For anyone thinking of taking the Navimag Ferry "Evangelistas" ferry from Puerto Montt Chile to Puerto Natales, here is our critique:
We booked first class passage (called “AAA” cabins) in September, 2007 for the earliest available departure which turned out to be on December 3, 2007. Each ticket cost US$782 and the car cost US$400. That’s US$521.33 per day for the 2 of us for a minuscule cabin (with private bath) and 3 meals, with wine, a day. Our advice for anyone making the trip between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales without a car is to fly. The ferry, even with the stop to see the Glacier Pio XI, is not worth the price.
Due to bad weather on the voyage north, our ferry was a day late in leaving. There was confusion and mis-information on the day we were supposed to leave. We finally figured out what was going on and what we had to do. One of the staff made us a hotel reservation. We were supposed to board the following morning at 7 a.m. and the ferry was to leave the next morning at 8 a.m.
We left our luggage to be brought to the cabin, which was, in fact, done for us. After we had lunch in Puerto Montt (at a very good restaurant called Kiel, Camino Chinquihue km 8, Puerto Montt, fono (56 65)255-010), we brought the car back to the port so that it could be loaded on the ferry once the ferry had arrived.
We had a nice walk back to our hotel (Hotel Gran Pacifico, Urmeneta 719 (at Balmacela), Puerto Montt, fono: (56 65)482-100, e-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, web:www.hotelgranpacifico.cl). The Gran Pacifico gave us a special “returning rate” for the suite we had for a week in September. We took a taxi back to the ferry the next morning.
Boarding at 7:00 a.m. the following morning was okay. Andrea and her assistant, Lena, were the representatives of Navimag in charge of the passengers. We checked that our car (with the 2 bikes on top) was on the ferry and got our car key back from the man who loaded it.
When we saw our cabin, we were shocked. It was extremely small and had 2 bunk beds, a sofa-like thing and a desk, as well as a bathroom. Lena took the first class passengers on a tour of the ferry.
There is a first class dining room, a large dining room for everyone else and a bar area for everyone. The decks are large but the wind was ferocious, making staying outside for any length of time unpleasant.
The ferry left very soon after 8:00 a.m. as scheduled. As soon as the ferry got underway we had the uninspired breakfast that was provided to first class passengers. There were 4 tables in the first class dining room. The 2 long and comfortably large ones were for the captain and the officers. The first class passengers were squeezed into the 2 small tables in the corner of the room. There were 16 first class passengers and only 8 seats so we ate all meals, except breakfast, in shifts. At breakfast we could use the officers tables (so we know the difference in comfort level between the tables!)
The staff, Andrea and Lena, gave a briefing. Andrea is sophomorically enthusiastic and annoying. Her English is terrible. After the safety briefing and one or two others, we stopped going to hear her speak. Lena’s language skills were better but, because she was the junior, she wasn’t allowed to do the briefings.
The first day was a beautiful day and we looked at the rolling green hills that we were passing in the Reloncaví Bay. The hills were covered with green, low trees. We got to see Chiloe Island from a distance later in the day.
Lunch was the main meal on the ferry and it was served by a waitress. There were 4 courses and wine. Invariably the first group to eat stayed longer than their allotted time and the second group was made to wait in the hall outside. We asked the staff if we could use the empty officer tables and we were told “no”, they had to remain vacant in case an officer came to eat (their schedules made their eating times unpredictable). All we wanted to do was share the officers tables, not take over them. Dinner was less elaborate. The food was adequate, sometimes good.
We had a nice time with the other passengers. A very interesting group. After dinner we wanted to continue to socialize and we asked the staff if we could sit in the first class dining room. We were told we had to leave so that the area could be cleaned and prepared for the next morning.
Our alternatives were the bar (where there typically were no seats available), the main dining room (we think, if they didn’t have to clean it too) and our cabin.
Six of us crowded (like sardines) into our cabin where we watched TV programs that we had previously recorded on our new laptop (that has a TV tuner in it). They were comedies and we all had a good time. Two people sat on the sofa, 2 on the lower bunk and two on chairs. The computer was on the desk. Because the cabin is so small, all of us could see the screen. Who needs the space of a mansion when you are with fun people?
In the luggage we brought to the room was our electric hot water maker and a French press coffee maker. We had a can of decaffeinated coffee with us and made coffee for the group. One of the couples brought a bottle of wine.
Evidently there had previously been a lounge for first class passengers on the ferry but it had been converted to a gym for the crew (which the first class passengers were not permitted to use). So at over US$500 a day, we made do.
The second day was foggy and rainy so it wasn’t possible to see much of the passing scenery. Then came the portion outside in the Pacific Ocean and it was rough. Most people stayed in their cabins.
It was good that in our luggage we brought to the cabin was our breakfast cereals, our espresso coffee, our strawberries and our oranges. We could have the breakfast we like. The ferry had corn flakes (too soggy) and instant coffee. It did provide fresh banana and kiwi in the morning. It’s too bad we didn’t bring some skim milk too; all the ferry had was whole milk. Being able to have a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning starts the day off right for us.
The rough Pacific Ocean section of the voyage only lasted 12 hours. By dinner, everyone was feeling good again. So we had another evening of watching TV on our laptop computer in our cabin with our fellow passengers. We didn’t ever go to the movies that the Navimag showed in the main dining room. The chairs are too uncomfortable for extended sitting.
Of course the highlight of the voyage was the passage up to see the Glacier Pio XI and, forturnately, the weather cooperated. Pío XI Glacier is the biggest and longest glacier in the southern hemisphere, not including Antarctica, and covers 1,265 square kilometres. It is also known as the Brüggen Glacier. It's located in the Seno or Fiordo Eyre. We have seen many glaciers before (and even skiied on the Vallée Blanche at Chamonix). The texture and the massive wall of the glacier, descending into the water was truly spectacular.
After the glacier detour, we continued directly into Puerto Natales without incident. The crew brought our luggage to the car and disembarking was easy.