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Christmas & New Years Cruise South America Style

Author: Amelia Hesson (More Trip Reviews by Amelia Hesson)
Date of Trip: December 2012

We celebrated the New Year in grand style on the Star last night. The ship was filled with balloons and party decorations and everybody was in good moods. We ate a nice meal in the Portofino dining room where we have been eating since we embarked in San Francisco. Our waiters Harold and Mark were busy taking good care of us, something they have done since the beginning.

The headwaiter in Portofino, Pietro, is outstanding and really deserves some big kudos. He goes above and beyond the call of duty nightly, always with a big smile filled with kindness. I met a woman who was on the ship with her very ill husband. He was recovering from multiple maladies, one of which would fell any person, he was very grumpy and refusing to eat. I asked Rue (the incredible Maitre d) to get this man and his wife an assigned table in Portofino because of Pietro. Rue and Pietro handled this with such kindness and grace it made me proud to be a Princess cruiser. Every night Pietro would prepare this mans meals making sure the cuts of meat were the best, he went above and beyond the call of duty nightly and helped this man begin to eat and recover. Pietro is truly an angel, and one of the best headwaiters I've ever met. He really made a difference for me!

We celebrated early because we had to be up and out by 7:30 am for Puerto Madryn, no doubt we would make this port. We played Beatles "name that tune" trivia and the whole room was singing and celebrating, nobody caring about wining at all. I suggested a sing-a-long in the future (tonight?) because we had done many of these on the Pacific Princess last December with David Crathorne. Anyway, it was fun and we won!

It's early New Year's Day and we are in Puerto Madryn. I have a private tour today and need to go get ready soon, but I wanted to share a little about the people on this ship who have made this cruise so special. I will write more tonight or tomorrow morning, I know this is a new port and many are interested in it. Hope everybody had a grand celebration last night!

1/1/13 Puerto Madryn, Argentina

We have lost 5 hours so far and tonight we lose the last one! It has not been a big deal since we are on for 30 days, but going home next Sunday will be yucky for DH who has to go back to work Monday. By the way FaceTime and Skype work excellent on the ship, I have been using them to call throughout the cruise. Lots of people think it does not work but it does. The lovely Internet (not) mgr says it does not work however he is clueless. Make sure your families and friends know how to use them and check them or leave them open. It's a wonderful way to connect.

Excursion to Valdes Peninsula (a UNESCO World Heritage Natural Reserve)

We walked off the ship at 7:45am and found the two bus drivers and guides waiting for us. Several people canceled without telling us and several had joined at the last minute too. It all evened out in the end, just like Jerry Seinfeld said! Off we went.

Puerto Madryn is a newish town with nothing remarkable about it except it is the entrance to many natural sights; we are in the midst of Patagonia. Our guide Mimi was funny and personable as she told us briefly about the town while we drove out of it. The most distinguishing thing we noticed was a giant open dump on the outskirts of the town!

We drove on a nice highway, stopping for bird and animal sightings that were plentiful. We saw a hawk like bird, and lots of sheep grazing in what seemed to be terrain similar to California's low desert. We also spied a Guanaco, a funny camel like animal with a big white stripe going across the behind. Easy to spot that.

We got to the entrance to the park in Caleta Valdes which designates the beginning of the peninsula, a unique environment that has sea access to both sides of a strip of land with its giant cliffs of sandstone that promise an abundance of wildlife including penguins, elephant seals, sea lions, Orcas, and lots of birds. This peninsula has a beautiful bay on one side and the other is on the Atlantic Ocean. At the entrance is a nice park headquarters with bathrooms, a small museum with a right whale skeleton of a young male, a gift shop with food and some nice woven scarfs and purses and more, and best of all free wifi!

After a brief stop, we continue on and soon drive off the paved road and onto a bumpy dirt road that is not too bad, only loud. At our first stop we see a small colony of Magellanic Penguins that were easy to see and not smelly or dirty like some of the penguin colonies we saw before. We spot a couple celebrating New Year making penguin love (aka penguin porn) and of course we all take pictures. I make a movie of it! The funniest thing was when they were finished; the female just dropped in exhaustion, and didn't move for a while. I found this so funny, but I am sure there is some biological reason this happens.

Onto our next stop, along the way we spot many types of wildlife including the Quanacos, snakes, ostrich like birds, a fox, and an armadillo! We get to Punta Norte which is a beautiful spot along a cliff of sandstone, below are many sea lions and elephant seals, all molting (losing their skin fur) and playing with their babies. We see several alpha male fights that are loud and violent as the alpha gets the female haram! This spot is where Orcas are often spotted attacking the smaller seals and sea lions that swim in the bay. We do not see any of this, but that is how it goes when you are out on a safari. We ate our box lunch, which was not bad at all, only a little tasteless because there was no mustard or mayo on it. None of us were hungry any how, we've all been on the ship almost 30 days by now! You know how that goes. Anyway we all had a great day and made it back to the ship with time to spare. Because it was New Year's Day, no shops were open so we went back to the ship. This is a great tour and we all thought it was a wonderful way to start the New Year. The company we used charged us half the price Princess was charging for the same tour. A great deal at $140 pp. Below is the contact info.

Leticia Benitez
Forastero Tour
e-mail: info@forasterotour.com.ar o ventas@forasterotour.com.ar
web: www.forasterotour.com.ar

1/3/13—Montevideo, Uruguay

I will briefly tell you about Montevideo. We took a specialized tour visiting synagogues and a museum, plus some holocaust museum that was sobering and sad. It was a princess tour, ok but not great. I'd do this privately, with a group or on your own and combine it with other sights in Montevideo. I thought Montevideo was a lovely city. It's quite small and completely walkable, from the ship (which is on a canal) you can see the sea, maybe 20 blocks across the city to the other side. I didn't like the ship tour we took, that was not very informative and the guide was unclear and gave in a inaccurate information. However Montevideo was a nice smallish city, some parts clean and others grimy and filled with homeless. Anyway the shopping and food market were very close to the port and easy to walk to. We were glad we had taken a half-day tour so we could pack up and enjoy the last night on the ship playing trivia (what else) and saying goodbye to new and old friends.

The half-day tour gave us plenty to time to walk on our own. The market was interesting although we did not eat there, having hit the wall of too much food on the ship! The shopping was okay, but we were spoiled in some of the great shopping ports like Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, Guatemala, and Lima's Indian markets. Next time I visit Montevideo, I would take a private full city tour instead of a half-day tour, and I favor private tours over ship tours although Gloria enjoyed her ship tours a lot. It's a matter of how you like to travel!

1/4/13--Buenos Aires, Argentina—Disembarkation and Half-day city tour

This is my first time here, it is a beautiful city and seems like it deserves a week or two of discovery. Sadly I only have a few days here, but I will make the best of it following my favorite theme; go go,go!

After a bit of a stressful disembarkation from the star princess, we are taken off the ship as a group and have a private transfer and half day tour of the city all lined up. After finding lost luggage, and figuring out how to deal with four extra people and their luggage, we realize it was fairly impossible. The tour organizer had indicated there would be enough room for all and there was not. They had to call for another car to pick up the extra luggage and that was taken to the hotel ahead of us, I was glad my luggage was in the van with me! This tour operator was horribly inaccurate and our initial impressions were not so good. My husband, Mr. Safety said it was dangerously full, and one person got hit in the head by flying luggage. Lots of people were pissed off by the time we got to the hotel.

In any event, after settling down into the over crowded bus, we began our tour which was really just a drive by overview and not my favorite kind of thing, we asked to be taken into Recoleta cemetery to see Evita's mausoleum. We practically had to force the tour guide to stop, but we did. We walked through the interesting cemetery and after got some ice cream, a bathroom, and a quick leg stretch before we went back into the bus for the rest of our driving tour. Finally after 4 hours we were taken to our hotel, the Savoy. We were glad to get rid of the sourpuss tour guide whose name escapes me.

The Savoy in downtown Buenos Aires is a beautiful hotel built in the 1920’s; it's Art Deco style evident everywhere. Recently renovated, this hotel is a trip advisor winner and comes highly recommended. I asked if they had any upgrades and I was given a slightly bigger room at no extra cost. The room was lovely, high ceilings with beautiful crown molding, and all the necessities including a safe, refrigerator, desk, king sized bed, and flat screen TV. Another bonus was that the free Internet that can be accessed from the lobby worked in my first floor room!

We met up with our group and walked a few blocks to a market for snacks and water, it was Friday afternoon and busy. We lingered at the hotel and decided to go to a recommended Argentinean restaurant close by called Chiquilin, a four-block walk which was easy and quick. We ate a meal of caprice salad and filet mignon, the meat was the best I have ever had anywhere in the word. OMG. If you stay here you should visit this restaurant! The cost for the meal for two, including tip, tablecloth, and bread was $64 dollars, quite a good deal.

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