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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
We just returned from the August 25, 2019 Inner Loop sailing on the Flora. It was a trip of a lifetime and Celebrity exceeded our expectations!!! From the minute we stepped off the plane until the minute we flew home, they were right ... Read More
We just returned from the August 25, 2019 Inner Loop sailing on the Flora. It was a trip of a lifetime and Celebrity exceeded our expectations!!! From the minute we stepped off the plane until the minute we flew home, they were right there taking care of all the logistics...ticketing, transfers, documentation, luggage, etc. It's also the first time on a cruise that we had a ZERO balance on the last day!!! I agree with all that Kathy said and I'm thankful that I don't have to give such a thorough review now!!! I had so many questions before the cruise and I wish I had read this sooner. For our experience, I found that my Chaco sandals were good for the beach hikes, but was very thankful to have trail shoes (Columbia trail running shoes) to navigate the rocks and lava fields. Plenty of people wore regular sneakers, which was OK, but they did slip on dusty rocks at times. There were 2 times they recommended long pants/sleeves, but I'm not really sure why? It was not necessary. The naturalists and the tender drivers stay covered head to toe at all times to protect from the sun. I'm from Georgia and don't like to be cold, but had the attitude that I could withstand it for a 45 minute snorkel!!! One time, I had to talk myself off the ledge because the cold water took my breath away upon entry. Once I regained my composure, it was totally worth it to see the turtles feeding on algae! I felt good about my clothing choices. Kathy is correct. No one cares what you wear. I would say most were dressed "nice" for dinner, but I did see some in jeans and even one couple in gym clothes. I usually wore a sun dress or pants with a cute top. Men wore jeans or slacks with a shirt. I also felt like I needed to look the part of adventurer, but that is not the case. The dry wicking shorts are nice and I used a PFG long sleeve shirt as my top layer. If you go straight from a hike to snorkel, wear your swimsuit as there is no where to change!!! I'm sure it would be frowned upon, but we figured out to take a washcloth with us to brush the sand from our feet after a wet landing. As for the underwater camera...I had a Fuji, but it filled with water on day 3. Before that, it took great pics. I'm sure it was user error as many people had the same camera. One thing I realized is that I was more free to enjoy the snorkel without worrying about the perfect shot. At the end of the cruise, they do give you a USB with pics from the week. Travel and tourism in the Galapagos is HIGHLY regulated, so you cannot just jump in the water anytime you want...or walk anywhere either. There were a couple of times, when we didn't have far to cruise, that we would just sit until it was our appointed time to disembark. We sat looking at nice calm water with a white sand beach in the distance but were stuck on the ship. By the time we snorkeled, the water there was choppy. That is my only complaint and Celebrity has nothing to do with it!!! The "deep water snorkel" is the best and you don't have to be super experienced...you just can't touch the bottom. They do give you a talk the night before each island to discuss excursion options and level of difficulty. Obviously, this is subjective, but we felt they might have put a little too much emphasis on "strenuous" or "fitness walk." I'm 51 and in decent shape. I walk a lot for exercise and found all the walks easy. My 81 year old mom would not agree. According to my Fitbit, the hike that went by Darwain's Lake was 33 flights of stairs. The one on Bartolome was 402 stairs plus some incline. All of the hikes had stops along the way for the naturalists to talk and point out critters. A disappointment for us was there was no snorkeling the last 2 days. The Darwain Tortoise Center was good, but I could've breezed through there and then snorkeled. I did not need all of the allotted time to shop. As stated the food is good. The breakfast was basically the same everyday, but yummy. The Grill is great for lobster, but I did hear someone say they will bring it to you in the MDR if you ask. The french fries are not worth the calories. I enjoyed the cultural food and different ceviche everyday. There was a family on our cruise with 4 kids ages 9-15. They were wonderful and added a great touch of fun to our week. I did hear that the week before had some challenging kids. As with any cruise, you never know what people will be there. We had a great group by week's end. There were those who kept to themselves and others who formed connections as the week went by. I have attached our weekly activity sheet. I'm happy to attach pics of the hikes and conditions if wanted. Celebrity provides you with a water bottle, poncho (needed once), lip balm and a string backpack. As noted, you must have your bags out the night before the cruise and the last night of the cruise. I wish I had had a bigger backpack or carry-on for this purpose. Hope this helps!! Have a great trip to the Galapagos. You will NEVER regret it or forget it!!!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2019
We booked the 10 night package through Celebrity and from start to finish it was amazing! From the minute we landed at the Quito airport to the time of departure, everything was so well organized and every staff member we encountered both ... Read More
We booked the 10 night package through Celebrity and from start to finish it was amazing! From the minute we landed at the Quito airport to the time of departure, everything was so well organized and every staff member we encountered both on land and at sea was great. The ship is gorgeous and very well designed for sailing in the Galapagos. Our cabin was the sky suite with veranda and it was spacious enough for two with a large bathroom and shower. I see that some other reviews have mentioned issues with water on the bathroom floor but we didn’t run into that at all. Our cabin attendants were phenomenal and did a great job. We never had to ask for anything as our room was kept immaculate and restocked daily. The restaurant and bar staff were excellent and they worked extremely hard. We had no issues with the service at all. In fact many of them went out of their way to make sure we were enjoying our experience. The food was quite good. Some things were average, but for the most part it was very good and we were happy with it. The naturalist guides were fantastic and you can tell how much they love the islands and love sharing it with others. They were all incredibly knowledgeable and really made the excursions enjoyable. The tender boat drivers were also all great. They were friendly and always tried to position the tender in ways that would allow for great photos of the wildlife. The captain, cruise director and hotel director were always around and checking in with guests to ensure things were going well. It was obvious that their main priority is to provide their guests with the best experience possible and they and their crew are working hard to deliver. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so glad we chose the Celebrity Flora. I really can’t say enough good things about every one of the Celebrity staff members and the ship in general. There were a couple minor negatives for us that I will mention. One was inconsistent room service quality. We ordered the club sandwich one day and it was great. A few days later we ordered it again and it was a totally different (and very subpar) sandwich. Everything else we ordered from room service was good though. Another thing is the policy of only 2 people to a cabin and still allowing children. There was a family on our cruise with 4 kids and the kids had their own cabins while the parents were in a different cabin. The kids cabins happened to be the ones next door to ours and they were noisy and disruptive on the first couple of days without supervision in their room. I think they got tired out after that and were pretty quiet for the remainder of the cruise so it was not a big deal, but it could have been much worse. Not only do I think unsupervised children in a cabin is a bad idea due to possible disruption of other guests, but it’s also a safety issue. When the kids were horsing around on their balcony next to ours it was obvious that one could easily end up going over the balcony railing. I will say that overall, kids being on the ship was fine and the ones on our cruise were generally well behaved, but I really think Celebrity should reconsider allowing children to stay in their own cabins without parental supervision. Side note - We were able to upgrade to first class on the charter flight from Quito to Baltra for only $220 USD per person round trip once we were checked in to the hotel in Quito. Celebrity made it super easy and I was happy with the price. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
I posted many more details (and a few videos) on the "Just back on Flora" thread in the Flora roll calls but will try and summarize here. It seems like many of the other reviewers' comments may have been heard and addressed ... Read More
I posted many more details (and a few videos) on the "Just back on Flora" thread in the Flora roll calls but will try and summarize here. It seems like many of the other reviewers' comments may have been heard and addressed as we didn't experience those problems. From pickup at the airport to dropoff at the airport, Celebrity handled the logistical details seamlessly. We did the 10 night package and enjoyed the precruise experience at JW Marriott, the Quito city tour and lunch, and to a lesser extent the dinner (there were not many choices off what is an extensive menu). The charter flight was fine, the food served on it was very good. Yes there is a line when you arrive at Baltra to go through immigration but you do have access to restrooms and since you can travel with liquids, you can certainly bring a filled water bottle. The VIP lounge is not all that exciting but it was fine for the short wait while they sorted out the logistics and was a good time to chat with your fellow cruisers. The ship was beautiful - we were in 503 which was a regular verandah cabin and we thought it was spacious for a cruise ship cabin, especially the bathroom. We did not experience any issues with the sinks or the toilets and once I learned to put the bathmat down just as I opened the shower door, no problems there either. We found the mini nightlight under the sink in the bathroom was adequate for our needs, so never needed to turn on the main light- if you did I can see where that could definitely wake the other person given the glass wall. The sliding door to the balcony was very hard to open or close but without me saying anything to anyone, someone came one day and fixed it! The tender docking approach was great- with two options it was very easy to get on and off and emerging right into the marina area to rinse your shoes and sort out your snorkel gear was very useful. Loved getting something to drink and often a snack once you came off each excursion- the hot chocolate was gratefully received after snorkeling through water in the low 60s- and the sparking wine was appreciated each afternoon! The dining was disappointing; understand the restrictions on food coming in but we still think more could be done with what was there. The breakfast and lunch buffets were extensive and the salads at the buffet were colorful and interesting, but we got bored with what seemed to be the same fish prepared the same way every night. And it was inconsistent- one night I braved a meat order and left most of it, but apparently the Chateaubriand on the last night was great. That said, we didn't do this cruise for the food and what they served was certainly sufficient. Burgers and grilled lobster tails on Deck 7 were definitely a hit! I do agree that having the Ocean Grill bar open more- perhaps during sailaway and when you come back from excursions- would be nice, but going down to Deck 4 to get a drink and bringing it back up was not a big deal. Between two and sometimes three excursions a day (if you did the deep water snorkeling) we didn't need any more activities but I went to most of the naturalist talks - all of which were informative and worthwhile- and the cocktail mixing which was great fun. I thought the staff was fine- as good as or better than we have had on most of our Celebrity cruises- so no complaints there. Our cabin was serviced beautifully, the waiters and barstaff were helpful and efficient. The naturalists and tender drivers were just amazing. And the captain and especially the hotel manager- John Flynn- were always around and visible and willing to listen to issues. I am not a breakfast eater, and one day I just had not had enough to see me through both the morning excursion and the deep water snorkel scheduled before lunch. I stopped at Guest Services on the way back from the excursion and asked if someone could bring some cheese and ham or something up to my cabin in the 20 minutes that we had between these. Sure enough, ten mins later I had a plate. And I learned to at least try and have an egg in the morning! (one hint- fill a small cup with nuts at breakfast, or popcorn or corn nuts at lunch,it's great for a quick snack in your cabin later:) Shore excursions were definitely the highlight of the trip. Even with 100 people on board, when you tour in groups of 12 it seemed small, and we often were grouped with different people which was fun as we got to know many more people on the cruise that way (the group you are with depends on which of the excursions you are doing and what time you showed up to get your tender tickets). The 7:15 pm briefings were very clear and informative about what to wear, bring and expect but you do need to pay attention. There are two ways to snorkel- if its a beach snorkel, wear your bathing suit under your walking cloths and bring your snorkel gear (which you get he very first day and is always on hangers marked with your cabin number in the marina area). For a deep water snorkel, take your wetsuit to your cabin and change, then go to the marina and pick up your snorkel gear on the way out. Seeing the animals and birds in their natural environment was beyond amazing. Yes there are restrictions on where you can walk but I think most of us recognize and appreciate that as this place is magical and it is so important to do what we can to save it. Others have talked about what you can see on these, and I posted videos on the thread listed above so the only thing I will add is that if you are preparing to go on this cruise, and want to get the most out of it, practice your balance, and practice walking on very uneven terrain before you come. The distances were not long but the terrain could be rugged. There were several children and teenagers on the cruise. For some of these you would not have even notice as their behavior was very adult-like. Others were typical kids and at times some of the adults found them disruptive. As others have said, there are no specific activities designated for children so if you are thinking of bringing yours, do assess their ability to be part of an adult experience 24 x 7. This is inherently a tiring cruise- up and out early, back for a few hours in the early afternoon and then out again for the next excursion. I was surprised about the comment "not enough to do on the ship", we were trying to figure out who had time! We used the afternoon break for lunch, naps, gym,and showers although I did try and get to as many of the afternoon talks as I could. We couldn't stay awake long enough to check out the evening entertainment, but we did take two nights to go up to Deck 8 and look at the stars which were extraordinary- do not miss this if you get clear nights. Last comment about managing expectations. Yes this is an expensive trip and at the price point some people were expecting that the food/service/ship/staff/etc would be better. In terms of the ship and shipboard experience, I was expecting more or less what I have found when booking a verandah on other Celebrity ships (we have been on the Equinox, the Summit and the Silhouette) so I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the Flora was. I considered the bulk of the cost to be the other inclusions (pre and post cruise, charter flights, etc) plus the overall expense of touring the Galapagos. I can see if you are expecting a luxury ship experience or are used to the higher end suites and you don't have one on this ship, you might be disappointed. I dinged a bit on Value for Money because once on, we started learning all the deals that others had gotten (booked on an earlier Flora cruise that was cancelled, or booked on the Xpedition, or BOGOHO, etc) but realistically that's all part of travel. I don't usually look at prices after we pay for that very reason! This is definitely a different kind of cruise than others we have been on but it was wonderful. I was looking for details before we left but they were sparse since it is such a new ship, so hopefully this review and the postings in the Just Returned thread within the Flora roll call will help others in terms of what to expect. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
2nd time to Galapagos, having travelled before on the Xpedition. Wanted to go on a more luxurious ship, for a stress-free experience as much as possible. There were a few glitches in the trip, but overall was a very good trip.I wanted to ... Read More
2nd time to Galapagos, having travelled before on the Xpedition. Wanted to go on a more luxurious ship, for a stress-free experience as much as possible. There were a few glitches in the trip, but overall was a very good trip.I wanted to review the cruise, to counter the unnecessarily harsh recent reviews. Don't let a few small negatives keep you from having a fantastic cruise on this ship. Of course, the off-ship excursions were excellent. Very good naturalists and beautiful scenery and animals. Enough said. Food quality was very good, especially for such a remote location. Always offered plenty of seafood, including lobster. Served a very good Chateaubriand beef on special dinner night, when a naturalist joined us at our table. There are now at least 3 people serving/busing during buffet meals, so things have improved. However, they are still not prompt in removing dirty dishes from the table or offering initial drinks/coffee upon sitting. I would even suggest they offer a self-service coffee station during breakfast. Most of the rooms do not have a coffeemaker in them, and we are very keen on getting our morning coffee promptly. I requested a coffeemaker for my room, and the hotel Director found me one. Thanks. There is a very kind Maitre D' that made sure I got the lobster for lunch that I inquired about. It wasn't until the middle of the cruise that I found out that lobster was plentiful. There are small design flaws of the ship. Several of the showers overflowed their glass door& shallow pan onto the bathroom floor during the trip, if trying to shower when the ship was underway. The engineers tilted the ship a bit to counteract this, but really it took planning and a bit of diligence to avoid getting water onto the floor. I'm sure this is ultimately a correctable problem with the shower enclosures. There is no ventilation in the bathrooms and there is no light suitable for reading in the bedrooms. So, if you like to read in bed, maybe a wildlife guide for prepping for the next day, bring a clip-on reading light. Entertainment was fine. They had a very popular "Silent Disco" night, where you have headphones on and listen to 1 of 3 streams of dance music. Wow, sometimes we had up to 30 people dancing, overflowing the dance floor. Recommend they repeat that. Some people missed that night and were sad they wouldn't get to experience it later in the week. They had a young Brit solo guitarist singer throughout the cruise. Several of the people we spoke to said she needed to mix it up a bit, that some of her songs sounded alike no matter the genre. I would recommend adding some light Latin songs, to remind us that we are somewhere far away from home. Maybe they should hire a Latino guitarist /singer instead. The cabins were kept in great shape by the accommodating cabin staff. The gals worked long hours and carried the phones for our service calls. Tip them, please. Room service needs improvement- twice received 1 cutlery set when I clearly stated I wanted cutlery for 2 people. Coffee arrived without sugar/creamer twice. These seem like small complaints, but it took up to 15 minutes to get what we needed. I would also suggest that they post signs that say "Quiet Please" at each room hallway and specify that there is No Running while on board, as one of their rules. We had the unfortunate luck to have a couple of kids under 10, running up and down the hallways while we were trying to nap. Not my idea of luxury at all. I hope our complaints are getting addressed. This is a beautiful ship with a great crew. They deserve great success! Cheers! Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
We have always wanted to go to the Galapagos but are so glad we waited for Celebrity Flora, a brand new state of the art ship, built specifically for the Galapagos. We took the 10 day package with 3 nights in Quito. It included absolutely ... Read More
We have always wanted to go to the Galapagos but are so glad we waited for Celebrity Flora, a brand new state of the art ship, built specifically for the Galapagos. We took the 10 day package with 3 nights in Quito. It included absolutely everything! Meals, beverages, gratuities, transfers and charter flight. I would not recommend going any other way. This was a first class package.The Flora was beyond a dream. We had the Penthouse Suite and I could have been happy to spend the entire week right there. The service and accommodations were superb. There were 2 tours daily and only 8-10 people per naturalist to explore the islands. The weather was perfect, in the 70's. Celebrity provided for all our needs including wet suits, snorkels and fins. There is a laboratory on board. The tenders were easy to board and comfortable to ride. This was our first cruise on Celebrity and we have already booked another. Best cruise ever! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
Could not have asked for a better experience. From the moment we were in the hands of Lindblad everything was handled flawlessly. Pre travel questions were handled in a professional timely fashion. All land accommodations were ... Read More
Could not have asked for a better experience. From the moment we were in the hands of Lindblad everything was handled flawlessly. Pre travel questions were handled in a professional timely fashion. All land accommodations were excellent. Embarkation and debarkation were well coordinated and executed. Ship board accommodations were comfortable, roomy and clean. Housekeeping visited the cabin on a frequent basis to insure cleanliness throughout the day. The dining room and staff were excellent. Special appreciations to the wait staff and cooks. My son has dietary restrictions and they were very attentive to his needs and provided alternatives when necessary. Food was very good and a good variety of options. All of the days activities were well planned and explained as to the degree of difficulty or other particulars.While the day was full we never felt rushed or "we have a schedule to keep". The naturalists were knowledgeable and eager to provede information and respond to questions. I have already recommended this trip to friends and will certainly consider Lindblad for future trips. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
The Galapagos is a bucket list destination for my family of 4 (spouse + two college age adults). I've been planning this trip for a while and when I saw last year's announcement of the Celebrity Flora coming in 2019, I decided ... Read More
The Galapagos is a bucket list destination for my family of 4 (spouse + two college age adults). I've been planning this trip for a while and when I saw last year's announcement of the Celebrity Flora coming in 2019, I decided to wait to make the trip on this new Ship designed specifically for these islands. I have to say that I am glad I did and the cruise exceeded all of my extremely high expectations. We chose the Penthouse Suite 625 because it looked completely amazing with its sweeping 270 degree views and awesome family area to play games and hangout (inside and outside). We're glad we chose and got 625 over 525 because we prefer the split balcony vs the single wrap around balcony. The balcony advantages include being able to see on both sides of the boat (vs limited to one side). In addition, the alcove-like side balcony allows for reading or napping in privacy while the larger main balcony is large enough for all of us to hang out together if we want ... the best of both worlds. 625 is also preferred because it is slightly higher and feels more private. We also reserved 624 which is the cabin right next to 625 for our children. I highly recommend this configuration for a family of 4 travelling. For those wondering whether getting the Penthouse suite is worth it, i would say the following: If you can afford it, do it. The Penthouse suite is unlike any other Suite I have ever seen on any boat. The panoramic views are spectacular and the extra space allows you to do things as family together (like playing board games which we love). The huge jacuzzi tub is another totally crazy amenity. Lastly, as a penthouse suite guest we made all our excursion requests through the Chief Naturalist directly after the briefing each day. Our family has been on many cruises before on Princess, RCCL and Disney and were struck by how different our experience was on the Flora vs previous MegaShips ... in a good way. The personal service and attention were superb throughout our cruise from the time we boarded to the time we disembarked. Each day was packed with shore excursions in the morning and afternoon with extremely knowledgeable Naturalists. Groups size varied from 4 - 11 for our excursions which was fantastic. The animals, plant life and landscape were extraordinary. We did not know whether to take the outer loop (our trip) or the inner loop itinerary so we chose blind on reserving. It turns out that it doesn't matter a lot since the key things we missed out on were the red-footed boobies and the iconic landscape view you always see when you search for Galapagos on Google. Don't fret, the iconic views on the outer loop are just as jaw-dropping and you get to see the waved Albatross which you can't get in the inner loop. The snorkeling excursions were amazing and wet-suits were provided to help you stay in the water longer. The food for the cruise was excellent for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The room service menu was limited but was still good enough. Andrea was in charge of Hotel Services and did a excellent job of making sure all her guest were having a good time and enjoying. She even arranged a visit for us to see the Bridge and have Captain Vladimir explain how the Flora operated. Service throughout the ship was excellent. Hymena was our cabin attendant and she always made our room clean, neat and comfy. The waitstaff in the dinning room knew your favorites/preferences after your first day and provided terrific service as well. Last but not least, were the team of Naturalist who took us on all the excursions. They were super knowledgeable, friendly and answered all the questions we through at them. Even though this is a new boat, Celebrity staffed the Flora with their best Galapagos Naturalists to get this new boat off to a good start. Read Less
29 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
The direct mail solicitation came with a buy-one, get one half off. We were celebrating a birthday and there were still two rooms available for that time. There are three ways to take this cruise: solo seven-day cruise where you have to ... Read More
The direct mail solicitation came with a buy-one, get one half off. We were celebrating a birthday and there were still two rooms available for that time. There are three ways to take this cruise: solo seven-day cruise where you have to get yourself to Baltra, nearly all-inclusive ten or 11-day package with days in Quito before and after, or the former including $1500 flight credit per person. They call the latter "free flights" but you actually pay $1500 per person or in our case, $1500 for person one and $750 for person two with the buy one get one half off promotion for $3000 worth of flight credits. If you have miles or can find a cheaper route, just get the all inclusive less flights to save the money. However, you will forego Flights by Celebrity support to ensure that you get to the cruise. One downside to using Celebrity for flights: you have to call them on the phone. Do your searches ahead of time. Their prices were similar to published fares and you can use the full credit for first class and pay the difference. We took an AA flight through Miami that used up about $2600 worth of the credits. The first-class fares were way too expensive so we forfeited the $400 credit and had to pay AA for better seats too. Each cabin accommodates a maximum two individuals, adults or children. If you are solo, the single supplement is nearly double. If you have kids, you have to pay the full fare for them in additional rooms. There might be some allowance for infants, but I am not aware of it. The park limits the cruise to 100 passengers so don't expect the usual accommodations for children as overflow guests. There is nothing on here especially for kids. No game consoles. No kids areas. No baby sitters. No kids menus as best I saw. The adventures require good physical fitness over uneven terrain near wild animals that bite if you get too close. I would not recommend it for children. You can forego the adventures but it probably isn't worth paying $10K per person to go on this trip if you are not going on the adventures. One piece of bad news: the arrival times to Quito tend to be late and the takeoff times tend to be midnight and 5 AM so you have to burn up full days on both ends traveling to the US. There is one flight through Panama City on Copa that is better, but it was expensive and you could get stuck in Panama because there are not many alternative flights if something happens. The arrival flights to Quito tend to have a quorum of cruisers so start getting to know your fellow passengers when you see the Celebrity sign. This was a very friendly cruise where all but the large groups were very interactive. Expect to be tired for most of the trip because it is very active and starts early every day. Day one is a bus and walking tour of Quito. It was nice to see but I could have used the sleep. Three meals were included. Day two you fly on a chartered A319 run by Avianca Ecuador from Quito to Baltra. That means another bus ride to Quito airport, about 50 minutes from the JW Marriott. The Celebrity team hands out boarding passes the morning of the flight. You can buy upgrades to first class for around $250 a person per direction. The Avianca staff was accommodating with seat change requests. The ride is about 100 minutes. You drop off your luggage by 5:30 AM in the hotel and it gets inspected and transferred to Baltra so prepare to drop it off the night before and keep your clothes and toiletries. Good news: there are no liquid restrictions on domestic flights. When you arrive, you are placed in a lounge until your section is called. You get on a bus and head for the dock. Instead of boarding the ship, you board a 20-person inflatable, motorized zodiac raft. Your luggage gets transferred and delivered to your cabin so you only need to take your personal items on the raft. Each time you board the zodiac, you have to don a life jacket. The wildlife part of the adventure starts then. Sea lions and birds will be around the zodiac either fishing or sleeping. Watch out for poop. One person got bombed by a bird on one of the adventures. You take Zodiacs between shore and the ship because Flora never docks. It uses a dynamic positioning system to stabilize itself against counter currents. It is a neat idea but the thruster motor sounds were annoying to some passengers with cabins near the front or back of the boat. The system keeps the ship’s anchor from destroying the seafloor. All the other ships in the area use anchors. Boarding the zodiacs can be dangerous so you have to be careful. The zodiacs perform “wet landings” and “dry landings”. Dry landings are against rocks or a dock. Wet landings are generally a beach shore. If you time the waves well, you can generally keep from getting your shoes wet but don’t expect everything to be dry. These zodiacs have a squared-off front with an articulating platform and a stairway so they are much safer than the older zodiacs that require you to crawl over a tube to get on or off. I rolled up my pantlegs to my knees and never once had anything above my knee wet including my backpack. The flora and fauna… wow! It was better than I had seen in pictures and videos. The theory of evolution is obvious in plain sight. There are piles of marine iguanas on shorelines. Sea lions are sleeping, nursing, and rolling around in the water. Land iguanas are guarding their food sources. Giant tortoises are roaming around. Penguins are perched and swimming. So many birds and crabs! I cannot do the animal and plant life justice so suffice to say, it will far exceed your expectations. The rule is to keep a safe distance (~6 ft) from the animals. Although the animals are wild, if you respect the distance rule you will be fine. The adventures area all included so do as many as you like but expect they will wear you out. Each day has a morning and afternoon adventure in two places. The evening before, a group meeting is held in the Discovery Lounge where you select which adventure you want. Most are either a longer, harder version or a shorter, easier version in the same area. A handful of times, you can opt for an ocean kayak or “deep water snorkel” from the zodiac. The naturalists are limited to 16 guests per leader but they try to keep it to 12. They had plenty of naturalists to allow guests to select the adventures they wanted. The only constrained resource was the kayaks but that didn’t seem to be much of a problem on our trip. You arrive the next morning in the Discovery Lounge to get tender tickets. We were always in Tender 1 which was a de facto cohort of energetic, able-bodied, younger travelers. The tender number tended to correlate with physical ability. The “deep water snorkel” adventures meant feeling comfortable floating in the ocean for ~45 minutes using a snorkel and mask where the water is too deep to stand. In return for this effort, we saw and swam with sea lions, turtles, many fish, and even one octopus. One word of advice: take the tender number that corresponds to your interest and ability. If you want a slower place or are less prepared, take one of the later tenders. While they have “rules” about footwear and ability, they are not strictly enforced which can be a conflict when you have well-prepared guests in the first tender and then some slower, less able guests join an early tender with walking sticks and improper footwear. I was one of those people with improper footwear once and powered through it over rough lava and could have hurt myself. On nearly all the adventures, there were plenty of naturalists where you could bow out and let the group continue on if you got hurt, sick, tired, or wanted to return to the ship early. I don’t mean to present the picture that you have to be in great shape to enjoy this cruise. It isn’t handicapped accessible, but there are many older people who enjoyed a slower-paced group. As long as you go with the proper group, you should have a good time. The meals are good, but I have had better on other cruises. There was a Michelin-starred chef on our cruise overseeing the cuisine but he departed with us. The supply of food is constrained by park regulation – Ecuadorian regulations specifying that raw food must be partially cooked before transport to the Galapagos Islands to minimize risk of spread of organisms, for instance. Many of the menus had substitutions because items were unavailable that season or in the park at that time. It would have been easier to reprint the menus that posting the incorrect version for the day and then later finding out that the item wasn’t available as described. There are two eating venues: an open-air top deck and a main dining room. The open-air venue has a more limited menu including burgers, chicken, and fish for lunch and steak, fish, and chicken for dinner. The lunch fries were great when freshly fried. All venues have vegetarian options but were not well suited for people with special diets such as vegan, gluten free or kosher. For instance, there was one toaster and few indications that items were suited for special diets. The staff was good with my food allergies, but I was also careful to make sure I did not try anything in the buffet that may cause anaphylaxis. The staff on this cruise is exceptional. It is much more intimate than a typical cruise because of the size. We had various issues and suggestions. They were quick to address the issues they could. While the dining staff was working very hard and still had additional labor of the training staff that departed with us, the dining room was understaffed and will likely be worse on subsequent cruises without the training staff. Often times, you had to wait or ask for refills, and buffet plates would pile up on the table while the staff was attending to other guests. You get better service if you get there when the dining room opens. They even remember your drink preferences and have them ready for you without asking. The standard rooms are nice and spacious but the suite moniker has been overused. The base “suites” were larger standard ship rooms without any kind of dividers between living and sleeping areas you would expect with a suite. We had a standard balcony which I would recommend over the infinite veranda which does not have a proper balcony, just a sliding window. Standard rooms allow you to put out your clothes to dry and cost less. In the hall near the closet, the carpet was getting wet. There were a few people who had this issue. While the wet socks were annoying, we were thankful that they did not tear up our room to fix the issue while we were on the cruise. The bathrooms have gradually frosted glass that allows you to see out while standing up. Some complained about the lack of privacy because you can look into the bathroom from the bedroom. However, you would have to try hard to see anything. Another drawback of the window is that it doesn’t contain sounds or light as well. We covered up the bathroom nightlight because it made the room glow. The sinks were poorly designed. There is a small filtered, refrigerated water dispenser basin that always made a mess when used for rinsing a toothbrush. We had to put the shower mat under that area because the water went on the floor. The main basin is large but does not drain well because it is mostly flat. The shower is very nice, but the controls were awkwardly placed behind the door that opens inward. For larger people, you may not fit in this shower because of the inswinging door. As any ship toilet, it is very loud and you can hear others flushing throughout the night. Each cabin has a stocked refrigerator, TV, and many US-style plugs. The TV does not get many channels and cut out so do not expect to use it much. They do not print a daily cruise guide unless you ask for it, but it does play on channel 2 of the TV on loop. We would take a picture of the daily schedule as it looped by. The internet generally worked well. It is satellite so expect lots of latency. I was able to make short calls over WiFi. Expect to get about 5 Mbps, plenty to stay connected but do not expect your photos to quickly send. The islands have very poor or non-existent cellular service. Expect to use the ship for your connectivity. The ship was blocking my VPN. I was able to stream from YouTube but expect paid streaming services to block your access because you are out of the country. The passengers were mostly upper middle class native English speakers from the US. For many, this was a bucket list trip. While the trip was expensive, the people were down to earth and pleasant. They arranged Spanish-speaking groups for those who preferred Spanish but the default language was English. The trip exceeded my expectations. The crew and passengers were very nice. The ship was better than the renderings. At the end of the cruise, we were surprised with a USB key containing the pictures from the naturalists and crew. The day after returning to Quito, Celebrity offers excursions for $140 to $190 a person. We had the JW Marriott arrange a tour through a local operator for half the cost. We had a private van take us bird watching and hiking. It dropped us at the airport that evening. There is a private lounge outside of security with a shower for $36 a person. There is a Centurion Lounge past security with a shower and great food. Either lounge was free with Priority Pass. Packing list Comfortable walking shoes Hiking shoes if you want to traverse the lava flows Water shoes Large sun hat Sun shirt Convertible sun pants Rain shell Sun block Bathing suit to fit comfortably under a wetsuit such as a Speedo for men Bathing suit for kayaking Ship supplied: Drinking bottle Wet suit Walking sticks Binoculars Life vest Diving mask Snorkel Slippers Bathrobe Lip balm Small backpack Rain poncho Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
Amazon River always been a intriguing destination , let alone getting o Manaus from Santiago , Chile is not a simple coordination then of course Brazil rainforest is a unique envirometthat any one would like to observe from a five star ... Read More
Amazon River always been a intriguing destination , let alone getting o Manaus from Santiago , Chile is not a simple coordination then of course Brazil rainforest is a unique envirometthat any one would like to observe from a five star cruise ship , my arrival was direct from the airport , the schedule washboard on April 7 and ship overnights 1 night in Manaus so touring Manaus was very helfull using the ship as a hotel with all its confort that really struck any pasta large cruise pax as my self . thus was my first small cruise ship and ohh my what a difference , on arrival to my cabin located on deck 7 , the cabin attendant welcomes us and in a tray she has a menu of different types of soaps to chose or select during your cruise , it seem like a different and very intimate gesture , after departing I notice that every thing was so near by and this made everything so nice , another unique appointment to me was that the ship has a suit tub in the bow and decently every night before 20:00 hrs I made my list and just sat there and watch the the amazon go by with a glass of Champaign served to me every Time , the food was just incredible , fool of taste a different and unusual flavors created every day , the observation deck was a magical plcace where the piano man sat and entertain all guest , the caves was always a must here before dinner here , I really think the ships from seaboard are very well thought through out and really can wait to be papers again , the bed linen and pillows where the best I have sleep on and probably made my rest the best on a vacation which I think I had deserve , what I think they could improve is ti have more reasonable priced excursion on the zodiac the where good bu hey USD 500.00 for 2 pax situation ..I ended fonding my own excursion in ports and was way luckier than the rest of the fellow passenger at least on adrenalin of the Amazon , hopefully I can afford to go to Antartica on the Quest ! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We are just returning from our 18 day adventure as a family of five ,two adults three children age 7, 13 ,15 we have previously sailed with RCI , NCL ,PRINCESS AND CUNARD and after reading some of the reviews of MSC had very low ... Read More
We are just returning from our 18 day adventure as a family of five ,two adults three children age 7, 13 ,15 we have previously sailed with RCI , NCL ,PRINCESS AND CUNARD and after reading some of the reviews of MSC had very low expectations but they do a loyalty match to our diamond plus level with RCL so we gave it a go and this is honestly the best cruise line we have sailed with happiest ship , friendliest crew , most gorgeous ship and child friendly ship, any child not enjoying this cruise I would say their parents have got real problems because it has everything kids love everything adults love really superb peace and quiet , loud and bouncing and all inbetween . We had a whirlpool suite cabin 14211 ,gorgeous , space,technology ,walk in wardrobe .Erica our room steward was amazing as was lokesh and Anand our anytime dining staff so helpful and obliging,although portion sizes were small in the dining room we were constantly offered more so it was never an issue. We were on the aurea package and used the thermal suite a lot (gorgeous ) we also had our complementary massages (no catch) Ship is very smooth and incredible with technology everywhere, we purchased nearly every package before we boarded and it was cheaper and so easy for f1 simulator, zip line ,4d cinema ,air hockey, waterslides ,bowling ,washing package was great and next cruise I will definitely pack less and have more washed and pressed ,brilliant . Just 1 small complaint MSC what on earth is going on with your embarcation process ???? NOT GOOD stood like sheep in sao Paulo in scorching temperatures appears no organisation or communication it was almost a crush a bit frightening to be honest ,fix this and we have found our perfect cruise line by the way disembarking was a breeze so you can do it Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
Just completed an extraordinary trip 8 person family trip with our grown children and their loved ones. Trip was to celebrate my wife's 70th birthday with the family, but the Galapagos and Silversea provided the perfect backdrop. Many ... Read More
Just completed an extraordinary trip 8 person family trip with our grown children and their loved ones. Trip was to celebrate my wife's 70th birthday with the family, but the Galapagos and Silversea provided the perfect backdrop. Many of the other reviews have mentioned the magnificence of the islands and the fauna and flora. I'll only add that words can not adequately express what one will experience either in the water or on the land. We have lived and traveled in many countries, but never have we experienced the wonders of snorkeling up close (sometimes inches away)with sea lions, manta rays, sharks, galapagos penguins, sea turtles, and more all within the same ecosystem. Bottom line-the western Galapagos is everything and more than you've read. The ship itself is dated, but certainly very acceptable for a Silversea cruise.In fairness the new Silversea Galapagos ship arrives in 2020. Rooms were very good, but somewhat short on storage space. We loved the location of our room # 345 as it was central to the meeting room, exit to the Zodiaks, dining room. The crew from wait staff to expedition were fabulous. The young chef (Andrea) was amazing in the preparation of her lunch and dinner menus-fish lovers will marvel at what can be prepared. The expedition crew/guides were extremely engaging and knowledgeable, and I'd be surprised if there was a better group of guides in the Galapagos. Finally a note of caution on the activities in general. This is not a sit back and relax cruise. If you are not on a hike (sometimes quite challenging), then you're in the water snorkeling. In other words one is very active during the day, and after dinner did you rarely see anyone on deck after 10pm because people were in bed and exhausted. If mobility is a concern, then I would carefully consider if this is the right trip. This trip will always have a very special memories for my family. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
It was always a dream of mine to see both Galapagos and Machu Picchu, ever since I started receiving catalogs from Lindblad and NatGeo. If I was going to see these historic places, I wanted National Geographic to be a part of it so that I ... Read More
It was always a dream of mine to see both Galapagos and Machu Picchu, ever since I started receiving catalogs from Lindblad and NatGeo. If I was going to see these historic places, I wanted National Geographic to be a part of it so that I could maximize my experience and my learning. I wanted the see more and do more, in a safe and secure environment. But I also wanted a small group experience. I didn't want to be overwhelmed or stymied by a large cruise ship. I wanted to get closer to the islands of the Galapagos, get to know the naturalists and tour guides personally, and I wanted to meet fellow travelers who shared my enthusiasm and quest for knowledge. Lindblad/NatGeo delivered on all of those things with a luxury cruise experience for 90+ passengers. The food was local, sustainable and delicious every single day. My husband and I had the base-level cabin, but it was roomy and efficiently designed. It was so smartly laid out that we had enough room for everything we brought with us, and that was plenty. My husband is 6'4" and the shower was tall and big enough for him. The activities were varied and accommodated different interests and activity levels. We wished there were longer hikes, as an option. We'd never snorkeled before but both enjoyed deep-water snorkeling on this trip. The efficiency of the program meant the staff was always on time and ready for us, whether it was handing out wet suits, fins and masks or jumping on the zodiacs to begin the next activity. We were never bored, and we always had a clear picture of the day's activities so we could make decisions about what we wanted to do. This was our first cruise ever. It set the bar really high! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
My wife and I have done only two previous cruises, on HAL to Mexico and Alaska, and they whet my appetite for more, preferably on something a little smaller. After our experience with Australis, my concern now is that no other cruise ... Read More
My wife and I have done only two previous cruises, on HAL to Mexico and Alaska, and they whet my appetite for more, preferably on something a little smaller. After our experience with Australis, my concern now is that no other cruise could possibly measure up. This was the cruise of a lifetime. We were aboard Ventus Australis for four nights, from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas, the last week of March. Ship capacity is said to be 210 passengers, but there were only about 160 aboard our late season cruise. The ship felt very spacious; only at the last night’s captain’s toast (in the largest lounge) did anywhere on the ship feel at all crowded. The passengers averaged middle age, and were largely well-travelled and interesting people. At the first night dinner we were told that the 160 of us represented 19 nationalities, and as each nation was named, its citizens received a warm and welcoming applause from the rest of the crowd. I’m tempted to make a political statement right now, but I’ll refrain. Our group of six made a number of friends, especially a couple from San Francisco, a couple from Santiago, a family from Malaysia and three young solo travelers from Australia, Austria and Belgium who met a few days earlier in Ushuaia and decided to take a cruise together. As a lifetime sailor, disembarking on the small island that is Cape Horn was a thrill. And the weather was appropriately cold, windy and rainy. But on the whole, our weather was quite good. There were two shore excursions a day (except the morning we disembarked when there was one), all by way of Zodiac rafts. We were told exactly how to get on and off the rafts, and the guides were quick to point out when any of us got it wrong. That might seem a bit regimented, but the end result was a very efficient and safe transfer of all concerned from ship to land and back. We never had to step in the water, so hiking boots were sufficient, but waterproof ones were nice due to rain, wet grasses and some mud. Our stateroom felt spacious as staterooms go, in part due to the floor to ceiling window through which we could watch some of the world’s most spectacular scenery pass by. Almost all the staterooms are identical, except that those on Deck 2 had more normal size windows. For my money, the larger window was worth the money. But when we signed up there was nothing available on Deck 3, and we paid a second premium to be on Deck 4, which would not have been worth the extra fare had something been available on Deck 3. The only passenger space on Deck 1 was the dining room, and the only indoor space on Deck 5 was the lounge forward, largest of the three lounges, and the small gift shop. There was ample outdoor space to take in the spectacular scenery--most of Deck 5, the roof of the Deck 5 lounge, narrow walkways ahead of the lounges on Decks 3 and 5, and aft on all decks. The Deck 5 lounge (forward; excursion meeting place for English speakers) had a bar in the afternoons and evenings, the Deck 4 lounge (aft; excursion meeting place for Spanish speakers) had early morning coffee and snacks, and while the Deck 3 lounge (forward) had no food or beverage service, it was a wonderfully quiet space to read a book, play a game, or watch the passing scenery. With the exception mentioned above, none ever felt crowded. All food and beverages (including alcohol) were included; the only way to spend money on the ship was in the gift shop. Be aware, there is no elevator, which appeared challenging for a handful of passengers. Unfortunately the ship is just not friendly for the mobility impaired. The food was very good and plentiful, as was the wine (very easy to drink more than you might have intended). Meals were all at a set time and an assigned table. Our group of six had our own table, but solo couples were randomly assigned table mates. Everyone I talked to enjoyed the new friends they shared their meals with. Dinners usually included a choice of only two entrees, but we were never disappointed with what we chose. Back to the shore excursions-- all involved some short walks or short hikes, usually with several choices. With the exception of Cape Horn and Magdalena Island (penguins), on our route they all involved spectacular views of glaciers, some very much up close and personal. The most difficult hikes (which were optional) were steep and probably would be properly categorized as “strenuous” but for the short length (nor more than 3.5 miles round trip). The solitude ashore was amazing; in fact the only humans we saw not on our ship were when we passed the sister ship going the other way in the Beagle Channel middle of the third day. The excursion guides were fantastic -- friendly, very good English speakers, and well educated about the history, geography, flora and fauna. The rest of the crew was also very friendly, welcoming, and helpful, and mostly English speaking among those whose job entailed interaction with passengers. And those whose English was a little weak were quick to find someone who spoke it well (if your Spanish was as pitiful as mine is). In addition to excursions ashore, we were offered tours of the bridge (day 2) and the engine room (day 3). After the bridge tour, the Captain told us we were welcome to come back any time; just knock on the door and we would be told if it wasn’t a good time for visitors. The engine room was remarkable for how clean it was; I would have felt comfortable eating a meal off the floor! And if that is how they kept the engine room, you can imagine how immaculate the rest of the ship was. This was a fantastic adventure for those who like good company, good food, the outdoors and active travel. These wanting water slides, zip lines and casinos to keep them entertained would probably do better looking elsewhere. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
CUSCO, SACRED VALLEY, MACHU PICCHU AND CELEBRITY ECLIPSE FROM CHILE TO SAN DIEGO We booked the Celebrity Eclipse from San Antonio, Chile to San Diego from 24 March 2019 until 8 April 2019 because some cruise friends that sailed with ... Read More
CUSCO, SACRED VALLEY, MACHU PICCHU AND CELEBRITY ECLIPSE FROM CHILE TO SAN DIEGO We booked the Celebrity Eclipse from San Antonio, Chile to San Diego from 24 March 2019 until 8 April 2019 because some cruise friends that sailed with us on that same ship in 2017. While some did cancel the cruise after booking, two couples were with us on that cruise, leading to great companionship and fun. Since we were booked on this cruise, we decided to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu prior to the cruise. I was a bit concerned about planning this trip in late March, since the rainy season for that area doesn’t end until the end of March. However, we had no rain while in Peru, except once at night. I selected a tour from PeruAgency Tours for our Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu tour. They had the best value and lowest priced offer. The tour provided 4 star hotels and a private guide for most of the trip. This describes our tour: DAY 19 MARCH. - ARRIVAL TO THE LAND OF THE INCAS - EXCURSION TO THE CITY Am Arrival to the city of Cusco. Reception at the airport and transfer to hotel. P.M. Guided tour of the city of Cusco and nearby Ruins. Visit to the Cathedral located in the Plaza Mayor. The Renaissance style predominates in the façade and in the interior, with an interior decoration very rich in cedar and alder carvings. Then you will visit the Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo (Dominico) and El Koricancha (Inca temple). We will continue towards the outskirts of the city, Sacsayhuaman, it would have been a construction of religious character, but because of its location and style it was considered by the Spaniards and chroniclers as a military building, Qenko continues or "labyrinth" is considered a sacred place in the Ceremonies were held in honor of the Sun, Moon and stars then Puka Pukara would have served as a tambo or resting place and accommodation and finally visit to the Fortress of Tambomachay that would have fulfilled an important religious function linked to water and regeneration from the earth. Return to Cusco and transfer to your hotel. Hotel accommodation in Cusco at Costa del sol Picoaga Ramada. DAY 20 MARCH. - SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS (overnight) Breakfast at the hotel. At 8:00 a.m. Approx., the pick-up of the passengers starts at your Hotel. Full day excursion to the Sacred Valley. Visit to the town of Pisac. Known for its handicraft market and Inca archaeological sites among which you can see an irrigation system, an astronomical observatory, a solar clock or Intiwatana and andenería. Lunch in Local Restaurant. Visit to the archaeological complex of Ollantaytambo. Built during the Inca period as a fortified area that includes a temple, platforms and an urban sector. You can distinguish two sectors, one linked to worship and religion; and the second set dedicated to housing. It was an important administrative center that probably also fulfilled military functions, as its walls and turrets show. Transfer to the Ollantaytambo train station. After the visit to the archaeological complex transfer to the train station to take the train to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo, arrival at the station of Aguas Calientes, transfer to your hotel. Accommodation at El Mapy. DAY 21 MARCH. - MACHU PICCHU, WONDERFUL CITY INCA Breakfast at the hotel. Very early in the morning I pick up from your hotel and transfer to the station to board the bus that will take you after 30 min., Approximately to the wonderful Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Passenger climbs on his own to the huaynapicchu mountain (1 hour of climb and another hour of descent) then you will have Start of the guided tour around 2:30 to 3 hrs. Bus to Aguas Calientes. Buffet lunch at the local restaurant. When returning, show up at the train station 30 minutes before the train leaves. Return to Cusco. Arrival, reception and transfer to your hotel. Accommodation in Cusco at Costa del sol Picoaga Ramada. DAY 22 MARCH - CUSCO DEPARTURE / ... (D) Breakfast at the hotel. At the appropriate time, transfer to the airport, flight to Lima and then return to your country of origin. Our flight from Atlanta arrived in Lima on 18 March at 12:30pm. We had booked a room at the Holiday Inn Lima Airport Hotel close to that airport. It was walking distance from the hotel, but due to the orientation of the roads in front of the airport, walking to the hotel was not a safe option. The hotel did have a convenient taxi transport available at no charge, which we used. Our flight to Cusco departed at 8am the next morning, so we only managed about four hours of sleep. We arrived in Cusco about 10am and were picked up by Mercedes and our driver, taken to our hotel, the Costa del Sol that was a Ramada hotel. The hotel was very nice and situated in a historic home of a famous Cusco resident from the 18th Century. The hotel had preserved the historic building, while incorporating modern amenities. The restaurant was excellent with very reasonable prices for its meals. We checked into the hotel and were ready to explore the city. Ginny and I had started taking a medication for the prevention of altitude sickness prior to the trip, which worked pretty well during our tour that included altitudes of up to 12,000 feet. Mercedes was our tour coordinator during our stay in Cusco. After lunch, we had a walking tour of Cusco, followed by a tour of four Inca archeological sites surrounding the city. Our hotel was conveniently located close to the Plaza de Armas (historic center). The huge cathedral and Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo were the highlights of the tour. The Convent of Santo Domingo included Inca structures that were part of a temple. The structures demonstrated the amazing engineering of the Incas. The stones were cut without iron or bronze tools in a very precise manner with interlocking pieces that showed no gaps between stones. Also, the Inca structures proved to be earthquake resistant as opposed to the Spanish construction that followed. After our waking tour of Cusco, Ginny and I, as well as six other persons took a minibus up into the surrounding hills to visit the four Inca sites: Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Puka Pukara and the Fortress of Tambomachay. There was much climbing up and down hills with visiting these sites. Sacsayhuaman was the largest, with massive structures as well as many terraced fields, which the Incas were famous for building. These terraces were evident almost anywhere we visited in this part of Peru. The terraces allowed for agriculture and prevented erosion. During this part of the tour, we also visited a shop that sold alpaca clothing. There were numerous llamas alpacas and vicunas just outside this shop. We learned that the Peruvians eat alpaca meat as well as use their fur. We did not try alpaca meat. The next day, our guide Danny picked us up early at our hotel with the van for our trip to the Sacred Valley (on our way to Machu Picchu). He was our private guide, we had no others on the tour with us. The drive through the valley was very scenic as well as the two archaeological sites that we visited. We visited Pisac and Ollantaytambo on this day, with a very nice lunch that was included in the tour between the two sites. Both sites were extensive with much to see. Ollantaytambo was an ancient Inca city that had largely been preserved, with stone streets and buildings and drainage channels throughout the city. It was a bit like visiting a smaller version of Pompeii. We learned that the Inca engineering excelled at channeling water in its cities. At the end of the day, at Ollantaytambo, Danny left us at the rail station, where we picked up the vistadome train to Aguas Calientes, which was about 5 miles from Machu Picchu. The vistadome car is an option that we selected and worth the cost. The car had large windows with additional windows in the ceiling of the car. The train ran next to the river that was sometimes flowing heavily. Also, since we were in the mountains (this entire area of Peru is mountainous), the views were very scenic. Upon arrival at Aguas Calientes, our guide for Machu Picchu was there to take us to our hotel for the evening. The hotel was the El Mapy. The hotel was very nice, but rooms were a bit smaller than in Cusco. We were restricted to bringing luggage no heavier than 5 kg, therefore we didn’t need much room for storing clothing and luggage. Dinner that evening as well as breakfast the next day at the hotel was included in the tour. Our guide was Jay and he was, like Danny a great guide. We agreed to get an early start for Machu Picchu and meet at 6 am. The next day, we met Jay at 6 am and took the bus up (yes UP) to Machu Picchu. We saw many hikers that elected to skip the bus ride in favor of a hike. Most were people in their 20s. Jay took us through the gate at the site and explained that we had the option to come out and take a break for the toilet and/or refreshment before reentering the site later. Jay took us over about 90% of the key places identified in my guidebook. We entered about 6:30 and didn’t take a break until about 10 am. Still, our tour took us up and down the site, which has 500 year old stone construction with uneven steps that we took care not to fall. Machu Picchu is even more amazing in person than from the photos. We were told that the city was about 70% preserved of the original city. The city was the major Inca city that was not destroyed by the Spanish, since it had been abandoned by the Inca during the long war with the Spanish. Vegetation had grown, covering the city. The city was rediscovered in the early 20th Century by Yale Professor, Hiram Bingham III. Actually, he was not the first to discover the city, but he did make the most of the discovery. I recommend reading the book “Right Turn at Machu Picchu” for the details of this interesting history. Ginny and I did exit the city briefly for a break and returned to see the upper part of the city. That was a significant effort on our part, due to the altitude and again much climbing up and down the ancient stone steps. We visited the Caretaker’s Hut and the scenic vistas from up high. This was the best place to take photos of the city. We finished our visit of this wonderful city after noon and used the voucher for lunch at a nice restaurant overlooking the flowing river with scenic mountain views. Lunch was a buffet and excellent. We loved the Peruvian cuisine and mealtime was great while in Peru. Ginny and I felt that with all the climbing up and down hills that even with the good eating, we probably lost weight. After lunch, we picked up our small bags from the hotel and relaxed in the hotel bar for a couple of hours, waiting for our train back to Ollantaytambo. From that city, we picked up a bus that took us to Cusco. We arrived late in the evening; Mercedes and our driver were at the bus station to pick us up to take us to our hotel. Cusco was about 70 miles from Aguas Calientes. Most of the trip was on the bus and we found the highways to be a mixed blessing. We found that large speed bumps were very common in Peru on highways when inside a city or village. Also, the roads were good in some places, but in other areas filled with terrible potholes. The bus had to slow down to negotiate these potholes and speed bumps. With all the road traffic, we probably averaged 25-30 MPH along the entire route. Upon arrival at our hotel in Cusco, we received our stored luggage and were informed that our room was upgraded to a suite. The suite was huge and very nice. We had a huge spa in the large sitting room. I decided to use the spa and take a hot bath to soothe my tired muscles. The spa was so large, it took a very long time to fill, and I decided not to try to fill it completely, but I did have a nice warm bath for a change. It did help with the tired muscles. By the way, if you want to see Machu Picchu, I recommend not waiting until you are in your 70s. Our last day in Cusco, Ginny and I decided to visit some of it many museums. We slept a bit late, but then took in the Machu Picchu Museum as well as the Inca Museum. After those museums, we did a small amount of shopping, returned to our hotel and relaxed prior to Mercedes taking us to the airport for our 6 pm flight back to Lima and on to Santiago, Chile. We had a wonderful trip to Peru and were to return to that country on our cruise that stopped there in a few days. Our tour with PeruAgency was excellent and total cost was $799 per person. The roundtrip airfare from Lima to Cusco was $148 each. The modest admissions to two museum and about three meals added, our trip cost us about $1050 per person. Celebrity was selling an excursions from the ship for a three day tour that cost $3700 per person. SANTIAGO AIRPORT Ginny and I had been to Chile twice, in 2011 and 2014, in connection with cruises. We had spend several days in Santiago, Valparaiso and taken two wine tours as well. We elected to not try any touring of the area again. We arrived at the Santiago Airport after 4 am on 23 March. I had booked us for the remainder of the night and the next night at the Holiday Inn, Santiago Airport prior to our cruise on 24 March. The hotel was very nice and easy to access from the airport. It is just across the street from the airport and we simply dragged our luggage to the hotel. We slept late that day and didn’t leave the hotel at all. We relaxed and recuperated from our Peru tour. The hotel restaurant was great. It far exceeded our expectations. I had arranged for transport with SouthExcursions, a Chilean tour company that we had used successfully on our two previous trips to Chile. We had a group of 10 from the cruise critic roll call that shared the ride to the port of San Antonio for $60 per person. CELEBRITY ECLIPSE The 15 day cruise north to San Diego included seven ports: 25 MAR LA SERENA (COQUIMBO), CHILE 

28 MAR LIMA, (CALLAO) PERU 

30 MAR MANTA, ECUADOR 01 APR COSTA RICA 
03 APR HUATULCO, MEXICO 05 APR PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO 06 APR CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO 08 APR SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA We had visited Coquimbo, Lima and Manta on our December 2011 cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Chile. For this cruise we tried to visit places at those ports that we had not seen on the first cruise. LA SERENA (COQUIMBO), CHILE Last time, we took a walking tour of Coquimbo, which was the port city where we docked. This time, we didn’t take a tour, but hired a taxi to take us to La Serena, a larger city about 9 miles from the port. We spend about two hours walking around the small city. We had refreshments and a snack as well as a bit of shopping. Since the wrist band on my watch separated, I purchased a new watch for $23. The cost of the taxi each way was about $20. The most interesting thing about this city was that it was not a tourist destination at all. We were able to see a Chilean city without the flood of tourists that normally cover these ports. We didn’t see many from our ship in the city. This was a port that Celebrity probably could have skipped. LIMA, PERU Barb, our friend from the 2017 transatlantic booked this tour, as she did three other tours that we took on the cruise. I had recommended Monica’s Tours, since we had used them in 2011 and they were excellent. Our tour guide was good and advised us that we could see a number of places. Of course, we didn’t have time to do it all. The day we were in port turned out to be a local holiday, which meant heavier traffic than normal. That was unfortunate, since we probably could have seen more on a normal day. We were taken to two main squares in downtown Lima, the second being the Plaza de Armas. It was a huge square and the cathedral was on the square. Just prior to arriving at that square, we walked through a street with some interesting building frontages and balconies. The next place on the tour was a monastery with catacombs that we had seen in 2011, so Ginny and I asked to meet the group later, so we could visit the cathedral. We had not seen the cathedral. Pizarro, the Spanish conqueror of Peru was buried in the cathedral. The massive building was filled with valuable art. After spending about an hour at the cathedral, we walked to the Monastery to meet our tour. There was a huge long line of local people waiting to enter the Monastery, so we waited outside the entrance of the catacombs as instructed and ran into Monica, the owner of the tour company. She remembered Ginny and I from 2011. She gave us a couple of small gifts, as she did last time we were in Lima. Our next stop was to visit an ancient pyramid, predating the Incas. The pyramid grounds were in the direction of Miraflores, the more upscale area of Lima. Our group decided to skip lunch in order to spend more time touring. We walked up the pyramid while our guide explained details about the civilization that built it. There was a small museum that we visited as well. After the pyramid, we found a scenic seashore at Miraflores with a nice park. Driving around the city was slow due to the traffic and after the seashore, we heading back to the port to make the ship on time. It is worth mentioning that we found the cuisine in Peru to be absolutely fantastic. Peruvian food can match up to the best in the World, even French and Italian. MANTA, ECUADOR Barb has arranged for our private tour in Ecuador. The tour included a short hike through a “dry rain forest,” lunch at a restaurant on the beach and a visit to the city of Montecristi, Ecuador. Our guide at the rain forest told us that we might see howler monkeys. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, be we all enjoyed the walk through the forest. Despite being at the equator, it was not that hot in the forest. Our guide pointed out some wildlife, including large spiders. Lunch was very nice at a restaurant right on a scenic beach. Later, we visited the city of Montecristi and did some shopping, then back to the ship. COSTA RICA Ginny and I had not been to Costa Rica before and our tour there was a ship’s excursion called “Walk in the Clouds.” Our bus took us into the interior of the country that was up in altitude. This rain forest hike was more extensive and the path included several bridges, some suspended high above a flowing creek. Prior to beginning our hike, we entered a large butterfly enclosure, with hundreds of colorful butterflies. Everyone was trying to take photos of them, before the butterflies flew off once more. After the forest hike, we visited a humming bird station with many hummingbird feeders and small water sprinklers that attracted the birds. Scores of hummingbirds of different colors were feasting on the feed stations. The hummingbirds were more of a challenge to photograph than the butterflies. Finally, after leaving the forest, we came to a balcony were tropical birds were attracted. The birds were colorful, but not the large tropical birds. The birds were robin or cardinal sized, however there were many beautiful birds. On our bus trip out to the site and return, our guide schooled us in the history of Costa Rica and some facts about the country. The country has no army and a history of peace. Our guide told us that the country has no gold or silver that attracted attackers. The country has mandatory education for its youth and the elite students go on to a state university at no cost. Other universities are private and require payment. The country doesn’t seem to have the same problems as most of the other Central American countries and had a history of stability. As in nearly any tour from a cruise ship, we did stop at a large tourist oriented store for souvenirs. The store was huge and many purchased items there. HUATULCO, MEXICO This port was still a mystery to us, no one had ever heard of it before. The coastal city was about halfway between Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. The port and nearby area appeared to be under development. It didn’t seem that extensive development had take place. The small coastal town was rather new and tidy, clearly geared toward tourism. The coastal area was very scenic, and our tour with Enrique’s Tours focused on finding the most scenic places for us to visit. Barb had organized this tour for us. Our first stop was near a lighthouse (abandoned) at the top of the cliff overlooking the ocean and the port. Also, Enrique took us to visit to a nice beach, as well as his small village a few miles from Huatulco. We learned that Enrique had lived in Ohio for several years, saving his money to come home and start a business. He provided us with as good a tour as could be made for this area. Some people took tours that went into the interior, higher up into the mountains, as we had done in Ecuador and Costa Rica. PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO This port is a famous resort and has been for many years. It was well developed and we saw many US businesses there like Home Depot, Starbucks, Walmart, and more. The port city was fairly modern, prosperous and well maintained. Our tour was another Celebrity excursion called “Colonial San Sebastian.” As we left the port city into the interior, we passed through some small towns and farms that clearly were not part of the more prosperous resort. Our tour took us up into the Sierra Madre Mountains, with many scenic views, including a huge bridge that crossed a large gorge. I noted that some graffiti artist had bravely climbed under the highway span to paint his work on the underside of the bridge. Adolfo was our excellent tour guide on our excursion. The tour was provided by Vallarta Adventures. Adolfo provided us a detailed history of the local area, Puerto Vallarta and Colonial San Sebastian. San Sebastian was a former silver mining town. Mining ended after the 1910 Mexican revolution. The town shrunk in population, but preserved its colonial heritage. The town had its cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial architecture. The bus took us about 1 hour and 45 minutes from the port, but we saw vistas of the mountains up to about 4700 feet. We had a very nice lunch and on our way back to the port, we had a fun tequila tasting. The tour guide was excellent and we enjoyed the tour very much. CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO This was our last port before arriving back in the USA. The port is situated very near land’s end of the Baja peninsula of Mexico. We saw the scenic land’s end from our cruise ship prior to tendering into the port. Barb had organized the tour with toursbylocals. Our local guide was Alejandro Olivares with amazingcabos. First, he took us to the harbor where our small group boarded a boat that included a large glass bottom for viewing sea life. The tour didn’t focus on sea life, but we did see some fish after some bread was handed out for us to throw into the water. The tour took us past a lot of scenic rock formations and around the end of land’s end into the Pacific Ocean. We saw beaches that apparently flood at high tide as well as some sea lions. Some were sunning themselves on the rocks. Our boat approached them fairly close, so we managed some nice photos. After the boat ride, we visited a nice restaurant on the shore opposite the land’s end. Then we visited a luxury hotel that was right on the beach. The hotel was a Sheraton. We had permission to walk through the hotel and pool area to the beach. It was very nice. Also, there was a golf course nearby. At the end of the tour, we visited a factory that turned recycled glass into glasses and other items. Phil, one of our friends on the cruise and tour did blow some glass. After the tour we did a little shopping and prior to returning to the ship stopped at Señor Frogs for a drink and snack. Eight of us endured the very loud music for a while, but prior to becoming deaf, I decided to relieve the pain in my head by returning to the ship. The others stayed for a while longer and I understand Ginny, Barb and Joyce did a dance for the crowd. After a sea day, we arrived at San Diego and prepared to depart for home. Celebrity had assigned us a time in groups to go through immigration. US citizens and residents had a separate line from non-citizens. We were told about when that would happen and that our number would be called. Celebrity decided to call numbers 3, 4 and 5 all at one time, then number 6 soon thereafter. The numbers only went to 7, so they called a very large portion of the ship at one time, flooding the elevators that we were told to use. Nearly everyone was climbing the stairs, including people with canes. It was not quite chaos, but it was crazy. We finally found the end of the line on deck 12 and waited almost an hour to go through immigration. This was totally unnecessary, since the groups could have been spread out evenly to avoid the mess. Still, we had a nice cruise and enjoyed our cruise friends. We hope to see them again on other cruises in the future. The dining was, as usual, excellent. However, my most favorite dessert from Celebrity is the crepe suzette that has been so downsized these days that it is nothing more than a sampler. We didn’t go to most of the evening shows, but thought the Argentinian show was excellent. The Rock show was glitzy and included some very good circ sole elements. However, the songs selected for the show were largely third rate songs. We missed what everyone acclaimed as an excellent comedy show, so we went to another afternoon comedy show that was excellent. Still, Celebrity’s entertainment could learn something from Royal Caribbean or NCL. Service was generally first rate and the two excursions that we took from Celebrity were excellent. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
I wanted to write this review because I saw a number of poor ratings for Holland America and since we had a good experience, I thought it would be fair to write a good one. This was our first cruise with HAL and we were on the Zaandam. ... Read More
I wanted to write this review because I saw a number of poor ratings for Holland America and since we had a good experience, I thought it would be fair to write a good one. This was our first cruise with HAL and we were on the Zaandam. This is a beautiful ship with a musical theme. We liked the baroque organ. We ran into two storms on the Pacific Ocean with 6.5 meter waves and the Captain changed our port of call from Ushuaia to Castro and also gave us the beautiful Brujo glacier. We were good with the decision since it was a bit of a rough ride that day. We had booked mostly private excursions since we like the smaller groups. Except for the tendering ports, all the ports of call on our cruise were well managed. We have travelled with at least 4 other cruise lines and we found the food selection to be good better than some of the others. We liked having less choices but better quality. Cabin crew were good. Enrichment activities were good. Entertainment were okay. Embarkation and Disembarkation were spot on. All in all, we liked Holland America and have already booked another cruise with them on the Westerdam. Hoping to be able to have the same level of service or better. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Our cruise on Xpedition was a celebration of my 40th birthday, and the trip truly exceeded expectations. From the exceptional staff to the fresh local food on board, we thoroughly enjoyed our vacation. Xpedition is a relatively old ship ... Read More
Our cruise on Xpedition was a celebration of my 40th birthday, and the trip truly exceeded expectations. From the exceptional staff to the fresh local food on board, we thoroughly enjoyed our vacation. Xpedition is a relatively old ship by modern cruise standards, but she has aged well and is lovingly maintained. We were surprised how much she felt like a true Celebrity ship just on a much smaller scale. With one dining room, one bar, and close quarters, you get to know the other passengers and crew much more than on a large ship. Fortunately for us, we enjoyed our fellow travelers and crew members. The Galapagos itself is a very special place, and the way the National Park is managed really limits crowds. The naturalists who lead the excursions are exceedingly patient and considerate. They are informative and knowledgeable about the environment, wildlife, and geology of the islands. Finally, make sure you know in advance what this trip is and is not. We were shocked to learn that a handful of passengers did not realize this was an adventure cruise with rugged hikes. The experience is not for everyone, so make sure you are up for an adventure when you book this trip. If you are, you’ll be rewarded with a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Seabourn Quest – The Seabourn Difference 16.3.19 -7.4.19 Buenos Aires to Manaus Having cruised with Seabourn on Odyssey, Sojourn and the little ships, we knew what to expect and were not disappointed. We had booked a guarantee ... Read More
Seabourn Quest – The Seabourn Difference 16.3.19 -7.4.19 Buenos Aires to Manaus Having cruised with Seabourn on Odyssey, Sojourn and the little ships, we knew what to expect and were not disappointed. We had booked a guarantee cabin or rather suite, as all cabins are known, and ended up fairly midships on deck 4 near the dining room in a quiet location. The balcony cabins are exactly the same but, as we don’t spend much time in our suite, we forego a balcony in exchange for more cruises. The suites are delightful, spacious, well-stocked and with the most comfortable bed we’ve ever had on any cruise line. You can order whatever drinks you like to have in your suite, so a bottle of Hendryks gin and a Taylors port were happily provided and stored alongside our complimentary bottle of champagne. Our stewardess welcomed us with 4 speciality soaps and kept our Moulton Brown toiletries and everything else topped up throughout the trip. There is a large choice of online films available in your suite and a good number of TV channels. The entertainment is always more limited on small ships but Seabourn offer more variety than other competitors including a guest pianist, guitar players, a comedian, a magician and the Seabourn singers and dancers and all the shows were of a good standard. On two occasions, local groups gave daytime performances – we had a tango show in Uruguay and an excellent local dance show in Recife. Although we weren’t in the Caribbean, the signature “Caviar in the Surf” was held in the pool and created a wonderful party atmosphere. We didn’t get involved in the daytime programme of art classes or lectures, preferring to enjoy the deck side relaxation, although the weather on sea days was not always co-operative. This leads to one of my few complaints. For a cruise line that prides itself on luxury and exceeding guest expectations, the sun loungers are dreadful. Many lines now provide thick mattresses to aid an afternoon siesta but Seabourn’s are a perfect example of durability and discomfort – no mattresses! Years ago, they used to be provided but no longer. In a few locations, there are some mattresses, specifically on deck 11 at the bow of the ship, but even these seem to have been designed for durability not comfort and my 12 stone husband failed to make a dent in the extremely firm foam padding. The ship is delightful and there are always places where you can find a peaceful corner. The décor was good but, unfortunately, they were experiencing significant issues with the pool deck lifting dangerously in several places. This led to drilling and sanding both on sea and port days making the pool deck less than tranquil. It was also interesting to see how they covered all the outside vents as we went into the Amazon with the resulting screen of insects that were unable to get in! The dining options were good with 4 venues available in the evenings. For breakfast and lunch, we chose the Colonnade self-service, mainly because we enjoy sitting outside, although poor weather up the Brazilian coast to Rio occasionally forced us inside. Inevitably, we ended up eating too much. The selection is good and despite good intentions there was always something you just had to try! Another delight was sharing tables with other passengers and lunch could become a leisurely affair aided by complimentary excellent wines. In the evening, you could dine outside at the self-service or by the pool or in the formal dining room. The Grill, part of the Thomas Keller franchise, offered a special dining experience but you need to book, so it is probably better to book online before the cruise. It’s difficult to clearly quantify what makes Seabourn so special. Other lines provide similar excellent facilities, so I think it boils down to the human factor. Nothing is too much trouble and all the staff will try to make things as special as possible. The instances are endless but, for example, we enjoyed a specific complimentary wine in one restaurant that was not offered 2 nights later but the staff willingly went in search of a bottle and brought it to where we were dining. You can request any specific dish at a meal and, provided they have 24 hours’ notice, it will be there. In our case, I very much enjoyed my crepes suzette cooked to order. Another example of them “going that extra mile” occurred when my sandals broke. They repaired them and had them back ion our suite the following day. Perhaps most importantly, the staff were happy to engage but always seemed to know when to withdraw. Additionally, the culture of friendliness seems to rub off on guests and most are happy to chat and interact with you. Frequent hosted tables help with this but there seems to be an atmosphere of camaraderie that we have not experienced on other similar lines to the same extent. Seabourn cruises are not cheap but no doubt that is what allows them to maintain their standards and over 50% of the guests were returners on this cruise. They offer a good incentive scheme to pass the message on, giving $400 onboard credit to both those who recommend new guests or are recommended. However, there is one major drawback. They will not give you this benefit if you, as the sponsor, opt to take a cruise with some promotional offer of Onboard Credit attached. There is also a further condition, namely you only have 2 years to take advantage of this offer. This means it has the potential to be an empty offer if you happen to choose the “wrong cruise”. This is ridiculous and everyone on Quest who we spoke to agreed. It should be totally separate from anything else and considered in the same way as Carnival share holder benefits in order to incentivise satisfied guests to spread the word. After all, new clients generate considerable financial rewards for Seabourn – not only now but also in the future. We have now made 3 referrals to friends of ours but as we were not allowed to use any one of them on this cruise, we will not be continuing this practice. Wake up Seabourn, this is not good customer relations! Finally, it has to be said that he weather was not particularly co-operative on our cruise with the Equator crossing ceremony being cancelled twice due to rain but this did not detract from what was an excellent trip on a great ship with excellent staff and interesting guests. Definitely recommend. Ports Buenos Aires There were no ship’s tours other than very expensive private cars, so we booked a city orientation with Tangol tours, which was excellent value at £13.27 pp. We took the shuttle into town and met the minibus at the Sheraton Hotel but realised later that they would have picked us up at the port. The minibus took us through 6 neighbourhoods and gave us time to explore at the main square including the cathedral where Pope Francis officiated and Boca, a lively neighbourhood with many tango bars. An overwhelming impression of BA was lots of parks and open spaces, broad roads and lots of statues. Montevideo A ship’s trip took us to the main square but the architecture was not particularly noteworthy. However, we learnt a lot about this small country. We visited a market which had been redeveloped and drove along the very extensive Las Ramblas along the banks of the River Plate, with its brown water due to the soil content. We then visited a quirky house built by architect Pittamiglio who was into alchemy. Definitely worth a visit and we enjoyed a tango show there before returning to the ship. Ilabelha Unfortunately, our beach and waterfall trip took place in rain and grey skies. The sea was warm for swimming but 90 minutes on the beach in rain showers probably wasn’t the best introduction to this island. The Tres Combo waterfalls in the rain forest were also not particularly spectacular. Buzios Once the hideout of Brigitte Bardot, Buzios was a delightful port. Stylish shops and a pleasant beach promenade. We took a schooner trip from the ship which was very relaxing but the water wasn’t very clear and the snorkelling sites were not very productive apart from seeing some coral. However, towards the end we did see the odd small turtle and overall it was a pleasant morning. San Salvador We got off the ship and took the elevator to the upper town (over 65’s don’t pay for this). There were very colourful buildings and lots of churches although many charge a small fee for entrance. The police presence was very strong everywhere and we were warned not to wear jewellery and expensive watches. Unfortunately, one of the ship’s passengers was robbed, so definitely a port in which to be vigilant. Recife We visited Olinda, a Unesco World Heritage Site, which was interesting and provided good views of the city. We visited both the Benedictine Monastery and the Franciscan one and heard how Recife was first for a number of things in Brazil. After a drive along the beach with its shark warnings clear to see, we were treated to a rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus by a local choir at the Golden Chapel – well worth a visit. Natal Not my favourite port. We did an orientation trip from the ship and travelled for an hour to see the largest cashew nut tree in the world. Definitely impressive and in the Guiness Book of Records, but a long way to go for a tree! The city itself had many skyscrapers and much of the old town looked in need of repair. Santarem We were well into the Amazon here and you could see the meeting of the waters in the distance. We did a ship’s trip out to a community which explained the rise and fall of rubber and showed the process of milling manioc (cassava). Santarem is walkable from the ship and worth a visit. The market seems to sell predominantly hammocks for use on the boats which move up and down the Amazon – no seats on these, only hooks for your hammock. Manaus Our last stop on this trip took in the Opera House, a market and the home of one of the founding fathers of the town. We did an organised ship’s trip but it is easily done on your own, with entry to the opera house only 20 Real (£4). These are really the main sights in the town but other guests took a boat up one of the tributaries and reported an excellent trip to see an Amazonian village. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
I chose this cruise to explore western South America and specifically to go to Macchu Pichu. Also to travel the Panama Canal one more time. It did not disappoint. As usual, NCL tours are well planned and the guides are very professional. ... Read More
I chose this cruise to explore western South America and specifically to go to Macchu Pichu. Also to travel the Panama Canal one more time. It did not disappoint. As usual, NCL tours are well planned and the guides are very professional. Embarkation at San Antonio was probably the easiest of any port I've done so far. Some sparse facilities in a warehouse, but they moved us through quick and it was easy to follow where to go. Some folks thought the Macchu Pichu trip was overpriced at about $2000 each and you missed two days off the boat. These were people that did not take the excursion. But for this excursion they chartered a 737 to fly the 97 of us from Aricca, Chile to Cusco, Peru, and had us split into groups of 9 or 10 or so, each with a guide. The guides were equipped with oxygen and first aid due to the high altitude in Cusco. I saw them use their first aid skills in person when one woman fainted during lunch. They rushed into action and appeared to know exactly what to do and were very professional at helping her until an ambulance arrived. I saw her later on so I know she recovered fine. The hotel for 2 nights in Cusco was absolutely first class and at least 4 star quality. Really nice. Fantastic breakfast buffet and dinner included. Better than the ship even. The train ride down to MP was great with a wonderful meal and great views and some commentary. MP tour was very detailed and the guide knew his history and helped the less agile folks with the stairs and walking around. We spent around 4 hours there, and it was enough for me. If you want a detailed study of the place and want to spend a few days there, then this is not for you. But after 4 hours I was ready to go back and thought I had seen enough to satisfy my curiosity. The ride back was just as good. The same train and hotel and the next day, another 737 to go to Lima. I understand where the $2K went, and in my opinion, it was worth it. A surprise tour was to see the adobe city of Chan Chan in northern Peru. Really interesting place and it is pre-Inca and still in pretty good shape. Turned out to be more interesting than I expected. Overall the ship's renovation recently really updated it to today's styles and standards. The New Mexican restaurant, los Lobos had a fairly limited menu, but everything was tasty and fairly authentic (Full disclosure I'm married to a Mexican, so we had to hold not tp a high standard and it didn't disappoint.). The buffet was typical NCL and acceptable, but crowded and not a s good as the specialty restaurants. Overall, another typical high quality NCL cruise and the renovated SUN was a pleasure to sail on and the crew all seemed happy to be there too.. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this cruise because Oceania has smaller ships and their food is excellent. This was a South America cruise going from Lima Peru to Buenos Aires Argentina. Being the month of March in the Southern Hemisphere, we expected and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because Oceania has smaller ships and their food is excellent. This was a South America cruise going from Lima Peru to Buenos Aires Argentina. Being the month of March in the Southern Hemisphere, we expected and received September type temperatures like the Northern Hemisphere. Sirena is very well kept still clean and attractive though it will be renovated soon. I like all the colors and schemes she has now but that will disappear with the addition of gray interior decor. My only issue with the ship was the aggressiveness and interruptions of the wine stewards and waiters in the main dining room. Those personnel need to be trained to present themselves and be recognized. So many times they would interrupt the table guests which to me is rude. On the last bus tour in BA, there was a passenger that was coughing incessantly. I caught his cold and am still suffering from it. I wrote a separate letter to Oceania suggesting that their ship chaperon(s) on the tours provide disposable masks on those busses for the "coughers" and on the vessel too. There are sick people who come on the ship even though they are given a questionnaire prior to boarding. Passengers do not have to divulge that they have a cold. Anyhow, I would recommend the Sirena and Oceania. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
I wanted to cruise the Panama Canal and this trip was available at a suitable time. Life aboard ship was excellent as we were made to feel like part of the Norwegian family. The dining experience was superb but all the staff made us feel ... Read More
I wanted to cruise the Panama Canal and this trip was available at a suitable time. Life aboard ship was excellent as we were made to feel like part of the Norwegian family. The dining experience was superb but all the staff made us feel comfortable in their home. I enjoyed having a choice of cheeseburgers or pizza for lunch. I am a bridge player and was very pleased to find that Norwegian had contracted with a couple that would provide us time to play duplicate bridge. This was an unexpected yet appreciated aspect of our cruise that added to our enjoyment. The entertainment was varied and appreciated. From trivia to a string trio playing classical music. Our balcony cabin allowed us much time viewing ocean life and activity at sea. I took advantage of Norwegians advance bookings which doubled my deposits and I am looking forward to cruising with Norwegian over the next few years. Our cab Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We actually chose this cruise for the sea days. The ports were pleasant extras for us. We had a fabulous time. Cabin steward was fantastic along with every staff member we interacted with each day. We did (3) excursions and loved them ... Read More
We actually chose this cruise for the sea days. The ports were pleasant extras for us. We had a fabulous time. Cabin steward was fantastic along with every staff member we interacted with each day. We did (3) excursions and loved them all. Wild life adventure in San Martin was amazing! We really got our money's worth out of this one. Dolphins, sea lions, penguins, birds oh my! We zip lined in Costa Rica and had a great time flying through the trees. The staff was great with the advanced age of our group... I think everyone enjoyed the experience. We also did the beach excursion in Puerto Vallarta, warm water, great food and yummy drinks. Everything was wonderful. We did book all our excursions though Princess just to be safe so far from home and we weren't disappointed. Felt we got our money's worth out of each event. We loved the trivia and game shows on the ship and the bar staff was exceptional. Everyone was so much fun! The Cruise Director and entertainment staff were out of this world amazing! I wish I could name every staff member we encountered. We met wonderful fellow travelers and had a blast getting to know folks from other countries as well as from other States in the US. We came away with friends for life. We love Princess Cruise lines and will continue to sail with them as often as we can. If you like longer cruises with a nice combination of sea and port days this itinerary is for you. Can't wait until our next vacation! Thank you Princess Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
We picked this because we had never been to S A and we were looking for something that ended up in LA, as we had a wedding to attend on 3/30/19 We loved the countries we visited and were never concerned about safety in the ports. We ... Read More
We picked this because we had never been to S A and we were looking for something that ended up in LA, as we had a wedding to attend on 3/30/19 We loved the countries we visited and were never concerned about safety in the ports. We did all excursions through Princess, and they were well done, with excellent hosts. There was enough variety so that there was something for everyone. We did not go to Machu Pichu because it would have taken 2 days out of our cruise. We would do this cruise again. The Star Princess ship was a little older, but well maintained. We like the smaller ships without all the “kiddie” attractions, like race cars, climbing walls, wave pools, as we are older and do not use these. The average age group on this cruise was 50+. The were a handful of children, no teenagers or spring break groups Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Overview - unusual itinerary on board an older but well maintained ship. Transfer to Ship We boarded the Star Princess in San Antonio, Chile after making our own arrangements for the flight from the US to Santiago. Transfers ... Read More
Overview - unusual itinerary on board an older but well maintained ship. Transfer to Ship We boarded the Star Princess in San Antonio, Chile after making our own arrangements for the flight from the US to Santiago. Transfers (Princess arrangements) were efficient and after dropping our cases at the airport we did not see them again until they arrived in our cabin around 16:00. There was a long line at Santiago Intl Airport for the air conditioned coaches but we were seated within 30-45 minutes, so not too bad. What is Star Princess like? If you want to travel on this ship with Princess you only have about 5 months before it's transfer to P&O Australia. We would heartily recommend Star Princess as although older, it is well maintained and with its subdued decor provides a relaxing environment. Although when built it was viewed as a large ship, in today's world it is midsized and orientation is easy. Straight corridors on accommodation decks may lack interest, but we found them easier to navigate than the constantly shifting corridors of ships such as the Regal Princess. One of our favourite features on this and similar Princess ships is the full wrap around promenade deck that allows passengers to go right to the bow and look out. Listen Princess (and all the other lines) - this is a feature that should exist on ALL cruise ships! Skywalkers lounge located in the 'spoiler' is a fantastic and underutilized venue. More than 100ft above the water and with 360 degree views it is an excellent daytime spot when for most of the day it is unused. From 16:30 to 18:30 the Elite/Platinum reception is held here and on our cruise the number of platinum + guests was so great that the venue was often overcrowded. I believe this was due to the demographic on this itinerary as last year on the Regal Princess a venue less than half the size was normally empty at this reception. What is the Food Like - main Restaurant and Buffet? Pretty good! I don't understand the complaints other on this forum have made. Catering to a ship of 2,600 passengers is necessarily banquet style and the quality of food and presentation was much better than typical land based banquet catering. We dined in 'Club Class' dining and never waited more than 5 minutes for a table, eating as a couple two or three nights and on a table for four most nights. While menus do not vary much from one year to the next, every night something tickled our taste buds so that we never resorted to the always available favourites. The buffet has a greater choice but can appear rather picked over if you arrive at the wrong time. Also the food (and this applies to the main restaurant also) is not always very hot. The actual food in the buffet is mostly of a good standard though certain dishes such as Indian curries can be a bit oily. What is the Food Like - Crown Grill and Sabatinis? The Best - as suite passengers we always enjoy complementary dining at the Crown Grill on embarkation day (an excellent benefit) and the steak was so good we dined at The Crown Grill again later in the cruise. The 'salt menu' is superb, with the Applewood Smoked salt from Washington State a taste sensation Sabatini's menu has changed since last year and to our pallet is much improved. We had given up eating in Sabatinis after their menu became too eclectic in 2015, however the new menu returns to the fundamentals of excellent Italian cuisine and we heartily recommend it once again. On Board We make very little use of the entertainment and activities on board, however there was one act that deserves mention - Duo Consonance. This Russian Violinist and Chilean Pianist were easily the highlight with their mix of classical, folk and musical repertoire. Their virtuosity mixed with humour was refreshing and it was sad they were only on board for the last three days of our cruise. Ports and Excursions The ports of call on this cruise were the main draw and they did not disappoint. We took Princess excursions in three ports and explored on our own in Lima, Nicaragua and Mexico. Coquimbo, Chile - Tololo Observatory. This full day tour was worthwhile particularly for the views from the Tololo observatory across the Atacama desert towards the high Andes. Pisco, Peru - Islas Bellastas Wildlife Reserve Located approx 11 miles offshore the islands are home to millions of seabirds as well as endangered Humboldt Penguins and sea lions. The small boats that take you out to the islands are expertly piloted to within a few feet of the rocks so you are guaranteed excellent views of the wildlife Puntarenas, Costa Rica - Old Train Ride and River Cruise This trip started with a display of traditional dance by local kids with an invite to join them for the finale. The train ride itself was a short distance covered at a very slow speed, but it facilitated a view of life away from the beaten track and was quite enjoyable. Driving up into the hills on the way to the river cruise, the coach made a stop at a local craft market where we were given complimentary Costa Rican coffee (excellent) and local mangoes. Some people complained that the river cruise part of the tour was too short and we did not see crocodiles, however we would suggest this shows the benefit of proper research. The Princess shore excursion guide clearly shows that the boat trip portion of this trip is scheduled for 45 minutes with longer boat trips available on dedicated Mangrove swamp tours. We did see a good variety of wildlife including Scarlet Macaws and Iguanas sunning themselves in the Mangrove trees. Would we Recommend This Cruise? Undoubtedly yes! The eight sea days were really laid back. On boarding we locked our phones in the safe and did not take them out until disembarkation. The crew were good and 'Captain Bye Bye' was the most visible captain we have ever seen (he moves to the new Sky Princess for it's maiden voyage this November). The itinerary was interesting and the excursions offered were varied. Who Should NOT take this Cruise? If you have kids that need constant entertainment, kids clubs, etc this may not be the cruise for them. The Star Princess has the usual kids club and hangout areas, but cruises of this length tend to attract a more mature clientele. We counted less than 10 kids under the age of 15 on board this ship. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We did the 30 day cruise in December and spent the winter in Argentina and Chile. The logical choice was to return to California on the same ship from Santiago. We are fairly new to cruising but we love the Star Princess. The staff seems ... Read More
We did the 30 day cruise in December and spent the winter in Argentina and Chile. The logical choice was to return to California on the same ship from Santiago. We are fairly new to cruising but we love the Star Princess. The staff seems to be genuinely friendly and wants you to feel like part of the family. A couple of the ports were a little disappointing but I don’t think it was the fault of Princess. Our interior cabin was comfortable but I wish there had been a comfortable chair to sit on in the cabin. There are plenty of places to do that around the ship however. We usually ate at the buffet, the food was comparable to the main dining room but there were a lot more things to choose from. We did eat “out” at Sabatini’s one night and it was excellent. The port excursions we booked through Princess were pricey but well done. The embarkation in San Antonio was good, but I thinking Valparaiso is a much more interesting town. Disembarking in Long Beach was a breeze especially considering the last minute change in berth Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
My wife and I have become fans of Celebrity and Royal Caribbean for quite some time. >The service is excellent!! The staff on the ship are friendly and very helpful. My wife has a hard time getting around, the excursion team did ... Read More
My wife and I have become fans of Celebrity and Royal Caribbean for quite some time. >The service is excellent!! The staff on the ship are friendly and very helpful. My wife has a hard time getting around, the excursion team did an excellent job of helping us get to the excursions buses. Our dining room staff couldn't be anymore helpful. >Food is excellent, in all restaurants, buffet, etc. >Cabin was clean and comfortable. The steward was very helpful and took of room very well. We were at the very aft end of the ship.. WHAT A VIEW. We could see 180 degrees and going through the Chilean Fjords was amazing.. >We had a fun time at the Captain's Club events. >The ports were very interesting and unique. >We used Choice Air.. What a great idea that was. We did not have to worry about our luggage getting to the ship, Celebrity took care of that. I am now looking at using Choice air when we travel on Celebrity and Air to Sea on Royal Caribbean whenever we cruise. Read Less

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