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Review of our 69 day cruise to South America with pics


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We planned this cruise because of its amazing itinerary, starting on 6th January in Southampton and ending there 10 weeks later. We (well I!) used CruiseCritic and TripAdvisor extensively to plan our trip (thank you everybody) and only did a few ship's tours Because there are so many ports involved I'll just write a summary but if anybody would like more info about anything we did, I'd be happy to answer any questions. I also tweeted nearly every day so it will give you more information about the weather etc. Check out The cruise was for 69 days and although it started in Europe the majority of the ports were in South America. We sailed South first of all then crossed the Atlantic to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru. Equador, Panama, Colombia, Dutch Antilles, Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua before heading back across the Atlantic to The Azores and home. WOW!! Even though I know we did it somehow when I see it written like that I can't believe it.

BACKGROUND

This was our first cruise with the British line Fred Olsen although we've cruised with various lines over the last 8 years including P&O, Celebrity, Princess, Cunard and RCCI to a wide range of ports. We cruise every Winter usually to the Caribbean from Southampton (as I don't fly) but until this cruise the longest we'd done was 35 nights. Although we'd read less than positive reviews about the ship we chose the cruise on the basis of the itinerary. I was one of the youngest passengers ( I retired a couple of years ago) and the average age was 74 so this meant it got very quiet at night. It is also a very old ship and its condition is poor compared to most other ships we've cruised on. The ship wasn't full and the passengers were 75% British with the others mainly Dutch and Scandinavian and we had a balcony which was added a long time after the ship was built so was a bolt-on (literally) to Deck 8. The food was excellent and as on all other lines the staff friendly and welcoming. If you would like to read more about what we thought about the ship , you can read my review here: http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=273662

 

SOUTHAMPTON

This is the starting point for the majority of UK cruises and pretty much the only port which offers Winter cruises. We always travel down by train the day before, stay overnight at the Premier Inn West Quay and enjoy a meal at Pizza Express- creatures of habit! Trains in the Uk can be quite expensive but a good tip is if you book 12 weeks in advance when bookings usually open you can get some excellent deals. We paid £31 each for our home town North of Edinburgh to Southampton via London and included our tube ticket.

 

We sent three of our cases in advance with a company called The Baggage Handling Company. We've used them several times before and it really takes the stress out on the journey. They get picked up from our home and appear as if by magic in our cabin. It meant we only had one case to carry on the day and a holdall with valuables and medication.

 

When we get to Southampton we always take a taxi both to the hotel and the etrminal; it's not worth walking to save a measly £5. The City Cruise Terminal is currently undergoing major renovation so embarkation was fairly uncomfortable but we did eventually reach our cabin at 3:00 p.m. My first impressions are in the review but suffice to say they weren't favourable.

 

FUNCHAL MADEIRA

This was our first port of call and one we'd visited several times before. There is a new Promenade area so we had a wander round there and 'admired' the Cristiano Ronaldo statue before joining the hop-on hop-off bus tour which eventually took us out to which is a pretty little fishing village west of Camera Los Lobos . We had planned to take a local bus all the way along the coast but because we arrived later than expected and we were told we were leaving early afternoon we felt we wouldn't have enough time as the buses are limited on a Saturday. Varying the published arraival and departure times form those published in the brochure seemed to become something of a habit for the cruise line, as it happened quite a few times In the past we've done the toboggan ride, the cable car, Monte Botanic Gardens, the Fruit and Vegetable market, street fair etc. It's a very walkable town and the new cruise port which only opened in 2014 makes this even easier. We finished off with a visit to the huge shopping mall just outside town to stock up on the essentials we hadn't had space for in our luggage.

 

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SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE.

We arrived here the following day and as it was a Sunday there was very little to see around town. However we had a great time at the African Market which was really lively and interesting and about a 20 minute walk from the port. After that we jumped on a local express bus from the bus station to La Laguna, the university town above Santa Cruz. The bus station was probably only about 10 minutes furtehr on from the market and on the way we passed hundreds of stalls all along the street with lost of locals also spreading out tthings to sell on a cloth on the ground.

 

It was an easy 15 minutes walk from the bus terminal to the town centre. La Laguna felt very Spanish with its lovely buildings and with hundreds of local families enjoying their Sunday afternoon stroll. We just wandered around savouring the atmosphere and it was great to feel temperatures were already significantly higher than those we have in Scotland in January. We found a great little bar where we enjoyed a snack and a drink and just being surrounded by locals and trying out our very basiC Spanish.

Once back in town we took a look round the Plaza d'Espana which our port presenter had recommended and it was nice enough but pretty similar to many squares around the world.

 

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MINDELO SAO VICENTE CAPE VERDE

This was our first ever visit to an African port and we loved its colour and vibrancy. Again from the port it's a gentle walk in to town – maybe 15 minutes. There's a very strong Portuguese influence obviously and we enjoyed a very laid back day savouring the atmosphere. The town is undergoing significant tourism development but it's still in its early stages although the area around the sea-front has a very modern restaurant, bar and shops. We had a great snack and drink there and met a really nice German couple who had just started a world cruise on Costa Deliziosa We followed the ship for a few ports after that but we never met our friends again. Free wifi was available in the cafe and everybody was taking advantage of that.

 

There are however still parts of Mindelo, where poverty is evident and this was especially the case in the number of starving dogs we saw which we found really upsetting. We had intended to take a taxi tour round the island but after we listened to the port presentation we decided instead just to spend the day in town enjoying the atmosphere in the numerous craft and food markets which were really interesting. We needed to pace ourselves because of the duration of the cruise and didn't buy anything – and I bitterly regretted it afterwards.

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We had a remarkably calm crossing across the Atlantic as we headed for Brazil. It was really warm with little wind but for the first three days we were plagued by a haze, thick at times which someone told us was due to the Easterly winds bringing a sandstorm from the Sahara. Whether true or not, it seemed feasible. We saw neither other ships nor wildlife during that time so we were glad for various activities around the ship and of course King Neptune boarded when we crossed the Equator. It was a fun ceremony with lots of people ending up in the swimming pool.

 

SALVADOR

There was great excitement when after six days we reached Salvador in Brazil. It is definitely the kind of place where you need to spend a few days because it seems to have a really lively music scene and although we were lucky enough to hear music through open windows and doors and see drumming we could just imagine the vibe at night.

The terminal is a fairly modern building, about 400 yards from where we docked. There weren't many facilities other than lavatories and a souvenir stall and although we were told there was wifi few people were able to access it. From there we took a right and walked along for about 10 minutes before we saw the market. It is set back quite a way on the other side of the road in a well-maintained building which stands out from some of the dilapidated buildings around it. We wandered through the market then headed out through the exit at the far end of the building. We walked 100 yards across a square to reach the elevator which took us up to the older part of town. We were lucky enough to have a booklet with a self-guided tour and so we were able to make our way round town pretty easily stopping off of course for drinks. My over-riding memory of Salvador will be of pounding drummers, lots of little squares (mainly with churches!) and narrow twisty little streets. there is also a lovely building just to the left as you're heading back to the elevator and although I cannot remember what it was called it's beautiful inside. Unfortunately I was feeling unwell: the ship was full of people coughing and sneezing and I succumbed to a nasty chest infection which is very unusual for me. With Rio only a couple of days away we went back to the ship quite early so I could rest.

 

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RIO DE JANEIRO

DAY 1

By the time we reached Rio I was feeling a bit better which was just as well as we had planned a very busy time. I cannot emphasise enough how easy it is to explore Rio on your own, at least during the day,. We do not speak Portuguese at all and my spoken Spanish is restricted to a few words although I can read it better. Having said that I use the internet extensively to organise my life so had no worries about booking in advance if necessary and found both Cruisecritic and TripAdvisor to be extraordinarily useful. If anybody has any specific questions about website / pre-booking etc I'm happy to answer them.

The ship docked at Port Muau by 7 so we had our first view of Rio, although of course the area round the port is never the prettiest. We had pre-booked tickets for the Corcovado train to visit Christ the Redeemer Statue at 10:00 so we set off from the ship at 8:30. There were taxis parked outside and our driver was great zig-zagging his way though the traffic so we arrived well before our allotted slot. We passed the Sambadrome on the way – not what I expected at all- so we resolved to visit again during the Carnival. He only charged 24 Reals which we thought was a bargain considering the distance and this was pretty much the trend. After that we didn't hesitate to use taxis and MOST of them were very honest. I would definitely advise getting Reals if you're going to DIY and we certainly used up what we got. We enjoyed the train ride up to the top enjoying some great views and getting increasingly excited to see IT!

 

Once we disembarked from the train we were able to take an elevator part of the way up to the statue finishing off with some steps. It was certainly very busy in front of the statue with everybody trying to strike the iconic pose so their friends could take a photo and selfie sticks were also increasingly in evidence and they were a real nuisance at times. It was amazing though and it is definitely unmissable. It was slightly hazy but the heavy showers that had been forecast for the day never materialised.

 

Our next stop was the Maracana which was high on our list to see as my husband and I are big football (soccer) fans. When we got off the train at the bottom of the mountain, we headed for a taxi waiting just outside. It was a bit like a movie because as I walked up to the car, so did a Brazilian couple from the other direction. I said the magic word Maracana and although they didn't speak English we somehow managed to work out that we were heading for the same place so we shared a taxi. It was quite fun as we tried to communicate with hand signals and the odd Spanish word which they understood. They were also very kind by insisting on paying for the taxi despite our protestations and then they guided us towards the entrance to the stadium.

 

For those of you aged 60+, you get half-price entry to the stadium. We only had photocopies of our passport but they accepted that as proof so it cost 15 Reals to get in as it was a Friday then 10 Reals for an audio-guide, which was very useful. We loved the tour and it was exciting to feel that a few months before, the World Cup ahd taken place there. We particularly enjoyed the Away Dressing room where named shirts from players around the world were hanging - Wayne Rooney representing England and gorgeous Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal.

 

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We were then heading for Copacabana and it had been our intention to grab another taxi but adventurous as ever we decided to take the subway when we saw the sign for it. The station is accessed by a walkway above the road, only taking a few minutes. Here again we were glad we had Reals and the cost was only 3.5 Reals for the entire journey with one change on the way. I think it took about 45 minutes maybe longer.

 

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By the way, when we were in Brazil there were about 3 Reals to the Dollar. We got off at the Siqueria Campos and we could see the sea and of course the famous beach a couple of hundred yards away. We were very excited but also hungry so we had lunch overlooking the beach and pinching ourselves that we were here in Rio overlooking Copacabana. The food unfortunately wasn't very good so we wished we'd just gone to one of the many little kiosks along the promenade behind the beach where lots of people were just hanging out.

 

We took a walk along the beach, paddling in the sea, jumping the little waves and just watching the various beach games. It was quite overcast by this time but the beach was still busy. We heard later that around that time there had been gangs of robbers on the beaches but I can honestly say we felt safe throughout our stay. If we ever go back to Rio we'll definitely stay at the Copacabana Palace preferably in a suite overlooking the sea with those beautiful waves. We made our way back to the subway station and took the train then a taxi back to the ship to have a rest and get ready for our evening out.

 

As we were overnighting in Rio we wanted to experience the nightlife but we decided to use a guide so Patricia from Riosmile tours http://www.riosmiletours.com/ met us at the ship at 9:00 p.m.She took us of course to the Lapa district and we had emailed her before hand what we wanted to do and she planned the evening well. First of all we went to a bar which had lots of lovely local food available like pasteis and empadas. In the UK we'd call them bar snacks but they were all cooked to order and washed down with some local wine there were a perfect antidote to the ship's food. Our next stop was a great little Samba bar frequented by locals.

 

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They would just spontaneously get up and dance and looked like they were having ball. Our final stop of the night was in the square by the aqueduct where there were lots of little stalls pounding out music (live and recorded) while people danced and serving cocktails and street food.

 

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We had an amazing night and we're so glad we did something like this instead of just a ship's tour because we really got a feel for the night-life in Rio.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Edited by tartanexile81
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Well despite the very late night, we made ourselves get out of bed early and head for Sugar Loaf before the queues built up. We weren't quite as lucky as the day before so had a bit of a wait to get a taxi. Still it was interesting to see different parts of the city on our way. We again took advantage of cheap tickets for over 60s then only had to wait for 5 minutes before we got on the cable car. It probably holds about 50 people and we stood at the back and got amazing views as we climbed. I was glad I read here there were 2 stages as it wasn't all that obvious but we stayed ages wandering around through 360 degrees on each level admiring the city from every possible angle (despite it being a bit hazy!) and enjoying breakfast.

 

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After getting advice on what to tell the taxi driver at the Tourist Info kiosk, we got a taxi from Sugar Loaf to Ipanema. This guy wanted to give us a tour and started off in completely the wrong direction. He pretended he didn't understand what we were saying and wouldn't turn around but we ended up really shouting at him and he eventually did. Bad experience.

 

Still we had a great time on the beach and spent more time relaxing than yesterday. We then headed towards the shops and bought our usual essentials and did a whole lot of window-shopping. Copacabana has atmosphere but Ipanema has class. There were endless taxis touring the streets of Ipanema looking for passengers and this time we got the opposite type from the last one. he was really friendly, his car was nice and he drove quickly and as directly as he could back to the port.

 

ILHABELLA

Our next port was Ilhabella and it truly lived up to its name. It was a tender port and we had to wait quite a while but it was definitely worth the wait. When we got to the shore it was a beautiful sunny day so we decided to have a beach day. We had expected to have to get a taxi but from the tender we had seen some smaller beaches just outside the town so we walked along there. The whole place is beautifully clean and quiet and the weather was just perfect; it reminded us of St Barth's for anybody who's been there. On our way back to the ship we came across a samba bar. It wasn't the best band we'd ever heard but it was great just to sit with a few drinks relaxing after our busy time in Rio. It's quite a small town but there's a good range of shops, especially ice-cream parlours, and bars. We also found a couple of supermarkets. We really loved our day in Ilhabella and so did everybody else on the ship we spoke to.

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It was Rabbie Burns birthday and as you probably know Scots like to celebrate that in style. We were more than a bit disappointed with the low key celebrations made worse by the fact they had an Englishman stuttering his way through The Address To The Haggis. There were lots of Scots on board so we had no idea why the CD chose him.

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Before we set off we had downloaded a really good walking tour of Montevideo but as soon as we pulled back the curtains and stepped onto the balcony we knew our plans would have to be changed. There was torrential rain and as we both still had the so-called "kennel-cough" we weren't sure if we should risk going out in the rain. However by late morning the rain had slowed a bit and at least it was warm so we decided to get dressed in our waterproofs and have a walk. What amazed us that there were hundreds of young South Americans on another ship and they were all dressed in t-shirts and shorts and suitably drenched!

 

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We did actually follow part of our walking tour and the city looked really interesting and the people really friendly - well the ones we met at least because the streets were pretty empty. We spent some time in the cathedral and also at the Mercado dos Artisanos just beyond the main square on Avenida 18 de Julio. There's another one smaller market closer to the port and for good quality souvenirs we'd recommend a visit to either.

 

Of course a visit to Montevideo would not be complete without a visit to the Mercado del Puerto so we spent most of the afternoon there - drying out as no taxi driver would take us due to our wet clothes we think! The market is quite tricky to find on your own. There is a street after you think you've left the port but this street is actually part of the port. After you exit the gates turn right and walk along in front of a grey government building Look out on the other side of the road after a couple of minutes for a narrow alley with souvenir shops and it's just up there. There's a big selection of restaurants but we decided to try the Estancia del Puerto as it had been recommended on this site. We drank some local, very cheap wine which was nevertheless quite palatable and a selection from the BBQ - delicious. We could only hope the weather would be better next day in Buenos Aires.

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Edited by tartanexile81
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So after Montevideo it was a short trip across the river to Buenos Aires. We were a bit concerned about the fact we'd seen a TV show in December where British TV presenters and their film crew were attacked by Falklands Veterans. More of that later.

 

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Our first view of Buenos Aires was inauspicious with cranes and container ships. We'd read on this site that the shuttle to the terminal wasn't very frequent but I have to say we found it a fantastic service and on our first day in port there were three other ships but we didn't have to wait. The terminal building is really big with a selection of shops and a large seating area with wifi.

 

We'd booked a tour with Buenos Tours and our guide Jack arrived punctually. He's a semi-pro basketball player from Denver via Berlin and Colombia where his father was a diplomat and he immediately felt like a friend with his warm relaxed personality. We'd said we were happy to use public transport as we think it adds to the experience of new places but as we'd just arrived he treated us to a taxi!! However he advised us that we should get away from the port to get better taxis so we walked up through the Retiro area to Plaza General Martin, a large park 10 minutes or so from the port.

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We headed across the city to Calle Defensa in the old part of the city and we loved walking round with Jack's detailed informative descriptions.

 

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We then took the subway a short distance from the oldest station on the oldest line to the city centre and it's hard to describe how amazing it is. We saw the quirky, the strange, the historic, the beautiful and the fascinating! Here we are at Café Tortoli with Jack

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some interesting shots!

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It's so hard to sum it up in a short review but we can only say that Buenos Aires completely blew us away and exceeded our expectations 100 times over. It must surely be the most beautiful city in South America and it definitely has the sort of vibe we love. We could truly see ourselves living there. I know I'm going to run out of space for my photos on this port so before I even start to describe our amazing evening I'll start a new post with more photos.

 

I also want just to mention changing dollars to Argentinian Pesos. We asked for Jack's help and he took us to a newspaper kiosk. We'd read horror stories on CC about forged notes but Jack was confident this was the place to go. For anybody visiting BA in the future, the kiosk is on Calle Florida and right beside Hanley's on this street which just happens to be the main tourist shopping street. You get the best rate for $100 bills and we certainly got a far better rate than we ever imagined.

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Beautiful French style buildings and boulevards - that's why it's called the South American Paris

 

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The strength of the anti-British feeling is still very strong and this camp, manned by Falklands Veterans, is manned 24/7 in Plaza de Mayo. Jack also told us that on a Thursday afternoon in this square the Mothers of the Disappeared march, so we were privileged to witness and join in with that. Argentina has a very chequered past and there were various monuments to popular heroes who had died for the cause.

 

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Also in Plaza de Mayo is the cathedral where our Current Pope was Cardinal. They are so proud of him.

 

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And of course a visit to BA wouldn't be complete without seeing the Eva Peron Balcony at the Pink House, also in Plaza de Mayo.

 

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At the end of our day tour we took the subway back from Plaza de Mayo to Retiro. I cannot tell you how easy this is and can highly recommend it. All you need is a decent map, a sense of adventure and some Argentinian money.

 

We did a tour with Narrative Tango that evening and I'll write about that in my next instalment!!

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Thank you to people who've added comments - much appreciated.

 

So after a fab day ashore we went back to the ship to smarten up and get ready for our evening ashore. We'd booked well in advance with Cyrene of Narrative Tango and we really looking forward to seeing real people doing Argentinian Tango.

 

Cyrene was very punctual and arrived in a really smart taxi with an exceptionally nice driver who very kindly gave us a tour of the city en-route to our restaurant. We went to a quirky little place in San Telmo - La Briganda- which is decorated by football (soccer ) strips donated by people from all round the world.

 

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We had local starters followed by tremendous Argentinian steaks (which the maitre d' cut with a spoon) and local red wine. We then took another taxi ride to a milonga where Cyrene, who is a professional tango dancer, is well known. It was absolutely fascinating to watch all the dance rituals and to see local people from 20 to 80 taking to the floor.

 

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Cyrene was great at explaining it all to us and although it w totally different to what we expected we had a great evening, which ended when the original taxi driver picked us up outside the dance hall and took us back to the ship. Cyrene was really good communicating from the time we booked and planned the evening round exactly what we asked for.

 

When we got back the port was VERY VERY noisy with containers being loaded all night using the loudest cranes you have ever heard.

 

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Well after a restless night because of the incessant noise so we headed off early into the city. Thanks to the tips given by Jack and Cyrene, our guides from the day before, and a decent map picked up at the terminal we felt well equipped to walk round the city.

 

We walked through the Retiro area and whilst we we wouldn't recommend walking through on your own at night in the morning is it a bustling, if a bit run-down. The next part of our walk took us through the Plaza San Martin with its lovely Park and because it was such a lovely morning we paused for a while to watch the world go by. Calle Florida, the main shopping street starts at the top left hand corner of the park just past the Kavanagh Building. There are endless shops but the most interesting parts seem to be the little indoor arcades which branch off to the right and left as you walk along the street. They seem to be themed so for example we were looking for a new phone lead and the arcade we went into must have had 15 electronics shops.

 

Close to the top of the Calle Florida is the main square (Plaza de Mayo) where we took time to have a longer look at the lovely buildings. There was a huge protest outside the Pink House and when we eventually found somebody who spoke English we were told that the protest was about the severe austerity and also anti-US because they had called in a debt.

 

We crossed the square and headed down Defensa towards San Telmo. This is a really bohemian area with a great market, lots of little coffee shops and restaurants, antique and craft shops and interesting little streets. Cyrene had recommended a great little restaurant bar called El Federal and we had an excellent lunch, accompanied of course by a glass or two of Argentinian red

 

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Jack told us we might be lucky enough to see some tango busking un Plaza Dorrego at the far end of Defensa and so it turned out. There were also lots of little craft stalls around the outside and this is another great place to take in the atmosphere of the city and do some people-watching.

 

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From there is was a short walk to the subway and back to Retiro station then to the ship.

 

This was our kind of day - doing our own thing and visiting both tourist spots and local areas. We loved it and we truly loved Buenos Aires. I know some people would rather just stick to the main sights but BA is such a walkable, interesting and safe city so if you want to really get a feel for it I recommend Shanks' Pony!!

Edited by tartanexile81
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I felt excited when I woke in Puerto Madryn because having loved penguins at Edinburgh Zoo as a child, I was going to see them in their natural environment. How lucky am I?

 

Initially we had intended going to Otway Sound but shortly before we sailed we read that Punta Tombo was better and I'm so glad we changed because those who went to Otway were VERY disappointed. Our roll call had consisted of 5 CC members two of whom were only doing a sector so it hadn't been possible to arrange private tours so we booked on the ship's tour. We don't usually like to do them as you can only move as fast as the slowest person but we had no choice on this cruise.

 

The day dawned bright and we enjoyed our trip down to the reserve. Sure it's a long way but we had a great guide who explained to us what we'd be seeing and what to look out for. The journey was mainly on an excellent road and it was only the last, short part through the ranch which was on a track. Our guide made sure if we saw any wildlife he stopped to let us have a closer look / take photos so we had a great view of guanacos and rheas, as well as an infinite number of wild hens.

 

It really is mind-blowing when you arrive because as soon as you leave the coach park there are penguins galore. We were lucky to be there on a gloriously warm, and we kept pinching ourselves as we walked through. There were literally thousands and thousands of penguins - babies, parents juveniles and we were able to get up close and personal with them. Although we had arrived as a group we were just all wondering round on our own, asking the rangers questions and I cannot emphasise how helpful our guide was and kept explaining everything to us. We also saw numerous cavies, and yet more guanacos prancing around the beach. There reserve we were allowed to access was probably a walk of a mile along a track but we had a disabled lady on the coach and she just sat in her wheelchair close to the coach and still managed to see them. I'm going to let my photos tell the story!

 

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Where's my mummy??

 

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True love

 

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Penguins as far as the eye can see

 

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Heading for the sea

 

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And some guanacos

 

We were given a packed lunch when we got back on the coach but after about 90 minutes we arrived at the Welsh Village of Gamain to enjoy a truly delicious Welsh tea and to feel like we were back in the UK. It was amazing to be driving though such an arid area then suddenly come across this oasis where there are so many market gardens created through a complex process of irrigation. It was really hot by that time and the village was so silent - obviously siesta time!

 

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One of the market gardens

 

We got back to the ship in time for sail-away having enjoyed an truly unforgettable day. I said we don't usually do ships' tours but this trip was as good as any private tour.

Edited by tartanexile81
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Thanks for your comments again.

 

Cruisetrekker -They were Magellan Penguins and there were various info boards along the walkway which told us about them. They were in Spanish and English. If you can't see the sign in photo #2 it says Give Way To the Penguins!!

 

 

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One of the reasons I'm writing this is to show potential cruisers that it is possible to DIY in South America quite a lot with research beforehand. We had pre-conceived notions about it as I think many people have and they were completely confounded.

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I'm really sorry for the delay in writing each post but life is very hectic just now. Also I'm having HUGE problems with my home wifi and after spending 90 minutes tonight uploading 8 photos and composing 2 lengthy posts I have lost EVERYTHING!!!! What can I say :mad: Well nothing I could share with you.

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I am having such a lot of trouble posting my review. Because I want to insert photos I've been trying to write it live. Yesterday I spent 2 hours on it only fro the whole lot TO disappear and again this evening I have spent 30 mins typing only for it to disappear into the ether AGAIN.

 

So we got up next morning to get ready for our tender. The whole tendering system became a real bone of contention for us. Firstly things were always chaotic in the Netune Lounge where everybody had to gathers. Lines were always long and if you DARED to get in the wrong line you'd get a very public telling-off from the obviously hung-over shore excursion staff. If you were doing a private tour or just going off on your own, you had to wait till after all the tours had departed. We took great exception to that but at least if the Deputy CD was assisting with the tours we'd get an early ticket but otherwise we had to wait. It was the same when a shuttle bus was being used and we were told we would have to wait till all the tours had left. We pretty much refused to do this and there was always a lot of talking over radios until we were allowed to go. We're pretty reasonable people and understand there has to be a bit of give and take with shuttle buses and tenders but this is a very poor system and we felt it disadvantaged people like us who like to do their own thing and arrange their own tours. Fred Olsen obviously want everyone to pay up for their tours.

 

Anyway glad I got that off my chest so – Ushuaia! Our first view of the town was of a lot of ships set against a lovely back-drop.

 

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It certainly was a busy port and at the top of the pier where numerous kiosks where you could just sign up for an activity. We headed through the car park to our coach to The Hidden Lake. We'd thought of taking a tour down the Beagle Channel but were advised against it on this board because we'd be cruising down it on the ship and so it proved: good call and thanks for the advice! On the other hand I wish somebody had advised us not to do this tour. Basically it was a drive 20 miles along a road and back with 2 photo-stops and a toilet break. This toilet break at a ski-resort was completely unnecessary and unscheduled otherwise the tour would have been far too short. Although the scenery really was lovely and we saw the damage being done by the beavers imported many years ago much more could have been made of this tour. Apparently lots of international ski teams come down here in Northern hemisphere Summer so there are cable cars leading up the mountains no doubt to great views and there were also lots lots of sled dogs which we'd have loved to learn more about. We weren't even offered the refreshments mentioned in the brochure and although the tour should have lasted four hours we actually arrived back in Ushuaia nearly an hour early. We did complain the following day but we got a very non-committal reply and certainly no offer of a refund / partial refund.

 

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Sorry about the mark on my lens in that last one but I had a problem that day!

 

 

We then wandered round the town and found a supermarket at the far end of the main street (with your back to the sea, it's to your left). The streets are very level and very well paved. There are lots of souvenir shops in that street and a few more on the pier and we bought a few bits and pieces then we decided to have lunch in Andino's Restaurant. It's a big modern building on the main street on a street corner and we had a lovely time. Our waiter was nice, it was bright and airy and the food was excellent.

 

Yet again the weather surpassed our expectations with a blue sky and lots of sunshine in the afternoon and we felt warm enough to wander round in t-shirts. Completely unexpected! We then headed back to the ship and this time didn't have to wait for the tender :D.

 

When we got back to the ship a member of the crew assisting us pointed to the water and at first we thought it was a pool of blood! No, actually it was thousands and thousands of prawns (Shrimps). Even when we got back to our cabin we could still see massive pools of blood-red creatures around the ship. We have never seen anything like it

Edited by tartanexile81
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So we were very excited next morning and made an early start to enjoy every minute of our circumnavigation of Cape Horn. Way through history it has been such an iconic place- and here we were truly at the bottom of the South American continent. Overnight we had made our way through narrow channels to this point. We saw Celebity Infinity here but because it was a bigger ship it had come down by a different route and although she had arrived before us our captain was given the OK to proceed before her.

 

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The sea was calm and although it was pretty cold we had the most amazing tour of the Cape under clear skies. We felt very lucky after all we'd heard about the weather but it wouldn't have mattered if it had been worse than this: we still would have been pinching ourselves.

 

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Cape Horn in the early morning light. It is a small island called after a place in Holland called Hoorn. We were amazed how close in we got.

 

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The Chilean coast guard station

 

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The memorial, erected in memory of all the sailors who had lost their lives in the seas around the Cape. It is the silhouette of an albatross was damaged by 200miles per hour winds in 2014 and is awaiting repair.

 

After our circumnavigation it was time for breakfast and to prepare for our day cruising the Beagle Channel then on through the Chilean fjords.

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Basically all the day after Cape Horn was spent outside - either up on deck or on our balcony with frequent cups of hot coffee. I have to complement Fred Olsen cruise lone here though. Firstly because we took on board a Chileean pilot who stayed with us over the next few days through the Beagle Channel and Chilean Fjords and provided the excursions staff with invaluable information to pass onto us in their commentary. He also advised the captain on routes to take which allowed us into pretty inaccessible places and gave us amazing close up views of tiny fjords and glaciers. We arrived in the Beagle Channel on February 5th arriving in Puerto Montt via Punta Arenas and Puerto Chacabuco and in between we saw so many awe-inspiring sights that it seemed like a dream. The whole ship was giddy with excitement and even seasoned crew had never seen anything like It and the deck outside the officers mess was never empty and our waiters and stewardesses were constantly seizing a few moments to come up on deck with their cameras.

 

I will write more about the ports in a later post but I think for the fjords themselves I should let the photos do the talking.

 

First of all I HIGHLY recommend anyone cruising this area buys this map. We read about it on these boards and bought it on Amazon. We had it held up with magnets on our cabin wall and spent hours pouring over it, naming the islands, glaciers and small fjords we saw.

 

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Thousands of Magellanic Penguins on an island in the Beagle Channel. This island was to the starboard side sailing West

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Sadly it was dull and a bit rainy as we entered Glacier Alley so views (and therefore photos) were not as good as we hoepd. What struck us though ws how much ground we could see around the glaciers suggesting how much they are receding with climate change. How sad. The glaciers here were mainly named after European countries - Holland, Italy, Germany and France but at least we Brits could claim the channel itself was named after our ship Beagle,

 

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Getting up close and personal with glaciers. You can see the ice floating away from it.

 

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The pilot took us in as close as possible to several glaciers in the narrow fjords.

 

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The cruise videographer went out on a tender to get some amazing shots. They also brought back a huge chunk of ice

 

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Our stewardess and her friend grabbing a few minutes to see the glacier.

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