NCL Dream South America 3/3/02
We left Melbourne Florida airport on Friday March 1 2002, for our South America cruise. Our plane left at 3:30 PM and we flew to Atlanta for a 10:30 pm flight to Buenos Aires. I know it was a round about way but we saved a lot of money on the airfare by doing it this way. We had a one-way fare and expected our luggage to be pulled for inspection but it was not. Our carry on was pulled for inspection at the gate and we had no trouble with syringe's or a butane cordless curling iron. Arriving in Buenos Aires at 10:00 am (2 hours time difference 8:00 am Eastern) on a Saturday morning we hailed a cart man and he guided us through customs and immigration then directed us to the Remis car hire just outside immigration. $30.00 for both of us including tolls. This was an easy drive for our driver because it was a Saturday. By 11:15 we were checked into our hotel the Hilton room #624 $130.00 plus 21% tax for 2 people. We found the rate on the Internet then made the reservation by phone and they tried to charge us more but we reminded them of the price we saw on the Internet. A very nice room with a view of the river and square, plus the window opened. After a quick shower we toured B.A. A tour can be arranged through the hotel $15.00 pp.
We went to the obelisk and the opera house and many other places. We shopped on Florida Street and sent a package to the port for pick up tomorrow. There were several Internet cafes $1.00 an hour. We bought our Pepsi and other items we wanted to take on board and headed back to our hotel. Dinner was a short walk at Cabana Las Lilas (8:00 pm opening) just across the river from the hotel in a reclaimed brick area. The beef is not as tender but the flavor is outstanding. Dinner for 2 was $38.00 with 2 bottles of water; wine was $5.00 a bottle. Wonderful service.
The area around the hotel is nice with parks but if you wanted to go anywhere you had to take a cab or walk 6 or 7 blocks into downtown. If you were staying for 3 or 4 days I would look for a more central hotel. This was fine for our overnight stay. The currency exchange in Argentina changes daily at this time. On Sunday morning we took a 5-minute cab ride to the pier at 11:30. The pier had 3 shops plus a food and wine bar with about 6 tables to sit at and some benches.
Check in was a little late but we were on board at 12:30. They took our passports and we would not see them again until Miami on April 1st. One note, you are NOT allowed to leave the ship once you are on board. This is not NCL's policy; it is Argentina's. We had to go back to one of the shops at the pier to pick up a heavy package we had delivered and could not carry aboard at check in. The red tape involved was unbelievable. We were in cabin #8260 and enjoyed it very much. It was very quiet and convenient. Cruising out of B.A. was noisy all night due to the shallow channel we were in. It sounded like the ship was scraping the bottom. The river was very muddy.
Lets talk about tours. If you want the convenience of ship tours, by all means take them. All the ports had cabs and or private tour excursions either at the pier or the gate of the pier. This takes time to haggle over price but allows you to choose how your time is spent. Just make sure you get back to the ship on time.
We arrived in Montevideo in driving rain. Forget umbrellas, many were blown into a jumbled mess. Use a poncho or golf rain suit. A free (15 minutes) Internet cafe was at the pier and small shops and stores were just outside the pier gate. Free buses from a leather store into the downtown area were offered with no obligation to buy. Once outside Montevideo the water and sound of scrapping changed as we finally met the sea.
March 6th Pt.Madryn was very hot and desert like, and what I considered one of the more important ports. The ship has a shuttle bus into town $15.00pp. A cab at the pier charges $5.00 each way for 2 people. This is the port to see a lot of penguins. Other ports will have penguins but not as many as this one. It is a long drive of 2 1/2 hours but well worth it.
We hired a van for $30.00 pp 8 people in all. Because of the length of the tour we did not find an Internet cafe. March 7th was a day at sea. We saw 3 whales. The weather was stormy and it was time to get out the long underwear that we brought instead of bulky down coats.
March 8th the day dawned bright, sunny, and brisk, temps in the low 50's plus the wind made it seem colder. This was only the second time this season that the Dream could tender into the Falklands. The city is called Stanley NOT" Port Stanley. The Marco Polo was also in port. There were no scheduled ship excursions but you could arrange a tour of the city $15.00pp and outlying area or rent a car. Tendering 1700 people off the ship takes about 3 hours and I would suggest that someone from your party get in line early for tender tickets because if you want to buy beautiful hand knit sweaters (GET THERE EARLY) Only one person needs to be in line. They also sell the yarn they produce for those who can knit their own. The people were lined up in a loooooong line at the post office to buy stamps (2 blocks on your right when you get off the pier). The supermarket is one block on your right. An information center is at the pier to your left. The internet cafe is straight ahead up a steep hill 2 blocks 25 cents a minute and the internet is getting slower the farther south we travel. We saw 2 whales and several penguins swimming in the sea.
The English still have their gardens in this wind swept spot but once you leave the city it is barren. I forgot my hat and my ears were very cold as we waited for the tender back to the ship. Back on board we watched the beautiful Islands disappear. On a walk through the ship I noticed that the people on board were meeting for board games and bridge, cards and puzzles. The ship jelled together on this 6th day of our cruise.
We woke to a day at sea with clouds and rain and wind. I saw a rainbow and we had birds soaring along the ship. Around 9:30am land came into sight on the starboard side with mountains and lovely scenery but it was on the smoking (starboard) side of the ship. Many people wanted to sit and watch the view and the non-smokers complained to no avail. If you are a non-smoker I suggest you take the Valparaiso to Buenos Aires route and most all of the scenery will be on the port (non-smoking) side. Buenos Aires to Valparaiso everything to see is on the starboard (smoking) side.
We were on our way to Cape Horn!!!
Walking on deck is COLD so prepare yourself. You can buy hats gloves, sweaters, scarves and jackets along the way. We wore long underwear with a shirt then a sweatshirt or sweater then a jacket and windbreaker and left the puffy down jackets at home. We were very comfortable. Wear your most comfortable all weather shoes. You will step in a lot of potholes and have to climb ladders onto the ship from the tenders. Opening doors to the outside decks is difficult because of the wind. Rain can come in a second and also be gone in a minute.
We arrived at the Horn at 6:30pm and enjoyed the time at the stern of the ship. Believe me when I say that it was an exhilarating experience! The wind, the rain and a rainbow greeted us! Words cannot express the moment. We watched as we rounded the Horn and the ship turned around to enter the Beagle Channel on our way to Ushuaia. The ship steadied when we entered the Channel and we were back in smooth waters. We passed the Celebrity ship Mercury going the opposite way at 11:30 pm.
March 10th we awoke to a gray misty day and sailed into the protected harbor of Ushuaia arriving on time. This was a Sunday and we were told that the shops would be closed. Not true. As the day wore on more shops opened. Pretty good shopping here and they have a large duty free store that was also open. The ship offered 3 tours and tours of the city were offered at the dock from locals. Several Internet cafes on the second street up from the pier. $2.00 for 30 minutes. The supermarket at the end of town opens at 10:00. Snow covered the mountains surrounding the city. I liked this little town at the end of the world with 50,000 people.
We sailed from Ushuaia and saw that HAL's Ryndam was waiting for our berth.
Beauty was everywhere and we were in a channel not more than a mile wide. Snow capped mountains were on both sides of the ship. Around 4:30 we saw the first of 6 or 7 glaciers all on the starboard side. The first glacier sat back away from the water but it still was impressive. We had all kinds of weather again. Mist that was heavy as rain, snow, bright sun, rain. It was glorious! One glacier came right down to the water. It was massive and you could see the brilliant blue where it had cracked while moving. Another glacier had waterfalls flowing from it and the Captain did a 360* turn in front of it as if to say goodbye for the season.
I cannot tell you of the stunning beauty in this channel. Not wanting to miss a moment we had a late dinner at the stern of the ship. At one point we were completely enveloped in mist for 30 minutes so heavy you could not see 50 ft. away but broke into bright sunny skies. Daylight is longer now. This was probably the most beautiful day we had on this cruise. We left the channel about 10:00pm as you could feel the pitch of the ship because of the Ocean but soon were back in another channel. We turned our clocks back one hour tonight.
March 11th I awoke when the engine sound changed and looked out to see we were entering a port. I then noticed that we were not docking. For more than 30 minutes the Captain fought strong winds of over 55 gf and several large tugs kept us planted in the center of the bay. The Captain came on speaker and said we might have to miss Punta Arenas. Suddenly a window of opportunity came and the tugs pushed us to the pier. We were docked. Talk about wind. The walk from the ship to the street was long. You should take a tour here as the city has over 100,000 people and the downtown area is more than 6 blocks away. Tours with locals and cabs are available at the gate. A combination information, wine shop and small craft store along with an Internet cafe and phones are at the end of the pier. The Internet was $1.00 for 15 minutes but was so slow that it took me an hour just to check my messages. They only charged me $1.00. Go straight ahead 1 block and across a small park on your left for a nice local craft shop. The shop has wooden penguins some as high as 6 foot tall. I did give it some thought but only for a moment, after all the ship might charge us for another person.
We went to the supermarket and stocked up on our liquid refreshments. One thing about wearing jackets, bottles fit nicely on either side. Pepsi was allowed to pass inspection at the ship with no problems. The large tugs kept strong lines on the ship as they pulled our nose away from the dock and another tug pushed our stern. They made sure we would not hurt their pier and they let us go and we were on our way to Puerto Chacabuco. We entered the straight of Magallanes and then the open Pacific Ocean.
March 13th a sea day dawned cloudy as most of the days have but then turned clear later. The landscape was beautiful but not as spectacular as yesterday. There was less snow on the mountains. As we listened to the Captains noon talk he mentioned a whale playing in the sea, dead ahead. We went to the stern and saw the whale resurface and frolic in the smooth waters. We started to see bits of ice floating in the water and the Captain informed us that we were approaching another glacier. Soon larger ice and suddenly there she was, a huge glacier with lots of ice floating in front of her. The Captain stopped the ship and sent a small raft with several people to fetch a chunk of the floating blue ice. They finally settled on one, cast a net around it and dragged it back to the ship where we all could get our own little piece of a glacier. We were still in the water for more than 2 hours. Beauty and Stillness together surrounded us. All to soon we were underway. Time to dress for Latitudes "meet the officers" party then dinner and a show. High rollers in the Pacific caused some to take to their beds. It was warmer and we could now put the long underwear away. This day was also spent doing what you do on a ship at sea. EAT! We slipped back into protected waters about 9:30pm.
March 14th A tender port, we awoke to clouds and drizzle in Puerto Chacabuco , a small village with little to see unless you go on a tour. The countryside is outstanding as this area is where the Andes meet the sea and there is a mountain pass through the Andes and that is why we are here. A small amount of tours by taxi are available at the pier gate. We walked to the gate and caught a local bus, 50 cents each to the next town. We toured the city a little and then took another bus through the Andes Mountains to the city of Coyhaique. This was the same drive as the tour buses. We of course were not allowed to stop for pictures but it was a terrific bargain and we had a lot of fun. We purchased our return bus ticket upon arrival as seating and our time was limited. We then toured the city of about 50,000 people the capital of this district. There were 2 Internet cafes $1.00 an hour and local shopping. A small tourist area was on a side street. We caught our bus back enjoying the scenery again then transferred to the local bus that took us to the pier.
We sailed away and I happened to be looking out the door and saw a seal pop his head out twice not 100 feet from the ship. March 15th We arrived at Puerto Montt 125,000 people 55*. The day dawned overcast. We had arranged an all day tour on the Internet with Susanne Hinke (firstname.lastname@example.org) who we met at the pier gate There are other tour guides at the gate. Susanne and her driver along with another couple sped away ahead of all the busses. We had a very enjoyable and interesting tour of the Lake District and a stop to see a condor up close. We asked her to stop at the supermarket and she advised us on wines from Chile at great prices. We shopped at the local craft shops and toured the fish market near the pier. She was a great guide and this was a lovely city. There are 2 Internet cafes on the street in front of the pier gate. $2.00 an hour. As we sailed away we noticed 2 women standing on the pier. They had missed the ship. After much ado with several people on cell phones they boarded a tugboat and with life preservers on were pushed and pulled up a rope ladder. Not a pretty sight to see. You do not want to miss the boat.
We hit very rough and high seas with 20 ft. waves. We rolled and pitched all night. They cancelled the second show.
March 16th dawned sunny with temps in the 60's. Several sightings of whales as the seas had calmed to 8 foot. This was a sea day with the usual shipboard activities. We packed our many souvenirs in preparation for our move to another cabin 10 doors away #8270 for the second leg of our trip called the Southern Discovery This would take us from Valparaiso to Miami. We watched as most of the guests put their luggage in the hall. 450 passengers would continue on to Miami.
We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise. I consider it one of the best any one could take. The Captain was great. The people on board were for the most part "travelers" not tourists. In the 2 weeks we only came across 3 or 4 people who complained. We had many nationalities on board and the announcements were in English, Spanish and German. There were 12 children on board and the ship had a children's program. There were 2 gentlemen host dancers on board. The food was above average and we loved the free style dining because the sail aways and the ports were important to us. Cards were on the tables with the waiter and bus person names on it so you could write comments about their service right then and there. We found the service to be very good and we dined in every restaurant plus room service. Because of the weather on this cruise most of the outside activities were not open thus the restaurants were fully staffed. The staff was polite and eager to please. There was one optional formal night each week. We saw very few formal wear. Most people wore clothes that you would wear to a wedding or church. They had one midnight buffet, the Chocolate extravaganza. Hot and cold canapes and sandwiches, along with fruit and delicious cookies were offered nightly.
The ship did not exchange currency. You could exchange money at money exchange shops in port. The banks did not exchange money. Most people accepted American money but there were times that if you had local currency the price was cheaper. Be sure to carry dollar bills, as any change will be in local currency. The Dream does not have self serve laundry. We spent about $80.00 for laundry. A strip card, such as a credit card is used to open the safe. Our cabin steward Bernard was very helpful and accommodating. We loved our cabin and wish that we didn't have to move. Bernard would still be our steward. All the ports in South America that we visited were commercial ports including Valparaiso, which was a huge port. Don't expect to see a modern terminal such as you see in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. The cruise lines do the best they can with the governments they deal with. I will never worry about eating fruit or vegetables from Chile. They are a beautiful modern clean country. I did not take up your time with shipboard activities or what the ship looked like. You can find that information on their site.
Would we do this cruise again.
IN A HEARTBEAT!