South America on the Norwegian Star
This trip was pretty fantastic! The smaller, older Norwegian ships are far preferable to the gigantic, crowded mega-ships, in my opinion!
This is what we liked about our South American voyage on the Star: (1) The ship was nicely quiet in most places. There was not annoying music playing in the hallways and public venues. (2) One lovely thing about the older ships is the window seats along the inside corridor on Deck 7. They were well used and seemed a good spot to spend some leisurely time. We also found plenty of other quiet sitting places throughout the ship. (3) Thanks for the USB ports by the beds! That made it so easy to charge phones. (4) I liked the Port Excursion talk and would have liked even more information about the locations we visited, such as the history of each port and some of the geography, etc. I'm not really interested in port shopping talks (which feel like advertising for specific places). (5) GREAT JOB on hiring the Manila Trio to perform in the Atrium. Every time I heard them I was so impressed by the lovely music they played. It was calm and soothing. (6) Thanks also for putting up the map of South America alongside the service desk in the hallway. Sure, one can look at the TV but it's so much easier to see the 'whole picture' when there is a large map to track the voyage. A TV picture is constantly shifting and does not have geographical details. I saw lots of people checking out the map. (7) We love the Captain's updates and information! Keep those coming.
Our shore excursions in South America were incredible (for the most part). The difficult part of doing a shore excursion from a cruise ship is that one can venture only so far away from the port, because of the time involved in traveling farther away. Add to that the fact that sometimes in ports there were other cruise ships docking at the same time, and that’s a recipe for congestion at the most popular locations. We always select outings that have some element of walking or hiking, so that does reduce the numbers somewhat, but still almost everywhere we went there were crowds trying to see the same things we were. In Montevideo, Puerto Madryn, and Punta Arenas, we just walked the town – lots to see and some lovely coffee shops. The architecture in old town Montevideo is unique and charming.
We absolutely loved our trek in the Falkland Islands! There were twelve of us in the group, with our two very knowledgeable guides, Eileen and Peter. The minivan dropped us off at shipwreck cove, and on our way around the peninsula, Eileen pointed out all the amazing (tiny) plants that make up the landscape. We also were lucky to see young penguins right in their burrows, and adults walking to and from the burrows and beach. It was an outstanding experience, about 3 ½ miles total, and I would recommend it to anyone. So much to see and absorb.
In Ushuaia, we did a trek through the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Our group split into two smaller groups of about 20 people, and although we jostled with many other tours along the way, we did find some peaceful, beautiful spots with different kinds of wildlife, plants, and scenery. Again, our guide was so informative – she knew pretty much everything about the geology, geography, history, and biology of the area.
In Punta Arenas we didn’t do an excursion, but just walked around the town. Unfortunately, it was another Sunday so we couldn’t find much open, but we did enjoy the sights and the town square, and the lookout from Cerro de la Cruz was beautiful.
At Puerto Chacabuco, there isn’t a whole lot to see right in the very tiny town, so we took a quick tour of the area on the “Surroundings” bus tour. We had a bit of time to look around Puerto Aysen, and we got a lot of nice information from the guide about the sights in the area.
Our Puerto Montt tour of lakes, Orsono Volcano, and Petrohue Falls was an all-day event, and the sights were absolutely spectacular. Again, we shared them with many other people, but that didn’t detract from the sheer amazingness of what we were seeing. Everything was breathtaking, and the people of Chile take such pride in their country. Our guide, Javier, descended from the Mapucha indigenous people, was a fount of information and a unique perspective on the history of Chile. Riding along on the bus, I was amazed to see bike lanes almost everywhere, and almost no litter on the roads (much less than at home).
One of the coolest things we found in two ports (Stanley and Punta Arenas) was that close to the ship we could purchase postcards depicting local scenery, and stamps as well, and then mail them right there before reboarding the ship! I wish every port would do something like that. The ladies at the Stanley Post Office were some of the sweetest, most helpful people we met!
The employees on board the ship do such a great job of taking care of everyone and being cheerful and friendly. One thing I noticed was that even when they were not interacting with guests, they were laughing and joking with each other. That shows real teamwork. There were so many wonderful people, and specific employees that we were grateful for included (1) First, at the embarkation desk in Buenos Aires, Daniela was just amazing - so friendly and helpful. Even though there was a lot of congestion and delay in the boarding process, due to factors probably not controllable by Norwegian, she was pleasant and made our check-in smooth. (2) Mr. Giovanni Villaruel, in the Versailles dining room, was outstanding. He was working so hard, and maintained a pleasant and helpful demeanor throughout our meal. (3) Mr. Parkash Parajuli in the Atrium Cafe was amazing. He remembered our coffee order every morning, and was unfailingly polite and friendly. We loved talking with him about Nepal. (4) Mr. Sizwe Satshu in the Garden Cafe was so sweet. He has the friendliest face and although he seemed shy, he was just adorable. (5) I enjoyed my massage by Ms. Reimichon Ronra, from Manipur. She was amazingly professional and capable. (6) Our server at Le Bistro, Ms. Donna Francial, was so lovely - accommodating and friendly. (7) Of course, our room steward, Mr. V. Raj, was in all ways outstanding! We felt his kind caring and lovely spirit in our all interactions, and enjoyed talking with him about life back home in India. (8) Last but by no means least, Mr. Francisco Bagasala, the executive sous chef. When we expressed our disappointment at the lack of vegetarian soup options, three times he brought us a special vegetarian soup prepared just for us in the Garden Cafe. He is a real treasure!
And as with every adventure, there were things that we wished had been different. Oh, Norwegian, Norwegian, we thought you had our backs as far as vegetarian food was concerned, but on the Star we were only partly enthusiastic. There was a dearth of vegetarian choices in most restaurants. We went to the Teppanyaki for the meal that’s grilled right in front of you, and the chef did a good job of cooking our food before he started on the meat and seafood. It was very good, but not to die for. We also had a meal at Le Bistro, and (very surprisingly) the only vegetarian entrée was exactly the same as it has been at the Le Bistros on other Norwegian ships for the past five years. Mine was served slightly cold, and was in the end, disappointing. Dessert was good, though.
And at the complimentary restaurants, they had the same pasta dishes as always (one fellow vegetarian that I met on the ship described it as, “If I eat any more fettucini Alfredo, I’m going to turn into a noodle”), and not very interesting daily alternatives. So mostly we ate at the buffet, which did have a pretty good selection. We love soup, and as noted above, they only had vegetarian soup twice on the whole voyage (other than the special ones Mr. Bagasala brought us). They did have Indian veggies and dal at lunches and dinners, not as tasty as what the Indian chefs on other ships had prepared, but we enjoyed it anyway. Also nice salads. But only rarely were there entrees that were designed for vegetarians. One curious thing about the buffet on the Star was the food labels. On other ships, we could count on the green labels signifying veg choices, and the brown indicating non-veg. This system was not followed at the Star buffet. Labeling was just whatever. We had to ask in almost every case.
I splurged for a hot stone massage in the Spa this trip. I had not purchased the too-expensive spa pass. It was a great massage, but I was slightly miffed that having purchased this service, I was not allowed to use the sauna/relaxation room before or after the massage. Just get dressed and bye-bye. At every spa I have ever been to, a massage includes use of the facilities! This definitely needs to be remedied.
The internet connection was slow, as it always is, and one has to be careful using minutes of a plan. For work, I had to connect in the Internet Café (didn’t bring a laptop), and was alarmed when I got a message that the “browser does not support” the work I was trying to do. The attendant said that it was a bare-bones system. Somehow I got it to work well enough, although slowly, to accomplish what I needed.
So all in all, despite what could be improved, thanks to Norwegian and the crew of the Star, as well as all the great port personnel, who made our once-in-a-lifetime trip around Cape Horn memorable!
Would I travel again on this ship? Yes, certainly.
Clean, roomy (for a ship), and great balcony! Nice coffee too! I think at this point they could do away with the detachable hangers in the closet, which are difficult to maneuver, and just put in regular hangers. No one, really, is going to walk away with closet hangers. We wouldn't have room, after purchasing souvenirs at the ports.
Wonderful!!! Saw and learned so much.View All 2 Trekking Reviews
An amazing place. It felt really special to be there. Guide was knowledgeable, weather was perfect. Couldn't have been better.View All 93 Tierra del Fuego National Park Reviews
Nice town, but it was mostly closed because it was Sunday. We browsed the town and the sights but returned to the ship early. I loved that we could buy postcards and stamps right by the port and mail them home from there.
An all-day tour, with a series of incredible sights. Crowds, but that's not unexpected. We had a lovely lunch (we had asked ahead for a vegetarian option and they did a great job). It was a lot to see and somewhat rushed at the end with not quite enough time to browse the handicraft market, but overall wonderful.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Loved the Old Town. It was Sunday, so we couldn't connect with our desired vintage coffee shop, so had to settle for Starbucks, but the architecture and sights were wonderful, and we enjoyed browsing the vendor stalls in the square.
Buenos Aires is a nice city. We walked around close to our hotel.