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South America Grand Voyage Segment - delayed live.


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South America Grand Voyage segment. Volendam , February-March 2023. Buenos Aires to Fort Lauderdale including the Amazon and Carnival. LONG and continuing.   

February 9, 2023. American Airlines flight at 7:45 pm from DFW, premium economy booked through flight ease.  Bumped down to aisle seats from window seats.  Seat wide but no cushion.   Flight uneventful, dinner hot but starchy, cold breakfast, no  snack.   Arrived on time, 9:00 am at Buenos Aires EZE on


February 10, 2023.   Long customs lines, over one hour but less than 90 minutes .   Next time we will pre buy easy pass for quick entry.   Met by HAL contracted representative who was a bit late and did not have agenda.  She put us in a clean taxi.  We  paid driver $2 tip for luggage handling.  Arrived at the Sofitel Recoleta around noon.  Our room was ready but still no agenda or communication from HAL. After many contact attempts I spoke with the concierge and he texted the local HAL rep.  About an hour later we finally received our agenda. We ate in hotel at the restaurant now renamed the ALMA.  It was decent though somewhat pricey.  From our room we overlooked the garden.  There was a private party and we saw tango performance 1.


February 11.  The included breakfast buffet had eggs, meats, bakery items, fancy jellies, plentiful fresh and prepared fruits, a deli board.  We managed a quick neighborhood walk before our tour.  This is a safe clean neighborhood where anyone should feel comfortable walking during daylight hours. After the walk we were met by Mariel, the tour guide and Gabriel, the driver. . Both were low key and professional and very approachable.  The tour was the Gaucho experience. Our  prepaid tour, through HAL, was to Estancia Santa Susana about 40 miles from downtown.   We did one brief pit stop at a roadside rest area.  The restrooms were free and clean.  The souvenir shop was well stocked with better truly local made items including leather goods and rhodochrosite.  After seeing a lot of rhodochrosite in the next few days I am convinced that much of it is Chinese rhodochrosite firstly because of the large quantities of solids and low-ish prices but also the reds had a lot or orange and yellow tones.  The stalactitic varieties were probably local but of low quality.  Shortly thereafter we arrived at the ranch.  As Gabriel parked the car we were greeted by Patricio, one of the sons, who is the ranch manager .  We were offered and readily accepted a wonderful empanada and a beverage.


This is a horse ranch on the plains.  They raise the local breed named Creole. It appears to be a mix of Andalusia, Arabian and quarter horse.   This breed was bred by the natives  from the wild herds left on the plains by the Spanish.   They are large strong horses which are very well adapted to the heat and are highly acclaimed polo horses .


It did reach 100 F during our visit.  We took a carriage ride.  Since the carriage is a hay wagon with no canopy I requested the short version as there were very few trees once you left the yard.  Upon our return we visited the enshrined ranch house which was built in the 1950s but the accoutrements harkened back 20 to 30 years earlier. It was built with indoor plumbing and limited electricity.  As is the tradition in much of Latin America there was an attached chapel.


After a brief rest on the shaded ramada and a visit to the shop where John purchased a belt. Mariel escorted us to the best and private  table in the restaurant for a beefy dinner and a show.  This was our highest point for Buenos Aires.  We were given a bottle of red wine and offered white wine, soda and sparkling water.  The meal started with family serving salads - peppers, slaw, mixed lettuces,  tomatoes and a potato beet salad.  Bread was offered though neither of us tried it.  Then came the meat and it just kept coming. Beginning with beef sausage which was very meaty though not highly spiced then blood boudin which had a much creamier version than either the Louisiana or Azores versions. It was not my favorite boudin.  We were offered chicken but passed.  Then came the sirloin which was scrumptious but cooked a bit more well done than I would like followed by tenderloin. All had been cooked on a pit and were very good. Dessert was a caramel ice cream with chopped peanuts.  The coffee was syrupy sweet.


Plates were cleared and the show commenced.   The show started with some standard Spanish folk/ranch songs. This was followed by a very traditional tango (performance 2) then a gaucho folk dance.   I was pleasantly surprised that all performances were very good.   After lunch there is a horse “show”, I called it a dusty stampede and your time would be better spent for a final walkabout.   Overall the Santa Susana has developed a very good tour maintaining an excellent standard.  We are generous tippers and  gave US$20 and US$20 for guide and driver which was met with pleasure.  Tour Recommended.


As an aside we never exchanged money in Argentina. We strictly used USD.  Euros were accepted also.


We returned to the hotel around 6. Usually the tour is slightly shorter but since we were the only pre-cruise guests ours was a bit longer and more leisurely.


February 12. After breakfast we checked out and we were met by our city tour/transfer guide and driver Juliana and Pablo.  This was part of the HAL hotel package and unbeknownst to us the transfer includes a 5 hour city tour.  This included the highlights of the city with time to for a walk at the Cathedral/Casa Rosada,  at the homesite of Eva Peron and an extended walk time in Boca.   The final stop was for Cafe Tortoni where a reservation and a preset menu had been arranged.  Cafe Tortoni has a lovely European cafe style and they do limit guests so it is not crowded inside.  The menu included coffee, mate or chocolate accompanied by the honeyed croissants and cheese/ham sandwiches. The Argentinians seem to have a special fascination with these sandwiches which are crust less white bread, processed cheese and pressed ham.  I sent them home with my guide.


Our guide and driver delivered us to the port,  giving our luggage to the porters and handing us off directly to the HAL agent.  We tipped the driver $10 and Juliana $20, $2 to the porter.


The HAL agents checked us in , escorted us through customs and onto the ship.  All agents were very pleasant. Warning here - if you can carry your own luggage as it was many hours before it will arrive at your cabin.  We then proceeded to the theatre where our Covid vaccination records were examined and our passports taken. I am telling you this as it will become significant part of a bad experience in the upcoming days.


Our room for this cruise was a large outside view cabin.  It has a large queen sized bed, a desk/vanity and comfortable chair, a table and a full sized couch.

The desk has drawers for storage, there is under bed drawers for storage and there are ample closets.  The bathroom has a modern walk-in shower, small vanity area and only three small shelves and a very small under vanity shelf.  We stored extra toiletries in a platicized HAL tote bag under the vanity shelf. The luggage handily fit under bed.


We spent the remainder of the day exploring the ship and in the hot tub. Since there was prime rib in the lido and not in the MDR we ate in the lido.  He had the traditional prime rib dinner and I enjoyed Asian lands.


Monday February 13. Many museums, venues and shops are closed on Monday. The ship operates a free shuttle between the port and the Galeria Pacifico.  The drop off is directly across from a pleasant park and about 2 blocks from the Galeria shopping mall.   We ambled about for a few hours then headed back to the ship for some hot tub time prior to dinner.  The hot tub is barely warm with only one operational.  As the ship just returned from the Antarctic I am assuming this will be corrected.


When a guest chooses a Grand Voyage segment they must use a guarantee cabin and anytime dining.  We did ask for changes to our cabin and were accommodated then we’re offered a small upgrade for a modest fee but not a bargain.


We went for anytime dining around 6:00 and immediately were seated at a table for two with Roland who was an excellent waiter. This ship, the Volendam, has the friendliest crew I have ever experienced on Holland and that is saying something as Holland is known for its welcoming crew.  We ate light opting for HAL classics - Caesar salad, French onion soup and salmon.   We were not disappointed.


We attended the 7:00 show with local performers and what else - Tango and Gaucho folk dancing.  Performance 3 proved to be very good as it was a modern interpretation of the traditional dances.   During costume change the  interludes were multimedia of the historical view of these art forms.  Recommend.


We had booked the overland 4 day/3 night Iguazu Falls tour.  Be warned this sells out quickly, do not delay if you choose this option. My many Brazilian colleagues told me this was the must see natural area for South America.  Of course you could arrive early to Buenos Aires and make independent arrangements.  We were scheduled to leave the ship at 7 am.  Arising early I called room service for coffee which was freshly brewed and soon arrived.  We only packed carryons to keep it simple.   (People - there really is no reason to carry a wardrobe.).   We boarded a bus for the domestic airport, a 20 minute journey and were handed our boarding passes.  We arrived with ample time and soon we’re boarding our 737-800 for Iguazu, Argentina.  This is a commercial flight, it was full, we were congregated together with fellow HAL passengers. We were 41 passengers and one guide.  The flight is about 2 hours with coffee service only. Arriving we quickly regrouped and we’re divided into two coaches. This was done so each local guide could manage customs easily.  We needed to pass through both Argentina customs and Brazilian customs.  The entire process broke down at the Argentina border where my husband’s passport was declared a problem.  It seems HAL had declared he had been in Uruguay, he had not, yet failed to provide the mythical return to Argentina. We were removed from the bus and left with a guide with no clear resolution as the buses pulled out leaving us stranded in a frontier border crossing. We could not go forward nor backwards because of HAL’s mistake. Our airline, our BA hotel and or BA tour company all reached out to customs yet we were unable to contact HAL for their admission of mistake.  I finally suggested to the guide to pay whatever it took to get us moving.  And that is what he did.  Since he has a contract with HAL he recommended that he pay the fee and forward HAL the bill.  I graciously accepted his offer.  Within an hour we were in our way in a hired car.  Upon my return to the ship I intend to have a meeting.


More to come in a few days.  Photo below is a spoiler alert - the falls are wonderful


Edited by Mary229
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We arrived Tuesday evening at the Belmond hotel which is a first class hotel located inside the  Iguazu National Park in the Brazil side with a grand view of the falls.  It is a classic old structure in pristine condition.   The service is gracious and comfortable.  We were assigned a forest wing room which does not have a view of the falls .   There is a fully stocked minibar.  You are allowed to consume the entire minibar free, any requests for refill will be charged to you.  They do provide extra coffee (Nespresso) and 2 daily mineral waters free. There is also a kettle and tea.   All meals are included in the HAL package.  Most are buffets at the hotel or in the park.  All buffets had an extensive salad bar and a BBQ pit.  We were never hungry and always had acceptable options.  The restaurant seemed to have an issue correctly charging beverage purchases.  Watch your bill carefully.


Wednesday, February 15

We were promptly met by our guides after breakfast.  Day one is the hike on the path of the falls.  It is fully paved with some steps.  It has extensions for views and a marvelous path leading to the base of the cataracts. If you amble and take in the views it will take at most 90 minutes, at a fast pace you could complete in less than a half hour.  It is easy but it is not accessible, this entire tour is not recommended for those with mobility impairments.  It is one way and the final ascent is by elevator back to street level.  A short walk takes you to the lunchroom. There are souvenir shops and a little time to shop.


After lunch you are loaded on a waiting coach to take you to the boat adventure.  You are taken on a luxury cart down through the forests to a funicular down to the waters edge.  There you are lifejacketed and  loaded on an open boat.  You will get wet and you will have a great time.  Speeding off to the falls you soon arrive in a canyon of falls as the boat goes from fall to fall drenching the guests.   Even the most dour person will have to smile.


We then returned to the hotel with enough time for cleaning up and happy hour.  The bar has interior and a verandah with a view of the falls.  There is a pianist every evening. There are various salons in the public areas to relax and read also.  After enjoying some local beverages we gathered for dinner.   The group is limited to around 40 - a comfortable size for sociability.  All meals are taken together at an 

appointed time except breakfast which is 6:30 until 10:30.

Below is a map of the Brazil park



Edited by Mary229
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Thursday, February 16

Time to take our chances with customs again as we head over to the Argentina side of the falls.  It takes about an hour transit with the border stops.  We were dropped off at the visitor center.  Just a word about restrooms and facilities.  Both parks have ample clean, rest facilities and services not only at the visitors’ center but also along the trails.  All trails are well developed, paved or steel.  It can be warm but you can cool off by seeking shade.   Bring repellent, hat and water.  There are many Coatis and Capuchin monkeys along with cayman, turtles, butterflies, large fish and many birds.


We took three hikes, the last very short and the other two perhaps 20 minutes each.  Since you are now on top of the falls there is no elevation change and very few stairs.  The Devil’s Throat trail was sadly closed due to maintenance.   Since all trails meet at a hub if at anytime you tire you can stay at the hub to rest under a canopy and watch monkeys


Upon our return we had lunch at the restaurant then boarded the bus to return to Brazil.  Close to the entrance to the park there is an aviary center where you can be dropped off.  The hotel shuttle will pick you up later.  I was very hot and decided not to go. I regret this but it gives me a reason to return.


That evening we enjoyed our farewell dinner. We retired early for an early start to the local airport.


Friday, February 17


We boarded the coach at 7:30 am and were soon at the airport. The guide manages all airport checkins.  When you get on the bus he hands you a boarding pass.  He also will try to arrange early boarding with the gate agent. All HAL guests are seated together.   


The flight was a few minutes late but not significant. Once we disembarked and gathered luggage we were put on another coach for the trek from Sao Paolo to Santos where we meet the Volendam .    They provide a lunch which is not particularly nutritious nor good and once again I am glad I carried my nut mix.   This ride through the Atlantic rainforest can take anywhere between 1 and 3 hours.


Our guides were Maxie and Val of Shore Exploration Group.  Both were excellent.  Maxie managed logistics and Val was our local expert.   Tour Recommended.


We arrived back at the ship at 2:30 and they demanded our passports. HA HA, that’s not happening.  We had our first meeting with a junior officer.  I will update as it works out.


images:  DH at the Argentina falls, map of Argentina park, road to Santos 





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Interesting report, we have a friend and hubby on the ship at the moment that are doing the full Grand SA.  We are booked to do the October Grand  SA so following this thread as it is great to hear your views and recommendations.  HAL just release our shore excursions last week.  Thanks so much for posting.



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I will give another report in a few days about the Carnival events at the Sambadome.    If anyone has any other questions I can try to answer them then. 

since I haven’t been on the ship much I can only say my room is in very good condition.  Upon my return from the Carnival festivities I will get into the cruise groove and take my seat at my fixed dining and start participating in ship activities.


 DH and I have a bet going on how long we can last the night’s activities.  The parades start around 9pm and we can stay until 3 but the shuttle back starts at 11:30.  I hope to take at least a photo or two to capture the excitement.   As we drove around Rio today the city was starting to come alive with carnival excitement.  This is the first carnival since 2020.  

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23 hours ago, Mary229 said:

I will give another report in a few days about the Carnival events at the Sambadome.    If anyone has any other questions I can try to answer them then. 

since I haven’t been on the ship much I can only say my room is in very good condition.  Upon my return from the Carnival festivities I will get into the cruise groove and take my seat at my fixed dining and start participating in ship activities.


 DH and I have a bet going on how long we can last the night’s activities.  The parades start around 9pm and we can stay until 3 but the shuttle back starts at 11:30.  I hope to take at least a photo or two to capture the excitement.   As we drove around Rio today the city was starting to come alive with carnival excitement.  This is the first carnival since 2020.  

We were there in 2018 and saw 5 of the 8 groups. We were tired but it was so hard to leave. I think the better groups were shown first - just my opinion regarding the night we went. It was amazing.

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