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Random thoughts on Antarctica cruise.


FredT

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It's been a couple weeks since we returned from a Holland America cruise around the horn. A lot of the posts in this forum are people asking basic questions... not always answered in simple terms. So, here goes with a bunch of random thoughts.

 

Valparaiso. Old, somewhat shabby working class city that still seems alive and vibrant. Most of the boutique hotels are in the same neighborhood halfway up the mountain, (Cerro Concepcion) along with a bunch of upscale restaurants. Quiet streets & shops, a good place to stay if unsure of yourself, as long as you have good legs (Did I mention you are halfway up a mountain?)

 

Puerto Montt. The dock is in an industrial area, not conducive to "wandering around". We took a shore excursion that disappointed, but then it dropped us at the lakeside resort town of Puerto Varas for a couple hours. A quaint, nice place to wander around, it was the highlight of the port.

 

Puerto Arenas. Another industrial port that I would NOT wander around. (If you are not really adventurous) The pull here are the Penguins. Well, the penguins with an asterisk. If your cruise is heading south, then the Penguin colony is pretty exciting and enjoyable. If you hit the Falkans first, it's definitely a disappointment. Picture a dozen coach buses, a mile long narrow walkway, and a "viewing blind" that is wall to wall humanity. On the plus side are the stars of the show, who wander within five feet from the boardwalk, and totally ignore all the tourists and cameras....

 

Antarctica . Wow.... just Wow. We heard that you should see Alaska before hitting Antarctica, and can definitely agree with that. As impressive as Alaska is, it pales next to the Antarctic peninsula. For those "purists" who put dismiss the larger cruise ships as nothing but "drive by's", all I can say is that this more than exceeded my expectations, at 1/3 the cost. How close do you get to land? A couple hundred feet, time and time (and time) again.

 

The Falklands. A surprisingly modern little outpost in the middle of the ocean, with quaint homes, bright flower gardens, and pubs everywhere. Of course, the attraction are the penguins, and the holy grail is Volunteer Point". Well, I can attest to that description.... IF, you love off roading, have no back or neck issues, and dont get car sick. It's almost two hours of wild off roading, but it's worth it. A huge white sand beach, three types of penguins EVERYWHERE, no boardwalks, fences, or railings, and few people. Try sitting down and being patient, and juvenile penguins will wander right up to you, so close that you are looking up at them.

 

Puerto Madryd. Here is a port that invites you to walk off the ship and wander the town. A beachside resort community for Buenos Aires, it is the perfect place for those who are "shore excursion ed" out to wander, sightsee, and relax.

 

Montevideo. A large, modern but old city that most of our fellow passengers

had no clue what to do in. We elected to take a "walking tour of the architecture of the city." Big mistake. The tour took us to a theatre ( Half an hour lecture on theatre in Uruguay.) then an art Musuem (45 minutes on modern art.) then on to an art gallery. Thats when we left the tour, and found that the city is eminently walkable. In fact, the port people hand out maps of the city with a number of free walking tours on them... But thats not the point here.

 

JUST outside the gates of the port is a building that is complete anonymous, until you hear the dull roar coming from the doors. This is the " Mercado del Puerto". A huge open building with at LEAST a dozen open restaurants jammed into it. It's hot. It's crowded. It's definitely not four star. BUT, it's all typical Uruguayan. (Most of the customers were locals, hanging out with friends, enjoying the weekend) And perhaps most importantly, it's somthing you will probably remember for the experience.

 

Buenos Aires. Big, very european, LOTS of parks and fountains, and very inviting to walkers. We stayed at the Plaza, walked the whole downtown district, and had a blast. Never felt "threatened" once. Found a bunch of good local places to eat on Trip Advisor, was disappointed by Calle Florida. (Just a typical shopping street, long/crowded/somewhat industrial.)

 

More as it hits me.

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Puerto Arenas. Another industrial port that I would NOT wander around. (If you are not really adventurous) The pull here are the Penguins. Well, the penguins with an asterisk. If your cruise is heading south, then the Penguin colony is pretty exciting and enjoyable. If you hit the Falkans first, it's definitely a disappointment. Picture a dozen coach buses, a mile long narrow walkway, and a "viewing blind" that is wall to wall humanity. On the plus side are the stars of the show, who wander within five feet from the boardwalk, and totally ignore all the tourists and cameras....

 

 

 

I am going to guess you went to Otway. You MISSED the best of the penguins and a FAR smaller crowd. Magadalena Island (which you have to get to via ferry or zodiac) is isolated and definitely as good as the Falklands (and there may be a war going on again in the Falklands as well as the problems with docking there due to weather).

 

Only about 50-60 people on the ferry to Magdalena and 10 or less on the zodiac (NOT for the faint hearted or those that get cold easily-the water can be VERY rough and unless you are "properly attired" it can be VERY cold).

 

Sorry you missed the best out of Puenta Arenas!!! One of the largest penguin colonies in all of South America.

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I am going to guess you went to Otway. You MISSED the best of the penguins and a FAR smaller crowd. Magadalena Island (which you have to get to via ferry or zodiac) is isolated and definitely as good as the Falklands (and there may be a war going on again in the Falklands as well as the problems with docking there due to weather).

 

Only about 50-60 people on the ferry to Magdalena and 10 or less on the zodiac (NOT for the faint hearted or those that get cold easily-the water can be VERY rough and unless you are "properly attired" it can be VERY cold).

 

Sorry you missed the best out of Puenta Arenas!!! One of the largest penguin colonies in all of South America.

 

Definitely agree here, Magdalena was very impressive, even after having done Volunteer point. Only one type of penguin, but thousands and thousands of them. The Zodiac didn't seem to be an option for our trip (we tried looking into it, but seemed places would only do it if you were staying multiple day in the area).

 

Princess tendered in to a spot right there at town,, and it was a pretty easy walk in to the main square from there, so it sounds like they come in in a better spot (although it's a tender, not docked).

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It's been a couple weeks since we returned from a Holland America cruise around the horn. A lot of the posts in this forum are people asking basic questions... not always answered in simple terms. So, here goes with a bunch of random thoughts.

 

Valparaiso. Old, somewhat shabby working class city that still seems alive and vibrant. Most of the boutique hotels are in the same neighborhood halfway up the mountain, (Cerro Concepcion) along with a bunch of upscale restaurants. Quiet streets & shops, a good place to stay if unsure of yourself, as long as you have good legs (Did I mention you are halfway up a mountain?)

 

Puerto Montt. The dock is in an industrial area, not conducive to "wandering around". We took a shore excursion that disappointed, but then it dropped us at the lakeside resort town of Puerto Varas for a couple hours. A quaint, nice place to wander around, it was the highlight of the port.

 

Puerto Arenas. Another industrial port that I would NOT wander around. (If you are not really adventurous) The pull here are the Penguins. Well, the penguins with an asterisk. If your cruise is heading south, then the Penguin colony is pretty exciting and enjoyable. If you hit the Falkans first, it's definitely a disappointment. Picture a dozen coach buses, a mile long narrow walkway, and a "viewing blind" that is wall to wall humanity. On the plus side are the stars of the show, who wander within five feet from the boardwalk, and totally ignore all the tourists and cameras....

 

Antarctica . Wow.... just Wow. We heard that you should see Alaska before hitting Antarctica, and can definitely agree with that. As impressive as Alaska is, it pales next to the Antarctic peninsula. For those "purists" who put dismiss the larger cruise ships as nothing but "drive by's", all I can say is that this more than exceeded my expectations, at 1/3 the cost. How close do you get to land? A couple hundred feet, time and time (and time) again.

 

The Falklands. A surprisingly modern little outpost in the middle of the ocean, with quaint homes, bright flower gardens, and pubs everywhere. Of course, the attraction are the penguins, and the holy grail is Volunteer Point". Well, I can attest to that description.... IF, you love off roading, have no back or neck issues, and dont get car sick. It's almost two hours of wild off roading, but it's worth it. A huge white sand beach, three types of penguins EVERYWHERE, no boardwalks, fences, or railings, and few people. Try sitting down and being patient, and juvenile penguins will wander right up to you, so close that you are looking up at them.

 

Puerto Madryd. Here is a port that invites you to walk off the ship and wander the town. A beachside resort community for Buenos Aires, it is the perfect place for those who are "shore excursion ed" out to wander, sightsee, and relax.

 

Montevideo. A large, modern but old city that most of our fellow passengers

had no clue what to do in. We elected to take a "walking tour of the architecture of the city." Big mistake. The tour took us to a theatre ( Half an hour lecture on theatre in Uruguay.) then an art Musuem (45 minutes on modern art.) then on to an art gallery. Thats when we left the tour, and found that the city is eminently walkable. In fact, the port people hand out maps of the city with a number of free walking tours on them... But thats not the point here.

 

JUST outside the gates of the port is a building that is complete anonymous, until you hear the dull roar coming from the doors. This is the " Mercado del Puerto". A huge open building with at LEAST a dozen open restaurants jammed into it. It's hot. It's crowded. It's definitely not four star. BUT, it's all typical Uruguayan. (Most of the customers were locals, hanging out with friends, enjoying the weekend) And perhaps most importantly, it's somthing you will probably remember for the experience.

 

Buenos Aires. Big, very european, LOTS of parks and fountains, and very inviting to walkers. We stayed at the Plaza, walked the whole downtown district, and had a blast. Never felt "threatened" once. Found a bunch of good local places to eat on Trip Advisor, was disappointed by Calle Florida. (Just a typical shopping street, long/crowded/somewhat industrial.)

 

More as it hits me.

 

 

We were on the Jan 6 Veendam.....you prob were on it also.....you are right on with most of the comments.....the 4 days cruising the Antarctic sound was the highlight....especially the sunny two days....WOW....nothing compared to Alaska for us.....glad we got the extra day there rather than go to Ushuaia.....two of our friends have been there and said we did not miss much......in Falklands we went to Bluff Cove....it was very nice also....had a few Kings there also and you could walk right up to them or they came to you.....right on about Otaway.......many many buses and one washroom.....and an hour drive on gravel road....but nice in its own way....the penguins were right by you on the walkway....neat.....Puerto Montt....well not much better than the Rockies here in Canada.....except for the volcanoes in the backgound which we did not see because of crappy weather......and for Valparaiso...old and run down....we really enjoyed our 4 days in Santiago before the cruise....why stay there just a port.....Montevideo...pretty run down....we had a private tour....50 bucks and saw the lovely countryside and went to a winery for lunch and tour....who would want to swim there....brown water....yuk........more to come maybe.....

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I enjoyed your report very much, FredT. We had similar experiences and opinions on the Veendam last February, but without the Antarctic adventure.

 

Valparaiso. Old, somewhat shabby working class city that still seems alive and vibrant. Most of the boutique hotels are in the same neighborhood halfway up the mountain, (Cerro Concepcion) along with a bunch of upscale restaurants. Quiet streets & shops, a good place to stay if unsure of yourself, as long as you have good legs (Did I mention you are halfway up a mountain?)
You know you are definitely not in Kansas any longer. What a fun city! Stay in Viña del Mar only if you want a modern, generic beach city.

 

Puerto Montt. The dock is in an industrial area, not conducive to "wandering around". We took a shore excursion that disappointed, but then it dropped us at the lakeside resort town of Puerto Varas for a couple hours. A quaint, nice place to wander around, it was the highlight of the port.
We took the excursion to Petrohue Cascades. The cascades are an OK attraction. We got there before the big crowds. The coach ride was too long, but offered excellent views of the nearly perfect Osorno Volcano. The volcano and a beer at a sidewalk cafe in Puerto Varas were the highlights of the excursion.

 

Puerto Arenas. Another industrial port that I would NOT wander around. (If you are not really adventurous) The pull here are the Penguins. Well, the penguins with an asterisk. If your cruise is heading south, then the Penguin colony is pretty exciting and enjoyable. If you hit the Falkans first, it's definitely a disappointment. Picture a dozen coach buses, a mile long narrow walkway, and a "viewing blind" that is wall to wall humanity. On the plus side are the stars of the show, who wander within five feet from the boardwalk, and totally ignore all the tourists and cameras....
Punta Arenas. We beat the crowds to the penguins. Taking the first bus offered has its advantages. They say we crossed the continent on the long bus ride. Punta Arenas is considered an Atlantic port and Otway Bay is on the Pacific.

 

That afternoon we took the long walk into town near the shore with no concerns for the industrial port. The town itself was prosperous enough, but I did not stumble upon any welcoming bars or cafes. The $10 cab ride back to the ship was money well spent.

 

The Falklands. A surprisingly modern little outpost in the middle of the ocean, with quaint homes, bright flower gardens, and pubs everywhere. Of course, the attraction are the penguins, and the holy grail is Volunteer Point". Well, I can attest to that description.... IF, you love off roading, have no back or neck issues, and dont get car sick. It's almost two hours of wild off roading, but it's worth it. A huge white sand beach, three types of penguins EVERYWHERE, no boardwalks, fences, or railings, and few people. Try sitting down and being patient, and juvenile penguins will wander right up to you, so close that you are looking up at them.
We wasted our morning on board before our excursion to Bluff Cove. We should have taken the first tender we could into Pt. Stanley and had more time to see the town. Fewer penguins at Bluff Cove than you saw at Volunteer Point and a shorter off road trip that is still not for those with back or neck issues. The ride is short enough here that motion sickness shouldn't be an issue.

 

The Globe Pub near the tender dock was full of war memorabilia. No real ale available, all they had were bottles and cans.

 

Montevideo. A large, modern but old city that most of our fellow passengers had no clue what to do in. We elected to take a "walking tour of the architecture of the city." Big mistake. The tour took us to a theatre ( Half an hour lecture on theatre in Uruguay.) then an art Musuem (45 minutes on modern art.) then on to an art gallery. Thats when we left the tour, and found that the city is eminently walkable. In fact, the port people hand out maps of the city with a number of free walking tours on them... But thats not the point here.

 

JUST outside the gates of the port is a building that is complete anonymous, until you hear the dull roar coming from the doors. This is the " Mercado del Puerto". A huge open building with at LEAST a dozen open restaurants jammed into it. It's hot. It's crowded. It's definitely not four star. BUT, it's all typical Uruguayan. (Most of the customers were locals, hanging out with friends, enjoying the weekend) And perhaps most importantly, it's somthing you will probably remember for the experience.

We did the walk on our own. The town was closed up on a Sunday. We enjoyed a small flea market in the square and took the tour of the theater since there was not much else to do. The Mercado was definitely the thing. The restaurants offer meat, meat, meat, meat, and meat. Cooked over an open fire, we should have had meat. I had a beer instead.

 

I should mention that Argentina and Chile are prosperous places. I saw no slums and drivers followed the rules of the road. We did not feel unsafe anywhere we went. I did not see enough cars in Uruguay to form an opinion of their driving.

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