by Nelson de Barros Pereira
January 6, 2002
Embarkation was smooth and organized. It took only minutes to get to the ship. This ship is amazingly beautiful, quite well maintained and provides a traditional-ship experience for discriminating over-40 passengers. She excels in quiet, refined living and has surroundings of good comfort.
The interiors are spacious (there is place for everybody, even when the ship is full), with high-ceilinged public rooms (some are two story high) and extremely tasteful conservative decor. There are fine quality furnishings and fittings, many works of art (this ship is really a floating gallery).
Public room facilities include three good size pools (one with a convertible roof, which opens every sunny day), Whirlpools, spacious and very well equipped fitness center, basket and volleyball court, spa with thalassotherapy pool, dry sauna (free of charge), seven reasonably stocked shops in the Rialto Galleries, Casino with many tables and slot machines, flower stand, etc.
The Navigator Club situated on the higher deck and in front of the ship is a confortable quiet place to read, relax or just look at the sea, during the day and a happy disco at night.
The Tastings is a nice bar/lounge where you can dance with the excellent music of Fun & Joy duo.
After dining a good choice is going to the Cova Cafe (inspired in the secular Milanese coffeehouse) for a Cappuccino and a little piece of Cova chocolate and listen to the incredible Moonlight Quartet. Our accommodations (Standard Inside) were very clean, soundproofed and comfortable, with minibar-refrigerator, personal safe and many cabin amenities (I particularly liked the light bathrobe, which I bought at the end of the cruise). The closets and bathroom were ample and the cabin nice decorated with soft colors. The TV channels were insufficient, but there is pay per view and you can always rent movies at the purser's desk.
Our cabin steward Esteves, from Costa Rica was excellent, keeping cabin impeccably clean and made up, without being noticed.
The Manhattan Restaurant is beautiful with an elegant Old World atmosphere; the electrically operated blinds featured outstanding views of the Beagle Channel. The Polish quartet (violin, harmonica, clarinet and cello) was outstanding adding to make unforgettable dining experiences.
The food was very well presented, had excellent taste and served in French style (small portions). The desserts were also beautiful, but not very tasty. The waiters, the Portuguese Flavio and Telmo were outstanding and had very good sense of humor. The Czech Maitre D' Martin was very efficient and courteous. Our Lithuanian Sommelier Sniega showed knowledge and finesse, always trying and commenting on our wines.
The Palm Springs Cafe for breakfast, alternative lunch & dinner and midnight buffets is beautiful, formed by separate small bay windowed rooms. During the day you can sit there and watch the beautiful scenarios going by, listening to relaxing classical music.
The Pizza served by the pool is very good. The stern pool serves an interesting third choice of lunch, with regional meals. Breakfast was very good with lots of fresh fruit. The Midnight Buffets were very attractive and alternated with the Gourmet Bites (waiters with trays of appetizers in some public areas). The Grand Buffet was a work of art; beautiful and delicious. Michael's Club is a very elegant smoking room with fine art works The video-cinema was nice, but featured "Evita" almost everyday. The Celebrity Theater is beautiful, comfortable and has no obstructed views. The shows were good, Las Vegas style and the musicians of the lounges and bars where the best part of the entertainment. The library is poor, almost always closed and you cannot find playing cards in the card room.
Medical facilities are excellent with very attentive personnel. The ship was very clean, extremely well maintained and staff was very friendly. The two Captain´s Cocktail Parties, where very interesting and well served. Our Greek Captain Mr. Iordannis Adamides is a very nice and accessible person. The shore excursions were very good but expensive. We took independent tours (hiring taxis or vans at the piers).
Ports of Call and scenic navigation:
Rio de Janeiro
Rio is known as "The Marvelous City" for its incredible natural beauty: the Corcovado (Mountain of the Christ The Redeemer statue) with 360-degree view of the city, The Sugar Loaf Mountain and white sandy beaches (like Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema). If possible three days should be reserved for this city.
The best way to know Rio de Janeiro is the "Rio Sightseeing" hop-on hop-off bus. Economical (about US$10 per person per day), safe and comfortable (air-conditioning and explanations in many languages), this red bus (big Coca-Cola inscription on both sides) runs every half-hour by all major attractions, main hotels and the pier. Tickets can be bought at the hotels or from the bus driver (only cash). Ask the hotel front desk where the nearest "Rio Sightseeing" stop is.
The pride of the Argentineans: a cosmopolitan city plenty of beautiful parks and interesting buildings. In spite of the economical crisis they were going through at the time of our visit, we saw no abnormal disturbance during our stay there. A city tour and later a walking tour downtown would be a good choice. Taxi from there to the pier will cost about US $5.
You can find excellent restaurants and the barbecue houses are strongly recommended, as Argentina has the best meat in the world. Try the fancy and expensive "Cabana Las Lilas" at Puerto Madero (near the pier) or the typical and inexpensive "La Estancia" at Calle Lavalle 941 (downtown). For meat lovers I recommend the Argentinian´s favorite "Bife de Chorizo"(a delicious thick sirloin cut), a green salad and a bottle of red wine "Borgonha Rodas" or any other good wine from Mendoza. Believe me, it is Heaven!
There are good shopping centers (Galerias Pacífico in downtown - there is a free bus shuttle from the pier), the fancy Patio Bulrich and Shopping Palermo.
Small city without major attractions. From there you can go to Punta Tombo Penguin Rookery or Peninsula Valdes (natural habitat of sea elephants). Both places are about 100 miles, three hour trip each way in non air-conditioning buses and by a partly non-paved road. There is a bus shuttle from the Pier to town. The stop is just in front a travel agency which charges US$30 per person for any of the two tours of the ship. There is a good market (Super Mercado Norte) on the main Street (28 de Julio 136) with a good stock of Argentinian wine.
Strait of Magellan and Cape Horn
It is very interesting to know that you are in the southernmost point of South America and feel the freezing Antartic breeze.
This place can be described as the end of the world. Located in Tierra Del Fuego (Land of Fire), it is the southernmost city of South America on the shore of Beagle Channel, surrounded by the snow covered Martial Mounts. The town center is a very short walk from the pier. There are many shops and restaurants on the Main Street (San Martin), where you can eat the famous crab "Centolla" and the Argentinean Parrillada (Barbecue). We went to the "Rancho Argentino" and the cost for a parrilla, salad, red house wine and dessert for two persons was US$25. Also on the same street (no. 294) is the Massera Ice Cream parlour, it is really worth a visit. The ship tour " Train Ride at The End Of The World" is an expensive joke (US$84), so forget it. A good tour is the "Tierra del Fuego National Park". You can pay US$47 for the guided ship tour or take a van, one block at left from the pier and pay US$10 per person.
Approximately three hours after ship´s departure from Ushuaia we saw the first of the famous glaciers of Chile on the starboard (right) side of the ship. The names of the glaciers in which order they appear are: Espana, Romance, Alemania, Francia, Italia and Holanda. Glaciers are large masses of ice (not snow) that form high in mountains until it becomes heavy and star to move downhill. This is one of the highlights of the cruise, do not miss it!
A fjord is a long narrow coastal valley between rocky cliffs that were gouged out by one or more glaciers and then flooded by the nearby sea or ocean. During the navigation of Canals Darwin and Moraleda we saw snow-covered volcanoes, a beautiful landscape and small islands full of sea lions. Another highlight of the cruise. Navigator Club or Palm Springs Cafe are excellent places to see all this beauty.
We took a van at the pier and spent all day in the tour (cost US $65 per person). After a brief tour at Puerto Montt, we went to Puerto Varas (charming little town), Lake Llanquihue, Petrohue River Falls (light colored clothing is recommended to avoid the annoying "Távano" flies), emerald green Todos os Santos Lake, where we had a breathtaking view of the Osorno Volcano. Then we had a break for lunch at a restaurant located near the lake and returned to Puerto Montt. There is a handicraft market two blocks from the pier.
The debarkation was also very smooth, but I could not imagine what was going to happen. Through the Internet, I had arranged a private tour around Puerto Montt, Viña del Mar and the transfer to Santiago with sightseeing for US $75 per person (15% pre-paid via paypal) with the very well recommend Mr. Gaston Lux. He simply did not show up! The deception of being left at the port was strong, but after a long wait, I managed to find a taxi to Viña del Mar bus Station and went to Santiago without the sightseeing of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Fortunately I speak Spanish and we are experienced travelers. I can only imagine how awful it would have been if we were one of the many Americans arriving in Chile for the first time.
After arriving home Gaston sent me an e-mail offering apologies and a US$20 refund. What an easy solution!
I will never contract tours by Internet again!
It is very easy to know the city by taxi, metro and walking. We stayed at the very nice Torremayor Hotel. Conveniently located in a residential area, near Los Leones Metro station, Panoramico Mall, fast foods and walking distance to San Cristobal Hill. Double apartment was US$80 per day, with breakfast buffet and free use of Internet. Good Italian restaurant in the hotel.
At the front desk we contracted a very interesting tour to Cousino-Macul winery and to not so good Cajon Maipo (US$40 per person).
Final conclusion: Celebrity Cruises is improving and offers excellent products at affordable prices.