Voyage to the’ ‘End of the World’
Sailed with NCL for the first time having done mainly P&O cruises before. The Norwegian Sun was lovely having a recent refit and refresh. We chose the ship for its destinations as we wanted to sail round South America. We flew out early and had 3 nights in Santiago before the cruise, but NCL organised very efficient and fast transfers for us to the hotel from the airport and from the hotel to the port on embarkation day. Very impressed. There was even a dedicated help desk in the hotel for passengers and offered some tours of Santiago and vineyards for those who came just a day before. However, we didnt know this in advance so we organised our own tour of the Concha y Tora vineyard through the local tours desk. The hotel was the Santiago Sheraton in an excellent position with fantastic views over their pool to the Andes. Ten minute walk across the road and you were in the bustling Providencia area, with lots of choices of restaurants. We were able to eat cheaply with 2for 1 deals up to 8pm. We enjoyed our first Traditional Pisco sours. The transfer to San Antonio port took about 1 1/2 hours but we got on board quickly and were able to enjoy an early lunch and our first free drinks. Our Premium Plus package included all drinks up to 15 dollars each, which was most things; speciality coffees in the restaurants; two litres of mineral water a day in our cabin plus 250 free WiFi minutes and all tips and gratuities. In addition we got 50 dollars per cabin off ship tours for each port of call which made a big difference as the tours are very expensive, but we felt we should take them as we didnt speak Spanish. The ship had all nationalities on board with a lot of Germans and Spanish speaking countries. However, the cruise staff all spoke English and it was used as the first language in all the quizzes, with translations for the questions on the screen in up to 4 other languages. It worked well and nobody took them too seriously anyway. The cruise director, Jaimy, from Colombia, was brilliant and swapped seamlessly from English to Spanish when introducing shows or explaining things. We had cabin 6024 which was an outside window on the port side so we saw land most of the time. It was a perfect position for us in a quiet, almost secret corridor. You accessed it by a dozen stairs down from deck 7 through the Art gallery towards the front. It was very near to the lovely Champagne bar on 7 where we could listen to the live music coming up the Atrium from deck 5. It was also only down one floor to get out onto the promenade deck to take sheltered photographs of the beautiful scenery especially in the Beagle Channel where we passed 5 glaciers all on the port side when sailing down the west coast. I would book this cabin again. Of the places we visited, Puerto Montt had tours to neighbouring lakes and towns which were interesting, but it was too misty to see the Orsorno Volcano; Puerto Chacabuco had nothing in the town so we did go on a long drive over the Andes to Coyhaique. We saw some Condors but nothing very spectacular. The tour got back an hour after the back on board last tender, but of course the ship waited so no problem. Puerto Arenas had some interesting things in the town so we caught the shuttle bus in and walked a lot. We visited the cemetery where the rich were buried - free entry- and went in the Maggiorino Borgatello museum founded by Salesian missionaries which was open all day because the cruise ships were in - a small charge. The best parts were sailing the scenic fjords, Beagle Channel and Ushuaia nicknamed Fin del Mundo or End of the World. There we took a 4 hour coach trip into the Tierra del Fuego park - land of fires. I was very disappointed with th shore excursions desk as they didnt know anything more about their tours than was printed on the sheets. So when I asked if the tour stopped anywhere we could get a stamp for the End of the World in our passport or on a stamp, she said no. We were then delighted to find our first stop in the park was at the Beagle Channel which divides Argentina from Chile and there was the cute, tiny, Fin Del Mundo, post office, so we could buy a postcard, get it stamped and even post it. Other stops included a beautiful lake, the visitors centre and the last at the end of Route 3 which runs all the way down the Americas. A great tour! Back in Ushuaia the Tourist Information centre near the pier were writing out certificates and date stamping them to mark your visit. The next highlight was sailing to Cape Horn in good sea conditions, though sadly the wind got up the next day and prevented us landing at the Falklands - a common occurrence I believe as you have to tender in. However, we were refunded the landing charge. Puerto Madryn was a delight with its Welsh connections. There we went to see the Patagonian dinosaur museum and learnt all about the largest dinosaur ever found- only about 4 years ago. In the harbour were several penguins performing for us - a bonus as we hadnt gone on any of the expensive tours to penguin rookeries and had almost given up hope of seeing one. In Montevideo we took the ships bus tour which was very interesting and covered a lot of highlights including the World Cups first stadium from 1930! The entertainment on the ship was generally excellent though not always to our taste when it came to the Flamenco and tango shows but you were exploring Latin America. There were two outstanding shows from the Abbey Road Beatles from Brazil and the ships entertainers did 3 lively ones and there was a very good magician on our last night. All in all, the cruise was excellent value for money and we loved it all. My only criticism would be that there were not enough seats for everyone on a rough sea day when everyone wanted to be inside and the Windjammer bar was just too small and crowded. We had never been freestyle dining before but never had a problem getting a table and found we could ask for our favourite waitress. We only ate in the Seven Seas complimentary restaurant at the rear, because that was slightly less casual than the other places and we do like changing for dinner. Food was excellent and they even produced cheese platters for us even though not on any menus. The staff were just so nice and friendly mealtimes were a pleasure. Hope this helps anybody wanting to cruise round South America.
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