Monday, June 8, 2015

Navimag's Newly Renovated Ferry

Early last year, I made one of the first voyages on Navimag’s new Ferry Edén which, at that time, I considered to be work-in-progress. Rushed into service late in the season, the vessel – a Mediterranean French ferry that later connected Baja California to the Mexican mainland – was sailing the fjords and open oceans of southernmost Chile for the first time, without any refitting. It gave the impression of improvisation, but the voyage went smoothly nevertheless.
Last year, I made the northbound voyage from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt; this year I did it southbound. In the interim, over the austral winter, Navimag had time to refurbish the facilities. The cafeteria (pictured above) is much the same, still requiring two shifts to accommodate everybody for lunch or dinner when the ship is full, but newly installed windows offer improved luminosity and visibility over their weathered predecessors. The big change is the subdivided video lounge, where the passenger orientation and lectures take place – half still consists of a rather dark room with reclining butacas for watching movies, but the other half (pictured below) is more luminous, with new sofa-style seating that makes it an attractive place to socialize.
Unlike its predecessor Evangelistas, the Edén has no sprawling dormitory accommodations; it’s all reconditioned cabins, with two to three bunks each; some of those bunks lie at right angles to each other, others opposite each other, others atop each other. The most expensive cabins have private baths while others have external baths, but all of them have sinks and mirrors. They all have brighter colors, new carpeting and small built-in desks with electrical outlets (though some of those outlets have awkward access). There is no WiFi on board, and only a few spots en route provide cellular access.
The menu remains what I would call quality cafeteria food, with fish the best choice. One change is that the Edén is alcohol-free – unlike the Evangelistas, which had a bar with wine, beer and pisco sours. Presumably you can bring your own if you’re discreet – they’re not searching baggage - but the crew told me there had been occasional incidents (though I’ve never seen anything of the kind on my dozen or so voyages on this route).

One notable change is that, unlike the Evangelistas, the southbound Edén heads out to the open sea earlier, rather than staying in the sheltered interior channels. On my voyage, we turned west into the open sea via the Canal Ninualac, on the south side of Isla James where the sea became rough enough that a few people felt quickly queasy, but nobody apparently “fed the fish.” Farther south, the crossing of the notorious Golfo de Penas was fairly uneventful – rather like being rocked in your mother’s arms. The down side to spending more time on the open sea is that the coastal scenery’s not quite so inspiring as it is when navigating the inland sea, which offers islands and mountains on both sides of the ship.

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