My wife and I, along with six friends, met on NCL's Norwegian Dream for the February 2, 2003 Chilean Fjords/Strait of Magellan-Eastbound 14 day cruise. We have experienced several cruises and cruise lines, including previous cruises on NCL and one on the Dreamward before it was stretched and became the Dream.
Summary: 1.-The itinerary offers a real adventure. Patagonia, the Southern geographical area of South America lived up to, and exceeded, everything we had seen on adventure TV. 2.-The experiences were wonderful, exciting and provided us travel anecdotes that will last a lifetime. 3.-The South American people are gracious and very proud of their heritage. They are also very knowledgeable about their countries.
Suggestions: 1.-Take an English-Spanish dictionary. Spanish is the language at every stop except the Falkland Islands. English in the Falklands. 2.-Book your tours in advance. We used the internet and our tour tickets were waiting in the cabin when we boarded. Some tours are fast sellers on board the ship because most passengers take this cruise for the tours and scenery. ( NCL did have tours with German and Spanish guides. This cruise attracts a real international group of passengers which helped make it special for us) 3.-Be prepared for rain and cold. Layering with sweaters/sweatshirts, windbreakers and warm head protection works. The wind makes it cold and you won't want to miss being outside when the ship sails by Cape Horn. The weather was terrific for us!
Sea-Air Arrangements: NCL did a very good job with all the arrangements. We had some difficulties getting to the ship because of a huge storm in Buenos Aires the day we arrived but we got to the ship and didn't get wet. The storm was so bad our plane from Miami couldn't land as planned in Buenos Aires so we diverted to Montevideo ( only 30 minutes away ) until we could land back in Buenos Aires.
Customs and immigration were non-events.
Getting off the ship was one of the smoothest we have experienced. The icing on the cake was seeing our bags through the bus window, all grouped by travelling family, on a cart with a porter ready to walk with us into the terminal in Santiago. ( A two week cruise adventure with wide climate changes requires a lot of bags)
The Ship: The Dream is a well kept and well run ship with a very experienced crew and staff. The Captain has been with NCL for decades. He also has a terrific sense of humor.
The staff were very attentive to cleanliness and health. Special antibacterial handwipes were provided at the entry desk before every meal and staff served portions at the buffets rather than letting passengers serve themselves and share serving utensils....and their flu. They were constantly cleaning...more that any cruise we have experienced.
Food: 1.-Don't miss the NCL chilled fruit soups! 2.-Two weeks of special food adds pounds. 3.-Don't expect your favorites to be fixed like you fix them. 4.-We never missed a meal..or a course.
Freestyle Dining: Breakfasts and lunches on most ships have always been "freestyle". Freestyle dinner was new to us. We like the flexibility, the chances to meet other passengers, and especially, the chances to meet other NCL staff. Service was consistently good. The myths about staff not caring if they don't see you every meal are exactly that..myths. ( same for having gratuities added to your bill).
We did feel that dinner took a little longer than normal. You can also expect lines at the main restaurants if you dine later. We ate relatively early and had no problems.
Entertainment: The schedule was similar to that of most ships. The lounge acts did seem to be a cut about average in talent.
Staff: Very good. The dining room, cabin, lounge,and casino staff were well trained and personable. They represented dozens of countriesand like to talk about their home countries.
Weather: It is windy and chilly in South America, especially in the very south. Expect the seas to be rougher than normal (Part of the adventure of this cruise) as you experience why rounding Cape Horn is such a big deal. This was the Captain's favorite itinerary because of the challenges offered by the seas in the area.
It was warmer and less cold than we expected...and we saw a lot more sun than we had expected after monitoring the weather in each port for weeks before we cruised.
The Ports and Itinerary: 1.- In a word...Awesome! These are why most passengers booked this cruise. 2.-Montevideo...We took the city tour and learned a lot about the history of the city and the region. Toured an indoor museum with exhibits explaining the region's history, an outdoor museum featuring machinery and settlers' homes and the city square with vendors. Lot's of photo opportunities. 3.-Falkland Islands Port Stanley...Travel by tender to the port which features a qauint city with several nice buildings including the local, and old, cathedral. A lot of war remembrances.
We visited one of the local Pubs. Fun! 4.-Puerto Madryn: We took the penguin rookery tour expecting penguins in an Antarctic setting. We saw hundreds of thousands of penguins in a desert setting. They were everywhere, along with groups of guanicos (llama like) and rhios( ostrich like). Photo opportunities were all around.
It is a two hour, air conditioned bus ride through scenery that looks like the US Mojave desert. 5.-Punto Arenas: The southernmost city on the South American continent. We took the nature walk through Parque Aiken del Sur that ended with a lunch featuring local musicians, dancers and food. Great scenery and a fun experience only a short bus ride from the port.
6.-Ushuaia: The southernmost city in the world..and we took the horseback ride through the Patagonian countryside ( which included hills, rivers, seaside and relatively steep ups and downs). It was advertised for experienced riders most of whom seemed to have not taken the ride. I was last on a horse 45 years ago...and made it for the two hours. The experience was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill! The local guides were very experienced and impressive riders.
7.-Puerto Montt: We shopped. A very picturesque city with a nice craft market walking distance from the ship. Woolens (Alpaca),leather, jewelry and crafts at good prices. It rained hard as we headed back to the ship....and my first chance to use the poncho I carried through all the other tours. 8.-Cape Horn and the Strait of Magellan: Wow! Thrilling... with wind, cold, choppy seas, glaciers and scenery similar to Alaska. You have to see it to believe it.
Don't miss the top deck ceremony for passing Cape Horn. It was very cold and windy and fun! 9.-Trip to Santiago: A two hour bus ride through fantastic country. Mountains and vineyards were the highlights..then we saw the Andes. These mountains are really high! 20,000 feet plus.That's a mile higher than the highest of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Santiago is a very modern, prosperous city. We visited a shopping mall that rivals many in the US.
We learned a lot about the southernmost part of South America (Patagonia), understand why it took 84 days to round Cape Horn in 1766, now know the what Tierra Del Fuego means, have been to the "end of the world ( The end of the Pan American highway at Ushuaia), seen Patagonia from horseback, understand why Falklanders may not like Argentinians and appreciate the pride of the people of Uruguay, Argentina, the Falklands, and Chile in their countries.