I will be posting a lengthy review with photos soon, but here is an overview of our 14 night cruise on 12-22-02 from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. We had an incredible vacation that was nearly flawless, with only a few reservations.
The Ship: Embarkation with Captain's Club cards was quick and painless. The Zenith is a very comfortable ship with an amazingly friendly and hard-working crew from top to bottom. For her age, she looks great. Our ninth floor outside cabin was comfortable and well maintained. Our friends had an inside cabin on the fourth floor and had toilet problems the first eight days of the journey. Guest relations upgraded their room to an upper level outside cabin after all of their problems. They were also given a bowl of fruit and a bottle of bubbly for all of their trouble. The problem, once brought to managements attention, was handled professionally and with due concern.
The Food: We had late seating which was served at 9:15 each evening. (A little late for some people) The food was mostly good, occasionally excellent, and sometimes fair to poor in quality. The meat dishes (beef, chicken, duck, turkey, and lamb) were almost always well prepared and cooked to order exactly as requested. The seafood/fish dishes were generally not good, with the exception of shrimp cocktails which were quite fine. After about the fifth night, our entire table gave up the idea of ordering any fish or seafood dishes. Then all was quite acceptable.
The Entertainment: We found the shows to be fair to poor in quality. The lounge entertainment was quite good, however. Activities were plentiful and often quite fun.
The Weather was excellent the entire trip, although a bit cold in the southern most reaches. Coats were a must. We had almost no rain and mostly clear skies and calm to moderate sea swells.
The ports were amazing:
In Buenos Aires we toured the city with a private guide who was excellent. The cemetary where Evita was burried is a must see. We went to the "Senior Tango" tango show. It was an outstanding dinner and show that lasted from 8:00 P.M. to 12:30 A.M. I cannot explain how wonderful this production was. Don't let the name "Senior Tango" scare you. This is an outstanding show that is indescribable. this was probably the best production show I have ever seen in my lifetime of 54 years, no kidding!
Montevideo was a tourless day for us. We went to town on our own. We saw the sights, shopped, and had a nice lunch in town. This port is nice, but nothing special.
In Puerto Madryn we took the ships tour to the Punto Tombo penguin rookery. The penguins are plentiful, wonderful and very fascinating. The three hour bus ride each way was boring and painful, including the box lunch. If I had it to do over again, I would rent a car, pack my own picnic, and do this one on my own.
Cape Horn was interesting to see as were the nearby fjords, and many glaciers on our days at sea. Wow!
Ushuaia was an excellent port. We took the ships tour to the national park and the catamaran ride throught the fjords stopping to see sea lion and cormerant colonies. This was a great day with magnificent views of the Andes range. It was sunny and beautiful at the bottom of the world too. Believe it or not, we got suburns here! Wear sunscreen, if you go here. We were fooled.
Punta Arenas was another penguin day for us. We took the ship's tour to the Magdelana Island penguin rookery. This was a beautiful setting with even more penguins and cormerants everywhere. The many buses-on-the-ferry ride was equally painful to the Puerto Madryn bus ride, but well worth the two hours (each way) stuck in a bus, on a ferry, even going backwards on the return, if you can possibly imagine such a thing. The food on this tour was equally horrible as well. My advice is to steal yoghurt, fruit, rolls, and peanut butter from the breakfast buffet line and make your own picnic, eventhough it may not be entirely legal to do so. This was probably the better of the two penguin experiences, but I'm glad I did both.
In Puerto Montt, we hired a private tour guide to tke us to the falls, lake district, and the volcanoes. It was a great day that reminded me a lot of Oregon and Washington, strangely enough.
Debarkation was smooth in Valparaiso. We were off the ship by 9:00 A.M., thanks to the Captain's club. We had a private 12 hour tour of Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and Santiago. Our tour guide was fantastic. It was a wonderful day with so much to see and do. The tour ended at the airport at about 9 P.M. about three hours before our midnight flight, heading home.
Overall, this was one of the best vacations of my life, bar none! I highly recommend it.