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30 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
My husband and I recently returned from a 10 day cruise in February to Antarctica. Le Lyrial is a beautiful ship and given our geographical location handles the rough seas and conditions very well. It was hard to find fault with a ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a 10 day cruise in February to Antarctica. Le Lyrial is a beautiful ship and given our geographical location handles the rough seas and conditions very well. It was hard to find fault with a ship that was only 10 months old. Our cabin on deck 5 was more than comfortable with plenty of storage and the cabin stewards took pride in keeping the cabins very clean with plenty of fresh towels and french toiletries. Nothing was ever a problem to them. Our dining experiences on both Level 2 and Level 6 were very enjoyable. There was plenty of choice for both buffet and fine dining with very attentive staff making sure all was okay. As this was an expedition cruise the expedition crew were exceptional and we looked forward to their daily informative talks about the wildlife and the places we would visit. Each day our zodiac excursions whether they be to go ashore or cruise around icebergs or shipwrecks were a highlight. The crew made sure we had plenty of time ashore to look at wildlife or just to take in the scenery. The ease of getting on and off the zodiacs is handled very well with every effort taken to make one feel safe. This is not your normal cruise and cannot be compared to the bigger cruise ships. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sailing on a luxury ship in a very isolated part of the world. Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
Silversea is one class act. All possible categories to review were excellent, so no need to spend time with details. The Captain, his crew and the Expedition team exceeded every expectation that I had for the adventure. Chef Pia ... Read More
Silversea is one class act. All possible categories to review were excellent, so no need to spend time with details. The Captain, his crew and the Expedition team exceeded every expectation that I had for the adventure. Chef Pia astounded us with her resourcefulness and creativity despite food inventory constraints of being at sea for 19 days. All other staff were professional, experienced and personable. Antarctica is a vast, grand, incredibly pristine and quiet place on Earth. It defies all positive adjectives and superlatives. The penguin and seal colonies in South Georgia and the Shetland Islands are beyond belief. You'll never go to a zoo again. Silversea Cruises conspired with Mother Nature to hit this expedition "right out of the park". Before we disembarked, we booked a Silversea Silver Explorer expedition in the Artic. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
A Zegrahm cruise on a vintage Quark ship, which they use routinely. We selected Zegrahm for the itinerary. Unfortunately we missed the entire west coast of Antarctica, barely made it to the Peninsula, because the ship wasn't in full ... Read More
A Zegrahm cruise on a vintage Quark ship, which they use routinely. We selected Zegrahm for the itinerary. Unfortunately we missed the entire west coast of Antarctica, barely made it to the Peninsula, because the ship wasn't in full working order. A propeller was seriously malfunctioning which Zegrahm knew before we departed. Hence we missed 4 days of the itinerary, arrived late at many landings so light was very poor for photography, landed on Deception Island in total darkness. Because so9 many clients were unhappy with all the time at sea, Zegrahm finally offered a weak compensation package, which still required considerable haggling. Their offer was largely dependent on future bookings, in other words Zegrahm making more money. A good deal for Zegrahm, not for the clients. After considerable discussion, they finally offered 10% cash on a very expensive, once in a lifetime trip. In addition, the ship is in dire need of interior renovation, grimy, seats falling out of the lounge banquette. We recommend Natl. Geographic - new ships, faster, with more time on the ground. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
We boarded LeSoleal in the Solomon Islands, and cruised southwards through the Coral Sea to the very remote isles of Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We disembarked in Noumea. The ship was spotless, well maintained and operated to ... Read More
We boarded LeSoleal in the Solomon Islands, and cruised southwards through the Coral Sea to the very remote isles of Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We disembarked in Noumea. The ship was spotless, well maintained and operated to perfection. The crew from the captain down were polite and helpful, even though we basically only speak English. The cabins are small but comfortable, and well equipped. We found thefood very varied and tasty. The Expedition Cruising was spectacular, indeed we visited small islands of the Coral Sea that had never experienced a cruise ship visit. Landings were made by the use of 14 zodiacs, hence we never needed any facilities for the ship. The Expedition Crew of 8 extremely knowledgeable & multilingual experts in Marine Biology, Vulcanology, Ornithology etc were brilliant, and accommodated the pax of many languages (but mainly French & English). Mick Fogg was expedition leader, and "burned the midnight" oil to ensure the whole schedule ran like clockwork. Each of the islands staged their own (and very different) island welcome, and the captain was ever willing to modify the itinerary to visit out of the way places of interest to pax. We visited Japan for Cherry Blossom in April 2015 on sister ship L'Austral, and had a wonderful memorable experience. We like small ship cruising. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
Extensive travel can foster skepticism about promotional information. In this instance the Galapagos aboard Xpedition is everything, and more, than the publicity promotes. I regretted that skepticism kept us from booking a b2b of both ... Read More
Extensive travel can foster skepticism about promotional information. In this instance the Galapagos aboard Xpedition is everything, and more, than the publicity promotes. I regretted that skepticism kept us from booking a b2b of both loops. My sweetheart of 32 years was satisfied with the one week but I gladly would have stayed the second week. We tend to avoid the herd and travel independently. However we are glad we took the 11 day package round trip from Quito (UIO) airport and back. The Galapagos Islands have so many restrictions and fees that we were glad we allowed Celebrity to handle all of those contingencies. The trip began with the only disappointing part of the entire 11 days. About 15 of us arrived at 11:00 pm and were told we would be waiting about 15 minutes for two other flights. We waited 90 minutes for one person. The airport was hot, crowded, had limited seating and evidently was unsafe since we were told repeatedly to watch our suitcases and wallets. We finally arrived by air conditioned tour bus to our room at the Marriott at 2 a.m. We would have paid the $25 for a cab if we had known the wait would be that long. The Marriott Quito is an excellent facility. There is a separate registration desk for X guests. Xpedition suite guests are upgraded to the executive club floors at the hotel, including free wifi and access to the executive club. We did not have time to actually visit the club. The room was comfortable, quiet, great wifi, included bottled water and great shower. The food also was excellent. Again, we are experienced and discerning travelers. The Saturday morning tour of Quito began at 9:30 (tour busses began loading at 9:15). We had 24 people per bus which were then subdivided to two groups for the walking tour. The morning tour of Cathedrals and Plazas gave a good overview of old town. The lunch Buffet was extensive and quite good. It even included traditional dance and wifi. Having read of previous tummy issues we ate cautiously. For us the afternoon at Mitad del Munda on the Equator was very enjoyable. We were there for only an hour so visiting the numerous shops was very limited. (Celebriity, pls reduce time at the restaurant and increase time at the equator). Prices were better there than on the Islands and nearly as good as the indigenous market. Be sure to bargain. Dinner that evening was delicious at a very nice near-by restaurant. Our doctor prescribed altitude medicine which we began taking two days before the trip. We have encountered altitude issues in the past but had none on this trip. He also gave us some Cipro to anticipate digestive issues due to water or food. It is a good precaution. Sunday morning began with an excellent, early breakfast at the Marriott, seemless transfer by tour bus to the Quito airport and comfortable flight on the Celebrity Avianca charter. The flight is not full so check your seats. We were on a row with three people while the row in front of us was empty. Alas the blue-footed booby napkins are no more. Baltra airport is small but Celebrity preparations meant easy clearance through security. We spent a few minutes in a VIP room with drinks and snacks then boarded local busses to the dock for our first Zodiac (panga) ride to the Xpedition. Each day's excursions were excellent. We saw over 50 different reptiles, mammals, birds and fish. The Naturalists were excellent in knowledge and professionalism. The evening briefing of the following day's excursions was usually 15 minutes and informative. Usually only one of us attended and enrolled in the following day's excursions of interest. We enjoyed the walks and panga rides. We had read some complaints about the food on X but everything we had was delicious. We tried different things that were not to our liking but that was more personal taste preferences than problems in preparation or quality. We are more Southern in our preferences for desserts than many of the options offered too. The chocolate souffle is declicious and world class. We chose to eat evening meals in our suite. We were tired from the busy days of excursions and excellent room service allowed us to eat more rapidly and rest. Wifi is free but practically useless. Please do not expect to do anything other than download email. Some sucked up the entire bandwidth by trying to update pictures or get on Skype. They were unsuccessful and no one could even get email while they tried. Xpedition provides all of the snorkel gear but we took prescription dive masks and dry top snorkels. In November the water was cool but neither of us needed the wetsuits, even though my spouse is cool-natured. The weather would have permitted shorts and short sleeves on each excursion but we opted for long sleeves and pants on most excursions for the sun and bug protection. Take your sunscreen and bug wipes. Practice photo etiquette, when you have taken your picture, move so others can get a picture too. We always travel only with carry-ons so adapting to the 44 pound limit and one suitcase/one carry-on were no problem. We took binoculars since the ship binocs are the same cheap ones on all Celebrity cruises. I chose to wear water shoes for the wet landings and change into hiking boots. There was plenty of time to do so. Many wore keens sandels so they did not have to change but seemed to have trouble with rocks and sand in their shoes as we hiked. We needed our light rain jackets several times. The laundry service on board was relatively inexpensive compared to most hotels and cruises. The laundry was returned same day even if you did not check the same day surcharge. We chose to hand wash items each evening since they dried easily on the balcony or in front of the fan. We had read of numerous tummy issues from those eating in the highlands on the last excursion day. We also had individuals report problems who ate there so were glad we had chosen to return to the ship for lunch. Disembrakation is long and cumbersome. Two hours in the Discovery lounge between leaving the room and leaving the ship. I know they are busy preparing the ship but it would seem to be a good time for a Galapagos movie, or showing more pictures. Then two hours at the Baltra airport before boarding the Celebrity Avianca charter. Transfers to and through the airport again were seemless thanks to Celebrity logistics. The indigenous market in Quito was MUCH cheaper than the two shopping options on the Islands. Shopkeepers on the Islands have the added expense of shipping everything to them. If you see a Galapagos branded item you love on the Islands, get it. If you want some generic Galapagos branded items, get them in the Quito market. All of your generic clothing, jewelry, blankets etc, are cheaper in Quito. It is not cliche in this instance to define Galapagos on board Xpedition as the trip of a lifetime. Do not hesitate to book it. And do so while you are young and healthy enough to enjoy the strenuous but exhilerating daily options. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
For those looking for a standard cruise this would not be your thing although Celebrity does its best to bring a lot of its standard cruise feature to this ship. For those looking for an amazing adventure with an up close and personal ... Read More
For those looking for a standard cruise this would not be your thing although Celebrity does its best to bring a lot of its standard cruise feature to this ship. For those looking for an amazing adventure with an up close and personal look of an amazing place this is an adventure one will love. Here are some of the basics: Excursions: Are great and lead by amazing naturalists who know so much about what you are seeing. They are great guides and amazing sources of information. Each day there are two excursions. There is a long and a short excursion neither require tons of stamina but many require good agility as you walk on rocks or lava. However I was with my mom who has very little agility and she loved the cruise because they would have a last zodiac super short excursion so that those who wanted to see and didn't have the physical resources got at least a good taste of the site but seeing at least the area around the landing and the zodiac. Tip: While with the longer excursions which I took many clamored for the first zodiac I usually waited for the last and was rewarded with a smaller group [max is 16 so its never big] and some extra time seeing the wildlife in the sea from the zodiac. If you are into seeing the Galapagos and the wildlife this is why you are on this adventure and you won't be disappointed. Dining: I new we weren't getting full cruise service in eating but in reality we got pretty close. The Dinner menu looked like a typical MDR menu on a Celebrity Cruise but imo was better because it included local Ecuadorian dishes every night. There are no snacks outside of little stuff when you get back from an excursion and a cookie jar so skipping meals isn't recommended unless you know you won't want later. Entertainment: This isn't a cruise for entertainment. In fact while I saw a review where someone groaned of the go,go,go I actually found the opposite. On days where there isn't an extra snorkeling activity, there is very little going on between the time you get back from your morning excursion at around 10:30 and you start the afternoon one at 3:30. The lounge area is great and the bar staff is supreme. The bar staff also makes lots of great coffee drinks. Not being a big alcohol drinker I enjoyed them making the coffee drinks. Also as someone who doesn't like Martini's discovered one I do like Chocolate Martini Rooms: Nicer then I expected but would say pretty standard for a normal cruise. Was on the 4th level which I would recommend. Ideal location but more importantly there is air conditioning problems on the 3rd level. These seem to be handled by noisy ice fans that act as defacto air conditioners but I would avoid the 3rd level if you can. You do get noise from the anchor sometimes late at night as other mentioned but you just go with it imo. In our room the nice size window was kind of worthless as it was very dirty with a dark streak on the middle. I am sure this is in large part because unlike other cruise ships this ship never docs so clearly the windows weren't cleaned on the outside very often. Not once on our trip. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
Galapagos was on our bucket list. We booked this trip 19 months prior. This was trip B. We did the 10 day, which included 2 nights in Quito pre cruise and one night post cruise. Quito was OK but not anything to look forward to. Yes, we ... Read More
Galapagos was on our bucket list. We booked this trip 19 months prior. This was trip B. We did the 10 day, which included 2 nights in Quito pre cruise and one night post cruise. Quito was OK but not anything to look forward to. Yes, we straddled the equator. The good thing about staying at the JW Marriott in Quito pre cruise was the chance the meet many of the other passengers. The hotel was very nice but it is an hour away from the airport. We are Celebrity Elite members and they did not disappoint. From the airport greeter to the time we were on our way home, the service was top notch. It was great not having to worry about luggage. It would show up in our hotel room and in our stateroom on the ship. No problem. Our boarding passes for our flights to and from Baltra were taken care of. Even the flights, Avianca to Baltra and Air Gal from Baltra were good. Really good food with tableclothes and real utensils. As far as the cruise, Xpedition did not disappoint. We had a deluxe stateroom on deck 3 and it was fine. Yes, it's smaller than the big ships. We had the beds separated so we could have the nightstand between the beds. There is plenty of storage with his and her closets. The bathrooms had vanity space with a shelf underneath. The shower was good with a glass door. The room was quiet. The bed was small but comfortable. The only bad thing were the pillows. They were very thin so we requested more. No problem. When we walked into our cabin, there was a bottle of champagne and a note giving us a free massage (for each of us) as an Elite perk. We were also invited to a Captain's cocktail party a few days later. The massages were good and the party was a good chance to meet the officers. We became very friendly with 4 other couples so 10 of us usually signed up for the same excursions. We also ate dinner together. We had the same table every night almost like it was reserved for us. The food and drink on Xpedition were good, not outstanding, but certainly acceptable. If you wanted something different, all you had to do was ask. The excursions are why we (and everyone else) booked this trip. All I can say is "Wow!" We did most of the "strenuous" excursions and had no problem, although the walk up 380 steps was a little tough, especially that middle part. Oh, we are 66 and 70 years old. The walk on the lava fields was incredible. On the other islands, being up close and personal with the sea lions, penguins, frigates, and boobies took our breath away. We also did the deep water snorkeling. First one was easy. The second one, the sea was very choppy but still saw plenty of fish, penguins. The wet suit kept us warm. The Interpretation Center could have been missed. The Darwin Center was OK because we saw the tortoises. We did the tree planting. Walked in mud (they give you boots) to plant 2 trees. We figured, why not! Then buffet lunch (and show) where all the giant tortoises are. We walked around with the naturalists and saw a lot of them. We were able to take many pictures standing about 8 feet back. Oh, the Zodiac rides were fun. Sometimes you got wet, depending on where you were sitting. Everyone laughed. It was a great group. The bad part was leaving. We had to leave our staterooms at 8am. We had breakfast and went to the Discovery Lounge. At 9:30, we were given our boarding passes for the flight to Quito. At 10am, disembarkation began. By 10:45 we were in the Baltra airport. The flight was supposed to leave at noon but didn't leave until 12:50 (1:50 Quito time), so that's a long time to wait. They did have some food and juice. Two hour flight, then a bus trip back to the JW Marriott. Then a 6pm shopping trip which lasted for 45 minutes. Then our group had dinner at La Hacienda, one of the hotel restaurants. Fixed menu for Celebrity guests. It was pretty good. The next morning, after breakfast, bus ride back to the airport for our flight home. The benefit of a small ship was getting to know most of the other passengers. There were some kids on board, maybe 10 of them, but very well behaved. Everyone smiled and said Hello. After this, it will be very hard traveling on the bigger ships. This was so special! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I are not big cruisers. We travel extensively, but have only done a few cruises. Generally, we find them underwhelming. Celebrity's Xpedition in the Galapagos is an exception and ... Read More
In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I are not big cruisers. We travel extensively, but have only done a few cruises. Generally, we find them underwhelming. Celebrity's Xpedition in the Galapagos is an exception and we would do this trip again in a heartbeat. In a word it was fantastic and crushed all of our other cruise experiences. You will not find a better way to see the flora and fauna of this unique part of the world. The staff, Zodiac drivers, and naturalists see to that. I knew we would get up close and personal with animals, but never in our wildest dreams did we think it would be this close. How many times do you have to zoom OUT to get pictures of animals? Never, but in the Galapagos - yeah, you do. This is, of course, your reason to go and you must go. If this isn't on your bucket list, add the Galapagos today and I don't see how anybody could handle making that check mark any better than the Xpedition. If you've read my TA reviews, you know I will always highlight any negatives - but for this trip there just isn't much to say. However, here a couple of things that are worth noting. First, this is an older small (by cruise standards) ship. You will feel rough seas - even at anchor. Speaking of which, our cabin was all the way forward and the anchor chain makes quite a racket going in and out. There is no casino, no formal night and no "show time." The Xpedition is not your typical cruise ship - she is 100% geared to exploration of the islands. As she should be! Now, much of that exploration requires physical activity - snorkeling and hiking especially. But anyone of reasonable physical condition should have no problems, just plan in advance: dress appropriately (the naturalists give great advice), stay hydrated, and watch your alcohol intake. Which brings me to another point, this trip is true "all-inclusive" - alcohol too. It was great for us, but the non-drinkers do wind up subsidizing folks like me. If I was Celebrity, I might consider alcohol, pay as you go. Cabins are small, but adequate. We had an upgrade, but not a balcony. Some said their balcony was worth it - others said they spent so little time on board it was a waste. Also keep in mind with less than 100 passengers, you will get to know most everybody. For us this was a big plus. Food was very good by cruise standards, but don't expect round the clock buffets. Thank goodness! Three big meals each day are plenty. You are there to experience what cannot be seen anywhere else on earth. Celebrity has provided an outstanding way to make that happen. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
General Overall Impression: We were deeply disappointed in the expedition portion of the cruise. We missed 50% of the cruise due to excessive ice in Scoresbysund. Silversea’s answer was to do more in Iceland. We did not pay to ... Read More
General Overall Impression: We were deeply disappointed in the expedition portion of the cruise. We missed 50% of the cruise due to excessive ice in Scoresbysund. Silversea’s answer was to do more in Iceland. We did not pay to visit Iceland – we paid to visit Greenland. For some unknown reason they did go to the southern part of Greenland and made this second half and Iceland tour. I blame the Captain here since he controls where we go. There was no reason we could not have gone south and done other expedition areas. The choice of going to Iceland and doing normal ports Husavik, Akureryi and western Fjords was not expedition sailing but sightseeing. Pre-Cruise Hotel: Hotel was horrible the Radisson Blu Scandinavia. Internet did not work and construction noise throughout our three day stay. Breakfast was mediocre buffet. Some people paid nearly $300 per night, through Silversea, for the privilege of staying at this dive. Transfer to airport. Paid $99 pp for this transfer. No better than taking the Flybussen for $19. We had to drag the luggage around the airport to find the check-in. Silversea’s contracted agents were pretty useless. Flight to Longyearbyen was good - on time and transfer to ship was quick. Svalbard – 4 day cruise. Very interesting though many excursions required you to be in shape and physically fit. Some passenger requested some more less walking friendly tours (ie. Zodiac cruises) but these requests were ignored by the expedition leader. Ship Impression. Having been on the Silver Explorer 18 months ago we knew what to expect. The ship’s decor is VERY tired looking. Rooms are almost all same size (except for the small number of expedition and owner suites). Lounge is very small and fills up for high tea and drinks. Service was excellent. Only comment is that the butlers are glorified housekeepers. Our request for special gin (Henricks) was ignored. Food. Much improved over past expedition cruise. Did not have a bad meal. Previously the buffet lunch was the highlight meal. This cruise the dinner portion is where the chef shined. Chef Pia did a great job. Iceland – what a waste - we were not scheduled to do this we were to do Greenland. • First port Grimsey Island was cancelled due to high waves. • Second stop was a Siglufjord town – where the highlight was the Herring museum. Now come on this is an expedition cruise. Herring museum ..zzzzzz.. • Husavik the whaling capitol of the world. However no whaling but a bus tour to visit the falls and hot springs. Have done this twice before. • Akureyri. Botanical garden tour. ..zzzzzz.. • On the last tour Grundefjord – 75% of the people requested that we return to the ship early – it was so bad as was the guide. Disembarkation: Was quick and the hotel transfer was done effortlessly. Pluses – • Ships Staff – great service. Housekeeping and restaurant staff outstanding • Food – chef Pia did a great job. Never had a bad meal. Minuses- • Ship is tired looking. Needs an interior makeover. • TV never worked – there is no other entertainment. • Internet exceeding slow when working. Some of it is the location but rest is a bandwidth issue. • Wines - thought the red wines could have been of better quality. Mostly all blends (which I hate) • It was not an expedition cruise. I blame the Captain. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
The Xpedition Sales Team is grossly uninformed and a number of Xpedition Passengers concurred that the information provided prior to departure from U.S. is very sparse and this team is not incentivized to provide helpful information to the ... Read More
The Xpedition Sales Team is grossly uninformed and a number of Xpedition Passengers concurred that the information provided prior to departure from U.S. is very sparse and this team is not incentivized to provide helpful information to the booked Passengers (or even prior to booking). Two nights in Quito prior to embarking aboard the Celebrity Xpedition was a waste of time and money. The J.W. Marriott in Quito is an hour's drive from the Quito Airport and has management and maintenance problems. They seem to live off the guaranteed rooms from Celebrity each weekend and have no concern for their guests. Then you have the hour's drive back to the Quito Airport for the charter flight to Baltra. The charter flight from Quito to Baltra is nice and embarkation process is reasonable. From the Baltra Airport you board a bus to the zodiac "station" and ride to the Xpedition. Once aboard a staff member escorts you to your cabin. Ours had not been serviced properly but improved after it was reported. The Chief Purser and Head of Food Operations were especially helpful and friendly and anxious to please. Expect to hear the anchor going out and coming up from all over the ship once or twice daily - since it is such a small ship. Also because it is so small the Xpedition rocks side to side when anchored. In order to be allowed to sail in the Galapagos the Xpedition (as do National Geographic and Silver Sea) must employ all Ecuadorian staff as well as use Ecuadorian food. Do not expect meals being available throughout the day as on other cruises. The main purpose of this cruise is to see the Galapagos Islands - not to eat or have any "free/rest time". There is a short window of time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No extra places to get snacks, etc. as on other cruise ships. if you do not drink alcohol you will find this cruise over-priced because you are subsidizing the "unlimited" alcohol for everyone else. It would be nice if Celebrity would have a price option for passengers who do not drink alcohol. There are two excursions daily (none on Embarkation Day nor on Disembarkation Day). There is a morning excursion and another in the afternoon. Each evening prior to dinner there is a "lecture" to provide information to allow you to choose your excursion choices for the next day. The sales pitch by the Cruise Director to pressure Passengers to make $$ contributions to the Galapagos Fund - as well as pressure to plant trees is inappropriate and insulting in my opinion. A Naturalist accompanies each group on each excursion and they are the best asset Celebrity has for this cruise. Observing the mating rituals of Albatross, juvenile Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas, Land Iguanas, Penguins, Giant Land Tortoises- as well as the snorkeling are fantastic. The animal encounters are the absolute best part. The Machu Picchu extension (after the cruise) was "OK". First of all, Celebrity chooses flights which make you arrive into Lima late on Disembarkation Day and then you have about an hour's drive to your Hotel. Then after arriving late at the Country Club Hotel in Lima, you must get up very early for an early departure right back to the Lima Airport to fly to Cusco the following morning. Once in Cusco, the 11,500 foot altitude is very apparent so you must take things slowly to avoid altitude sickness. Several people in our group required oxygen and most had headaches from the altitude. Drink lots of water which helps. The unfortunate thing is that Celebrity subs to an Agency in Lima to handle the Passengers - and they do not require the hotels to have our rooms ready upon arrival. The disorganization of the Lima Agency was apparent throughout the Machu Picchu excursion. Flights were changed to earlier than planned so you have little sleep. The restaurant for Dinner in Cusco was a big disappointment - service was awful and food similar. The Hotel Monasterio in Cusco is a 5 Star and the lunch and dinner there were good. However, the housekeeping is no where near what a 5 Star should be. The Hiram Bingham Train from Cusco to Machu Picchu was very nice - one of the highlights of the entire trip. Take in all the scenery on the morning trip to Machu Picchu because it will be dark almost all the way of the return. Machu Picchu did not disappoint. Be prepared for a lot of climbing - no bathrooms once you leave the train station. Only go on this if you want constant exercise and no "free time" and if you REALLY want to see the animals and Machu Picchu. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
Visiting the Galapagos Islands has been on our bucket list forever, but it always seemed very daunting (both the cost and the expedition nature of the trip, especially on small boats). When we learned about Celebrity Xpedition, we felt ... Read More
Visiting the Galapagos Islands has been on our bucket list forever, but it always seemed very daunting (both the cost and the expedition nature of the trip, especially on small boats). When we learned about Celebrity Xpedition, we felt that the larger ship and luxury details would make it possible for us. I don’t like to tip my hand too much in reviews, but suffice it to say that this trip met and exceeded all of our expectations and was the best cruise ever! This review plus a series of day-by-day blog posts, and questions and answers can be found here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2214872 My photos can be seen and downloaded here: https://jazzbeauxgalapagostrip.shutterfly.com/pictures/5 We took the 10-day package because: (a) our Spanish skills are pretty much limited to restaurant menus; (b) since the cruise wasn’t going to be a relaxing spa affair we wanted a minimum of stress getting there and back; and (c) we were worried that the altitude in Quito is already stretching it [we live near sea level] so Machu Picchu would be problematic. That turned out to be the right decision for us. We made friends on the cruise who were going on to Machu Picchu and they had a great time, but we had enough trouble with the altitude in Quito and were happy to be returning home to our own bed at the end of the cruise. Xpedition is unique in many ways, and the Celebrity website never recognizes this. You cannot print out express passes for Xpedition. You will get a very nice booklet in the mail with luggage tags and everything else you need. This is triggered by your completing the online check-in. If you booked with a TA, the materials will be sent to them and they will forward them to you. Celebrity took great care of us from the moment we got through customs in Quito until they escorted us back to the airport for the flights home. Their shuttles were always waiting for us and eliminated the need to figure out the complex geography of the Quito metropolitan area [a mountain valley that is something like 3 miles wide but 35 miles long and seemingly never flat for more than a block] The J W Marriott hotel is beautiful, the rooms are large [especially compared to European hotels], and the restaurants are very good – and contrary to rumor Wi-Fi internet is included in the Celebrity rate along with the buffet breakfast. The city tour of Quito was interesting, and the maze of streets made us very glad we didn’t try to do this on our own, especially since that first day was the bad one for altitude problems [exhausting travel the day before with the usual dehydration from airplane “desert” humidity levels and late bedtime plus early wake-up produced major headaches and serious lethargy – there should be a warning label “do not operate heavy machinery or make important decisions while under the influence of low oxygen levels”!] Lunch at El Theatrum was good, and the folkloric dancing was entertaining. The Middle of the World park is hokey but still worth doing [look at how many people keep going back to Disney, to see how well hokey can work ;)] – some say it isn’t on the exact Equator, but we have pictures with one foot in each hemisphere and that’s our story and we’re sticking to it… Dinner at La Gloria restaurant was even better than the lunch, so our adventure was off to a great start. The next day showed the real benefit of the 10-day Celebrity cruise tour. After enjoying a sumptuous breakfast (included), we joined our fellow cruisers on Celebrity’s chartered coaches for a smooth trip to Celebrity’s charter flight non-stop to Baltra. We waited in the VIP lounge for a short while [probably until the ship sent the all clear that the cabins were ready], then were smoothly transferred to the nearby pier for the panga ride to Xpedition. Each panga group was welcomed in the lounge [with free booze – a harbinger of the week to come], given a brief presentation, and escorted to our cabins. We paid for “no hassles” – and there were no hassles! [Well, DW and I were seated at the back of the panga and because the day was unusually windy we got soaked from the waists up – but that was the only time we got wet on a panga and the cabin hair dryer took care of the dampness before lunch, so “no harm no foul.”] Note 1: on Xpedition they usually refer to these inflatable boats as “Zodiacs,” which is their brand name. I use the general term “panga,” which is more often found here on Cruise Critic and was occasionally used onboard as well. Note 2: there has been controversy on Cruise Critic about the luggage weight limits on the Celebrity charter flights. The website and the printed materials from Celebrity state limits for both checked and carry-on luggage. I think our checked bags just came in under the limit – but since they were taken the night before so Celebrity could handle the Ecuadorian agricultural inspection for us, there was no opportunity for anyone to complain if they were too heavy. I’m sure our carry-ons were over the limit – and I’m even more sure that nobody weighed them. This is a charter flight, so Celebrity is setting the rules, not the airline. I wouldn’t worry about luggage weights. [If you like to pack light, more power to you – it will make it easier for me to remember you as “the person in that outfit.” ;)] Lunch was the first of many good meals. We had heard that food on Xpedition isn’t up to Celebrity’s usual standards – Bunk! The food was different [which for those who complain about Celebrity’s 14 never-changing menus should be a good thing!], and everything was made from fresh local ingredients and usually reflected Ecuadorian cuisine [both things that people lament missing on most ocean cruises]. I love Ceviche, and it was great to have it in infinite variations every day at lunch. Likewise Spanish deserts like flan and tres leches. And the fish was plentiful, varied and always cooked perfectly. The only weak spot is meat, because strict environmental regulations require that all meat imported into the Galapagos must be partially pre-cooked – this made it a real challenge to comply with our orders for “medium rare,” but once we made our taste known [and adjusted our request to “rare” for emphasis] we generally got exactly what we wanted, and they were always happy to try again and get it right the second time [very quickly]. Alcohol is truly all-inclusive throughout the cruise. Most nights there is a special cocktail of the day in the hour before dinner, but you can get anything you like at any time. Wine is poured freely at lunch and dinner, and if you want anything else they will happily procure it for you. You also get a bottle of bubbly in your cabin – and unlike any other cruise we’ve been on when we asked to switch it for something else we were offered our choice of any wine on the ship [and through a mis-communication we ended up getting two bottles! – although there’s hardly any reason to have a bottle in your cabin, since the bar is only a few steps away] Tipping is also included, and no one acted like they expected anything more even for exemplary service. We weren’t sure how Celebrity had handled tipping at the Quito hotel or with the tour guides, but again the body language was completely different from service personnel in the US who know how to subtly convey their desire for an emolument. At the end of the cruise they ask you to come to the service desk with your credit card, but they sent us away because our bill was zero! Our cabin, 403, was very convenient to the lounge and just one flight up from the dining room. The cabin feels larger than 160 sf, but it's hard to keep it neat with all the expedition gear you need for wet landings, swimming, etc. One of the twin beds is fixed to the wall, so when you have them together as a double somebody [that would be DW] has to crawl over the covers to get in and then doesn’t have a night table or reading light – but otherwise the bed was fine. There’s also a small desk which houses the flat-screen TV, and underneath the small fridge and hairdryer. Behind the TV there are two plugs, one US (for the TV) and one EU. Our cabin came equipped with a 3-plug expander in the US outlet, so we still had 2 spares – plus I had brought an EU-to-US adapter and a 3-plug/2-USB expander [http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0016IXEWG/ref=psdc_761520_t1_B0015DYMVO], so we had more than enough slots to plug in the computer, camera battery charger wall-wart, and my shaver charger wall-wart. There are three small drawers in the night table, and two closets with both hangers and shelves (and the safe). The bathroom has a nice shower (with glass door that mostly didn’t leak) and lots of space on the counter and the shelf underneath. The shower has 3 dispensers (soap, shampoo and separate conditioner. Water pressure is very good. There is a clothesline built in to the shower – but with no balcony, stuff doesn't dry quickly [meaning, bring 3 bathing suits] Air conditioning worked great in our cabin and throughout the ship. I had heard rumors that the AC isn’t so good on decks 3 and 6, but we heard no complaints from residents of those neighborhoods. Our deck 4 cabin was nice and cool [even had to turn up the thermostat] I mentioned to the CD the complaints I have read on CC about deck 6, and she admitted that the separate AC system added for that new deck had some teething problems that were corrected after the first season. She also noted that the ship's AC system uses sea water and that makes it work perversely in the Galapagos climate where the water is warm when the air temp is cool and vice versa – the result is that the AC works too well in cool weather and not well enough in warm weather [I forget the engineering principle behind this, but it made sense at the time – of course that was the evening of the Wine Tasting, which may have had something to do with my comprehension ;)]. The dining room does get warmer as you go back, but we never had to sit further back than the first table past the arch and we did fine. I had heard that you have to go to the lounge to get Wi-Fi reception, but our cabin (403) was close enough that we had a good signal. The issue was getting beyond the local network to the internet – apparently there was an unusual problem on our cruise, because part way through they reformatted the network server with a new name and new passwords and after that it was much better. Service was good, but not great. Our cabin attendant kept everything clean and neat [she was OCD about everything – even our things – being kept in the “right” place!], but she had a blind spot for wash cloths and routinely failed to replace them. [Luckily we discovered that they use them as hand towels in the public washrooms, so we knew where to replenish our supply as needed!] The waiters in the dining room were very friendly and willing to make substitutions/corrections as requested, but service in general was slower than we would have liked [and with three friendly couples we had enough conversation going on that we weren’t bolting our food…] The naturalists were top-notch, and I can’t imagine any other cruise line having better ones. They were taking pictures throughout the cruise, and at the end we were each given a DVD with a slideshow and 500+ pictures – and also a coffee table book that Celebrity produced about the Galapagos Islands – nice touches! [And if our luggage wasn’t overweight on the flight in, the addition of that book ensured that it was coming home!] So, from a cruise and cruise-tour perspective this was a 4- or 5-star experience. But that’s not why you go to Galapagos [it’s just what makes it possible to survive…] You go for the itinerary – the unique geology, flora and fauna. And this trip did not disappoint in any way. We chose the Inner Loop in May because we wanted to see the Blue-Footed Boobies doing their mating dance – and we saw it in spades! Also the male Frigate birds with their gular pouches expanded like their had overdosed on Viagra! Everything else was gravy, but there was lots of gravy: sea lions in all the usual poses; many kinds of birds [I guess it’s obvious that we’re not “birders” – all I know about pelicans I learned from Ogden Nash: “A wonderful bird is the pelican, His bill can hold more than his belican”]; the stark beauty of volcanic landscapes, with more variation than I expected – and above all the animals’ complete lack of fear about our presence. The Galapagos delivered everything you have ever read it can. It helped that we had great weather. There was no rain to speak of until the last day. The air was hot and humid, especially on the afternoon excursions, but there was usually a good breeze to keep us cool. [There is no shade anywhere, so you really want to wear a big hat and spread on the SPF50.] And the water was still warm enough that we didn’t need the (provided) wetsuits. So my conclusion on timing is that early May is an excellent choice. The one weak spot in the itinerary [in our opinion] is the final day on Santa Cruz [and this is common to both itineraries]. It’s a good thing the Giant Tortoises were not high on our to-do list because they really didn’t hold to the level of “Oh My God” that the rest of the animals had established. [This was our one rainy day, which may have also affected our enjoyment.] We took the morning tour of the Charles Darwin facility – but the museum is closed and even the gift shop was closed on our visit, so this was just a dull walk to get to the Tortoise pens. There we saw randy Diego and two of his harem [he and the two young males he incited to jealousy brought their species back from 14 to 2,000], one pubescent male mistakenly humping another male [at the wrong end!] while a few others milled around, and dozens of cute babies being raised to restock the unique species on a couple of the islands. This was OK, but not much different from visiting any zoo [Diego was repatriated to the Galapagos from the San Diego zoo, hence his name]. We went back to the ship for lunch [this was option 2, which only 6 of us had chosen]. In the afternoon we were supposed to go back to the island for a bus ride to the highlands where we would see the Giant Tortoises in the wild, but since it was still raining only one couple decided to go – and they reported that after a 45-minute bus ride (each way) and much slogging through mud, they only saw a total of two (count ‘em – 2!) tortoises. [They also stepped off the bus into two feet of brackish water, which didn’t add anything to the enjoyment of the day ;)] Option 1 was a full day on the island, with the Darwin Center in the morning, a tree planting service-trip, lunch at a restaurant in the highlands, and then the search for wild Tortoises. I don’t know how this is handled normally, but on our cruise there was a special attempt to set a world record for simultaneous tree plantings so there was heavy pressure [Ecuadorian women know how to use guilt as a weapon as well as any nationality!] and almost everybody signed up. The reports back were not good: the food at the restaurant is not up to Xpedition standards, the folkloric entertainment was amateurish, the mud was as high as a tortoise’s eye, and several people fell or had near misses. Instead of being shunned as non-team players we were praised for our good judgment in staying on the ship. Other than that day, all the excursions were top notch and we almost always chose the more demanding one. There were usually two choices for both the morning and evening excursions – you sign up the night before so that they can allocate panga-loads among the two options [National Park rules limit each panga to 16 guests, so they have to make sure everybody sorts out correctly.] As far as I could tell everyone got their first choice every day [I think there are seven pangas, so they have a little wiggle room – we were occasionally on a less-than-full panga]. On two days there was also a third activity – a deep water snorkel. We passed on these as DW doesn’t swim well enough and even I was scared off by the dire warnings. After hearing the reports back I think I could easily have done them [the water is actually calmer away from the beach] but three excursions in one day would probably have been too exhausting. One added bonus was the stars! DW went up to deck 6 (which has the fewest lights) and after her eyes adjusted she was blown away by the myriad stars and the painted stripe of the Milky Way. This was unexpected, but another awe-inspiring aspect of nature in the Galapagos. We missed the extra bonus of the eruption of Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island, which started two weeks after we were there – the next Inside Loop cruise was perfectly timed, and they should be seeing views like this: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32882500 Too bad we missed it on the May 10 sailing – we could have saved a trip to Hawaii! The end of the trip was a smooth as everything else. One last panga ride [stayed dry this time], charter flight, and bus back to the J W Marriott. I should mention – and praise – the food service on the flight: first a white tablecloth for your tray table, then the meal tray which includes a blue cloth napkin and real metal tableware. Pay attention to your napkin: many have a Celebrity X embroidered in the corner, but a few have a Blue-Footed Booby [two of which are now in our collection] We had an excellent (and included) dinner that night in the hotel restaurant, then breakfast the next morning and a quick shuttle back to the airport for our flights home. The altitude didn’t bother us as much this second time in Quito [probably because we didn’t arrive exhausted, or maybe because we didn’t actually try to do anything] and we got home safely late that night. We had been warned that Quito is “dry” on Sundays and therefore on the return evening you could not purchase wine at dinner. This is not quite true. If you go to a regular restaurant, it may be true [we didn’t test this] But the hotel is allowed to serve alcohol along with food. Not only was the restaurant selling wine, the bar was doing a good trade also [I suppose they provided peanuts or something to qualify as “food”] But the advice ended up working to our advantage since we brought that free bottle of wine back from the ship and the hotel bar was happy to open it and provide wine glasses (for free), which we then brought into the restaurant without raising any eyebrows. This was our 11th cruise, plus we have taken many DIY land trips – and it is etched in our memory as the best cruise ever. Celebrity Xpedition is the only way to go in the Galapagos, and the islands are everything they are reputed to be. I highly recommend it – but don’t wait too long because even with all the Celebrity luxury this is still an expedition cruise. Do it now, and save the Caribbean for your dotage! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
From the moment we arrived it was like clock work, everything was in order and very organized, ship shape . The Grace is everything you would imagine, its beauty and charm made each day after a long hiking or swim a pleasurable sanctuary ... Read More
From the moment we arrived it was like clock work, everything was in order and very organized, ship shape . The Grace is everything you would imagine, its beauty and charm made each day after a long hiking or swim a pleasurable sanctuary to return too. Our Cruise Director Debra was so amazing and was always looking after everyone on the ship. The food was very good, and many choices to be had. Our stateroom was small but efficient the bathrooms were very nice and roomy. Each day there were many excursions usually two after breakfast and one late afternoon before dinner. There were two naturalist guides , Alex and Gilda, both extremely knowledgeable . I preferred Gilda because she was very sweet and kind to me . I tended to stay away from Alex , for some reason he was always reprimanding me and making me feel bad, so in order to not ruin the already wonderful trip i stayed away from him. Other then that, i did enjoy the trip and hope to someday come back and do the other half on the galapagos and maybe try the Evolution to compare. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
Embarkation went smoothly except for treacherous outside steps up to deck 4, even for the fit and able, with little evidence of staff to assist those with a mobility problem. The cabin was very clean and one of the best suites,as far as ... Read More
Embarkation went smoothly except for treacherous outside steps up to deck 4, even for the fit and able, with little evidence of staff to assist those with a mobility problem. The cabin was very clean and one of the best suites,as far as lay out is concerned, that we have had on any other cruise ship we have been on. Unfortunately , because the ship is old there were a lot of banging and creaking noises within the cabin in rough seas we had 4 nights of little sleep.All other areas on the ship were clean and well looked after and it was easy to find your way around. The ships daily programmes were adequate but the resident show performers were very good indeed. The swimming pool on the other hand was "out of action" for the duration of the cruise. Having had one lunch in the cafeteria where the "hot" food was just warm and the queues long, we ate in the restaurant for lunch and dinner for the remainder of the cruise. The food was varied and plentiful. We had breakfast in our cabin which was good. All cabin, restaurant and bar staff were very good and only too ready to please. We bought a drinks package which was good value for money but it would have been nice to have more than one choice of house wine. Coffee and water was excluded from the package. Just prior to sailing the advertised itinerary times in Orkney (8am-5pm) had been changed to 8am -2pm and Honfleur had been changed from 8am -8pm to 1pm -10pm without any apologies or explanation. The first port of call was Mull where I had arranged for Alan Robson www.mulltaxi.co.uk to provide a private tour tailored to suit our needs.This was to include a visit to the distillery.The weather was overcast and the sea slightly choppy so we were anchored way off Tobermory to be told that the captain was waiting for the weather to improve and an announcement would be made in an hour to let us know what was happening before making a decision. This did not happen and I was kept up to date by our taxi firm who told me that the harbour master had been told that the ship had decided not to tender passengers off to the harbour! Alan also cancelled our distillery tour for us.Two hours later an announcement was made informing us all that not only Mull was being cancelled but also Stornoway. We were sailing straight to Orkney and would arriving there a day earlier than planned. As I had arranged for www.hebrideanexcursions.co.uk to provide another tailored tour of Harris and Lewis for us and Orkney Taxis to meet us (now a day earlier) at the pier in Orkney I was now left to sort this out without a mobile 'phone signal. Clare the receptionist suggested that it must be my network provider at fault and that I should go as high as I could on deck to try and get a signal.It was now raining and blustery on deck. I know from past holidays in the Western Isles that mobile 'phone reception is very poor. I eventually asked if I could use the land line and was given the codes on how to get an outside line and was told that the first minute was free and after that it was £4 a minute.The land line did not work and after a long discussion and a flat refusal from Clare to do anything personaly to help, the ships communication officer, who had been asked to sort out our 'phone, contacted TG the guest relations officer who eventually agreed to send an email to Orkney taxis for me. As a seasoned cruiser I had never come across such an unhelpful attitude from those who were supposed to be there to help the guests, especially when none of the changes were of our own doing. My previous experiences with other cruise lines have always been very positive with staff who have a "can do" approach to their guests. Donald and Gail of Orkney Taxis met us at the pier and we had a wonderful day being shown around the Island by a local guide with so much knowledge of the Island. Nothing was too much trouble and we were able to stop whenever we wanted to.The time ashore was now 8am to 10pm. I managed to eventually get a signal and let John ,Hebridean Excursions know what was NOT happening. See Tripadvisor reviews of this company. A half day( 8am -2pm) in Invergordon was substituted at late notice for the loss of the other two ports of call. This is a repair port for the oil rigs and has little to offer. Two, expensive,organised tours were offered and no information was available for independent travellers as to how they could get around the area. We arrived in Honfleur at 12pm, (46 hours later) and had to wait until 2pm before we could get off the boat to get a shuttle bus into the town.We were "allowed" to get off earlier but would have to walk for at least 20 minutes before we were near to the town. I had a local taxi firm number obtained in the UK but the codes were confusing, again Clare refused to even try and find out for me what the codes were and suggested I walk to the harbour ofice to get a taxi. Again Independent passengers were kept waiting until the organised tours were all off the ship. There was also a problem at St. Mary's in as much that the ship was anchored a good 30 minute tender journey each way thus delaying and prolonging the time getting us off board, again priority was given to the organised tours. As the sea was choppy when we arrived I was waiting for an announcement that we would not be going ashore . However the boatmen of the Scilly Isles tender passengers on and off all the ships and know all the tides etc. They could not understand why we were so far off shore. DJ Cabs St. Mary's met us at the pier and we had an excellent tour of the island, stopping off whenever we wanted and had first hand knowledge of the Islands history, flora and fauna. The excursions are expensive and I would recommend the above mentioned private taxi firms to anyone, all were good value for money and even those that we did not meet up with have been in contact with me hoping that everything had gone alright for us and that we had enjoyed our cruise. Disembarkation went smoothly but again the steps were appalling with no help from the crew.The port staff were very helpful. This cruise was not cheap and unless the attitudes of some key customer services / guest relations personel change we will not use this cruise line again. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We took the Metropolitan Tours 5-day 4-night excursion to the Eastern Galapagos islands aboard the M/V Santa Cruz. The trip was memorable for the number of wildlife species that could be observed close-up. It was also memorable in being ... Read More
We took the Metropolitan Tours 5-day 4-night excursion to the Eastern Galapagos islands aboard the M/V Santa Cruz. The trip was memorable for the number of wildlife species that could be observed close-up. It was also memorable in being fairly strenuous. To begin, my wife and I are not hikers or really “outdoorsy” types. I began preparation for the trip by spending about ½ hour per day on the treadmill, whereas my wife took several flights of stairs every day at work rather than using the elevator. We thought it was enough, but we could have done more. The days aboard the Santa Cruz began with a buffet breakfast at 0700, followed by the first excursion of the day at 0830. It should be mentioned that all of the excursions as well as embarkation and disembarkation were handled with inflatable zodiac “panga” boats that hold 12-16 people. These are powered by 50 hp outboard motors. You descend a stairway on the outside of the ship and transfer to the panga from a platform. There is a gulde on the platform and one in the panga that assist you in the transfer, pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Most of the landings on the islands are called “wet landings”, these involve backing the panga onto the beach where it is held in place by two of the guides. You step over the side of the panga into the surf, which can vary from 6 inches to 3 feet in depth. Normally not a problem unless you are short like my wife, and happen to hit the surf during a receding wave! We grabbed her before she was swept out to sea! Most of the excursions were set up to provide a mix of activities, including hikes along the beach or inland, beach swimming and snorkeling, deep water snorkeling, panga rides around the perimeter of the island, or rides on a glass bottom boat. Several were set up to involve alternatives, if you didn’t want to deep water snorkel you could have a panga or glass bottom boat ride instead. Here are some basic things to remember about the pangas: • Try not to be the first ones on board the pangas, if you are you will be sitting at the back next to the outboard motor. This makes it hard to hear the guide and you will be marinated in exhaust smoke. • If the excursion involves a panga ride around the perimeter of the island, ask the guide if you will be traveling clockwise or counterclockwise around the island. This determines what side of the panga you want to sit on. Even though the guides and panga driver will swing the boat around if interesting wildlife is seen, those seated on one side of the panga will be facing the island most often and won’t have to constantly turn around to take pictures. • If you are the last ones onto the panga, you will be seated at the front. At cruising speed (to and from the island), you may get hit with spray over the bow. Most of the time people can bunch up toward the stern to avoid this. • The choice of footwear creates a bit of a conundrum on these excursions. You need something you don’t mind getting wet during a wet landing, but also has enough traction to allow you to walk over uneven, rocky terrain during the hiking portion. There is not much time after you wet land to get the sand out of your footwear (and no facilities for rinsing the sand off except in the surf). This results in sand grating against your feet during the hikes, both me (with an old pair of tennis shoes) and my wife (with a new pair of Teva sandals) had this trouble and ended up with band aids over sores after a few days of this. The morning excursions last until 11:30, at which time you will return to the ship for a buffet lunch. Afternoon excursions begin at 14:30 and last until ~18:00, with a lecture on the next day’s activities at 19:00 and sit-down dinner at 20:00. The ship only holds a maximum of 90 passengers, so there is ample space in the dining room to accommodate all of them. The food onboard was excellent, better than we expected. Many fresh and local ingredients such as excellent local fruits and locally caught fish were on the menu. In fact, we both thought the food was as good if not better than that offered on larger cruise lines. Snacks were available after the morning and afternoon excursions as well. Each passenger is issued an individual (1/2 litre) water bottle at the beginning of the cruise, and is asked to keep it throughout and refill it from a water station near the dining room each day. The water from the sinks in the cabins is useable for brushing teeth, but it comes directly from the desalinization units and contains a high mineral content. One of the evening activities we enjoyed (weather permitting) was a star-gazing session from the upper deck. Since you are near the equator, you will have the opportunity to see both the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper (upside down!). The Milky Way stands out beautifully due to the lack of light pollution. A minor issue was the lack of laundry facilities onboard, we took to washing items each night in the sink, and hanging them to dry on a travel clothesline strung across our cabin. It made it look like a steerage cabin on a tramp steamer! They did have a dryer on board (which we didn’t use) and a shoe rack near an open engine room door (which dried them very well). A couple of words about the land excursions…most people who are “in shape” will find no problems with the hikes. In fact, in retrospect the effort involved in these excursions wasn’t bad considering the wildlife and vistas we saw. However, it should be mentioned that the Galapagos are managed as a National Park in Ecuador, and one of their philosophies is not to make significant adaptations for the comfort and ease of tourists. Be advised there is also no equivalent to the ADA regulations in this part of the world, so where one would expect in the USA to see a manufactured stairway with sturdy handrails along with a wheelchair ramp, in the Galapagos you are lucky to find a handrail for the steepest climb, and most stairs are rough-hewn from the rocky cliffs. The Prince Philip steps on Genovese Island are a good example of this, steep and tall and requiring good balance to negotiate. Luckily the guides do a good job of assisting those who may need help ascending or descending. Be aware also that level, groomed pathways are not generally provided for the flat sections of the hike, much of the terrain is littered with rocks or consists of uneven “Pahoihoi” lava flows. Much of my hiking time was spent looking down at my feet to make sure my next step wasn’t going to result in a broken ankle or a plunge down a cliff! At the beginning of the voyage, the passengers are split into excursion groups named for Galapagos animals, our group was the Gulls. Our guide for most of the excursions was a young woman who had been doing the job for 5 years. She was very personable and helpful, but she did not provide the amount of running detailed commentary that some other guides seemed to provide. She would answer questions adequately, but as we are both technical/scientific people we found ourselves wanting more. We were glad we had seen a multi-part PBS special on the Galapagos prior to the trip. The guide also took a liking to one of our group, another young and fit woman who was a tour guide in Hawaii. Those two seemed to set the pace for hikes, leaving us less fit people to bring up the rear, panting and sweating like pigs! In retrospect however, all the effort was worth it when we look back at our photos. We were able to photograph over 25 different species of animals, most with no apparent fear of humans. The landscapes provided an ever-changing geologic panorama of multiple volcanic eruptions, and the variety of flora was amazing. One of the lasting memories was encountering a variety of prickly pear cactus that had soft spines that could be stroked without fear of getting poked…since the cactus had no natural predators on the island, it never had to evolve the defense of stiff spiky spines! If you are young and fit, I would encourage you to take this voyage, and even if you are not so fit, the overall experience can be gratifying. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2015
In my opinion. All the Celebrity email promotions were useless, including my birthday credit because they were targeted to everything but the ship I was on. No-one at Celebrity phone center has any idea what the Xpedition is about.  ... Read More
In my opinion. All the Celebrity email promotions were useless, including my birthday credit because they were targeted to everything but the ship I was on. No-one at Celebrity phone center has any idea what the Xpedition is about.  Notwithstanding all the issues with Celebrity customer service. THE XPEDITION IS WONDERFUL AND NOT TO BE MISSED. A special number needs to be provided to access information about this cruise as the online process and phone contacts currently available do not help. The website needs updating to better provide detailed information pertaining to Xpedition only, with links that work to 'dining' 'included tours', etc. Having Dr Ellen Prager on board was a plus, her talks were very informative and her guidance along with that of the Naturalists was exceptional. Laurena who serviced our stateroom was wonderful, as were all the waitstaff in general. Of the naturalists I could not pick a specific one or two, The group worked well together and individually all brought a little different viewpoint to the onshore and snorkel experiences. The Islands visited on this cruise are a wonderful example of different wildlife and geology present in the Galapagos. The Xpedition is a great ship with only 99 guests maximum, food is all locally sourced and very well presented. The Zodiacs and their drivers take a maximum of 16 guests with a naturalist to each of the beaches (easy wet landings) lava (dry but sometimes difficult landings) and out of the zodiac into the water snorkel experiences. All of which excel at wildlife viewings and awesome photo opportunities. The staff make it a priority to ensure all guests of most physical activity levels can experience to the full the entire offering of the events scheduled. This ship and tour are not wheelchair handicap accessible. Wetsuits, masks, fins and snorkels and life vests provided are all well maintained and clean. Safety is a very large part of this Celebrity Xpedition cruise, yet does not overly limit the interaction with sea lions and turtles in the water and the very large tortoises and iguanas found on the islands. In conclusion, it is the corporate side of Celebrity that needs to 'get fixed' the Celebrity Xpedition itself is very different from any other cruise of most cruise lines, and is the most marvelous experience to add to one's list of adventures.   Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
The Explorer is we feel the best of the 3 Silversea Expedition Ships Having said that I think it is important to say that some passengers/guests expect the Expedition Fleet of Silversea to mirror in terms of service and food and ... Read More
The Explorer is we feel the best of the 3 Silversea Expedition Ships Having said that I think it is important to say that some passengers/guests expect the Expedition Fleet of Silversea to mirror in terms of service and food and amenities their main line Fleet. On the Explorer the Crew were brilliant - kind , professional, helpful and attentive. Always remembering your name and invariably your favoured tipple in the bar! The ship has a large range of suite sizes and choices - perhaps unusual for a small expedition ship. If there is any criticism we thought the food could go up a couple of notches and the complimentary wine list needs rewriting. ( when will Silversea get the message on this?) The trip was for us was just outstanding. A little swell on the way across to Antarctica, but then and the rest of our trip we enjoyed brilliant weather and very calm seas. We even had lunch and dinner in deck on at least 4 occasions. What a memory that will always hold Not sure words can be found to sum up the sheer beauty of Antarctica! It was just stunning! If you have half a chance should not be missed as future expedition destination. The Siversea Expedition Team did a magnificent job taking us ashore twice every day whilst we were in Antarctica. Their specialist knowledge of the area just added so much to our day to day activities on shore . We loved too the daily briefings by the Team. All 10 or so of them are true pros and a great ambassadors for Silversea Expeditions. So all in all a trip we wouldn't have missed. A long journey, but a couple of days in Beunos Aries also so worthwhile and enjoyable so do visit if you can. our days in a Finca, well north of BA rounded off a truly special trip. If you have got half a chance do go. It is truly a special place Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black ... Read More
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black cocktail dresses then book another sort of trip. This is a professional operation with an excellent boat and expedition crew. Personally, I pay good money to avoid dancing girls with feather but YMMV. We saw penguins unnumbered, humpback whales bubble netting, whales surfacing next to the ship (!!!), seals hunting penguins returning to the rookery, Rock Hopper penguins kamikazimg off the cliffs to avoid seals, fantastic hospitality of the Falkland Island residents, Hour Glass dolphins viewed from the observation deck, Wilson's Storm Petrels and Falkland Island Steamer Ducks doing what they do naturally, visits to British 1950s Antarctic Stations and a fascinating impromptu talk by a Norwegian ex-whaler (and I am a card carrying anti-whaler!). The only problem is should we be travelling to this delicate and fragile eco-system? We would be back again (for the third time) but for wrestling with our conscience about whether we should be travelling here at all. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
My family and I have been on many cruises and had reasonable expectations for the Silver Galapagos given the many negative reviews. The air conditioning on the ship did not work well most nights. We were informed by the staff that this ... Read More
My family and I have been on many cruises and had reasonable expectations for the Silver Galapagos given the many negative reviews. The air conditioning on the ship did not work well most nights. We were informed by the staff that this is an expedition cruise and such should be expected. The food was terrible by any standards. The accomidations were as expected, but again, we had low expectations. The public rooms smelled of mildew and mold. Having been to the Galapagos three times now, I can say with confidence that this cruise is highly over priced given our experience. Other operators offered better service, food and accommodations for about 60% of the cost. On the positive side, the naturalists were very knowledgeable and friendly. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
There were so many things I was worried about when selecting a Galapagos Cruise so I'll try to address those. 1. Itinerary A or B? We talked with a couple who just came off A and were doing B with us and asked their opinion. They ... Read More
There were so many things I was worried about when selecting a Galapagos Cruise so I'll try to address those. 1. Itinerary A or B? We talked with a couple who just came off A and were doing B with us and asked their opinion. They said that they saw more and more variety of animals on A but B had far more breathtaking/variety of landscapes. Please keep in mind that they did not snorkel which means they missed LOTS of animals on itinerary B. Interestingly, my husband's favorite day was on Sullivan Bay where we walked extensively on a lava field-- great experience, but no animals. We liked the variety. My favorite was North Seymore, which was what you dream of when you think of the Galapagos-- it felt like being on an ancient planet, thousands of huge birds nesting in low scrub, with no fear of man so they are comfortable when you are a foot away. Most beautiful were the Frigate birds with their swollen red "hearts" just inches away from us, and their large, fluffy white babies which we watched them feed. Unreal. I truly don't think you can go wrong with either itinerary and we plan to go back in a few years to do A. Only issue I had with B was that the last two days were less remote than I would have liked-- each day we were in a city (Santiago and Santa Cruise) with pretty marinas but not much else to see and I was annoyed by the "shopping time" that felt like wasted time to me in each stop, especially since they take you on a nice shopping event your last day when you are back in Quito and it is all the same stuff. On Santiago, there is a stop at the Darwin research center which we just skipped based on previous reviews-- a beautiful day and we didn't want to spend it inside looking at "panels" that described exactly what we have been learning first hand all week-- people who went said it was really for kids and not worth the time. We explored the little town but there isn't much to see excepts thousands of sea lions. Santa Cruise was worse. In the morning they take you to the turtle breeding facility which is interesting though no like being on the remote islands. The bad part is you walk back on your own to the town and meet up for your ride back at the fish market-- but you have to wait over an hour because this is forced shopping time. It was sweltering hot and no one wanted to shop so all we could do was wait-- they gave us no alternative to shopping. The afternoon was worse in some ways. We were excited to see turtles in the wild but elected to do the tree planting where you helped reforest the island, then had lunch at a ranch before you went to see turtles in the wild-- I would not recommend this option, I would go back on the boat, eat lunch there then go out again to see the turtles in the wild. If you do the tree planting it is literally getting into rubber boots, being handed 2 plants, walking a few feet, putting them into a pre-dug hole, then covering the hole with soil. Ten minutes but a huge process of getting there, finding your boots, changing, taking them off again, etc. Seemed a bit silly-- I thought we literally would be planing for an hour or so. But the worst was then going to this ranch for lunch-- the experience felt so touristy, like a cheap low end cruise. The food was the typical buffet-- mostly carps with hunks of overcooked fish and dark meat chicken. Not nearly as good as the food on the ship. Then you had to sit though a half hour of local dancing which just wasn't consistent with the intent and nature of the trip-- to be in the wild, a remote place, to be an explorer. After that we had a literally 30 minute walk in the field of this ranch to see the turtles which you could see when you were eating lunch anyway. It wasn't actually a walk really a picture taking with a turtle then walking a few feet in a loop. The ranch was surrounded with wire fence and the owners had cut trees so tourists could see the turtles better. This just didn't feel at all like an authentic experience and was not up to the same expedition quality as the other days; kind of a bummer to end on this day. However, overall, the itinerary was amazing-- just that the first four days were far superior to the last two though to be fair so many were tired they probably appreciated it. Also, be aware that you really don't see anything on your first day at all despite the idea they plant that you will be seeing daphene island. In our case the plane leaving Quito was scheduled for 10:30 but didn't depart until 2:00. Based on the fact that the notice they posted had been whited out several times I would say this is common. So we basically got there in time for dinner and were super rushed the next morning having to do our snorkeling fitting then. As it turns out you never actually get to visit Daphene island anyway, all it would have been is the boat circling around it, there is no landing there or snorkeling. The only annoying thing about this was that we had to get up at 5am in Quito to get breakfast and be ready to depart for the airport at 7:30. No one informed us about the plane issue at all, they simply posted it and people coming into breakfast told us. I think we should have been immediately notified in our rooms and in the breakfast room so we could go back to bed if we wanted. 2. Will I see lots of animals? Best advice: snorkel. If you don't you will miss HALF of what there is to see. It is easy, learn now. Celebrity excels here with quality equipment and a process that makes you feel completely safe and comfortable-- they will immediately get you if you tire and watch like hawks. We saw sharks, rays, lots of fish, turtles-- but the experience of a lifetime was swimming just off the beach with a Penguin for 20 minutes and playing with the sea lions during the deep water snorkels (15 feet). The sea lions play this game where they swim right at you then dart away at the last minute over and over plus they will mimic all your moves-- the cruise director told us they love to do this. Mesmerizing, pure magic, just what you came to the Galapagos for. Celebrity won't teach you how to snorkel but will give you any advice, support, etc. so best to get a quick lesson ahead of time or have a friend traveling help you. They say expert snorkeling for the deep water but it just means you need to know how to swim and won't panic if you see a big animal. The current was light and they have you go with a buddy anyway and stay with the group. 3. Food? It was far better than a regular main dining room but not quite as good as a specialty restaurant. Fish and shrimp were generally overcooked, so stayed with pastas and meats-- but the lobster which was served four times was always excellent. Desserts were the weakness, not nearly as good as a typical Celebrity cruise generally custards, simple cakes-- no wonderful pastry. Breakfast and lunch were always very good with a station of custom cooking, dinner ranged from fair to excellent. Loved fresh juices and snacks waiting for you after each outing. 4. Service? AMAZING, best we've ever had on a cruise by far. Even though alcohol included, they were always right there asking for your order. From the restaurant to the cruise director who had to get your preference each day for tours, they were always flexible, cheerful and accommodating. The entire ship was super clean. 5. Rooms? Clean, comfortable, small. Beds in window rooms are narrow. We had two rooms for our family, daughters in window room we were in a junior suite. The junior suite was smaller than any regular balcony room we've ever had on a ship but perfectly fine for us since you spend so little time there. We did love the balcony because we looked at the stars each night, got amazing views of kicker rock as we circumnavigated it (get on the port side if you have a balcony and do itinerary B so you can watch from your balcony). Only issue for some might be that in our "suite" it was a double bed with the bed against the wall so the second person had to climb over to get to bathroom in the middle of the night. However we are both tall (5'11) and had no issue with size of bed-- in fact never slept so well in my life. Looked in other suites and I would not pay the huge fee to go up in size, you could barely tell the difference between a junior suite and expedition suite. 6. Seasickness. I was so worried and the boat does rock quite a bit but I used bonine and sea bands and had no issues at all and didn't hear about anyone else having issues. Most of the rocking was at night and as I said, I never slept so well. 7.Age Range-- I was prepared for all seniors (we are two teens and two in 50's) but we had a really nice range across the board, a few 20 something couples, six teens (it was school vacation week) and a nice representation of 40-60. There were a lot of 60-70 but mostly in good shape and no elderly at all. Celebrity did a nice job of having faster, slower walks and zodiac rides vs. walks so the slower people could travel together. Also after a day or so we learned how to group ourselves in terms of activity level-- you didn't want to be on the zodiac with the people who had to use the bathroom all the time or lagged behind or complained of the heat. 8. Size: we were a bit worried with just a 100 people we might be stuck with people we didn't like but it was an amazing group with many fast friendships formed; in fact the spirit of fun and camaraderie was one of the best things about the cruise. There was literally one obnoxious person that everyone tried to avoid. This sort of happiness factor was the reason we chose Celebrity over Silver sea, and it makes a difference. 9. Land Tour: We did the ten day, and it was largely wonderful as well. The Marriot is a particularly nice one and the food far better than I expected. The first tour in Quito was wonderful, lunch had a pretty view and was delicious (don't miss the local cheese/potato soup with great toppings). The only dissapointment was the afternoon tour to the equator-- trust me and skip it as other warned me to do. It is an ugly one hour ride when you are already tired, to and ugly unscenic location that is basically a monument on the equator-- except it is not actually the right line they have found out and will be building a new line. It is surrounded by cheap tourist shops and isn't really a museum-- just a few amateurish panels that you have to walk down the tower stairs to read. Celebrity should really offer an alternative-- Quito is so beautiful I wish we had stayed there and done the cable car ride or anything else. Dinner was excellent. On the return, we had a served dinner in a private room at the hotel with live music (a really talented sax vocalist) and were again surprised at the quality and delighted it wasn't a buffet. Nice way to spend your last night with all the friends you will make. 10. Best Souvenir: the locally made shawls they sell on the street for $2.50. My daughters also found some hand made jewelry but there isn't much and the best stuff is in Quito so don't waste your time shopping on the Galapagos. 11. Expense: Do it! It is so worth it, a truly one of a kind experience and a relief to have absolutely everything included and to feel that you were well treated, no one was ever trying to sell you. Best cruise, and one of best vacation experiences ever (Africa wins out) and we are well traveled. 12. Entertainment: None really but we loved chatting after dinner in the bar with new friends and we we're utterly exhausted each night and wanted nothing but bed and a good book. Energy needed: Don't wait until you are too old to do this. It is exhausting-- two hikes and snorkeling each day in the heat. Parting Words: Celebrity really has this down, I would pick them again. Everyone seemed happy, to be having a ball and to be delighted-- that's the atmosphere you want on a cruise. Best staff ever. I wondered if we lucked out with our fun, interesting, nice fellow passengers but I really think it is part of the experience Celebrity creates on this unique ship. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We have just returned from a week trip to Quito/Galapagos/Guayaquil with our family (my husband, myself, and 2 adult sons aged 21 and 27). This trip is definitely in the top favorites of my trips. We began our trip with 2 nights in Quito ... Read More
We have just returned from a week trip to Quito/Galapagos/Guayaquil with our family (my husband, myself, and 2 adult sons aged 21 and 27). This trip is definitely in the top favorites of my trips. We began our trip with 2 nights in Quito at Casa Gangotena & did a day of sightseeing in Quito of the old town, cable car & Equator. We then did the 5 days / 4 nights expedition cruise on board our MV Santa Cruz (Monday-Friday, Northern Island)with Metropolitan Tours. WOW! The staff at Metropolitan are pros on this trip and made our trip very special and amazingly fun & organized. The itinerary aboard the ship is very active (if you choose to do all of the activities) with a snorkel and hike each morning & afternoon. Then 7:15pm review of next day’s program and dinner at 8pm. We were ready for bed each night! We saw all of the wildlife listed on our itinerary - Blue footed, Red footed and Nazca boobies, Galapagos penguins, marine & land iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, great frigate birds, vermillion flycatcher,herons, starfish, sharks, rays, huge parrotfish, sea turtles, giant tortoises & much more. Just amazing wildlife that are not one bit afraid of people! We booked 2 twin upper deck cabins but were upgraded to the Master Suite and the Junior Suite which was totally unexpected but was such a lovely enhancement to our trip. The Master Suite is very spacious and has a lovely balcony with table and chairs + a king size bed - such a nice way to travel! The Junior Suite had 2 twin beds & was also very spacious. The food on the boat was very good & there are enough seats for everyone to eat at the same time with no reservations which is really great. The staff on the boat was top notch. Our guide, Marcella, was just the best! She was so knowledgeable about the wildlife, etc and loved sharing information about everything in Galapagos. She really cared about everyone in our group seeing all the wildlife. We all very much enjoyed being in Marcella’s group. On our last day, we flew from San Cristobal to Guayaquil and then departed Guayaquil for Miami. From our wonderful booking agent to our amazing guide, Marcella -- everything that Metropolitan Tours and the staff and guides on the boat organized and executed made for a wonderful & unforgettable experience for our family. We will always remember our expedition to the Galapagos Islands - just an amazing trip that everyone should take!!! Thank you Metropolitan!! Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships ... Read More
First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships but none that are more seaworthy. A very good value. The cruise officially began in Buenos Aires. We spent a week there on our own so had not purchased an airport transfer from Hurtigruten for the charter flight to Ushuaia. This became the source of some stress when we belatedly learned that our flight was to depart at 4:40 AM, meaning finding a cab on our own at 2:00 AM. If we had known about the ridiculously early flight in advance, we would have spent the last night in Buenos Aires with the Fram group. We were met at the airport in Ushuaia by Fram personnel. No problem with check-in on the ship, and our luggage was already in our cabin when we arrived. As been mentioned before, the standard cabin on the Fram is astonishingly tiny. There are two berths with very little space between them. During the day one berth is turned up and the other becomes a couch, to allow for more floor space. There is adequate storage space, but it is mostly in open cubbyholes. Travelers used to large cruise ships will be shocked. The "superior outside stateroom" is much larger and nicer, with a queen-sized bed and large bathroom, but is of course more expensive. We have cruised on the Fram before, and to save money had paid for an "unspecified inside cabin." After all, we never spend any time in the cabin on an expedition cruise. As it turned out, we were upgraded to a "superior" cabin, our good fortune this time. The Fram is a lovely ship, especially built for polar conditions. For this cruise it was completely booked with 224 passengers. Public rooms are very attractive. There is a large observation lounge on Deck 7 forward, a wonderful place to watch the scenery in a hostile climate. Deck 4 is the nerve center of the vessel, with the dining room with windows on three sides; two lecture halls; a cafe with drinks and snacks; a shop offering cold-weather gear and a few souvenirs and essentials; and the administrative center. There are large windows on both sides. The ship also has an outdoor hot tub and a fitness room with a sauna. Outside on Decks 5 and 8 are large observation areas. Of course, in the Antarctic these were used primarily when something especially exciting was going on, such as whale watching or threading our way through gigantic icebergs. We were generally fortunate with weather. The notorious Drake Passage was glassy smooth on the two-day cruise south, and we were able to make two landings a day in Antarctica. (On the return trip over the Drake, it blew a full gale, force 8 on the Beaufort Scale.) The temperature on the Antarctic peninsula hovered around freezing twenty-four hours a day. There is no real darkness this time of year. For shore excursions we wore layers and shed them if there was no wind and the sun was out. Then it seemed surprisingly warm. When it was windy, or when we were in the 8-passenger "Polar Zirkel" boats, we needed all our cold-weather gear, including waterproof parkas (a gift from Hurtigruten) and pants. We also wore study rubber boots for all excursions. These were available for rent from the ship at a reasonable cost. It's hard to describe the eight days we actually spent in the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is not a place, it's an experience. Twice-daily excursions brought us into close contact with three species of nesting penguins, who have no fear of humans and will walk right up to you. We also had close encounters with seals on land and on icebergs. The scenery is beyond spectacular. We've all seen pictures and videos of glaciers and icebergs, but no pictures can capture the reality of being there. We visited a couple of inhabited islands and got a change to understand what it's like to live there. Some historic sites were included, such as a former whalers' processing station, and Elephant Island, where Shackleton's crew managed to survive for 4 1/2 months awaiting rescue. Lectures on the wildlife, geology, and history of the region by members of the outstanding Expedition Team put things in context. In addition to the included daily shore excursions, there were optional kayaking trips and "boat cruising" in the small boats. There was also one long guided hike, and the chance to spend a night ashore in a tent. These optional excursions cost extra but provided an even more intimate experience with this unique environment. There was no evening entertainment per se: a "Crew's Show," a Tango demonstration, some relevant movies, etc. We were too tired after the busy days to have any interest in evening activities, and I never heard anyone complain about the lack of entertainment. Breakfast and lunch were always buffets; there were two official dinner seatings, but because of the extensive shore excursions, all but three dinners were buffets. Service was excellent throughout. I have read complaints elsewhere about food aboard the Fram. It certainly does not measure up to the standards of a traditional cruise ship. However, we found that there were plenty of options, including lactose-free and gluten-free. The beef was not great, and vegetables tended to be overcooked, but the fish, cheeses, salads, breads, and desserts were outstanding. And does anyone expect meals on an expedition cruise to play the important role that they do on, say, a Mediterranean cruise? We were quite satisfied. Passengers were a diverse group. Probably more than half were American, but there were large contingents from Germany and France, and we also met South Africans, Australians, Japanese, and Indians, to name a few. This was a very well-traveled assortment of lively, adventurous people, as you would expect on a cruise to the Antarctic. We've been on many cruises, including some to rather exotic places (Greenland, Svalbard, Galapagos, Amazon), but Antarctica will always stand out in my mind. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity of experiencing it. It is totally unlike anywhere else on earth, absolutely indescribable. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
Have traveled on large ships and small and prefer now smaller expedition ships with lectures instead of entertainment. We had 42 passengers who were all well traveled and well educated. Average age was probably over 50. It was like going ... Read More
Have traveled on large ships and small and prefer now smaller expedition ships with lectures instead of entertainment. We had 42 passengers who were all well traveled and well educated. Average age was probably over 50. It was like going to camp but with gourmet food and drinks. Everything was very casual. The best part of the trip was the wonderful interaction among the guests and with the crew. Grey whale watching in Magdalena Bay was a highlight. We also saw blue whales, seals (you could snorkel among them), mobula rays, dolphins, and a myriad of birds. Depending on the weather each day offered snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, etc. The activities were guided and separated by difficulty levels. Free time was spent sitting on the upper deck or watching DVDs in your room. There is a DVD library available as well as reference books and some paperbacks. Yoga was offered each morning followed by breakfast. Two stops were made each day with various activities. During cocktail hour the next day was explained and you signed up for your activities. However weather often changed them. We did have a lot of wind and some rough seas so you might need medication. This was not a cruise for children although they offer designated children's sailings so they might work. Evenings were quiet with everyone to bed before 10PM. A couple of nights they did have evening lectures and once an onshore bonfire. We really enjoyed the cruise, the activities and the people. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
I was aboard the Isabella II boat in the first days of January 2015 at the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was an amazing experience. I'm used to large cruises and this only had 36 passengers on board. I enjoyed it a lot. Cabins: ... Read More
I was aboard the Isabella II boat in the first days of January 2015 at the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was an amazing experience. I'm used to large cruises and this only had 36 passengers on board. I enjoyed it a lot. Cabins: normal size, two single beds, a small couch, a desk and a chair, plenty of cabinet space, normal sized bathroom with a shower. There was no TV, which I thought would be a problem, but it wasnt at all. There was a radio channel with loudspeakers in the cabin that you could turn on and off. The cabin had a window that looked to the corridor and the ocean partially. For safety, you cant lock the doors from the inside, only from the inside. Ship: A nice lobby area with a bar and plenty of couches, medical room, one restaurant with enough seats for the entire ship. Food was good. Buffett breakfst and lunch, which once was served on the sun deck. Dinner was seated and two options for main course. Not fancy dinning, like on large cruises. There was a mini gym, a whirpool and a nice sundeck with a few loungers and plenty of tables. This is what the day looks like: early wake up around 7am, Breakfast from 7.30. First excursion or activity around 9.00 (snorkeling, kayaking, hiking). Back to the ship for lunch around 12.30. Second activity/excursion around 3pm. Dinner at 7ish. There are no shows or entertainment on board, but there was a karaoke night that I missed. Every night there was a briefing about the next day. Snorkel gear and wetsuits were available. Wetsuits were for a nominal fee, but they didnt charge for them at the end. Great naturalist guides on board and during the excursions! They had a huge knowledge and made the tours really interesting. Im not big into animals or plants and yet I enjoyed it a lot. All in all, great experience. Its a much active holiday than going on a cruise in the Caribbean. Bring a laptop with movies if you want to watch something in the evening.   Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
Traveled with excellent Tauck group from Buenos Aires on charter flight to Ushuaia. Boarded Le Soleal in the afternoon. Welcomed by captain and officers. Immediately impressed by cleanliness, subtle design and classiness of this new and ... Read More
Traveled with excellent Tauck group from Buenos Aires on charter flight to Ushuaia. Boarded Le Soleal in the afternoon. Welcomed by captain and officers. Immediately impressed by cleanliness, subtle design and classiness of this new and beautiful small ship. Enjoyed smooth Drake passage and great Antarctica weather. 12 zodiac landings led by outstanding team of naturalists. Impressed by safety and care taken by crew and naturalists. Cabin housekeeping excellent. Superb cruise director. Officers friendly and evident. Open bridge policy meant you can observe the ship being maneuvered, navigated and operated. Food good with choice of buffet on level 6 or dining room on level 2. Don't miss the superb steak tartare served at one lunch buffet. Pastry, desserts and baking fabulous. Crew smiling and helpful. Truly a fine voyage on a well run friendly ship. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We took the M/V Evolution in January 2015 to the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was better than I expected. I knew that this was considered a luxury yacht, but was extremely please with the large & well laid out cabin, the crew, the ... Read More
We took the M/V Evolution in January 2015 to the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was better than I expected. I knew that this was considered a luxury yacht, but was extremely please with the large & well laid out cabin, the crew, the excursions, and the ship itself. The staff was outstanding. All of them were very professional, caring & friendly. Debora Carrera, our "hotel" manager was excellent at her job & very kind. She got ot know each of the passengers very quickly & learned what we liked. Our ship doctor, Isaac Jimenez, pitched in on all the excursions, including taking wonderful pictures, in addition to caring for our medical needs. My husband had picked up a gastrointestinal disturbance prior to our trip & it got much worse while we were onboard. After Isaac gave him medication, it went away in a day. Isaac also helped guide me while we were snorkeling. Our guides - Jhosellyn Aguas Flores & Alex Cox - were wonderful - they taught us a lot, were very enthusiastic & caring. Each of them seemed to go above & beyond what I expected. The food was good - well varied, fresh, plentiful. Considering the meals were buffet, they were quite good. The activities were wonderful, as reported elsewhere. I really enjoyed all the island excursions & snorkeling. The housekeeping staff kept everything very clean, which was challenging since we showered throughout the day. The only negatives I have were 1) I had motion sickness even though I was taking meclizine; 2) related to #1, our cabin C1, was in the front of the ship & I think the location made the motion worse. The noise of the anchor being taken up would wake us. Read Less

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