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25 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
I recently completed an Antarctic adventure by Quark Expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavor. Our trip to Antarctica was unforgettable; it truly is the last slightly untouched, unspoiled, except for the effects of global warming, place in ... Read More
I recently completed an Antarctic adventure by Quark Expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavor. Our trip to Antarctica was unforgettable; it truly is the last slightly untouched, unspoiled, except for the effects of global warming, place in the world. We booked our trip through a specialty agency specializing in adventure trips and they were able to answer a lot of questions to insure this was the correct trip. I had numerous questions about my physical ability to do the trip, as I am not 30 something years old. They answered my questions to the point that I was reasonable assured that I could physically “do” the trip and enjoy it. For me at least, this is a very (insanely?) expensive trip. However, Antarctica has been one place that I have wanted to see for 30 plus years and realized if I did not go now, I would never see and experience it. The basic itinerary: 1. Travel from home to Buenos Aires, Argentina – This was independent portion of trip or not included in trip fees. 2. Tour Buenos Aires (Expedition Trips/Quark Expeditions). 3. Travel by charter flight (Expedition Trips/Quark Expeditions) from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina. 4. Tour Tierra del Fuego National Park (Expedition Trips/Quark Expeditions). 5. Board Ocean Endeavour (Quark Expeditions). Leave evening day 1. 6. Crossing The (Dreaded) Drake Passage (2 days). The Drake can be rough, this was a calm passage. Day 2 7. Crossing The (Dreaded) Drake Passage (2 days) and 1st zodiac outing at Shetland Islands. Day 3 8. Antarctic Sound – 2nd and 3rd zodiac outing and kayaking (Yes, I opted for kayaking and extra $). Day 4 9. Explore Mikkelsen Harbor and Hughes Bay, Cape Herschel – 3rd and 4th zodiac outing and kayaking. Day 5 10. Explore Wilhelmina Bay and Cuvervulle Island in the Errera Channel – 5th and 6th zodiac outing and kayaking. Day 6 11. Explore Useful Island and Gerlache Strait – 7th zodiac outing and kayaking, 8th zodiac and kayaking replaced by following packs of Orcas. Day 7 12. Crossing The (Dreaded) Drake Passage (2 days). The Drake can be rough, the return was reasonable calm passage. Day 8 & 9 13. Arrive in Ushuaia return flight to Buenos Aires and return (independent portion of trip or not included) to home. Day 10 The food was great, but one sort of expects this on a ship. Meal times were announced and everyone ate in the dining room. Breakfast was hot and cold buffet, lots of choices, plus made to order eggs. Lunch was buffet again, but the menu of items would change. Dinner included choice of soup, salad, entrée and dessert. Dinner generally consisted of 3 choices available – fish, red meat, and pasta or veggie option. For dinner, the wine stewards offered choice of a white or red. Chef could also adjust for dietary needs. One service the dietary staff did that was helpful, when going through the buffet, especially crossing the Drake when the ship would rock some, is to carry your food to a table, they had their “sea-legs”, some of us did not. I looked forward to meal times, not only for the great food and new items to try, but also with such an international shipmate listing, who you would be dining with including Adventure Team staff this generated lots of lively conversation ranging from where you live, occupation, what you did and saw today to where to next. The entire ships’ crew was very experienced and it was obvious that client satisfaction and safety is first priority. The ship’s crew were divided along three main divisions, Ship’s Captain and Engineering staff to operate the ship, Hospitality included Galley staff, housekeeping, laundry and administrative, and Expedition Team an incredible group of dedicated Antarctic and Artic professional with and incredible collections of backgrounds and abilities. The Expedition Team members were readily accessible between excursions and many gave presentations during the two days crossing the Drake and after dinner. All the presentations were well prepared and interesting. I had studied for this trip, so some was a timely review of information I had previously been exposed to, however, the enthusiasm of the presenter kept it interesting and at each presentation, I did receive additional new information. I also noticed that many of the Expedition Team attended their teammate’s presentation. During excursions or on deck the Team members were very knowledgeable about subjects out of their main area of expertise and enjoyed sharing. All staff demonstrated a genuine concern for Antarctic wildlife and sustainability. Every staff member I had contact with was the type of person you would want to have in your organization. The pre-trip information was excellent as to what to bring and not bring. We were able to pack the proper clothing to stay warm and comfortable whether on deck, in the zodiacs or kayaks. The key is to dress in layers and make sure your base layer is comfortable and wicking. The ship store also has a good selection of layering items if you forgot something, or feel you need additional, plus their prices were reasonable. I bought a pair of waterproof pants that I neglected to obtain ahead of the trip. Everyone was a little anxious about cross the Drake Passage as the Drake is known to have 6 to15 foot rolling swells, if you are lucky, as the Drake can be either a Shake or a Lake. It takes about two days to cross in either direction. December and January are better times to go as unless the ship sails into a storm you will avoid the 30 ft. waves. If you are susceptible to motion sickness (I am!) visit your Doctor and inquire about the “patch”, transderm scopolamine, if it is right for you and follow directions explicitly. It worked great for me on this trip. The ship’s Doctor, Dr. Wayne Jonas, was excellent and always available to discuss your situation and gave solid medical advice. You should also try to board ship well rested. Eat only moderately the day before and avoid greasy foods and excessive amounts of alcohol. Once on board pack your gear away immediately, storing it so it won’t become dislodged or need organization later when the seas aren’t so calm. It’s a good practice to avoid overheating both in your cabin, eating or anywhere else as this can bring on motion sickness. Reading in bed is another activity you might wish to avoid. It is rather obvious this type of trip may not be for everyone, example; my wife did not want to go and does not want to go even after seeing all the photos I took and listening to my inexhaustible tales of exploit. My daughter who accompanied me would like a return trip. As I stated at the beginning, for me at least, this is a very (insanely?) expensive trip. However, with 198 passengers and crew and staff of 130 to 150 and experiencing how things are done, I can understand the cost. Activity level can be somewhat high if you decide to do as many kayaking excursions as possible, or do the climbing, skiing options, and climbing to the top of the snow/ice covered island for the better view. But many guests did just the zodiacs and on landings, walked along the shore, or picked a good spot to sit and watch the parade of penguins. I am the traveler that even thought I had a wonderful time and experience somewhere, I tend to cross it of the list as having been there and there are so many new places to experience. Antarctica is different; it was so much more than I expected, and there are so many additional sites to explore that I would truly enjoy a return and with the Quark Expeditions Team. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We took this cruise as Antarctica was on our bucket list and we were not disappointed. The cruise left from Buenos Aires and the terminal and embarkation were great, no problems We did miss our stop in the Falklands Islands due to bad ... Read More
We took this cruise as Antarctica was on our bucket list and we were not disappointed. The cruise left from Buenos Aires and the terminal and embarkation were great, no problems We did miss our stop in the Falklands Islands due to bad weather in the Drake passage. despite the bad weather the trip wasn't too bad but maybe is not for 1st time cruisers. Our cabin was great good view and large size. A lot of lectures and the debriefs were held in the grand salon which had a good capacity. If there were performances you didn't have to get there early to get a seat, I believe most of the passengers could be accommodated here. We found that the colonnades dining room was better than the main dining room which seemed a bit slower, but the food was good in both. A lot of the time we ate on the patio (deck 8) as we enjoyed the views and being outside. The expedition team was great and there were informative lecture's everyday. They were always willing to help and answer questions, and they worked so tirelessly to make the Antarctica experience one that you could not easily forget. Going ashore in the zodiacs was an experience in itself, and the crew were fantastic checking your life vests and gear to ensure your safety there was always someone there to assist with getting your boots on and off and wash the guano off the boots which happened most days that we had landings, we even did kayaking in Antarctica which was great paddling amongst the icebergs. I thoroughly enjoyed my Antarctica experience Seabourn have a great team and Service through out the ship was excellent from the cabin staff guest services and deck crew as well as the waiting and bar staff. After Antarctica we travelled through Patagonia and ended in Valparaiso Chile, disembarkation went very smoothly. Would definitely do the Antarctica experience again with Seabourn and their expedition team no hesitation. Read Less
30 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
My husband and I recently returned from a 10 day cruise in February to Antarctica. Le Lyrial is a beautiful ship and given our geographical location handles the rough seas and conditions very well. It was hard to find fault with a ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a 10 day cruise in February to Antarctica. Le Lyrial is a beautiful ship and given our geographical location handles the rough seas and conditions very well. It was hard to find fault with a ship that was only 10 months old. Our cabin on deck 5 was more than comfortable with plenty of storage and the cabin stewards took pride in keeping the cabins very clean with plenty of fresh towels and french toiletries. Nothing was ever a problem to them. Our dining experiences on both Level 2 and Level 6 were very enjoyable. There was plenty of choice for both buffet and fine dining with very attentive staff making sure all was okay. As this was an expedition cruise the expedition crew were exceptional and we looked forward to their daily informative talks about the wildlife and the places we would visit. Each day our zodiac excursions whether they be to go ashore or cruise around icebergs or shipwrecks were a highlight. The crew made sure we had plenty of time ashore to look at wildlife or just to take in the scenery. The ease of getting on and off the zodiacs is handled very well with every effort taken to make one feel safe. This is not your normal cruise and cannot be compared to the bigger cruise ships. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sailing on a luxury ship in a very isolated part of the world. Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
Silversea is one class act. All possible categories to review were excellent, so no need to spend time with details. The Captain, his crew and the Expedition team exceeded every expectation that I had for the adventure. Chef Pia ... Read More
Silversea is one class act. All possible categories to review were excellent, so no need to spend time with details. The Captain, his crew and the Expedition team exceeded every expectation that I had for the adventure. Chef Pia astounded us with her resourcefulness and creativity despite food inventory constraints of being at sea for 19 days. All other staff were professional, experienced and personable. Antarctica is a vast, grand, incredibly pristine and quiet place on Earth. It defies all positive adjectives and superlatives. The penguin and seal colonies in South Georgia and the Shetland Islands are beyond belief. You'll never go to a zoo again. Silversea Cruises conspired with Mother Nature to hit this expedition "right out of the park". Before we disembarked, we booked a Silversea Silver Explorer expedition in the Artic. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
A Zegrahm cruise on a vintage Quark ship, which they use routinely. We selected Zegrahm for the itinerary. Unfortunately we missed the entire west coast of Antarctica, barely made it to the Peninsula, because the ship wasn't in full ... Read More
A Zegrahm cruise on a vintage Quark ship, which they use routinely. We selected Zegrahm for the itinerary. Unfortunately we missed the entire west coast of Antarctica, barely made it to the Peninsula, because the ship wasn't in full working order. A propeller was seriously malfunctioning which Zegrahm knew before we departed. Hence we missed 4 days of the itinerary, arrived late at many landings so light was very poor for photography, landed on Deception Island in total darkness. Because so9 many clients were unhappy with all the time at sea, Zegrahm finally offered a weak compensation package, which still required considerable haggling. Their offer was largely dependent on future bookings, in other words Zegrahm making more money. A good deal for Zegrahm, not for the clients. After considerable discussion, they finally offered 10% cash on a very expensive, once in a lifetime trip. In addition, the ship is in dire need of interior renovation, grimy, seats falling out of the lounge banquette. We recommend Natl. Geographic - new ships, faster, with more time on the ground. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
The Explorer is we feel the best of the 3 Silversea Expedition Ships Having said that I think it is important to say that some passengers/guests expect the Expedition Fleet of Silversea to mirror in terms of service and food and ... Read More
The Explorer is we feel the best of the 3 Silversea Expedition Ships Having said that I think it is important to say that some passengers/guests expect the Expedition Fleet of Silversea to mirror in terms of service and food and amenities their main line Fleet. On the Explorer the Crew were brilliant - kind , professional, helpful and attentive. Always remembering your name and invariably your favoured tipple in the bar! The ship has a large range of suite sizes and choices - perhaps unusual for a small expedition ship. If there is any criticism we thought the food could go up a couple of notches and the complimentary wine list needs rewriting. ( when will Silversea get the message on this?) The trip was for us was just outstanding. A little swell on the way across to Antarctica, but then and the rest of our trip we enjoyed brilliant weather and very calm seas. We even had lunch and dinner in deck on at least 4 occasions. What a memory that will always hold Not sure words can be found to sum up the sheer beauty of Antarctica! It was just stunning! If you have half a chance should not be missed as future expedition destination. The Siversea Expedition Team did a magnificent job taking us ashore twice every day whilst we were in Antarctica. Their specialist knowledge of the area just added so much to our day to day activities on shore . We loved too the daily briefings by the Team. All 10 or so of them are true pros and a great ambassadors for Silversea Expeditions. So all in all a trip we wouldn't have missed. A long journey, but a couple of days in Beunos Aries also so worthwhile and enjoyable so do visit if you can. our days in a Finca, well north of BA rounded off a truly special trip. If you have got half a chance do go. It is truly a special place Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black ... Read More
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black cocktail dresses then book another sort of trip. This is a professional operation with an excellent boat and expedition crew. Personally, I pay good money to avoid dancing girls with feather but YMMV. We saw penguins unnumbered, humpback whales bubble netting, whales surfacing next to the ship (!!!), seals hunting penguins returning to the rookery, Rock Hopper penguins kamikazimg off the cliffs to avoid seals, fantastic hospitality of the Falkland Island residents, Hour Glass dolphins viewed from the observation deck, Wilson's Storm Petrels and Falkland Island Steamer Ducks doing what they do naturally, visits to British 1950s Antarctic Stations and a fascinating impromptu talk by a Norwegian ex-whaler (and I am a card carrying anti-whaler!). The only problem is should we be travelling to this delicate and fragile eco-system? We would be back again (for the third time) but for wrestling with our conscience about whether we should be travelling here at all. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We went with Celebrity Expeditions to the Galapagos about 8 years ago and thought that experience could not be topped. We were wrong. I did extensive research on all the different Antarctic cruises. Most cost the same, all have zodiacs ... Read More
We went with Celebrity Expeditions to the Galapagos about 8 years ago and thought that experience could not be topped. We were wrong. I did extensive research on all the different Antarctic cruises. Most cost the same, all have zodiacs with naturalists, all have food included. None have alcohol included and the luxury experience you get with Silversea. The ship is a smaller icebreaker but lovely cabins and dining room. It did look a little ready for refurbishment in some places but overall was very nice. But the biggest thing of all is the Antarctic. We were extremely lucky on our Drake passages, they were calm and uneventful. We had a mid-ship cabin on the third floor which was very stable. Our window was very large but there were excellent shades to cover so that us light sensitive sleepers could rest. The bathroom was large, had a tub and was mostly done in marble. I was shocked. We got a fantastic table at the rear of the ship and had amazing views. The maître d'hôtel, Anna was very gracious. The chef was wonderful and often came to the dining room to be sure we enjoyed our food (which was divine). We usually stopped at two ports per day. Most were shore landings but there were a few zodiac cruises. Everything was outstanding. We were very lucky to have fantastic weather and saw an amazing array of animals. Other people got tired of the penguins but I think they are crazy. Mid-January was a perfect time to go as most of the penguins and birds were just hatching chicks. We actually got to see a penguin chick hatching from an egg! It was funny to watch them squabble over tiny rocks and slide across the ice. Then they would jump in the water and be the picture of speed and grace. We saw lots of seals, orcas and seabirds. We saw many whales (humpbacks, minke) and were very lucky that our captain stopped the boat for an hour so we could watch a group play. The best naturalist was a young man named Travis from South Africa. He would make noise on the bottom of the zodiac to get the interest of the whales. We saw them come very close and one time they even followed the zodiac. I wished we had known we could invite the staff for dinner with us, we would have loved to get to know some of them more. They are meticulous about making sure you don't take any unwanted seeds or plants from the mainland. It was just very professional and the trip of a lifetime. We included it with another 2 1/2 weeks of hiking in Patagonia and the whole experience was Nirvana. You have to go. Just do it. It's expensive but worth every penny. I was worried people might be pretentious but the staff were wonderful and most of the people were nice. Don't wait until you are so old you can't move around much. It seemed like some people just wanted to 'tick off' their final continent which I think is a waste. It is truly a gorgeous destination with so much to offer. Go, Go, Go!!! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We selected the Explorer for our Classic Antarctica cruise, a bit apprehensively, as our only previous SS experience was a disappointing cruise on the Shadow. Still, we were looking for that sweet spot of comfort, education and adventure ... Read More
We selected the Explorer for our Classic Antarctica cruise, a bit apprehensively, as our only previous SS experience was a disappointing cruise on the Shadow. Still, we were looking for that sweet spot of comfort, education and adventure and the Explorer delivered. ITINERARY This was the standard "Classic Antarctica" itinerary common for the shorter trips. That said, there can be no assumption about what will and will not be seen as all of the ships in Antarctica are subject to weather and ice conditions. The ice rating of the Explorer allows the ship more flexibility and that is a real consideration in this area. What impressed us most was the clear objective of the captain and expedition staff to show us as much as possible and we were able to do a few special things like cruise through the Lemaire Channel, which was breathtakingly beautiful. There was variety in our landings - usually two a day - with zodiac tours, Port Lockroy and several stops for penguins/birds. Bad weather forced us to leave Antarctica a day early, which was a decision made for safety and seemingly understood by all. As a result, we spent an extra day in Ushuaia. SS put together a tour of the beautiful national park but, because of heavy rain, it was more like a sort of tedious bus trip. Overall, we were very satisfied that we had a good overview of Antarctica. Of course, it was short and, time permitting, it would have been nice to go to South Georgia and similar ports, but it was sufficient. SHIP CONDITION This is not a new ship, and it is a bit frayed around the edges. However, it was kept very clean and that is our priority. For an expedition ship, we found the ship very comfortable. FELLOW PASSENGERS There were 107 people on board: 45 were from China and the rest was a mix from all over the world - for sure, UK, US, Netherlands, Russia, NZ, Australia, Ireland, Germany, among others. Large groups can change the dynamics of a sailing and one group of 26 was challenging at times. My suggestion is that the staff, right upfront, makes it clear that there is a rotation of zodiac groups and that people are NOT permitted to go other than at the appointed time. Overall, however, it was a pleasant group of travel companions. FOOD/BEVERAGE We were very impressed with how hard the chef, Pia, and her staff worked to make the meals interesting and provide numerous options given the limitations of the kitchen and supplies. The food was superior to ours on the Shadow, which wasn't expected. The dining room was very friendly and Anna was masterful at making people feel comfortable and seating them as they wished....it was no problem to dine alone or with others. We can't comment on the wine, but the beverage staff was terrific in all venues of the ship. In addition, the wait staff was fantastic. CHARTER The charter days were tedious. We arrived at the domestic airport two hours before the flight, as requested, and our boarding passes for the LAN charter were already printed. There didn't seem to be much opportunity to make seating requests. There didn't seem to be much concern about the weight limits on the way down, but there were some hassles with carry on weight for some people on the way back from Ushuaia. The flight down was approx. 4 hours. Upon arrival, we were driven to lunch at a restaurant and were there for two hours. Following that, we were driven to the ship, with several stops along the way, all designed to kill time. It was a very long day.... On the return, we were put on buses at 9 AM and driven about 150 yards to a parking lot in Ushuaia where we had "free time" for two hours. Then a two hour wait at the airport followed by the 4 hours flight back to Buenos Aires' domestic airport. At rush hour, the drive to the International airport can take well over an hour, so be sure to leave enough time for a connecting flight. EXPEDITION STAFF The staff on board was sensational - all specialists in various topics and excited to share their interests with the passengers. There were many lectures which could be watched in the theater or on TV in the room. As an aside, the sight lines for the theater are terrible. Everyone is on the same level, so a few tall people upfront (isn't that always the way?) can block half the screen. There are also poles scattered around the room. The expedition staff spent a lot of time with passengers and added greatly to the experience. CABINS The cabins were surprisingly comfortable for an expedition ship. I know that many people don't spend time in their rooms, but I was happy to have a larger space for the long days on the Drake Passage. There are 4 butlers for the ship, so they are very busy, but we found ours to be delightful and responsive. The room was kept in good order and any minor issues were addressed quickly. ATTIRE This is a very casual cruise. There were only two "casually elegant" nights on the ship and maybe a bit more than half of the men wore jackets on those evenings. Otherwise, it is mostly sweaters and slacks for all meals. Sneakers are fine for walking around the ship. Some people had Uggs. Again, casual footwear and definitely rubber soles. We rented boots from the ship and were very happy with them. The red parka provided to all guests was perfect - warm and waterproof. Sizes could be changed for either, which was on the questions I had before we got on board. For landings, we followed the guidelines suggested - two layers and waterproof pants/parka. A gaiter is a must. We had two sets of clothing for landings and that was plenty. There is a self service laundry on the ship as well as laundry service by the staff, so don't overpack. NITS We were not impressed with the documents provided by Silversea. There was not a lot of detail in some areas and we had to call them for a few kind of obvious questions. We also missed the "leave behind" information for our family. Finally, the booklet and and separate paper regarding the charter had different weight limits listed, something many of our fellow passengers noted. This is an important detail and the correct limit should be clear. On departure day, we were told that no changes to our bill could be made after 8 AM. Our bill arrived in our room in the middle of the night and had an error of a few hundred dollars. At 6:15 AM we were told that the person with authority to change the bill could not be found. It took until 7:30 to get this sorted out. While it may not be a big deal, it seems obvious that, with such a small window for corrections, the person responsible should be available on departure morning. OVERALL We were delighted with our choice of the Explorer for our trip. The crew was professional and caring and there was a surprising degree of comfort given the locale.   Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
This was my third cruise on a Silversea ship, and the second on the Explorer. The itinerary was fabulous, and the expedition staff was utterly superb; many of them were PhDs. There were frequent lectures, and many of the lecturers were at ... Read More
This was my third cruise on a Silversea ship, and the second on the Explorer. The itinerary was fabulous, and the expedition staff was utterly superb; many of them were PhDs. There were frequent lectures, and many of the lecturers were at a college or university level. The Explorer is a smaller ship, and the amenities are certainly not at the level one would expect on a larger ship. That having been said, the cabins were completely adequate, and a couple of issues with my cabin were resolved quickly. The dining room was a highlight, from the superb staff captained by dining room manager Anna (a superstar in every respect) to excellent food and a delightful staff. The only complaint was that dining in the evening sometimes ran a little long because people loved to talk! Most impressive was the attention the expedition staff paid to getting passengers on and off the ship, which in almost every case was via zodiac. The zodiac operation was smooth, highly professional, and the expedition staff and ship staff who worked with the zodiacs could not have been more professional. Land tours were fantastic, and expedition staff made exceptional efforts seeing that everyone got around to see as much as possible. It was obvious that the staff enjoyed their jobs and were enthusiastic about doing them well. Antarctica is a challenging trip under the best of circumstances, but Silversea is to be commended for making this a particularly outstanding trip. Visiting one of the most remote parts of the world in luxury is a real treat! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2013
Day 1 After a very long journey from Cyprus (Europe) we arrived at BA EZE international airport. We may have been unlucky, but the queues for passport control were very long, one hour to get through (eye and fingerprint recognition). ... Read More
Day 1 After a very long journey from Cyprus (Europe) we arrived at BA EZE international airport. We may have been unlucky, but the queues for passport control were very long, one hour to get through (eye and fingerprint recognition). We collected our luggage then waited one more hour to get through customs control, every bag is screened, not what you need after a long journey. Thankfully once through we were greeted by our pre booked English speaking taxi guy. (can supply details if needed) We had booked a very nice Hotel near to the domestic airport where we fly from in the morning only 15 minutes from the airport, don't even think of staying near to EZE airport the traffic is so bad. The hotel is called the Fierro Hotel in Palmero, very clean, comfortable, welcome glass of wine on arrival, safe area to stay, reasonably priced. We have an early breakfast, taxi ordered, plane leave for Ushuaia 08.00hrs. Will report further. Day 2 After a pleasant evening in BA at a really nice steak house we retired to a warm and comfortable bed. Early start 05.30 with a continental style breakfast served in the room left the hotel for a 15 minute drive to AEP domestic airport in a pre booked local taxi, cost, 71 pesos, £9 or 15 US dollars. On arrival, met by Silversea rep before check in who gave us our boarding passes with pre allocated seating, no upgrades allowed, no queues, simple check in procedure for luggage with LAN (Local airline) for our onward flight to Ushuaia, the baggage was not weighed, no restriction on hand luggage. A Silversea rep travels on the plane with you. The airport has plenty of places to eat and drink, a few shops open to browse. The plane was a modern Airbus A320, departed 30 mins late at 08.55 hrs, seating was comfortable but economy (coach) is never that good for leg room, we were lucky and had three seats for two. Food on board is very odd!! After 50minutes they serve coffee/tea/soft drinks, no wine or spirits on board, there is beer. They offer a light snack comprising three packets of biscuits (cookies) 15 minutes later same again, except this time you are offered a packet of crisps/chips. After 3hrs 10 mins we landed in Ushuaia not the 3hrs 50 as posted, nice surprise there. Nice modern airport, after collecting our bags from the carrousel we took them outside and left them with SS, we boarded a very nice coach. When the coach was almost full a tour guide announced that we were going to a restaurant for lunch 20 mins away, she gave a good history lesson on the way. Stopped at a very nice place for lunch, three course meal, BB lamb for a main course, lasted about an hour. From there we drove into the town and had just less than 1 hour to walk around the shops before boarding the ship. At last on board!!! Day 3 A warm welcome as usual from all the staff, nice parker coat awaits in our room. We are on deck 3 so will report later on that. First thing was the mandatory lifeboat drill, sailed away 18.30hrs, then 18.45 meet and greet from the crew. Very rough seas and a large swell from 22.00hrs to last at least 12 hours!! Tablets on hand. Our first evening on the explorer: The crew and experts introduced themselves 122, crew, including 12 experts, 118 passengers on this voyage. After a pleasant meal we retired early, the "storm" was just starting! Dress code was very casual indeed, some guys were in jeans, no tie or jacket ladies were also in casual attire. At about 23.000hrs fierce winds began to rock the ship, it got worse through the night with up to 25-30 feet swell, it was as bad as predicted, not much sleep at all with the bed and other items in the room rolling around including us!! We have confined ourselves to the room for the day, it is rather difficult moving around the ship. Day 4 We are in suite 304 so maybe we feel it more, but at the time of writing this some 17hrs later it's still the same. A word of caution here, if you are not a good sailor this cruise may not be for you, not for the faint hearted so far, not many people around for the three expert lectures today. At 1500hrs today they announced that if anyone wants to borrow rubber boots they are welcome, so they must have a good stock, they called guests by deck number, all were complete in 45 mins. Just managed room service, let's hope it stays down! Now 18.00hrs and we are staying in the room, good documentaries to watch on TV and movies. As you know speaking about food and drink is very subjective. We are quite easy to please, so unless the food is dire I won't discuss on this forum. Six of us eat last evening one guy liked a fuller red wine, the sommelier was more than happy to change it. Day 5 In answer to a question on the forum: One of the senior crew members was asked about the damage to the ship? When the wave hit the ship enough water came on the bridge up to their knees! Of course the ship was temporarily disabled but at no time were the passengers or crew in any danger. The water seeped right through the ship causing damage, I guess we were lucky we sailed! There is a full account already posted on the thread. So, after 32 hours we finally emerge from our suite like to Polar bears coming out of hibernation! We must have looked like two ghosts walking for breakfast. We have only sailed three times before in calmer waters so you seasoned sailors out there must take all this in your stride? As for me I am certainly not looking forward to the return journey across the Drake Passage. For your information the sailing time is approx 62hrs from leaving BA to docking in the Antarctic. We have 24hrs before we set anchor we just spotted our first Iceberg (cool) I have spoken with other guests who are accommodated on decks 4 and 5, they too are experiencing sickness, they can feel the "roll" of the ship and they are also uncomfortable, I have no doubt they are better off than deck three however. At 10.00hrs we attended the mandatory Zodiac briefing which lasted 1 hour; it included how to behave while on land. The weather has tempered somewhat, slightly better swell but still some roll. Just had a first sighting of fin whales, fantastic! The captain slowed down and changed course so we can all get a better view and a photo opportunity. Day 6 It s 0500hrs on Sunday 3rd February, we finally arrive in the Antarctic!! We are in the South Shetland Islands. This morning the team plan to stay in a well known area for whales, the sea is flat and calm, perfect conditions apparently. The last job of last evening was to take any gear/clothing which had been previously used to be checked and cleaned using a hoover, if you have any new clothing you don't need to have it checked, each suite is allocated two spaces in the mud room to leave your boots on your return. The guests are already allocated a number for their Zodiac, there are 4 Zodiacs. No more than 100 people are allowed on shore at any one time. The temperature is zero, snow flurries; it doesn't take long to spot hump back whales, killer whales and minke whales. The scenery is just stunning, icebergs sailing by, snow capped mountains. One of the highlights was two hump back whales who came within 15feet of the ship, side by side, what a stunning sight to see! Already this trip has exceeded our expectations. Forget the long journey, the rocky passage through the Drake Passage, so far so good! Just off for a leisurely breakfast before the action continues. It's now 10am we are travelling down Neumaya channel and the Peltia channel, very few ships travel down here because it is so narrow, only half a mile wide or less in parts. Again beautiful scenery as we go through small ice fields, snow covered glaciers either side, our first sight of penguins, lion seals, and plenty of wild birds. The final viewing today was to travel through the lemair straits. This afternoon we have a Zodiac cruise at 14.00hrs, looking forward to that. After a very pleasant lunch, here we are all the thermal gear on, waterproofs Etc for our Zodiac expedition. We boarded the Zodiac at 14.30hrs; the trip was to last 90 minutes. There are 30 guests per team (4 teams per ship) We were Zodiac 1, we then split into 4 groups of 8 per Zodiac, the four groups then went out together. Our first encounter were hump back whales, there were 4 within metres of the Zodiac. We then visited a small island where there were colonies of Adeli penguins; we stayed in the Zodiac and viewed from a distance we also saw fur and lion seals. Overall a great experience, the warm weather gear we brought passed its test. Before we knew it we were back aboard the Explorer for a nice hot cup of tea. At 18.15 we will attend a de brief and recap. Day 7 A very special day awaits us today. I hope I am not spoiling this for future passengers? This forum has given me so much useful information it's about time I repaid the advice. As part of this expedition we are here to celebrate my partner's birthday, I cannot say which birthday for fear of serious injury or worse!!! We also celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary today so all in all something to look forward to. We set sail at 18.00hrs last evening for our current location Detaille Island, South of the Arctic Circle, we anchored at about 04.30hrs. The weather is still zero degrees, cloudy with some snow. Our first actual landing on Terra firmer in the Antarctic!!! In 1956 a British expedition team landed here to carry out research, they built a large hut for accommodation. In 1959 the weather was so bad that the supply ship could not reach the team. Without supplies it was impossible to stay, the team had a small window of opportunity to leave immediately with what they could carry; as such they left the base as it stands today complete with personal belongings, artefacts, everything. They walked/skied over 25 miles to reach the rescue ship. We reached the base on the Zodiac where we met a UK Antarctic Heritage trust team of three who are currently spending 4/6 weeks maintaining the base, called Base W. Our passports have all been stamped with the Antarctica stamp how cool is that!! You can also send postcards from there. (You supply your own post cards, you buy the stamps there) What an experience visiting a place that was abandoned in 1959. All the food is still there, clothing equipment, newspapers, books; it's like stepping back in time. After 90 minutes we are now back on the Explorer about to enjoy lunch. What a lovely surprise in our room, the crew had decorated the room with balloons and decorations, a really nice touch, and of course a bottle of nice cool champagne. Someone on the forum has asked for the Captains name, he is Captain Alexander Golubev, a very experienced captain in this neck of the woods with over 80 voyages in this region. Unfortunately there are no visits at all to the bridge because of the incident with the Costa Concordia, shame really! After a fantastic morning (it just gets better) the Captain decided to take the ship further south than the vessel has ever gone before. We met with pack ice but, undeterred he sailed through no problem! Lots of lion seals basking on the ice, great photo opportunities. It's a birthday celebration in the MDR this evening, the crew will sing happy birthday and that will be a fitting end to another great day on the Explorer. Day 8 We sailed overnight from Detaille Island to our current position Petermann Island. Here we hope to see Adelie and Gentoo penguins, Blue eyed-shags, and South Polar skewers. After a short trip in the Zodiac we landed on the island we were met by as many penguins as the eye could see. You could however "smell" the Guano (penguin poop) well before we landed! We spent 90 minutes wandering the island at our leisure, once again fascinating history from the experts. I have to say at this stage the crew and experts really make this expedition what it is, very friendly smiling faces whatever the conditions. Back on board before lunch, more eating and drinking. This afternoon we sail to Port Lockroy & Dorian Bay. Port Lockroy is a natural harbour located on the Western side of Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago, discovered in 1903 it was mainly used as a whaling station. In 1944 the British established a base on Goudier Island (we Brits get everywhere!). It is an early example of a scientific research station. Another very interesting day, again lots to see, lots of nesting chicks, the highlight was a lion seal when it came so close to the Zodiac you could almost touch it! Called at Port Lockroy which is half museum and half souvenir shop, t shirts, polo shirts, key rings, anything with penguins on and the name of the base station. They take dollars, Euros, sterling or credit cards, your last chance to post cards to your loved ones. They may take between 2-10 weeks to arrive however. Day 9 This morning our expedition is to Cuverville Island where there is a large Gentoo Penguin rookery. On arrival at the beach you could see lots of whale bones scattered around, jaw bones, ribs Etc. Before our departure, the expedition leader announced over the tannoy that if anyone was interested you could hike to the top of the dome on the Island some 280mtrs high, covered in thick snow and rocks. Note: This climb takes 45-50 minutes and is certainly not for the infirm or those not used to exercise. It is a steep climb but mapped out all the way by the experts. Fifty brave souls made the climb, one behind the other we looked like Edmund Hilary climbing Everest! (Slight exaggeration there) Once we reached the peak the views as you can imagine were stunning. Half way up most people discarded their hats, gloves, and some outer clothing. Walking poles proved very useful for this climb. The hike back down is much easier, in fact the highlight is when you get to a point about a quarter of the way from the bottom you have an option to Toboggan on your rear end all the way down, it takes about 10 seconds and is great fun. We are now certainly in to the routine of Life jackets off, Jackets on, boots on boots off, hats on hats off. The temperature today is a balmy +2 degrees. Not sure you ever get used to the Guano smell; there is a lot of it around! For those not partaking in the hike you can still visit the Island and wander at your leisure. This afternoon the ship visits Neko harbour, good for beautiful glaciers, there are guided walks on offer. We decided to sit this one out in favour of a relaxing hot tub on the top deck drinking a nice glass of champagne!! We could see the intrepid explorers climbing to the top of the island and we drank a toast to them. Some people just don't know when to stop having fun!! Yet another announcement of a hump back whale close to the ship. This evening is a welcome get together for returning Venetian Guests, last evening the First timers to Silversea had their party. Day10 This is our last day in the Antarctic aboard the Explorer before we set sail this evening back through the Drake Passage. We landed this morning at Hannah Point on the South coast of Livingston Island. We hope to see Southern Elephant Seals, Macaroni penguins, Chinstrap Penguins, Southern giant Petrels and Antarctic fur seals. For those who enjoy some brisk exercise, the team offered a walk to fossil beach on the other side of the bay. It is a moderate walk with a few slight inclines and slippery rocks; it is approx 4km return or a 1.5 to 2hr walk. The highlight of this tour was 40-50 male juvenile Elephant seals who basking on the beach, they come ashore to lose their coats. When fully grown they are called beach masters, they grow up to 5 metres in length, can weigh 5 tons, and live to 50yrs of age, they have no natural predators. When in the sea they can go to 1500 metres and stay under water for up to 2 hours. Once again, we saw plenty of different penguin colonies and large sea birds, fantastic morning. This afternoon the ship moved to Whalers Bay Deception Island, which you may have heard of? It is located in the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula. The most recent volcano eruptions were in 1967 and 1969 which caused serious damage to the scientific stations there. The only current research stations are run by the Argentinean Army and Spain. It is a sad place given the history of the place due to whaling, all the old huts and equipment is still there I hope never to be used ever again. This Island is where if you are foolish enough you can partake in the famous polar plunge, anyone brave enough to jump into the icy waters is allowed to do so. It would be a shame to come all this way and not do it, and yes we did it!!! Even after one minute you cannot feel your legs, great fun though. Well that's it folks, now that I have bored the pants off you, our trip of a lifetime is almost over. We have the two day Drake Passage to look forward to (not) then a day in BA before our homeward trip. I would like to place on record our thanks to the crew and experts of the Explorer. They really make it an adventure never to be forgotten. I only have one small observation, Silversea still nickel and dime you for using the internet irrespective of how many times you sailed with them. Please feel free to ask any questions about the ship or the trip, I will be more than pleased to try and answer them. We can honestly say it has been well worth the money, effort and time to get here, one of the world's great untouched places to visit. Good luck to all who have booked for future cruises; you WILL have a fantastic time. Bon voyage: Mr and Mrs Fudge, aka Bev and Steve..... We are 14 hrs into our crossing of the Drake Passage, still not for the passenger who suffers from motion sickness!! 12-16 ft swell, just about comfortable. Someone asked if Claudia Holgate is on board (Climatologist and birder) yes she is, a wealth of knowledge as are all the Expedition team. Another question was, how is the food and drink? As I said earlier, we are easily pleased. The breakfast is buffet style; plenty of choice, eggs cooked fresh how you like them. For us lunch is the best meal. Again buffet style with lots of choice, at least two choices of fish, three choices of meat, plenty of fresh fruit and salad, great choice of desserts. At 4pm, you can have fresh sandwiches, tea, coffee, and freshly baked scones with cream, yum yum! Dinner is what it is, a la cart, a choice of 4 smaller portions, from appetizers to the main course. As for the wines: Again, personal choice, if one is not to your palate the Sommelier changes it without question. Entertainment: The experts give regular talks on their particular subject, otherwise it's a guy on a piano, and no dancing girls here I'm afraid. If you are not an expert at taking photos fear not, the team put together a video of the trip plus a CD with 500 photos, you can purchase for 150 US dollars. Tonight is a casual/elegant night, the third of the trip, a chance for Mrs Fudge to dress up; we are invited to the Captains table, should we really eat with the staff??? (Only joking there) We enjoyed a very nice evening with the Captain; the difference between this cruise and other Silversea cruises is that you are encouraged to mix with other guests. You can of course choose to dine alone, but I must admit with such a small passenger list you soon get to know most of the guests. The service has once again been outstanding; we were called by our names by most of the crew. The rest of the crossing of the Drake Passage was thankfully uneventful, not smooth, but by no means as bad as our first crossing!! The journey back was only 48hrs as opposed to 62 hrs getting to the Antarctica. We generally relaxed on board attending several lectures and had an opportunity to watch the Video produced by the Expedition team, it was 1hr long, very informative and good quality. For those who have never sailed with SS before your bags have to be packed and outside your room by 23.30hrs the night before embarkation. On the day of departure you enjoy a leisurely breakfast leaving the vessel at 08.45, after a very short bus ride to the end of the pier you have about 1hr 50 mins to explore the town, a good opportunity for last minute shopping! At 10.50 am you board the bus to the airport, it's only a 10 minute ride. At the airport you go to the check in desk, again a simple check in procedure. By the way, after leaving your bags outside your room you don't see them until landing at BA. We were only in the airport 90 minutes before we took off 5 mins early heading for BA. Landed at the domestic airport, 8 mins early at 15.52 very simple getting out. Now in a very nice Hotel not far from EZE airport ready for the long flight home tomorrow. We had a nice surprise on the flight back to BA, they served a larger snack, a cheese and ham sandwich, cheese biscuits, a cake, AND a choice of red or white wine. Be guarded at Ushuaia airport, like most airports food and drink is quite expensive, people were buying sandwiches thinking we only had cookies on the plane. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2013
A cruise to Antarctica is pricey, expensive even, but it is absolutely worth it! We saw amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery. It felt as if we were in a nature documentary for two weeks. Having previously cruised on 2500+ passenger ... Read More
A cruise to Antarctica is pricey, expensive even, but it is absolutely worth it! We saw amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery. It felt as if we were in a nature documentary for two weeks. Having previously cruised on 2500+ passenger cruise ships, the atmosphere and the level of service on this 200 passenger mega-yacht was very different. No lines, for instance. Also, crew was very approachable. The captain welcomed everyone in person and he was present at several dinners. The naturalists/guides were always available to answer questions. Even though French is the primary language on board, all announcements and briefings were in English as well. There was never a language barrier, nor were non-French speakers treated differently. Our stateroom was very nice, with good size beds and all the comforts you would expect. Lots of storage space. Bath room with separate toilet and shower. Housekeeping staff was excellent. Always friendly, always able to help with requests. Compared to the big cruise lines like Carnival and NCL, the food on l'Austral is certainly better. However, don't expect Michelin star or Steak house quality. It's upscale restaurant food. I was surprised by the freshness of the ingredients, even after two weeks cruising. Also, there was good amount of variety, some days with exotic dishes like kangaroo and skate. The desserts were absolutely delicious! We had a very rough Drake Passage, but once in Antarctica the skies were clear and the weather stayed remarkable friendly. Expeditions were spectacular. There had been lectures by the naturalists to inform us about the wildlife we'd see, but seeing (and smelling) a penguin colony for yourself is very special indeed. We saw more wildlife then we'd ever imagined. In the Antarctic Peninsula, we visited Paradise Bay, Neko Harbor, Wilhelmina Bay, Port Lockroy, Port Charcot, the Lemaire Channel, Dallmann Bay, Deception Island, Hannah Point, Gourdin Island and Brown Bluff. We then went back North via Elephant Island to the Falkland Islands for another four stops: Stanley, Volunteer Point, Saunders Island and New Island. After the Falklands we had three sea days and we finished the cruise in Montevideo, Uruguay. (for a more detailed review, including photos, visit the Antarctica section in Forums > Ports of Call) http://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=475 Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
It was my second cruise with Silversea but my very first time experiencing an expedition voyage. I must say it has been the best trip of my lifeDestination: extraordinaryCrew staff: incredibleCaptain: extremely friendly and very ... Read More
It was my second cruise with Silversea but my very first time experiencing an expedition voyage. I must say it has been the best trip of my lifeDestination: extraordinaryCrew staff: incredibleCaptain: extremely friendly and very professionalExpedition staff: I was not expecting such a well trained team. Out of ordinary!!Food: I couldn't ask more considering that we were in such a remote area of the worldBoat: old but very well maintaned. spotlessStateroom:  Veranda Suite: great view from french balcony. spotless. marble bathroom. luxury bedding, binoculars, refrigerator with all inclusive beverage, too tiny closet (even if my butler was very capable in fiiting in there all my cloths) Butler: very useful. always anticipating my needsweather: sunny almost everydayDrake Passage: quite calm but still a lot of people got seasick. Bracelets are very usefulsince day 1 litteraly all crew members remembered my name...impressive can't wait to my next expedition cruise! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2012
We traveled back-to-back cruises, Antarctica and the Chilean fjords, on the Silver Explorer in February/March 2012. The brilliant expedition team; marine biologist, geologists, ornithologist, botanist, historian were available to answer ... Read More
We traveled back-to-back cruises, Antarctica and the Chilean fjords, on the Silver Explorer in February/March 2012. The brilliant expedition team; marine biologist, geologists, ornithologist, botanist, historian were available to answer questions almost 24/7. They doubled as our zodiac drivers, accompanying us on all landings and excursions. Lectures every sea day from these professionals added enormously to our understanding and enjoyment. Silver Explorer has an open bridge, officers and crew happy to explain what's happening. Zodiac expeditions were well organised, generally two a day while in Antarctica. Because only 100 pasengers are allowed to land at one time, 60 would land while others did a zodiac cruise. We had plenty of time onshore, the area you can explore is limited, usually by inaccessible cliffs of ice and some environmentally sensitive area declared out of bounds. Landings catered for all fitness levels with long, quite challenging, hikes for the very fit, short, not so steep walks for the almost fit and short gentle strolls on flat ground for the less active. Several passengers and crew took the option of the "polar plunge," a dash into the calm but near freezing waters of Deception Island. All landings and excursions are included in the fare as are all drinks. Your cabin bar will be stocked with the drinks you ask for. All cabins are outside, very comfortable with decent sized bathrooms. Some cabins have balconies. Stewards and butlers attend to your every wish. We were very happy with our cabin mid-ships on deck 3, especially when the seas were rough. There is a guest laundry, washing machine and dryer, on board. Washing dries very quickly in bathrooms. Silversea provide very warm parkas and backpacks and have rubber boots left behind by former passengers available for loan. We found plenty of delicious choices from the breakfast and lunch buffets, hot dishes were always hot. I particularly enjoyed the lunchtime casseroles. The dinner menu offered three choices for each course; if the choices don't suit you can order "off menu". Dinner service wasn't swift but we enjoyed chatting to our new friends. The officers and crew were very friendly and attentive. Ratio of crew to passengers is about 1:1. There is a small gym, well patronized on sea days. There is no "big cruise ship" style entertainment. A pianist, a well-stocked library both of which we appreciated and movies to watch on cabin TV, which we were too well occupied to use. There are no formal nights, two or three dinners where we tried to dress more smartly, especially when invited to the table of the captain or other officers. Certainly our style of cruising. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2012
We took L'Austral to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands from Ushuaia, Argentina. This is an expedition cruise on a boat with less than 200 passengers, so a different experience from your usual cruise. The boat is ... Read More
We took L'Austral to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands from Ushuaia, Argentina. This is an expedition cruise on a boat with less than 200 passengers, so a different experience from your usual cruise. The boat is armed with a fleet of 8 zodiacs, staffed with several naturalists, all the things you'd get on a more rugged cruise, except you got plush accommodations and good food. BOOKING - Booking was easy over email, Lisa was very helpful. It was a bit disorganized at the end when we were suddenly asked for all the documentation that we'd already provided, just days before the cruise, and we actually had to write and ask for our boarding passes the day before the cruise because they hadn't been sent. Other than that, all was fine with the booking. LANGUAGE - The boat is French, and so the main language on board is French, but they always spoke in English too, and worked hard to ensure that English speakers were together on the expeditions, also at meals, so that there wasn't a language problem. There was also one German speaking naturalist for the German contingent, though they weren't as well catered to as the French and English speakers. We didn't find the language to be any problem, it was well dealt with by the ship crew. EMBARKATION - This was well handled except we didn't appreciate having to drag our luggage all the way down the cruise port with no assistance. SHIP - The ship is brand new and very nice. Well climate controlled with everything you need. There are three lounges, though the outside bar was rarely open. It handled the 18-20 foot seas of Drake Passage very well, even though waves were smashing over the sixth deck. STATEROOMS - We had the Prestige Cabins on the 5th floor. They were quite spacious for a ship - about the size of a normal hotel room, very new and well appointed with flatscreen TV (movies only, no reception for TV), Nespresso machine, Nice shower and separate toilet, a desk, and a balcony with two chairs and a table. The only problem we had was the balcony door first creaked very loudly and also was very drafty. Bed was comfortable. Telephone in the room, also wi-fi (exorbitantly expensive). SERVICES - There is a spa onboard, and a very nice fitness center which has a view of the ocean. There is wi-fi, but it is massively, ridiculously expensive, horribly slow, and intermittent (three days at a time without access at all). They sell it by the time block, with no refunds if you don't use it all. There are three computers that can't print, and the internet rarely worked on them. There is no TV signal (one day we had CNN) but a few movies to watch. There is a Wii and a few board games. Three lounges. FOOD - The food was a real surprise. The ala carte restaurant was a gem, with an amazing variety for the 16 day cruise, always fresh, always well presented and creative. It wasn't always good (mostly though), but they get an A for effort. There were always 2-3 choices of each of the 4 courses, with some other things you can get every day. You can also eat at the buffet restaurant which at least when we were there was of poor quality for dinner. It was better for breakfast and lunch though. Also a good variety considering no ports of call for restocking for 16 days - amazing we could still get fresh fruit at the end of the trip, for example. Unfortunately, except for the meals, there was no food available except peanuts in the bar. With lunch at noon and dinner at 8:30 PM, everyone starved all afternoon with nothing but room service possible, not even a croissant (there was an afternoon tea with a few cookies). STAFF - The staff was surprisingly friendly and nice. Everyone was very pleasant and tried hard, even at the end of a very long cruise. The cruise director had a great sense of humor and kept things light. The Expedition leader was also funny and very nice and professional. The naturalists were all pleasant but not very proactive - they spent most of the time on shore taking their own photos or wandering around making sure people didn't get too close to the animals, rather than proactively interacting with the guests. They were there to answer questions if you had some, but other than a quick 1 minute briefing when you got to shore, they weren't proactive about it at all, which was a suprise. EXPEDITIONS - The expeditions were professional and well organized. The parkas were of high quality, and nobody was cold. The naturalists were good about keeping everyone where they were supposed to be, and the landings were spectacular. One million adele penguins at one landing at Heroine Island was absolutely stunning. Another in South Georgia with 400,000 King Penguins, elephant seals, fur seals was spectacular. Zodiac cruising through the ice in Antarctica was magnificent, even though it was raining and snowing. Another day we sailed inside one of only three navigable calderas in the world, very cool. The hikes were marginal, and we would have liked to do one more day of ice and one less day in the Shetland Islands, but otherwise very, very good. We did an average of 2 landings each day that we had calls, with two days of sea in between areas. We were very pleased overall. The photgrapher and videographer did a stunning job - wow. We bought both CDs. Incredible work. ENTERTAINMENT - The entertainment schedule was lacking in imagination - by day you had a couple of naturalist briefings, which were really boring for the most part. Good subject matter, just dry presentation (reading off a paper like presenting a research paper rather than entertaining tourists). There was fitness and streching each day, and that was pretty much it. A couple of days there was Wii but with no kids and most people over 60, I don't think that was a big hit. By night it was better with a couple of relevant movies, a talented dance crew, and very good lounge singing. It wasn't a big variety at all, but by then most people were tired anyway and went to bed. They could really have done more fun things with the daytime entertainment though, not just fitness, streching and dancing. Card tournaments, cooking classes, wine tastings, and things like that would have been more age-appropriate for the guests I think. Overall, we had a very good cruise on L'Austral. Many people complained of boredom during sea days, and about the quality of the lectures and the bad internet, some about the food and the naturalists not being proactively engaging with the guests, but mostly I think people were satisfied. The expeditions that we all came for were great, with the only complaint being only one morning in the ice. There should have been one more. When you consider the alternative accommodations to Antarctica, L'Austral is way above any of the others, except Silver Explorer which is double the price. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
I want to first state the expedition quality of this cruise was fantastic. The scientists onboard, lectures, zodiac tours and landings were beyond wonderful. The cabin was equal to any onboard Holland America or a Viking or Avalon river ... Read More
I want to first state the expedition quality of this cruise was fantastic. The scientists onboard, lectures, zodiac tours and landings were beyond wonderful. The cabin was equal to any onboard Holland America or a Viking or Avalon river cruise. The cabin did not compete with Celebrity suites. However, the breakfast and lunch buffet were always cold. This was true even if you went to the dinning room immediately upon opening. Room service also suffered from cold food. Eggs ordered off the menu were brought to the table over done or under cooked. Tapas served in the Observation Lounge were still frozen. I just didn't understand the lack of quality food on a cruise that was this costly. Coffee was hit or miss. Some lattes were right on and then the next might be undrinkable. Wine included with meals was pleasant. Dinner selections on the menu were difficult to interpret. Sometimes the items were lost in translation. We did find that there was a "secret" menu. If you gave 24 hours advance notice, you could get an Indian dinner or lamb chops, lobster and other entries. The risotto was poorly executed anytime it was on the menu. I also had a difficult time wrapping my head around a Silversea practice of auctioning off the chart from the cruise (signed by the staff) for thousands of dollars. When we asked where the money goes to we were told it goes towards clothing, entertainment and shore excursions for the crew. When fellow passengers asked "which" crew, the expedition leader did not give a clear answer. On our cruise, a record was set and a gentleman paid $11,500 for the chart. This guy had won the auction on the Arctic and wanted to have the Antarctic "side by side". Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2011
Hotel before the cruise: 2 nights at the Tierra del Leyendas in Ushuaia. What a wonderful little hotel! Warm, inviting with great service and food. It is hard to imagine a better start to an Antarctic trip than a stay at this little ... Read More
Hotel before the cruise: 2 nights at the Tierra del Leyendas in Ushuaia. What a wonderful little hotel! Warm, inviting with great service and food. It is hard to imagine a better start to an Antarctic trip than a stay at this little gem. Highly recommended! The cruise: Before getting into the cruise, I have to make a few points about Ponant Customer Relations. We and our TA found it lacking and the communication very poor. Very shortly before departure (3 weeks), the company informed our agent they needed medical forms - and that we would be denied boarding if we did not have them signed by a physician and submitted. While the requirement of the form is not surprising, none of us had heard about the requirement since the cruise was booked (almost a year before sailing). In addition, no one had asked us about sizes for the parka we were to receive or how they were to be distributed. By comparison, Silversea asked our size for an Arctic cruise last year on the PA II (now the Silver Explorer) and had them for us when we boarded. Different procedures for different companies is certainly understandable, but a lack of communication and poor organization is not. As an aside, we were told the Ponant agent with whom our travel agent booked the cruise is no longer with them. Not exactly a surprise! On the dock before the cruise: Ponant unfortunately continued to provide a less than expected experience when we had to pull our own luggage all the way to the end of the dock to the gangway. I have never had to pull my own bags (not just my carry-on) all the way to the ship. Surely there was some way to take baggage from passengers and convey it to the ship. By the way, once on board we had to go back to reception to bring 2 of the 4 bags to the cabin since they were left standing there. Very disorganized and somewhat weird. The cruise: OK, enough of the bad stuff (just a little more to come). I am sure you think I am going to slam the cruise, but that is definitely not the case. I just felt it was necessary to share the bad with the good. The ship is beautiful and very comfortable. The last bit of bad stuff is that there is a design flaw in the balcony doors on Deck 3. On the first morning in the Drake Channel (25-30 foot seas) our cabin flooded twice in the space of 3 hours. The flaw lets water in under the sill of the door as well as around the seal. Until the ship makes a technical stop (their term) it cannot be corrected. As a result, at least 7 cabins on Deck 3 had the water problem and we were all moved to unsold cabins on Deck 6. Thank goodness they had them available. Service: Excellent. The cabin staff was tremendous and the dining room staff was superb. Food: This has been a hot topic of debate on the reviews. The quality of the food and preparation was absolutely top-notch. I can understand, however, how some passengers might have been disappointed with only 2 choices of soup, 2 choices of starters, 3 choices of main course (a fish, a meat, and a pasta), and 2 choices of dessert nightly. There were limited choices always available - Caesar Salad, Grilled Ribeye, ice cream, and a cheese plate. For the Captain's Gala Welcome and Farewell Dinners, the menus were fixed - and delicious. For me, there was always an appealing choice and I would rather have fewer selections of excellently prepared, top quality food than a lot of so-so items to pick from. Breakfast was a buffet (plus one featured dish prepared to taste) and lunch was a themed buffet daily. Nice house wines and beer was served with lunch and dinner with extra cost selections available as well. Public Rooms: Very appealing and well laid out. Cabin: Except for the flooding in our first stateroom (325), they were well designed and laid out. There were two quirks, however - 1) There is a panel that can be moved to reveal a fixed window that looks into the bath from the bed area; 2) The toilet is in a small area by itself. You have to exit it and go into the separate area with the shower and sink to wash your hand. Very odd. Entertainment: There were some very talented singers, dancers and musicians on-board. Entertainment was better than expected and made a nice way to end some evenings. In addition, Wii was available (I had never played) in 2 locations and made a nice diversion for the 5 children (and some adults - like us!) on-board. There was also a library (with a couple of tables for card playing or writing), computers (with available Internet packages), etc. In addition there were daily briefings and lectures like you would find on other Expedition cruises. Expedition Staff: Very competent but not as outgoing or sociable as on Silversea. All in all, though, they were dedicated to our safety, making sure we had every opportunity to enjoy Antarctica, to enforcing the rules and regulations. I don't think you could ask for more. I will also include the Videographer and Photographer in this category. They were incredible and very helpful. The video DVD and photo CD (available in US and non-US formats) are fantastic. Antarctica: The scenery and wildlife were amazing. Weather was always a challenge (snow probably half the time and rain others while near or on the continent). We saw the sun perhaps 1 or 2 days in addition to sail away and the day we returned. The tentative itinerary will definitely change due to ice, sea conditions (40 foot waves while fighting north on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula) and weather. Favorite moment? There were 2. Brown Bluff (huge Adele Penguin Rookeries with new chicks and taking zodiacs to get off on an ice flow in Wilhelmina Bay. I can only suggest that you go. You are in for an exhilarating and unique experience. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2010
I was surprised to read the review by Tilly-Loves-Seabourn, because our experience was nearly identical on a 10-day cruise to Antarctica in December 2010. The saving grace was that our cruise was chartered by Abercrombie & Kent, who ... Read More
I was surprised to read the review by Tilly-Loves-Seabourn, because our experience was nearly identical on a 10-day cruise to Antarctica in December 2010. The saving grace was that our cruise was chartered by Abercrombie & Kent, who supplied all of the on-board lecturers and naturalists who worked hard as our zodiac guides. This ship (and its new Ponant owners) may have five-star aspirations but they don't seem to have a clue as to the requisite service levels and cuisine. I am sad to report that both service and cuisine are below the standard of Royal Caribbean mega ships, far below Celebrity, and not even comparable to Seabourn and her real peers. We had bartenders so green that they could not identify brand-name bottles on their shelf or find/mix the drinks on their cocktail list. We had waiter-busboys so inept that they were scraping cleared plates tableside, oblivious to standard clues as to when diners where finished with a course, unable to take accurate non-standard meal requests (e.g., substitutions). And don't get me started about the unsanitary way that I saw cutlery, fruits and straws handled. There were a few senior people in the dining room who seemed to understand our expectations but when privately pressed were frankly embarrassed that they lacked the new corporate head office support for adequate staffing or quality supplies. That may be true, but they were doing a poor job of training staff and working with what they had. There also was a certain French indifference to service requests, even though I'm fluent in French. Room service breakfast after 10:00 a.m. (because the restaurant stops serving at 9:30, even on at-sea days) -- impossible (not even toast or a hard-boiled egg). Someone is sick in the cabin and we need sheets changed -- no message passed on to the cabin stewards who arrive 3.5 hours later on their regular rounds. Except for the A&K Staff, there was virtually no entertainment or activity on board (not even a daily crossword puzzle). This may be the best looking boat sailing in the Antarctic, but I'll bet that many others offer better service and far better food. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2010
The biggest decision to make in regard to going to Antarctica on an 'expedition' ship is how much time you wish to spend 'off the boat', and what style you want to experience while on-board. Le Boreal is still probably ... Read More
The biggest decision to make in regard to going to Antarctica on an 'expedition' ship is how much time you wish to spend 'off the boat', and what style you want to experience while on-board. Le Boreal is still probably the most stylish way to explore the peninsula, but because it carries 200 passengers, you will spend less time roaming about in the zodiacs than on a smaller ship with less than 100 passengers (by regulation, only 100 individuals are allowed onshore at one time). Le Boreal does have it's failings though (as other reviewers have indicated), and when it comes up against all the other ships sailing other parts of the world, it would have some issues matching up. But in Antarctica, it will not be wanting for passengers... as only a small number of ships tour there, and more and more people are visiting each year. The staff will get better at being more professional, and the ship will work on eliminating some of the shakedown style problems. Bottom line, if you want to visit in style, and being restricted to only 3-4 hours a day off the ship is not an issue, than you will probably not do better than going on the Le Boreal... other parts of the world are another matter. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Prince Albert II Review Ushuaia - Antarctic Peninsula - South Georgia - Falkland Islands 16-day Cruise March 8 to 26, 2010 Background This was our second cruise ever - the first one was a 4-night/3-day expedition cruise through the ... Read More
Prince Albert II Review Ushuaia - Antarctic Peninsula - South Georgia - Falkland Islands 16-day Cruise March 8 to 26, 2010 Background This was our second cruise ever - the first one was a 4-night/3-day expedition cruise through the Chilean fiords. We planned the Antarctic cruise for two years. We were looking for the same expedition experience with the same level of comfort and organization of our first cruise. Pre-embarkation We bought the full package with flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back, as no other option was offered. The flights were on the same days of embarkation and disembarkation. Also comprised in the package was a lunch in Ushuaia on the embarkation day, supposedly a typical Patagonic lamb barbecue. We rated that lunch bellow the rest of the cruise standards. In the aftermath, we would rather have flown on our own account to Ushuaia one or two days before embarkation - that would have allowed us to have the full scent of that beautiful city and its several tour options. Embarkation itself was easy and convenient, as well as the butler's attention/guidance and the welcome cocktail. Our luggage was transferred directly from the plane to the cabin. Silversea pampered us with a bottle of champagne and a box of Godiva chocolate. The Cabin We stayed in the Expedition Suite on deck three, which is much advisable for rough seas - cabins in lower, more central locations will feel less effect of the swell. Our suite was spacious - separate sitting room, bedroom, closet and bathroom (with douche and tub). There was plenty of space for our gear. Both sitting room and bedroom were equipped with flat screen TV sets where we could opt to follow the itinerary (with a lot of navigation and weather data), attend lectures or choose from a quite broad selection of films and documentaries, free of charge. Although available, we didn't watch the open channels. The sitting room was equipped with a sofa-bed, two arm chairs and desk for comfortable reading and computer browsing. Two windows allowed seeing all the scenery while being washed by the waves. The Ship Most of the ship's activities are performed in the fourth to the sixth decks. We were frequent visitors of the Library (fifth deck) - where the Internet cafe is located - and the Panorama Lounge, for the good selection of books in both areas. Internet and mobile phone were usable during the entire cruise, with reasonable rates for the Internet. The Fitness Center has four pieces of equipment, enough for the average guest profile. Some well-fitted guests used the tread mill even in rough sea days, while we only ventured on the bicycle. External areas are quite limited: one front deck in the fifth deck linked by outside corridors to the Outdoor Grill in the back, where two whirlpools are installed. In the back of the sixth deck there is a Viewing Deck. Only when cruising through calm fiord or channel waters the Captain opened the frontal viewing deck at the forth deck. Therefore, viewing areas could get pretty crowded sometimes - especially where whales and orcas were spotted. The whirlpools were filled and heated in some shaky seas, but no guest took the chance - it turned out the most of the hot water ended up in the ocean or on the open decks/stairs. Even in calm water few passenger used the whirlpools but it is an excellent experience after a full-day walk in Port Stanley, and a weird one with Antarctic snow flakes dissolving in the steam. In the whole trip only 8 passengers used it. Decoration was elegant in all areas, including cabins. Internal temperature is uniformly 20o.C. The Boutique offered the customary clothing and drugstore items, along with some souvenirs and some, say, unexpected items like watches and jewelry - we would be surprised if we ever see a guest buying one of those. On the other hand, products more connected the expedition experience - maps, documentary DVDs, books, etc. - were unavailable. We are map lovers and had to buy our South Georgia and Falklands maps on those islands, and Peninsula maps in Ushuaia. Food and Drink The Restaurant (forth deck) can handle all guests at the same time. The Chef did an excellent job with the menu, offering a varied selection of dishes at every meal. The carte des vins was quite correct. Breakfast and lunch are served on a buffet style. Dinner is a four course meal à la carte. All meals are open sitting which is very nice to get in touch with different guests each time. Morning bullion and afternoon tea were served in the bar, but didn't taste these intermediary meals, as it is not our habit. Also in the Bar we had evening rendezvous with our fellow guests, with piano and karaoke. Launderette On the fourth deck there is a free guest laundry with two washing and two drying machines. It was very busy on sea days. Beauty Salon and Spa The Salon is located next door to the launderette. The Spa (sauna and massage room) is on the fifth deck. In comparison to the Launderette, those areas were quite inactive. Susana tried the nail polishing and Marcus tried the massage. Dress Code Most of the dinners were dressed casual, only on two were casual elegant - but even then with a broad range of variation. We did enjoy this relaxed code, much in accordance with the whole expedition idea. Weather allowing, we spent several hours on the outside decks, switching occasionally to the inside lounges to recoup with coffee. Therefore, the usual clothes layering and delayering was quite in order - My husband preferred his own lighter tropical windproof jacket instead of the heavier Silversea parka for this purpose, and for the longer, warmer walks in South Georgia and Falklands. The Itinerary Our route included Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falklands islands during 16 days. We think it is a short period for the proposed itinerary because we spent 8 days at sea, therefore, activities were quite compressed in the remaining 8 days. For a more reasonable sea-to-land ratio, we think 20- to 22-days cruises should be preferred. When we first planned our trip, we thought just 10-12 days in Antarctica would be good enough. Availability made we opt for the longer itinerary. Obviously, Antarctic Peninsula is the top experience, and would deserve 1 or 2 more days at least. But South Georgia is as spectacular as the White Continent and should not be missed, if possible. Figure out someone laying a piece of the Alps in the middle of the ocean to imagine the landscape. Add to that hundreds of thousands penguins, elegant albatrosses, beautiful mountain trekking and a bit of history. Fellow Passengers We were traveled with a well diversified passengers group. About 25% were US, but Aussies were not far behind. Europe was mostly represented by English and German people; Latin America by us, Brazilians, and an Argentinean couple. The vast majority aged above 35, only 2 bellow the 30s, but sky is the limit in the upper part of the age range. Most people are well-experienced travelers with lot of stories to tell - a guaranty of good conversation. The Crew Here is one of the strong features of Prince Albert II. All personnel are very gentle and attentive - almost everyone remembered our names. The Captain and his team made the best to smooth our sailing. Indeed, he inverted the original itinerary (which was supposed to begin in the Falklands and end in Antarctica) to avoid the several weather systems that crossed our path. The Expedition Team is well organized and quite knowledgeable of their respective fields: we had a historian, a botanist, an ornithologist, 2 naturalists, a geologist and a photographer - all led by 3 expedition leaders. They presented very informative lectures during sea days. In the Restaurant, service was impeccable even in rough seas. The Hotel team provided every request we made. The crew was so good that, although gratuities were included in the price, many passengers handed extra tips. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2009
DW and I had done 19 previous cruises to the usual places (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Alaska, etc) and recently visited Iceland and Greenland on a Transatlantic cruise. The scenery was fantastic and got us thinking about visiting ... Read More
DW and I had done 19 previous cruises to the usual places (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Alaska, etc) and recently visited Iceland and Greenland on a Transatlantic cruise. The scenery was fantastic and got us thinking about visiting Antarctica. We like hiking and wildlife viewing, but also like coming home to a nice hotel or cruise ship where we can have a great meal and a clean place to sleep - we're not into tents or camping. We also were looking to check off continents #6 and #7, and this itinerary gave us the chance to see Buenos Aires & Ushuaia, as well as a chance to step on the continent of Antarctica. We knew that a larger non-expedition ship that only does a drive-by would not satisfy us. Booking was easy; there were a few cabins still available in July so we plunked down some extra to get a larger suite, as well as business class airfare. For long flights, it's worth it, IMO. We used Silversea's air program which gave us a very nice itinerary; from Albany NY to Buenos Aires with one stop in Atlanta. Using Silversea's air program was handy when our first flight from Albany to Atlanta was delayed 6 hours due to mechanical difficulties; I called our TA while waiting in the (long) line at the airport and she got us switched to a new itinerary through JFK within a few minutes. We arrived in BA around 11 AM and were met by a SS rep just outside of customs. Luckily, it was a national holiday so there was minimal traffic on the way to the hotel and we were there just after noon. Check-in was quite efficient and we were in our room for a shower and change of clothes by 12:30, ready to go exploring. I've used other cruise lines hotel packages and they don't guarantee room availability for early check-in; SS does and that was a really nice perk after a long night of flying. Buenos Aires was OK and we did some fun things there, but that's not really the topic of the review. The hotel (Park Tower BA) is a Starwood Preferred Group property and quite luxurious; breakfast was included and we really enjoyed the hotel. 2 days later, we had to be ready to catch the bus to the airport at 5AM so we could get to our charter flight to Ushuaia. The charter flight was probably the least organized/smooth aspect of the whole cruise, but not bad by any means. We arrived at the airport at 5:30 or so for a 7:00 flight, but it got delayed until some time after 8:00 so we all sat around for quite some time not knowing what was going on. The flight down was OK; coach class on LAN. Ushuaia airport is tiny and from there we got on buses and went for a scenic drive, then lunch. After that, we went for a bit more sightseeing before driving to the pier to embark. Embarkation was lightning fast and the cabins were ready when we got there. The ship itself is small but our suite was quite nice; the size is larger than a Penthouse suite on Oceania but smaller than the Owner's suite. Decoration was comparable to or nicer than what we've had on Oceania or Princess. Amenities and toiletries were Bulgari; the suite felt very luxurious. We had a bottle of champagne waiting for us but with all the wine and drinks included, it was almost impossible to find time to drink it! Also, we had a nice box of Godiva truffles waiting for us as well... The ship layout isn't very complicated - the back stairs connect the dining room (Deck 4) and the Panorama Lounge (Deck 5), and the front stairs lead to the theater and the Observation Lounge (both Deck 6). Cabins are on 3, 4, and 5 mostly mid-ship; there are a few suites on 7. There's also a neat spiral staircase in the dining room that leads directly to the Panorama lounge - so you don't need to walk as far for your after-dinner drink. Not much entertainment, but enough - if you're here to see Antarctica then that isn't really a problem. Nights in the Panorama lounge there was a piano player, and we got to do some dancing, relaxing, talking to other passengers and staff, and every few nights they had Karaoke (ugh)... I can't say enough about the level of service that we encountered - hands down the best we've seen. By day 2 most of the staff knew our names and our drink preferences. When we appeared in the Panorama lounge after lunch the bartender would bring our double espressos as soon as he saw us. The bar staff were attentive and would get you whatever wine you desired. The dining room staff were excellent as well. Food quality was probably a touch better than Oceania - which IMO is a real compliment. I wasn't expecting such good food on an expedition ship, and we were quite surprised. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet-style which initially worried me - some bad experiences on the buffet line with other cruise lines... But the buffets were uniformly excellent, and the variety quite good. Dinners were traditional sit-down style with usually 3 appetizer choices, 3 soup/salad choices, and 4 entrees including a vegetable option. Suffice it to say we never had a bad dish the whole time. Seating was open for all meals, with some tables for 2 and some larger tables. We often joined other couples at tables for 6-8. The neat thing about that is that the expedition staff would come in and eat with us at these larger tables - so it was a great chance to talk to them informally about a wide variety of topics. The expedition staff were uniformly fabulous. Conrad was expedition leader, and from him on down they were all personable, knowledgeable, and friendly. In addition to Conrad there were 2 asst. leaders, a historian, a mountain guide from Patagonia, and 4 other naturalists. We learned so much from them, and really enjoyed their company. They lectured once or twice a day on various interesting topics, and gave ad hoc small presentations during the nightly recap meetings. We got through the dreaded Drake Passage with time to spare and attempted a bonus landing at Penguin Island the night before our first "scheduled" landing. Ice conditions and weather precluded making this landing, so we were disappointed but eager to land the next day. We were divided up into 4 groups and 2 would land at one time. Group 1&2 landed first, then 3&4. For the next landing, Groups 2&3 landed first, then Groups 4&1, and so forth. So we all had a chance to land first (early morning - ugh) vs. later on in the day. The process of gearing up for landing took some learning... Traffic flow to and from the mudroom is tricky with everyone milling around the relatively small reception area. It might make sense for them to have us gather elsewhere, and then take us to the mudroom to change into boots in smaller groups. But that's only a minor issue. Zodiac rides were fun, and occasionally you'd get splashed. We kept our cameras in Ziploc bags and/or under our parkas and they were fine. Landings were "wet" with a few steps in the water before reaching land. The crew were pros at getting us into and out of the boats with minimal difficulty. We made our first landing at Brown Bluff, on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, so this was our big moment to claim #7. After savoring that for all of 2 seconds, we were engrossed by the innumerable penguins milling about withing 20 feet of the landing site. Gentoos and Adelies nesting in huge numbers, swimming, waddling around - I'm sure they got Kodachrome poisoning from all the pictures being taken. Saw a skua stealing an egg which was a downer though. Had a nice hike up the hill to a panoramic view of huge tabular icebergs floating in the Antarctic sound... Lovely day. After that we went to Deception island - which is a ring-shaped island with a lagoon in the center - think Santorini with snow and ice. Made two landings there - one at an old whaling station; the decrepit buildings in the harsh volcanic landscape were very picturesque. Some of us took the opportunity to make a "Polar Plunge" in the bracingly cold water... The first few inches were volcanically heated, but after that it took your breath away. We were rewarded by a few chinstrap penguins on the beach. Later we landed on another part of the island and hiked to the volcanic crater from the 1970 eruption. On the way back there was a crabeater seal hauled out on the beach, and more chinstraps. Next day we went to Paradise Harbour further down the peninsula to visit Gonzalez Videla - a Chilean base which is smack in the middle of a huge Gentoo rookery. Guano everywhere! We tucked our rain pants into our rubber boots and were glad we did... But rewarded by great views of nests, eggs, and penguins all over the place. No chicks yet; a bit early in the season. After a brief stop in their small gift shop (T-shirts and landing "certificates") we pulled up anchor and moved to a different spot in Paradise harbor for Zodiac cruising among the icebergs. We were rewarded by seeing several Weddel seals out on the icebergs, as well as nesting Antarctic Shags, Petrels, and Skuas. Next day we went to Arthur Harbor for a visit to the US Palmer base and Torgensen Island. The island is small and had a big Adelie rookery. Lots of eggs, but still no chicks. We caught a glimpse of a leopard seal lurking about off shore, but had a great view of a large group of elephant seals lounging about on an adjacent island. They are noisy and rambunctious - great views of them flopping about, half-fighting half-playing with each other. Palmer base is larger than Gonzalez Videla - we got a tour of their facilities, gift shop, and Antarctic aquarium. It is still a bit early for the summer "crowd" (about 150 at peak occupancy) so not much science to see. After the tour we had hot chocolate and brownies, and talked informally to some of the staff. Lastly, as an added bonus we were able to squeeze in a short visit to historic Port Lockroy, where we could buy postcards and mail them to folks back home with authentic "British Antarctic Territory" stamps. More Gentoo penguins, guano, and skuas here as well as interesting rooms left as they were in the 1950s when the buildings were last used as a working British base. After a long day, we were glad that the next day was easier - we did scenic cruising through the Lemaire channel in the morning. The skies were overcast so we couldn't see the tops of the mountains but it was neat cruising through brash ice and occasionally maneuvering around larger bergs. The weather started getting blustery with snow flurries but we decided to try landing on Petermann island anyway - a bit of a scramble over wet rock but manageable. Once there, we finally saw our first Adelie penguin chick! We also hiked up to the saddle to look south, as this was the southernmost point of our expedition - about 65 degrees, 10 minutes south - only 70 some miles to the Antarctic circle - so close, but not for this trip. We turned north to make one more stop in the South Shetlands - the Aitcho island group. We had a special treat at this stop - in addition to tons of Gentoos and Chinstraps, there was one lonely King penguin hanging out at the rookeries looking for - what, we didn't know. But it was quite unexpected, as they breed much further south. Great photo ops - green hillsides with moss, the larger King next to the smaller penguins, a leopard seal lazing on the distant beach, more elephant seals, another skua attack... We climbed a snowy hill and slid down on our parkas. Wonderfully picturesque and great nature shots. After that it was time to brave the Drake - first night was a bit rough but we still made good time and got into the Beagle channel early Sunday morning. Leisurely cruising by mountains, Magellanic penguin rookeries (that made 5 species seen this trip), and a massive colony of terns. We arrived in Ushuaia by dinnertime so had some time to explore that evening - the town isn't much but it has beautiful scenery and great sunsets. Disembarkation was smooth the next morning - we had a leisurely breakfast and disembarked just before 9AM. It was a short hop on the bus off the pier to the town; from there we had until 11:30 to spend as we liked. Again, the town isn't much and the other problem with this was that nothing is really open until 10:00 AM. So we wandered, took some pictures, looked at overpriced souvenirs, and finally sat on a park bench overlooking the Beagle Channel watching a tall ship go by and catching some sunshine. From there, we went to the Ushuaia airport and back to BA. Had to transfer between the airports which was a 75 minute ride in rush-hour traffic, but we figured it was either rest on the bus, or sit in the airport so no problem spending extra time on the bus. From BA, an overnight flight back home and that's about all. I have to say this was the best cruise out of 20 that we've now taken in terms of food, service, pampering, and organization. Silversea seemed to go out of their way to make you comfortable and happy the whole time - from the moment we were met in the airport to the time they dropped us off. DW and I have found our new "Favorite Cruise Line" and booked a trip to the Arctic with them for August 2011. It can't come soon enough! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
On December 30th my thoughts usually turn to plans for New Year's Eve. This date in 2009, however, found me leaning over the rail of Crystal Symphony's promenade deck, waving goodbye to Paul Queior and his colleagues from the US ... Read More
On December 30th my thoughts usually turn to plans for New Year's Eve. This date in 2009, however, found me leaning over the rail of Crystal Symphony's promenade deck, waving goodbye to Paul Queior and his colleagues from the US Palmer Research Station as they sped back to their icy home in Antarctica in their zodiac. It had been fascinating to talk to them earlier about their work (and play) in their remote workplace. I had learned, for instance, that every year the South Pole moves around 30o - that's how fast the glacier it's on is moving - so every year the geographical South Pole is measured, and repositioned, in a ceremony held on New Year's Eve. Unusually for me, I had been up, dressed and out on deck by 7.30, witnessing the breathtaking scenery as we passed through the Neumayer Channel, with great views on either side, followed by Port Loch Roy and Anvers Island. I was ready for the welcoming complimentary glass of gluwein when I returned inside, several hours later. That day we sailed to 65o South Latitude and experienced 22 hours of daylight. The previous day Captain Ralf Zander had navigated the Symphony along "Iceberg Alley" to Deception Island and the day before that we'd sailed past Elephant Island, and the marker that indicated the point where Ernest Shackleton's men were rescued to South Shetland Islands. Throughout the voyage the sun had shone and the seas remained calm; even "rounding the horn" had proved an anticlimax as the legendary huge waves had failed to materialise. The voyage through Antarctica had been the real draw of this cruise for me, but I knew that, with Crystal, I would witness the grandeur while being cocooned in the lap of luxury and not have to endure the rigours of zodiac landings, which suited me perfectly; my days of roughing it have passed. The cruise had commenced in Buenos Aires, so I took advantage of a pre-cruise trip to Iguazu Falls, which everybody had told me is a "must". I was not disappointed, although I did become the main course for the mosquito population. Back in Buenos Aires, I was able to take advantage of an Argentine Tango lesson + milonga, and invested in two new pairs of tango shoes - at half the UK price. Our first port of call was Montevideo, where I attended a performance of a play specially commissioned for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate. The next port was Puerto Madryn, where I took a bus out to the Eco Centre and looked around the pretty little town. After a day at sea we arrived at the Falkland Islands where I took a trip out to Volunteer Point to see the largest colony of King Penguins. They were a source of constant amusement and waddled right up to us; some hobbling along, encumbered with a large egg under their skirts. Our ex-Liverpudlian guide, Dave, had married a local girl and was living there during the war, so had many tales to tell. The mine-clearing programme is progressing slowly and there are still many no-go areas. It was very sad to see the war memorial in Stanley. The new year commenced with an overnight stay in Ushuaia, so were able to sample dinner in a typical local restaurant. The following day was spent in the National Park, followed by a chairlift to the Martial Glacier. I had nothing planned for Punta Arenas, so took the shuttle bus into the main square, Plaza des Armes. Suddenly I was surrounded by TV cameras and photographers. Had my fame swept so far south, I thought to myself? Eventually the crowd parted and I saw that it was not I who was the object of interest, but former President Eduardo Frei, who was seeking re-election as President after an absence of 10 years. He seemed to have quite a following, judging by the reaction of the crowd in the square, but, as I couldn't understand what the Christian Democrat Party were promising, I retreated to a local hotel. Much to my surprise, he turned up there shortly afterwards, followed by the media frenzy. I hastily returned to the ship and relaxed as we cruised the Chilean Fjords for the next two days. Puerto Montt was a delightful port. I took a full day tour, driving around Lake Llanquihue to the attractive Bavarian-style town of Frutillar, then on to Puerto Varas for a pit-stop. On to view some llamas, then a delicious lunch of locally caught wild salmon, washed down with several pisco sours (I had been acquiring a taste for this local brew over the last few days in Chile). After lunch I drove to some magnificent falls at Petrohue, on Lake Todos los Santos, and a sleepy drive back to the ship. One more lovely sea day and we arrived at our final destination, Valparaiso, where Santiago Airport beckoned. During this amazing cruise, I was lucky enough to attend lectures which enhanced the experience considerably. Crystal prides itself on engaging the very best speakers, and this is one of its strengths. The Destination Lecturer on this cruise was Professor David Drewry who had served as Director of the British Antarctic Survey and Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and had led scientific expeditions in both the Arctic and Antarctic. He also proved to be a very amusing and entertaining tablemate; the first I've had who has a mountain and a glacier named after him. The Special Interest Lecturer was Rex Ziak - what he didn't know about James Cook wasn't worth knowing. Dr Bridget Buxton, deputy director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography told riveting tales of the numerous underwater sites she had excavated, unfazed by the fact that all her luggage had failed to turn up on the ship. As a contrast, we also heard stories from Tom DeFrank, an award-winning journalist who has covered the White House since the Nixon administration, and Herb Keyser, who related entertaining stories about the lives and music of geniuses of the American musical theatre. Add to this the extensive Crystal Creative Learning Institute, and there's no excuse to be bored on a Crystal cruise. I'm already looking forward to my next, with a Big Band theme....maybe I'll get a chance to practice my Argentine tango moves? Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2008
Silversea Prince Albert II My wife and I sailed on the Silversea Prince Albert II to Antarctica December 11 to December 21st 2008. This was the trip of a lifetime for us. My wife and I are both in our mid 50's and have been on ... Read More
Silversea Prince Albert II My wife and I sailed on the Silversea Prince Albert II to Antarctica December 11 to December 21st 2008. This was the trip of a lifetime for us. My wife and I are both in our mid 50's and have been on several cruises, this was the first time on a Silver Sea vessel, I can assure you that it will not be the last. About a year ago we decided to go on an exploration cruise to the Antarctic (I have always wanted to go there) My sister is a travel agent, and she investigated a number of options and learned about the Silversea Prince Albert II, and based on the Silversea reputation we booked the Antarctic exploration cruise on the Prince Albert II. WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED. Rather than detail our Antarctic Voyage on the Prince Albert II, I will refer you to the Silver Sea Voyage journal at http://www.silversea.com/silversea.aspx?id=1447&page_type=journal&page_id=princealbertII voyage 7823, I will list each area of interest. CRUISE LINE Silversea Cruise line is outstanding, the pre cruise documents were beautifully packaged and presented, the transfers from B A, Argentina ie: the charter flight to and from B A, Argentina to Ushuaia were flawless. We especially liked the all inclusive concept, with all of the food, beverages, and tips included in the cost of the voyage. SHIP The Prince Albert II is an ice capable ship so she can go where others fear to tread. The accommodations, cabins, public rooms, and decks are very comfortable and well appointed by any standards, and unheard of by expedition standards. Note: unlike some of the other expedition ships that we saw while in port the Prince Albert II has plenty of exterior deck for the guests to enjoy. THE FOOD The food and beverages were outstanding, the dining room staff and kitchen staff made every meal memorable. THE CREW The ships officers and crew exuded confidence, while sailing in the very challenging environment of Antarctica. It was obvious that they made safety a priority and did everything possible to accommodate our many Zodiac / Antarctic Landings. The open bridge policy allowed many of us to become familiar with the ships operations. The ships officers often joined the guests for meals and lectures given by the expedition staff. THE EXPEDITION STAFF The expedition staff worked tirelessly to provide the guests with meaningful lectures and briefings about the Antarctic environment that we were visiting. The expedition staff planned and organized and executed our Antarctic excursions flawlessly, sometimes accommodating as many as two or three landings a day, depending on the weather conditions. NOTE: When on an expedition ship, particularly in the Arctic / Antarctic environment, flexibility is the name of the game. Be prepared to have the daily planned schedule change according to exploration opportunities and changing weather conditions. GENERAL COMMENTS This was the trip of a lifetime. We enjoyed the company of all of the other guests on board. We were very fortunate to experience the hospitality and professionalism of the Prince Albert II staff and crew on a Voyage of a lifetime to the Antarctic. We would like to thank everyone that we shared this voyage of a lifetime with including the Prince Albert II Staff, and the other Guests that we shared this experience with. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2008
The Prince Albert II reigns as the best expedition ship afloat. Despite her name, she - no ship can be male - is the Queen of expedition vessels. This isn't surprising as the Prince Albert II is the latest vessel added to the ... Read More
The Prince Albert II reigns as the best expedition ship afloat. Despite her name, she - no ship can be male - is the Queen of expedition vessels. This isn't surprising as the Prince Albert II is the latest vessel added to the Silversea fleet and she provides her passengers with unrivaled Silversea excellence in an expedition setting. The ship, the refurbished World Dicoverer II holding 132 passengers, features extremely well designed, comfortable staterooms plus bathrooms stocked with terry cloth robes and Bulgari toiletries. The restaurant, outdoor grill and room service provide superb food. Finest of all, is the uncompromising Silversea service - with each and every courteous and charming staff member addressing passengers by name within 48 hours, remembering their beverage (all are free) or stateroom preferences, and fulfilling every passenger's desire within minutes - often before they asked. All this, even with a no tipping policy. The officers were equally gracious and Captain Roche made it his mission to welcome all passengers by mingling with them every day and generously giving each of them his time and attention. In essence, the services aboard the Prince Albert II were unsurpassed although she did lack one amenity, a manicurist - but then, who is expected to want a manicure while on expedition. The itinerary from Acapulco to Santiago was not the most exciting from a cultural or sociological viewpoint because most ports were located in the Peruvian and Chilean desert areas. However there were excellent opportunities to visit some extraordinary archaeological sites and to study a multitude of marine birds and mammals. As with most expeditions, almost all excursions were conducted by zodiac - and it must be noted that no ABS on any vessel were better trained and skillful in assisting passengers in and out of the zodiacs with utmost safety. There was one weakness - but it can be attributed to Silversea's first time venture into expedition travel. This was the lack of personal, hands-on research into each and every port by the expedition leaders. While a variety of superior excursions were offered, visits to some very interesting areas and events were overlooked. Fortunately, these could still be enjoyed by passengers who struck out on their own - although a local guide or on-board lecture would have greatly enhanced their experience. With regard to the lectures, briefings and debriefings - otherwise known as expedition entertainment - almost all were well presented and enlightening. As always, with Silversea, embarkation and disembarkation was beautifully managed, along with transportation and baggage handling to and from hotels and airports. In summary, the Prince Albert II raises the bar for expedition vessels and Silversea has successfully met the highest of expectations in merging adventure with luxury travel. Read Less

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