For this South American adventure we arranged our own air, leaving a day early and staying one night in Buenos Aires at the Hilton. It was in a great part of the city, very near the old docks and fantastic restaurants. Through the hotel we were able to arrange for a tour of the city for only $20 per person. It was well worth the money as it showed us the many facets of their lovely city. On Sunday we took a car to the cruise pier which was only about 10 minutes away. We arrived at noon and noticed that there were already some busses which had just come from the airport. Within an hour we were sitting in the buffet having lunch. Our stateroom, Cabin 7128, included a balcony and it was on the starboard side. Our travel agent suggested the starboard side, and he was right, because as you travel most of the sites to see are on the starboard side.
Speaking of our room, it was spacious and included ample space for our clothing and four suitcases. In the dressing area there were multiple electrical plugs for our electrical needs. The bathroom, including the shower, was of ample size. It was nice to receive decent bars of soap in addition to a chocolate on our pillow each evening. Many cruise lines have eliminated these features.
The ship was in excellent shape and constantly was being cleaned. The one negative was the product they used to clean the elevator buttons with which left a nasty film. It always looked dirty and many passengers were complaining. Half way through the cruise, the crew corrected the problem. This was a minor problem and, as we said, the only fault we could find at all!
In Montevideo, Uruguay we took the Celebrity shore excursion Montevideo Highlights. It was an excellent introduction to a new city and the photo stops were interesting. This was not a shopping tour, but there were some local products available at the stops.
On Tuesday we experienced the first of the daily “chair hogs”. As it was a sea day, my wife and I went up to Deck 10 around 9 a.m. The deck chairs were taken in the Spa area. By “taken” I mean towels were spread out with an occasional book. We did luck out and take the last two chairs and were able to sit there for several hours reading books noticing that no one was around “using” their reserved chairs.
Wednesday was Puerto Madryn where we took the Penninsula Valdes shore excursion. If you take this, we suggest you sit on the left side of the bus, as the sun is on the right side going, and naturally, on the left side coming back. The box lunch was a chicken sandwich. One of ours was great, but in the other box lunch, the chicken was still pink inside. This was not a problem because the box lunches included a second meat and cheese sandwich, fruit, dessert, and water. It was an interesting trip, long at times and over dirt roads where we were able to see elephant seals and sea lions. Apparently this is the only place in the world where you can see elephant seals molting. We were fortunate enough to see two young males practicing their dominance behaviors. They were quite vocal and later looked like two book ends as “push came to shove”. Unfortunately, our bus lost its air conditioning system which made part of the trip extremely unpleasant. The problem; however, was solved when we hit the paved roads and we could open the windows.
Friday we arrived at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Up until this time the weather had been great. It was cloudy, slightly breezy, and then it drizzled. The drizzle only lasted three minutes! Then the skies cleared and it was a beautiful day. We took the Bluff Cove Penguin Rookery tour and it was fantastic. The bus takes you out to the bluffs where you transfer to a 4 x 4 Land Rover and off-road down to the sea. The locals volunteer their experience as they take a day off from their sheep sheering and farming tasks to give the cruisers an opportunity to see the penguins. Once you arrive at the bluffs, you notice that the penguins are all over – easily within a few feet of you at some points Be sure to walk down to the water’s edge. We did and had a wonderful time photographing these adorable birds as they are venturing out from the sea. Before heading back to the Land Rovers, we enjoyed cakes and coffee in the hospitality trailer. This gracious touch made the tour all that more enjoyable.
Cruising around Cape Horn also was interesting. Unlike most passages, the seas were calm and the weather clear. The captain was able to circumnavigate the entire island. I don’t know what we expected, but it did not seem that spectacular to us. I wish the ship had better explained what we were going to see including the monument to the Albatross which could be better photographed heading south than heading north.
Ushuaia, Argentina, the capital of Antarctica, was our next stop. We took the Beagle Channel Catamaran to Sea Wolves Island tour. It was absolutely fantastic. The weather was perfect and the sea was like glass. Due to these perfect conditions, the captain was able to put the pontoons of the catamaran right up to the islands. Again, the wild life was plentiful with numerous birds and sea lions easily visible. We even saw two penguins swimming lazily across the channel without a care in the world.
In Punta Arenas, Chili, we took the Magdalena Island Natural Penguin Reserve tour. This tour actually puts the busses onto a commercial ferry. It’s a long two hour trip to the island. You can get off the bus to see the local hand crafts and to buy a cup of coffee, but the majority of the time is spent on the bus. If the sea is calm enough, you can read. Once at the island, you walk among the hundreds of penguins. The day we were there, the wind was blowing quite hard, and in fact, blew my 250 lb. body around quite a bit. It was not too cold, but the combination of wind, guano, sand, etc. made quite a difficult time for anyone.. It’s a steep climb to the light house, and because of the wind, there were not many opportunities for pictures. One note, this tour includes a box lunch. As previously mentioned on Cruise Critics, the lunch is not edible. The sandwich was some “mystery meat” or “salty buttery substance”. We suggest that you take a snack along or you’ll be quite hungry. Even a baggie of nuts will get you through.
The Straits of Magellan and the Chilean Fjords were very interesting. They reminded us of the fjords of Alaska and Norway. The glaciers and numerous waterfalls dotted the landscape. Again due to good weather, we were able to get within three miles of a glacier field that was in itself three to five miles across. The weather was typical of what you would expect in glacier country, foggy, rainy, and cold. Somehow it would not have been right to be that close to a calving blue glacier and not to have had rain.
Puerto Montt, Chile, was our last port and we took the Petrohue Falls and Chilean Lake District tour. It was an enjoyable adventure with gorgeous scenery. Before going into the back country the tour guide took us through the local fish market. This is a “must see” from many stand points. It is a photographic opportunity waiting to happen from the beached fishing vessels to the locals running the market. My wife was appreciative that the tour’s luncheon was not at the market. Again, we were very fortunate with the weather. The clouds parted in time for us to get a full view of the picturesque volcano. The tour also included a lovely luncheon at a local restaurant.
Clothing was difficult to plan for on the trip, as we went from the mid 80’s in Buenos Aires and Chile to the low 50’s as you travel south. The wind chill factor also needs to be factored in. In conclusion, layered is the way to go. Be sure you have a head cover and a heavy jacket in addition to just a wind breaker. We noticed that some passengers did not realize that it was going to get colder as we traveled south and they still were wearing shorts and were without jackets and gloves.
The evening entertainment was delightful with a nice mix of comedy, music, dancing, etc. The enrichment series also was very interesting and informative. We especially liked Derik, the Naturalist. Our cruise director, Simon, was as good as his reputation.
In summation, we highly recommend Celebrity and this itinerary. We do suggest that you take it from Buenos Aires to Chile for many reasons one of which is that the trip just seems to get better as you travel. Another reason to go this direction is that if you fly into Chile you must pay additional $100 cash at the airport. Argentina does not charge the additional money.