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14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We went with Celebrity Expeditions to the Galapagos about 8 years ago and thought that experience could not be topped. We were wrong. I did extensive research on all the different Antarctic cruises. Most cost the same, all have zodiacs ... Read More
We went with Celebrity Expeditions to the Galapagos about 8 years ago and thought that experience could not be topped. We were wrong. I did extensive research on all the different Antarctic cruises. Most cost the same, all have zodiacs with naturalists, all have food included. None have alcohol included and the luxury experience you get with Silversea. The ship is a smaller icebreaker but lovely cabins and dining room. It did look a little ready for refurbishment in some places but overall was very nice. But the biggest thing of all is the Antarctic. We were extremely lucky on our Drake passages, they were calm and uneventful. We had a mid-ship cabin on the third floor which was very stable. Our window was very large but there were excellent shades to cover so that us light sensitive sleepers could rest. The bathroom was large, had a tub and was mostly done in marble. I was shocked. We got a fantastic table at the rear of the ship and had amazing views. The maître d'hôtel, Anna was very gracious. The chef was wonderful and often came to the dining room to be sure we enjoyed our food (which was divine). We usually stopped at two ports per day. Most were shore landings but there were a few zodiac cruises. Everything was outstanding. We were very lucky to have fantastic weather and saw an amazing array of animals. Other people got tired of the penguins but I think they are crazy. Mid-January was a perfect time to go as most of the penguins and birds were just hatching chicks. We actually got to see a penguin chick hatching from an egg! It was funny to watch them squabble over tiny rocks and slide across the ice. Then they would jump in the water and be the picture of speed and grace. We saw lots of seals, orcas and seabirds. We saw many whales (humpbacks, minke) and were very lucky that our captain stopped the boat for an hour so we could watch a group play. The best naturalist was a young man named Travis from South Africa. He would make noise on the bottom of the zodiac to get the interest of the whales. We saw them come very close and one time they even followed the zodiac. I wished we had known we could invite the staff for dinner with us, we would have loved to get to know some of them more. They are meticulous about making sure you don't take any unwanted seeds or plants from the mainland. It was just very professional and the trip of a lifetime. We included it with another 2 1/2 weeks of hiking in Patagonia and the whole experience was Nirvana. You have to go. Just do it. It's expensive but worth every penny. I was worried people might be pretentious but the staff were wonderful and most of the people were nice. Don't wait until you are so old you can't move around much. It seemed like some people just wanted to 'tick off' their final continent which I think is a waste. It is truly a gorgeous destination with so much to offer. Go, Go, Go!!! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We selected the Explorer for our Classic Antarctica cruise, a bit apprehensively, as our only previous SS experience was a disappointing cruise on the Shadow. Still, we were looking for that sweet spot of comfort, education and adventure ... Read More
We selected the Explorer for our Classic Antarctica cruise, a bit apprehensively, as our only previous SS experience was a disappointing cruise on the Shadow. Still, we were looking for that sweet spot of comfort, education and adventure and the Explorer delivered. ITINERARY This was the standard "Classic Antarctica" itinerary common for the shorter trips. That said, there can be no assumption about what will and will not be seen as all of the ships in Antarctica are subject to weather and ice conditions. The ice rating of the Explorer allows the ship more flexibility and that is a real consideration in this area. What impressed us most was the clear objective of the captain and expedition staff to show us as much as possible and we were able to do a few special things like cruise through the Lemaire Channel, which was breathtakingly beautiful. There was variety in our landings - usually two a day - with zodiac tours, Port Lockroy and several stops for penguins/birds. Bad weather forced us to leave Antarctica a day early, which was a decision made for safety and seemingly understood by all. As a result, we spent an extra day in Ushuaia. SS put together a tour of the beautiful national park but, because of heavy rain, it was more like a sort of tedious bus trip. Overall, we were very satisfied that we had a good overview of Antarctica. Of course, it was short and, time permitting, it would have been nice to go to South Georgia and similar ports, but it was sufficient. SHIP CONDITION This is not a new ship, and it is a bit frayed around the edges. However, it was kept very clean and that is our priority. For an expedition ship, we found the ship very comfortable. FELLOW PASSENGERS There were 107 people on board: 45 were from China and the rest was a mix from all over the world - for sure, UK, US, Netherlands, Russia, NZ, Australia, Ireland, Germany, among others. Large groups can change the dynamics of a sailing and one group of 26 was challenging at times. My suggestion is that the staff, right upfront, makes it clear that there is a rotation of zodiac groups and that people are NOT permitted to go other than at the appointed time. Overall, however, it was a pleasant group of travel companions. FOOD/BEVERAGE We were very impressed with how hard the chef, Pia, and her staff worked to make the meals interesting and provide numerous options given the limitations of the kitchen and supplies. The food was superior to ours on the Shadow, which wasn't expected. The dining room was very friendly and Anna was masterful at making people feel comfortable and seating them as they wished....it was no problem to dine alone or with others. We can't comment on the wine, but the beverage staff was terrific in all venues of the ship. In addition, the wait staff was fantastic. CHARTER The charter days were tedious. We arrived at the domestic airport two hours before the flight, as requested, and our boarding passes for the LAN charter were already printed. There didn't seem to be much opportunity to make seating requests. There didn't seem to be much concern about the weight limits on the way down, but there were some hassles with carry on weight for some people on the way back from Ushuaia. The flight down was approx. 4 hours. Upon arrival, we were driven to lunch at a restaurant and were there for two hours. Following that, we were driven to the ship, with several stops along the way, all designed to kill time. It was a very long day.... On the return, we were put on buses at 9 AM and driven about 150 yards to a parking lot in Ushuaia where we had "free time" for two hours. Then a two hour wait at the airport followed by the 4 hours flight back to Buenos Aires' domestic airport. At rush hour, the drive to the International airport can take well over an hour, so be sure to leave enough time for a connecting flight. EXPEDITION STAFF The staff on board was sensational - all specialists in various topics and excited to share their interests with the passengers. There were many lectures which could be watched in the theater or on TV in the room. As an aside, the sight lines for the theater are terrible. Everyone is on the same level, so a few tall people upfront (isn't that always the way?) can block half the screen. There are also poles scattered around the room. The expedition staff spent a lot of time with passengers and added greatly to the experience. CABINS The cabins were surprisingly comfortable for an expedition ship. I know that many people don't spend time in their rooms, but I was happy to have a larger space for the long days on the Drake Passage. There are 4 butlers for the ship, so they are very busy, but we found ours to be delightful and responsive. The room was kept in good order and any minor issues were addressed quickly. ATTIRE This is a very casual cruise. There were only two "casually elegant" nights on the ship and maybe a bit more than half of the men wore jackets on those evenings. Otherwise, it is mostly sweaters and slacks for all meals. Sneakers are fine for walking around the ship. Some people had Uggs. Again, casual footwear and definitely rubber soles. We rented boots from the ship and were very happy with them. The red parka provided to all guests was perfect - warm and waterproof. Sizes could be changed for either, which was on the questions I had before we got on board. For landings, we followed the guidelines suggested - two layers and waterproof pants/parka. A gaiter is a must. We had two sets of clothing for landings and that was plenty. There is a self service laundry on the ship as well as laundry service by the staff, so don't overpack. NITS We were not impressed with the documents provided by Silversea. There was not a lot of detail in some areas and we had to call them for a few kind of obvious questions. We also missed the "leave behind" information for our family. Finally, the booklet and and separate paper regarding the charter had different weight limits listed, something many of our fellow passengers noted. This is an important detail and the correct limit should be clear. On departure day, we were told that no changes to our bill could be made after 8 AM. Our bill arrived in our room in the middle of the night and had an error of a few hundred dollars. At 6:15 AM we were told that the person with authority to change the bill could not be found. It took until 7:30 to get this sorted out. While it may not be a big deal, it seems obvious that, with such a small window for corrections, the person responsible should be available on departure morning. OVERALL We were delighted with our choice of the Explorer for our trip. The crew was professional and caring and there was a surprising degree of comfort given the locale.   Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 ... Read More
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 p.m. and on day 19 you are going to be leaving the ship at about 7.30 a.m. So, effectively it is a 17 day cruise. The Fram is an excellent ship for the job, being large enough to be comfortable but small enough to get into places that bigger liners would never get to or be allowed to go to, South Georgia for instance has a limit of 100 people ashore at any one time at most of the places we stopped at. Try that on a 2 - 3000 passenger liner. We were blessed with good weather and we landed at almost all of the places intended, however, Hurtigriten do like to make the most of a 'captive audience'. They offered us organised trips at Ushuaia and on the Falklands. All of them seemed quite expensive for what they were so we only pre-booked one which was at Port Stanley. It was fairly interesting, a visit to a penguin colony, but given that we visited numerous others for no extra cost on South Georgia and the Antarctic Islands subsequently this trip was a waste of money, and time as you don't get long in Stanley. Other extras were offered once on board: snowshoeing, kayaking, trips in the Polarcircle RIBs and several hikes. All of these were quite expensive for what they were for instance about £75 for a 2 hour cruise in the RIBs just to see the sights along the shore, almost £100 each for two and a half hours kayaking which, with 5 two-man kayaks earned the line about £1000 for the use of the boats plus two guides. Even the hikes which usually have over 50 people on them will cost you around £25 per person when you might think that they could throw in a guided walk of a few miles free of extra cost especially when you consider that the 'trainee' members of the Expedition Crew are not even being paid by the Line but are doing their jobs unsalaried just to gain experience. They rely, of course on the "well, I'll only be here once" thought that goes through our minds and makes us pay these silly extra costs. Then there's the bar prices. I didn't want a 'booze cruise' but it would have been nice to have a beer at the end of an active day or a bottle of wine with dinner but with Carlsberg lager (the only beer they had and one that I don't like) costing almost £7 per pint and Chilean 'plonk' that sells in Buenos Aires supermarkets for about £5 a bottle being priced at around £25 per bottle on the ship I had a very 'dry' holiday. Obviously it is not that people who can afford the cruise can't afford the drinks but I object to being 'milked' in this way especially when the Line presumably buys the stuff as 'Bonded Stores', that is to say, without having to pay duty on it. They also x-ray your cases when you come aboard, including hand-luggage. This is not as you might think to protect you from guns and bombs. It is to protect their bar profits by spotting and removing any alcohol you may have brought with you. To add insult to injury they also charge for water to drink in the restaurant but they offer a 'deal' whereby you can pay about £20 per head for the privilege of having a carafe of 'mineral' water on your table every evening. This deal is supposed to be per person whereas, of course, it should be per couple but having had a very early start (up at 01.45 a.m.) to catch the flight to Ushuaia I allowed myself to be bounced into agreeing to it for each of us so we paid almost £40 in total. It is a real shame that Hurtugruten feel the need to rip-off their clients in these petty ways as the cruise itself was everything we could have hoped for but the constant feeling that you are being 'milked' leaves a nasty taste that even their very expensive water cannot wash away. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
There were two of us on this cruise: my father, who is 85 and retired, and myself, a 53-year old educator. My father has gone on many cruises; I have just been on four. The Cabin As one would expect on a "mega yacht," the cabin ... Read More
There were two of us on this cruise: my father, who is 85 and retired, and myself, a 53-year old educator. My father has gone on many cruises; I have just been on four. The Cabin As one would expect on a "mega yacht," the cabin was quite small. Nonetheless, it was quite pleasant and I never felt crowded or claustrophobic. There were two single beds (comfortable), as well as a small desk and ottoman chair, a two-seat sofa, a night stand, a shelf, and a closet. In addition to the portholes and the overhead lights, there were small halogen reading lights over the beds. The bathroom was surprisingly spacious (almost a quarter of the overall space in the cabin), and included not only a large shower, toilet and sink, but also side shelves and a retractable laundry string. Issues: The door to the bathroom is translucent glass. That means while it maintains privacy, when you turn on the bathroom light, it illuminates a portion of the room. That never bothered my father, but it might bother someone sensitive to night light. Other people on the cruise reported occasional problems getting hot water in the shower, but we always had plenty. The one serious issue was the water color. We were advised at the beginning that there may be some discoloration in the water early in the trip, but that this would quickly pass. It didn't. By the third day of the trip, I was still showering in orange-colored water. One guest was quite upset; not only did this mean that she couldn't wash her white clothing, but she was concerned about the iron in the water dying her grey hair. We spoke to the hotel manager and he assured us he would fix the problem. Afterwards, if I let the water run for about 10 seconds, it cleared up. The other guest, however, still had to let her water run for 10 minutes. An odd situation given that the ship is only two years old. Ship Facilities Overall, I found the ship facilities quite good, given the limitations of size. The Horizons Dining Room was very comfortable and since the ship was only at 2/3rds capacity, there was always plenty of room. Similarly, there was always plenty of space in the Riviera Lounge and the seats were comfortable. I didn't use the spa facilities, but I saw several other guests using them and they enjoyed them. They have a treadmill, a bicycle, some weights, etc. Issues: The Riviera Lounge has long sofas and low coffee tables. I would have like there to be a few regular tables, where one could play cards or do a crossword puzzle. They did have such tables outside on the deck behind the Horizons Dining Room, but given the high heat and humidity, I wasn't comfortable using them. Ship Crew The bridge officers, the waiters, the cabin staff, and bartenders, the cruise director, the naturalist, and musician were all good. One morning, my father had breakfast with the captain and very much enjoyed his conversation. Like many other passengers, I went up to the bridge and chatted with the captain and first officer. All the staff worked to address any issues that arose with passengers. The Food In my experience, Celebrity Xpedition (in the Galapagos) set the bar for small-ship cruising, and Variety Voyager did not come close to that level of quality. Nonetheless, the food was fine, if not particularly exciting or inspiring. Breakfast was a buffet, with hot items, such as grilled tomatoes, potatoes, crispy bacon, omelets, etc., as well as someone making omelets or pancakes to order. There were also cold items, such as greek yogurt, fruit compote, cold fish, fresh fruit, cheese and cold cuts. There was toast, cereal, milk, jam, juices, and danish. Lunch varied. If we ate on the ship, then it was also a buffet, with assorted hot items such as quiche, various greek dishes, some salads, and some roast animal at the carving station. They also had a dessert table with slices of cake and fresh fruit. The best meals (of the whole trip), however, were the two occasions we had BBQ on shore. On both occasions, the menu was Greek-inspired with some pita, mediterranean salads, and various grilled items: mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, lamb chops, sausage, tiger prawns, meat balls, and fish. I thought the lamb chops were excellent. They also had some nice Greek desserts, particularly the kadayif. Dinner was almost always a sit-down affair with a menu (the one exception was the evening we crossed the Canal). There was some kind of appetizer and soup, followed by a main course and dessert. The soups were generally very good. There were three options for the main course: 1) a meat dish of some kind – pork, veal, beef, or turkey; 2) a fish dish of some kind – sole, grouper, salmon; 3) a vegetarian option. Desserts varied and included crème brulee, profiteroles, or cake. For Christmas Eve they served a pudding of some kind, but there were large swells and I felt slightly nauseous and went back to my cabin to lay down. The last night they went all out, but I felt their ambition exceeded their grasp. While the lobster bisque was very good, the scallop salad (a few dingy and tasteless things on top of tired spinach dressed in mustard) was almost inedible. We all ordered the chateaubriand, but only the woman who asked for it rare got it anything but well done (hers was medium rare). When we came back from various excursions they offered us a warmish ice tea, and there were macaroons and slices of somewhat dry cake by the coffee station in the Riviera Lounge. I ordered several of the daily cocktail specials and they were quite good, as was the cappuccino (the later was complimentary). Excursions On the whole, I would say (with the exception of Logistics, below), this was the weakest part of the trip experience. Some of the problems are inherent; others could be mitigated. Before I get into that I should mention that we shared the ship with a group. They made up about a third of the 48 passengers and had a separate naturalist, went on the same excursions but separately from us, and ate dinner at their own tables. This created an odd dynamic; it wasn't annoying or off putting, but it was just a little strange. In the Galapagos, each excursion group was limited to the size of the Zodiac. This was critical so we could interact with our naturalist as he or she pointed out various aspects of life or geology or history on the islands we visited. In Cambodia and Vietnam, the groups were somewhat bigger, about 25 people, but there, most of the information from the guide came when we were en route or on ship, with less when we were on the ground walking around. In both cases, the items we were seeing required no special tools. Costa Rica and Panama are different. The highlight of most excursions was seeing the wildlife, but these creatures were mostly small and camouflaged or high up in the trees. The guides were quite efficient at using their view finders to help us see the various items (e.g., tree sloths), but that meant waiting in line for quick glimpses through the view finder. If it was a large group (25 people), and they were noisy (as they often were), the bird might fly away before the people at the end ever had a chance to see it. While this cruise did include some younger, more active passengers, as would be expected, most passengers were retired. I would suggest that the company consider arranging a less-strenuous excursion option for those days with highly strenuous trips. I took all the excursions offered on the cruise, so here's my evaluation of them all: Day 2, morning: Curu Nature Preserve - Extra This involved a wet landing on a somewhat muddy beach. Highlight: seeing the white-faced capuchin monkeys, the howler monkeys, and the spider monkeys close up. While the description said there would be time for swimming, that was not the case. Day 2, afternoon: Isla Tortuga – Included Here we had a very nice BBQ lunch on the beach. The wet landing in the surf, however, was a daunting prospect for those who had mobility issues. A lunch was provided on the ship for them, but since that option wasn't announced, my father didn't know about it. The water was too murky for any snorkeling, but the water was nice for swimming and they provided kayaks and paddle boards for anyone who wanted to use them. Day 3 morning: Manuel Antonio Reserve – Extra This is a small, but very popular reserve. It was extremely crowded with groups of a dozen or more tourists clustered around each naturalist and his view finder. The highlight: seeing the two-toed and three-toed sloths. While the brochure and cruise director praised the wonderful swimming in the park, we only had 25 minutes at the beach. As it was, I was the last to rejoin the group as I needed to change back into my normal clothing for the walk back. Day 3 afternoon: Zip Lining – Extra. I had never zip lined before, so part of my issues here involve my own misconceptions. But here's how the cruise described the excursion: "During your journey you'll stop and rest at 16 strategically located platforms and 12 cables where you are most likely see the surrounding wildlife. Many of these platforms are almost 100 feet high, nestled in the trunks and branches of trees that are centuries old. Our staff of professionally trained guides shows guests the abundant wildlife along the way; including Titi monkeys, two and three toed sloths, poison dart frogs, iguanas and toucans." In fact, there was no looking at any native wildlife, nor did we rest on the strategically located platforms. We simply zipped from one to the other and then quickly on to the next one. The only time we paused was to allow the tour operators to reposition. In addition, my own fears (and my tendency to lose control and have my helmet rubbing against the cord at high speeds) meant that I really couldn't focus on the natural beauty. It got better after they added another harness to stabilize me. Day 4 morning: Osa Peninsula – Extra This was one of the best excursions but it was also one of the most mismanaged. Simply put, the description provided by the cruise in no way matched what we actually did. First, here's the official description of the excursion: "Start the day off at Piro Research Center and hike through our extensive, easy-access & safe trail system to see the incredible array of Osa’s wildlife and do some spectacular bird watching. Look up to catch a glimpse of some of Osa’s 400+ bird species, including toucans, red-plumed scarlet macaws, and stunningly beautiful turquoise cotingas. All 4 species of monkeys and the wide array of forest mammals can be spotted in these lush forests. Later we take a short trip on foot through the rainforest to the beach, where you can spot tracks of mother sea turtles who have come out of the water to lay their eggs in the sand the night before. From there, take a walk to the turtle hatchery, where you’ll get an introduction to sea turtle conservation by our trained staff and watch our volunteers care for the newly hatched turtles until they are released back into the sea. After these unforgettable and easy hikes in the cathedral-like forests, head back to Piro Research Center and we return to Puerto Jimenez." Now, here's what we actually did: we drove about twenty minutes outside of Puerto Jimenez to something called "el bosque encantado" (the enchanted forest). This is an old-growth jungle on the Osa Peninsula. There were some walking sticks available at the beginning, but since were told this was an easy hike, I passed on them. This turned out to be a mistake. The trail descended down an incredibly slippery muddy trail through the jungle to a stream bed and then back up the other side. Many people, including those who had walking sticks, fell or slipped in the mud. There was little opportunity to bird watch as most of the time our eyes were on the ground to keep from falling. We reemerged from the jungle where we entered and had some fresh fruit. Then it was back to the dock. No research center, no beach, no turtle hatchery, etc. While I really enjoyed walking through the jungle and seeing and hearing howler monkeys, I felt unprepared for how strenuous the trail was. Had I known in advance, I would have packed hiking shoes with better traction and taken one of the walking sticks. Instead of getting my hopes up about seeing sea turtles, I would have concentrated on seeing the forest. Day 4 afternoon: Casa Orquideas – Extra This was a lovely private home with botanical gardens, many of which are orchids. We saw not only lovely flowers, but many kinds of birds, including toucans. Here, too, the brochure talks about time for swimming, but there was no swimming permitted on the beach. Instead, I joined a few others in swimming off the back of the boat, but for less time then we were told we would have. Day 5 morning: Granito de Oro Island – Included This day was slightly modified in order to arrive in Panama City in time the next morning. The Granito de Oro snorkeling was supposed to be in the afternoon, but we went in the morning instead. I saw large schools of brightly colored fish. Other snorkelers saw reef and nurse sharks, eels, and a turtle. Day 5 afternoon: Coiba Island – Excursion Cancelled In order to arrive in Panama City on time, the hike to the top of the island overlook was cancelled. Instead, we only had a very nice BBQ on the island. Day 6 morning: Panama City – Extra This excursion had two halves: one hour at the Miraflores Locks and Panama Canal Museum, followed by one hour in the Old Town Quarter. My favorite part was standing on the top of the museum where we had a great view of ships entering and exiting the Canal at the Miraflores Locks. The tour of the Old Town Quarter was mostly forgettable. Day 6 evening: Panama Canal – Included This really isn't an excursion, but it was more exciting than I expected to pass through the Panama Canal. Unlike on large cruise ships, our small size, even when in tandem with a small cargo vessel, meant we had good views of the sides of the locks and the operation of the gates. The musician had a nice mix of music playing on the aft deck and it was loud enough that it inspired some of the sailors on other cargo vessels to dance along with us. Day 7 afternoon: San Blas Islands – Extra This is the closest we came to the kinds of excursions we had in Cambodia and Vietnam: being taken to a village to see the "native" people. On those trips, I always felt a little uncomfortable with the way the tourists would treat the locals as objects. Here, at Carti Island, the situation was reversed: the locals (Guna Yana indians) charged a dollar for every photo taken of them, so they were seeking us out as sources of revenue. The dance number is rather hokey, but I did very much enjoy wandering around the village (except for all the people trying to get me to take their picture). Day 7 afternoon: Gran Perro Island – Included Because of the severe delays in getting through the Canal (more below), the BBQ lunch on the island was cancelled. In addition, choppy seas prevented us from mooring in such a way as the snorkelers could visit the sunken ship. Still, the beach and water was very nice. Some interesting corals, including brain coral, as well as some colorful fish, some starfish, and a baby eel. Some others saw a young sting ray. Logistics This is where the cruise line fell the most short. First, embarkation. Since my father and I arrived in Costa Rica a few days early, we came to the embarkation site by a transfer we booked from Monteverde. According to the information provided by Variety Cruises, we would embark at the Los Suenos Marina in Playa Herradura beginning at 3 pm. My father wanted to arrive early, as he (wrongfully) assumed that we would be able to board early and he could rest in the cabin. This was not the case. We arrived at 12:15 at the Los Suenos Marriott Hotel and they directed us to the Marina, but no one at the Marina knew anything about the Variety Voyager, least of all where we needed to go to board the ship. Our driver took us all over the Marina, and she spoke to various officials, none of them knew anything about the cruise ship or where it would be picking up passengers. They tried calling the ship, but no one answered. About an hour and a half after we arrived, we were able to hitch a lift with the ship's naturalist back to the boat. Second, the itinerary. As noted above, not all the excursions matched what was promised in the guide provided by the cruise line. Even stranger was the fact that the prices charged for each excursion didn't always match the prices listed before hand in the guide provided by the cruise line (the actual prices were higher). Third, crossing the Panama Canal. At 2 pm, we anchored near the Pilot's House to await the arrival of the Inspector, who comes on board before the Canal Pilot. Around 3 pm, I was sitting in the Riviera Lounge when a passenger came in to say there was someone wanting to board the ship. I went out and the inspector from the Panama Canal Authority wanted to come on board to start the process, but no one was there to allow him on. He asked me to get a crew member. I went in and found the musician and told him. "Impossible!" he exclaimed. No one could approach the ship without the bridge knowing. I told him the inspector asked to speak to a crewman and he was in the crew. He went out, talked to the inspector and then called the bridge. Within a minute, bridge officers came down and they helped the inspector come on board. I have no way of knowing if this was the reason our entering the Panama Canal was delayed from 6:45 pm until 9:00 pm, but we were delayed. As a result, our activities for Day 7 had to be significantly modified as we arrived four hours late. Finally, disembarkation. Our ship disembarked at a different location than we were told before hand. We were supposed to come in to the Shelter Bay Marina, across the bay from Colon, but instead we landed at the Colon 2000 Marina in Colon, about 15-20 miles away. This change was not announced. My father and I booked our transfer to Panama City airport through the cruise line, so the person meeting us at the dock knew that the place where we would be arriving was changed, but several other people had no such luck. One was able to reach her driver at the Shelter Bay Marina; the others couldn't reach their transfer company since it was a Sunday morning and they were not answering their phones. This wasn't the first change the cruise company had made. About a third of the ship had booked the cruise when it was originally arriving not in Colon, Panama, but Cartagena, Colombia. In that case, Variety did agree to cover the costs of transferring from Colon to Cartagena so they could make the flights they had booked before the itinerary was changed. For that reason, I would suggest that anyone traveling with Variety in the future anticipate that boarding and disembarking locations may change and prepare to be flexible.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We had a wonderful cruise/trip to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We left from Miami at 1600, on Friday December 12 and returned on Tuesday, December 23. The flight to Quito was just under four (4) hours. We landed at the new ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise/trip to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We left from Miami at 1600, on Friday December 12 and returned on Tuesday, December 23. The flight to Quito was just under four (4) hours. We landed at the new airport about a one hour drive from Qutio. We spent Saturday touring Quito and visiting the actual Equator. We were able to take photographs straddling the northern and southern hemisphere. We flew to the Galapagos Island by charter flight on Sunday. It was a two hour flight from Quito. The Celebrity Xpedition is a 92-passenger vessel. The limit for the Galapagos is 100 passengers. We saw hundreds of marine iguanas, birds and sea lions. There were many firsts. For example, for the first time ever I saw flamingos in flight. Another high-light was visiting the tortoise Rehab center. The ship never moored. Zodiacs take you from the ship to shore. There was usually a long walk and a short walk each day. With the ability to snorkel on some days. All the snorkeling equipment is available. The Zodiacs carry 16 passengers in a group. Each group has a naturalist assigned. The service was outstanding. It was the first time we had tried an all-inclusive cruise and we loved it. Everything was included, meals, drinks, tips once we arrived in Quito. We used airline miles to fly from Miami. There may be a weight limitation, but laptops and camera equipment do not count towards the limit. Bring the best camera with the longest telephoto lens you can afford. I also bought an inexpensive water-proof camera for snorkeling. Bring long sleeve shirts and long pants since the sun is intense near the equator. I am a redhead so I even brought fingerless gloves to cover my hands in addition to head covering. We highly recommend this cruise. We also recommend going at this time of the year since it is still the dry season. There was no rain while we were in the Galapagos and only a short light rain in Quito. We stayed at the Marriott in Quito and visited the Cloud forest when we returned before flying back to Miami. You do have to be in good physical condition. Most of the shore walks were on unimproved paths and trails. If you have not already been to Machu Piccu, would highly recommend taking the combined trip since Machu Piccu, itself, can be seen in one-day.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
Sooooooooo disappointing after booking this cruise 13 months in advance. We departed on December 25 -- yes Christmas Day. We had booked ALL through Celebrity including airfare, transfers, etc. We felt secure knowing that with Celebrity ... Read More
Sooooooooo disappointing after booking this cruise 13 months in advance. We departed on December 25 -- yes Christmas Day. We had booked ALL through Celebrity including airfare, transfers, etc. We felt secure knowing that with Celebrity taking care of all details, everything would go well. NOT. We arrived at 11.35 pm on December 25 (we flew out of Newark, NJ) only to discover that "Celebrity comes in on Friday nights to pick up." Which meant that there was no one there to meet us. We checked our multi-paged itinerary and noted yes they had the flight right; yes it said the time. Yes the check in at JWMARRIOTT is December 26 -- and in 15 more minutes it IS December 26 -- so what happened??? No one knew. A greeter from Azmara got us a cab -- we spoke no Spanish and they didn't speak English -- and suggested we get a receipt. It was $25 and we tipped $2 -- and asked for a receipt. Neither the driver nor the bellman at JWMarriott understood and so we got our bags and went to check in minus the receipt. It's 1:30 a.m. We are told "you are not supposed to check in until 3:00 p.m." and I said, 'Where do you want me to sleep tonight" and the deskclerk insisted i leave my credit card. Done. The next morning we began a horrible, irritating and unnecessarily bureaucratic discussion with ANYONE WHO WOULD LISTEN that we had nothing to do that day, no one picked us up and can ANYONE HELP US get situated.???? No. I called the Royal Caribbean executive offices -- it was a holiday so no one was there. I gave up Christmas Day on the advice of the booking agent that "Quito for two days is a must!!" before we cruised. I called the Emergency line and the only advice they gave me was "too bad you didn't have a receipt for the cab because without it, you won't get reimbursed. Which of course they explained they would Have done! At 7 p.m. on Friday night, the Celebrity supervisor finally talked to us and said they would cover the hotel room the night before; but because we DID NOT MIND THE ACTUAL TIME OF CHECK - IN (3 p.m. on December 26) we were BOTH AT FAULT. So no meals and without the cab receipt? No refund. I was actually so tired and disheartened that I had already given this cruiseline more than $28,000 for the two of us what the hell. They could take their $27 and you know what. We had a good day in Quito. The tour is lovely and the guides are great. We then traveled most of Sunday to get to Baltra to board the ship. NOTE: THIS IS A VERY SMALL SHIP AND IS NOT IN THE LUXURY CLASS OF SHIPS AT ALL. I have cruised almost every line -- and believe me, this was basically a nice small ship that served some good lobster. It was the Holidays but on New Year's Eve they had no party planning at all. All 98 passengers milled around after dinner on the 4th deck -- which was awful -- and had to ask for Champagne at midnight. This was a very mixed crowd. Lots of families -- great -- and all ages. It could have been an amazing trip if the cruise director had planned for it. Monica, the cruise director, listened to no one. Example: I asked her why there were no hats, noisemakers, confetti -- anything -- to celebrate at midnight and she said, "oh your expectations are too high You're thinking we are a Celebrity cruise -- and we are not!" EXACTLY. The excursions are varied for different levels of physicality -- but again, Monica did not describe them well at all. All she needed to do was show photos of the terrain so that we could understand the difference between difficult and easier. When you are not on an excursion, there is nothing to do. Staterooms are very very small -- all on 4th deck were like inside cabins but with a porthole. The suites are better -- 5th and 6th deck -- but with so few, you need to book two years in advance. I wish I had. You feel the ship swaying all the time and had to hang on to the railings to walk safely. Food was good to just OK except for the fresh lobster -- which is amazing. The Naturalists are terrific but you never interact with them except on your excursion. How about our Captain and his executive crew! We never saw him, he never talked to anyone (and I did talk to many passengers about this) at all. We "saw" him at the wrap up "celebration" the night before we disembarked. He and his team were absent and it was so strange that they didn't circulate at all. HERE'S SOMETHING TO NOTE AND BE PREPARED -- We had to be out of our cabins at 8 a.m. on Sunday, January 4 but sat in that ship until 10:30 and then went to the airport where we sat until 6 or 7 p.m. while we waited for the charted plane bringing the new GALAPAGOS passengers to Baltra. The plane was very late; we were all very tired and cranky and those of us who were going to Lima did not get to our hotel until 10:30 p.m. An entire day was wasted traveling. They need two chartered planes -- and at the cost per person for this cruise they need to fix that. Now for the good part -- definitely do the MACHU PICCHU extension option as it was the best part of our trip. The hotels were magnificent -- The Country Club Hotel in Lima; the Monasterio in Coscuo, and the Santuary in Machu Picchu were just to die for. Food? the Best in the world! We loved every minute. The HIRAM BINGHAM (Orient Express) train to Machu Picchu is an experience not to miss. First class and luxury all the way. The guides were terrific and worked with us to make sure everyone was ok and able to continue climbing. We were not troubled by altitude sickness but if you are worried, just keep drinking bottled water and the cocao tea. This is the part of the journey that made up for the disappointing cruise experience. Without Machu Picchu, I would have graded the entire experience a "5 out of 10".   Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
I cruised on Le Boreal as part of a chartered Abercrombie and Kent expedition including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic peninsula in Dec 14/Jan 15. There are many reasons to select Le Boreal/A&K for this ... Read More
I cruised on Le Boreal as part of a chartered Abercrombie and Kent expedition including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic peninsula in Dec 14/Jan 15. There are many reasons to select Le Boreal/A&K for this adventure: * Itinerary: every other expedition in this category and with these stops is 20+ days. This was 17, and was certainly not too short. It hit all the highlights you want to see, and there were plenty of expeditions at each stop. * Expedition staff: A&K gathered an impressive team led by Dr. Marco Favero, and cruise director Jannie Cloete. There were several PhDs, and many other skilled naturalists, photographers and historians. From my research, only Lindblad/Nat Geo can compare with this level of experienced staff. * Ship: Le Boreal is new, clean, and incredibly stylish. The cabins are streamlined but comfortable, and the public spaces are subtly beautiful. Look at the Lindblad/NatGeo ships and you'll see old-fashioned, somewhat hokey interiors. I cannot overstate how nice the ship design is. AND, every single cabin has a balcony, which I found incredibly nice. * The price: Though A&K is by no means known as affordable...the combination of the shorter itinerary and discounts for early bookings resulted in this cruise being several thousand dollars cheaper than the alternatives like Lindblad/NatGeo, SilverSeas, etc. And * The ship staff: service and professionalism was at the highest level. The captain and crew kept the bridge open to visitors daily, and navigated skillfully through heavy and icy seas...often changing course to see whales, add stops to our itineraries, etc. Bar and Restaurant staff...a mix of French and Filipino...was tremendously friendly and offered great personal service. You can read the company websites and brochures for day-by-day detailed itineraries so there is no point in repeating those here. Here are some tips/tricks/observations: * You are at sea for several days at a time with no stops, and there is limited entertainment, so bring books, movies, games, etc. Expedition staff will give lectures that can vary in quality, and there are about 20-25 movies on demand...not alot. The onboard library has a small selection of books, and WiFi is available by satellite, but quite expensive. In short, don't go if you are easily bored and you don't like reading or quiet times. * Food is overall good, but a bit on the French hotel bland side. The weakest areas are proteins...fish and meats usually overcooked. But, over 3 weeks with no stops to resupply there was always great fresh fruit, salads, and vegetables. Soups were good, desserts as well. And, breads and pastries were always consistently excellent. There is a buffet and a sit-down restaurant, and both were open for all meals. Cookies and tea were served in 2 bars off hours. A brief room service menu was available 24x7 when the restaurants were closed for meals. * Packing. Everyone but me seemed to ignore the many warnings to limit baggage to a minimum. There were huge suitcases, and about 1/3 of people had packed suits/ties and cocktail dresses for the welcome reception, xmas dinner, new year's eve, and farewell dinner. On this trip, you could rent boots for the onshore expeditions, and I recommend that option rather than bringing them. * Spa and Fitness Center. The spa was roomy and super comfortable...but I didn't hear anyone rave about the treatments. In France, there are levels of massage...with the highest requiring training and licensing and practiced usually in medical offices This is not what you get on Le Boreal. I heard people say it was usually light Swedish massage that was only passable. I got a facial which I thought was pretty good. The fitness center is nice but VERY small...2 treadmills, 2 bikes and a combination cable/weight machine. The end. It gets understandably crowded. * Getting to the ship from Buenos Aires. A&K arranged airport pickup which was perfect, and overnight stay at the Sofitel in BA. Ask for a high floor with a view...because I was on floor 3 overlooking an airshaft. Have patience during the trip to Ushuaia. A&K screwed up our tickets...we got boarding passes to the NatGeo charter flight...so all info was wrong. We also waiting in the airport for quite a while. I get that its hard to move 200 people around, but things seemed especially slow and ponderous. * When to go. We chose the xmas/new year "family" cruise with A&K...and it was a great choice. The demographic was younger than the usual A&K stuffy and pretentious oldsters...which livened up the mood. There were about 30 kids from 7 to 18...and they were all great.   Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
The Silver Galapagos takes 100 guests and was not full either week of our b2b cruise. Guests fly from either Quito or Guayaquil (Ecuador) on a LAN flight to Baltra, Galapagos which is a five minute coach ride to the tiny pier where zodiacs ... Read More
The Silver Galapagos takes 100 guests and was not full either week of our b2b cruise. Guests fly from either Quito or Guayaquil (Ecuador) on a LAN flight to Baltra, Galapagos which is a five minute coach ride to the tiny pier where zodiacs arrive to take you to the anchored ship in the bay. The officers and crew are by law Ecuadorian and the Naturalists are from the Galapagos, most of them live there so there knowledge is extensive. The cabins compare well to the ships in the main Silversea fleet and were renovated in September 2014. We were on deck 3 which is convenient for the Explorer Lounge (lecture theatre) from where all trips depart. The Main Dining Room is on deck 2, the bar on 4 and the open air grill deck 5. There is a tiny spa, gym and jacuzzi fore on deck 6. Our cabin had a large double bed, a sofa which converts to a bed if needed, a large desk with four electrical plugs, three wardrobes and plenty of drawers for clothes. There is a small fridge which is stocked with whatever you want. The shower room is tiny; about 6 foot by 3 foot and has a half width glass screen which makes keeping the water in the shower a challenge. There is one basin and lots of shelves and a washing line in the shower cubicle. Cabin 340 has three square windows and there is a walkway outside so when the crew are moving forward to the zodiac and kayak storage area curtains need closing. Passengers do not tend to use the walkway much. The food was generally excellent with plentiful fresh fish, lobster most days, excellent meat and a highlight for us was the ceviche (cold soup) at the deck grill at lunch time. We also ate at the grill some evenings when hot rocks are used and you cook your own meat or fish which are served with a baked potato and grilled vegetables. We were not so happy with the breakfast offerings which did not change day to day. Individual orders were taken for eggs and omelettes but the buffet was unexciting and the pastries poor. The bread baked on board was good. The crew are learning fast but often the language barrier led to poor service. We usually received what we wanted but sometimes it took a couple of times of asking. Silversea are working hard to sort this out and a long time Hotel Director has been on board for the past few months to improve staff training. Ecuadorian law only allows staff to be on board for a limited time (6 weeks I believe) before they have a short break. It is a very different system to other ships in the Silversea fleet and one management are adapting to. Generally the ship was a happy one but there is room for improvement. Zodiacs are used for every departure from the ship whether to visit the islands, snorkel, kayak or just go on a zodiac tour. The zodiac drivers and Naturalists made us feel very secure when getting on an off and safety is a priority. The visits were very interesting and we saw all we had hope to and more. Full wetsuits, flippers and snorkel masks are available on board and well organised aft on deck 3. The sights when snorkelling were amazing. We saw turtles, sealions, penguins and myriads of fish at very close quarters and to top it all a white tipped reef shark cruised by 12 feet below us one morning. There is a debrief and information session at 7 pm each evening which is very useful to attend. Disembarkation is by zodiac at 0930 and the flight back to Guayaquil and Quito leaves at about 1 pm. The luggage is taken from outside your cabin at 6 am and you do not need to see it again until your arrival in Ecuador which certainly makes life easy. We would recommend Silver Galapagos to anyone interested in visiting this extraordinary part of the World. It is a very active cruise with three or four included activities every day so a reasonable level of fitness is needed. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
Was worried when I saw that only half (or so) of cruisers liked Silver Galapagos. Then after sailing I realized that's because this ship is not for everyone. Those who have sailed with Silversea need to recognize this is not a typical ... Read More
Was worried when I saw that only half (or so) of cruisers liked Silver Galapagos. Then after sailing I realized that's because this ship is not for everyone. Those who have sailed with Silversea need to recognize this is not a typical SilverSea cruise. Its an expedition in every sense of the word. The expedition guides were amazing. They were patient with their guests and answered all our questions. They moved the groups along and ensured everyone was taken care of. They gently reminded people to remain within the trails and not get too close to the wildlife. This is a very active cruise - but they tell you the night before exactly what to expect for the following day so you can choose your adventure appropriately. The hikes can be very difficult to very easy - you choose. We took advantage of the more strenuous hikes on several occasions and really enjoyed them. They offered kayaking twice and we enjoyed it. Snorkeling was offered almost everyday - both from the beach and from a zodiac for deep water. Do the zodiac! You can read lots online about the Galapagos - so I won't go into too much detail. I'll focus on the cruise portion. The ship was beautiful. They really did a nice job with the renovations. Everything looked new and really couldn't find anything that looked worn. Our cabin (508) was a balcony and it was really nice. Our first thought was it was small - but as the week went on we changed out minds. It was plenty big. Especially as you are so busy you don't spend much time in your cabin. The bathroom had marble counters. There was no separate tub and bath but the shower was large enough with a glass wall. Amenities are 'eco-friendly' - sorry no Bulgari or Ferragamo. Cabin serviced twice a day. Our Butler was the best we've ever had (Alvaro). He made sure we had everything we needed. One night when I was not feeling well, he brought me soup without being asked. Food on the ship was good - not great. They are limited as to what they can get on the ship due to Ecuadorian regulations. Sounds like a scapegoat - but its true. That being said - local seafood was really, really great. Lobster or large prawns everyday at lunch. Dining room was very nice. Service was great. Not a very ornate menu - but always a choice of 3-4 starters and 3-4 mains. Desserts were a letdown. We ate at the the grill for dinner twice. Same experience as other Silversea cruises. For lunch each day we enjoyed the grill outdoors. Small buffet with salad and soup, order main course from a menu (great lobster & shrimp), and a dessert buffet. They offered a fresh ceviche each day. It was amazing. The only thing we can fault here is the pizza. It was the same everyday. It was good but the hawaiian pizza looked amazing like the cheese pizza each day. A lot has been said in previous reviews about the staff and their english skills. We found no issues at all. They did everything they could for you. If they didn't understand something, they would stick with it until they figured it out. The Ecuadorians are friendly people. They engaged in conversation. They ensured you had plenty to eat and drink. You can't expect the same level of service as on other Silversea ships where SS can hire from around the globe. There is a smaller hiring pool for this ship as they all need to be Ecuadorian - but again - could not find any fault with the staff on the ship. After being on the ship for about 2 hours, they referred to us by name and used our names throughout the cruise. They knew where we liked to sit, what we liked to drink, and what we ate the previous day. They were very engaged. If you are going to the Galapagos - this is the ONLY way to do it. We saw other boats and forms of accommodation. Nothing even comes close. Heard from folks who went on the Celebrity ship and they enjoyed it - but by all descriptions - not even close to the SilverSea experience. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
We have just returned from Voyage 8440 and although the Expedition Staff on and off the Silver Galapagos were 10 out of 10, we amongst many of the guests were appalled with the quality of the food and service. The breakfast buffet was of a ... Read More
We have just returned from Voyage 8440 and although the Expedition Staff on and off the Silver Galapagos were 10 out of 10, we amongst many of the guests were appalled with the quality of the food and service. The breakfast buffet was of a very poor quality and variety. Twice I ordered eggs at breakfast and they simply were not delivered, every day the sausages, bacon and scrambled eggs on the buffet were cold, now I don't mean warm or tepid I mean stone cold. At dinner on 3 days running there was no sorbet and on two full days no vanilla ice cream. The head chef stopped by our table and I asked what the problem was with the sorbet and the ice cream and he told us that they had run out and did not have the machinery to produce them - this is frankly absurd, and pathetic for a 'head' chef. The food at dinner was most nights over cooked. On one night I order my steak rare, the first one was well done, so I asked for it as I ordered, so the waiter kindly replaced it with another one also well done, the third one was possibly medium and I frankly just accepted it and didn't bother eating it. The waiters served the rather ordinary wine haphazardly, topping up a half glass of red wine with a totally different wine for example, regularly. The layout and decor of the restaurant is very dull, repressive and refectory like. The piano lounge is just a mess, the lighting is turgid and the furniture and decor smacks of the 1970's. This ambiance, service and food was not what we were expecting from our previous trips on the Silver Explorer. Great expedition, but 3* hotel service. All in all Silversea let is down. On the positive side we came home without putting any weight on. This was not a Silversea as we had come to know it. All the trips to the Galapagos follow the same itinerary, with the same qualified guides, so why we paid a significant premium for substandard service with Silversea is in hindsight extremely disappointing. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
I booked a 14 day classical Greek tour with a 6 day cruise of the Greek Islands with Istanbul and Kusadasi. While the tour was excellant, the Louise Cruise line was horrible. I upgraded my cabin from a standard inside to a standard ... Read More
I booked a 14 day classical Greek tour with a 6 day cruise of the Greek Islands with Istanbul and Kusadasi. While the tour was excellant, the Louise Cruise line was horrible. I upgraded my cabin from a standard inside to a standard outside. I'm a Scuba Diver and slept on metal decks of boats on overnight trips so I figured I was battle hardy. Besides this was listed as a destination ship, but then so was the "African Queen" We were on deck 2 which we shared with the crew. As I was unpacking, I saw a old boat come so close I thought we were going to hit. Wish I could post pictures here because I got a shot of the tire bumpers against the port hole. Then for breakfast the next morning I had cereal because I'm not big on slimy eggs and undercooked bacon. About half way through, I said to my sister, it looks like there are bugs in the cereal. My sister didn't believe me so grabbed the bowl and then said, "Yep, there are antenna." She called the waiter over and he innformed someone else and next we had the head of the kitchen making apologies and saying they would make it up to us. He drew my sister a picture so I guess that was it. Dinner wasn't much better with tough steak and soup that was just gross. The unlimited drink package consisted of watery cokes. I began asking for cans and was told they ran out of coke by the 3rd day. You have to go through a waiter who gives you a receipt and that takes forever. Try to bring your own bottles aboard and skip the package. Trouble is there is no ice. By the second day, we had water coming out of the bathroom floor. Black, moldy, water. A report to the desk was met with, the ship is going into dry dock next month. Repeated complaints finally got us moved up a deck but the A/C wasn't working. Multiple reports to the desk were met with "the engineer is busy writing reports and can't help." I guess so. Judging by my experience and some other people we talked to on deck 2, the ship was leaking. Thank God, we only had 6 days to get through. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
This was our first expedition cruise and our first cruise with Silverseas. We have previously cruised with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Star Clippers. Our favourite (before this one) was the one with Star Clippers. Now ... Read More
This was our first expedition cruise and our first cruise with Silverseas. We have previously cruised with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Star Clippers. Our favourite (before this one) was the one with Star Clippers. Now it's a close run thing!! We have also enjoyed catamaran cruises on 5 -cabin catamarans with Tradewinds, so we do have a tendency to prefer the smaller ship experience. This cruise exceeded my expectations in most aspects. Embarkation was easy and exactly as described. We were met at the airport and taken by coach to the dock where we were issued with life-jackets and taken by zodiacs to the ship. There were minimal delays to this process as there were 4 zodiacs in total and each held about 16 passengers. On boarding the ship, we were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine/champagne and accompanied to our cabins. The cabin (514) was a veranda suite. Silversea call all their cabins 'suites' but in truth, they are much the same size as most other cruise ships we have been on. The exception was the Star Clipper where the cabin was definitely smaller. The Silver Galapagos cabin was possibly a bit wider at the point where the sofa was, and we both agreed that the cabin was the nicest that we had had, but I think it's a bit cheeky calling it a 'suite'. The cabin was extremely well equipped with backpacks and water bottles for both of us to use on the cruise and to keep afterwards, and a pair of binoculars to use on the cruise. The fridge was filled with beers and soft drinks and there were snacks on the side. These were replenished as and when they were used. Our first choice would have been one of the terraced suites (505 and 506) but these were both taken. With hindsight we were pleased about that. The terrace at the front of these is accessible to everyone and we went down and sat on it a couple of times when our balcony was shaded and a bit cool. I think that it was mainly the people in 505 and 506 that used the terrace and it WAS very nicely furnished, but I wouldn't have liked the idea that people could sit right outside my cabin, and in fact, it did seem to always be a bit too windy on that spot. We also considered the deluxe veranda suites as these weren't selling at a huge premium when we booked. I think they did have very slightly bigger balconies but we had the advantage of being on a higher deck with easy access to the front terrace and the grill bar, so we actually decided that we were very happy with our decision to stick with the standard veranda suite. If I was booking again and had the choice of ANY cabin, I'd opt for any of the veranda suites on the same side as we were. I liked our side of the ship because we often seemed to be looking at the sunsets but I don't know if the ship always ends up in the same spots. Maybe we were just lucky!! I LOVED having a balcony and we actually used it more than I thought we would on this trip - especially in the gap between excursions (usually between about 12 and 3.30 when the ship was moving) and then again when we came back from the 2nd excursion and just before the evening briefing and dinner. The food on the ship was very good, and better than I expected after reading about the inferior quality of meats in the Galapagos. Breakfast was a standard buffet, typical of what you would find in a large hotel. We usually ate lunch on the grill deck where there was a soup and salad buffet and a choice of various dishes cooked to order. There was ALWAYS lobster on the menu there and people seemed to love it though I'm not a big lobster fan. We did eat lunch once in the restaurant on Deck 2 and found that to also be very good with a wider choice than upstairs and it was again buffet style. We always ate dinner in the restaurant and never had a bad meal. Portions were not large but there were plenty of courses if you wished to have them and lots of people did! Apparently the stone grill on deck was quite fun but we didn't try it as we found it a bit cold on deck in the evenings. But we spoke to people who did and they said that the food was great. Possibly the worst thing about the ship was the service in the dining room and in the cabins. The staff were very friendly but really still need to get up to speed with providing the standard of service that people seem to expect on Silverseas. This didn't particularly bother us but there were often mistakes made. On the one and only time when we ordered room service, we asked for afternoon tea on our balcony. They serve afternoon tea in the piano bar and this consists of little sandwiches, pastries and cakes. Our tray arrived with a pot of hot water, 2 cups and a tea-bag!! Not even milk or sugar!! When I was disappointed the steward went off and came back with 2 sandwiches so I went down to the piano bar and got it myself! But if the dining staff were not up to scratch, the naturalist guides more than made up for them! They were excellent! We had been a bit concerned about going on one of the bigger ships in the Galapagos but we needn't have worried. Each guide is not allowed to take more than 16 people but Silverseas employ about 8 guides and we didn't ever go in a group with more than about 12 people. All of them seemed to be well qualified and were very knowledgeable and we didn't ever hear any complaints about any of them. In fact, we learned that one of the guides had even worked on a David Attenborough tv production. Our favourite was Juan Carlos who had been guiding for almost 40 years! The ship's crew also seemed to be very efficient and very friendly and helpful. On each day, there would be 2 stops and at each stop there was usually a choice of activity. Activities included nature treks, snorkeling, kayaking, glass bottom boat rides or zodiac excursions. On 3 of the stops there were minibuses to take people to, for example, the tortoise breeding centre. On 2 of the stops there were opportunities to do some shopping in the towns on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. My husband's only complaint about the activities was they were not energetic enough! He is a bit of a fitness fanatic and he felt that he didn't get enough exercise on this holiday. It is true that they tended to exaggerate how strenuous the treks would be. In reality they were a bit of a dawdle as there is obviously a lot of stopping to look at things. There was only one fairly energetic hike but even that did not go far and was much shorter than they originally said. I guess they have to anticipate that some people will be a lot slower than on our particular cruise! We did enjoy the kayaking but that was only offered twice and was over-subscribed so difficult to get a place. To be fair to Silverseas, when they saw this they immediately organised another opportunity, but we would have liked even more of this. The nature treks were excellent and obviously the main focus of the cruise. However, I have to say that by the time we had got to the end of the week, we had seen enough boobies, marine iguanas and sea-lions!! Another example of the staff responding to our individual needs was when we stopped at San Cristobal, the advertised activity was a minibus visit to the tortoise breeding centre. I had already visited one of these as we spent a week in the islands before the cruise, so I asked if there would be much point in going on this excursion. The guide I spoke to advised that it probably wouldn't. However, she immediately suggested that we could join another couple on a trip to the Interpretation Centre. They were organising that for the other couple because they were on a back-to-back and would also have been repeating the visit. We were most impressed with this. Disembarkation was as efficient as embarkation. Bags had to be packed by 6 am and they were then taken to the airport and even checked in for us. We left the ship at around 9.30 for a 12.45 flight. We were issued with our boarding passes at the airport and then given use of a special VIP lounge where there were free refreshments. Really most impressive! To summarise, I think that Silverseas have done a great job with their cruise offering in the Galapagos. I would highly recommend them and would definitely consider more of their expeditions. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
We booked a 10 day cruise with PG because the itinerary was the most extensive one we found. Seven islands and some multiple day stays on some islands. It was a specially arranged cruise for cruisers who are repeat customers of the Paul ... Read More
We booked a 10 day cruise with PG because the itinerary was the most extensive one we found. Seven islands and some multiple day stays on some islands. It was a specially arranged cruise for cruisers who are repeat customers of the Paul Gauguin, but it was not limited to just those folks. One stop (Maupiti) had to be missed because of sea conditions were too rough for the tender to safely land. That gave us more time in Bora Bora and that was a spectacular location to spend more time. THE FOOD: With our experience of cruising on luxury ships (including Crystal), we were most favorably impressed by the performance of this crew and staff. The food in the main diming room, l'Etoile. is exquisite. It is only open for dinner service and requires no reservation with open seating. The menu has 3-4 choices for every course and the menu changes every day. The 4-8 wines are chosen by the staff each day and poured at all the restaurants throughout the day. The dinner menus at the two other restaurants (Le Grill and La Veranda) change once per week. Having dinner at those smaller restaurants (with limited seating) requires reservations which are made on board 1-4 days in advance with the maître d' of that particular location. The dinner menus at those two other places are different from the main dining room. Breakfast and lunch are served at Le Grill and La Veranda as buffet, but you can also order menu items if buffet is not your idea of how to eat. THE SHIP: Immaculate and beautiful. Well appointed rooms even at the lowest price level. Great public areas and roomy. Good distribution of bars. La Palette on the stern of the ship is a favorite. Elevators are fast. THE CREW: Within two days of bordering, every maître d', server, waiter, sommelier and bartender was calling us by our first names. The head waiter would direct us to the section of the restaurant we preferred to be seated and the sommelier would greet us and ask which wine we would prefer for that meal. The bartenders knew which drinks we preferred for daytime, pre-dinner and after dinner. How they remember all that information is impressive. All the staff who interface with guests are superior in their courtesy and ability to communicate. This is the first time in over a dozen cruises, we have felt that the crew was actually a team and had a good game plan. No crew member on the ship ever ignored us or gave us the impression they weren't able to help us. When is was not their area of responsibility, they quickly found the person or called them to address us. The staff took responsibilities beyond their assigned duties and for that they are to be commended. THE VOYAGE: It is French Polynesia - enough said.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2014
We have traveled quite a bit but this was our first Riverboat Cruise! It was a wonderful experience and a great way to some of European cities we hear so much about plus some smaller towns that you don't hear so much about. The ... Read More
We have traveled quite a bit but this was our first Riverboat Cruise! It was a wonderful experience and a great way to some of European cities we hear so much about plus some smaller towns that you don't hear so much about. The service, the food, to cabin, and the excursions were all well thought out and executed. We had lovely weather which allowed us to enjoy the upper deck a lot! So nice to be floating along just enjoying the scenery for awhile and then exploring a town without having to pack and unpack or figure out where to eat that day! The locks were interesting to experience and see and the captain and his crew have our utmost respect. We would highly recommend Viking! My only suggestion is to offer bike riding along the Danube as an excursion. We saw folks gathering for a ride while walking to the bus for one of our excursions. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
My husband enjoyed our amazing vacation on the expedition ship, Silver Galapagos. This was not a relaxing luxury vacation and we knew this when we planned our adventure. Adventure is the key experience we were seeking and an adventure was ... Read More
My husband enjoyed our amazing vacation on the expedition ship, Silver Galapagos. This was not a relaxing luxury vacation and we knew this when we planned our adventure. Adventure is the key experience we were seeking and an adventure was what we got. The ship was beautiful and the staff was very accommodating. Requests were met with the response "it would be my pleasure." and the request was granted promptly. I experienced no issue with communication. The crew spoke English much better than I speak Spanish. Each evening the expedition staff would conduct a briefing of the next days itinerary that included a thorough explanation and pictures of the trails we could hike and the wild life we would see. Most days an easy and a strenuous hike would be offered as well as deep water or beach snorkeling and kayaking. Snorkeling equipment included wet suites. Every day we saw a wide variety of birds, fish, amphibians as well as insects. The variety was amazing. We saw, tortoise, land and sea iguanas, sea lions,a huge variety of birds including the Blue/Red Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, Darwin's finches, mocking birds and the huge Waved Albatross. A memory I will never forget is snorkeling above a hammer head shark....Priceless!!! The expedition team kept us all safe and ensured that we did not violate rules that protect the fragile environment and wildlife. The cruise director Israel and Brad the naturalists insured that all guests were well informed and educated about all the Galapagos has to offer. They were very knowledgeable, personable and enthusiastic. All scheduled activities were punctual, organized and safe. The zodiac captains were well trained and skilled in maneuvering the boats with the currents and rocks as challenges in navigation. We visited two sights a day and by 7PM we could not keep our eyes opened but did not miss a delicious meals. I went to bed after dinner and my husband enjoyed listening and playing the piano with the piano player. The food was delicious, fresh and ample. Drinks are complimentary and there was a large selection. I enjoyed the passion fruit margarita. The ship was clean and our cabin was well maintained. The air-conditioner worked great. My husband likes it cold so I needed an extra blanket. The ship is now in dry dock for a face lift so I will not spend time on the cosmetics of the ship. I recommend this cruise to anyone wanting a true adventure. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
We cruised on Lord of the Glens as part of a National Geographic Expedition, and we would travel again in a heartbeat on this wonderful ship. The ship is stylish and elegant, without being stuffy. Polished brass and wooden fixtures ... Read More
We cruised on Lord of the Glens as part of a National Geographic Expedition, and we would travel again in a heartbeat on this wonderful ship. The ship is stylish and elegant, without being stuffy. Polished brass and wooden fixtures recreate the by-gone days of cruising. There is ample public space for everyone to have a comfy spot (and, since the weather on many days was a bit damp, those spaces were well-used.) When the sun was out (and even when it wasn't), many passengers enjoyed time viewing the scenery from the teak decks. Our cabin was on the Alexander Graham Bell deck and, contrary to what I was expecting based on other reviews, the cabin was spacious, the bathroom was more than adequate, and we had absolutely no problem storing our luggage either in the closet or under the bed. The breakfast options were ample and satisfying. In addition to the buffet, guests had the option to order off the menu. Passengers sign up for their lunches and dinners in the morning. There were always several interesting dishes, thus making it often hard to choose. You had all day to anticipate a good meal, and that the service at mealtime was prompt and efficient. Bar service was terrific and you were encouraged to order your dinner drinks/wine ahead of time. Again, that made for very prompt service. The entire hotel staff, under Brian's capable and gregarious direction, were courteous and very friendly. The ship's company and crew were professional, and the captain was often about, mingling with the guests. It was a real pleasure watching him exercise his ship-driving skills through those narrow canals. We loved every moment aboard Lord of the Glens.   Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
Others have done a _wonderful_ job of reviewing this cruise and their advice was very useful in letting us know what to expect. I'll just add things that either weren't mentioned or I would have preferred more emphasis on (or ... Read More
Others have done a _wonderful_ job of reviewing this cruise and their advice was very useful in letting us know what to expect. I'll just add things that either weren't mentioned or I would have preferred more emphasis on (or perhaps I just dismissed to quickly)... My wife and I sailed the "Outer Loop "B" cruise at the end of August 2014. It was our 4th cruise and was very different from any of the other "big box" cruises we'd done (Celebrity to Caribbean and Alaska, Royal Caribbean to Caribbean). We are both 50 and there were perhaps 5 other couples and a few singles traveling with their parents younger. Everyone else was older with an average age of late 60’s (?). But the average health/fitness was definitely better than other cruises we've been on (especially Alaska which had a lot of scooters). We did the "10-day package" with Celebrity. That means we flew into Quito, Ecuador with a few days cushion on either side of the cruise and the charter flight to Galapagos was included. It made the logistics a breeze and we’re VERY glad we went with that option. Remember the airport in Quito is an hour outside the main city so it’s not a small consideration to handle the transportation yourself – much less the flight to the islands. Celebrity has been doing this trip for 10 years and it shows in how smooth everything runs. The Marriott in Quito was very, very nice. Not “great” or “luxurious”, but would certainly fit in at any major city in the world - other than not being able to drink the water… ;) But seriously, it was really nice and Celebrity (and the hotel) are really, REALLY good about making sure you have plenty of bottled water. The breakfast buffets were very nice – I can’t really think of anything I could ask more for all things considered. BE SURE TO GET THE HOT CHOCOLATE AT BREAKFAST IN THE HOTEL! The evening dinners and lunch covered by Celebrity were also very nice. What you’d expect from a Celebrity trip. The hotel gym was quite acceptable – one of the nicer hotel gyms I've used. Though a decent workout for me was virtually impossible due to the altitude. I had a minor headache most of the time, and so did others. Not so bad it was worth taking meds to avoid…? Free wifi was available for two hours per day in the hotel lobby. If you have the juice, you get upgraded by Marriott and they have free wifi in the VIP suite on the 9th floor – along with free beer/wine/food. I’m not sure if you can pay for the upgrade, but I’m not sure it would be worth it for most people. You’re not really in the room that long anyway. The first day’s touring in Quito was a couple of churches and the Equatorial Monument. The churches were… well… fancy catholic churches. Unusual in that they were usually made of lava stone (!) but incredibly intricate and detailed/gold on the inside. Maybe a bigger deal if you’re Catholic… Worth paying the couple bucks to take pictures inside the first? I suppose. You’re there anyway… but I don’t think those are pictures I’m going to be showing off to friends from this trip… ;) Lunch was good but our “singer” was a young woman doing show tunes and opera. Too loud and too intimate to talk during the singing and, if you’re not into that music, might as well eat quickly and go outside. Or eat on the outdoor balcony and you’d probably feel more comfortable chatting. I’m confused why they don’t take this opportunity to highlight music of the region, but I’m not in charge (says my wife. Regularly). The food was nice. Knowledge that the Equatorial Monument/Site was not using the actual line really puts a damper on the whole thing. It would be a pretty cool location otherwise. You literally can’t get to the line from the site since it’s in a dry river bed that’s fenced off… But hey… you’re here anyway, so just go and check it out. Just driving around in the city can be educational, so “take it for what it’s worth”. The trip to the airport, handling the luggage, charter flight to Galapagos, all that. Super well handled by Celebrity. Your vacation really does start when they meet you in the airport the first night. On landing in Baltra, you’re pretty much hustled right through Customs and onto the ship. Remember, from this point forward, no point in trying to be “in the front of the line.” You’re all going to get “there” at the same time for the next week. So just relax and look for bottled water… ;) The crew on the ship deserve a big tip of the hat. Others have said it and I agree. They really do treat you on a personal/friendly level. Probably possible since the ship is so small, but don’t be surprised if the bartenders AND waiters figure out what you like to drink after a few days. And speaking of drinks, top notch with as much as you’d like. Drink specials for fun on some of the days, but they were extremely generous with the pours. Maybe being from Northern California, we are a bit spoiled with wine varieties and I wasn't a big fan of what they served – “drinkable” certainly, but no new favorites discovered. Celebrity makes a point of highlighting the rigorous requirements of this cruise, and the naturalists are very up front about what is required, but they still end up with people over-estimating their abilities and either having to turn back or really, REALLY slowing down the entire group. I kept trying to figure out a “fitness test” you might be able to use to give you (the Cruise Critic reader) an idea of what level is required. The best I can think of: if you can get into the back of a pickup and stand up in the bed without using your hands – or climb a 6 foot ladder with no hands, you’re going to be TOTALLY fine with doing the long hikes/walks everywhere. You can pretty much dismiss their warning when they describe the landings or walks as “strenuous”. If you need one hand to do either of those things, you’ll probably be OK, but might consider the shorter walks on the rough lava – especially the one(s) with slipper/mossy lava. If you NEED both hands to get into the truck bed or climb the ladder, you should probably do only the short walks. And if you can’t get into a truck bed by yourself and you can’t climb a ladder, this is probably not a cruise for you… ;) Because if you can’t get into and out of the zodiacs (they never called them “pangas” around us…?), and have balance issues, you’re not going to be able to make it on the excursions. AND IF YOU’RE NOT GOING ON THE EXCURSIONS, YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME AND MONEY ON THIS CRUISE. You should make a point to go on EVERY excursion! Many people skipped the final “deep water” snorkeling because we were told the water would be colder than the morning’s dive (which was 60 degrees) and you’d only see “more turtles”. It turned out to be warmer (almost irrelevant anyway), but there were literally SCORES of turtles. Truly the best dive of the trip and those that passed on it kicked themselves. Do EVERY excursion! Also, if you've not done any snorkeling, try to get some practice in before the trip. The “deep water” snorkeling was usually quite a bit better. By “deep” they mean 10’ to 30’, but there’s no place to stand up – so you go into and out of the water straight from the zodiacs. Also – the long walks did have viewings of different items (not always), but so long as you can handle it (see fitness issues above), there’s no reason you shouldn't go. They typically say one is 60 minutes and one is 90 minutes, but the pace is generally pretty slow and most of the time is spent watching/picture taking. None of them were a grueling death-march. And the more time you spend walking or snorkeling, the more likely you are to see “stuff”. As for pictures – we brought one “good” DSLR type camera and my wife used that on the excursions. 200 mm zoom seemed fine and I agree with other posters it would be tough to swap lenses while walking. She got an “over-the-shoulder” type sling which worked great. She transported the camera to shore in a neoprene cover inside a waterproof sack during the zodiac rides. Worked fine and there ARE occasional “rogue” waves that will drench you water. And I do mean _drench_ you, so consider carefully if you’re going to have your camera out in the open during the zodiac rides. I only saw a few of those drenchings, but if you go with a zip-lock bag, it better be zipped shut! I carried an iPhone while on the walks. Primarily in case something “bad” happened to the main camera or its memory cards (lost, failure, stolen, etc.) we’d have some pictures _AND_ the iPhone worked great to get short movies. I did a number of shots while walking through and over the animals and those really gave a great sense of what the experience was like. We got a little $6 waterproof bag/envelope for the phone on the zodiac rides. The gift shop on the ship had batteries and extra memory cards. You should probably plan on bringing in around 100 Gb range if you store shots in RAW format. We also had a GoPro. We got some great for shots with turtles, penguins, sea lions, iguanas, and cormorants. If you have access to one, bring it. The Outer Loop had a hand full of "wet landings", but they were all on sandy beaches. We bought the "water shoes" mentioned by everyone, but after the first landing (and checking with them), I just wore flip flops until it was time to jump into the water, then changed into hiking shoes on the beach. Those that wore the water shoes during the walks were probably wishing they didn't have shoes full of sand... I know I don't find the water shoes very comfortable for walking normally, much less after splashing through the sand. I could have saved the money on the water shoes... And speaking of shoes, if you’re in decent shape you really only need “good walking shoes”. “Hiking boots” are just not needed. There were several islands that included walking over very rough lava (ie, you had to watch EACH FOOT as you stepped and couldn't look up while walking). But those were the only times I saw the naturalists wearing anything other than crocs. ;) Our naturalist was actually barefoot on one of the other islands. So just a pair of good tennis shoes would probably be fine if you don’t already have low hiking shoes. Weather while there was in the low 70’s with humidity in the upper 50’s. Light breeze and partly cloudy. Perfect. Shorts on the islands would have worked fine the whole time. Speaking with the naturalists, April is their favorite time. Water is quite a bit warmer and there is a lot more “sexy sexy” time going on with the animals around then. The hot tub on the ship was really a “very warm” tub, but great after the couple of colder snorkeling trips. Other than that we didn't use it (nor did I see it in use, but it’s on the sixth deck so… not much up there anyways. THE GYM! I could find very little information on the gym. I would have taken a picture to post, but it doesn't need that much information. It’s the size of a small cabin with a treadmill, stair-stepper, and a stationary bike. There’s also a set of dumbbells that goes up to… wait for it… 12 whole pounds. Considering you’re spending your days doing (modest) hikes, the aerobic equipment seems redundant. And with nothing other than light dumbbells, the gym is completely useless. I imagine few of the passengers ever use a gym, but I do work out regularly and would have liked a LITTLE more so I could have done more than body weight exercises. Also – no place on the ship to even do pull ups… I looked all over and asked several crew members (apparently I was the first one to ask…). So do NOT plan to get any sort of working out done – other than walking and body weight type stuff. Deck 4 was “the place to be”. Any other deck and you’re going to be going up and down stairs a lot. The bar on deck 5 was not open once while we were there (though another passenger (Paul!) did succeed in magically calling waiters up to us). One of the crew said they’d never seen the deck 5 bar in use, so don’t plan on getting a room on 5 thinking you’re going to hang out there. Actually decks 5 and 6 had seating areas you could hang out on in peace. Unfortunately the ship is too bright to see much in the way of stars… : ( We did the bridge tour. Can't do it until the third day of the cruise, but worth the 20 or 30 minutes as you learn a lot about the ship and specifics to sailing in these islands. Ask shortly after going on board to get a spot early on. People keep mentioning the anchor dropping - I'm pretty sure you hear it on the ENTIRE ship, so don't avoid a room towards the bow just because of that. BTW, they deliberately avoid dropping anchor before 7:00 am on purpose. You're probably going to want to get up then anyway. And yes, the boat does rock. I didn't hear of anyone getting sick from it, but I did notice a few passengers with patches and bands. If you're prone to sea sickness, bring the appropriate drugs/straps, but it's not so excessive as to be annoying. There was a single under 18 year old on the cruise. She was an exceptionally well-behaved young lady traveling with both parents, but she didn't have any "non-adult" company. Be sure that's OK if you're bringing someone younger with you. Most passengers definitely took advantage of the "all-inclusive" alcohol. While almost everyone was drinking, almost everyone is conscious of the early morning required tomorrow and didn't get too wild. Most were in bed by 10 pm so I never noticed anyone getting out of hand. I brought a couple books with me (I’m an avid reader). I read exactly ZERO books while on the trip. So take even fewer books than you were planning. Maybe one, just in case or for the plane ride? The schedule revolves around eating, getting ready for/doing excursions, more eating and perhaps socializing after dinner. There really wasn't much in the way of down time unless you deliberately chose to hang in your cabin. Or sneak in a nap after lunch. Room on deck 4 was very nice. Not quite as large as those we've had on the "big ships", but perfectly acceptable. The bathroom and shower did seem a little smaller (and the room's ceiling was a bit lower?), but otherwise fine. One item to note: the bathroom floor is raised about 8 inches which means anyone over 6'4" is going to be bending over a bit in the shower. I'm 6' but didn't have any problems with the height. When leaving Galapagos, at the airport, we had about 2 hours of waiting time. There were a number of shops inside the airport before the security check-in. A few higher end with Panama hats, chocolate, etc. But they also had a number (dozen or so?) that were just like the shops we’d seen on Santa Cruz Island. And pretty much exactly the same stuff for the same prices. So you will have PLENTY of time to get shirts, etc. there if you want. Otherwise it was the longest/boringest downtime in the trip. A note on the shopping on Santa Cruz Island (for the “Outer Loop” trip). That did seem to be the only place to buy decent jewelry without spending a crazy amount of money. The t-shirts, bags, etc. were almost ALL the same and the same price everywhere – including the airport. Don’t really need to bother going in all the shops. Really, you don’t need to bother. Spend the time just wandering around a bit instead. Don’t miss the open air “fish market” with the resident sea lions. On the return day (Sunday) after we got back to Quito, they took us to a “cheap” market area for 30 minutes (on Washington near Amazon Ave). There were dozens of tiny stalls – almost all selling the same thing (shirts, scarves, blankets, hats, etc). All were about the same price and the quality was pretty good considering the prices. Though do pay attention to the t-shirt quality, not all were the same. Shirts here were almost exactly the same as we’d seen elsewhere, but only $5 to $6 – instead of $15 to $18 on Santa Cruz and the airport. If you want to get a lot of shirts (even ones that say “Galapagos” on them), this is the place. Panama hats were $15 to $18. 30 minutes wasn’t long enough and we ended up walking back the next day. Staying on the main roads and it was perfectly safe during the day. Just be careful crossing the streets as pedestrians do NOT get much respect… ;) Later we were then taken to a “fancy” shop for about 30 minutes. VERY nice stuff, but pretty darned expensive to. If it’s in your budget, you’ll probably want something out of here. Celebrity handled dinner Sunday night. We were told no alcohol is sold ANYWHERE in Ecuador on Sundays, but other tables eating a little later than us DID get wine… be sure to ask about that. On the last day we paid $45 for a late 6 pm checkout which meant we had a 2 hour wait in the lobby for our bus. 2 hours in the lobby was fine. They do have some limited shopping options in the hotel, but I’d recommend doing the airport (unless you need to get some jewelry). The late check-out was WELL worth it since we were able to relax that day. We walked the city back to the market, got some food, worked out, swam a bit, napped, showered, and prepped for a long night of traveling. Of the many people I've spoken to that have done a lot of traveling, this trip ranks right up there as a tie/second place with an African safari. Nothing else tops it and the Celebrity option turned out to be great. Worth the money? I’d say it’s priced about right.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
My husband and I are not cruise people but this one ticked all our boxes. A small boat with only 60 passengers but very comfortable with great food, a fabulous crew and lots of interesting excursions. We enjoyed getting out into the ... Read More
My husband and I are not cruise people but this one ticked all our boxes. A small boat with only 60 passengers but very comfortable with great food, a fabulous crew and lots of interesting excursions. We enjoyed getting out into the Alaskan wilderness but it was made so much better by the young, energetic guides who were extremely knowledgeable but obviously loved their job too. The whole crew worked so hard at making sure that we were looked after 24/7. We saw glaciers calving; salmon running; bears feeding; and the whales! Everything was great from beginning to end. I supposed it helped that the weather was magnificent but even apart from that we're sure it would still have been lots of fun. Met some great people and really enjoyed every minute. Plenty of time to relax if you wanted to but also lots of trips onto the mainland or kayaks to really do some exploring. 5/5 from us for everything.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
The Safari Quest and its crew are top notch in every respect. I have never experienced more competent, capable, friendly, and helpful people as this crew. They made this adventure fun and interesting. The boat has a capacity of 22, but we ... Read More
The Safari Quest and its crew are top notch in every respect. I have never experienced more competent, capable, friendly, and helpful people as this crew. They made this adventure fun and interesting. The boat has a capacity of 22, but we had 13 guests. Rooms are comfortable, if small, but small is to be expected at sea. Food was absolutely outstanding. Every dinner had a choice of seafood or meat, with plenty of alternatives for vegetarians. Dungeness crab, one night, was outstanding. Another night, we had short ribs that the chef had braised overnight for 8 hours. Best I had ever eaten. Both my wife and I ate fish or seafood most nights (and she is not a fish fan). Day trips were wonderful. We visited many glaciers, saw lots of bear, seals, sea lions, sea otters, etc. I kayaked for the first time in my life. We had a National Park Service Guide on the boat for several days in Glacier Bay. She knew her stuff and was able in to communicate facts while keeping it interesting. We saw more humpbacks than I could have imagined. They seemed to cavort just for us. That was a highlight. Nice cabin. Small, as is to be expected, shipboard. Queen bed. Bathroom is small but functional. Shower (no tub) works well. Only downside is that cabin is next to galley and one or two mornings we heard galley noise around 6. Chef commmented to us that he made efforts to be quiet in the AM, but sometimes stuff happens. I think the room was better than those below, if not as nice as the 4 A deck rooms, which have sliding glass doors that open to the sea air and more storage space. Un-Cruise, the "cruise" line, is outstanding. I would try any of their boats. The owner came aboard one night, and the obvious rapport between him and the whole crew was something to behold. He is sincere and committed to the environment. His employees are dedicated to making a trip a true pleasure. This was the trip of a lifetime. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
* The Jewel: Not that old of a ship, but seems a bit old/dated. Caribbean colors & theme throughout (sails there in winter) which didn't quite get us in the mindset for Alaska. One thing I really missed was a quiet, ... Read More
* The Jewel: Not that old of a ship, but seems a bit old/dated. Caribbean colors & theme throughout (sails there in winter) which didn't quite get us in the mindset for Alaska. One thing I really missed was a quiet, 'common' inside area with comfortable seating to enjoy the views. Restaurants have peripheral windows if you are lucky to score one when dining, the buffet has a wall of windows, as does the Irish Pub. Magnum's has windows, but for some reason, the decorator decided to make high backs on the (very uncomfortable) benches so if you are sitting in one of the chairs opposite the bench, all you see is sky. One quiet place with a view is the library, but sssshhhh, must be quiet so this isn’t the place to gather for a nice, relaxing conversation with a fellow traveler. And it was always full...wonder why? Guess others wanted a quiet space apart from the bars! So, if you aren't eating in a restaurant/buffet, go outside, but the chairs aren’t too comfy. I think the ship could benefit by having groupings of comfortable seating with a view where one could read, enjoy a coffee or drink, without having to go to a bar or restaurant. RCL had this & it was really nice. The mustering exercise was useless. RCL’s was top-notch. * Freestyle dining: NCL makes it sound so great, but everyone tends to want to eat at the same time so why not have assigned seating times to avoid rush times, relieve stress off the staff, etc.? Service staff friendly, but service is definitely slower during peak times. Plus, the atmosphere & ambience is so relaxed it seems to diminish the 'specialness' of cruising. Even though NCL pushes 'freestyle', & they have an 'optional' dress-up night, we saw a number of couples/families/individuals dressed up every evening. I think when people decide to go on a cruise, they want to dress up. We decided we weren't a fan of the freestyle dining. * Restaurants w/surcharges: If you prefer dining in a more refined & quiet atmosphere, without a bunch of little ones running around, this may be a great option. These 'upscale' restaurants have a suggested dress code, but we never witnessed it being enforced so why have it? Baseball caps & flip-flops kind of ruin the ambience. In the end, it still rankles me that these options have a cover charge on top of the cost of the cruise itself. Perhaps all cruise lines do this these days?? * Food: HUGE disappointment. Average & sub-average are the best descriptors. Very institutional. I did expect (hope?) that on an Alaskan cruise, they would offer indigenous seafood ie. Salmon, halibut, king crab (the salmon offered was Atlantic salmon) but to no avail. Buffet is great if you want lots of options; wonderful for kids, teens & people who just have to have piles of food. We only did lunch here; the soups were consistently awful. Salad bar was passable. B-fast in Tsar's was consistently good. Tried the Irish pub for b-fast one day & lunch the day we boarded - ick. Avoid this place. And no Irish beer in an Irish pub?? Open dining rooms had a few items that changed daily, majority of the menu remained the same. Ho hum. Beware of the descriptions: Cherries Jubilee is nothing but vanilla ice cream with canned cherries (pie filling?) on top. Option: hit the paid dining restaurants for dinner. Quite a clever plan on NCL's part. Based on previous cruise experience, we opted not to purchase the paid restaurant dining package because cruise ships are known for their awesome food. Mistake. We ate at the French, Brazilian, and Japanese restaurants, with the best of those being the French Le Bistro. Food beautifully presented and prepared. Japanese (Benihana-style) was least favorite. Miso soup horrible, main meats overcooked, green tea dessert was yucky. Brazilian food decent, many options. None of the paid restaurants we went to rose to the standards of fine dining or what you think of when thinking of dining on a cruise ship. Good, certainly better than the buffet, but wonderful and delicious? Nope. If I went to them in my hometown, I wouldn't return. On RCL, I remember having wonderful midnight food buffets with beautiful fruit displays and carvings - nothing like that here. Also, restaurants have limited hours. Judging from other online reviews, it seems NCL is gaining a reputation for sub-par food. * Staff & service: This is where the Jewel shines. Friendly, helpful, knowledgeable. Waitress in Le Bistro said she had been w/NCL 13 years; that says a lot about the organization. *Final thoughts: Alaska is beautiful, people we talked with in shops & tour guides/leaders were very friendly & welcoming. The Jewel was very disappointing, average. You can't put a price on memories, but our experience on board the Jewel did not provide a good return on investment. We will not sail NCL again. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
I read all of the reviews of this ship and i just don´t understand why the reviews aren´t higher than they are. The exhibition team was just fabulous. They were knowledgeable, patient, and really knew their stuff and made it fun, ... Read More
I read all of the reviews of this ship and i just don´t understand why the reviews aren´t higher than they are. The exhibition team was just fabulous. They were knowledgeable, patient, and really knew their stuff and made it fun, answering all questions along the way. There were lectures the day before so you knew what to expect and could choose the excursión level that suited you. All excursions are included in the Price, as is tip and liquor. Although we were with several different guides, I felt that each knew my name after the first day. All staff members made a huge effort to know each person´s name. Before the cruise, I filled out information about myself. When i arrived, there was a note in my cabin that the maitre di, Ramón, wanted to meet with me to discuss my dietary restrictions. I was so impressed. I do not like seafood and he came up to me at every buffet to let me know which ítems had seafood and when my chicken was on the grill, he made sure it wasn´t near any seafood. He was so attentive and accommodating. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
Visiting the Galapagos was at the top of my bucket list, and this cruise was a dream come true. We got a chance to see all the wildlife we'd hoped for, plus more. The onboard naturalists did an excellent job of letting us know what to ... Read More
Visiting the Galapagos was at the top of my bucket list, and this cruise was a dream come true. We got a chance to see all the wildlife we'd hoped for, plus more. The onboard naturalists did an excellent job of letting us know what to expect and guiding us on our shore expeditions. The all-Ecuadorian staff provided gracious hospitality, especially Ramon, the maitre d' who seemed to be everywhere, making sure everyone had an excellent dining experience. The ship was small enough so that the staff all knew our names and preferences. I expected an older crowd, but there were a lot of young families on this cruise. To fully enjoy a voyage like this one, you must be fit; all shore excursions and even embarkation/disembarkation were by Zodiac. Landings ashore were sometimes in water or on rocky coastline. The Zodiac crew and expedition team did a great job of ensuring everyone's safety, despite some rough seas one day. The days were filled with activities, so there wasn't much time to enjoy onboard amenities like the gym and hot tub. We usually had hikes in the morning and afternoon, as well as optional snorkeling and kayaking. We visited three different turtle reserves and two small island towns. We also had several excellent lectures to enrich our experience. Silversea provided snorkeling gear, wet suits, and even binoculars! I understand that because of our location, the food was not the usual fare of Silversea. But we had the opportunity to try lots of local cuisine and South American wines, as well as excellent seafood. Lobster was on the menu every day, both at lunch and dinner! Overall, we had a fantastic experience, and I recommend it highly. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
Before I launch into an “ Oh my god – it was wonderful! “ style review, I would like to offer a brief back ground detailing how I eventually ended up on this truly fabulous cruise. Two years ago I decided that for my birthday I ... Read More
Before I launch into an “ Oh my god – it was wonderful! “ style review, I would like to offer a brief back ground detailing how I eventually ended up on this truly fabulous cruise. Two years ago I decided that for my birthday I wanted to go whale watching; also I have always wanted to visit Alaska having seen the documentaries and been in awe of the place, so I started a search to see whether it was possible to do both at the same time. I didn’t know exactly what I did want, but I knew exactly what I didn’t want. The thought of a large cruise ship with thousands of people on board stopping for shopping in ports at every available opportunity, having to fight my way through crowds to get anywhere, and having to dress up for dinner made me feel nauseous. A few years ago my boss went on a small ship cruise to Baha to see grey whales, and I knew this was the type of thing that I would be comfortable with, so the search began and I narrowed it down to four companies, but eventually chose Uncruise. Their website is full of excellent information, photos and videos, and when I eventually pick myself up off the floor after seeing their prices (let’s be realistic about it!) I eventually decided these were the people I wanted to go with. We chose the luxury cruise on the Safari Endeavour as my husband and I are not the active outward bounds type, but we still wanted some activity options. We booked the cheapest cabin available and resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be living in a small cupboard for a week. A few months before the cruise I received the final paperwork, and a kit list. Not being the very out-doors type I didn’t have very much of the required equipment for this cruise and I couldn’t afford to spend loads of money on stuff I would only wear for one week, so I improvised with pretty much everything. Something that isn’t explained very well on the website is that as soon as you board the ship all passengers are issued with any waterproof essential kit they might need; wellingtons, a pair of waterproof trousers that fit over the top of your other trousers and a water proof coat if you don’t have one, so please don’t rush out any buy loads of stuff as all the essentials you need are available to you free of charge. Two of the most useful items I took with me were thermal leggings and thermal t-shirts, both purchased from E Bay at a very low cost. The leggings were very comfortable under the water poof trousers, which are not quite so comfortable over jeans or hiking trousers, and the thermal t-shirts I wore during all activities under another t-shirt, fleece/sweat shirt, and coat. I wore 3-4 layers most days. Also, when I received the pre-cruise paperwork I discovered that a gratuity for the crew of 5-10% of the total cruise cost would be expected – please be aware of this, as it does add to the overall cost of your cruise. Sunday 27 July arrived, and we walked down to the harbour in Juneau and saw the Safari Endeavour sitting waiting for us. The welcome we received from the crew was so enthusiastic it nearly knocked me over, and the first wonderful surprise was our cabin. It was not a small cupboard as I had expected, but two full size single beds with the space between being a little wider than the doorway. The beds were high enough to have a large storage area underneath for boots, shoes and luggage. Towards the back of the cabin was a good sized table and opposite was the private bathroom with corner shower and decent quality toiletries in a wall mounted dispenser. This was a small bathroom, but well designed. The whole of the rear wall was wardrobes and large deep drawers, so there was more than enough storage space for all your stuff. The meals on board ship are served at 7.30am, 12.30pm and 7.00pm respectively, and there is no flexibility surrounding these meal times; you understand why after being introduced to the staff and crew who are going to be spending the week looking after you. There are a choice of activities every morning and afternoon, and the activities are basically hard, medium and easy depending on your personal fitness level and what you would enjoy doing. To be able to organise all these activities for 84 guests the crew need to have everyone available at exact times and their level of multi-tasking and organisation is exceptional. You are given the details of the next day’s events and activities at 6.00pm in the lounge before dinner the previous day. If you are not able to get to the lounge the PA system is also in your cabin so you never miss any announcements. Your chosen activity time is then posted in the lounge at breakfast time the next day, and it is announced through the PA system 10 minutes before it is due to start, so you have enough time to get ready and assemble at the requested point. The food is excellent quality, but the portion sizes were smaller than I expected; I have always had really large meals when previously visiting America. The chef tells you each day what the choice of meals for the following day will be; there is a meat, fish and vegan or vegetarian dish as required. I did initially think I might get hungry but they work on the little-and-often strategy; there is a basket of cereal bars in the lounge at all times to pick at as you walk past, which are very welcome if you are going off the boat on an activity, or have just returned from one. In the afternoon there were large trays of freshly baked cookies in the lounge, and at 6.00pm; Cocktail hour in the lounge, a long table was laid out with lovely nibbles, which were very popular. All meals are served slowly, and wine and water is topped up all the time. Because of this I did not get hungry at all. “ A plan to deviate from “ is the theme of the cruise. Whilst a cruise route is set initially, the weather is Alaska is very unpredictable and therefore fast changes have to be made at very short notice. There had been an earthquake a few days before we arrived, and because of this one of the places we were trying to get to was blocked with icebergs, so the plan deviated. If any wildlife is sighted, or the captain gets informed of anything of interest the ship with change course. The emphasis is on seeing the very best wildlife and wilderness Alaska has to offer, and every possible opportunity is taken to achieve this. The crew are very hands-on when it comes to ensuring you have the best possible time; we were encouraged to try kayaking and after taking their beginners lesson we went out several times on our own and loved it. All guests are encouraged to get off the boat in one way or another and see the real beauty of Alaska, and I always felt very safe with the activities crew in whatever I was doing. There is however one instance I would mention to them. I had fallen behind on a walk at Glacier Point and ended up walking alone for some time. Having been warned about the dangers of brown bears and moose in the woods I did become a little afraid, so please be mindful of the slower members of your group. I met some wonderful people on this cruise from all different walks of life, and one of the things I liked the most was the “equal” attitude of the crew. Everyone got exactly the same smile and lovely warm attitude from all the crew irrelevant of who you were, where you were from, and what you did for a living. On the sad day when we had to disembark and say a very fond farewell to the wonderful crew and captain Jenna, as we walked back down the pier into Juneau a very unassuming gentleman approached us and asked if we had enjoyed ourselves. We assured him we had, and he told us he owned the company. I was a little shocked by this, as I really didn’t expect the owner of Uncruise to be waiting on Juneau pier to talk to us? If you were the actual owner of Uncruise, your cruises are the most amazing experience ever. I will definitely cruise with you again one day, as I had the most wonderful, memorable, exciting time ever.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
My husband and I decided to mark our 50th birthdays with a trip to Alaska and this cruise (Discoverers' Glacier Country) was recommended highly by his folks. We liked the sound of it because we believed in a small-ship setting ... Read More
My husband and I decided to mark our 50th birthdays with a trip to Alaska and this cruise (Discoverers' Glacier Country) was recommended highly by his folks. We liked the sound of it because we believed in a small-ship setting we'd have more opportunity for close encounters with the landscape and wildlife. This turned out to be true. The cabins are extremely comfortable and spacious enough for a week's worth of luggage and gear. The view from our cabin's windows was always spectacular. While there is no TV or Internet reception available, there is a decent DVD library (if you have time and energy to use it after a day full of adventures). Common areas are well kept and cozy. The bar is well stocked, and you can help yourself if there's no crew available. The food was fine. It didn't blow us away, but it wasn't bad by any means. Service around meals was great in that choices were always available and special requests were smilingly honored. Servings were small to moderate, which I actually think is great. We had no trouble getting seconds if we were really hungry. Sometimes it took a while for tables to get served (which made a lot of sense when we saw later how food had to get from the kitchen in the lower level to the dining room level by dumbwaiter), but we weren't in any hurry. Life on board: We took advantage of a yoga class offered each morning before breakfast on the top deck. A beautiful way to start the day. After breakfast, the itinerary for the day is announced, including options for the day's activities. Typically there are activities available after breakfast and after lunch, such as hikes, kayaking, and skiff rides. Depending on itinerary, there might be pre-dinner or after-dinner activities. Generally you don't have to sign up; just show up. Throughout the day, wildlife and other unusual sightings are announced on the PA system so you can go out to view them if you wish. There is a hot tub on the top deck, which gets quite a bit of use. The exercise equipment, also on the top deck, is minimal but adequate. One free massage is included with the cruise, which was a great amenity. With only 18 cabins, the Safari Explorer is geared toward satisfying guests in all respects. When we expressed a desire for more independent hiking so our birdwatching would not slow down other guests, we were offered a crew member who would accompany us at whatever speed we wished (truly independent hiking not being an option because of the potential for bear encounters). The crew are aware that most guests are really interested in wildlife such as whales, dolphins, and bears, so activities are sometimes shifted around in order to satisfy this interest. For example, one morning that a hike had been scheduled, a pod of orca was spotted nearby. Instead of hiking, all the guests boarded two skiffs and followed the orca for a few hours, which was an amazing experience. Nobody missed the hike. We had a lot of amazing experiences on this cruise, partly as a result of the setting and pure luck but also because the Safari Explorer crew got us where we needed to be and provided guidance. For example, we watched bears catching salmon outside a hatchery; we witnessed humpback whales bubble-netting; and we kayaked to a glacier and watched (and felt!) it calve right in front of us. Service and accommodation of guests was really impressive. Even though Un-Cruise Adventures provides guests with a detailed packing list in advance, many items, such as rain gear, rubber boots, mosquito repellent, and water bottles, were freely available for guests to borrow. We always felt well taken care of. We could not have had a better trip. The Safari Explorer gets our highest recommendation. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
We had looked forward to sailing on Norwegian's Breakaway since last year. New ship, new feature and it offered so much promise. Sadly, the hype doesn't live up to the reality. Food was mediocre at best. Never heard or ... Read More
We had looked forward to sailing on Norwegian's Breakaway since last year. New ship, new feature and it offered so much promise. Sadly, the hype doesn't live up to the reality. Food was mediocre at best. Never heard or experienced lobster night not being served in main dining but as part of the buffet. Saw our cabin steward when we first went in to cabin then not again for 3 days. No turn down service on first night, ice bucket never filled more than 1/4 way even after leaving a note asking. The only decent place to get a steak cooked medium was Le Bistro. Everywhere else, was browned or bloodied. room service menu very limited and you get charged for late night service. Your healthy options are non-existent. You will load up on carbs and sweets so you will easily put on the 8-10 lbs. they seem to take pride in. Burgers are good, yet sausage, bratwurst and links are under cooked. Don.t eat at La Cucina. You will get better Italian food anywhere else. Informed a day prior about a low sodium request. Their solution was to serve it dry, no sauce at all. Nothing Italian about it". In the 24 hours, prior, no attempt to make a Marsala sauce with a bit less salt? Shows are limited. Theater is small so u need to book reservations. Same shows as well. Burn the floor well done...Rock of Ages...lacked energy and a plot. ..Comedian Michael Finney was very good. second City was fine. Captain was very impersonal. Posed for pics one day for a total of 15minutes...barely spoke at Latitudes gathering and lacked enthusiasm when he did. We are used to crews also initiating "hello", not the case here. When one did ask about things which were you experienced on past cruises and enjoyed, standard answer "This is the Breakaway"..... Which I determined, forget the niceties, we do things our own way, when we want to and forget the cruise experience you used to enjoy. Water slides are fun and obstacles course was a blast. Liked the adult only Spice H2O. Next cruises...smaller ship with more better food and service ratings. Read the reviews and trust the poor to middle. They are more accurate. Read Less

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