We returned from a 2 week Mercury Val to B.A. cruise on 2/5/02. Loved the cruise. Scenery was fantastic. Weather was even better. We saw penguins in Puerto Arenas but be sure not to miss the cemetery there. It was one highlight of our cruise. Took a pre-set-up tour in Puerto Montt with Eureka Turismo. It was okay but not great. Our tour guide was the secretary and only her second time. Could have gotten a better price deal on the pier. Best advice would be to get off the ship at each port and go down and make your own deals. There are more people there looking for you than you looking for them! First time we've ever done it, but we did not take a single cruise ship excursion. Most of tours, van or taxi, were in the $10-$15 per person range.
The cruise food was very good, even tho Celebrity's food is not as good as it once was. Service was very good. We had a guarantee cabin and it was not very well located. Down low and near back. We had some vibrations and wall noise several times. The absolute worst was the last 2 nights. Celebrity had put a small note in the Daily about some bad vibrations sailing to Montevideo and to Buenos Aires because of the shallow water. It was really really bad. Even our friends on deck 10 felt it a lot! The people in the front were not quite as affected, Our busboy said he literally fell out of his top bunk!!
The entertainment was excellent for the most part. The best ones were Lindsay Hamilton, a great singer from London/New York; a magician/pianist Garin Baden, I think. Fabulous piano!! We didn't miss a show.
Buenos Aires was wonderful! Very Paris-type city. Could have definitely stayed there 2-3 more days to explore! Stayed at Hotel Colon ($95) great location on main wide boulevard by Obelisk.
Stayed in Santiago at Hotel Gran San Francisco. This was a wonderful hotel. They put us in a huge suite for some reason. Downside: got "turista" first night on ship which hung around and after 5th day, went to ship doctor. When I told them where we stayed in Santiago, they shook their heads and said they had several people from same hotel coming in all week. I had a "hotel bug." After antibiotics, I was great the next morning.
Anyway, anyone wanting more info, please let me know. It was a super cruise! We were told by cruise director, in 9 years he had been going around Cape Horn, it was absolutely the very best weather he had ever seen. (we were disappointed, as I wanted a little toss and turning!)
Welcome back! It was great to hear a positive review. Can you tell me what time you arrived at the port in Valparaiso? I read one review that said they were transferred to a resort in Vina Del Mar to check in. We are also staying at the Hotel San Francisco in Santiago - would you advise changing? I am wondering if your illness was caused by the food, water, or just a bug? In Chile did you get the local currency or were you able to use US dollars? Thanks for your help!!
We arrived at port about 1:30 then had to drive back to Vina Del Mar to the horse tracks for check in. Tell your driver to take you there first. Celebrity said they always check in at the tracks and then transfer everyone by bus to the ship. It really wasn't a hassle for us, just more time lost on road. Wish we had known before hand. If one does get let off at the port, I understand you can talk your way on board there. A friend of ours told us he did that. But Celebrity also has a bus that will take you and your luggage back to Vina Del Mar. My advice to everyone, tell your driver to take you to the horse tracks.
I think Hotel San Francisco was a great hotel but I did get a bug I assume from the food (which all tasted great). If I were to go back, I probably would not stay there again. It may have been a one time thing and I think if people were continually getting sick, then Celebrity would not put people there. (I booked independently, but we saw a bus from Celebrity there)
We did not exchange any currency, but we really didn't shop. Hotels and restaurants took dollars. Shops may be another question.
We saw 3 glaciers, though not as good as Alaska. We did however pass a place that the ship announced where there were 5 glaciers but they would be seen at 5 am. We were going to get up but after late night in casino and bar and shows, we just didn't make it up. If I were to do it again, I would get up. I have wondered how much sunlight there was at that time, however.
I am sorry I did not read your message earlier, but for others out there, we had exceptionally good weather. I took a light jacket and a London Fog long rain coat with zip out lining and only wore it 2 times. I wore gloves several times and a tobaggan type cap several times. I would tell anyone, though, to take hat, gloves, and a heavier coat. Most people had the 3/4 length casual ski-type coats and I wish I had taken one like that.
What kind of private tour arrangements are available at the docks in Ushuaya? We want to take the Train Trip to the End of the World, but I'd also like to know if there are other tour operators who offer this or a similar tour. I've heard that the tour offered by Celebrity is sort of like a mass herding migration.
We arranged a tour on the dock with a taxi driver (There were 4 of us this time).There was a young lady there setting people up with numerous drivers. He took us to the National Park. We hiked once to a beautiful stream/small waterfall and 2nd to the black lagoon (beautiful scenery). Also saw the green lagoon and 1-2 look out points and several more stops along the way. We went to the "End of the World" point and were able to get out and take a photo at the official sign. We saw the train once or twice on our way there. We, and our companions, said 2-3 times we were glad we were not on the train. However, I didn't hear any negatives on the train trip, but I didn't speak with anyone directly who took it either! I think we got to make numerous stops along the way that the train did not. Downside is if you are not familiar with spanish, our driver spoke very little English. The other couple we were with spoke spanish which was definitely to our advantage. I think our cost was about $20 or $25/person. He dropped us off in town and we strolled back to the ship. It was a very pleasant day. Hope this helps!