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About AryMay

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

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    Photography, cruising, travel
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Holland America, Princess
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  • If you have a personal or hobby CRUISE or TRAVEL BLOG, include the url here:

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  1. Just be careful when you are checking on prices on the HAL website. I made the mistake of trying to check on flights from a different airport than where we had made our Flight Ease reservation to see if flights were any cheaper and our reservation was cancelled without me knowing it. Things eventually got straightened out with the help of a manager in the flight department who admitted it was a problem with how the website worked. This was last summer so hopefully they have corrected the glitch that caused the reservation to get cancelled.
  2. I am working on the Ushuaia post for my blog right now...hope to get it posted in a few days! Trying to sort through all of the photos! (Link in signature.) Not sure what price you were quoted. We just paid the same price we had negotiated with Ruben and it was a lot cheaper than any of our other tours on the cruise. He quoted us a price per car. The entry fee for Tierra del Fuego was NOT included in the tour...we paid it ourselves via credit card. The price was about $13/person. Ruben's email is ruben-ushuaia@hotmail.com if you would like to contact him as well. I was very happy with the communication we had prior to arriving and was confident he would have given us a good tour. I also appreciated that he made the effort to find a substitute tour guide for us instead of just cancelling and leaving us with nothing planned. Our ship didn't arrive in Ushuaia until noon. It was 12:30 by the time the ship was cleared and we got off. We had to be back onboard at 7:30 and according to my notes Frederico dropped us off at the port a little after 6:30 pm. Good luck on your planning. Here is a photo of what you have to look forward to!
  3. After planning for over a year, we just returned from a 22-day cruise to South America and Antarctica on the Holland America Zaandam. We also added several days in Santiago before the cruise and a visit to Iguazu Falls post-cruise. I used to do long, detailed cruise reviews here on Cruise Critic but found after a few weeks the reviews would fade to the back pages of the boards. I like that reviews help others with their planning, but my main goal in doing reports is to preserve our own travel memories. A few years ago I decided a better way to record our trips was to do a personal blog. During our trip I kept daily notes, but I am just now starting to do the daily posts and I wanted to let others know. I get so much information from reading travel blogs that I hope I can also be a resource to others. We were on the Holland American Zaandam, but most of the blog is not ship-specific. Writing the daily posts is also helping me sort through, edit and organize the thousands of photos we took. I promise I won't posts thousands of photos on the blog, but I do include quite a few! 😉 The link is in my signature or you can click here: My Souvenir Memories Blog If you are planning a trip for next winter, this might help pass the time until then!
  4. I just realized that I skipped the port of Montevideo. This was our last stop before reaching the end of the cruise in Buenos Aires. Montevideo, Uruguay – No tour booked. The four of us walked off the ship and across the street to where we could purchase tickets and board a Hop on Hop Off bus for a city tour. We used a credit card for the tickets and were charged $44.58 USD. We were given head phones so we could listen to the narration in English, but mine was not working correctly. Each time the bus came to a stop the volume would automatically go down too low and it would switch to Spanish. It must have just been where I was sitting because no one else seemed to be having problems. The full tour took a couple of hours. We didn’t get off at any of the stops, but just did the full circuit back to the port. This brought us to the Puerto del Mercado…a large shopping area that had souvenir shops as well as many eating establishments selling “asado”…meat grilled over open fires. We walked through the shops and picked up some souvenirs but didn’t stop to eat. Again…the day was very hot and having a meal in a non-air conditioned restaurant didn’t sound fun.
  5. Iguazu Falls – We added three nights to our trip post-cruise and booked a package tour to Iguazu Falls through 01Argentina. The cost was $620/person and included all of the transfers, 3 nights for hotels, and a guide at the falls. Here is how it worked out…driver picked us up at the ship when we disembarked, waited while we dropped off our luggage at hotel in Buenos Aires and then took us to the smaller airport (AEP) for our flight to Puerto Iguazu. A shared shuttle took us from the airport to our hotel in Iguazu. Next day a shared shuttle picked us up at the hotel and took us to the falls where we had an all day tour and then returned us to our hotel for the night. We had gotten Argentinian pesos for the entrance into the park which was 700 ARS per person (~$18 USD) but could have used a credit card. Next morning we were picked up at the hotel, driven to the airport for our flight back to Buenos Aires. A driver picked us up at the airport, returned us to the hotel where we had stored our luggage. Early the next morning we were picked up and taken to the international airport (EZE) for our flight back to the U.S. Not sure what all of this would have cost if I had booked it on my own, but it was so nice just to have drivers show up and take us where we needed to go. The heat and humidity at the falls was very intense, so my friend and I sat out on the last section (the lower falls) while our husbands did the walk. I know many people visit both sides of the falls (Argentina & Brazil) but I wasn't sorry we only did the one side. I was really wiped out by the heat and after being gone for a month, I was just ready to go home. Also doing both sides of the falls requires another entrance fee and a Brazilian visa. We did get yellow fever vaccines in advance but didn't see any mosquitos at the falls. I guess it is better to be safe than sorry.
  6. Buenos Aires – Our ship stayed here overnight and on the first day we took a tour organized through our Cruise Critic roll call with Patagonia Shorex. The cost was $98/person since we had a group of 12 or larger. Again the weather was very hot and it was nice to have an air conditioned minibus for the tour. We saw many of the sites in the city and got out of the bus to walk around at some of them. I was amazed at all of the information shared by our guide during the tour.
  7. Puerto Madryn – Going to Punta Tombo and the Valdes Peninsula were the main choices for this port. Both are long (~ 2 hours each way) drives so I was happy to find an alternative that was half the distance. We booked an all day tour with El Pedral…a small hotel located near a large colony of magellanic penguins. We were one of the first to get off the ship but our guide, Rita, was waiting by the gangplank holding a sign with our names. There was one other couple from the ship who joined us and then we picked up another couple from in town for a total of 8. The drive to El Pedral was about 70 km and mostly over rough, gravel roads. Along the way we stopped to get photos of the guanco (similar to a llama) and rheas (similar to an ostrich) which were running wild. We visited the Punta Ninfas lighthouse which sits on a cliff. We saw one sea lion on the beach below…sometimes there are more. After a stop at the hotel where we could use the restrooms, we drove 5 km to a 1.5 km path leading through the penguin colony down to the beach. The weather was unseasonably warm (upper 90’s) and the hundreds of penguins we walked by on the path were suffering in the heat just as much as I was! The huge beach was covered with small stones and penguins were lined up along the water’s edge in both directions as far as you could see. A few were swimming, but most just standing there. After walking back to the minibus, we were driven back to El Pedral where we had a lunch of roasted lamb (cooked over an open fire), warm rolls, empenadas, salad, potatoes, fresh fruit salad and Welsh cake for dessert. I also had a chance to give a bottle to a 3 month old orphaned guanco who had been adopted by the people at El Pedral. This tour was $120 USD per person and was an excellent alternative to the longer and more expensive tours to Punta Tombo or the Valdez Peninsula.
  8. Falkland Islands – Over a year before our cruise, I had booked a tour with Patrick Watts to go to Volunteer Point to see the king penguins. The tour is done in land rovers and the four of us shared a vehicle with the driver. The drive to Volunteer Point is rough…even rougher than the boat ride to Magdalena Island. My iPhone health app recorded I had climbed 92 flights of stairs and that was just from the bouncing on the drive!! I would not even consider this tour if you have any back problems, but seeing the thousand of penguins (king, magellanic and gentoo) made it worth the torture for us. We had about an hour and 40 minutes once we reached Volunteer Point. We were given sack lunches containing sandwiches (half tuna salad and half egg salad), chips, cookies and a bottle of water. At the end our driver gave us a quick tour of the city of Stanley and dropped us off near the church with the whale bone arches not far from the tender dock. We were able to do a little shopping as we walked back to the ship. I was worried that our day in port was going to be too short (8 am to 4 pm) but it worked out. The last tender was to leave at 3:30 pm but the line was so long that the ship sailed much later than planned. Oh...and we were also given a flash drive shaped like a little penguin with loads of photos from the Falkland Islands...a nice bonus!
  9. Ushuaia – I had found a driver (Ruben M.) on TA and made arrangements to have him pick us up at the dock for a private tour for just the 4 of us. Instead, we were met by a different guy (Frederico) who said he was filling in for Ruben because he was having car trouble. I had been very impressed with my correspondence with Ruben so was disappointed that plans had changed. Frederico called Ruben and let me talk to him and we agreed to go ahead and have Frederico for our guide. Ruben had also emailed to let me know of the change, but I wasn’t able to check my email on the ship. I am happy to say that our tour in Ushuaia turned out to be the favorite day for all four of us!! We felt like we spent the day with a friend and saw much more than others I talked to on the ship later. We went to Tierra del Fuego and paid the entry fee by credit card. The cost was $25.19 for the two of us. The park was very crowded, but Frederico managed to find quiet spots away from all of the others where we could walk and enjoy the beautiful scenery. He also gave us a tour of the city and then drove north of Ushuaia where words can’t even describe what we saw. So beautiful. Frederico and his wife are in the process of starting their own tour company and hope to get a tour bus that can accommodate handicapped people.
  10. Punta Arenas – Originally we had booked a tour with GV Tours to go to Magdalena Island. Five months prior to the cruise they cancelled the tour and said the boat they use wasn’t going to be available. We re-booked through Solo Expediciones. Cost was 63,000 CLP per person. We paid by credit card on the day of the tour and the total cost for the two of us was $192.76. The comparable ship tour was around $350 per person. The Zaandam docked outside of town and we took the free shuttle which dropped us off at the Plaza de Armas. The Solo Expediciones office was nearby. Our tour was scheduled for 10:30 but luckily we got there around 9:30 because they loaded up the buses around 10 am. We were able to use wifi in their office while we waited. The bus ride to where their boats were docked took about a half hour. No boats were there when we arrived and we had to wait a long time on the bus. It was total confusion when two boats did show up. The people who pushed to the front of the line boarded the smaller boat. We ended up on the larger boat. I estimated about 45 people total which was too many people to be comfortable. My DH did not even get a seat so had to stand for the long and very rough ride to Magdalena Island. I checked my watch and it was 11:49 when we boarded the boat…almost 2 hours since we had gotten on the bus. We had been told the boat ride would be 40 minutes, but it took nearly an hour and I will say it again…very rough. We were given an hour which gave us time to walk the loop up to the lighthouse and back but not enough time to dawdle and really enjoy the experience. People had left their belongings on the boat so went back to their same seats leaving my DH without a seat again. He isn’t one to complain. This time he stood outside on the back of the boat and I joined him…sitting on a metal box. It was stuffy inside and I was afraid I was going to be sick. Having the fresh air helped. One of the employees was serving hot chocolate and coffee with some packaged cookies. I was afraid to hold any hot drink for fear it would spill in the rough seas. The boat pulled up near Marta Island where lots of sea lions were on the beach. People came and stood on the side of the boat to take photos which was hard with the boat bobbing in the water. After we returned to the dock, we boarded the buses again. Since there were so many people from the Zaandam, the driver agreed to drop us off at the ship rather than in town. In retrospect, I wish we would have booked the tour via ferry through the ship. Those who did seemed to enjoy it more. The cost would have been double but we wouldn’t have had to endure the rough boat ride. AND…if I had been guaranteed that we would not have to skip our other penguin tours (which we didn’t) I probably wouldn’t have booked this tour at all. (Read ahead to our tour in Puerto Madryn to see why.)
  11. Puerto Chacabuco – “Northern Patagonio and Coyhaique City” This was the only port where we booked a ship tour (primarily to use our onboard credits. Cost was $149.95/person.) Having a ship tour meant we didn’t need to get our own tender tickets. We were on a large bus and first stopped at the Simpson River Reserve where we had about 45 minutes to walk some of the trails. From there we traveled about 50 miles over the Andes to the city of Coyhaique. The city was much larger than we were expecting but it was disappointing because little was open on a Sunday. I needed to use the restroom and the ones in the city plaza were closed. Our guide walked with me to the bus station a few blocks away where I paid 200 CLP to use a very nasty bathroom. That used up almost all of our time in the city so I was not impressed with the tour. The included snack was more like lunch at a restaurant just outside the city. A beautiful setting and there were many different kinds of food to sample as well as red and white wine and pisco sours. Our friends did a tour with enPatagonia which sounded OK. They also went to the Simpson River Reserve and then to a farm where they were given a large lunch and a demonstration of local dancing.
  12. Castro, Isla Chiloe – No tour booked but we had a great day exploring the city on our own. Walked to the old wooden church in the center of the city and browsed through some craft markets. Got a map from the visitor’s center near the church and walked to the overlook where we could see all of the houses on stilts. From there we walked to the cemetery and wandered through which was extremely interesting. Stopped at a small local café and ordered cokes so that we could use the restroom. We were the only non-locals and I think we provided some entertainment in our attempts to order in broken Spanish. DH also ordered an empanada which turned out to be like an apple pie. There is a VERY large craft market near the port and we spent a long time going through the many stalls before returning to the ship.
  13. Puerto Montt – We had a private tour (6 people total) booked with Denis Purtov from Puerto Montt Excursiones ($85 USD/person). Unfortunately we skipped this port because the swells were too large to safely load the tenders. I was impressed with the details and correspondence from Denis prior to the cruise so feel like this would have been a good choice.
  14. We just got back a few days ago from a month-long trip/cruise to South America and Antarctica on the Holland America Zaandam. I’m not sure how I would have ever planned such a trip if it hadn’t been for Cruise Critic so I want to “pay it forward” and do a post about what we did in each port. I am in the process of updating my blog (link is in my signature) and will go into greater detail about the trip and include lots of photos. This will take some time because I am trying to sort through thousands of photos! In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions. I think most of the cruises for this winter are already done, but I’m sure there are many folks planning for next year. Santiago, Chile – We flew in early and spent three nights at the Hotel Plaza San Francisco. By booking online we got a rate of $127/night. The hotel was within walking distance of most of the places we wanted to see and had a wonderful buffet breakfast. Day 1 – After an overnight flight we were tired, but did walk a few minutes down the block to a craft market which was across the street from Santa Lucia hill. Also walked about 15 minutes to the Plaza de Armas and just enjoyed people watching and seeing many street performers (on a Sunday night.) Day 2 – The friends we were traveling with did an all day tour through Turistik to the Embalse el Yeso in the Andes mountains. My DH and I walked to La Moneda Palace and watched the changing of the guard at 10 am. From there we took the Hop on Hop Off bus and did a tour of the city. We got off the bus at the stop for the funicular going up to the highest point in the city…Cerro San Cristobal. On Mondays the funicular doesn’t start running until 1 pm and by chance we arrived a little before 1:00 and were one of the first ones in line. Our senior citizen tickets for the funicular cost 1500 CLP per person (~$2.50 USD). Regular tickets are 2000 CLP (~$3.00 USD). The view of the city is great from the top. We also enjoyed a “mote con huesillo”…a drink made of sweet peach tea with wheat kernels and a dried peach. We took the HoHo bus back to where we started and walked to El Rapido and had empanadas (quick & cheap) for a late lunch. For dinner we walked to Plaza de Armas and ate in one of the many restaurants located in a covered walkway along side the square. The cost was inexpensive and gave us a chance to try some local dishes…chorillana and pastel de choclo. Day 3 – Did a free walking tour (tips only) with Strawberry Tours through the markets. So interesting! Meeting place was close enough for us to walk to from the hotel. Afterwards stopped at the same group of restaurants/food stands in Plaza de Armas and had completos (Chilean hotdogs.) Around 5 pm we walked through the San Francisco Church (next door to the hotel) and then climbed to the top of Santa Lucia Hill. Streets were very crowded and sometime during the time we were walking my friend had her purse slashed. She was carrying nothing of value, but it was scary to think it could happen without her realizing it. Day 4 – Had hotel arrange for a taxi van to take the 4 of us to the bus station for 14,000 CLP (~$21). Bought tickets for bus to San Antonio where we would board our ship. Used credit card and cost for all four of us was $25.19…so easy and much cheaper than a shuttle. Ride to San Antonio took us through vineyards and other farmland. Ride took about 1 ½ hours and bus was less than half full. Got off at the bus station in San Antonio and they had a shuttle to the port for $5/each. From others’ experiences that I read I was hoping the shuttle would be free or that the bus would take us all the way to the port. Still not a bad deal.
  15. We also have a tour booked with Solo Expediciones on our upcoming Zaandam cruise. Were you able to pay for the tour with a credit card? I was under the impression that there was a shuttle that runs from the ship into town. Will have to inquired about this.
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