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6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
Wow, I disagree with a lot of the review below. We had a spectacular time and thought the service was first rate. The waiters were very responsive and polite - super professional. Juanito, one of our room stewards, made wonderful ... Read More
Wow, I disagree with a lot of the review below. We had a spectacular time and thought the service was first rate. The waiters were very responsive and polite - super professional. Juanito, one of our room stewards, made wonderful "towel animals" for us every day. Our room was kept tidy (even our clothes were folded for us) and clean. Every member of the staff was great and went above and beyond. We've traveled on Silversea once before, and the service on Silver Galapagos was as good as on Silver Spirit. We were surprised at how much we enjoyed the food, given the terrible prior reviews. We enjoyed our meals - plenty of selection and very good quality. If you're looking for Michelin-rated dining, then don't go to the Galapagos. But we thought the food was really good. The pastry chef made delicious cookies and crème caramel, along with other great desserts. We didn't care that much about what liquors were available, but I do see what the prior reviewer means. This is an expensive trip and one might have expected upgraded liquors. But it didn't impact us. I was happy with Bailey's Irish Cream and vodka with cranberry juice. The expeditions were all outstanding and every single guide was an expert. It was incredible - they knew every flower, bird, animal, and tree. There were no questions left unanswered. And we swam with turtles and sea lions. It was magical. Incidentally, the staff was excellent when it came to ensuring everyone's safety. Absolutely excellent! We were on many of Fernando's tours, and he was fantastic (as was Jorge, Xavier, and all the rest). Ivan's photography was great. It's true that the ship could use a face lift. That's the one part that is not up to Silversea's standards, especially considering the price. But our room was still lovely (although if you look closely, you can definitely tell that it's seen better days - paint peeling, terrace balcony not varnished, etc.). But I have no qualms about recommending this trip. It was fantastic, and Silversea has clearly been working very hard to fix most of the prior problems. We had such a good time, we didn't want to come home. Ok, I do admit that Silversea really needs to do something about the elevator situation. There was one small elevator that was operated by a hamster running around in a wheel. I don't deny that there were times when I was so tired I would have liked to use an elevator rather than climb 4 flights of stairs. Despite the elevator, it was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend it. Incidentally, we were supposed to go on Celebrity's Galapagos trip last year, but it was cancelled due to Lobster-gate. When Celebrity cancelled a week before our trip, we scrambled to book another trip and ended up on Silver Spirit in the Mediterranean. It was so awesome that we ultimately booked Silver Galapagos instead of Celebrity for our Galapagos trip. For anyone thinking about going on the Celebrity trip, please note that Celebrity, as compensation, sent us coupons for 25% off any Celebrity cruise. Five weeks later, they rescinded the coupons and sent us new coupons for 25% off ONLY the Galapagos trip. That trip was booked so far out and was totally booked during any times we could go, that the coupons were rendered useless (and had a 2 year time limit). We're done with Celebrity (not because they cancelled, but because of the way they handled the aftermath), and Silversea is the beneficiary of our future cruises. In fairness to Celebrity, however, a friend went on Celebrity in February and had a wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
We are experienced cruisers. We've been on the major lines, but this was the first on NCL. (Full disclosure, I sailed on the Norway many years ago.) The ship is new and bright with all the latest features. I really liked the Freestyle ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers. We've been on the major lines, but this was the first on NCL. (Full disclosure, I sailed on the Norway many years ago.) The ship is new and bright with all the latest features. I really liked the Freestyle Dining program, but we kind of missed getting to know our servers. Here are the pros and cons of this voyage: Pros: Nice cabins. Comfortable beds. Friendly staff. Good food. Wonderful shows. (See the Illusionarium. It is very good.) Well laid out. Good for kids, including water slides. Comedy at Howl at the Moon was great. Cruise Director, Joel was fantastic. Multi-talented. Cons: Too many days at sea. Shore excursions are way too expensive. Drink costs are outrages. Would like to be able to reserve seats for second comedy show. Drinks were too weak at the pool. Disembarkation was a breeze. You can carry your own bags and get off quickly. I would said NCL again, but only if we had more ports. We sailed with a 21 year old and a 17 year old, who enjoyed the cruise. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2014
We sailed out of Baltra on the Silver Galapagos for the 7 night Western Itinerary on May 31 to June 7. Our hotel stay at the Marriott prior to the cruise was great, transfers and flights from Quito went smoothly. Silverseas staff was ... Read More
We sailed out of Baltra on the Silver Galapagos for the 7 night Western Itinerary on May 31 to June 7. Our hotel stay at the Marriott prior to the cruise was great, transfers and flights from Quito went smoothly. Silverseas staff was gracious and efficient in handling our luggage and getting us where we needed to be. The Silver Galapagos is an older ship that has been partially updated by Silverseas. There are parts of the ship that retain some of the charm of older boats ( glossy wood paneling, varnished decks and mirrored dressing tables) and other areas that have been refurbished (bathrooms, dining area, jacuzzi and spa) but the pipes are old (hence the banging and clanging behind our walls when the jacuzzi on the deck above was heating up) and the shower took half an hour to drain after use. Bed was very comfortable, with lovely high quality linens, and there is plenty of storage in the cabin. Our cabin, #506, was just inside from a large deck with sofas at the bow of the boat, and surprisingly no one else used it but us and our friends. One night we sat out there and watched the most spectacular display of stars that we had ever seen. The butler service that Silversea promises was spotty and unreliable in our cabin. We hardly saw the room staff, and they did not respond to phone calls when we wanted to order some drinks or food. It seemed that they had lots of other duties on board, as we would see them around the ship and dining area. Our cabin was cleaned twice a day and fresh towels were abundant, but we rarely saw them in person. Our friends on deck 4 had a better experience, and when one of them was sick for a couple of days ( not sure what he ate) the butler was solicitous and brought the patient tea and toast. Food in the dining room was quite good, nicely presented and with great variety at lunch and dinner. Breakfast was buffet style, plentiful, fresh, and pretty much the same every day. The evening dining service was unreliable, with language issues being part of the problem, and obvious inexperience on the part of the wait staff. That said, the staff was always friendly and welcoming, and were clearly working very hard. We felt that they just hadn't been doing this very long and needed more training around anticipating the needs of the diners and knowing how to provide good service. The South American wines that were served each night were quite good, and we never felt the need to ask for a full wine list. Cocktails could also be ordered at dinner. We were disappointed that there was no ice cream for the entire cruise. Not sure what happened but it seemed that there was a delivery problem. Loved the Galapagos lobster! In general the hotel aspects of the cruise were fair to good, but inconsistent. We felt that better supervision was needed in both the cabins and the dining room. This was our first Silversea cruise, so we have nothing to compare it to but other cruise lines, but we understand that they take pride in their service. I don't think this was up to par. That said, we were very pleased with the Naturalist guides, boat staff and all the excursions out to the islands. The guides were all incredibly knowledgeable, many of them with advanced degrees in marine biology and environmental studies, and on top of that they were personable, warm and engaging. We went in small groups, and never felt crowded on our walks about the area. In fact we rarely saw people from other boats, which led us to believe that the itinerary is carefully planned for providing the guests with the best possible experience. Snorkeling trips were fantastic, but not enough of them. Deep water snorkeling was challenging, as the waters are rough, but for us it was some of the best ever. Seeing a 15 foot whale shark emerge just below us was a thrill of a lifetime. Disembarkation was unremarkable. It's never fun to leave a ship after a great week of vacation with friends. There's always a lot of waiting around, and you could tell that the staff was focused on getting ready for the new guests, but that's always the way on a cruise ship. Transfers to the airport were smooth, and Silversea staff was there to assist us right up to departure back to the mainland. The love and respect that the local guides have for the islands is obvious, and one could not help but feel the same way after seeing the amazing wildlife, plants and sea creatures that are living in peace and harmony on the islands. This is a place in the world that everyone should see! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
Overall, our Galapagos vacation was unforgettable - definitely a "MUST DO" experience. My review focuses on Silversea's claim to offer an ultra-luxury version of the Galapagos on its "new" ship, the Silver. The ... Read More
Overall, our Galapagos vacation was unforgettable - definitely a "MUST DO" experience. My review focuses on Silversea's claim to offer an ultra-luxury version of the Galapagos on its "new" ship, the Silver. The Silver welcomes you to your cabin with an apology letter. This emphasizes that Silversea usually employs Filipinos, but is required by the Galapagos National Park to hire only Ecuadorians. Does Silversea believe Ecuadoreans are inferior to Filipinos? In order to provide its expected level of service, couldn't Silversea pay higher wages for an Ecuadorean crew that's better experienced and fluent in English? The Silver’s service staff was friendly and tried very hard, but only a few were capable of delivering the promised excellence. The letter also explained that they're prohibited from importing certain fruits and meats into the Galapagos. Fine, but that's not an excuse for the mediocre quality fruit, nor the (sometimes) frozen seafood we were served. Otherwise, the food was very good, and we enjoyed having a choice between the lively outdoor grill and the calm, cool restaurant. I don't usually don't like buffets, but the restaurant lunches were excellent. The ship itself has been very well re-designed. Common areas are comfortable and inviting. Cabins are spacious (but only by Galapagos standards), although the A/C was sometimes insufficient, and suites are poorly configured for an expedition cruise (lots of closet space, but not enough shelves). Our itinerary was extremely well planned: excursions early in the morning and later in the afternoon, with free time in between. Naturalist guides are trained by the Galapagos National park, so they’re excellent whether your cruise is luxurious or basic. They’re also limited by law to 16 guests per guide, so Silversea doesn’t offer anything special when it comes to staffing excursions. As I stated in the beginning, we loved our trip to the Galapagos. I believe my review of Silversea might have been more positive, except for our disappointing last experience. Silversea did a flawless job at arrival, with transfers, hotels, tricky Galapagos customs and baggage. But on disembarkation, they completely dropped the ball. We were evicted from our staterooms at 7:30 am to prepare for incoming passengers. Silversea’s original itinerary promised a morning departure for the mainland, but instead we had to wait in the sweltering Baltra airport for a 1 pm flight. Then Siversea charged us for transfers and a day hotel room in Guayaqil, where we ended up having less down-time than in Baltra. Where was the attention to detail that had enticed me to book this (my first) Silversea cruise? While I will always treasure this Galapagos experience, I'm not sure that I can recommend paying a premium for the somewhat flawed luxury of Silversea. To Silversea: please stop apologizing, and fix the bugs. If you can’t deliver on your promised level of quality here, why should passengers trust you on trips elsewhere?   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
I will preface this with, this was 17th, SEVENTEENTH, cruise on Princess. I have NEVER EVER had one complaint, none, nada. I do this time. My major complaint was the food. Always have had excellent food on this line, and 2 nights we had to ... Read More
I will preface this with, this was 17th, SEVENTEENTH, cruise on Princess. I have NEVER EVER had one complaint, none, nada. I do this time. My major complaint was the food. Always have had excellent food on this line, and 2 nights we had to send back as you could not have cut the meat with a hatchet. The only good meal we had on the ship was in the Crown. Our cabin steward was surly, trashed some of our personal items the night before leaving ship. One of the cabin supervisors told me the reason the safe quit working was because I had slammed the door and killed the batteries! Seriously! First did not slam door and second batteries may become dislodged if you slam, but that certainly does not make them lose their power or juice~! She was beyond rude. Altho the food was marginal, the dining service was quite good. Some have said the ship is in bad shape. I did not find that to be true. The carpet needs replacing, but all else was up to Princess standards. A couple of the gents in white coats in the Buffet area were rude, but I can handle a rudeness or two on a cruise, the supervisor of cabins being the exception. So before you elect to tar and feather me, A. were you on this cruise? If so, where did you eat? B. Keep in mind this is my 1st complaint in 17 cruises, so I feel I am versed in what Princess is, was, and should be. So all in all, I KNOW OF WHAT I SPEAK. And our cabin was certainly more that someone suggested. On a cruise I expect good service and good food. That is all I require. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
This is not what I would describe as a leisurely pleasure cruise. There is no showroom or casino on the ship, very little entertainment & no pool. This is for those interested in close up encounters with an amazing variety of animals ... Read More
This is not what I would describe as a leisurely pleasure cruise. There is no showroom or casino on the ship, very little entertainment & no pool. This is for those interested in close up encounters with an amazing variety of animals on land, in the sea & in the air that have no fear of humans. Many of these creatures will come within a few feet of you or swim right by you. Many are found nowhere else & some were almost driven to extinction by visitors many years ago. I had been to the Galapagos Islands once before. My wife & I went there in May 2011 & I loved it so much that I wanted to return. When we were planning that trip we were considering the Lindblad / National Geographic Endeavour, we assumed they would have the best naturalists for this once in a lifetime trip. Our travel agent suggested we look at Celebrity Xpedition. When we did the comparison, the ships & itineraries were similar, but Celebrity Xpedition was much less expensive & all inclusive. We select the Celebrity trip. We were later told by one of the naturalists on the Celebrity Xpedition that all naturalists in the Galapagos are trained & certified by the Galapagos National Park Service. It is possible that the larger ships can attract the more sought after naturalists, but both the Endeavour & the Xpedition carry the same number of passengers & all of the naturalists we encountered on the Xpedition were excellent. My wife really enjoyed the trip, but had a problem with the heat & humidity of the Galapagos Islands in May. First, a little about me: I am a 70 year old male in good health. That’s enough about me. The remainder of this report is about my Galapagos trip that started on April 4, 2014. This time I was joined by my adult son, David. The same as last time, I chose the 10 night package which included 7 nights on the ship plus 2 nights in Quito prior & 1 night after the voyage. I felt this gave us time to adjust to the time zone, recover from the long flights & get to see a little of Quito. Celebrity offers 2 itineraries in the Galapagos Islands. On my previous trip there Celebrity only offered one itinerary. Sometime within the intervening 3 years the Galapagos National Park decided that some of the islands were getting too much traffic while others saw little. As it was explained to me, in an attempt to even out they traffic to the various islands they now require that no ship can visit the same island within 10 days. This required an itinerary A & B (now called inner & outer loops). I chose itinerary A (outer loop). I flew from Newark, NJ & David flew from Denver, CO. We met in Houston, TX & took the 5 hour 20 minute flight to Quito, Ecuador; arriving at about 11 PM local time. Getting our luggage & going through customs & immigration was fast & easy. As promised, Celebrity personnel were at the airport to greet us. Along with 12 others arriving on the same flight, a bus carried us & our luggage to the J.W. Marriott in Quito. The new airport is about 1 hour bus ride from the hotel. Note: Quito is at 9,350 feet above sea level & is it is the highest official capital city in the world. Tour Day 1 - Friday We stayed at the hotel for 2 nights. The J.W. Marriot Quito hotel is the same hotel that Celebrity used three years ago & is first class. As we entered the hotel lobby, Celebrity had a desk where they issued us our room keys, ship luggage tags & itinerary for the following day. Our luggage was brought to our room shortly after we went in & looked around. The hotel has large rooms, an outdoor heated pool, free fitness center & a free hot buffet breakfast from 6 to 9 AM daily. Omelets to order are included. The security system includes a card that unlocks your hotel room lock by placing it near the reader device on the door. The elevator will only go to the lobby & spa floors without using your card. The elevator will also stop at your assigned floor if you use your card. There was a charge for multi-device internet access from our room. Probably because of my previous stay at this hotel, I qualified for the VIP Lounge on the top floor where they had free snacks, beverages, Wi-Fi all day & some hot items at dinner time. It also had a balcony with a nice view of the surrounding area. Tour Day 2 - Saturday After an included hot buffet breakfast in the hotel, 4 air-conditioned busses picked us up at the hotel at about 9 AM for a guided tour of Quito. The busses always have an ample supply of cold bottled water. A local Celebrity guide was assigned to each bus. A security guard carrying a baton is also assigned to each bus. They assist by stopping traffic when the group crosses a street & discourage any locals who might want to prey on tourists. While it may have been overkill to have security guards on this tour, it shows that Celebrity was super conscious about providing first class service & safety. A nice lunch was provided at a local restaurant (Sucre’s Theatrum). After lunch the tour visited the “Half of the World Park” which lies on the Equator; 15 km north of Quito. Celebrity provided the entrance passes. Note: the restrooms at the park are free, but don’t have toilet paper. That can be purchased from a small vending machine outside the restrooms for 10 centavos. Celebrity seems to have thought of everything & had a roll of toilet paper near the front of the bus. We enjoyed the tour which lasted about 7 hours & returned us to the hotel at about 4 PM. At about 6 PM the busses took us to a local restaurant (La Gloria) for an included dinner which was very enjoyable. Again the busses had a local Celebrity guide. Our security guards were visible outside the restaurant. Since we arrived in Quito so late, the lunch & dinner provided opportunities to meet some of the other group members. The busses returned us to the hotel after a leisurely, enjoyable dinner. Checked luggage with the ship luggage tags needed to be brought down to the hotel lobby at night. The Celebrity staff sealed each suitcase with a plastic tie. During the night, Ecuador inspectors were able to randomly open the luggage to make sure it didn’t contain any food, plants, etc. that aren’t native to the Galapagos. If a bag was opened for inspection, the Celebrity staff re-sealed it. Tour Day 3 - Sunday After an included hot breakfast, we boarded the busses at about 7:30 AM for the 1 hour trip to the airport. Our checked luggage was transported separately & we didn’t see them again until they were delivered to our stateroom on the ship. Celebrity provides access to the airport VIP lounge at the airport until boarding the plane at about 9:30 AM. Another nice thing about the Celebrity package is they provide a charter flight directly from Quito to Baltra in the Galapagos. Most passengers going from Quito to Baltra first fly to Guayaquil on a commercial aircraft & then fly from there to Quito. I decided to pay an extra $99 per person each way to upgrade to first class in order to make sure neither of us ended up in a middle seat during the 2 hour flight. This was probably overkill, but I wanted to make sure we stated the cruise in the best possible frame of mind. When we arrived at Baltra airport, the authorities efficiently checked our documents & inspected our carry-on bags. Celebrity includes the $100 Galapagos National Park entrance fee & the INGALA Tourist Card fee. Next we boarded a bus for the short ride to the dock where we boarded Zodiaks (small, stable inflated craft with outboard motor) for the 10 minute ride to the ship. We were in Premium Cabin Category XP Stateroom #414 on deck 4. The Celebrity Xpedition is a small ship holding a maximum of 98 passengers. Galapagos National Park rules limit ships to a maximum of 100 passengers. Every ship must include at least 1 certified naturalist/guide with a maximum of 16 passengers per naturalist/guide. By limiting the number of certified naturalist/guides, the National Park limits the number of visitors & ships at any one time. Celebrity Xpedition has 7 naturalist/guides on board that accompany groups of up to 16 passengers on all excursions. Internet access was available free in the lounge. Celebrity Xpedition has staterooms on decks 3 & 4 with suites on decks 5 &6. While our stateroom category was “Premium”, it was about 160 square feet. Deck 4 has 19 cabins & also housed the small library, lounge (with open bar), Guest Relations & the outdoor Beagle Grill (BBQ available for lunch). Deck 4 aft (rear) is also the place you gather prior to boarding the Zodiacs for every excursion. Deck 3 has 18 cabins, Darwin’s Dining Room (the only dining room on the ship. It has tables for all guests in a single seating), a small gift shop & the Beach Club (aft) where snorkeling gear is stored & where the Zodiaks arrive & leave the ship. Deck 5 has 8 suites. Deck 6 has 3 suites, a small exercise room & sauna. Outdoors there is a hot tub. Messages (fee) could be scheduled on this deck. David had one which helped reduce his arm pain. Staterooms have a Cooling Box, not a true refrigerator. It is stocked with complimentary sodas & bottled water. Our stateroom didn’t have a clock but other passengers told me that theirs did. I brought a travel alarm so it wasn’t a problem. I am sure that Guest Relations would have supplied one if I asked. We had a phone with automated wake-up call capability. There was a TV, hair dryer, desk & small couch. The queen bed was convertible to 2 twin beds. Each stateroom has a pair of binoculars (for use while on the cruise) & a plastic sheet with color drawings & names of Galapagos marine life (to keep). While almost everything is included in the upfront price (including gratuities), you may want to buy something at the gift shop, have a massage, etc. All purchases are charged to your stateroom to be settled on the last night of the cruise. Major credit cards & cash are accepted. We found a Bottle of champagne in our stateroom for previously taken a Celebrity cruise (Captain’s Club). Towels were changed up to 3 times per day due to showering after morning & afternoon excursions. There was no smoking except for designated outdoor areas on certain decks. The ship has no formal nights; dress is always casual for dinner & beach attire is fine for breakfast & lunch. I signed up for a free tour of the Captain’s Bridge which was conducted by the ship’s Navigator. It was very interesting & I recommend it to anyone interested in how the ship works, navigates & communicates. While you aren’t in the middle of the ocean, the small ship can cause nausea, especially when it is anchored. There are almost no docks on any of the islands we visited so the ship anchors off shore & Zodiaks are used to transport passengers to & from the islands. Several of the passengers were wearing sea-sickness patches & some wore wrist bands. I wore SEA-BANDs & they seemed to help. David used the patches & they worked very well. Breakfast & lunch buffets are good. There was a BBQ lunch available most days in addition to the buffet. Dinners included a choice of appetizers, salads, soups (usually 2), 8 or more entrees & deserts. The left side of the menu was constant throughout the cruise while the right side changed nightly. On some nights when I wanted a light meal I ordered just a hot soup & salad, no entree, & then I ordered seconds of both. From early morning to late night there is a free open bar with some fresh fruit & cookies. There is free bottled water at the bar all day & night plus on the rear of deck 3 before & after every excursion. Life jackets must be worn by all while on the Zodiaks. When you return from an excursion, the ship’s staff collects your life jacket (& a bag containing your gear after snorkeling), offers you a cold, wet wash cloth as well as a cold non-alcoholic drink. The only negative I had with the entire trip was a problem with our cabin’s temperature; the lowest it went was 76 degrees Fahrenheit. I like the room cool, especially when sleeping. I asked for it to be made cooler & they sent an electrician who confirmed that the thermostat in the room was working properly. I then asked for an engineer to look at it. He changed something in the ceiling vent that would improve air flow. That change resulted in the cabin temperature getting down to 71 degrees F. The staff also delivered a double headed fan. The repairs plus the fan made the cabin much better for sleeping. Some other passengers on various decks also complained about their cabin temperatures while others were happy with their cabin’s temperatures; some could get their cabin down to 69 degrees F. Each night on the ship the room attendant would leave a 1 page agenda containing the following day’s activities. Each night the Cruise Director would present a slide show & discussion of the following day’s excursions. At the end of her presentation she answered any of the passenger’s questions. Tour Day 4 - Monday This was the first day of excursions. The day started with early coffee & croissants from 6:15 to 8 AM. At 6:45 there was stretching offered on deck 5. The hot buffet breakfast was offered from 7 to 9 AM. At 8:30 AM those interested in the morning excursion congregated to board the Zodiaks for a Beach Walk & Swim or Snorkel in Gardner Bay on Espanola Island. I found this interesting & the swim was refreshing. We returned to the ship at about 11 AM. As I noted earlier, all excursions are conducted by certified guides/naturalists, no more than 16 passengers per guide. They organized this by allowing no more than 16 passengers per Zodiak plus a guide/naturalist and the driver. As soon as a Zodiak is filled, it departs & the next one pulls up ready for loading. When passengers exit the Zodiak on the island, it returns to the ship until all of the passenger that wanted to go on that excursion have been accommodated. The guides/naturalists have radios to signal the Zodiaks when to return to the island for the return trip. If there is swimming or snorkeling involved in the excursion, one or more Zodiaks stay near the swimmers in case they needed any assistance. Most landings on the islands were “wet landings”. That meant that you got off of the Zodiak into shallow water. I wore water shoes when going into the Zodiaks for a wet landing. If we were then going on a walk I would dry my feet & put on socks & sneakers before continuing. I would reverse this process for the return trip. Your stateroom attendant makes sure there are always dry beach towels in your stateroom for your use. The ship has walking sticks, masks, snorkels, floatation vests, fins & wet suits that you can borrow for free for the entire cruise. After the buffet lunch & BBQ from noon to 1:30 PM, we embarked on the afternoon excursions on Punta Suarez on Espanola Island. Here there were 2 options with dry landings; a “short walk” & a “long walk”. Both were about 2 hours long & could more accurately be called “rocky with some sandy areas” versus “very rocky hike”. The “long walk” departed the ship at 3:30 PM with the “short walk” departing at 4 PM. Everyone was back on board by 6 PM. David & I chose the “long walk”. Each passenger is asked to sign up for their preferred excursions the previous night. The Cruise Director was very flexible with last minute changes or groups that wanted to stay together. The guides/naturalists never rushed us & let each passenger walk at hers/his own pace. They provided interesting facts about what we were seeing & answered all questions. Their English was very good & understandable. At 6:30 PM there was a cocktail party followed by a briefing on the next day’s activities. Dinner was served at 7:30 PM followed by live music starting at 9:30 PM. The music was provided by a very talented keyboardist who also played in the afternoons when we returned from excursions. All activities on the ship were optional. If you wanted you could stay on the ship & not participate in any excursions, but you probably should not take this cruise for the excursions ARE the reason for this cruise. Tour Day 5 - Tuesday Each day started out the same with breakfast & stretching. Each evening ended the same with a briefing & dinner. I will only mention the unique events each day. The excursion choices in the morning were a “long easy walk with optional beach snorkeling” or a “short easy walk with optional beach snorkeling” at Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island. Both required a wet landing & started at 8 AM & 8:30 AM respectively. There was also an option for “advanced snorkel activity” instead of the beach snorkeling. This was intended for experienced snorkelers & involved snorkeling from a Zodiak in deeper water. You could always raise your hand above your head while snorkeling & a nearby Zodiak would pick you up. You could also wear a floatation vest. Fins were recommended. After an Italian buffet lunch plus paninis & hamburgers there was a viewing of part 1 of a BBC film about the Galapagos. At 3:30 PM there was a visit to the “Post Office” & a Zodiak ride along the shore line. The “Post Office” is a barrel set up many years ago by sailors who would drop off their outgoing mail without postage to anywhere & go through the accumulated mail looking for items that they could deliver. This process continues to this day. Several people in our group found mail addressed to areas near their home town & took them for delivery. At 6:30 PM there was a Wine & Cheese Tasting. After the nightly briefing & dinner there was an Ecuadorian Naturalist Party with music & dance provided by the guides/naturalists. Tour Day 6 - Wednesday This morning’s excursion options were “long walk & short Zodiak ride” for 2.5 hours & an “extended Zodiak ride & optional short walk” for 1.5 hours on Punta Morena on Isabela Island. After a BBQ lunch there was a lecture on the geology of the Galapagos Islands. This was followed by the afternoon excursion options of “long fast walk & optional snorkeling” for 2.5 hours and “short walk & optional snorkeling” for 2 hours. David took the fast walk & I took the short walk. Afterwards, David told me the “fast” walk wasn’t fast. A cocktail party & briefing preceded dinner which was followed by a passenger & staff talent show. Tour Day 7 - Thursday The morning excursions options were “long walk” at 8 AM for 2.5 hours or “short walk” at 8:30 AM for 1 hour on Espinoza Point on Fernandina Island. At 10:45 AM there was a “deep water snorkel” along the coast. After a Mexican buffet & hamburgers there was a viewing of part 2 of a BBC film about the Galapagos. At 3 PM there was another “deep water snorkeling”. At 4:15 & 5:30 there were Zodiak rides exploring the cliffs & coastline for 1 hour each. Before dinner there was a cocktail party & a crossword challenge. After dinner there was a “Crossing the Line” party celebrating the ship’s crossing the Equator twice. Tour Day 8 – Friday After breakfast there were 2 excursion options: “short walk” of about 1.5 hours or “long walk” of 2 hours on South Plaza Island, both with dry landings. After a lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs & a small hot buffet, the guides/naturalists gave a presentation about their lives in the Galapagos Islands. Afterwards there were 2 excursion options: “short walk” of about 1.5 hours or “long walk” of 2 hours on Cerro Dragon on Santa Cruz Island. A margarita party, trivia game & daily briefing preceded dinner followed by Karaoke. Tour Day 9 – Saturday The morning excursion was a dry landing & walk to the Charles Darwin Station & Giant Tortoise Breeding Center & optional shopping. After an Ecuadorian buffet lunch plus paninis & hamburgers, the excursion was to the highlands to see giant tortoises in the wild & optional shopping. Before dinner the Cruise Director gave a slide show of the best pictures taken by the guides/naturalists on this trip followed by a cocktail party. Dinner was followed by live music. Secret: Each passenger was given a copy of the pictures taken by the guides/naturalists. Tour Day 11 - Sunday We left the ship in Baltra & flew to Quito with busses taking us back to the J.W. Marriott. Later, busses took us to a giant outdoor market & a high end store. After returning to the hotel we had an included dinner in the steak house. I requested & was given a very late checkout for the last day at the hotel. Tour Day 12 – Monday – Going Home We started with an included hot buffet breakfast. Since we had a lot of time before our flight home, I used the free fitness center & David had a massage (fee). Celebrity schedule busses to take us to the Quito airport based on your departure time. Some passengers were continuing on to Machu Picchu & 1 couple was headed for Costa Rica. At the appointed time about 12 of us boarded our bus. Our luggage was loaded in the compartments in the lower section of the bus. At Quito airport the Celebrity representatives guided us to our airline’s check-in. David & I flew to Houston where we boarded our individual flights home. A few days later David called me to say what a wonderful trip it was & that everyone interested in wildlife should take this trip at least once. I was lucky enough to take it twice. Overall I can’t remember everything I saw on each excursion, but it was truly wonderful, including many sea lions & pups, blue footed boobies, albatross, giant tortoises, marine & land iguanas, a hybrid iguana, warm weather penguins, lava lizards, hawks, various finches, petrels, green sea turtles, Nazca boobies, gulls, Sally Lightfoot crabs, pelicans, flamingos, tropical fish & many more. On one deep water snorkeling excursion I was taking underwater video of giant green sea turtles as they leisurely fed on algae on the rocky bottom. Suddenly a penguin rapidly swam by. I did my best to follow it with the camera. Later, I was taking a video of a swarm of small fish when a sea lion swam through. It wasn’t until that night while I was reviewing my day’s pictures & videos that I saw I actually got good video of the events. On another occasion I was taking a video of a sea lion pup as it was looking for its mother on a beach when I got a great video of a blue footed boobie diving into the water head first with wings tucked back to catch a fish. I ended up with over 1400 pictures & many videos to review over the coming weeks. At the end of the cruise there was a list where passengers could sign up with their names & email addresses to facilitate picture sharing & to maintain contact after the trip. One nice lady shared a picture she took of David & me on the ship.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
Review of Avalon’s “Discover the Galapagos and Peru”  Tour WGG Pros: Machu Picchu is spectacular; the Metropolitan Tour Directors in Peru and Ecuador were outstanding. Cons: High Altitude, Early Mornings, Poor Galapagos Cruise ... Read More
Review of Avalon’s “Discover the Galapagos and Peru”  Tour WGG Pros: Machu Picchu is spectacular; the Metropolitan Tour Directors in Peru and Ecuador were outstanding. Cons: High Altitude, Early Mornings, Poor Galapagos Cruise arrival and departure arrangements General Matters: Avalon uses Metropolitan Touring to manage this tour. Avalon also procures rooms on a third-party ship (for us the Isabela II), also associated with Metropolitan Touring. There is not much “Avalon” in this tour. Day 1: Lima – Most flights from the U.S. arrive in Lima very late at night and you may not arrive at your hotel until the early morning of the next day (Day 2 of your tour). We traveled a day early and would recommend it. The Avalon booked hotel was the Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores. It was a nice facility and located within convenient walking distance to various sites, such as the Inca Market – a good place to get a feel for Peruvian handicrafts. (While there, buy a water bottle sling holder. It is on a strap you wear over your shoulder and under the opposite arm. This will prove handy.) If you do not come a day early, you will not have much free time in Lima (or much time to rest before the activities begin). Our Tour Director for Peru was Victor. He was outstanding, providing many more services than required and staying with us until we flew to Ecuador. Day 2: Lima – In the early afternoon, a local guide takes you on a city tour of Lima. The traffic in Lima is horrendous. Most of this 4 hour tour was spent in gridlock. The highlight was the Larco Herrera Museum which housed many wonderful Peruvian artifacts. We also did a brief stop at Parque de Amour (Lover’s Park) – a beautiful spot overlooking the sea. In our opinion, the visit to the Cathedral and Monastery were not worth the time spent in traffic to get there. We finally returned to the hotel an hour later than scheduled and, consequently, we were an hour late for our dinner. The group was dragging by the time we ultimately got to our rooms that night. Day 3: Fly to Cusco – This was our first of several early wake-ups – about 4 AM, with a 5:30 departure from the hotel. Breakfast service at the hotel did not start until 6AM, so they provided a pseudo-continental breakfast with cookies and a ham and cheese sandwich. Cusco is at 11,000 feet – a noticeable change in altitude and difficult for some of the travelers. In Cusco, Victor was joined by a local guide, Jamie. Jamie was also outstanding. He stayed with us until we left Machu Picchu. The tour deviated from the program upon our arrival in Cusco. Instead of seeing the sites near Cusco, we immediately left for the Sacred Valley. This was probably wise as the valley is at about 9,000 feet and allows an easier adjustment to the altitude than remaining in Cusco. We visited the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo, had some free time to shop at the local craft market, and visited a local home (very basic and complete with guinea pigs roving the floor). The night was spent at the Casa Andina Private Collection Sacred Valley. It may be the nicest hotel in the area, and certainly the grounds were beautiful, but the rooms were very simple with few amenities. Dinner was a buffet at a restaurant away from the hotel. If the evening is cool, bring a coat as we found most restaurants to be about the same temperature inside as outside. The buffet was good, but the best looking parts were the raw fresh vegetables. As our Tour Director cautioned us about eating any fresh vegetables that had not been peeled or cooked, we avoided these items. Despite the warning, several in our group had intestinal problems at some point while in Peru; and one traveler ended up terminating his trip and returning home once we arrived in Ecuador. Day 4: Travel to Machu Picchu – Another early morning, rising about 6AM. This is the point where you have to separate your belongings into what you will need for one night and everything else as you will only have a “carry-on” for your time in Machu Picchu. Your luggage will rejoin you in Cusco. We drove to the train station at Ollantaytambo and caught the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (also called Agua Caliente). The train only provides for limited luggage, which is why we had to limit ourselves to one carry-on each. While we had been told nothing larger than a backpack, the Vista Dome car seemed to be able to accommodate the large airline carry-on wheelies without problems. We dropped our bags at our hotel, the Sumaq, and proceeded to catch one of the buses that travel the narrow switchback road to Machu Picchu. Agua Caliente is at 6,700 feet and Machu Picchu is at 8,000 feet. Touring Machu Picchu requires walking and climbing uneven stairs. Even at 8,000 feet, the altitude can be an issue for some. Victor and Jamie, however, took it slow which allowed almost all to complete the trek. While we heard there were rules to the contrary, we saw many walking sticks and bottled water was carried by most of the tourists. Machu Picchu was all it was supposed to be! There were some periods of rain during our visit, which at times hindered visibility, but also added mystery. The Sumaq hotel was very nice and the dinner at the hotel was quite good. Day 5: Back to Machu Picchu and on to Cusco – The morning was free and the tour included tickets to return to Machu Picchu. It was a beautiful morning, so I returned to Machu Picchu to see it under clear blue skies and bright sunlight. Spectacular! The opportunity to visit on two different days, once in the PM and once in the AM, increased the chance for clear weather. Victor led a climb to the Sun Gate – the entrance to Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail. Following lunch, we returned by train to Ollantaytambo. We got to Cusco late that night following a lengthy nonstop bus ride over the mountains (not for the faint of heart or weak of bladder). Our hotel was the Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco. This is a “quaint” facility, originally an 18th Century house, but it lacks good street access and elevators. The bus stopped about a block away and we schlepped our carry-on bags to the hotel. Our luggage was already in our rooms. While a decent facility, it also had minimal room amenities. Day 6: Cusco – This was the day we visited all the Inca ruins near Cusco; Pucapucara and Sacsayhuaman, as well as parts of “old” Cusco, as was originally scheduled for Day 3 when we first arrived in Cusco. This was one of our few reasonably relaxing days. Day 7: Fly to Quito – Another 4 AM wake up as we make our way to Quito, Ecuador. While breakfast at the hotel was supposed to start at 5 AM, they were not fully prepared at that hour. Consequently, breakfast was rushed and incomplete – an experience repeated at every location where we had such an early departure. Quito is at 9,000 feet, so those that had not adjusted to the high altitudes got no relief here. It is a long drive from the Quito airport to the city. We were met by our Tour Director Marco. Marco was also very good. He stayed with us until we flew to the Galapagos and re-joined us when we returned to Quito. Avalon used the Swissotel in Quito – the best hotel of the trip with very nice rooms, good room amenities, helpful staff and excellent restaurants. Also, it is just a block away from a big Supermarket if you needed to purchase any supplies. That night we had an excellent meal at one of the highest rated restaurants in Quito – but again, when you start your day at 4AM, you are little too tired to really enjoy it. Day 8: Quito – Some people opted out of this tour, preferring to sleep in and just relax. For those that went, it included the Equatorial Monument, offering a photo opportunity to straddle the line and have half your body in the Southern Hemisphere and the other half in the Northern. We also visited some historic sites in downtown Quito. Traffic in Quito is also very bad, but more orderly than in Lima. Day 9: Visit to Otavalo – This is a long day on the road for not much. You do visit the shop of a local weaver and observe the process. Many on the tour bought some handmade items at this stop. The street market in Otavalo is large, but while there are many stalls, most are offering the same handicrafts. The “home hosted” lunch was at an old Hacienda and was very good. We got back to the hotel in the late evening. Day 10: Fly to the Galapagos – Again, a 4AM wake up and the beginning of the worst day of the entire trip. This is another opportunity to separate from your luggage things you may not need in the Galapagos. The Swissotel graciously stored these items for you. [It might be a good idea to carry a lightweight stuff bag to accommodate your stay behind items.] As you leave Quito, it is cool and you will probably dress accordingly. It is one hour earlier in the Galapagos than Quito – meaning we were up at 3AM Galapagos time. You are met in Baltra by crew members from the Isabela II – there is no Metropolitan Touring or Avalon Guide. It was 95 degrees in Baltra, hotter than expected for early April. Under the direction of the Isabela crew, we moved our luggage to several different locations (“leave it here, no move it there”, etc.). Eventually, our luggage was loaded on a truck to be taken to the ship. Orders were barked out that we needed to make sure we had sunscreen, a hat and water – the first time water had not been provided by the guides before any excursion. This was a little like the first day in military boot camp; somewhat chaotic and certainly not warm and friendly. We boarded an un-air conditioned bus for short ride to a passenger ferry, crossed a channel and boarded another un-air conditioned bus for a long ride to the highlands. We had a satisfactory lunch at a location in the mountains, considerably cooler and greener than Baltra, but also it was obvious we were killing time as we were required to linger for about an hour after everyone had finished eating. Next stop was the Darwin Research Center – well, actually a spot about a ten minute walk to the entrance of the Darwin Research Center. It was back to 95 degrees and humid as we slogged our way into the Center. From the entrance, it was another ten minute walk to any of the sights. While the name “Charles Darwin Research Center” conjures up images of a modern scientific center, it was actually a collection of large stone pens where some giant Galapagos tortoises were kept. We saw less than a dozen adult tortoises in these large pens during our 90 plus minutes of trekking up and down the hills of the Center and all of the tortoises appeared to be suffering as much in the 95 degree heart as we were. Not much movement and certainly no interaction with visitors. There were some cages where a number of baby tortoises were being kept. They were more active, but again no interaction. In short, this was a disappointing stop. All of us were hot, sweaty and tired by this point. Next, we were given the option of spending an hour in town before being transported to the ship or going directly to the ship. Transport to the ship was by RHIB, a little tricky for those with any mobility issues. It was after 5PM before we got to the ship and those that stayed in town arrived shortly after 6PM. The luggage, however, did not get to the rooms until later – I have no idea where the luggage had been all day. We had a mandatory safety drill and were instructed to be ready for our opening briefing at 7 PM, with dinner immediately following. There was little or no time to clean up and get settled. The briefing advised us that we were not on a “cruise”, but rather on an expedition; an apt warning. By the time dinner rolled around, about 7:45 – we had been up for almost 17 hours. Not a happy group, but most slept well that night. The Isabela II carries about 40 passengers. When we traveled, April 2014, the ship was clearly tired and showing it. There was rust and corrosion and the rooms were only marginally clean. In one case, a member of our group filmed the particularly sorry condition of his room and showed it to the Captain. That room was cleaned immediately. The Isabela II was scheduled for dry dock in May, although I do not know what all is to be done. It is a small ship, which is good for the island visits, but also makes it sensitive to sea conditions. Those prone to seasickness need to keep that in mind. Nevertheless, the ship met our needs and I would be willing to take it again, although I think there are nicer ships (i.e. Pinta). Wine with dinner was included for Avalon sponsored passengers. However, as only about one-half the passengers were Avalon, the crew had to sort us out each evening. There was only one guy that served wine and often we were almost done with the main course by the time he offered a glass of wine. For those that have been on Avalon River Cruises, the difference was apparent. Fortunately, the wine wasn’t all that good anyway so we didn’t miss much. There are three routes in the Galapagos: the Northern, the Central and the Southern Islands. Our trip was for the Southern Islands. On the Isabela II, each day generally had three events – a morning and late afternoon land excursion and an early afternoon water event (snorkeling or a glass bottom boat tour). Day 11: Floreana Island – Most of our ground excursions were “wet” landings. This means that RHIBs back-up to the shore and you swing off the sides into water – sometimes just a few inches of water, sometimes a foot or so depending on the waves. Again, those with mobility problems may have difficulty, but the Isabela crew tried to help everyone accomplish this task – both coming and going. There really isn’t much to see on this island. About the only wildlife were a few crabs on the rocks. It is the location of the “post office” – a barrel where post cards are left in hope that another traveler will come along that lives near the addressee and hand deliver it. We managed to do that and it was a fun experience. This was also the first opportunity to snorkel [the Isabela provides all the equipment although some folks brought their own.] It was done from the shore and there was not much to see, but it served as a good training session for those with little snorkeling experience. However, outstanding deep water snorkeling was ahead just after lunch. It was fantastic. I have never seen such a large quantity of fish of all variations and colors; plus we were joined by playful sea lions. For me, snorkeling was the highlight of the Galapagos. Day 12: Espanola Island – While the guide book described the hike here as “easy”, it is not. The naturalists on the ship warned everyone. The 1 ½ mile hike is almost entirely over irregular lava stones and you had to watch each step you took. We were warned that if someone could not complete the walk, all would have to return. A walking stick and hiking shoes were very useful for this excursion. If you could do the walk, there were many birds to be seen – including Albatrosses engaging in their mating rituals. There were also many sea lions and iguanas. With a lack of many natural enemies, the wildlife has little fear of people and you can get quite close; although caution is urged, especially with the sea lions. This was a great excursion for the “birders” in the group with many great photo opportunities. There was a deep water snorkeling event in the early afternoon and the late afternoon was spent on a long white sand beach, home of many sea lions. Day 13: San Cristobal Island – There were two morning options: One was a somewhat strenuous hike to the top of a volcanic bluff. Again, while described by the guide book as “easy”, the guides were quite clear that it was not. While promises of many bird sightings were made on this hike, few were actually seen. Others took to the RHIBs for a water tour around the island. There were lots of birds at a distance and some very scenic geological formations. Another outstanding deep water snorkeling event was in the early afternoon and another walk on the beach in the late afternoon with more sea lions and iguanas. Day 14: Return to Quito – This was the second worst day of the trip. Our “5 day” cruise is really only three days, as the first day and this day hardly count. Today was a 6AM wake up; bags out of the room by 7:00 and breakfast at 7:30. As soon as you left your room for breakfast, they begin tearing the beds down and cleaning the room for the next guests. They clearly did not want you to return to your room – but most needed to at least visit their bathrooms and collect their carry-on bags, although we were clearly not welcome. We were now in time-killing mode until our flight to Quito. They showed us a very good film about the Galapagos, a series done by David Attenborough – something that would have been more useful at the beginning. [The series is available on YouTube.] Following the film we were taken by RHIB to the shore. We boarded another un-air conditioned bus and went to an un-air conditioned “Interpretation Center” (not much interesting here) and from there we were dropped in town for a few hours. While this was an opportunity to shop for a Galapagos souvenir, or get lunch, water, or a snack; there was far more time than needed and many spent it just sitting on benches in town. We eventually got to the airport and boarded our flight for Quito. We were met by Marco and began the long drive back to the Swissotel. That night, we enjoyed a very good “farewell” dinner in the hotel. Day 15: Return Home – Most flights back to the U.S. leave very late at night. While the Swissotel was able to give late check-out to most of the group, it was still no later than 2PM. As we did not leave for the airport until 8PM (for an 11:30 PM flight), most of the group had 6 hours to kill – no easy task. We had booked an extra-night which allowed us to stay in our room until it was time to go. It was worth it. That is our day-by-day summary of the trip. We are glad we did it, but it was not a relaxing excursion. While Machu Picchu and the other Inca ruins were all we had anticipated, we keep thinking, aside from the snorkeling, that there is more to the Galapagos than we saw. Maybe the Northern Islands trip would be better. However, it will be awhile before we consider a return engagement.   Read Less
Sail Date: March 2014
After cruising many times in the past, I finally convinced my sister and brother-in-law to join me and my parents on a cruise. It was the first for them. My parents are Elite status and I am platnium. It was so much fun traveling with ... Read More
After cruising many times in the past, I finally convinced my sister and brother-in-law to join me and my parents on a cruise. It was the first for them. My parents are Elite status and I am platnium. It was so much fun traveling with newbies!!! The ports were ok about what you would expect in the Caribbean. The highlight was obviously the Canal. It was spendid!! The Ship was nice. It is smaller which I enjoyed. There were always places to find a seat in the Horizon Court. Believe it or not the International Cafe was never very crowded. Not the case on many other cruises!! I loved that part. The food selection was good. We had traditional dining in the Provence dining room. Hated eating at 5:30 pm but the late seating at 7:45 pm was way too late. What happened to 6:00 pm??? All I ever hear is how people love the anytime dining. However, it seems like traditional time slots are always full. The entertainment was not enjoyable unless you include Movie Under the Stars. Dancer and singers were lack luster at best. I did enjoy popcorn during the movie. Embarkment and disembarkment were both efficient. Overall I would recommend this boat and this distination. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2014
Quasar Expeditions runs a first class operation. Everything ran like clockwork. From the moment we were met at the airport to our eventual departure pickup from the hotel, the entire experience exceeded our expectations. Needless to say ... Read More
Quasar Expeditions runs a first class operation. Everything ran like clockwork. From the moment we were met at the airport to our eventual departure pickup from the hotel, the entire experience exceeded our expectations. Needless to say this experience, visiting the various sites accompanied by very well informed guides made this trip exceptional. I can’t imagine visiting such a place without the benefit of their expertise. Small ship cruising is the only way to go. Everyone was friendly and gladly did their best to ensure all questions were answered and we felt satisfied. Additionally, the accommodations on the Grace were superb and comfortable. As we continued our travels with Quasar, the hotels, which were all located easily within walking distance to the central squares, were filled with local custom and tradition. All hotels were staffed by very courteous s and professional individuals who did their best to make our stay as pleasurable as possible. I would gladly recommend your services to anyone with the desire to visit such an interesting part of the world. Doing this trip “on our own” would never have provided the richness and depth that only knowledgeable local guides could provide. Moreover, this was all made possible by your taking the stress out of traveling in a new country. Not being concerned about transfers and knowing that we would be met timely, time after time by very courteous staff allowed us to make the most of our time. Thanks for making this one of the best vacations we have experienced thus far. Chris Shotwell   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2014
After a week on the Silver Galapagos I’ve hours to spend travelling so might as well write a review. Overall the visit to the Galapagos was fantastic and most of the Silverseas Experience was also very good. So let’s start with the ... Read More
After a week on the Silver Galapagos I’ve hours to spend travelling so might as well write a review. Overall the visit to the Galapagos was fantastic and most of the Silverseas Experience was also very good. So let’s start with the not so good which has mainly been the last couple of days of the cruise. Friday’s tour on land seemed designed to suit the needs of the crew to get us off the ship for as long as possible. We were off the ship at 8am to visit the tortoises and that could easily have been completed and back on board for lunch, instead we were supplied the worst meal of the week at a local restaurant and were not given the option to return to the ship until 4pm (although they eventually grudgling agreed to do so at 2.30). Now we’re on Saturday, so its out of your cabin by 7.30a.m sit around on the ship until 9.30pm for the short bus journey to the airport to wait another nearly 3 hours for the flight. Surely something could have been organised to make good use of this 5 hours of time while still in the Galapagos? We booked the mainland/Galapagos flights through Silverseas and also a day room at a Guayaquil hotel for today. However, they didn't notify us until yesterday that the flight times had changed so we arrived in Guayaquil only just over 4 hours before our home flight, so there was no point in transferring to the day room (that we have paid for!) and we have instead stayed at the airport Anyway, back to the beginning of the week Arrivals in to Quito Airport, on to the hotel and then back to the airport (5.30am start) were all well organised. In between we enjoyed a fantastic full day tour of Quito/Equator organised by the Silverseas local agent(booked at the hotel on arrival). A beautiful city and well worth a stop-over. On arrival to Baltra airport the move to the Silver Galapagos was short and quick and at the harbour we got to see the first Sea Lions. Lunch was served as soon as we arrived on board. In the afternoon there was a welcome lecture with introductions to all the Naturalists and other crew members. This was combined with the safety procedures, which did make it a bit of an over long session. Activities Every day was an early start with 8 am disembarkations considered a luxury lie in. Some days there was a gap after lunch for those who needed a nap but on others it was a busy morning and afternoon. The activities were Zodiac(inflatable tours), kayaking, beach and deep sea snorkelling and walks. On some days we did all of them! What we saw on land and in the water was amazing and what makes the cost of this holiday experience worthwhile. Up close, Iguanas, Tortoises, Turtles, Sealions, Sharks and so many different birds and fish. We even got to see an Orca from just a few metres away. Food The food on board was very good most of the time. The service was often slow and glasses including water stood empty even after asking for a refill. For wine drinkers there was a good selection of South American wines and for the beer drinkers there was at least a red and black alternative to the bland lager. There was an extensive range of cocktails etc. The outside Grill restaurant served an excellent range of mainly fish/prawns/lobster at lunch and could accommodate about half of the passengers so across the week we got there early enough on several days to eat there. In the evening is was necessary to book, which we did but by the third time the unchanging “hot rocks” menu while good was becoming a bit repetitive. The main restaurant provided an excellent wide ranging buffet breakfast. The buffet lunch was also good. Dinner menus had many courses and much variety through the week. Occasionally the food was overcooked. The Ship, Cabins and Service The Silver Galapagos has a good number of public spaces inside and outside and surprisingly good unlimited wifi access for $140 for the week. (Unlikely the unusably slow access at Baltra airport) We were in a deluxe verandah cabin which was big enough with a small seating area and we took the tip from other reviewers to put a case at the bottom of each wardrobe. The air conditioning was good enough providing that we kept the curtains closed. The shower was good, even if much of the water ended up on the floor! There was a large flat screen TV which we never switched on as we were too busy or too tired! We also never used the spa or fitness centre for the same reasons. The cabin service was OK but was often in response to requests rather than being pre-empted. Silver Galapagos still has room for improvements but I would recommend this trip as an excellent way to experience the Galapagos Islands.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2014
We just returned from a 7 night cruise in the Galapagos Islands aboard the Evolution. Although this cruise was completely different from most of the reviews I've read on the Cruise Critic website, it's certainly worth praise and ... Read More
We just returned from a 7 night cruise in the Galapagos Islands aboard the Evolution. Although this cruise was completely different from most of the reviews I've read on the Cruise Critic website, it's certainly worth praise and an exceptional review. Quasar Expeditions hosted the trip aboard our 32 passenger yacht and nothing could have been better! Each day was filled with a friendly wake up call to a delicious and hardy breakfast before boarding the panga (zodiac) for an early morning hike. We repositioned before lunch, or had another panga ride to our snorkel spot for the day, were greeted by the amazing staff of the Evolution with snacks in the jacuzzi after our underwater adventure, shared another amazing meal at lunch (including desert every day) then off to another exciting little island for our late afternoon hike. Early evening began with our Naturalist's briefing and review of our day's adventures including a recap of the wildlife and geological formations we visited during the day. The guides reinforced our knowledge and experiences of the day with a slide show, answered all our questions, and reviewed our itinerary for the following day. Dinner and wine (and another great desert) rounded out the day, or we finished up in the lounge with an after-dinner drink and discussion. This is a cruise for those who are active, interested in nature, and ready to immerse themselves in the Galapagos. The open air design of the Evolution is perfect to explore the islands, and the small size of the yacht makes each landing and snorkel experience feel as though you are the only people in the world. The islands are so isolated and special, I can't imagine sharing them with a huge group of people. The appointments aboard the Evolution are those of a first-class hotel, so while spending your days on lava fields and swimming with the sea turtles or sharks, you return to luxury and pampering by the staff. It was absolutely amazing! A note about our guides. Rafael Pesantes and Samuel Quiroz, both Level III Naturalist Guides, were fantastic! Rafa's love of the islands and the wildlife was contagious as he described the flight or breeding patterns of the blue footed boobies, or explained the evolutionary adaptations of the marine iguana. Sam guided up step by step through the volcanic creation and growth of the islands. They patiently answered all our questions in brief or in detail (not easy to do with a group of geneticists on board). More importantly, we had such fun learning and exploring and each day was filled with more wonders than the day before. Quasar has done it again by providing an incredible yacht, coupled with outstanding staff, and the best Naturalist guides in the islands!   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2014
Just returned from a week in the Galapogas and we think it was probably 4 or 5 days to long. We are pretty seasoned travelers with about 200 cruises under our belts and a number of land trips also. This destination was on our bucket list ... Read More
Just returned from a week in the Galapogas and we think it was probably 4 or 5 days to long. We are pretty seasoned travelers with about 200 cruises under our belts and a number of land trips also. This destination was on our bucket list because we had heard from other travelers it was a must now that we gone it's not for us because there isn't much to do or see that is exceptional and day after day is pretty repetitive . Different birds, turtles,iguanas, sea lions and less than stellar snorkeling On to our accommodations, Silver Sea new Silver Galapogas, what a disappointment . On arrival from a zodiac a patched and dented hull, railings not varnished,18 steps to climb on and off daily. The carpet was a poor choice of color gray beige, looked dirty always room not. Bad. But bathroom floor buckling. Food poor, lunch up in the grill the best to offer, service. Not up to their standard, food and silverware taken away and next course but no silverware with it. No premium liquor, no non alcoholic beer. Lack of communication . Was served root beer for non alcoholic., asked for hot tea water and was given cold bottle water, asked for tomatoes on my salad and was given potatoes on a salad. Coffee in suite almost always cold even when we wrote HOT coffee. Friends of ours had a distressing problem when snorkeling and we're treated Nonchalant about it. I could go on an on but I would not recommend Silver Galapogas if you are going.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2014
Started in Singapore and ended in Venice on two segments of their World Cruise, now referred to as extend explorations. This was our longest cruise and the first time on Seabourn, were not sure about a smaller ship, but once on board it ... Read More
Started in Singapore and ended in Venice on two segments of their World Cruise, now referred to as extend explorations. This was our longest cruise and the first time on Seabourn, were not sure about a smaller ship, but once on board it feels much larger. We had been on Regent and Crystal in the past year. We fell out of love with Regent and in love with Crystal (both separate reviews) we were looking for another luxury cruise line and Seabourn had an interesting itinerary. With all the issues in Egypt, they had to make some changes to the itinerary, the back up choices were nice options. The embarkation at the old port in Singapore was not impressive, the disembarkation in Venice was flawless in the newer port. Once on board you start to experience why Seabourn is different, yes the ship is beautiful but it is the crew that really stand out. We were far forward on Deck 7, and a little concerned about the ship rocking. It is the most stable ship we have ever experienced. Although we had good weather and calm seas for most of the trip, the few times we experienced wind, rain and swells, the ship felt amazingly steady. Captain Dexter was the best we have seen, out and about every day, talking to people, keeping us informed of important issues in the most charming way. The crew participates in lots of fun activities on board, the Caviar in the Surf party was delightful and fun. You could often meet the Captain in the Seabourn Square, a wonderful large area deck 7 aft, where you could get a great cup of coffee, a snack, read a book, play cards, meet with the guest relations/destinations team and read a worldwide choice of daily newspapers all loaded onto an IPad with a stand. They offer paper newspapers and very comfortable chairs and plenty of computers for personal access. Their internet plan was very affordable too, after a couple of bumpy starts we got some technical help from the team and we were great for the rest of the trip. More ships have laundry rooms which is great when your are in a warm climate and want to pack lighter. Sojourn has two laundry rooms with two washers, two dryers and two ironing boards in each, no charge for machine or soap. They probably could use a better process for passengers to wash since everyone seemed to go there often around the same time. It was cooperative and polite, no one left laundry long after it was done and I was surprised to see how many people iron, no wonder it was a well dressed looking group. The Cruise Director Jan and her team, Heather and Sophie were amazing. The best of the best on the high seas.They planned all the activities, participated in many, sang like professionals and connected with the passengers in such a personal and friendly way. Many great speakers to fill the sea days and a great dance and singing team at night to finish the day. All these crew members worked tirelessly at all events, tours and functions, and were at the exit after their show to personally thank you for attending, a first for us. Initially we were frantic about 14 of the 33 days were at sea. They had so many wonderful options (many loved the trivia) that the port days seemed less interesting, never thought I would feel that way. At the end of this cruise we knew more of the crew than in all of our more than 20 cruises, and they knew us by name. Restaurants and food were a pleasant surprise. The Colonnade was the main casual dining area on deck 8 for all meals, they offered daily specials along with the buffet and had themed luncheons, all beautifully presented and served, with the evening meals made more upscale. The Patio Grill by the pool was open for lunch and dinner, a great choice for outside dining with the same top level of preparation and service. The main formal dining area Restaurant on deck 4 was contemporary and offered a great choice, amazing service and the best Maitre D on the high seas, Antonio. He knew our name from day one. They walk each person to their table, a lovely way to start an elegant meal. My favorite was Restaurant 2, small intimate dining of about 40, done in black white and red, a feeling of being in a Cabaret at sea. The team of Bart and Sylvia will take you on a gastronomic journey. The menu changes every couple of days with about seven different menus. It is a nine course tasting meal, beautifully prepared and served, your pallet will go crazy if you like unusual combinations of tasty morsels. Also, don't miss the High Tea service every afternoon on the forward deck, the best scones and view. Chef Graeme Cockburn was an amazing person, we went on a shopping tour with him and learned so much about fish, fruits, herbs and the entire process of food preparation, especially during his food demonstration classes. This was not just a tasting experience, he shares all sorts of handy tips and he has the best personality and team. They created an Easter Brunch spread out over the entire main dining room and the galley that was a visual and tasty feast. Their on-deck theme parties were stunning, the decoration and food to complement the evening were breathtaking. Be prepared to dress in the local outfits, it was so much fun and so many people participated. We heard there was a Seabourn club and newcomers did not feel welcome. In our experience, nothing could be further from the truth, we were greeted warmly by past and new guests alike, we met many interesting and notable people on board. As the cruise went on the tables for dinner got larger and larger but you could always get a table for two or four. There are also several dress codes, the usual of no shorts and tank tops at dinner. Most of the days were smart casual or elegant casual. On the formal nights some opted for tuxedo and gowns but many wore nice suits, dresses and cocktail attire on those evening. They offered two other dining options if you chose to be relaxed. The ship has several bars and very attentive bartenders, they know how to make any drink you can request and most remembered your preferences or offered something fun and new, especially during the day by the pool. To work off that extra food and drinking, the spa and exercise facility was nicely appointed. No ship has a large exercise areas but the Sojourn has two facilities, one with equipment and some weights, the other for mostly yoga, Pilates and stretch. Jordan teaches all the classes, usually 30 minutes and you must sign up for each class, he is a popular guy and the classes fill up since the space limits about 10 participants. The spa was beautiful and serene with a private sitting and hot tub area. We purchased several tours and all were executed nicely, the team really knows how to get you off the ship and on to a clean bus/boat with the best tour guides. Several events that were hosted by Seabourn offsite as part of their special experience in which all the passengers are treated to a tour were also perfectly managed. On several occasions they had the large welcome home parties with music, drinks and cheers. For going ashore there was always plenty of water, umbrellas, hand sanitizer, towels, sunblock, glass cleaner and even sandwiches and cookies on days where you may miss lunch. They think of everything, the ship runs like a fine Swiss watch. Two areas we were less impressed with, we had great dance lessons from Kelly and Artem, but no place to practice, it is not a ship that focuses on ballroom dancing. The second part was the Grand Salon, it has a low ceiling and way too many large posts which block your view. They are building a new and larger ship for 2016, we are hoping they will have a larger and better designed Salon, more dance floor space and perhaps a golf simulator, but those are our personal preferences. Would we go on Seabourn again, Absolutely Yes.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2014
I am a great fan of this ship,and unhestitatingly recommend it to anyone looking for actual enrichment and cultural /religious learning. I have been on several previous voyages,and all were wonderful down to the very last detail. The ... Read More
I am a great fan of this ship,and unhestitatingly recommend it to anyone looking for actual enrichment and cultural /religious learning. I have been on several previous voyages,and all were wonderful down to the very last detail. The food?fresh,varied,healthy,served with a smile in the restaurants or in the covered verandah. Cleanliness?the ship was spotless The itinerary?the ship ,being smaller,can access ports and harbours the large cruiseliners cannot. We were able to go to places not used to large crowds/tourists,and received a more genuine experience of the culture.Much thought has gone into the choice of ports,and there are inevitably some very interesting and less-visited spots on each itinerary. The staff?helpful,friendly,professional The recreational areas ?(gym,pool etc) More on the basic side,but most days are spent on land and one tends to walk and gain exercise that way. there are daily yoga classes.The gym has adequate and well-maintained eqipment. Library? Amazing collection of books,reference titles,decent novels,magazines all located in a comfortable room with a window wall....very pleasant, Ambience? the ship is refined but casual in feel.No stuffy formal nights,no screaming kids (in fact none at all),no gambling,nice live music every evening and night.They do have trivia sessions and movie nights. The cabins? Quite adequate. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2014
When you travel on the Tere Moana you come to feel like you are traveling with family. Everyone from the Captain to the waitpeople to the housekeeping group to those whom you never see work together as an incredible team with the sole ... Read More
When you travel on the Tere Moana you come to feel like you are traveling with family. Everyone from the Captain to the waitpeople to the housekeeping group to those whom you never see work together as an incredible team with the sole purpose of ensuring all guests are made to feel at home and comfortable. We especially saw this when we had some difficult landings. We did not experience the air conditioning issues that other reviewers have mentioned. And we were in hot and humid locations for the entire trip (Costa Rica/Panama). Cabins on the 300 and 400 decks are the same. We found there was no need to pay the higher price of the 400 level. The cabin rooms are more than amble (only wish we had a balcony). In fact, we did not use all of the space allocated to clothes (a full length hanging closet plus shelve space). Very comfortable beds and duvet comforters. Hot water in the showers, always -- even immediately after everyone coming back on board after a day at the beach. The ship baker is to be commended. A range of breads made fresh for lunch and dinner with inventive butter pairings. Yum. More than once, we had barbecue lunch on the beach. That means that everything -- grills, tables, chairs, food and drink -- needs to be taken off the ship, set-up and arranged on the beach. And taken down afterward. All of this work was done seamlessly (and with a smile). We even had ice cream cones brought to us while wading in the warm waters! With only 88 guests, you come to know all of your fellow travelers by the end of the trip. But you can also find quiet spots to read without interruption (at the front of the ship under umbrellas, by the pool, in the lounge or library). Wifi is spotty but that is the nature of the oceans and not the ship. Spoiler alert: This is not a 'luxury' ship. If you're looking for this kind of experience, you'll need to find another ship. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2014
I am writing this as we pull into the harbor at Baltra, after a glorious week traveling 435 miles around the Galapagos aboard Silver Galapagos. We came to the Galapagos to see pristine beaches and exotic wildlife, to snorkel and kayak, to ... Read More
I am writing this as we pull into the harbor at Baltra, after a glorious week traveling 435 miles around the Galapagos aboard Silver Galapagos. We came to the Galapagos to see pristine beaches and exotic wildlife, to snorkel and kayak, to soak up the sun, to dine outside in warm breezes, and to have guides and crew who knew what they were doing, who kept us safe and who were uncommonly nice. We also came for a curated itinerary that would expose us to the best of the Galapagos, and give us a taste of history and science along the way. We got what we came for! Silversea gave us a wonderful week. The expedition staff, especially its leader Danny, was truly top notch. Their skill made all the difference. It is hard to imagine a higher degree of luxury or personal service onboard or on shore, especially given where we were. Yes, the ship is old and the facilities limited compared to cruise ships, but this is an expedition ship that allows travel into remote coves and adjacent to isolated beaches. An upcoming dry dock holds promise that the physical plant will improve. But compared to the expedition ships we viewed in a couple of harbors along the way, this is far and away the most luxurious option. In terms of personal service -- which truly determines the degree of luxury -- it was the best we have had on a cruise anywhere. Each of us celebrated birthdays onboard, and our butler and cabin attendants made them very special indeed. The spa professional was the sweetest AND most capable masseuse, pedicurist, etc. The maitre d' took care of us like he worked only for us, especially in ensuring vegetarian options. He even allowed us to use the restaurant menu at the outdoor grill for dinner, which provided greater choice. For meals, the quality of the ingredients was always good, with unlimited native lobster, prawns and exotic fruits. You don't go on an expedition ship for soufflés and cherries jubilee; we ate plenty, and we ate well. We opted for the top category suite, and because of the small size of the ship, it turned out to be the smallest cabin (much less smallest suite) we every have had on any ship. No matter. It was efficiently laid out. The bed was very comfortable. And the bathroom was fine. So we had a week of adventures, were cared for beautifully, slept well and ate well. Can't ask for much more from a cruise. I recommend the Silver Galapagos enthusiastically. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2014
The Sea Bird is an old (built 1981), small (62-passenger), quite basic expedition ship with little pretense of decor and the most cramped cabins I have ever seen. (The best bets are cabins 106, 214, and 217.) It bounces sickeningly in ... Read More
The Sea Bird is an old (built 1981), small (62-passenger), quite basic expedition ship with little pretense of decor and the most cramped cabins I have ever seen. (The best bets are cabins 106, 214, and 217.) It bounces sickeningly in rough seas, which are fortunately rare in these waters. The cuisine is adequate (good dessert chef). This ship is desirable only for its itineraries. You can see Alaska's inside passage very well on more comfortable ships--think Silversea--but if you want to see the great whales of Baja, you have no better choice than Sea Bird. It's a 7-day trip--you fly in and out of La Paz, busing across the peninsula (about a 3-hour drive) either at the start or the end. On our trip, the bus ride was at the start, and we boarded at Puerto San Carlos (which is not the San Carlos farther north in Baja) on the Pacific. In narrow Magdalena Bay, setting out from the ship on Zodiacs, we had many close and exciting encounters with gray whales, usually cows traveling with their calves. We had a day and a half of these adventures. Then we set out for Cabo San Lucas, rounded Land's End, had a port stop in San Juan del Cabo (nice walk in a bird sanctuary), and continued up into the Sea of Cortez. Here humpback whales are the main objective. There seemed to be fewer of them, spread across a great expanse of water, but they display a wider variety of behavior than the grey whales and were very enjoyable to watch during our relatively few close encounters. We saw no other species of whales. But we had a delightful extended encounter with a superpod of hundreds of dolphins, detachments of which often leapt in unison. We saw many rays that leapt so high above the water that they performed several flips before re-entering. And at one rocky islet our Zodiacs were closely followed by swarms of California sea lions, among whom we also had the opportunity to snorkel. Throughout, the commentary of the on-board naturalists was interesting and valuable. You're on the Sea Bird in the waters of Baja to see marine mammals, and you certainly do, better perhaps than anywhere else in the world. Opportunities to do this don't fill your seven days, which also incorporate some inevitable padding. But for those not distressed by a total dearth of luxe, the Sea Bird is your best passage to an experience very much worth having.   Read Less
Sail Date: February 2014
Our 6th journey on Silversea and although we expected an 'expedition' type vacation, we were disappointed with the quality of the ship and the service. We did expect more from this stellar company. The 25 year old vessel badly ... Read More
Our 6th journey on Silversea and although we expected an 'expedition' type vacation, we were disappointed with the quality of the ship and the service. We did expect more from this stellar company. The 25 year old vessel badly needs to go into dry dock for a good overhaul. Throughout the voyage washrooms were unavailable and locked in public areas, with a smell emanating from them, air conditioning was almost non-existent, particularly in the restaurant, and the furnishings were worn and tired and in disrepair. Our cabin, a veranda suite was comfortable, although there was no space provided for our bags. I traveled with my husband and we only brought one suitcase each, but no room for them under the bed. It took 6 days to get a light bulb replaced and the emergency light did not go on when there was a brief power failure. The food was very poor. We understand that getting fresh food in Ecuador is difficult, although bananas, a staple there, were also very tired. I can find fresher at home. The restaurant where we were advised to wear 5 star resort clothing, no jeans, was hot and uncomfortable, and the food often inedible and certainly uninspired. The other eating venue outside had to be booked by reservation, although Silversea stresses that their ships are open seating. There were unused tables, but I believe there just wasn't enough staff to service this area, nor the 'hot rock' grills to go around. The reason we went on this cruse was to visit the Galapagos in comfort. The expedition staff led by Danny was first rate. The various trips we took were excellent and enjoyable. The enthusiastic guides like Xavier and Tommy were a delight. The wildlife and scenery incredible. We met many wonderful passengers who also were disappointed in the ship, service, and food and they expressed that this was their first and last Silversea voyage. We have trusted the brand over the many years we have been traveling with them, but no longer. We paid top dollar for what we had expected to be at the very least an excellent, well run ship in good repair with delicious food. We did not get this. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2014
I would like to share the experience of my trip to the Galapagos with you. I bought a cruise with the ship Santa Cruz. It was a last Minute offer including flight for “only” 1300$. Now to the cruise: When I arrived at the Galapagos ... Read More
I would like to share the experience of my trip to the Galapagos with you. I bought a cruise with the ship Santa Cruz. It was a last Minute offer including flight for “only” 1300$. Now to the cruise: When I arrived at the Galapagos Islands I was picked up from the airport by bus and my luggage was brought to our cabins. We took a small boat to our ship and started our day with a welcome cocktail. As far as I can remember we had lunch directly after that. The food during the whole trip was great (thanks to the cooks). For breakfast and lunch we had a buffet and for dinner a four course menu. Later at the first day we went for our first visit to the islands. We saw many, many iguanas, sea lions, birds, etc. it was great! (We had to take care not to step on them.) Unfortunately, it turned out that we would see the same animals everyday over and over again. Of course, we saw giant tortoises at the Darwin station as well and smaller tortoises on some of the other islands. But that was mainly it. Still, we had a great time, seeing awesome beaches and landscapes. No matter how great the visits of the different islands were (we visited Isabela, Fernandina, Santa Cruz and Floreana), the snorkeling activities topped everything by far. We snorkeled nearly every day one or two times for about one hour. (If you are not used to cold water you should rent a wet suit. Since I am used to swim in the even colder North Sea it wasn`t necessary for me. Still, sometimes it was really cold.) The second day we snorkeled between bunches of turtles. We even could have touched them easily, but we weren`t allowed to. The other days we were swimming with different kinds of fish (I would tell you their names but I just don`t know them), sea lions and penguins. All of that combined (but no turtles) we saw on our last snorkeling trip. It was one of the best experiences of my whole life. There were soooo many fish around us of soo many colors of all sizes. It was stunning. Also huge sea lions and even some sharks. Back from the Islands to our ship: On the ship were people of all ages, but mostly older people and many couples. However, there were some younger people as well (25-33 years). Another highlight on the ship was the Jacuzzi. Between the different activities I enjoyed to relax there and to glimpse at the sea or to look at the stars during the night (you could see them great). To the weather: It was really warm (ca. 25-30º C. sorry I am bad with Fahrenheit. Just look it up.), sometimes even too warm during the walks on the islands. This was another reason why the snorkeling activities were a nice change. They were a nice cooling-off. To sum up, I would recommend everybody to make the same experiences on Galapagos Islands. I personally would book the exact same trip again, with the same cruise, the same travel agency, and the same people on the ship. (You guys were great. Thank you!)   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2014
Firstly the good points as they are few and far between. We saw the northern lights in their glory which was the whole point of the cruise so a big plus. Second our cabin steward was brilliant to the point where we could have adopted ... Read More
Firstly the good points as they are few and far between. We saw the northern lights in their glory which was the whole point of the cruise so a big plus. Second our cabin steward was brilliant to the point where we could have adopted him. That's it for good points. The boarding was a total haphazard mob of people everywhere, which was sad really as the very initial part where you dropped your cases of was organised and reassuring. Once upon the ship all seemed well. Cabin was fine, clean, but why do I sound surprised surly that's what's expected. We had a double bed facing the front of the ship and we were right at the front of the ship which later we realised was not a good idea as the first night we had all the noise of the staffs party below us and boy do they know how to party. The other part of the bed facing to the front was when we had a bad stormy night on two occasions we had our feet down then lifting off then CRASH as the front of the ship hit back down it was worse then a roller coaster at universal studios! Our first nights meal ok average, very small portions but didn't feel hungry afterwards did the trick gave me calories. The days at sea were boring.... Nothing to do...hold on line dancing "ok let's give it a go" kill an hour or so....ummm 4 dances and over .. Now was that worth the effort NO... Come on if you say line dancing let's have a dam good go at it not just a dip in of the toe. Crafts were ok.. But again could have been much better Evening entertainment.... Well two comedians one average the other should have walked the plank.. Literally absolutely terrible. In fact they allowed him to have a second show and I think it was practically empty from what I was told as you guessed I couldn't face being sick,with out it being the sea making me feel ill. The other shows were average. They did put effort into the shows but It lacked something...the main female singer could not sing to save her life well let's be nice if she sang in tune and in range it was fine but for some reason she chose to sing at screech pitch! Not good. I was trying to find and be nice bit it was difficult. Then the cocktail saga, one night a big glass the next a smaller one,yep the measures were different but you paid the same price... Naughty and were they bothered no way. Now it states late night snacks..... A waiter with a tray of greasy nasty deep fried rubbish and then had the cheek to give you a napkin and you had one of each lovely late night treat. One eaten never again unless you want to live off of heartburn remedys. The staff were not brilliant there were the odd one or two who excelled and they know who they are, but other wise they were pretty , opinionated not overly friendly. We had a couple of occasions where they staff were arguing in front of us who was putting the coffee glasses onto the tray... You do not need to see or hear this. On another occasion we were chatting to one of the friendlier staff members when bellowed from behind the bar he was ordered instructions to get ice... Well firstly he was doing what he's meant to do talk and be nice to paying passengers secondly it was his break it wasn't like he was not pulling his weight but there's no such thing on board as passenger satisfaction at all. The trips were fine. We did a few. Husky dog safari, ice hotel, snowmobile etc all good. The other ports of call were bit boring not much to see not much to do, why go there. See a wooden church ok but not worth a stop for! Surly the itinary could have been better arranged so you could see And do more when off the ship. There was only one bout of novo virus dealt with swiftly and well in my opinion. We had a lady air lifted off by helicopter one night poor thing she was fine evidently but the Dj was getting quite irate with people in Scott's bar. I don't think people were glorying in on the fact this poor lady was I'll more the fact you don't see a sea rescue everyday! But he tried his best to keep people from the windows and everyone did all sit back somewhat, but he did loose it a bit. Now the Dj in Scott's bar was fine but it was very loud if you wanted to chat... I'm being pinickity now as yes if you want to chat you could go into another bar but Scott's stay open later so if you wanted that holiday feeling of drinking cocktails staying up late it had to be Scott's, well until the staff had decided enough was enough and told you to go. It is not like other ships where you are welcome till you decide to go on the Marco Polo they tell you when to go. There was a party of 8 to 10 people wanting to stay up late and party this is not the ship for you after all the staff want to go into the staff quarters to party all night how can they do that whilst looking after paying passengers! The food ... Umm well where do I start, portions size one mussel for a starter, laughable but true, or a tiny spoonful of veg on a tiny piece of lettuce. We had steak one night well it was called steak may have been old boot leather. Who could tell the difference, cooked to perfection if you wanted it nuked! Fish yes we had fish couldn't tell you what fish,only it was that. The cutlery was few and far between one night we were asked to keep our used cutlery to use on the next course. Bread rolls one each if you wanted more I think we may have begged! Plates were not placed nicely in front of you but more slung in a surly manor. Now the last night, night before the big tip boy was our waiter polite and nice... Bit too late we opted out of mass tips and gave them according to the deserved. Wine waiter was very good no problems there and drinks package was good. I stated you can opt out of the mass tipping, the day before you dock back at tilbury go to reception tell them that's what you want to do.. It's not a problem sign a form done! Then as I said you can tip the deserved and they get a tip worth having. Please think about this it's worth it if you find some are very good. The buffet was ok bit of the same really. Salad never really changed much same of the same. You are given your cutley in there, just choose a table and off you go. Staff do get in your way they really don't see you as the passenger more of an in convienance and if they are there and want to top up say lettuce you WILL get out of the way... They will make sure of that. Just rude the whole time. Now I know it's a ship but I believe it has a ghost captain.... Where the hell was he. It's understood he doesn't like the passengers and it shows. He never comes down for a meal never eats with the passengers in fact we saw him briefly once but that was it. Marco Polo is 50 years old it needs help it looks old it creaks and groans but boy oh boy it bounces around the sea like an inflatable dingy. Everyone even well seasoned cruisers felt sea sick. I'm not too offay with ships but there must be something seriously wrong with her stabilisers because even with a slight swell it felt awful and you felt every single movement unlike any ship I have ever been on before. The two storms one night our cabin had been arranged so nothing would smash or fall and on the bing bing we were informed the second night the following week, nothing in fact we knew it was going to happen by looking at our phone app of the sea conditions and in fact it was a worse storm than the first one. It took me a week to feel like I wasn't being bounced about on the sea upon returning home that's how the Marco Polo is so unstable. Will I ever go on her again a DEFINITE NO. Was I pleased I went well yes but only because I saw the northern lights and met some lovely people. So make your mind up from this but if you want something special choose another ship... It's just not polished and lacks that's feel good factor unfortunately. PS this ship needs a new executive chef urgently (But doubt if Cruise and Maritime read this!)   Read Less
Sail Date: February 2014
For years I have wanted to go on a cruise, but my husband was very reticent. Finally, in this our 49th year of marriage, the decision was made and I found the cruise that fit us perfectly: Sapphire Princess to the Mexican Riviera.... and ... Read More
For years I have wanted to go on a cruise, but my husband was very reticent. Finally, in this our 49th year of marriage, the decision was made and I found the cruise that fit us perfectly: Sapphire Princess to the Mexican Riviera.... and what a treat it was! Right from the start things went well: parking right at the dock for a reasonable price and friendly porters to take our bags. Then getting to our stateroom and meeting our "caregiver." Lily was wonderful throughout the trip, doing her utmost to make us comfortable. We had decided on a balcony, and immediately knew that our choice was the right one. Even before we left the dock we were out there relaxing. In fact, we ended up spending a lot of time in our very comfortable cabin--more perhaps than some would, but that's what we liked, and that's what the cruise was all about: doing what we wanted. Of course we also spent time outside of our cabin, on excursions and in the buffet and dining rooms. The food was absolutely excellent, as was the service. We got to know some of our servers personally, especially the young Peruvian man whose Mexican wife also worked on the ship.... what a lovely couple they were! Seeing Ensenada and Puerta Vallarta by bus were also great fun, especially the visit to the tequila factory in the latter, where we learned that saying "mas tequila" could be dangerous--but fun--thing to do. We decided to "do" Cabo san Lucas on foot, perhaps not the best idea for a couple in our age range, but we survived and had fun doing it. Sailing back from Puerto we really relaxed and just enjoyed the Sapphire Princess.... which included the casino and the shopping facilities, as well as some of the entertainment offered. Reaching Los Angeles was a bit of a bummer.... I would have liked to start all over again. Still, we were left with wonderful memories, and my husband admitted that cruising was great, and that he'd like to do the same cruise again sometime. Whether it's your first cruise that you're planning, or the next in a list of many, you'll not regret choosing the seeing the Mexican Riviera on the Sapphire Princess.... the ship is beautiful and the people are amazing.   Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
Arrive in Ushuaia after an overnight stay in Buenos Aires. 13 hour flight from London then a 4 hour job from Buenos Aires. Board mid afternoon and sail an hour later. Bremen is a great little expedition vessel with 4*+ luxury. 170 ... Read More
Arrive in Ushuaia after an overnight stay in Buenos Aires. 13 hour flight from London then a 4 hour job from Buenos Aires. Board mid afternoon and sail an hour later. Bremen is a great little expedition vessel with 4*+ luxury. 170 passengers or so, mainly German but this voyage had 22 Noble Caledonia booked Englanders ! And we were put into our own group for everything so we all got to know each other very well. Ages ranged from mid 50s to mid 70s but all active and relatively fit - which you need to be for a holiday like this. Next day at sea saw us equipped with boots and parkas. Then it was 2 days in the Falklands, 3 days at South Georgia and 6 days in the antarctic peninsula. Landings all by zodiacs, all wet except Port Stanley. Saw all the different penguins and seals. Also humpbacks, orcas, fin and minke whales. If you are into birds then you would be in heaven. Cabin, food and services on board better than Cunard. Lectures given in German then in English so we didn't miss out on anything. Dining is casual, we were told Hanseatic, their 5* vessel, was more formal. Weather not bad. Mainly overcast and we got caught in a blizzard in Sth Georgia which was interesting. Drake Passage crossings were a bit lumpy but not bad at all. Days were quite tiring. Often 3 landings a day which was great but we were all a bit knackered by the end. But I think we all would have loved the trip to last longer. Anyone looking for an antarctic experience should check out these holidays. A tad more expensive but worth it. A proper antarctic experience.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
The Celebrity Xpedition is an excellent choice for a cruise in the Galapagos Islands. The ship was built in Germany in 2001 and has been sailing in the Galapagos Islands for 10 years. They know what they are doing. We started in Quito. We ... Read More
The Celebrity Xpedition is an excellent choice for a cruise in the Galapagos Islands. The ship was built in Germany in 2001 and has been sailing in the Galapagos Islands for 10 years. They know what they are doing. We started in Quito. We were met at the airport and transferred to the JW Marriott Hotel. The Hotel was very good. The next day we had a tour of the city and a trip to the equator. The lunch was excellent. We had dinner at Carmine Restaurant. The dinner was outstanding. The next day we took the Celebrity Charter flight on AeroGal to Baltra. All the transfers were handled efficiently. We were transferred to the ship by Zodiacs. My only complaint about the ship is that the beds are small. One bed is attached to the wall. You can have the beds placed together but then you have only one side to exit the bed. This is not good in the middle of the night. The shower is very good. The food was good and generally exceeded my expectations. The Galapagos Islands are amazing with all the wild life which is generally not afraid of people. The ship had tours every morning and every afternoon. There were 6 chances to snorkel on the B cruise. The ship is never at a pier. All transfers to and from the ship are by Zodiacs. The naturalists were very good. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
This was my third cruise on a Silversea ship, and the second on the Explorer. The itinerary was fabulous, and the expedition staff was utterly superb; many of them were PhDs. There were frequent lectures, and many of the lecturers were at ... Read More
This was my third cruise on a Silversea ship, and the second on the Explorer. The itinerary was fabulous, and the expedition staff was utterly superb; many of them were PhDs. There were frequent lectures, and many of the lecturers were at a college or university level. The Explorer is a smaller ship, and the amenities are certainly not at the level one would expect on a larger ship. That having been said, the cabins were completely adequate, and a couple of issues with my cabin were resolved quickly. The dining room was a highlight, from the superb staff captained by dining room manager Anna (a superstar in every respect) to excellent food and a delightful staff. The only complaint was that dining in the evening sometimes ran a little long because people loved to talk! Most impressive was the attention the expedition staff paid to getting passengers on and off the ship, which in almost every case was via zodiac. The zodiac operation was smooth, highly professional, and the expedition staff and ship staff who worked with the zodiacs could not have been more professional. Land tours were fantastic, and expedition staff made exceptional efforts seeing that everyone got around to see as much as possible. It was obvious that the staff enjoyed their jobs and were enthusiastic about doing them well. Antarctica is a challenging trip under the best of circumstances, but Silversea is to be commended for making this a particularly outstanding trip. Visiting one of the most remote parts of the world in luxury is a real treat! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
Grace is the most beautiful yacht in all the Galapagos waters, and her crew has got to be among the best ever. If you are looking for something special and appreciate the beauty of a historic vessel with wood furnishings, spacious open ... Read More
Grace is the most beautiful yacht in all the Galapagos waters, and her crew has got to be among the best ever. If you are looking for something special and appreciate the beauty of a historic vessel with wood furnishings, spacious open decks, and comfortable appointments, Grace is for you. This lovely yacht and the Quasar company attracts a top notch crew as well. They are genuinely committed to your comfort, enjoyment, and enlightenment. Cooked to order eggs at breakfast, hot chocolate while sitting in the hot tub after snorkeling, a fully stocked bar, elegant al fresco dining service, terrific food, wonderful naturalist briefings, lovely cabins, and more, we felt pampered at every moment. Our extraordinary guide, Rafael, was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, very personable, and patient. He helped make the journey special. This was a very active journey. We usually had two excursions and a snorkel each day, with some time out for a siesta in the afternoons. The trip attracted like-minded adventurers and we quickly became friends. If you like being active and the informal, intimate nature of a special space, this is for you. If you like the giant cruise ships, this may not be for you. I tend toward seasickness so wore a medicated patch and had no problems on Grace. It will rock from side to side, and it took a week to gain my land legs back! I would recommend you bring some good earplugs to help you sleep when the engine runs as they move from port to port at night. Overall, one of the best trips we’ve ever had!   Read Less

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