This was a wonderful vacation. Friends of ours went on the Princess Cruise last February but it did not go to Antarctica. That is why we went with Holland America this year. It is a once in a lifetime treat although we met one woman who went last year and loved it so much, she came back and did it again this year. The three penguin tours were great. I really liked Bueno Aires, a city of 16 million people but still manageable. Santiago was also nice, they have 8 million; but the absolute highlight was Antarctica, there is no place on earth like it. Alaska is to Antarctica as Niagara is to Iguazu Falls. There is simply no comparison. It should be an absolute must see on everyone’s bucket list. Very expensive but worth it.
4 out of 5
Embarcation was easy, no problems
Food and Dining
3 out of 5
The Main Dining Room was great and the wait staff we had was excellent, but the food menu selections were limited, and most were just okay. The filet in the specialty restaurant was excellent, the lobster was tough and chewy. The buffet on Lido had great salads but the main courses were not up to the standards we were accustomed to on Princess. We do not drink alcohol, but the lemonade was great.
4 out of 5
Nice, but over rated. We had reservations for three dinners there. After one we canceled the others. The filet was very good, the lobster was tough and chewy. I think the wait staff are actually surprised when people show up. Service was not exceptional.
3 out of 5
The stores were terrible, no selection. The photo department was a joke, worst of any ship I have ever been on, Princess runs circles around it. This was our first Holland America Cruise, we have been on Princes 16 voyages. Lectures were good but there was a strong bias for Argentina and against the Falkland Islands. Also, a political liberal bias in lecturers, comments that did not need to be said that had nothing to do with the topic.
1 out of 5
The selection was poor. The jewelry was way overpriced. Every day they had 75% off sales, I am sure they were not selling at a loss. Souvenirs were incredibly poor, mostly limited to Holland America logo items. Sundries and perfumes were also awfully high. T shirts were $180.
1 out of 5
The worst of any ship I have ever been on. No Cameras, camera equipment or supplies for sale. The did not do a running video and sell it at the end of the cruise. Princess always does and we always buy it. They could have sold thousands. Not one professional photographer on board. One reason only a handful ever got their pictures made. Plus the pictures were way overpriced.
4 out of 5
Very unique. With the enclosed dome you could get in the pool even in Antarctica. It was always 81 degrees. But that being said, we never got in because it was always filled with kids.
Guest Services / Excursions
4 out of 5
Some excursions were excellent and many were poor or at least overpriced. Guest services were fine. There was no money exchange for Argentina. I think that says more about their currency than it does Holland America.
1 out of 5
Terrible, worst of any stores at sea. Their constant reply as to why they did not have things was, Holland America does not operate their own stores. 1,500 people wanted Antarctica souvenirs and they had no shirts, no hats, a few patches that said Antarctica. They could have sold thousands of dollars if they had just stocked inventory.
4 out of 5
The shows were hit and miss. The singers and dancers were really good. The harpist was poor. The comedian was average, the Motown singers were great. The tango dancers were good, the magician was poor. The New Year’s Eve Party was great. Musicians were very good except one woman who looked like she absolutely hated what she was doing.
5 out of 5
Very quiet and enjoyable. A good place to look out forward.
No Children, if anything it was a nuisance because they monopolized the pool and hot tubs.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Our Room steward Ram and assistant Buddy were two of the best we have ever had. Our waiter, assistant and Maître d. Were incredibly helpful and excellent. All staff members were friendly and helpful including the captain.
5 out of 5
The ship, although older was very well maintained and always clean and the layout was very easy to follow, and the signage was excellent. Never even the slightest problem finding things
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
The room size was fine. The couch was nice. The balcony was very private and enjoyable, even when it was very cold in Antarctica. Jets in the bathtub were nice. Plenty of storage space. My only negative is there was no outlet near the bed, we had to run an extension cord to the desk area for a c-pap machine. But we knew about the problem before coming so we were prepared. The pictures got a little old after over 3 weeks and the small screen television was hard to see.
Be sure to get a veranda room because in doing so you are given free of charge two extra night in a hotel in Buenos Aires which was a very nice add on surprise.
It was a terrible day whether wise, pouring down rain and overcast. We went on the Petrohue Waterfall, Puerto Vargas and Fruitillar Tour. We could not see the Osorno Volcano so that was disappointing. The waterfall was unique and Frutillar was a nice little stop. Puerto Vargas was not that impressive. Puerto Montt itself did not offer much to see
We went on the excursion that took you to the churches which was okay, but they were in need of repair and the church walls had to be propped up with boards. The craft market at the shore was nice and the colorful houses were nice, but the poverty was quite evident.
Probably the biggest disappointment of all our stops. We were told we would be going into the Andes and see beautiful mountain vistas. All mountains were at a great distance and we saw little if anything to take a picture of. A waterfall which would probably not make our top 200 that we have seen was made out to be Iguazu. There was no town and the lunch was poor.
The Chilean Fjords were very nice. It was overcast and visibility was not great but what we were able to see was beautiful. If we had seen this after Antarctica, I do not think we would have been as impressed.
We saw Brujo Glacier, but I am sure they are comparable. It was very nice. But again, after being in Antarctic where you saw literally hundreds of glaciers it would not have been as impressive to see it westbound.
Puenta Arenas itself was not that impressive but while there we had an excursion to Isla Magdalena where we got to see Magdalena Penguins and that was wonderful, so if you count the entire day it was excellent. We also had camera trouble there and we were able to buy a new camera in the mall near the port so that was great as well. We also saw a great full rainbow there.
We were unable to dock because of high winds, but what we could see of the town from the sea was nice, it is a port I would like to have spent some time in, but it was also Christmas Day so nothing would have been open anyway.
If it was an option, I would have given this 50 stars, it may in fact be the highlight of a lifetime and not just from a vacation, Words can never adequately describe the beauty, the serenity, the majesty, the unbelievable awesome of God's wonderful creation. The Mountains, bays, icebergs, whales, penguins, seals. It lived up to everything I had ever been told about it. The word has gotten out. 40% of the ship was under 50. A Holland America Ship with hundreds of families and young children. That is not something we were expecting. It was a perfect 4 and 1/2 days.
I absolutely loved the Falkland Islands. I was worried we would not get to stop because they said half of the visits or too windy to stop so we were delighted we got to stop. Stanley was so clean, friendly, beautiful and had the best gift shops of any place on the entire trip. We went on the excursion out to see the King Penguins at Volunteer Point. It was utterly wonderful. Five miles out of town the roads turned to dirt, 20 miles later we went off road in our jeeps and 4 by 4's. Over the grass, gulley’s, riverbanks, slick spots, rocks and around sheep. It took an hour and a half to get there and an hour and a half to get back to the main road. We had an hour and 15 minutes when we got there to see the penguins. We could tell in the distance that a storm was coming. We took lots of pictures of the penguins before it started to rain but once it did it went from 60 degrees down to 30 and began sleeting and it was blowing at 30 miles an hour. We were soaked and freezing but the penguins were so beautiful that we kept filming until we just couldn't take it anymore. 15 minutes after we got back in the jeep it was sunny again. It was fascinating watching the penguins and sheep intermingle without any problems. The huge colony of penguins were right on the edge of the ocean and it was an idyllic spot. I would love to have spent several days there. It was a fabulous day in spite of the rain.
Honestly the city itself is not that attractive other than the beautiful beaches. Once two miles out of town you are in the desert and it was that way all the way to the destination of our excursion, Punto Tombo. We only saw one town on the way out there and this was where a river went through the town. The countryside near that city was beyond filthy, litter and garbage everywhere. Rusted out cars, washers and dryers just lying everywhere. It was one of the filthiest areas I have ever been in. But Punto Tombo was a 5. The beach and the penguins were fabulous. It was 85 degrees that day and the penguins were looking for any shade they could find. We only had a little over an hour which was nowhere near enough time to do the area justice. You need to walk as fast as you can to the end of the walkway because the best areas are once you get to the ocean where you see the thousands of penguins interacting with the ocean, swimming and playing in the water and on the beach. So many babies and a bright sunny day made for excellent pictures. I wish we could have stayed for several more hours. Our ride back was uneventful, and the excursion lasted right up until the time we needed to be back on board, so we did not see much of the town of Puerto Madryn. There were hundreds of people enjoying the summer sun on the beach though and they looked like they were having a lot of fun.
I was disappointed in Montevideo. We took a city tour that included a tango show at the Alchemist House. The sights were okay, we saw the palace from the outside, the soccer stadium, and a monument to covered wagons, which was strange but nice. The town is right on the ocean so that was nice. Independence square was nice. The houses of ambassadors were nice. The Alchemist House was very strange and to be honest a disappointment and a waste of time. The tango show two was a rip off, two very old people doing the tango in slow motion. The best part of the day was after the tour going back into town and doing some shopping in the stores near the port.
We actually had three tours since we were in Buenos Aires for three days thanks to Holland America's generous two extra days for veranda suite passengers. The first excursion was on the first day while we were in port and it was a full day excursion to a Gaucho Ranch. That was the best tour of the trip. Demonstrations of horseback riding, carriage rides and horseback rides for all the people that wanted to go around the ranch, about a 25-minute ride that was really nice. We got to explore the beautiful grounds and home. Other people took carriage rides. Then we had a wonderful lunch of steak, ribs, chicken, and more beef. The beef was excellent, some of the best I have ever had. Following that we had a wonderful tango show, the best of the trip and they did not mind you filming the entire show. It was about an hour outside of Buenos Aires. The next day we got off the ship and checked into the nice hotel, the only problem was we got off at 9:00 and could not check in until 3:00. We had a wonderful evening tour that went on a river cruise that showed what locals did on long summer evenings at their riverside cabins. So many boats and water skiing. We then ended up at an art museum where we had a tour of the museum and then on the outdoor second floor patio area, we had dinner and numerous tango dancers taking turns in different areas of the seated guests. It was a wonderful evening. The weather was perfect. The next day we took a city tour that took us to all of the famous areas of Buenos Aires. We got to see all of the local sights including the Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron is buried. That and the colorful Boca area were two of the highlights. We got to see the cathedral where the Pope use to preach, the governmental palace and monuments including the Obelisk that looks so much like the Washington monument. After the tour I walked down to the "Floralis Generica" mechanical flower that opens and closes mechanically each morning and night. I ended the day by going through the impressive art museum near there. In all it was a really good day. The next day we had to check out at noon for a 5PM pick up and tour back through the city to the airport and the long flight back to the states.
5 out of 5
We were the last ones off since we were staying in town for two extra days so that was nice, there was no rush.
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