by Lise S
November 11, 2007
This review describes our 28 days back to back cruise of South America, Nov 11th to Dec 9, 2007. First, let me say that my husband and I are very positive travelers and we tend to see the glass half full rather than half empty. Also, we have learned to keep an open mind during our travels and to thoroughly appreciate and learn from every experience and focus on how lucky we are to live such wonderful life experiences. If there are problems, we discreetly go the source and it is solved. Also, we are encouraged to fill out comment/suggestion cards and leave them at customer relations desk, where they are considered very seriously. No need to bicker outloud. Sadly, there are too many picky, demanding and criticizing travelers. For the most part, on this cruise, the guests were kind, polite with a good sense of humor, which is needed during travels. Also, most of the passengers were of mature age which translated in a quieter atmosphere. We are pleased to have met many wonderful fellow cruisers from around the world.
Our cruise began in Fort Lauderdale where we arrived at the port around 11:30AM. Embarkation was quick, efficient, courteous and within one half hour we were having lunch at the buffet, after which we changed and headed for the pool. Our room was ready at 1:00PM and our suitcases arrived around 3:00PM.
We were graciously greeted and served champagne cocktail. The ship was beautiful, spotless and very impressive. Muster drill at 4:30 was quick (30 minutes).
Celebrity went out of their way to please their guests and make our vacation as pleasant as possible. The entire staff was amazing, and we were treated royally on this cruise. During sea days, we relaxed and participated in a few of the on board activities. There was always something for everyone. Every day, Celebrity Today, the daily information paper delivered to our stateroom gave a short history and points of interest of coming ports as well as all activities on board. We were well informed. The ship chose to limit the loudspeaker announcements, which was appreciated by all.
Cartegena: A Colombian acquaintance showed us around the city, the old monastery, Fort San Felipe and the Old City, and Boca Grande (the new hotel zone) all very worthwhile visiting. Loved the Old City!!! Super hot and humid. Upon returning at the ship, we were handed cold facecloths and punch. What a thoughtful touch from Infinity. (And hot chocolate on cool days.) Thoroughly enjoyed the Panama Canal transit. Lush vegetation, amazing learning experience.
Manta-Ecuador: Took a cab with another couple, 30$/3hours per couple. Took us to Monterchristi's open market where Panama hats are made and sold along with other Ecuadorian crafts. We returned to the Civic Square in Manta for more market shopping. We could have avoided Montechristi as we saw the same wares for sale. Ecuadorians are very soft spoken and warm people. We enjoyed our visit.
Lima-Peru: We rented a cab with a wonderful couple whom we met on cruise critic, the driver agreed to accompany us everywhere, The Plaza de Armas, The Cathedral, The Franciscan Monastery (Catacombs), the market and lastly to a flower greenhouse where we purchased flowers 4$/2 doz. No problem taking them aboard. The Plaza in downtown Lima was amazingly grand and beautiful. We watched the changing of the guard. The Peruvians we met are wonderfully warm and welcoming. Taxis can be rented at the pier for an average of 15$/hr. Great day, great weather! PS. The downtown area felt very safe- lots of police. Be prudent: leave valuables on board. We enjoyed the ½ hr scenic drive to downtown Lima, quite a bustling city of 3 millions.
Arica-Chile: Arica is a mid-size seaside town of 185,000 bordered by desert and some fertile valleys. We took a cab for a 2/hr visit to the cathedral, el Morro de Arica, San Miguel de Azapa where we saw an interesting and beautiful cemetery, geoglyphs. We returned and strolled downtown. A worthwhile long enough visit in a very nice and safe port city.
La Serena-Chile: What a beautiful town! Gorgeous architecture, very clean and spacious. A good blend of old and modern shopping. Get a taxi at the pier and get dropped off the Plaza de Armas for own walking tour.
Valparaiso-Chile: Valparaiso is a worthwhile city to visit, a VERY busy cargo port, many plazas, beautiful architecture and several museums. The view from Cerro Cristobal is amazing. We took a cab to Vina de Mar and were disappointed. Not too much to see. Everything is closed on Sunday. We recommend hiring a taxi and guide for an hour to thoroughly visit the city. On Sundays there are several ferias/open air markets. A reminder: Please be returned to "Embarque"(where you go through customs) station (and not the dock) where you catch Bus Shuttle to the ship. We arrived in Valparaiso around 4AM and immediately, loading and unloading merchandise began. Since our room was on starboard side, it was very noisy. You may want to request a port side room to avoid port noises.
The Second Half of Our Trip
Puerto Montt-Chile: Puerto Montt (a tender port) was one of our favorite stops. Got a group of ten in a minivan for a 3/h (which ended up lasting 5 hours) 30$/each. Visited the Petruhue Falls, Lake Llanquihue, Emerald Lake, approx. 2 hr ride each way with stops. AMAZING scenery, view of Orsono Volcano and snow peaked mountains. Much German influence in architecture, beautiful farms and estates by the lake and large modern developments. We returned through Puerto Varas, a lovely tourist town by the lake. A tour in Puerto Montt is a must!
The Fjords of Chile: Slow cruising through the Fjords was a sight to behold: mountain cliffs, glacial valleys, snow peaked mountains. Wonderful days.
Puntas Arenas-Chile: Tender port. Rented a cab for a couple of hours. Visited downtown, the Cemetery (Amazing) and walked around the Plaza (crafts markets) before returning to ship. Lovely town of 120,000.
Ushuaia-Argentina: Beautiful city, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Rented a cab for 3 hours: Visited Terra del Fuego National Park (7$entrance fee) and Martial Glacier. Beautiful scenery. Lovely shopping and quaint restaurants on main street. Loved this port!
Around the Horn: The ship cruised slowly for an entire day around the horn.
Port Stanley: Very long tendering process. Must provide more tendering boats. Weather was very variable: sunny, windy, rainy, hail. We took a shuttle bus from the pier to Gypso Cove to see the penguins. We saw them but from a distance. Very cute!!!! Walked in town, very busy this day as there were three ships in port. The island is barren, not too much to see but we are glad we got to visit this area. Very choppy seas this night, much ship movement.
Puerto Madryn-Argentina: We loved this port. We took a Punta Tumbo tour. We were 3 in a very nice SUV. Long ride but very much worth the trip as we saw and walked around thousands of Magellan penguins and their babies. What a highlight! We visited Gayman, a lovely Welsh town. Returned to town, Puerto Madryn is a lovely oceanside town with a superb promenade and shops. Great weather and great guide. We lucked out in this port. This was by far our favorite port.
Montevideo-Uruguay: We walked from the pier directly to downtown to the shopping/restaurant area. Lots to visit. A 3hr walk around town allowed us to visit several blocks and plazas. Many wonderful architectural buildings. Before boarding, we sat a little outdoor pub and people watched. One liter bottle of beer: 3$. As you can see, we opted for private taxi tours instead of expensive ship tours. This way, we got to visit touristy and out of the way sights and mingle more with the locals on a personal level. (It helped that I speak the language semi-adequately and at no time did we feel unsafe). Many guests chose ship tours for security reasons.
Buenos Aires-Argentina: Now here is a city!! All 3 million and plus.
Next day, he took us on an 8 hr personal tour of the city (the best!) Highlights: Teatro Colon (Grand building being renovated), the Plaza de Many (Gov. House, Cathedral. Town Hall, and huge and impressive works of architectural art, depicting ornate Spanish and colonial styles), Recoleta area (beautiful promenade and fashionable stores and homes) and the Cemenatrio de la Recoleta (amazing!), our Lady of the Pilar Church, San Telmo, La Boca (very interesting historically and visually, the setting for painters, artisans, open air tango shows.
Shopping: We shopped two full days on Calle Florida and Lavalle. Incredible experience: Beautiful stores, leather factories abound (I had a jacket made to order, very reasonably priced), thousands of people, outdoor tango dancing, musicians, etc. Very busy city. A visit to Galeria Pacifica is a must. One would need several days to thoroughly absorb and visit all that this city has to offer. We were quite impressed. The train and subway ride (extremely inexpensive) from Adrogue (1-1/2hr) to downtown was an adventure and an experience in itself -- not for the claustrophobics and not up to North American standards. There is also a mini-bus service if one chooses. We stayed at Teresita B&B: very comfortable and quiet cottage, good service. We flew back to Miami with American Airlines. All went well. We returned home on Dec 20th, in time for the holidays. This was a trip of a lifetime which we will remember forever. We made great friends. Would we travel on Infinity again? Definitely Yes, in a heartbeat.