Sue McCleery

United Kingdom

Customer
Rating

9

Customer Rating On return from their adventure we ask customers: “On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend or colleague?”

Sue McCleery's Trip Date:

11th Nov - 16th Dec 2018

Overall, how was your trip?

Fantastic trip, hugely varied in landscapes and experiences. Great. Lots of highlights not just one - but the Stella Australis was very special. Landscapes were huge, dramatic, inspiring and beautiful. We found the wildlife varied and interesting - including two pumas! All the people we met were helpful and friendly. We always felt safe. Iguazu was more dramatic in size and scale than photos suggest. There were many magical moments. So much to like.

In one sentence, what did you think of Patagonia? Did it live up to your expectations?

Wild, beautiful and fascinating place, well worth visiting. Yes, it did live up to expectations. Re Q about visiting again - Rich and I have different answers! We would both visit again, but to different parts. Rich would revisit some areas we went to (e.g. T del Paine) but Sue prefers new things each trip.

Would you visit again?

Yes

How was the service that Swoop provided?

Swoop gave us very helpful advice and guidance; Sally's in-depth knowledge is so good. We are glad we used a Patagonia specialist. Our itinerary was really good, tailored to us and incorporated Swoop's suggestions and our wishes. The timing and locations were about right. The Final Itinerary was a very useful key document with lots of practical guidance, suggestions and information all in one place. Very impressive. Yes, we called upon Swoop's support during the trip (via Local Partners). We found the assistance very useful and helpful. The only thing that could be better is the Swoop website. We found it difficult to find information on. There is lots there but not always easy to find or navigate.

How likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

9 out of 10

How was your experience in Buenos Aires?

Buenos Aires is huge, interesting, with lots of green spaces, grand public buildings and history. Better than we anticipated and worth visiting en route to elsewhere. The half-day city tour gave us a good overview and orientation so we could go back to areas of interest at a more leisured pace. It was easy to get around using the abundant good-value taxis. The El Querandi tango show was great. The dancing and music were superb and the food surprisingly good - better than expected. Not at all tacky. Sally's request that we be seated near the stage really worked. We were whisked right to the front, which we really appreciated. Sally's booking of the restaurant La Carnicera for us and our friends (the Sharrocks) was also appreciated and the details of where to find it were helpful. The transfers to and from the hotel were all good. We enjoyed just mooching around and following our noses. Sue particularly enjoyed the Evita Musuem (well curated, good English signage and comfortably done in around an hour). Hotel Clasico was fine in terms of the location, bedrooms and helpful reception staff. It is let down by the public areas and breakfast. The reception, breakfast room, mezzanine sitting room and the rooftop "terrace" (particularly) were rather shabby and in need of some TLC. The breakfasts were a bit odd, OK but not good. Were we to visit BA again we probably wouldn't choose the Clasico. We avoided excess baggage charges on our two Aerolineas flights to / from Iguazu - Buenos Aires, by leaving some luggage at the Hotel Clasico, to collect on our return.

How was your time at the Iguazu Falls?

The Falls were stupendous, exceeding our expectations. You really need to see them to appreciate the scale and majesty. Photos do not do them justice. Worth making a detour to visit if you possibly can. We were glad we did the Argentinian side ourselves, without a guide. It's so easy to get there and explore. We stayed all day and did it at our own pace. Many groups looked a bit herded. We enjoyed our half-day tour to the Brazilian side. It was well organised with a delightful guide. A little longer time there would have been even better. We saw varied wildlife (birds, butterflies, reptiles, mammals) and particularly enjoyed the Swifts flying in and out of the spray, a colourful Toucan and cheeky Coatis. Hotel La Cantera was great. A beautiful jungle setting, with good rooms and nice pool. As a result, we didn't venture into Puerto Iguazu. The transfers were good - on time, good cars, helpful drivers. Our only hitch was our Aerolineas flight returning to BA was cancelled due to technical problems. We were delayed about 5 hours in the somewhat chaotic airport, with minimal facilities and poor communication. We contacted Partners H&T for assistance and they tried to find out what was happening from their end and rescheduled our hotel transfer. It was a minor hitch but meant we missed our last afternoon in BA.

How was your experience in El Calafate and El Chalten?

This large area was fantastic containing many wonders. We did a lot of things. We were also blessed by good weather, often warm and sunny - apparently atypical. We will include our visit to Lago San Martin and El Condor here, even though it is not really in Los Glaciares. El Calafate was bigger and livelier than we expected. A good base with lots of restaurants and other services. We had no trouble getting money, in part helped by Sally's comprehensive advise. The Perito Mereno glacier was the main attraction and well worth the full day we spent there. The mini ice trek on the glacier was one of the highlights of our trip. Easy and memorable. We spent a couple of hours in the Nimez Bird Reserve on Lago Argentina. This is good for bird lovers. We also spent half an hour in the Glaciarium, just before closing. It looked interesting but we needed more time. Probably good to visit if the weather is bad. Our first hotel in Calafate, Patagonia Rebelde, was good and quirky. It was conveniently located within easy walking distance of the town, with interesting old decor, artefacts and good room facilities. A real find. Our second hotel, the Koi Aiken, was OK, modern and bland, but poorly located quite a distance from the town, which was a bit inconvenient. The Rebelde was much better. Our next stop was El Chalten, a scenic and interesting drive. La Leona was worth stopping at just for the history. A great few days taking in the magnificent views in brilliant weather. Stonking views of Fitzroy, Cerro Torro, the De Las Vueltas valley and Lago Desierto. We did some lovely walks, none of them too tough. The restaurants and cafes were fun. It's worth booking ahead, as the better places fill up quickly. The town had a buzzing atmosphere. There is now an ATM at the bus station. The Hotel Senderos was fine - just a bit warm. They weren't used to the hot weather we had! The location, room and breakfasts were good. The drive from El Chalten to Lago San Martin and El Condor was very interesting. Very varied landscapes and topography with a real sense of isolation. We enjoyed crossing the fords. We loved El Condor, despite it being simple and basic. The location and scenery are stunning, especially the blue lake with interesting peninsula and islands. The small team's welcome was warm and genuine. A very special place - but potential guests need to know it is rustic, without frills and with no power for most of the day. The dinners (including a BBQ we had one night) were good and the breakfasts OK but more limited. The packed lunches were huge and it was lovely to be met at the end of a walk with the pick-up loaded with coffee, beer and cakes! The young chef (new this year) was also a musician, so we were treated to a mini concert in the sitting room one evening after dinner. We did two walks there. We made it to the Condolera, but sadly no condors. Worth it just for the view though. We also attempted to get to La Nana, almost making it but prevented by being unable to cross the river on the lake shore. The best view for effort ratio was the mirador just above the estancio. We didn't horse ride as most of the trails looked a bit challenging for novices.

How was your experience in Santiago and the surrounding area?

Santiago is much bigger and more modern than we anticipated. Highlights for us were: - Cerro Santa Lucia park / viewpoint - Parque Metroplitano de Santiago including Cerro San Cristobel - Place de Armas area (especially the Palacio de la Audiencia National Museum and the Ex Congreso Nacional architecture and gardens). - Exploring Lastarria. - The street art was fun. - The Jacaranda trees purple blooms were a delight. It's a good stop-off city for a few days en route, but doesn't really warrant a special detour to visit. We didn't visit Valparaiso or the wine valleys. We enjoyed the Hotel Cumbres - good position and neighbourhood, good ambience and service, nice breakfast room views and rooftop pool. Great room (except the "designer" lighting level was inadequate. We needed a torch to see sometimes!) The transfers from the airport to / from the city were good. The English speaking guide was friendly and helpful. We did not have any contact with the partner in Santiago other than the transfers.

How was your experience in Torres del Paine?

Puerto Natales, gateway town, felt quirky and a bit of a culture shock after Santiago! - but provided good restaurants, lovely views over the Last Hope Sound and delightful "wind" sculptures. The El Muelle hotel was well located, clean, with good bedrooms and partial views over the waterfront. We hardly saw other residents and it was a bit low on atmosphere but the staff were welcoming and helpful. Torres del Paine was spectacular, despite some iffy weather. We really valued having a hire car to get around the considerable distances. It enabled us to explore all the main road areas and enjoy the dramatic scenery and wildlife. We were glad we were not being shuttled around in a tour minibus. The Lago Grey boat trip was well worth doing, especially as the sun came out en route before we reached the glacier. Clear and useful instructions in the itinerary were valuable. We judged most of the suggested hikes to be a bit too long / tough for us given ability, stamina, time and weather, so we did shorter walks, which we really enjoyed. We were lucky with the wildlife, seeing guanaco in abundance, skunk, fox, various birds and even two pumas! The Hotel del Paine had great encompassing views of the Park and was well located not far from the entrance. The food and public areas were excellent. Our cabin room was OK, if a bit plain and draughty. The Estancio Cerro Guido was a delight, despite being a fair way from the Park. It had great atmosphere with wonderful comfy rooms and a period colonial style. The staff were universally welcoming and the restaurant was superb. The food was near gourmet (often using things they grow), the views panoramic and the service exemplary. Surprisingly sophisticated for such a rural place. The Hertz car hire went smoothly - all paperwork ready, car fine, no nonsense about up-selling extra services and no unexpected charges. Car hire as you hope it will be - which is not always the case. We know you are aware of the lack of fuel availability in and near the Park and thank you for the guidance given in the itinerary. We feel this is a strategic issue that the Park authorities or the local government needs to address. It is unacceptable to enable people to hire a car and then there is nowhere to fill it without returning to Puerto Natales. We had to do that, taking half a day. A fuel can would not have helped much, as we needed more. There was no emergency fuel in Cerro Guido or Cerro Castillo. At times it was quite stressful calculating our range. Bus Fernandez to and from Punta Arenas was comfortable and easy.

How was your Patagonian cruise?

The Stella Australis was fantastic in all respects. We can't speak highly enough about it. Every aspect on-board was superb. It is one of the best run organisations we have encountered anywhere - fabulous food, clean and ordered everywhere, excellent friendly staff in all roles who understood and delivered quality customer service without subservience, apparently good teamwork across all areas and seemingly a happy crew. Everything was well organised, planned and managed with appropriate attention to health and safety without being jobsworth. Handled changing situations without apparent difficulty (i.e. closure of port, inability to land, handling multiple passenger issues regarding onward travel). Cabins excellent. Excursions frequent, varied and interesting with good pre-briefings. Just excellent. The only thing we could suggest to improve is the port check-in at Punta Arenas. It needs to be clearer where to go. The address given does not provide enough information and is in fact an office. More detail would have helped avoid searching while carrying heavy luggage. More than one check-in desk open would have speeded the process. As a result of our inablilty to dock at Ushuaia on the expected date, our time there was more limited than planned. We should have had two days to explore, but only had one. On reflection, we think about three days there would be about right - one to explore the town and musuem, one to explore the Tierra del Fuego Nat Park with walks and one to do a tour of some sort. eg Beagle Channel and penguins. We had previously decided against that, as we did this on the cruise. We did an off road Lakes Tour around Lake Fagnano with Canal Fun. It was OK, but a bit too much time spent on lunch. Had we known we would have so little time in Ushuaia, we probably wouldn't have done this. Our planned two nights at the Hotel Alto Andino became one, also due to delayed docking. The hotel was well located, with a good room, helpful and friendly receptionist and great views from the breakfast room. The only thing that let it down was the truly terrible coffee. H & T were helpful in dealing with the knock on effects of delayed docking. They contacted the hotel and Canal Fun to notify them. When checking in for our Aerolineas flight to Buenos Aires we incurred excess weight charges for exceeding 15kg.

Has your experience changed your perspective in any way?

It has not changed our perspectives particularly, but it has widened our horizons and knowledge.

Do you have any tips or advice for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?

Yes, take a travel washbasin plug! We thought we wouldn't need one as we were staying in good hotels - but that was a mistake. None of the hotels (except the cruise boat) had them. It must be a cultural difference - but difficult if you don't want to lose your contact lenses or leave the tap running while shaving. Most hotels, but not all, could supply one when asked, suggesting many visitors want one. If travelling for some time, plan in some down time. It can get tiring to keep running every day.

Anything else? Tell us anything you’d like to share that we forgot to ask! It’s ok to leave this empty too :-)

We do not want our names or any other personal information to be shown on your website or elsewhere. Please ensure any of our comments are anonymous and not attributed. Thanks. The final screen, following this page, is a bit ambiguous. We have said "no" to sharing with "Customers" and "Social Media / Blog". We don't want our names or any other personal information used for that purpose, but don't mind if it used wholly anonymously. On "Local Partners" we have said "yes" so long as our names are only for their use and not used more widely.

If you received our guide to Santiago before you travelled, what did you think of it?

The view of central Santiago showing the main areas was the most useful. We didn't use the Metro map and didn't travel on it. We used some of the insider tips.

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