intention of ever willingly returning there.Saturday 11 - Wednesday 15 December 2010Although the luggage issue was continuing in the background, we managed to unwind and thoroughly enjoyed these 5 days at sea, which included a hilarious crossing the line ceremony.Thursday 16 December 2010We were meant to visit Recife, Brazil however whilst crossing the Atlantic we were informed that due to problems with the emigration authorities we would be rather docking at Salvador,Brazil luckily we had not made plans for Recife so the change in plans did not affect us at all and we ended up having a great time visiting the local market and then the beach which was insanely crowded so we ended up drinking squeezed sugar cane(an acquired taste I would think) and people watching whilst our kids went for a dip in the ocean, interesting and fun.Friday 17 - Saturday 18 December 20102 more relaxing days at seaSunday 19 December - Tuesday 21 December 2010Aside from the luggage saga that boiled over here in Rio De Janeiro, where the ship docked for 3 days,the tour company that we had pre-booked to look after our family of 7, (including our elderly parents) whilst in Rio were truly amazing. We have travelled on many cruise ships on numerous occasions, but have never come across a more professional, well run, caring and wonderful company, Rio Plus www.rioplus.net / www.rioplustours.com Valeria Radesca (co-owner) was our guide for the 3 days we were there. Valeria looked after us completely from start to finish, took us to all the sights, went out of her way to accommodate the children's interests (which we had not pre-arranged), arranged wheelchairs for my parents (cost for both wheelchairs for 3 days $ 90 total), booked and took us to Porcao restaurant for supper- best seats in the house! (cost approx $ 95 per person including our drinks, an absolute MUST in Rio, wonderful, wonderful experience all round!) Valeria also took us to the Samba show at Plataforma, again best seats (show a bit over-rated in our opinion, cost $ 78 per person but very full and clearly enjoyed by other tourists). Valeria looked after us like a true professional and nothing was too much for her. Total amount we paid Valeria for the 3 days was $ 1 120, ie approx $ 370 per day in an air-conditioned van. She structured wonderful tours for us, which included all the must see sights, (La Boca, Pink palace, Christ Redeemer statue, Sugar Loaf, Tijuca forest), took our kids hang-gliding, took us to Copacabana beach and Ipanema market & beach. Valeria did this in such a way that it was not too much for my parents in that we had plenty of "time out" without rushing. Additionally she ran around to sort out and ensure we finally received my fathers luggage (that had been lost by the airline in Rome on 2 December and finally caught up with us here!) and did not charge extra for any of this, not even her loads of phone calls that she had made on our behalf for the luggage saga! This company truly deserves all the rave reviews and recommendations that they have on the internetOn Tuesday 21 December, we departed for our cruise to Antarctica with missing luggage now in tow and with my fathers health improving.Our next great adventure was begining!As there were only a few port days that now followed, I have combined this part of our cruise into a general summary:Tuesday 21 December 2010 - Sunday 9 January 2011From Rio we stopped in Montevideo, Uruguay to enable Star Princess to stock up before heading for Antarctica. Montevideo is incredibly tourist friendly, even painting a walkway on their sidewalks all the way from the port into town to enable tourists to know exactly where to go! Lovely little shops, lovely restaurants with wonderful meat and of course, you really have to eat at their large market, the Mercado del Puerto which is a bit on the expensive side, but with large delicious portions and a truly wonderful experience (the meat is all around you cooking barbecue style). We also stopped at Stanley for a day which was rather fun, although very cold. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and even although our passengers tripled their population a large portion of their town (including restaurants) were closed!We reached Antarctica on Tuesday 28 December and we were blown away. Words cannot describe the amazing scenery, the beauty of life, the stillness and incredible mass of "nothingness". We could not get enough of it and although extremely cold, we could not be torn away from our balcony. We were extremely lucky with the weather and although the weather in Antarctica changes within minutes from hurricane force winds(100mph) to complete calm, or from snow storms to sun (we experienced all of these changes), we really did not mind, we just absorbed all of it's sheer beauty. Captain Ed Perin, together with the "Ice Captain", Bob and lecturers, Esther & Chris, went out of their way to ensure that each and every passenger had an enlightening, knowledge filled, interesting and truly amazing experience. Some of the amazing wildlife we saw included various species of albatross, (including the wandering and sooty), giant kelp gulls, gentoo, magellanic and chinstrap penguins, crab eating seals, minke, hump back and blue whale (my husband and I were sitting late one night on our balcony when we spotted this enourmous blue whale in the distance, truly an amazing moment, as they are so rare!). We also saw 3-4 pods of orca's, We sadly left Antarctica on Friday 31 December, but the staff on Princess really cheered us up with an amazing New Years Eve party. Everyone on the ship was in party mode, from youngest to oldest and no matter where we were on the ship there was a wonderful vibe right into the early hours of the morning! The staff really did themselves proud.We docked at Ushuai, Argentina and Punta Arenas, Chile for a day each on our way back to Brazil and although both places were pleasant enough and fun to see, no real highlights here except we saw a wonderful museum in Punta Arenas, which highlighted the indigenous Indians culture and had some amazing shrunken human heads with fossil remains of a giant sloth - great fun.The Chilean Fjords and Beagle Channel were exquisite and surreal, comparing in their own way with the Norwegian Fjords. It is here that one truly sees how we, as human beings are destroying the little we have left in natural beauty with glaciers melting before our eyes!The most exciting wildlife we saw in the channel happened one night when we returned from dinner and were looking over the balcony when suddenly we saw schools of what looked to us like giant 80 pound black and white fish swimming towards the lights of the ship and which we later found out were extremly rare commersons dolphinsOn Thursday 6 January, (our daughter's 21st birthday!) we arrived in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. From what information we had gleened, we knew that this was the place to see huge penguin colonies, elephant seals, etc, but we had not pre-booked any tours ahead of time as, due to my daughters 21st, we wanted her to make the decisions of what to do on that day. Our day was truly hysterical - read on!!! We got off the ship and lined up on the dock were a number of tour companies, with tables and mini-vans, selling their tour packages. We approached an interesting looking table where a representative of Mabyrob Tours was recruiting passengers to her company and who spoke good english. We indicated that there were 5 of us (my parents wanted to stay on the ship) who wanted to go to the palaentology museum (which has 12 dinosaur skeletons), go to the nearby Welsh village for tea (where Princess Diana apparently had been) and go and see Elephant seals at Punta Loma. She told us that this would be no problem and that we could fit all 3 of these options in without a problem and be back at the ship in 4 ½ hours, plenty of time! She informed us that she already had 4 ship passengers waiting in the van and that if we joined this tour, we could leave immediately and she would charge us a discounted rate of $60 per person, which would include our entrance fees, as well as tea at the Welsh Village. Off we went (we had now met our fellow tourists, 2 American woman and a Dutch couple) with a tour guide, driver and a third person, who we discovered within the first 5 minutes was a translator, as our guide could not speak English. Well, our translator could not either, so we were left with incomplete translations and innuendo's and no way of knowing what was happening, where we were, where we were going, etc. The van's audio system did not work, so the guide would tell our translator in loud Spanish what she wanted to say, he would in turn give us some non-sensical explanation, we would all laugh hysterically and the pattern would repeat itself. After driving for 2 hours, but having been told that the trip to the Welsh village was 1 hours away, we managed to extract from our translator that we were about to arrive at the Welsh village and he wanted to know whether we wanted to eat lunch before we went to this village or afterwards. We were confused as lunch was never given to us as an option on this tour, we were supposed to be having high tea at the same place that Princess Di had done. All 9 of us on tour now indicated to him that this trip was taking a lot longer than we had been told and that we therefore were not concerned with lunch, we would be quite happy with tea, as promised. About 15 minutes later, (after our main non-english speaking guide had sung us 4 Welsh songs in a row, extremely badly I may add!) we drove into this absolute hell hole and our van suddenly stopped on the side of a road next to a swing bridge with litter all around the streets and on the swing bridge itself. We all looked at each other in amazement as we were probably in the dirtiest, ugliest, poorest looking place we certainly had ever seen, but our translator informed us that we were here to take pictures of the swing bridge. We were now all starting to feel somewhat uncomfortable, but got out and took the mandatory photos to humour our guide. When we got back into the van, we continued driving and after about 5 minutes we realised we were now heading out the same way as we had come. After speaking amongst ourselves, we then confronted our translator who informed us that we were unable to have tea in the Welsh village, as it was closed! (This was at 1.30pm, closed??) and unfortunately we could also now not go to the paleantology museum as it would take us 2 hours to go through it and we would run out of time! One of the American woman then took control (which was wonderful, I had had enough fighting for one holiday!) and demanded that we be taken to the museum. We then drove for at least another hour before our van suddenly came to a shuddering halt at the side of the road, we had broken down! Fortunately the musuem was a block away so we walked there whilst our driver tried to fix the van accompanied by our translator and guide. At the entrance office we were informed that the entrance fee was $ 15 each, we waited for our guide to pay (as this was included in our tour price), but we were told by our translator that we had to pay if we wanted to go in. Considering that we had been told what a wonderful museum this was (confirmed by our translator who said it took 2 hours to see properly), we decided to pay regardless and went in. (the Americans also did, the Dutch couple refused and waited outside). We walked through this museum and after approximately 10 minutes we realised we were back at the entrance. Back inside we went, thinking that we had clearly missed some turns or doors somewhere, but we discovered that what we had seen was the entire museum! This was confirmed by the Americans who had taken only 5 minutes to finish! We were now all really feeling conned.Our van was outside waiting for us when we got out and off on our journey we went. We now were to be taken to Punta Loma where we could supposedly see Elephant seals. This turned out to be at least another hours drive on a dirt road and we really thought that we were going to die, considering the speed our driver was doing. Our American friend was now completely fed up and had demanded her money back, so our translator was busy trying to speak to someone on the phone, whilst our spanish guide had now decided that she was no longer going to speak to us at all and sulked for the rest of the trip! We finally arrived at the seal colony, only to have to pay another entrance fee of $7 each. Although we saw a colony of fur seals quite a distance away, the fur seals at the harbour next to the ship were much closer. There were certainly no Elephant seals!We finally left to return to our ship, once again on the dirt roads at great speed. Our van broke down twice, fortunately the 2nd time was in town and we could see our ship, so our family (5 of us) jumped out and walked the remaining 2 km's back to the ship. The other 4 arrived back on the ship just in time for departing! We will never forget our daughters 21st!9 January 2011, disembarkation dayWe arrived in Buenos Aires where we had been given a disembarkation time slot of 9am. I am an early riser, but my family are not. I do however enjoy the peace and quiet of the morning with my usual cup or 2 of morning coffee. So, what a shock when I phoned room service for my regular coffee order only to be told that there was no room service on disembarkation days! No warning, nothing mentioned in the daily Princess Patter, really got the feeling that we were now no longer wanted by Star Princess. What is the reason for stopping morning coffee for those of us who wake up early? I totally understand a cut-off time, but we have paid to enjoy our cruise to the very end - This is really a policy that Princess should be reviewing! We duly went off for breakfast and were ready and waiting at our disembarkation area by 8.45 am. We were called just after 9am and this was most definately the worst disembarkation we have ever experienced A bus was waiting to take our group to the terminal, we could not see any Princess staff anywhere to assist my elderly parents, we felt a bit like cattle being squashed into a wagon with only standing room left for my parents! On arrival at the terminal there were no trolleys, no Princess staff (that we could see), it was pure chaos as we all hunted down our luggage! We sent our children off to find trolleys for our family of 7, which they finally managed to do outside the terminal building and we loaded our 5 trolleys that we needed. We then had to proceed through an x-ray machine which once again was not been controlled and the staff working the x-ray machine did not stop the machine at all, (as would be appropriate to assist us to grab our luggage flying through on the other side) - the luggage was literally flying off the machine! Items from hand luggage were falling out, people were grabbing items on, next to and under the machine, but it still was not stopped, even for a second! I have never seen such chaos in my life! After we managed to get all our luggage back together and repack the trolleys, we felt like we had run a marathon! Not good enough Star Princess, treat your passengers properly to the end!To be fair, I feel that at this point I need to add in the positives about Star Princess:The ship itself is amazing , beautifully appointed, we loved the overall decor and look of the ship itself with a stunning atrium, excellent shops and lovely wine bar, cafe on deck 5. We loved our cabin (E729) which is covered and has an extra large balcony. We dined at the Amalfi dining room, second sitting and received the best service we have ever had at on any cruise ship. Our head waiter, Andreas; our waiter, Juro; and wine steward, Israel could not do enough for us. As a result of their wonderful attention we only ended up eating "away" once at a speciality restaurant and enjoyed 3 special birthday celebrations with our three musketeers (Andreas was so exceptional that we noticed everynight how he would make himself available to escort an elderly single lady traveller from the entrance of the dining room to her table, a great level of extra attention!)The food overall was great, but got a little tedious after 36 days, but again our breakfasts were enhanced by the friendly staff at the Horizon Buffett, expecially Kevin who met us with a smile and our toast every morning. Apart from our dining experience, we found all of the staff on board friendly and attentive, special mention deserved here for Chris & Mike at Facets shop; James & Nicole in the photo department, as well as waitrons Charles, Olga and Tatiana.The cruise director, Frank was doing his best but came across a little "camp counsellerish" which could be annoying. The Captain, Ed Perrin, was fantastic - we really enjoyed hearing from him and felt very comfortable in his hands during a 100mph hurricane wind which crept up in Antarctica. He also tried his best to ensure that everyone on both sides of the ship got to see as much as possible. Carrie-Anne at the front desk was always incredibly professional and calm and was actually the only staff member at the front desk that seemed to know exactly what to do, when and how. If we wanted correct information or expected action and an answer, we would make sure we only dealt with her.Would we travel on Star Princess again? Yes, absolutely, although would now like to try their smaller ships and have booked Ocean Princess for a 48 day cruise from Rome to Sydney in October 2011.On our arrival in Buenos Aires, we had pre-arranged with Madi Lang from BA Cultural Concierge www.SendLoveBA.com / www.BACulturalConcierge.com to collect us from the ship and transfer us to our hotel ($ 72), The Alvear Palace which was truly amazing - we were upgraded from a mini-suite to a suite at no extra cost and will always remember languishing in our magnificent Jacuzzi with gold fittings whilst watching the flat screen tv in the bathroom. The service at the hotel was courteous and friendly and the porters even assisted us in weighing all our luggage (a lot!). The only slight negative was that the butler service was totally over-rated and I have certainly had better breakfasts. Overall however, I would most definitely recommend this hotel and would most certainly return. We had also arranged for Madi (BA Cultural Concierge) to look after us and take us on tour for the 3 days we were in Buenos Aires and she was really attentive and also looked after us extremely well, specifically my elderly parents. We were taken to all the tourist hot spots and sights, we had a great time with her (she is actually a young American who now lives in Buenos Aires and who started this tour company). I would thoroughly recommend her. Her rate for the 2 days was $ 468 and it was worth it. La Boca is a must and if possible and you are there on a Sunday, do not miss the San Telmo market. We also went to the Esquina Carlos Gardel for a tango show with dinner and chose the VIP tickets, which included transport to and from our hotel. These tickets were rather pricey at $ 215-00 each for show and dinner, but the alternative was way too cramped. The meal was great, the show was good, not brilliant, but be warned that you are expected to tip 15% of the total bill when paying which is a bit of a tourist trap, as the meal portion of your ticket should be the amount your tip is worked out on!On our last evening, we had a wonderful dinner at Cabana Las Lilas steakhouse, where the men in our party tried their lunck at the 800gram steak - good value for money at $64 each including our drinks. A wonderful way to end our holiday!Tuesday 11 January 2011· We were collected from our hotel by Madi and taken to Pistarini airport in Buenos Aires for check in for our Lan airlines flight (which is operated by Tam Air) to Sao Paulo, where we then connected with our SAA flight back to Johannesburg. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Sunday December 19, 2010: The day started with a call from Duncan at 5:00 AM stating that their flights had been cancelled since Europe was under snow. They tried to rebook a flight that would get them to Rio on Tuesday prior to ... Read More
Sunday December 19, 2010: The day started with a call from Duncan at 5:00 AM stating that their flights had been cancelled since Europe was under snow. They tried to rebook a flight that would get them to Rio on Tuesday prior to sailing, however, I don't have my hopes up too high. Mary and I got to O'Hare airport at 3:30 PM for a 6:15 U.S Airways flight to Charlotte, NC, which left on time, arrived in Charlotte on time, and had us walking a half mile between terminals to catch the connecting flight to Rio. The flight was delayed as we waited on 11 passengers on an inbound flight from San Francisco. We were also told that the plane would be making a stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico, since they needed to refuel, due to the weight load on the plane from cargo. The planned 20 minute stop at 2:30 AM lasted almost two hours. Monday December 20, 2010 We were one hour late arriving in Rio De Jenairo. Princess had the transfer folks waiting for us. This was nice. We had a pleasant ride to the docks, check-in was smooth, and we were on the ship by 3:30 PM. We immediately signed up for a $175 internet package, and had a terrible time connecting, just to look if we had email from Duncan and Jenny. After much frustration, we got the bad news that they couldn't get out of the UK, and we were on our own for this adventure of a lifetime. Mary and I ate at the Horizon Court buffet for a quick meal. We then went to our cabin and rested a while, I notified the family that we arrived okay, and then went upstairs and made a cup of Starbucks via...the first good cup of coffee we had in 48 hrs. We met a nice couple from Jacksonville, MaryLou and Bill, both used to work for Eastern Airlines. It was a pleasant conversation, but didn't have quite the wit and humor I was anticipating.....it should have been Duncan and Jenny. We had our muster drill at 7:30 PM, and then Mary and I went back to the cabin and prepared for dinner. I ran up on Deck 14 to do some night time photography, and Mary met me. A wonderful full moon on the port side of the ship reflecting off the harbor. There's supposed to be a full lunar eclipse tonight, but I don't think we'll be up to enjoy it. We ate dinner at the Crowne Grille restaurant on the ship. $20 cover per person, but a wonderful combination of gourmet appetizers (Crab Cakes and Asparagus for Mary, Sea Scallops, Apples, and Faux Gras for me), followed by Filet Mignon for Mary and Rib eye for me. Mary had some excellent sautEed mushrooms with her entree, and I had a loaded baked potato. Both of us were pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the beef. Mary went back to the room, and I roamed the deck, dealing with my depression over Duncan and Jenny. I went back to the room, dropped off the camera, and went back out to claim a double Jim Beam on the rocks as a night cap. The alarm is set for 6:15 AM since we have the morning excursion to Christ the Redeemer statue, the symbol of Rio. They recommend we bring our own water. The temperatures are in the 90's here, as summer gets into full swing. Tuesday December 21, 2010 Woke up early. The Internet was much better. I bet that everyone was still sleeping. Since I am an early riser, if the connection is this good early in the morning, I will have no problems keeping in touch with friends and family. Reading work email has been ruled out as a precautionary measure to maintain sanity on this well deserved three week holiday. We ordered room service for breakfast. We met our tour group in theater for the trip to Christ the Redeemer statue. We had a wonderful tour guide, Patricia, a local native, and a very proud native. The view from top of Corcovado Mountain is spectacular. Bonus: We had 1 hr left of tour time, so Patricia took us for a drive through the Copacabana and Impenema beach neighborhoods and along the beachfronts . Several topless women, and lots of butt floss filled the sand. We ate a light burger lunch, and went back to room for a mid-afternoon rest. The boat set sail from Rio at around 5:50, a little late, since we had to wait for a busload of passengers from the Sugar Loaf Mountain tour that were stuck in traffic. The sail-out from Rio was beautiful, as the sun was starting to set, the city was silhouetted on several sides. The two notable points were seeing Corcovado Mountain and the statue in silhouette against a backdrop of puffy clouds. The second gorgeous vista was the close sail by of Sugarloaf Mountain. Mary and I ate a light dinner at the Horizon Court buffet, then a quick stop at a horrible ONE NIGHT ONLY show in the theater, which was Frank the cruise director selling you everything about Princess. We stopped at the casino and I won $60, and Mary won $5. Wednesday December 22, 2010 Out in the south Atlantic all day, calm seas, and no land. Mary commented that it was amazing how the horizon is circular around you, as if you were the stake in the ground holding a measuring rope to draw the circle. Dinner was the first formal night, and the Captain's Champagne Waterfall event in the Atrium. We ate by ourselves this night. I had an appetizer of Kiwi, Grapefruit and a Raspberry sauce, a bowl of chicken won ton soup, and medallions of tenderloin with mixed vegetables and a potato Almond croquette. Mary had a Crab Cake, a Cesar Salad, and a very nice piece of Halibut. Desert was decadent chocolate pudding cake with flaked dark chocolate and fresh sweet whipped cream. Can you say sugar coma? The rest of the evening was spent going to the various venues and sampling some of the entertainment. We stopped at the casino again, and Mary started with $20, and ended up with $56. Way to go Mary, as I returned the $60 won the previous night. Thursday December 23, 2010 At sea all day, as we steamed towards Montevideo, Uruguay to pick up fuel and supplies. I got a good early morning internet connection and sent mail to Duncan and Jenny to see what their status was. We were hoping, since the captain announced that over 60 passengers from the UK would be joining us in Montevideo, that Duncan and Jenny would be amongst them. I received a return mail from Duncan stating that they couldn't get out of the UK, and to enjoy ourselves. I am heartbroken. We finally came out of open seas near San Carlos, passed a lighthouse and took some hazy photos of the shore. About two hours later, we entered the Rio De La Plata and into Montevideo harbor, the busiest sea port in South America. The key for the ship was so narrow, and it's amazing how the pilot can use the thrusters to slowly manipulate the ship into port. Dinner: I had a shrimp cocktail, a salad and Duck L'Orange. I forget what Mary had. We retired to our room which is on the starboard side of the ship facing the dock. We watched, as workers unloaded 7 full shipping containers, and 2 semi-trucks worth of produce and non-perishables, stage them on the dock, have them inspected for explosives, then fork lifted on to the ship. All was completed by around 12:30 AM, and at 1:00 AM the pilot fired up the thrusters and inched us out of port. Right below my balcony, a huge tugboat came and pushed us around our axis to turn the ship 180 degrees so we could head out back to the Rio De La Plata and out into the Atlantic again for our 1500 mile journey to the Falkland islands. I didn't get to bed until after 2 AM since this sail away from Montevideo was too awesome to miss and I just had to watch. Friday December 24, 2010 We watched a presentation by Captain Edward Perrin, Joe May, and an Ice Captain, detailing the navigational charts of where we will be sailing to in Antarctica. We were prepared by the captain, that the weather is totally unpredictable, and can change within minutes, and the only thing certain was uncertainty. They also spoke about how they double man the bridge to navigate through the ice in the channels of the South Shetland Islands. I went up on deck around 10:30 AM to join Mary. We both ate brunch, and read our books until about 1 PM. At 3:30 PM, Mary and I attended the Maitre D's Sommelier's wine club tasting. The tasting features 6 wines, 1 champagne, 2 chardonnays, Jack London Cab Sav, Opus 1, and another Cab. All 6 wines were fantastic, and paired with a platter of CanapEs...after all, a sommelier's job is to know the wine and how to pair it with food. A new wine trick we learned....if it has oak, bring out the smoke. Basically, a California Chardonnay has lower acidity than its French counter parts, is more complex, and pairs well with smoked fish, or lightly smoked barbecued meats. We stopped at Vines, the wine bar, and purchased a bottle of the Jack London Cab Sav, and a bottle of the Cuvaison chardonnay. Dinner: I had a duck pâtE appetizer, a dry Caesar salad, and a roasted shrimp kabob. Mary had baked calamari, which was tender and perfect, a Caesar salad and the shrimp kabobs. For desert, I had a Pineapple sorbet and some pistachio ice cream. Mary had an apple strudel with vanilla ice cream on a bed of vanilla sauce. It was 9 PM when we finished dinner, and we went to the casino to try our luck. We were both playing a 10X 3 coin quarter machine. Mary was up and down, and I hit two 10X single bars, which was 300 coins or $75 each. By the end of the night, I was up $200. As we headed back to the cabin, we noticed the sunset on the starboard side. It was about 9:45 PM and the colors were fantastic. We quickly went back to the room and grabbed the cameras. The sun had just settled below the horizon, and the colors were changing by the minute. I stood on the balcony and fired off about 100 pictures over the next 15-20 minutes, until the color was gone from the sky. I now understand why the photographers consider the 30 minutes after sunset "The Sweet Spot." We went up to the buffet to pick up "Denny's" late night snack and two coffee cups for our morning Starbucks Via. What a wonderful invention, and we're probably the envy of all American coffee drinkers on board, since the coffee on the boat borders between bad and horrible. Our little Proctor Silex electric kettle is a wonderful accessory to travel with for making hot water very fast. We returned to the room and opened the wine, had a couple of glasses, and settled down for the night. Saturday December 25, 2010. Merry Christmas. Overnight we cruised to the southwest, so we went back a time zone. Supposedly, that gets you an extra hour of sleep, however, you really just wake up an hour earlier. I awoke at 5 AM to the sounds of the ship's foghorn, and as the sun came up, it quickly burned off the fog. The temperature outside is a cool 56 degrees, a big contrast to the 80's and 90's experienced in Rio and Montevideo. The seas are still relatively calm, with waves 1-4 feet, however, there is a low pressure system moving in. I am trying to figure out this time zone thing. I think that Brazil sticks out so far to the east on the South American Continent, that it pushed those folks two hours ahead of NY, and being in summer, and observing daylight savings time, they are 3 hrs ahead of NY, 4 ahead of Chicago. As you head down the east coast of South America, you are actually heading southwest, so you move back into another time zone. Port Stanley is 3 hrs ahead of Chicago. Sunday December 26, 2010 Sunday was spent in Stanly, Falkland Islands. With a population of just over 3000 inhabitants total throughout the Falklands, when a cruise boat docks, the population doubles for a day. The local folks were wonderful, and Stanly has a rich history savored by the people. It was about 45 degrees, and very windy, however, Mary and I were dressed for it, in layers. and didn't mind the wind at all. After tendering to shore, we explored the town, and of course, in the Falklands, you can get all four seasons in one day. The sky covered itself with clouds, and we had a light rain, followed by even stronger winds. It's funny to watch the tourists battle the elements, all bundled up, and the locals walking around in nothing but hooded sweatshirts. Mary spend the early afternoon shopping, and I went on my Gentoo Penguin tour, which consisted of a 10 mile drive in a mini-bus past the extensive mine fields that are marked for your safety. According to our guide, both the British and Argentinean governments are still actively clearing mines from the 1982 conflict, but lack funding to complete the job. While there have been no human casualties due to land mines since 1982, it has taken a big toll on the cattle and sheep that graze those fields. We then met our 4x4 driver and had the most awesome time going off road in the rocky and muddy fields for about 7-8 miles down to Bluff Cove to walk amongst the colony of about 2000 penguins. This was one of the greatest thrills of my life. The chicks were already hatched and about 2 months old, so they were about 2/3 the size of the adults. The Gentoo are the species that builds their nests of little pebbles and sticks, but constantly steal pebbles from neighboring nests until the victimized male starts chasing the thief. It's hilarious to watch. The sun hid behind a big black cloud, making photography a bit difficult, but there were several times the sun shone brightly, and I took hundreds of shots. Another bonus was that a small colony of King Penguins was starting to inch their way into the Bluff Cove area, as well as some Rock Hoppers. The wandering albatross, with a wingspan of about 11 feet was the predominant avian species in the sky, and I did spot several arctic terns, as well as other various sea birds. Mary and I have also spotted several pods of dolphins off the starboard side of the boat, and one whale so far. We left Stanley about 6:15 PM, and are now headed southwest to the Antarctic Peninsula. We should be crossing the Antarctic Convergence, the area of the ocean where the colder Antarctic water goes beneath the warmer ocean waters of the south Atlantic. This churns up the food supply for the cetaceans and we should be seeing many whales during the day today. I don't need to say anything more about the food on board, since 99% of it is yummy. Monday, December 27, 2010 We entered the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica around 7 AM in the morning. The Drake Passage has the world's roughest navigable waters, and thousands of ships have been lost during the glory of the whaling era, however, our entry into the passage was met with sunshine and calm seas. Around Noon we passed across the Antarctic Convergence. That is where the colder waters from below the 60th parallel undercut the warmer waters from the south Atlantic. This churns up the food that many sea birds and cetacean (whales and dolphins for you non-biologist) thrive on. The first signs of Antarctic wild life made their presence known. They are Snowy Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Petrels, and Prions. All were photographed in flight and I have quite a few good shots. I do have a birds and mammals guide for Antarctica that I picked up in Stanley, so this came in handy to identify the exact species by their markings. Mary and I had lunch in one of the main dining rooms today, she had a tuna melt and I had a Beef London Broil in a mushroom gravy topped with shitake mushrooms, with a side of fresh peas and carrots....yum! I topped off my meal with some chocolate bread pudding. I thought I wasn't going to talk about the food any more. I guess I slipped. Well, the Drake Passage is starting to live up to its reputation, for after lunch the seas went from slight, to moderate, with about 10 foot swells. The barometer is falling, so a low pressure system is moving in, which means wind, wind, and more wind....they are expecting about 25 foot swells come mid-evening. I find the rocking of the boat very soothing. We were informed several times today by the ship's crew, that there are special rules we have to observe for our 4 days sailing the Antarctic continent, like no food or smoking on the balconies or open decks, not to wear ball caps, don't expect clean towels, etc. The loose clothing and smoking & eating ban on the open decks is because they want nothing to blow into the water so the Antarctic Peninsula can remain a pristine environment. The clean towel, no laundry rules are because the ship can only carry so much "gray water" (toilet flushes, waste water from showers, cooking, etc) and we can only dump this gray water in certain locations in the ocean. Antarctica restricts this dumping, so we have to hold on to it for the four days. So to conserve our capacity to hold this water, the rules are enforced by international treaty. I am a firm believer in "leave nothing but your footprints, take nothing but your memories" and about a 1000 pictures. We are expected to arrive at Elephant Island by 6 AM. The sun is setting here around 10:30 PM and rising around 4 AM, so there's not much full darkness. Elephant Island is where Ernest Shackleton left the crew of the Endeavor and made his way 800 miles north to South Georgia Island and came back to rescue them a year later. The crew survived on penguin, and anything else they could catch and lived beneath a wooden life boat for a year. Tuesday, December 28, 2010 Traveling across the Drake Passage is like a never ending ride at Disney World. Compounding the problem was 90 knot winds. 90 knots is about 120 MPH. Air temperature was 33 degrees F, and with the wind chill, it was 18 below zero. Mary and I dressed in several layers: Silk long johns, shirt, fleece sweatshirt, wind proof jacket, and an over jacked with fleece. We were perfectly warm throughout, and when we got to Elephant Island, the first island in the South Shetland islands of Antarctica, it was snowing, and foggy, and 20 foot swells. The captain parked the boat to ride out the wind and snow. He said Elephant Island was 1/2 mile to starboard, but we couldn't see a thing. He turned the boat and started heading back the way we came to see if we could escape the weather. While he was turning, we had a 95 MPH gust and associated squall. The boat listed about 10 degrees to port. It was a weird feeling, but only lasted about 2 minutes and we were stable again. Mary and I ventured up on deck just to see what it was like to stand in a 90 MPH wind. It was almost impossible to stand, and we sought shelter with the rest of the 2500 passengers. Around 11 AM, the fog started to lift a bit and we had a hazy view of Elephant Island. It was then I realized the true mystery of Antarctica, and the lure it has on adventurers. You see, the ship can get you there, however the continent only reveals itself to you when it wants to, and then, only enough to make you want more. The ship then proceeded to the south portion of the island, where the Endurance Glacier is. This glacier is about 2 miles across, and about 100 feet high at its calving edge. It was so overcast, that photography was near impossible, however, the sun did shine through and I have some fantastic pictures. The ship stayed by this glacier for about 2 hours. The sun came out full as we headed out to sea. We are currently heading for Antarctic Sound, which is also known as Iceberg Alley. This should be interesting. The sun sets at 11:30 PM or so, and then sunrise is as 2:30 AM. It doesn't really set, as the sky is fairly light for being night time, sort of like a dusk to dawn with no dark in between. Wednesday, December 29, 2010 I awoke at 6:45 AM and we were smack dab in the middle of "Iceberg Alley" in Antarctic Sound. The weather was mostly foggy with visibility of about 1 mile. The Captain slowed to boat down to 2 knots, as the ice pilot navigated his way through aircraft carrier sized pieces of ice. We were making our way to Esperonza Station, an Argentine observation post, one of the first in Antarctica. The fog got so bad, the Captain had to use only the thrusters to move the ship. After about 1.5 hrs of waiting, the decision was made to abandon our attempts for the trip to Esperonza Station, turn the ship around and head back to the Bransfield Strait, just south west of the South Shetlands, to make our way to our second destination, Admiralty Bay. On the way out, the weather cleared just enough to behold some of the biggest pieces of floating ice in the Antarctic Sound. Many of the icebergs had chinstrap penguins and Adelie Penguins hitching rides across the Sound. There was even a single Adelie Penguin on a small iceberg that became a meal for a lone Leopard Seal. The sun broke through the fog at around 10:30 AM, and the Bransfield Strait was full of marine wildlife. Mary and I watched a pair of humpback whales spout and breach on the Starboard side of the ship. I believe I caught a few of the blows with the camera, and maybe the head of one of the humpbacks. Of course, the weather changes quicker than a blink of the eye here, and within 30 minutes or so, we were back in fog, and had some more snow on deck. We made the entrance to Admiralty Bay as the sun dramatically broke through the clouds. The ship made a nice pass of Pieter J. Lenie, a U.S. summer scientific station, and north to Shag Point, home of the Polish Arctowski station, which a year round scientific station. There, the ship stopped to disembark 4 Polish scientists that we picked up during our service call in Montevideo. They will be there for 6 months. Two zodiac rafts launched from the Arctowski station came along starboard, picked up the scientists, and they quickly made their short trip back to the station. Between the American and Polish stations were two huge colonies of penguins, one Adelie, one Chinstrap. I would estimate about 10,000 individuals in the colony. To the left of the Arctowski station, were a pair of humpback whales hanging out at the surface, fin slapping the water for at least an hour. Another humpback was spotted starboard aft, and was spouting the breaching. I caught a great, although slightly out of focus shot of the fluke. The naturalist answered some questions about the wild life and the actual area we are in. The water depth in Admiralty Bay is 16Km (10 mile) deep, as it is part of a deep Antarctic trench. During the slow sail out of Admiralty Bay we were only 1/2 mile from the coast of the islands, and we gazed upon fantastic vistas of glacier upon glacier, upon glacier. I thought I was in heaven when I saw my first glacier in Alaska . All Alaska was in reality, was an appetizer to the main course. We are below parallel 63 now, and by international treaty, we cannot sail below 65, so tomorrow, we will be spending the day in the Neumayer Channel, going to about 64.8 degrees south, then finally, on 12/31/2010, head out of Antarctic waters with a quick stop at Deception Island, a caldera (sunken volcano), before crossing the Drake Passage north to Cape Horn. Sunset tonight is at 12:45 AM, and sunrise is a 2:15 PM. I have a nice suntan already, even though the sun is only out for about 5 hrs a day and hides behind those pale gray clouds the rest of the time. Thursday, December 30, 2010 I woke up around 6:45 AM to nothing but fog. Mary popped her head up and inquired as to what was outside the window, to which I said, "Nothing but fog," but as soon as the words left my lips, the fog lifted and we were in the Gerlache Strait, with tremendous 6000 foot spiked snow covered peaks all around the ship. I made some coffee, but couldn't really finish it, and grabbed the camera, bundled up and ran up on deck 16 to see. I thought it would be cold, since the air temperature was only 32 degrees, however it was quite comfortable. I didn't know where to look, it was sensory overload. The incessant recurring clouds and fog make it difficult to photograph the scenery in the distance, however, when we made the turn into the Nuemayer Channel, the sun came out to reveal a wonderful blue sky and the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula....stupendous. We sailed all the way into Neumayer Channel, seeing Crabeater Seals and Gentoo Penguins, all hitching rides on the ice flows. We also saw numerous Humpback whales, however, they were too far off to photograph. We officially made it to the 64.8 degrees south, as far south as we are allowed to travel in a heavy fuel vessel. It is sad that the big ships will not be able to travel to this wonderful land anymore, but I fully embrace the necessity to ban the travel due to the risk of damaging the fragile ecosystem down here. Small ships carrying less than 250 passengers that consume diesel fuel will still be allowed south of the 60th parallel. My soul tells me that I will return here one day on one of those vessels. One of the day's highlights, was how the captain and his bridge crew navigated through a brash ice field. Brash ice is little tiny pieces of ice that are the last remnants of an iceberg. They are not so little. This was like navigating a mine field, or passing through the meteor belts that surround earth. We watched as the ship made its way through this ice....crunching around the sheer weight of the ship. They used their thrusters to push the ice away when it got too thick. This is the kind of ice that the old whaling vessels dreaded, since it can gather around your ship quickly and refreeze, trapping your ship. One of the most spectacular things of the day was when one pickup truck sized chunk of ice completely came out of the water and flipped over on itself with a thunderous crash....right in front of our balcony. Mary was filming video of the brash ice, when I heard her say, "OH MY GOD!!! Look at that," and you think she would have turned the camera towards it, but no. The ship pivoted on its axis and sailed out of the Nuemayer Channel, and the captain made a quick stop in Paradise Harbor. This place was pristine. Calm, glassy deep water, and towering mountains with the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf in the near distance. It was here where a humpback whale decided to breach in front of our balcony. Of course, I didn't have camera in hand, and missed a golden opportunity. We stayed in Paradise Harbor for about two hours, then headed back out to sea, on our way to Deception Island for an early morning arrival tomorrow. This will be the last views of Antarctica before we set out to re-cross the Drake Passage and steam towards Cape Horn. Right before leaving for dinner, a pod of three humpback whales breached in front of the balcony. This created the perfect ending for the perfect day....at least that is what I thought. At dinner, the ship's sommelier gave Mary and I personalized service for about 45 minutes. We had attended his wine tasting on the 3rd day of the cruise, and he was wonderful....now we had him at our table, expertly pairing a wine with our selected dinner choice. The marvelous thing about having the sommelier tend to you, is that you get to find out what he has hidden in the wine cellar that is not on the wine list. Mary and I has a superb 2000 Robert Mondovi Merlot. The sommelier decanted the wine so slowly, with a high intensity halogen pen light to make sure no sediment entered the decanter. What an experience. The sun will not set until 1:20 AM, and will rise again at 2:30 AM....so this is coming close to no true dark hours. Friday, December 31, 2010 As the old year comes to an end today, so does our Antarctic adventure. I rose at 7:15 AM, looked out the window to our balcony, and saw hundreds of Chinstrap Penguins breaching through the calm waters. We were only about 5 miles from Deception Island, a caldera in the South Shetland islands. The last eruption of this volcano was in 1972, and destroyed a British and an Brazilian research base inside the perimeter of the caldera. It was extremely foggy, but the fog lifted enough to make out the outline of Deception Island and its volcanic ash beaches. The air smelled from Penguin and from sulfur. Deception Island is home to the world's largest Chinstrap Penguin colonies, with over 300,000 nesting pairs. I think most of these pairs were in the water this morning. The ship stopped for a bit so we could view the sites, then circumnavigated the island, turned around and headed back out to sea to begin our 1.5 day crossing of the western Drake passage. A low pressure system is moving into the area, indicating an infamous South Atlantic summer storm, and it's expected to be a rough crossing. The captain came on the PA and informed us to store all valuables in a drawer, or to leave them on the deck (the nautical term for the floor), since if they are on the deck, they can't fall any further. Tonight is New Years eve on the Star Princess. They have hung a huge net from the ceiling of the atrium, and are beginning to fill it up with balloons for a midnight drop to ring in the new year. It is also the second of our formal dinners. The naturalist on board tried to make a joke that we needed to sail away from Deception Island, since with everyone dressed in tuxedos tonight, the Chinstraps would think that we were a big floating penguin colony. The New Year's Eve party was fantastic. If you can imagine about 2600 people gathered on three decks around the atrium, a great band playing good old time rock and roll and then the balloon drop at midnight...it was AWESOME! Overnight, we had to secure everything, as we made our way back across the Drake Passage. We have 20 foot swells and 60 MPH winds....the ship is doing its own version of Rock and Roll. Tomorrow around 4 PM, we will circle Cape Horn, the most southern tip of South America, and then make our way into the Beagle Channel on our way for a very early morning docking in Ushuaia, Argentina on Sunday, 1/2/2011. Mary and I have a full day of shore excursions there. The following day, 1/3/2011 we will dock in Punta Arenas, Chile, and have some fun things to do there after we tender to shore. Saturday January 1, 2011 The Drake Passage crossing was extremely rough with 25-30 foot swells. We awoke around 8:15 AM to the boat listing back and forth. Mary wasn't doing so well and looked a little green around the gills. We went for a 10 AM presentation by Joe May, a port lecturer in the Princess theater at the front of the ship. The boat was bouncing pretty good. Mary was too sea sick to eat breakfast, and after the lecture we returned to our cabin and Mary slept most of the early afternoon. The captain announced that the seas and winds were too harsh to embark our Chilean pilot to circumnavigate Cape Horn, however, we'd still do a sail by about 3 PM. The view was spectacular, as we were met with the cliffs of Cape Horn, as well as many albatross and petrels. Cape Horn was shrouded in cloud, but as soon as we sailed past it on the Atlantic ocean side, the seas calmed, and Mary started to feel better. About two hours later, as the sun burned off the clouds and we were presented with blue skies as we entered the Beagle Channel, so named for the vessel that was captained by Fitzroy, and carried a young twenty six year old naturalist named Charles Darwin. Mary and I ate dinner in the main dining room, which was unusually empty. I think too many people were nursing hangovers from the night before, or recovering from sea sickness from the morning's rock and roll revival. After dinner, we watched as our Argentine pilot come on board, from an Argentine Navy vessel with huge 50 caliber machine gun mounted on the bow. The sun began to set on the port side of the boat, and I grabbed the camera and went to the Sports Deck on level 16 of the ship, however, the ship went into a hard left hand turn in the channel that put the sunset over the Argentine hills on the starboard side of the ship. I ran back to the cabin, and waited patiently to capture the sunset in the southern most part of South America. As soon as the sun dips below the horizon, or in this case, behind the mountains, the sky becomes ablaze. It is hard to describe, and even though the camera can accurately capture the colors, it's just a narrow view of the sky, not what you take in 360 degrees around you. Sunday, January 2, 2011 We arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina around 5:30 AM, about 1.5 hours ahead of schedule. Due to only 1/2 hour between tours that we had booked, we were able to cancel our mountain drive in the morning, and Mary and I were free to roam the streets of this town at "Fin Del Mundo" the "End of The World." We started by stopping at the post office and mailing 20 postcards to everyone we love. We did a little gift shopping, then strolled the streets. We went back to the ship around 11:30 AM, ate a quick lunch, and got ready to disembark for our Beagle Channel Catamaran tour. The catamaran took us to several small islands inhabited by sea lions and King Cormorants. I was pretty exciting since the boat got us to within about 20 yards from the animals. We also saw a colony of Rock Cormorants that just had their brood. There is advantages to photographing the wild life up close, but there are disadvantages too, number one on the list is the stench. Since I have been around sea lions before, I knew they had an odor, however the Cormorant smell was almost overwhelming, where the sheer concentration of ammonia in their droppings goes through your nostrils and enters the back of your throat where you just can't get rid of it. There were several times I had to enter the ship's main cabin to rid myself of that smell. Mary didn't fair too well with the stench either. We got back to the Star Princess around 3:30 PM, and we sailed away from Ushuaia around 5 PM going back into the Beagle Channel....Argentina on the starboard side, and Chile on the left. The channel widens a bit, and then you have Chile on both sides. We disembarked our Argentine pilot, picked up two Chilean pilots and proceeded to navigate the fjords of the channel. There were six glaciers, small compared to what we saw on the white continent, but still quite impressive. They were named after countries during the charting of the channel from 1882-1883. They were Holloandia (Holland), Italia (Italy), Francia Nuevo (France, new glacial arm), Francia (France Originally charted glacier) Alamania (Germany), and Romantia (Romania). The last glacier for Romania, was a sad site. The glacier is melting at an incredibly fast rate, and the tallest glacial waterfall I have ever seen was cascading down from the cliffs into the channel, as if it were fed by a river. Climate change is real. It's not a made up thing. The history of this planet shows that it has happened time and time again throughout the ages, only never during the time of man. The changes are drastic, and regardless of what we do, we cannot control it, alter it, or reverse it. The glaciers will disappear, and they may be gone for generations to come, then the climate will change again and recreate what it has taken back. Monday, January 3, 2011 We pulled into Punta Arenas at 6:00 AM, ahead of schedule and anchored in the harbor. That morning we saw three dolphins off the starboard side just playing in the water. I have a nasty cold, and was not feeling well, but disembarked on the ship's tender to go ashore for our 11:30 City tour. Of course, it was raining, and the bus was 45 minutes late. I realized that if Punta Arenas is representative of Chile, and is the Capital of Patagonia, then Chile is a very poor nation, however, their downtown area is very pretty with architectural elements of England, Spain, and Croatia, the 3 primary European groups that settled the area. The other thing I learned, is that Ferdinand Magellan is as popular as Jesus is in Rome. Everything in this city is dedicated to Magellan. We toured the Public Cemetery which was very interesting, the Patagonian Institute's collection of items from the Industrial Revolution, as well as a Natural History museum dedicated to the Native peoples, whom the Spanish nearly wiped out along with all traces of their culture. We then went to the town square, to touch the Indian's foot on the Statue of Magellan. It is said that if you touch the foot, you would return to Patagonia. I touched and held the foot. Someday, I will be back here. Mary and I walked back to the dock, purchased a bottle of wine for Mary at 10,000 pesos ($22), gave the woman $25 U.S. and received $1600 Pesos back. We then re-boarded the Star Princess and rested in our stateroom. In the evening, we saw a few Sea Lions, and extremely playful Magellanic Penguins in the straits as we sailed out for our 2.5 day journey to Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Tuesday, January 4, Wednesday January 5, and Thursday January 6, 2011 The sail out from Punta Arenas was uneventful. I was feeling quite under the weather, having picked up a cold from someone on the ship. I wasn't in the mood to do much but sleep, which I did nicely for the next two days, getting a total of about 20 hours between the two sea days. There was not much happening on the ship these two days either. The seas were smooth, and the only wildlife we saw was a pair of sooty albatrosses and a couple of petrels that were following the ship's wake for 2 straight days. On Wednesday night, there was an incredible sunset. I don't think I have ever seen sunsets as beautiful as I have seen in South America. Another highlight of our two days at sea was Wednesday night in the casino. Somehow, Mary managed to win $80 and I won $700. I call that a very good night. Princess told us that they would provide shuttles from the dock to the downtown area of Puerto Madryn. When we pulled into port, the sea lions were all around the dock, and all we had to do was look over the balcony. I spent some time photographing them from the balcony, and then again when we disembarked for our day in the city. I thought that this city was going to be a bust, but found it very delightful. We took the shuttle to the downtown area, and then walked with the son of a woman we met on board, and another couple about 2 miles into the residential area of the city. We were met with quite a few stares from the locals. No one speaks English in Puerto Madryn, and reading a menu was also a challenge, however we managed. The 5 of us had a ton of food and several local beers, and the bill came out to $10 per person. Mary and I shopped for a few items, found a couple of beautiful scarves which were unbelievably cheap, and then headed back to the ship. It was the Chef's Dinner tonight. I had a braised rack of lamb, and Mary had some pan seared sea scallops. Both were accompanied by a wonderful bottle of wine, and an awesome desert. We both headed back to the Casino. I put a $50 bill into the same machine I had played the night before and in less than 15 minutes, had won another $300 and cashed out. The casino is only open for one more night....maybe I can pay for this cruise with the winnings? Well, at least the bar bill. On Saturday, we will be in Montevideo, Uruguay, our 5th and final country. Princess cancelled my tour of the Synagogue...DUH! It's Saturday! In any case, Mary and I will have the day to roam the city on our own, then we have to get back to the ship and pack, since Sunday 5 AM is disembarkation in Buenos Aires on Sunday. I can't believe three weeks have passed already. All I can say is what a ride. Friday, January 7, 2011 Well, I think Mary has my cold now. It's good we have a day at sea on our way to Montevideo, because she can spend it resting. After dinner we went and gave a little money back to the Casino, after all it was their money. The long and the short of it, we ended up with $1000 winnings....and ownership of the cash has been transferred from Princess to Denny and Mary. We went to the Princess Theater to see the new production show, "Brittish Invasion" a tribute to all the bands from the 1950's through the present day that have had a profound influence on our music. The show was well staged, the dancing and costuming were fantastic, however, technical sound difficulties detracted from the show. I am sure when they work out the glitches, this show will be enjoyed by thousands. Saturday, January 8, 2011 Mary and I slept until about 8 AM as the ship thrustered its way into the slip at Montevideo. How do they do that with such accuracy? We ate a light breakfast, then disembarked, made our way down the long pier and tried to figure out how to get into the heart of the city. Very little English is spoken in Montevideo. Even the "Tourist Police" which were out in great numbers do not speak English and directions are given with hand gestures. Although a little on the dirty side, I found Montevideo to be a wonderful city. The neighborhoods are a mix of 18th and 19th century Spanish and other European influenced architecture. I was amazed at the 12 foot tall hand chiseled doors on most of the buildings. Using a few crude maps, Mary and I made our way to Independence Square, meeting up with a nice couple from England who old us of the tomb below the statue of Artiga in the middle of the square. Mary and I checked it out and were quite moved. We visited the Montevideo Leather Works, and we amazed at the craftsmanship in the garments, and the relative inexpensive price tags. Although we were very tempted to purchase high quality items at dirt cheap prices, we knew our suitcases would be packed to the gills and we wouldn't have the room. We strolled down 18th D'Julio avenue, the heart of the Montevideo shopping district for about a mile, saw trash being collected by horse drawn carts, looked in several shops, then headed back towards the square. By the time we got there, all the sidewalk vendors had their local crafts for display. Mary and I saw some nice artwork, and fancied one of tango dancers which we purchased, as we listened to the artist describe how to pack and get the art home without damage...all in Spanish....all in great detail, without understanding a single word, but for the "mucho gracias" that was said as we paid in American dollars. Mary and I stopped for lunch at one of the local establishments, with a sidewalk cafe, that actually had a menu with fine print English for the items. Mary had a steak sandwich, and I had what was probably the best sirloin steak in a creamed mushroom sauce that I have ever tasted. Mary had a bottle of Orange Fanta, and I had a Coca-Cola in a real Coca-Cola bottle. Getting the check for $610 was not an episode in sticker shock...it was an exercise in mathematics as I quickly applied the 19.2 Pesos to the dollar conversion, and realized that this fantastic lunch was only $15 per person. We took a leisurely stroll back to the ship, stopping at the old railroad station for a couple of last minute t-shirt deals, then back up the gangway to our stateroom, where we proceeded to start the arduous task of packing our suitcases. They needed to be placed outside our room prior to leaving for dinner. After dinner, we had a nightcap, and retired early, since the ship arrives at our disembarkation port of Buenos Aires, Argentina at 5 AM, and we have a 7:15 AM departure for our all day city tour and Estancia Visit. Sunday, January 9, 2011 Ok, so we get up, get dressed, make sure we're packed, do a room check, and head to the Wheelhouse Bar to meet our tour group. One thing I can say about Princess, is they treat you like royalty when they are taking your money during the cruise, but their haste to get you off their ship leaves a bit to be desired. Disembarkation was disorganized to say the least. It took us so long to get down the gangway, that Mary and I missed our bus for our tour. The tour operator was very understanding, and although we were supposed to be on bus 2, they allowed us on bus 4. I guess there was a lot of shifting around since people were missing the buses. We had a nice drive through Buenos Aries proper, then off to the cemetery to see the grave of Eva Peron, then a drive to the Pampas and the working Estancia. We were greeted at the bus by the gauchos, serving empanadas and wine. A few folks on the tour group did not like these yummy empanadas, and just took a small bite and tossed them into the wicker baskets set around the main house as trash cans. A few of the young gauchos and their lady friends did several folk dances for the crowd, then randomly selected folks from the audience to participate. After the crowd cleared to go horseback riding and explore the estancia, one of the huge hound dogs on the ranch quickly ran to the wicker baskets and found all the uneaten empanadas and filled his belly. The funny thing was that the empanadas were wrapped in paper napkins, and the dog was able to get the treat out, but the paper napkin was left hanging in his mouth. Several people went horseback riding, took hay rides and sat in the shade. Mary and I wondered the grounds, looked at the rooms in the main house, enjoyed listening to and watching the peacocks crow and display their feathers, and took a gander at the barbeque that was being prepared for the large tour group. The gauchos put on a display of horsemanship where a small ring was placed on a ribbon in an arch in the middle of a field. A small stick, the size of a common chop stick was used to try and snag the ring as the gauchos rode full gallop through the arch. If the gaucho caught the ring, he'd give it to a lady in the audience in exchange for a kiss. Rumor had it that if the gaucho gave the ring to a man, the man would have to kiss the horse. We were then mustered to the main dining hall. In a smaller ante room to the dining hall, was a craft store, with hand woven items made from alpaca fur. Mary bought a very pretty poncho and three scarves. Lunch was more than any one person could possibly eat, and we all felt obligated to get into the Guinness Book of Records, at least sampling everything that was served to us. Sirloin steak, Chicken, Lamb, Beef Ribs, Potato Salad, regular salad, all the wine you could drink, desert. I think the gauchos were fattening us all with intentions of serving us to the next tour group. We then boarded the bus for the trip back to Buenos Aries to pick up our Airport Transfer bus. Everyone peacefully snoozed on a full bellies. I did not nap. I was watching out the window of the bus as we passed from the Pampas back to the city. At one point, close to their main soccer stadium was a neighborhood that was a scene out of Slum Dog Millionaire. Row upon row of 2 and 3 story buildings, most missing the walls or with huge gaping holes in the brickwork, street after street...all filled with the poorest of the poor of Buenos Aries. I was shocked at the level of poverty in this affluent city, and for the first time in 3 weeks, I felt that I was in the middle of a third world country. The bus let us off at the downtown Radisson Hotel, and we were directed to the hospitality room, which was nothing more than their ballroom, crowded with people, waiting for the airport bus. The transfer process was totally disorganized. I was shocked at how well things run, like clockwork, when you are on the ship, but as soon as Princess is done with you, you are pretty much treated like cattle, being herded from place to place. Our bus was supposed to leave for the airport at 5:30 PM for our 9:30 PM flight to Atlanta on Delta airlines. Due to some other tour group arriving at the Radisson, and no parking area for the busses, we were told that it would be safer to just stay where we were. One German speaking fellow, in broken English became irate and started laying into the poor woman who was trying to coordinate people's departures. I felt bad for her, since the situation was way out of her control. We were finally called at 6:15 PM, boarded the bus, and took the 45 minute ride to the airport. We quickly found our luggage, entered the terminal and were greeted by a line that went a quarter of a mile to check in for the flight. Give me a break people!!! It's a 767 that only seat 241 people. It took us two hours to check in. Then we had to get through security, which was the biggest joke. Put your stuff on the belt, walk through the metal detector. No taking off of shoes, no showing your liquids in a baggy, no removal of laptops or electronics from your bag. Just when we thought we were off the hook, we see the immigration clearance line, snaking like the line for Magic Mountain at Disney. We had 30 minutes until our flight, the message boards showed the flight as "boarding" and there we were in a line that had several hundred people in it. Someone suggested we speak up and let folks know that we had a flight in 20 minutes. I felt that it would be hopeless, until this wonderful Argentine woman spoke up in Spanish, explained the situation to the folks in line, and like Moses parting the Red Sea, the line opened up and let Mary and I to the front. If you would have tried that move at a U.S. airport, you would have been trampled, stripped of your clothes and valuable, and people would be stepping over your naked body to take their shoes off and place them in the plastic bins. We got to the gate area where they searched our hand luggage, cleared us, and we got on the plane. Delta is a good airline, much better than the inbound flight on US Airways. At least on Delta, the flight attendants smile at you. The plane took off 1 hour late. We ate dinner, and fell off to sleep for the rest of the flight. Monday, January 10, 2011 We only had a 1 Hour and 22 minute layover in Atlanta to get through immigration, claim our bags, clear customs, recheck our bags and catch our connecting flight back to Chicago. Lesson number 2: Never let Princess book your air travel. I found out from other passengers who booked their own air from the Chicago area, that we paid almost triple through Princess, and had no flexibility in our flights, and they book the connections too close together. Well, we got to Atlanta in the middle of the worst snowstorm that Atlanta has ever seen. We waited in line, cleared immigration, however, they put a little stamp on my declarations form, and when we got to customs, Mary was sent on her merry way, and I was singled out and asked to go into this holding room, and they took my passport. When I was finally called twenty minutes later, the customs agent told me I declared the two cartons of duty free cigarettes, one for me, one for Mary, and that you were only allowed one carton each, and to "not do that again." He then told me "Have a nice day." GROWL!!!! We rechecked our bags, looked at the boards and saw our flight was boarding. Thanks to the snow, everything was delayed, since our flight was supposed to leave at 7:20 AM, and it was now 8:15 AM. Of course, we're in Terminal E, and our flight is leaving from Terminal A. We go down to the train station, where the trains are supposed to run every 3 minutes, and we just missed the train. The timer that counts down until the next train goes down to zero, then a message comes up that says, due to technical issues, the next train will be here in 6 minutes. Mr. Murphy, your laws were in full action. The train finally comes, and we go through all the other train stops...Terminal D, Terminal C, Terminal B, and finally, A. We hoof it through the terminal, down to gate 5, where I see our Delta plane pushing back from the gate and disappeared around the corner. The gate agent saw the disappointment in our eyes, and looked for the other flights going to Chicago.....everything was cancelled due to the weather. Just when we thought all hope was lost for getting home on Monday, the desk agent's phone rang and we heard her distinctly say, "You are kidding? You just made two people's Christmas list for next year." She hangs up the phone, looks at us and says, "You're not going to believe this, but they are pulling the plane back to the gate because there is a big delay for de-icing. You're going home." I then realized that there is a God, although he has to mess with you a little before you believe in Him. We got on the plane, sat for two hours, but eventually took off and made it back to Chicago. God wasn't done messing with us. We made the plane and made it back to Chicago, but our bags didn't. Okay, one more line, file the claim, get the case number and wait a few days until they are delivered. If an airline is going to have lost or delayed luggage, it's always better to have them lose things on your way home. One problem. In Argentina, the temperatures were in the 90's. In Chicago, the temperature was in the single digits. Over my back was nothing more than a wind breaker, in the bags were my wool winter coat. The wait for our town car wasn't that long, and the car was warm and toasty. We got home, opened the door, and God had just one more trick to play on us. Somewhere, over the course of the three weeks we were gone, one of our house sitters must have accidentally started the dishwasher cycle, which leaked, on our new hardwood floors that we had just installed in October, and the floor in the kitchen was totally buckled. Although upset, and although I knew the insurance would cover most of the damages, it just felt so good to be back home. There is nothing like Antarctica on the planet. Not Alaska, not the North Polar regions, nothing. The adventure of getting there, being there, and returning home safely is one that will be emblazoned in my mind for all of my days. I give Princess a 7 out of 10 for this cruise. They would have had a 10, but I took back 3 points for how they handled disembarkation and airport transfers. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
This review is for the Star Princess 2009 Holiday Cruise from Rio to Valparaiso. I would say overall, this was a great cruise on a beautiful ship, where we met lots of wonderful people. We definitely now have a greater appreciation and ... Read More
This review is for the Star Princess 2009 Holiday Cruise from Rio to Valparaiso. I would say overall, this was a great cruise on a beautiful ship, where we met lots of wonderful people. We definitely now have a greater appreciation and understanding for South America and know which parts we would like to go back to. (And which parts we wouldn't bother with!) We are in our late 30s and have done 4 cruises together (3 being holiday cruises). YOU WILL NEED A VISA IF YOU'RE FROM USA/CANADA Let me start out by saying up front in case you are pondering this cruise that if you are from the USA or Canada, you will need a visa for Brazil. This is not made very obvious when you book this cruise. The visa is $130 per person and you either have to go to your local Brazilian embassy twice in person within 90 days of arriving in Brazil (Once to drop off paperwork and passports and once to pick up your passports containing the visa) OR you can use a visa service which will cost you approx another $120 EACH on top of the $130 mentioned above. We decided to not use the service and drove 2 hours there and back (twice) to our local embassy. MONEY We used US dollars in every port except Rio where we exchanged money into the local currency. Take low bills -- lots of $1s so you can pay for things without needing change. PASSENGER DIVERSITY There were many different nationalities on board including North Americans, Brits, Russians, Argentines and Brazilians. (Amongst others). Be aware that most everything is announced in 3 languages, which takes time and some movies are played in Portuguese. Predominantly though, this is an English speaking cruise, so if you don't speak English, it may be frustrating as all the games, the bingo, etc. are in English. It was also apparent that the North Americans and Brits ate early whilst the South Americans ate late, which worked out quite well when it came to Anytime Dining! ALLOW EXTRA TIME AT THE EMBARKATION DESTINATION (RIO) Unfortunately our baggage didn't catch up with us in Rio until our 3rd day there, which was an added stress, but we managed. We talked to a lot of people who either had baggage delays (or never received it at all) or almost didn't make the cruise due to bad weather on the East Coast.(Or boarded several days later). If you're planning this cruise in our (northern hemisphere) winter, definitely allow extra time and add at least 2-3 days on at the beginning in Rio. Many passengers also added extra time in Santiago or went to Machu Pichu after the cruise. CONSIDER IGUAZU FALLS We would have liked to have done Iguazu Falls, but the Princess cruise tour was too expensive. We did talk to someone who did it independently for $800 ea, so it can be done a lot cheaper. I wish we would have done the Falls, having flown so far. A BRIEF ENCOUNTER If you really want to see South America, this is not an ideal way to do it. The ports are very brief and the excursions do not allow much time at each stop. If this itinerary could be altered, I would suggest 2 nights in Buenos Aires and skip Montevideo. If I went back to S.A., I would do a land tour and see more of Brazil, Argentina and Chile. We felt this vacation was more about the cruise and the ship and less about the destinations. THE SHIP EXPERIENCE The ship was the largest we'd been on and really was fabulous, however for us, it made us realize we like the slightly smaller ships better as you see the same people more often and there are less lines at the purser and excursion offices. (This ship didn't have enough staff to cope with the number of passengers at the purser and excursion desks and we waited in line anywhere from 15 mins to and hour and 10mins). We mostly enjoyed activities like the pool, trivia, games, dance lessons, afternoon tea, Wii, walking the promenade, watching shows and bands/pianist. We tried 'Anytime Dining' for the first time and enjoyed the varied amount of people we met and the flexibility of timing our dining. What was disappointing is a lot of the shows were repeated twice (two shows a night on 2 different nights of the cruise, so a total of 4 repeats) to allow all the passengers to see the performances. We think the shows were ok/good, but we weren't **wowed** by most. Some of the dance shows are cheesy/old fashioned. I did feel sorry for the entertainers however, because most of the audience was pretty dead -- some people just don't have the energy to clap their hands!!! The food was good, but I was not **wowed** by it as I have been on other cruises and spoke to others that felt the same. The public areas were excellent. There's a nice coffee cafe on the bottom floor of the atrium where the coffees are well priced and the pastries/sandwiches are included. They also did British pub lunches once a week which made for some variety. We watched one movie in the lounge, but it seemed too cold for the 'Movies Under the Stars' (they did provide blankets). My one suggestion would be to make the entire ship smoke free. PETTY CRIME DOES HAPPEN We learned of about half a dozen attempts at theft/muggings that happened to people on our ship, all in different ports. We read about it a lot before we went, and yes it does happen. One man had a gold chain ripped from his neck in Rio and was left bleeding, another couple had an attempted mugging in Beunos Aires by having 'bird poop' paint sprayed at them. Another woman was brought to the ground by 2 youths in Montevideo and wore a sling for the remainder of the trip for an injury. Be very careful. We did not wear any jewelry except for fake plain wedding rings and plastic digital watches. We wore money belts and took small amounts of cash. I wore a bag across my body. AROUND THE HORN One aspect of this cruise that is exciting is that you go around the horn. For this, we went on deck and took lots of photos and video. They also give you a certificate to say you've gone around the horn. Later during the fjords, we were at dinner during the time we passed the glaciers, so we missed them unfortunately. The captain also had to skip one glacier entirely as we were running behind due to bad weather. The weather around the horn for our cruise was very smooth, although we encountered one *very rough* day a few days later during a storm which delayed our ship arriving at our final destination. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We are in our early 50's and have now completed 10 cruises: QEII Celebrity Summit, Millennium, Infinity, Constellation and Century RCL Explorer and Adventurer of the Seas Golden and Star Princess I am an American and my husband is ... Read More
We are in our early 50's and have now completed 10 cruises: QEII Celebrity Summit, Millennium, Infinity, Constellation and Century RCL Explorer and Adventurer of the Seas Golden and Star Princess I am an American and my husband is Bermudian and we cruise for the enjoyment and we visit ports to get a tiny sample of what the location has to offer. If we like it, we will come back to spend more time at a later date. While on board we heard numerous travel woes from missed connections to lost luggage from our many new friends and to our good fortune, we 'cruised through the stormy seas' without a problem. We traveled on Delta from our home in Bermuda on Friday, December 18, to Atlanta and onto Rio de Janeiro as planned although our flight was an hour late leaving due to bad weather in Atlanta, we had plenty of time to make our connection. The Captain and crew of the Delta flight to Rio were exceptional and it made the long flight good. Rio airport was nice, no immigration issues as I had my visa in place thanks to our TA who arranged getting it through a service. All bags arrived, loaded into a taxi, nice, clean, friendly and spacious... We booked 3 nights at the JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro and it is in an excellent hotel and location. When we arrived at the Marriott on Saturday morning around 11 AM and we were greeted with the old story 'sorry your room will not be available until 3 PM but for $60 you can upgrade and that room is available now'. We had read about this from others and we were ready to upgrade and that was an excellent move, highly recommended. We had a room overlooking the Copacabana Beach on the 5th floor. After we got settled, we checked our email and heard from friends that that most of the east cost and Bermuda were shut down because of bad weather. Flights were not travelling to or from the island due to stormy conditions so people scheduled to travel on Saturday were not getting seats out until Christmas day due to full flights. Again, we were lucky! Rio was absolutely beautiful, sunny and warm every day plus we also noticed how clean it was. We spent the afternoon at the pool on the roof and saw David Goldman who got his son, Sean, back from Brazil on Christmas Day. We took two tours while in Rio that we pre-arraigned online through Viator.com. We followed the instructions on our tickets, confirmed our tour and we were given times to be in front of our hotel. Just like clockwork, a Gray Line coach appeared and picked us up both times, no issues. The first tour was on Sunday to Sugarloaf Mountain and we got a surprise stop at the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro enroute. On Monday morning we went to Corcovado Hill, to see the statue of "Christ the Redeemer" with hardly a cloud in the sky, even our guide was so excited for us. While in Rio, we walked the entire length of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches plus many back streets and alleys and we felt very safe. We took the advice and precautions that were all over the internet about how to look like a local, no jewels and being alert, we were fine. On Tuesday we got up early to watch the Star come over the horizon from our room but she was nowhere in sight. We checked the onboard camera and she was still at sea. We checked Cruise Critic and low and behold there was a posting from someone onboard saying the Star was running late and would not get to Rio until 11:00 a.m. No problem, Marriott let us have a late checkout so we went for a long walk on the beach before checking out and taking a taxi to the pier. We did experience a wait of a couple of hours in the terminal but we took a seat and people watched. It appeared well organized and when we got to our check in agent, it was quick and professional. The agent did keep our passports but that was okay with us, as it would mean no visits to the immigration line in each country. Our cabin was clean and spacious and our cabin steward, Edwin, welcomed us, quickly learned our routines and provided an excellent service, one of the best. We did a quick run around the ship and our bags were in our cabin when we returned. My husband setup his laptop in the room and got his wireless internet connected so we could keep family and friends updated. The lifeboat drill was well organized and probably the best we have done for our years of cruising. We had late sitting for dinner that was in the Amalfi Dining Room and were placed at a table of six next to a large window on the port side. The food was excellent and choices were good plus we were so surprised at how hot meals were served. We purchased wine and would normally have one bottle over two nights. The price for a nice bottle of Chilean or Argentinean wine was $24-$25 comparable to what I would have paid locally. We departed late due to the late arrival but no problems and we enjoyed the view from the window in the dining room. On the cruise, we had a good mix of world travelers from America, South American, UK, Australians, Canadians etc. and apparently about 270 children. I say apparently because this seems like a lot but they were well managed by shipboard activities and we saw very few. Montevideo (Christmas Day) Excellent We really enjoyed our Christmas day in Montevideo. We did a ship excursion that toured a number of places and to Santa Rosa vineyards where we had a fantastic lunch, plenty of wine and entertainment. We purchased a bottle and took it back onto the ship with no problems. My husband got to see parts of the German warship Admiral Graf Spee that were on display at the pier. Buenos Aries got an OK, it was nice to see. In Buenos Aries, it started with rain which is unfortunate and the afternoon was sunny and clear. Our Princess shore excursion took in the highlights of the city and we stopped at Recoleta Cemetery to see the burial crypt of Eva Peron "Evita". This evening, we had a romantic sunset 'Balcony Dinner' served as we slowly cruised away from Buenos Aries down Río de la Plata. This is not room service but a special experience for a fee. The food was exceptional and the service was attentive. We had a head waiter and assistant waiter at our beck and call for several hours. Whatever we wanted was provided. The 998 people looking over their respective balconies gave us the feeling that we were celebrities! We asked the waiter if the balcony dinner was popular and he said no, we were the first he had done. It was fun and the beautiful sunset cruise down the river was simply magnificent! This is highly recommended. On our way to the Falkland Islands, the seas are absolutely calm and the sun was out most of the time although we did have a few hours mid afternoon of fog before the temperature dropped. It was in the high 80's in Rio, 70's in Montevideo and Buenos Aries with low humidity and cool 50's in the Falklands. Falkland Islands - Excellent We arrived in the Falklands in bright sunshine right behind the Norwegian Sun. The Captain had forecast rain but thankfully, he was a little off the mark although we did have a shower mid afternoon as we headed back to the ship from our shopping run in Stanley. Our morning Princess shore excursion tour took us to see a small colony of Gentoo Penguins at Sparrow Cove and the journey was both by private boat directly from the ship and a 30 minute drive over the bogs in a Land Rover to a location where approximately 200 pairs of penguins and their chicks were located. The tour only took 12 at a time and there were 4 vehicles so we had our own vehicle and guide. The all female guides were excellent and provided wonderful information about the colonies and the country. In the afternoon, we went into Stanley and walked around and did some shopping. The stores were busy because of two ships being in but it was tolerable. Cape Horn was breathtaking cold with light winds. The captain cruised slowly counterclockwise around the horn and passed closer than he had ever been to that piece of land. Ushuaia, Argentina was a neat little port island, the most southern in the world. We did a Beagle Channel tour and saw lots of wildlife. In town, we found plenty of nice little shops plus a neat chocolate store called Turista and wow, it was good! We brought in the New Year in style with new friends with lots of drink and entertainment in the Piazza but we did not stay up much past midnight. Someone booked an early shore excursion - on New Years Day! Punta Arenas, Chile we did a shore excursion to see Magellanic Penguins. This was most interesting as these Penguins burrow versus having their eggs on their feet. Most of the shops were closed for New Years but that did not stop us from shopping and purchasing our local souvenirs from a craft market. Up to this point, the weather has been fantastic but it was starting to turn with rain and wind on the horizon. We were warned by the captain that a storm heading towards us and he is forecasting winds of 60 knots and 36 foot seas as we return to the Pacific Ocean. He is planning to stay inside the fjords as much as possible but we will be in and out of the heavy seas for the next two days of the three sea days. Apparently we entered the rough Pacific around 3 in the morning but we choose a cabin smack in the middle of the ship. My husband is a mariner and he was hoping for at least one rough day and he knew that the middle of the ship would be the place to be if his wish came true. I did not know it was rough until we opened the curtains around 7 AM to look out. Neither of us had any signs of seasickness at all and the Captain, although not the most sociable person we have met, did a great job keeping the ship and souls on board safe. The original schedule had us arriving in Valparaiso at 6 AM on Tuesday and our flight is not until 10:00 PM. The Captain is forecasting a late arrival but he would not commit to how late. We decided that all would be fine with our flights as long as we were not more than about 12 hours delayed but at any rate we decided to go with the flow. We are both experienced travelers and not the type to worry about missing connections. We built some flexibility in our schedule so we could stay in Santiago for a day or two if necessary. We did have a Princess shore excursion booked that would eventually drop us at the airport and we were notified that it had been cancelled with the charge removed from our account. As a result, on the morning or our last sea day, around 8 AM we went down to the shore excursion desk where there was a short line (15 people, 10 minute wait) and purchased Airport transfers and there was no problem. We had not booked flights with Princess so we knew we were on our own if changes were required. A similar 'weather' thing happened last year on this route and the ship was 24 hours late arriving and it was a few days before everyone was able to get out of Santiago. On the middle sea day, we did the Ultimate Ship Tour where we saw behind the scenes of the production shows, stage lighting and costumes along with the galley, bakery, laundry, printing, bridge, medical, morgue etc. The tour is somewhat pricey but interesting and is offset by the goodies that come with it. One of the most interesting talks was from the purchaser who told us about buying fresh produce in South America versus purchasing in North America. South America does not use pesticides or other chemicals on their crops making them organic. The fruit and vegetables are huge although they may not look as pretty as they do in North America. The taste quality is fantastic with everything being so fresh, delicious and juicy. The third sea day was calm and clear. We spotted several whales from our balcony and commented for all of the trips we have taken, this one had the most variety of wildlife. On the morning or our arrival and due to being late, we were allowed to stay in our cabin until noon. We watched the sail in, had a leisure breakfast and moved to the appointed lounge at the appointed hour for disembarkation. The groups were called in order and we were off the ship within an hour. We were transported via a coach to the immigration hall then on to the airport. Our luggage went directly to the airport and that was convenient. The coaches that took us to the airport were the same ones that would have done the shore excursions. We had a guide who gave us the history of the area and highlighted points of interest as we made out way towards Santiago Airport. We arrived at the airport around 4 PM and had plenty of time to get something to eat and shop before our departure. One suggestion would be to make the room bill available either online or on the TV so it would be more accessible. No problem, we got a bill every 2-3 days and reconciled it so that at the end of the cruise there were no surprises. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Star Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness & Recreation 4.0 N/A
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursions 4.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 4.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.2
Value for Money 4.0 N/A

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