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5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
The Antarctica was very high on our "bucket list"so glad we waited for the Seabourn experience to take this amazing adventure. We sailed on the last departure of the season...the best for last! Not only the wonderful Seabourn ... Read More
The Antarctica was very high on our "bucket list"so glad we waited for the Seabourn experience to take this amazing adventure. We sailed on the last departure of the season...the best for last! Not only the wonderful Seabourn treatment but an excellent expedition team lead by Robin West...we were really informed on the way down with wonderful interesting lectures...Geoff with his humorous take on history! Learned about penguin poo! Comes in different colors...watch your step! The actual embarking into the zodiacs was a well oiled machine...quick and helpful all along the way...amazing to move so many "older people" so quickly! We were really impressed with the attention to detail, way to go Seabourn! Capt Larsen was wonderful giving us so many trills like the whales that were all around us...so close you could smell their fish breath!!! Our 3rd time on deck 6...great location to everything..especially to the Grand Salon...cabin size is great, even with all the Antarctica gear we had plenty of space...bathroom is roomy....we had some Drakes Passage weather with wild seas but we were quiet comfy. This is an amazing cruise...not possible to tell in words you have to see for yourself! Make sure you have the Lobster Tempura!!!! a standout among standouts! Only problem was the 2 chain smokers at the end of the hall....stinky for the rest of us....BAN SMOKING SEABOURN!!!!! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
We travelled on Richard With and had a wonderful time Hunting the Light. We had five nights of sightings and have some super photographs that we are well satisfied with. The passage to Kirkenes and back is not a cruise - it is a journey ... Read More
We travelled on Richard With and had a wonderful time Hunting the Light. We had five nights of sightings and have some super photographs that we are well satisfied with. The passage to Kirkenes and back is not a cruise - it is a journey on a well appointed ferry and must not be confused by those booking the trip. There is no cruise style entertainment at all - coffee is served in a bar up on Deck 7 where a pianist plays - that is all that happens, the rest is up to you and your fellow passengers. it is a wonderful visual experience but you must know what your are booking if you wish to avoid disappointment. Stops at ports are short and sweet - some as short as 20 minutes, some extend to 6 hours at the most. The food is wonderful if you like open Scandinavian type buffets - we do so it is great - but if you do not eat fish or are a vegetarian, your choice is limited. Dinner is served with no choice expect if you pre-warn and book a veggie type meal. Here comes the warning! Now the line are not serving tap water in flasks as they have done for years but are now asking you to buy mineral water to drink in the Dining Room. You get free mineral water if you have bought a wine package at Norwegian prices but not if you do not. Buying a minimal amount of water can add up to £60 to your on board account. This is not shown in the brochure nor is it told to you on booking. 'Be Warned' and expect to pay to have a glass of water with your meals. The staff are very pleasant and helpful. Their main role has been for many years running a state supported ferry service for the Norwegian traveller - they are not cruise passenger orientated, they are efficient and dedicated to make everything run to time. It is a superb experience both in winter and summer - but I urge anyone booking to know what it is they are booking and not complain if it turns out to be different to what they expext. Do your research and ask all the questions. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
News on Antarctic cruises tends to favour the report of problems, such as being stuck in the ice, or beset with bad weather in Drake Passage. No bad news for this cruise - quiet seas, excellent weather, five days in Antarctica and 3 days ... Read More
News on Antarctic cruises tends to favour the report of problems, such as being stuck in the ice, or beset with bad weather in Drake Passage. No bad news for this cruise - quiet seas, excellent weather, five days in Antarctica and 3 days in South Georgia - more landings and zodiac cruises than anticipated, more wildlife than could be imagined. Expedition staff include a number of scientists with considerable polar experience, a couple of professional photographers, and some very capable zodiac 'drivers'. This is our fourth Seabourn cruise, and going to Antarctic has not compromised all the usual pleasures - even managed to dine al fresco at the Patio Grill while sailing off Antarctic Peninsula, albeit with parkas and beanies. My only Seabourn gripe is the muzak - sailing through such grandeur demands better than the typical and pervasive fare, or perhaps even turn it off. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
January 3, 2014 We have just returned from our trip on the Yorktown visiting the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, offered by Travel Dynamics International (TDI). Rather than repeat the information about the ship’s provenance or the ... Read More
January 3, 2014 We have just returned from our trip on the Yorktown visiting the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, offered by Travel Dynamics International (TDI). Rather than repeat the information about the ship’s provenance or the company and its target audience, etc, as reported in the editorial and passenger review preceding this, I will focus on our experience on and off the ship and with its crew. First, the original trip was canceled while it was still in dry dock due to a delay in receiving US Coast Guard certification; that should have sent a signal. We chose to go on the next passage, because it was still over the holiday period (paid time off). Just before leaving, we were told the ship, heading for Saint Thomas from Florida, had encountered rough seas and strong currents and could not make it to its destination in time. We were sent tickets for a connecting flight to San Juan where we were to meet the boat after dinner at a nearby hotel. TDI did a good job of collecting us at the airport and we had a pretty good dinner at the hotel (much better than any dinner we were to have on the ship). Then around 9:30 we were taken to the ship, where for some reason the embarkation took a very long time. We ended up having the mandatory safety drill at 1:00 a.m., after a very long travel day. Saturday, December 28: After a perilous overnight sail from San Juan to Jost Van Dyke, we arrived late morning. The ship had heaved and rolled all night on water that was merely choppy; waves of two to four feet should not be difficult for a ship of this size, however this ship has a very narrow draft of nine feet. It is a ship for rivers and lakes, not the ocean, as would be made quite evident over the course of the trip. Many people were quite seasick the next day. As I said we got in late morning, and by then we were to have been swimming, snorkeling or kayaking on White Bay Beach. Instead it was lunch time and we were told that right after lunch we’d be boarding the “DIBS” (I’ll call them pontoons) for a wet landing on the beach. All those going were to wait with their gear in the lounge until the three pontoons were secured to the swim platforms and we would then go in groups, 12 to a pontoon. We waited, and waited. This was TDI’s first trip in the VI, obviously completely unrehearsed! It turned out they had to figure out how to secure the pontoons, and then they realized they only had one person available who could commandeer the thing. Ultimately they found one other, who was busy “working on the anchor” who was pulled into service. So now we had two pontoons that could bring a total of 24 people at a time. The lounge was full, I’d say about 60 people waiting to go. When they called for the first group, there was no order, just whoever was closest to the stairs to go down to the platform. Chaos ensued, a crowd not a queue, as people were handed life jackets and “helped” (more on that later) onto the pontoons. One pontoon at a time was made ready as the platform on the other side of the ship was not used; they did not have enough staff. By the time we made it onto a pontoon, it was mid-afternoon. The experience of being assisted (we are not novices at this) was very telling. The pontoons were not secured close enough to the ship, and there was a lot of movement on the choppy water. It was not calm, there was constant yelling to grab this, step on this, and people were getting kind of thrown on. The condition of the pontoon was horrible. These were small, uncomfortable metal units resting on rubber pontoons that were riddled with repair patches. These were very old, very used up equipment that inspired no confidence. The splash control ( a rubber sash across the front) sagged almost into the water and anyone sitting in the front had to get a lot of splash. I’d say we got to the beach around 3:45 p.m. This “secluded beach,” reachable only by “special boats” like ours, was tiny, mobbed, and extremely loud; there was an outdoor club playing loud loud loud hip hop rap “music” non-stop. The beautiful coral and fish (displayed in the colorful brochure) were not there; I saw a sandy bottom and some minnows. That’s all anyone else saw. After about 45 minutes I had enough of the noise and got on the next available pontoon to return, with just enough time to shower and get ready for dinner. There was no facility on the return to the platform to rinse off all the sand on the fins, our sandals, feet, etc. Imagine the mess 60 sandy people made trudging back to their rooms, forced to rinse their gear off in the shower! The captain just shrugged his shoulders and said “we’ll just have to do the best we can.” (Oh, oh, I said to myself.) What a mess, everywhere. By the time we had arrived at that beach, we were already supposed to have done it and then returned for lunch while they sailed to Peter’s Island for afternoon swimming and snorkeling at Soper’s Hole. The actual sail occurred during dinner, and we arrived there at night. A few brave souls went out with Wayne the “Expedition Leader,” and the account told to me was that they walked around the town in total darkness, no lights anywhere and crossing streets with cars whizzing around them. Wayne offered no information about what they were “seeing.” “We could have been killed” said the couple I spoke with. A word about the expedition leaders: Wayne and Karen Brown, Expedition and Assistant Expedition Leaders, are billed in the promotional literature as having expertise in environmental and marine biology, and ecology. The expectation was that they would be accompanying us on excursions to explain what we were looking at. They didn’t. Their primary function seemed to be herding people around, getting them from point A to point B, often on open air safari taxies because the boat did not get close enough to where we were going. Wayne was constantly babbling on the speaker system on the ship, repeating information, to most people’s great annoyance. Sunday, December 29: We were supposed to awake arriving at Tortola, capital of the U.S.V.I. Instead, we were awakened at 6:00 a.m. by Karen over the PA system, telling us in a chirpy happy chuckley voice that we were not in Tortola, we were still in Soper’s Hole, and we had one hour to get cleaned up and get some nutrition and make it to the “taxis” that would take us to our destinations, about 45 minutes away and not a comfortable ride. I was livid; there was no explanation, and no apology offered for the inconvenience. I found Karen and let her know how insulted I felt at being treated this way, and that we all deserved an explanation and an apology. She was all chirpy happy until I let her know how inappropriate that was in light of the situation. She did then get on the mike, apologized, and explained that they had lost an anchor when attempting to leave Soper’s hole, and a dive team was on the way to retrieve it. We were stuck, and behind schedule already. We had opted for a historical tour of Road Town. We first drove to the botanic garden to find it closed (why didn’t they know it would be closed on Sunday?), skipped without mention one museum, then visited an old cotton works museum, where we spent more time than anyone wanted to. Those that went on the Sage Mountain Hike were far less fortunate. Apparently it was not planned out, and split into disorganized groups. It was a treacherous hike with seemingly no purpose; no explanation of the environment they were in or what they were seeing. There were injuries (mostly scrapes), including a broken rib. On the ship there was not even easily obtainable over-the-counter medications to help those with injuries. We were supposed to have lunch while sailing from Tortola to Peter’s Island for swimming, snorkeling or kayaking; instead, we were still stuck at Soper’s hole. The group was offered a taxi back to a local beach for swimming only. We decided to not even go back to the boat, and had ourselves a very nice lunch on the pier. At this point I’d like to mention this is not a cheap excursion; John and I paid, net after air credit, $10,000 for our (2) cruise tickets. At this price point for 7 nights, 6 days, we expected a lot more than we were getting. Late afternoon, we were supposed to be sailing for Virgin Gorda, but we were still sitting dead in the water. We settled in before dinner for a concert by an excellent chamber music quartet (specific to this cruise only, for the benefit of various music appreciation groups who booked this cruise); more on that later. During the concert the crew was noisily testing raising and lowering the newly attached anchor, and finally we were on our way, considerably behind schedule. Monday, December 30: Of course by now the morning arrival at Virgin Gorda was now to be an afternoon affair, so we skipped breakfast to get some sleep. Now for the much touted BBQ on the sun deck, prior to our excursion to The Baths at Virgin Gorda. And why did it have to be an “excursion?” Shouldn’t this special boat with its nine foot draft just bring us there? The BBQ consisted of hamburgers and bean burgers, cooked in the restaurant kitchen and sent up to be warmed on the grill. Ribs? Chicken legs? Hot dogs? Nope, just hamburgers. They did toast the buns. But wait! They served the 20 or so of us that were on board (I don’t remember what they offered off shore that morning) and when those legions returned, guess what? There was no food for them! They literally ran out of food for the much touted BBQ after serving about a quarter of the people on board. The rest were told to go get their burgers from the restaurant and bring them up, and they could get their buns toasted. How festive! At this time I caught sight of the beautiful Seabourn Pride across the bay from our ratty ship, and I just wanted to swim over to it. It was like dangling shrimp in front of a cat. How cruel. Mid-afternoon, our trip to the Baths at Virgin Gorda was nice, if crowded. With all the time it took to load up the taxis, get there and back, the photo-ops we were supposed to have in the afternoon were instead some quick shots (I didn’t bother) on the way back as the light was quickly fading and it was hazy. It was bright and clear on the way out, so why didn’t they stop then? The (after lunch) nature hike to the summit of Gorda Peak National Park didn’t happen, again because they were still catching up to their “schedule.” Tuesday, December 31: This day was supposed to be a variety of stops around Salt and Normand Islands. The one item on the itinerary that was made available was a hike around a natural salt evaporation pond. A stop at Cooper Island was changed for this “more interesting stop” so snorkelers could view a famous ship wreck, but the currents were too strong and that was canceled (shouldn’t they have known about the currents?). The “late morning” sail to Norman Island to swim or snorkel and view an area known as The Caves did not happen. It was almost dark when Wayne announced we were sailing past The Caves, and we could look out and “still see them.” No one bothered. One had the sense that this was a cynical attempt to say this part of the itinerary was at least partially met. Pathetic. Another beautiful concert on board. Wednesday, January 1: After another perilous overnight journey through a violent storm (I heard the ship had gone further out to sea to dump “grey water”) we arrived at Cruz Bay in Saint Thomas. It was a wilder ride than the initial one from San Juan. It was dangerous to get out of bed. I went on all fours to use the bathroom, and hung onto the shower bar and vanity and had one foot braced against the shower sill. My first no-hands pee! I crawled back to bed and worried about making it. We took it easy in the a.m. and opted for an afternoon shuttle to Trunk Bay, a beautiful if crowded beach maintained by the National Parks. It was clean and there were shady areas, and a concession stand. There is also an underwater snorkeling trail, which John explored, but it was so crowded you had to “keep moving” to not hold up the line. Barkers in bullhorns periodically admonished swimmers to not stop or touch or stand on the coral. Barkers from major cruise lines such as Carnival walked up and down the beach yelling for their passengers to return. So why were we here, instead of at a very private secluded beach, with our special boat with a 9 foot draft? At this point I didn’t care, I was glad to be out wading in clean warm water, knowing I would soon be packing and that we were disembarking the next morning, a day early. We had changed our flights to beat a storm, and, admittedly, it was a good excuse to get off the ship. An incident with staff: After dinner Wednesday evening, I finished packing and as it was still early went down to the lounge to get a glass of wine and look for anyone I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to. It was about 10:45 by my iPhone and the bar had been closed early. I started chatting with a couple and their son about the trip (this really was a topic most passengers found common ground with!) and they were asking me about other cruises I’ve been on. The bartender (Tom) appeared to fetch something and I said “Great! Can I get a glass of wine?” Tom said no, the bar was closed. I asked how late the bar was open and he said 11:00. I said I was there before 11:00, and Lisa looked at her watch and said it was only a few minutes past 11:00 and that I’d been there talking to them for at least 20 minutes. An awkward moment passed, then Tom leaned over to me and said “Well I guess that’s just too bad for you.” We were pretty surprised at the unnecessary rudeness, and as he walked away I said I was going to report him in the morning. I blew it off, and we continued chatting for about another 20 minutes, when Tom came into the lounge with two other staff members, came up to me and said “I have determined that you are inebriated and need to be escorted to your cabin.” I can only guess this was a futile attempt to pre-empt the complaint he surely knew I would make. It was also quite clear to all present that I was entirely lucid and in control. We all froze at first, recognizing the potentially dangerous situation. I looked this guy in the eye and said “I’m not going anywhere, and I want you to call the captain.” (There was no way I’d be caught with him out on a dark deck on a rocky boat.) My friends did a great job of showing with their body language that they were staying put with me. The other two staff looked awkward and stayed back, avoiding eye contact. Tom went to the bar and picked up a phone, mumbling something, and it looked like he was pretending to make a call while trying to think of how to get his self out of his own mess. The other two staff, to their credit, moved away from the door and turned their backs. I whispered too my friends and they walked with me to my cabin. I felt so threatened I was afraid to fall asleep, so John jammed the lock lever to prevent anyone from turning a key from the outside. I reported this incident to Brian (Tour Manager) who was very surprised and concerned, and wanted to make sure I was alright. (Actually, I wasn’t) Disembarkation: Even this was complicated, and there was confusion about what to do. Brian had been told that before we could go to the airport, we had to go to a customs declaration site because we had been out of the country. The driver went to the wrong one of two sites, they were not nice, and sent us back to the ship. Brian and the purser then came with us to straighten it out, and ultimately they decided that since we had just cleared Saint John we could in fact go to the airport. Again, this process should have been vetted before taking on passengers. It’s a good thing we started early. We caught the last flight to Boston before the storm. A final word: It was strange to be on such a problematic trip, yet experience such a lovely group of passengers. This particular cruise happened to be mostly a charter for alumni groups associated with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The musicians were the creme de la creme of chamber music; I regret having to miss the last concert. Apparently this is the type of audience TDI targets, and by all accounts, until this cruise on this boat, they have done it very well in Europe. For this group of people, the cruise itself was secondary; they were there for the music. Still, the problems became even too much for them, and there were no happy campers. The crew on this ship left much to be desired, with the exception of Brian Goyette (Tour Manager) and Terri Lundi (Tour Director, I think). They were professionals who always had their hands full yet managed to stay calm and keep things moving. The wait staff was fine, but the boat crew from the captain on down gave the impression that TDI fished from the very bottom of the barrel. We did not expect this to be a luxury trip, but we did expect for the price to have a real expedition and education style cruise; we are sorely disappointed. end -   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
I am an Elite member of the Captain Club on the Celebrity Cruise Line. I did online check in which usually gets us on board in 10 to 15 minutes. 90 minutes later we finally walked on to the ship. It went down hill from there. My room was ... Read More
I am an Elite member of the Captain Club on the Celebrity Cruise Line. I did online check in which usually gets us on board in 10 to 15 minutes. 90 minutes later we finally walked on to the ship. It went down hill from there. My room was next to a family that had taken 4 cabins for 7 children and the parents, The 3 rooms for the children were next to mine. The parents room was 4 doors away. I did get my room changed but that was not easy to do since it was a holiday sailing. My next room was next to a man with 2 children. The AC in my room was terrible so I kept my balcony doors open only to be woken by screaming children on the next balcony. Nothing was done about this. The specialty restaurant that never allowed children under 12 yrs. bent their rules this time because there were so many children on board. Infants and toddlers were in the adults restaurant. They had to make every nickel and dime they could. There were so many people in the staterooms that it made this small ship very crowded, loud, and almost uncontrollable. Children running and screaming thru the halls and in the public areas. No one stopped them. Areas that normally were set aside for adults and quiet areas were over run with loud children and adults. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
We chose this cruise because of the ports of call and wanted to try our luck with Celebrity. Plus we liked that the ship stayed in ports for multiple days. This was our 7th cruise (first with Celebrity) and we have traveled extensively. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the ports of call and wanted to try our luck with Celebrity. Plus we liked that the ship stayed in ports for multiple days. This was our 7th cruise (first with Celebrity) and we have traveled extensively. Staff on the ship was friendly, courteous and very attentive! Our state room attendant Schubert and his assistant were excellent and seemed like genuinely good guys! Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze. This was a Christmas cruise and the ship did a very good job providing for the kids. Both our Kids 5 and 9 years old had a fun vacation. Ship layout was easy to navigate and possessed the usual cruise ship flair. The ship is bit old and shows its age. Our room was 9156, a family veranda with an extended balcony. It was spacious with a separate sleeping area for our 2 children which included an extra television. We would have been quite happy. However, the room was infested with bed bugs. Many of them were mature and we were all badly bitten. We were immediately removed from the room. All of our luggage and clothing was put in plastic and taken away to be cleaned. We were moved to a much smaller room. We were told our original room would be ready in a few hours. A day later, our clothes were delivered to the smaller room without an explanation. After several calls to guest services, we were informed our room would not be ready. Then only after complaining, we were offered 2 rooms side by side but not connecting. I would have preferred that our family be together in the same room but at least we were comfortable. The new rooms were clean and serviceable. Our new rooms were 6027 & 6029. 9156 was offered back to us after a few days but we elected to stay as packing up again didn't appeal to us. We essentially missed a day and a half. The ports of call were amazing cities! We had prepared for the long distance 2 - 3 hours bus or car rides each way but many were complaining. More time to compensate could have solved the problem. The ship was in port overnight on many of these occasions. We spent 2 nights in a private hotel in Bangkok. We wished we had done the same thing in Saigon. Hanoi needs an extra day. We missed the port at Da Nang because of inclement weather. The food at the restaurant was generally OK. There were some disappointments. The food at the buffet was not good. Snack food was terrible. Everyone at our dinner table liked our head waiter Alberto. His assistant Nadan was also extremely nice and should be recognized for giving outstanding service! We didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants. The shows and entertainment are exactly what you should expect on a cruise ship. The lounge acts were marginal at best with the exception of the one man guitarist/singer who plays in the main foyer. He was exceptional! We had our issues. None which we didn't overcome. We met some very nice people and had a nice time. Somehow we expected more...   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
First off let me say that I really like this cruise line. So much so, that we are taking them in Alaska this summer. The crew was very friendly and helpful. The food service and staff were excellent. The other passengers were quite ... Read More
First off let me say that I really like this cruise line. So much so, that we are taking them in Alaska this summer. The crew was very friendly and helpful. The food service and staff were excellent. The other passengers were quite friendly and engaging. The entertainment, with one glaring exception was very good. The lectures and information about our ports was exceptional and the shore excursions were very good. The cocktail hour every afternoon is a great way to mix and mingle and get to know the other passengers. If you are on this Cruise Critic site to help in the selection of your next cruise, let me give you some idea of what to expect and not to expect from American Cruise Lines…. - If you want a cruise with 4000 of your best friends, assigned dinner tables and times, food from a cement mixer, half hour waits to get on or off the ship, an iPhone App to save you from getting lost on the ship, a $500 bar bill for a seven day cruise, being nickel and dimed to death for everything other than your room and meals, American Cruise Lines is not for you. - If you want to cruise in the lap of luxury with a spacious suite cabin, a mini bar and fridge in your cabin, 24 hour coffee bar with a barista, a fancy bar and lounge with a uniformed bartender, over priced and spotty wifi, over priced and poorly presented shore excursions, and young adults frolicking in the surf, then American may not be for you either. - What you do get on ACL is a compact, efficient ship with great food and a very helpful and friendly crew. We cruised from Charleston to Jackson on a New Years holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it. We have cruised Royal Caribbean, Avalon, Seabourn, and a small motor sailer in Greece. AMC is one of our favorites. We have already booked another cruise with American. - Since this is supposed to be a critique, let me address a few things to the ACL home office that might improve the overall ACL experience. Never use the band we had on New Years Eve and New Years again. They were so bad that there were requests to have them put off the ship on Sapelo Island. Get new uniforms for the hotel staff. Whatever that is they are wearing in no way reflects their high level of professionalism. Get “plug-in” clocks for the night stands. The battery operated LCD clocks are hard to see in the daytime and impossible at night. Get bigger TV in the staterooms. Considering the average age of your guests, I am not sure anyone could see those 15” mini screens. Get better coffee in the lounge. I heard several passengers say they were going to Starbucks when they got off the ship. - I never expected ACL to be Seabourn, but for heavens sake, fire your interior designer. OMG! Valences over the windows! With the exception of the dining room, the rest of the furniture, especially in the lounge looks like an assisted living center. Your passengers might not be spry but your decor should be a little more spry and up to date.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
Our choice of this cruise was made from three criteria. First it was a small ship, allowing us to visit ports not filled with other cruises, not ruined by the presence of too many other tourists. Second, as a Florida resident, I was ... Read More
Our choice of this cruise was made from three criteria. First it was a small ship, allowing us to visit ports not filled with other cruises, not ruined by the presence of too many other tourists. Second, as a Florida resident, I was interested in learning some early history and third we did not have to travel far. From Jacksonville to Jacksonville on the small ship Glory, we visited seldom seen but historically significant ports like Palatka and Green Cove Springs and better known ones like St. Augustine. This cruise ably combined a view of early Florida with a very up-to-date environmental view. The small ship with comfortable accommodations, the small number of passengers all added up to a relaxing and friendly time on board. We boarded after a night spent in the Hyatt Regency Hotel with an exciting 16th floor room overlooking fireworks and a pre-Christmas boat parade just below us. Car in storage with the hotel, my husband and I boarded the ship. Throughout the cruise, we were offered shore cruises in each port which were varied (buses, walks, horse-drawn carriages, small boats). Our lecturer, Rachel, was informative with both historical and environmental information. She became an important part of our experience both on board as she lectured and shared meals with us and off the ship when she always knew the right questions to ask various locals who were docents on our shore excursions. Service was always there when needed.The meals were well cooked and became a great gathering place of new friends made. We particularly enjoyed the breakfast time practice of making our lunch and dinner choices though if we changed our minds, we were not held to those choices. Thanks especially for giving us a choice of half-portions. In summary it was a happy cruise, a quietly friendly time and one that we have recommended to the planning of several friends! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
My husband and I researched all the Antarctic cruise choices thoroughly. Some ships are very small without stabilizers but they allow passengers to make zodiac landings. Other ships are large but because of the limitations of the IAATO ... Read More
My husband and I researched all the Antarctic cruise choices thoroughly. Some ships are very small without stabilizers but they allow passengers to make zodiac landings. Other ships are large but because of the limitations of the IAATO rules which state that only 100 people are allowed to go ashore at one time, they do not make any landings. We picked Seabourn Quest because it is mid-sized, offered zodiac landings in the Antarctic, plus we knew we would be more comfortable and we thought they would look after us well. The Antarctic is an unforgiving place, the Drake Passage is one of the worse bodies of water in the world, and we wanted a ship with a strengthened hull and good stabilizers. The itinerary was excellent: busy but with some days at sea to rest a bit. We began in Valparaiso and made our way down along the Western side of South America. The Chilean Fjords are lovely, and shore excursions there interesting and fun. But everyone started to get more and more excited when the captain announced that, because there was an opening with good weather, he wanted to make a run across the Drake to the Antarctic peninsula sooner than scheduled. We would be in Ushuaia a day ahead and then head south. At Ushuaia we took on an extra pilot with experience in ice filled waters, who had previously served with the US Coast Guard in Alaska. So now we had 2 pilots, plus there was a large expedition team of naturalists, zodiac drivers, and researchers on board to help. The Quest took about 400 passengers, so we rotated in groups to land once we arrived at the Antarctic peninsula, and it worked out very well. We were always carefully looked after. They helped us in and out of our gear, helped with antiseptic washing down of clothing, equipment and the like, and were scrupulous in efforts to prevent contamination of the environment. We had extra landings whenever the weather permitted, and went to South Georgia a day earlier than scheduled, so had more time there where we saw more amazing wildlife. Captain Larsen was very flexible with the schedule, and seized every opportunity he could to show us more and more places. But we had to be flexible too - one day we were out in zodiacs when he blew the ship's whistle and all the zodiacs had to hurry back to the ship. We had to leave there quickly, because the wind had changed direction and sea ice was starting to close in around the ship. (At about this same time we were getting reports of a ship trapped in ice in the Roth Sea, and icebreakers had been unable to reach it.) We had wonderful lecturers, many with years and years of experience in the Antarctic. Of course Seabourn serves great food and the liquor is all included, whatever you want. Yes, Seabourn is a luxury line and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. But I will remember this trip as the trip of a lifetime. It was worth every penny. I can not think of one "con" about this cruise. Everything was wonderful.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
The Silver Galapagos is a sad old vessel fit only for low budget travellers or the breakers. Neither it nor the service and quality on it lived up to any of Silversea’s descriptions. To avoid serious disappointment do not consider ... Read More
The Silver Galapagos is a sad old vessel fit only for low budget travellers or the breakers. Neither it nor the service and quality on it lived up to any of Silversea’s descriptions. To avoid serious disappointment do not consider sailing on it. If you are now contractually committed to sailing you must put the Company on notice that unless you receive the level of accommodation and on board service that is so outrageously over hyped in its sales literature you will be seeking a substantial cash refund. Our sailing did not have a full complement of guests. What it would be like with 100 passengers does not bear thinking about. As others have mentioned the suites were really only cabins with nowhere to put the cases. The shower cubicle was a tight fit, towels and flimsy robe got damp just for being in there for the duration a shower. Toiletries were sparse not even a shower cap. As these are normally provided everywhere now my wife cuts down on packing by no loading up the case with these any more. After asking one shower cap was provided for the duration. The balcony was very narrow. I acknowledge it was a comparatively small ship but very little thought had gone into the supposed overhaul of this ship and the minimum necessary done.. The Vista windows in other cabins we went in were something of a misnomer as they were three narrow windows of less than half length. Worse still curtains had to be kept closed in these at all times as the walkway went round them and people congregated. Again as others have mentioned the butler was really just a steward and no unpacking or packing was carried out or offered and we saw little of him on the first day. I am sure he was busy but it was not the service that was promised “on a ship that brought luxury to the Galapagos” at last. Forgive the pun but the waiting staff were all at sea and, for the most part, appeared not to have had any training. The main restaurant is long and narrow and the food inconsistent. Fine wines were promised but if one asked for them they were very begrudgingly given and then only the tiniest amount not even a standard 125ml.. Some of the higher Silversea staff admitted they knew they needed to do much more and they were still in a development phase – not acceptable when are paying the full dollar for a luxury trip. In case you are unaware all the itineraries and expeditions are organised and delivered by the GI National Park guides. That means whatever boat you go on your experience in this respect will be much the same. As seeing the Galapagos Islands and their wildlife is the reason for going on this trip you might as well save your money and disappointment and go on a less expensive, but probably better run established ship. I am happy to pay for comfort, quality and good service but if I am not going to get it, why bother. I just feel ripped off by totally misleading advertising. Perhaps with time they might get their act together but the ship will still be a very old ship and the makeover of the cabins could have been so much better. Browse the web, there is a good range out there. You can certainly do better than the Silver Galapagos. In the Galapagos this is a large ship. As a consequence there is quite a lot of queuing to get on the zodiacs on both the outward and return journeys.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
I have taken over 35 cruises, different sizes, destinations, etc. This was my second time on the Paul Gauguin and after having such a wonderful cruise the 1st time I was afraid that the second time wouldn't live up the what I ... Read More
I have taken over 35 cruises, different sizes, destinations, etc. This was my second time on the Paul Gauguin and after having such a wonderful cruise the 1st time I was afraid that the second time wouldn't live up the what I expected. It was actually better. The service was beyond belief. I had a bout of sciatica and had trouble walking. They actually loaned me a wheel chair for the whole cruise and treated me like royalty. When we were in Moorea it was raining very hard. The restaurant by the pool is covered but you have to go outside to get there. A lady was getting up from her table and a bus boy ran over to her with an umbrella and walked her to the stairs. That is what I call service. The food was exceptionally good both in the selection and quality.It does sound a bit pricey but for what you get it is an excellent value Read Less
27 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2013
If you are an independent traveler who likes to have some control of events, this is not the cruise for you. Unfortunately it is the only way to visit the Galapagos Islands and visit a substantial number of visitor sites. The Endeavour is ... Read More
If you are an independent traveler who likes to have some control of events, this is not the cruise for you. Unfortunately it is the only way to visit the Galapagos Islands and visit a substantial number of visitor sites. The Endeavour is an Ecuadorean flagged, German built fishing boat equipped for Antarctic conditions that carries 96 of your new best friends each week and a crew of 70 crammed into its hull. It is a slickly organized mass tourist market soft adventure cruise where you can do three or four activities: you can hike only with a naturalist in a group on either a designated “long” or “short” hike, you can snorkel with the group in a designated and patrolled area or you can kayak (three times per voyage and only with advance sign up for a spot on one of 7 kayaks) or you can, again with advance sign up, take a glass bottom boat ride. That is it. You cannot swim from ship to shore or around the ship or outside designated limits. You cannot up and go for a walk. Excersize will be in the small gym as the hikes tend to be short strolls with a lot of standing around rather than hikes. There are long lines in narrow corridors to board the Zodiacs for disembarkation and a plethora of rules to obey. To go ashore requires you to know first whether or not it is a wet (on the beach) or dry (on a jetty) landing, then to remember, amongst the usual backpack items (insect repellent, sunscreen, water bottles) to put on your life vest, slide a magnet to indicate that you are going ashore so that they have a passenger count, stretch out both arms to be helped on board the Zodiac and then cram one against the other for the journey ashore. The Zodiacs are loaded to the point of discomfort for all, up to 8 per side. That leaves passengers wedged close together and is uncomfortable. The trick is to await the final Zodiac which may have fewer people on board. I found these Zodiac rides dangerous as well as uncomfortable; I have been whacked in the eye by a metal buckle as one of the ubiquitous photographers swings his camera around to catch a shot, poked in the side and sat on by a large off balance individual. Once ashore, one discards life vests in the Zodiac and then the naturalist accompanying the Zodiac takes over, corralling her (or his) group of 16 close together for the hike. You cannot remain on the beach or stray from the group. The naturalists are all knowledgeable, some more so than others, and they lecture during the brief Zodiac ride ashore, going over the rules once again and then once on shore, the lectures do not stop; this is not a silent observation hike, nor a walk where one chooses one’s own speed. It is a forced march at the pace of the naturalist guide who will decide when and where to stop. People are herded like sheep and there is little space to enjoy a solitary moment of contemplation. Cabins are very adequate with comfortable bunks (the mattresses could use updating) and good bedding and bathrooms are spotless with all the necessities provided including shampoos and soaps that are biodegradable. Meals are ample, many served buffet style with 96 people once more dutifully standing in a long line but quality is only mediocre. The offerings are typically bland to fit the American palate: bacon and eggs, sweetened fruit yogurts, sweetened breads and cakes and the usual chicken or meat or a vegetarian offerings at lunch and dinner. For those who enjoy American coffee, there is plenty but those who prefer a European coffee will need to ask for expresso. Beers and wines are local. The bar seems to offer everything one would need but I am no expert so will leave that commentary to those better qualified to comment. The lounge is the place where everything occurs and if it is briefings (never brief) more lectures or National Geographic films that one wishes to see, you will be pleasantly surprised as there are 2 – 4 briefings per day. It is in this aspect that the crew is least skilled with little training in public speaking, thus lecturing rather than speaking without humour on their topics. Perhaps Lindblad might consider information given on ipads or similar placed in cabins. This would eliminate the vast quantities of paper wastage. The cruise line is environmentally conscious in every other aspect (biodegradable soaps, conservation of linens etc) but fails on the paper front. The daily bulletin is placed in cabins at night. The NYT bulletin in printed off and posted daily in the lounge and I would think that a system of people management whereby one signed up for a specific Zodiac in the cabin on the ipad or device for a specific boarding time, would be more effective and better save on paper waste. Much could be done to avoid the lengthy, repetitive and often boring lectures and briefings and the long lines in narrow corridors. One cannot beat the bird and animal sightings and the knowledge of the naturalists on board. Neither can one match the range of sites visited. In this the Endeavour succeeds beyond imagination. And it is for the bird and animal sightings that one visits the islands. However, the long lensed enthusiastic photographers can be irritating as they thoughtlessly insert themselves to get the best shots. Again a better system of organization of boarding might better separate the serious amateur photographers with their lenses and equipment from those who prefer peace and quiet. National Geographic / Lindblad cruises is probably the master of soft adventure mass tourist movers. Provided you do as you are told and show up on time for all activities to stand in line and wait and do not vary from the plan, you will have a wonderful time. Independent travelers, this cruise is not for you!   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2013
We had an excellent experience in the Galapagos on Celebrity Xpedition. Other people have detailed the itineraries and ship in great detail, and the ongoing discussion in the Role Call is quite helpful. The vast majority of people do the ... Read More
We had an excellent experience in the Galapagos on Celebrity Xpedition. Other people have detailed the itineraries and ship in great detail, and the ongoing discussion in the Role Call is quite helpful. The vast majority of people do the 10- or 11-night package that includes time in Quito and a charter flight to and from Baltra. Unfortunately, my work schedule prohibited us from arriving in Ecuador until Saturday, so we booked the 7-night package only. Having completed the experience, here are some helpful hints for those trying to get to Baltra on their own. Booking flights: currently there are five non-charter flights to Baltra every Sunday--two with Aerogal, two with TAME and one on LAN. All originate in Quito, stopover in Guayaquil and then head to Baltra. LAN has the most user-friendly website, and it's easy to price and book flights, but the flight lands in Baltra just before noon (Galapagos time), which seemed too late. That left Aerogal and TAME as better options. I did some research on TAME, and while you can price and find availability on their website, you cannot book with a US credit card. I did find that by calling their Miami number you could secure a reservation and then pay either by bank transfer or credit card (for an additional fee). Aerogal's website did not show any availability on the date we wanted to travel. However, we were also booking an excursion to the Amazon region of Ecuador (Napo WIldlife Center, also highly recommended), and their booking office (and probably any Ecuadorean-based travel agent) was able to secure seats for us within 24 hours of my request. We decided to book with Aerogal because their flight was scheduled to arrive the earliest. We flew from California to Guayaquil through Panama City and arrived at just after noon on Saturday. Guayaquil isn't that exciting, but we were happy to have an afternoon to explore the Malecón and Las Peñas. We stayed at the brand new Holiday Inn which is less than a 5 minute walk from the airport (they also have a shuttle). On Sunday morning, we walked back to the airport to start our flight. Prior to checking in for the flight, you must go through two steps: first, obtain a Control Visitor Card (or TCT). You'll need to present your passport and $10 at the "Consejo de Gobierno de Galapagos" counter. In Guayaquil, this was at a window just to the left of the Aerogal check-in (at the new Quito airport, it is near the "A" check-in counters and next to where you can buy air tickets for the domestic airlines). Second, you must have your luggage inspected by AGROCALIDAD, which in both airports is right next to where you get the TCT. They will place a nylon zip tie onto your luggage, and then you can head to check in for your flight. Our flight was on time, and we arrived in Baltra at 9:20am (Galapagos time). Upon arrival, you will show your passport and the completed TCT. You'll get back the bottom portion of the TCT which has to be shown when you depart the Galapagos. Celebrity includes the entrance fee to the national park in the cruise fare, so your name should be on a list of those who have already paid. The check-in materials included a voucher that we were supposed to present, but the agent in the Galapagos just found our name on the list. You should not have to pay $100 at this point, but if you do (as another couple on our cruise who traveled alone did), save your receipt and Celebrity will reimburse you onboard the Xpedition. We arrived approximately 90 minutes before the Celebrity charter flight and were expected to just hang out at the airport until everybody else arrived. Crew members (naturalists) were already waiting with signs and took our check-in luggage at this point for transfer to the ship. We did some shopping and reading, but another group traveling alone that arrived early hung out in the VIP lounge. At around 11am (Galapagos time--ship stays on mainland Ecuador time), the 90+ people on the charter flight arrived and we headed onto buses to transfer to the panga for transfer to the Xpedition. The trip (itinerary A) was awesome, with Monday's two visits to Espanola, the deep snorkels and panga ride at Punta Vicente Roca as our favorite moments. Our wet landings were all in sandy areas, so my travel companion who did not have water shoes had no problem just going barefoot, drying his feet with putting on his shoes once on land. On the final day, we left the ship at 8:30am (Galapagos time) and were on a 10:45am flight. The Xpedition help desk told us any flight after 10:30am was okay to book, and we were in the waiting area easily an hour prior to our flight. The Celebrity charter flight was scheduled to leave at 11:20am and arrived in Quito about 30 minutes before our flight, since we had to stop in Guayaquil. Having successfully done just the seven day option, I was happy to have everything work out so well. Of course, by booking on your own you run the risk of getting flight delays and missing the cruise, so the other options Celebrity provides that include the charter flight definitely gives more security. I just wanted to include my experience so others that cannot or do not want to do the longer options have some help. Finally, we were two of nine thirty-somethings on our cruise (there was also one child), but the crowd definitely skews older. Still, we had a great time meeting all sorts of different people of all ages who all seemed to have an adventurous spirit. We would definitely recommend the experience to anybody who is considering it! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
We had heard very good things about Viking River Cruises and we anxious to give it a try. Our travel experience has been with luxury and premium cruise lines and we love to travel independently, making our own way via rental car, and ... Read More
We had heard very good things about Viking River Cruises and we anxious to give it a try. Our travel experience has been with luxury and premium cruise lines and we love to travel independently, making our own way via rental car, and private guides. We found the experience of Viking on their Bucharest to Budapest route to be closer aligned to a bus tour on a boat. The itinerary was less than wonderful - no way to get into a town in some places unless you took the long bus tours. Everything is done as a group: Excursions that lasted many hours on packed buses. Dinner with everyone heading to the dining room at 7pm - and no ability to have a quiet table for 2. Very loud dining room because the ceilings are so low. Unlike larger ships with 300-700 people, there was no attempt on this ship to learn the names of passengers or learn their likes or interests. Everyone is treated as a member of "the group". Corporate could initiate some low or no cost amenities that could make this a better experience for guests: 1. Encourage staff to learn some of the guests names. We were told by one officer who we had just handled our shore card with our names, on a day when we did not go on the tour, that "he couldn't be expected to know all 175 names of guests" 2. Encourage officers to mingle with guests when they have time. Especially if the ship is empty, when most are on a tour. 3. Provide a morning coffee or afternoon tea in the lounge for those staying on board and not going on the tours. Make it special - This would be a welcome activity for those guest who choose to stay onboard. Have officers who are not doing anything sit and talk with guests during this period. Simply bring the cookies near the coffee machine into the lounge and serve the coffee or tea. We found no fault with our cabin, it was comfortable and well decorated. Food onboard was quite good, but the buffets at breakfast and lunch were so crowded with people moving constantly. And the buffet area is right in the middle of the dining room. Overall it was a very disappointing experience for us. But then again, most people onboard enjoyed the trip and the Viking Experience. Just not a good fit for people who like independent travel   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2013
Shipboard package (food, cabin, service, staff, entertainment, etc) up to usual Seabourn standard - with two exceptions; - strike in Buenos Aires meant ship was not able to re-provision and many items were in short supply or simply ... Read More
Shipboard package (food, cabin, service, staff, entertainment, etc) up to usual Seabourn standard - with two exceptions; - strike in Buenos Aires meant ship was not able to re-provision and many items were in short supply or simply unavailable - Quest is designed for warm weather cruising and when outside space is not available, some facilities, such as the Colonnade, are unpleasantly over-crowded. Worth adding that Quest rode well in heavy seas in Drake Passage. However whatever the description, this was not, nor could it ever be, an expedition cruise. At 450 passengers (some people onboard were sold the cruise on the basis of maximum 300) Quest cannot; - logistically manage more than one landing per day. It takes approximately 6 house for Quest to complete a landing cycle - expedition ships with less than 200 passengers aboard make up to three per day sometimes starting at 5am - use the majority of the landing sites due to the number of passengers onboard - which is further restricted by the vessel's poor ice rating - respond flexibly to the inevitable changeable weather because alternative sites are limited by the above. The dead hand of corporate management (some of whom were said to be onboard but not at all in evidence) appears to be in conflict with the expedition team who would like to have delivered more. Of a twenty-one day cruise, only two days had Antarctic landings (one other a short zodiac trip), six days (or part) in port and the remaining thirteen days at sea. Which brings me to the nub of the question - if you want to do a 'fly by' to Antarctica to see and photograph icebergs, some wild life, etc you can do so in nearly as much comfort at a much lower cost. Seabourn charges mightily for the privilege of expedition landings but does not and cannot deliver. This is not a soft expedition, it is a non-expedition and should be priced and marketed accordingly. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2013
This was the cruise of a lifetime - 5 days in Antarctica with zodiac landings each day, extremely well-experienced naturalists & photographers, plus superb lectures each day on what we were expected to see, or had seen. Then you get ... Read More
This was the cruise of a lifetime - 5 days in Antarctica with zodiac landings each day, extremely well-experienced naturalists & photographers, plus superb lectures each day on what we were expected to see, or had seen. Then you get down to the ship! Unashamed luxury with full bath and double porcelain vanities in the marble bathroom, walk-in wardrobe, very spacious bedroom/relaxing area and large veranda. A bottle of champagne was waiting on ice in our suite, followed swiftly by our personal stewardess with glasses of champagne and canapés. The mini-bar was stocked with our favourite alcohol and soft drinks. Within two days, most of the crew knew us by name, nothing was too much trouble. Extremely comfortable bed, luxury linens (wanted to buy the pillows). Plenty of storage in the walk-in wardrobe. Robes and slippers provided. Spacious safe. Multi-channel flatscreen television. Lavish bathroom with lots of unexpected, cleverly-designed storage. Designer toiletries. Separate lounging and dining areas. The dining experiences were outstanding 6-star quality and in the realms of Michelin stars! All public areas were sumptuously furnished. The capacity of this ship is 450 guests and it had the perfect feel of not being crowded. An elevator door opens and its empty! No constant signing for drinks at dinner. Free seating at meals with whomever you wish to sit. Recognition and greeting of other guests when moving around the ship. This all had a very comfortable and homely feel to it. This was our first Seabourn experience but we quickly made a "future cruise" deposit and can't wait for the next one. If you can afford it, the difference is SO worth it! We'd like to go to Antarctica again but on Quest's sailing which includes South Georgia next time - Xmas 2014 hopefully. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013
My partner and I went on a Northern Lights Cruise with Hurtigruten along the coast of Norway. We had been planning this for some time and were really looking forward to it. Norway is a beautiful country but the 'cruise' was very ... Read More
My partner and I went on a Northern Lights Cruise with Hurtigruten along the coast of Norway. We had been planning this for some time and were really looking forward to it. Norway is a beautiful country but the 'cruise' was very disappointing. If you are planning to go with Hurtigruten to Norway make sure you know what you are booking. There were so few passengers on our trip that the majority of the excursions were cancelled. It is the trips that make the holiday special so it was nowhere near as special as we thought it would be. It was very frustrating to be in such a beautiful country but not able to get off the ship and spend any time exploring. The cruise was more of an expensive ferry hop between ports - many of which were arrived at during the night or for very short - half hour stop offs in ports a significant away from the towns. The crew on the ship were great and the food was good but I would never travel with this company again. We did write to Hurtigruten with feedback but they were not interested. Instead of recommending Hurtigruten we are telling all our family and friends to be very careful if they are thinking of travelling anywhere with this company. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
Having travelled on "Discovery" several times before under the prvious management - Voyages of Discovery, we decided the itinerary to the Black sea was for us.However now the vessel is Chartered to CMV standards have dropped, it ... Read More
Having travelled on "Discovery" several times before under the prvious management - Voyages of Discovery, we decided the itinerary to the Black sea was for us.However now the vessel is Chartered to CMV standards have dropped, it is no longer the same happy crew or ship as previously. It started with our flight being put back by 12 hours, meaning we arrived on board in the early hours of the following morning,and therefore missed trips to Corinth/Athens, a lost day spent sitting in Piraeus.Likewise our return flight from Istanbul was put back 3 hours and notified to us by note under door, although some passengers had written notice prior to leaving Uk, consequently missed a dinner engagement and had to re arrange transport at short notice,In the main CMV personnel had very little idea of what was going on, and their reception staff were particularly unhelpful, and at times quite rude. Ships officers kept low profile, hardly saw Captain,none of the officers appeared in the Dining room, ships windows were filthy.Toilets out of action one morning due to ship running aground, no explanation or apology from ships personnel. Trips generally good with the exception of the panoramic tour of Istanbul, which consisted of sitting in traffic jams, bazaar closed, ended up in a water front hotel for tea which cost us £64.CMV must have known of the 4 day public holiday, and should have rearranged the stop over on our inward passage, consider taken for a ride quite literally! All in all would never take another trip on "Discovery" or deal with CMV again, as stated by many other passengers, it is sad that such a lovely ship should end its days this way. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013
Zaandam's 7 Day Glacier Discovery out of Vancouver made for a great introduction to Alaska. We took advantage of both the Misty Fjords float plane and Mead Glacier helicopter excursions. They exceeded our expectations...worth every ... Read More
Zaandam's 7 Day Glacier Discovery out of Vancouver made for a great introduction to Alaska. We took advantage of both the Misty Fjords float plane and Mead Glacier helicopter excursions. They exceeded our expectations...worth every penny! Glacier Bay, specifically the John Hopkins Glacier, was a fantastic site to see. The early September sailing date allowed the captain to sail very close to the glacier since the harbor seal cub rearing season had expired. The pea soup was excellent followed by al-fresco dinning on the rear-Lido deck with food from the salmon bake. Great food and beautiful scenery...we were spoiled. Having sailed Holland America before, we found food quality up a bit from the generally very good offerings. On the first night we ate at the Pinnacle. I had a tender porterhouse so big it barely fit on the large oversized plate they served it on. Being one of only 3 or 4 couples in on this first night at the Pinnacle, service was outstanding and we were sent-off with a small ad hoc aluminum foil basket of assorted chocolates to finish in our cabin. We've done both Pinnacle and Le Cirque and these specialty dining experiences always leave me feeling like I get more than my money's worth for the upgraded dining experience. We like to relax and enjoy the sit-down breakfasts, lunches and dinners and generally skip Lido buffet dinning. Here again, service was generally excellent with one minor lapse on a breakfast that forgot to include the "whipped butter" with the pancakes. That was quickly corrected by the next day's breakfast. Cappuccino is now charged for, but I found the coffee flavor much improved over past offerings when it was included in the price. For me, it was worth it at less than $2 per cup. Room service was used for appetizers before dinner and afternoon snacks. The grilled chicken sandwich was really good with juicy slices of avocado. The assorted cheeses had nice variety, but they could include a slightly higher quality cracker in place of the saltines...minor point. The smoked salmon appertizer was just right with generous amounts of capers. The shipped never felt crowded, and the Adagio (classical) and Neptunes (jazz) musicians were top notch...made for very enjoyable, relaxing after dinner entertainment. These venues were never crowded. We took the train up to Anchorage which offered great scenery. HAL definetely knows how to do Alaska. Next time, we'll add the excursions up to Denali and will probably cruise south-bound enjoying the great food and service. If sailing out of Vancouver, I would recommend coming in a few days early. Vancouver is one of North America's most beautiful cities. Take a day trip to Vancouver Island and visit Victoria and Butchart Gardens. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013
As an avid ‘review’ reader myself, I want to contribute my own review of the ‘Galapagos’ experience as guests of ‘Celebrity’ cruises on board the Xpedition. My wife and I (68 and 67yrs) just returned from one of the best ... Read More
As an avid ‘review’ reader myself, I want to contribute my own review of the ‘Galapagos’ experience as guests of ‘Celebrity’ cruises on board the Xpedition. My wife and I (68 and 67yrs) just returned from one of the best vacations we have ever experienced. Here are some particulars that will be important to you. The Expense: All told this cruise cost about $150/day (including air). That’s the bad news. The good news is that everything is included [Food, beverages (including wine and mixed drinks), tips, all offshore activities, even Internet in the lounge]. We paid only for clothes we bought and off shore purchases that were mainly gifts for family. The Ship: Excellent! Well maintained and clean. It is well designed and functional. The cabins (318) were not overly spacious but compare favorably with our previous experiences on similar sized ships like ‘Windstar’. The bathrooms are small but not cramped and showering is very comfortable. Storage space is more than adequate for a 7-night stay. I would bring and extra bag/suitcase and leave it in Quito with a few ‘dirties’ and then you will have extra space for gifts on the way home. The staff is the most friendly we have experienced. The naturalists outstanding. I cannot remember a single question that was not answered quickly and accurately. The food was also above my expectations. As on most ships, the food is pre-cooked. Yet, I was still able to get both medium-rare steak and lobster (which I had 5 different meals) that were not over-done. Carlos (in charge) is to be lauded as a hard worker who aims to see to everyone’s satisfaction. The Itinerary: The ship stops at a different location each morning and each afternoon. The local waters give the Xpedition a gentle rocking, but I did not hear of any significant seasickness. We did not need any medication. The transfers are safe and well organized on zodiacs with seasoned drivers. Several of the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ landings are not suitable for those with strength or balance issues. The remaining landings are reasonable for most all except the disabled. Snorkeling is good but the water cold, and a wet suit is necessary (provided). Kayaking and diving are not available from the Xpedition. The hiking is not overly challenging but still a little exercise. The views and wildlife exceeded every expectation. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Zodiac tours are breathtaking. Local shopping is very good for clothing, leather goods, and some unique artwork. All-In-All Don’t miss it!   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013
I've just returned from the September 17-29 Viking Rurik Waterways of the Czars cruise. The ship was a pleasant surprise, considering some of the reviews I'd read here. It has been remodelled and is more attractive than its ... Read More
I've just returned from the September 17-29 Viking Rurik Waterways of the Czars cruise. The ship was a pleasant surprise, considering some of the reviews I'd read here. It has been remodelled and is more attractive than its sister ship, Viking Truvor, in the areas I saw. (We were tied up with Truvor on several occasions, and walked through.) Our BX cabin in the mid-range of the 300 range was quite well-appointed and comfortable, with excellent housekeeping by Rosa. The only downside is that the walls are thin, and on two or three nights, neighbors were obviously Skyping family in the literal middle of the night, and we felt we should say hello as well. I also heard from fellow passengers that some cabins on the 200 level are very noisy and prone to vibration, particularly EX classes. The dining room was arranged with a good choice of small and large tables, and one could be social or not as one desired without being constrained by the set-up. The food was much better than I expected from other reviews, and included a number of excellent Russian specialities. Our waitstaff was excellent and personable. Norman, in particular, was a joy with his youthful ebullience. The bars were small, and the Sky Bar could not accommodate all passengers for events such as meeting the staff. Lectures were given twice for half the clients at a time. Panorama Bar was lovely, but also small. Bar staff Charlene and Jefruna (?) were charming. Included excursions were very well organized and passengers were escorted in groups of about 30 by permanent staff and local guides. Staff member Alexey and local guide Dina did a miraculous job of not losing any of us on a Metro trip to the center of Moscow for a walking tour! Guide Sasha made the initial trip from airport to ship in Moscow bearable, but the traffic was incredible every day, and a lot of time is wasted getting to venues in Moscow because of this. I would recommend a pre-trip hotel extension, or one of the cruises that starts with a central hotel stay, though this is only done on sister ships that are probably not as nice as the Rurik. Lectures on history and politics by guides Alexey, Elena and Sasha were interesting, and available on internal TV if you wished to stay in the cabin rather than go to the Sky Bar. TV reception of BBV, CNN, Bloomberg, etc. was generally excellent, and wireless worked reasonably well, particularly early and late in the day (unfortunately so, in view of the Skyping!). We arranged for an evening at the ballet in St. Petersburg, and the taxi and restaurant reservations made by the management staff worked flawlessly. On the down side, we could not get to Kizhi due to rough weather on Lake Onega, and we also had to set a sea anchor for 12 hours on Ladoga due to rough weather. This delay was compensated for by taking the passengers into St. Petersburg by hydrofoils as soon as we got into the Neva, and giving us a brief but good tour of the Peter and Paul Cathedral and exterior of Spilled Blood while the Rurik got itself into port. The Peterhof excursion, usually optional and extra cost, was subsequently provided free of charge to all passengers. The major disappointment has to be the time spent in horrendous traffic in Moscow, with the rough weather a second. The unusual cold snap was the third, but Viking, of course, was not responsible for any of these. I would certainly advise doing the trip in the Moscow to St. Petersburg direction, to leave a better aftertaste, and to consider June or late August. All in all, though, a wonderful time.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
Recently retired from teaching, we chose this un-cruise because of the opportunity to get into Alaska, not just see it. The Discoverer has 72 cabins, comfortable public areas, sun deck with seating and fitness equipment. Appeared that the ... Read More
Recently retired from teaching, we chose this un-cruise because of the opportunity to get into Alaska, not just see it. The Discoverer has 72 cabins, comfortable public areas, sun deck with seating and fitness equipment. Appeared that the ages of the participants ranged from late 30's to 70's. There were no children on this trip. We had been in Backcountry Denali for a week and arrived in Juneau to board the Wilderness. Our luggage was stowed on board by staff, we embarked meeting the captain and staff as we were shown to our rooms. Welcome cocktails, safety practice completed and supper. Meals were served at specified times, breakfast and lunch buffet and dinner plated and served. Dinner had 3 entree choices which you made during the day. Evening social hour provided snacks and a special drink. The bar was complete and the bartender well trained and personable. The chef and his staff were amazing. From Lamb chops, duck, smoked trout, crab, and various other beef and fish selections, we were amazed at every meal. Morning and afternoon activities were scheduled the day prior, as we motored in the inner reaches. Kayaking alone or guided, hiking in the Tongass forest or to glaciers, strolling the shores, touring in the sciffs, bushwhacking, paddle boarding, morning yoga, snorkeling, polar plunge - always led by experts so the experience was complete. All equipment was provided on the boat. There was a library in the public area, trivia contests in the evening, films, and time to get to know your traveling companions. We disembarked in Ketchikan, our luggage was taken to a hotel for us, we checked in to confirm our flight times, were provided with beverages and snacks, and we had the day to explore. Upon return to the hotel, our luggage was transported to the airport and we were checked in and motored also. This trip was all we had hoped for and more. It is for active explorers who want to get out and see.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
When we boarded the Statendam and went to our room, we immediately felt at home. Having sailed with HAL many times and on this size boat, we like the feel of it and have become quite acquainted with the ship's amenities. We like the ... Read More
When we boarded the Statendam and went to our room, we immediately felt at home. Having sailed with HAL many times and on this size boat, we like the feel of it and have become quite acquainted with the ship's amenities. We like the friendly staff who despite long days and sometime demanding pax, always seem in a good mood though the odd one does seem to be self absorbed. It's a difficult life I'm sure. Being gone for months, far away from family and loved ones must take its toll but hey, it's a great living compared to the alternatives. The captain was always on top of things regarding keeping us well informed about the weather and sea conditions. While his announcements were infrequent, they were timely and informative. He took great pains to avoid rough seas, even going out of the way to give us a 'good ride'. One day however, huge swells couldn't be avoided so we had to enjoy the ups and downs of sailing. The breakfast cooks and bell boys got into the act with Oooooooooooooos and Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaas as the ship went up and over the swells. The staff was very fast and competent at cleaning up the seasickness and in a short three hours, all was back to normal. The food on HAL is always good. I said good rather than outstanding but on a couple of occasions, they do manage to excel. What impresses me on all of these cruises is the manner in which, from placing one's food selection to delivery right up to dessert, the food is brought to our table. The logistics involved must be staggering. To appreciate this, take a kitchen tour on your next cruise. Entertainment on this cruise was good also. The ship's dance troupe put on a nice show on two occasions while the humorous magician and another stand up comedian did make us all laugh. This time we attended two of the ships culinary cooking demonstration. The chef had to read from supplied cue cards to prepare the dish and the accompanying host was annoying with her constant interruptions. I guess she felt she had to keep things moving. More rehearsal is needed here folks. The star of the cruise was not it destinations, per se, though visits to Juneau, Skagway and Kitchachin were nice, but rather the glaciers. These did not disappoint. Being on a smaller ship allowed the captain to take us in for a close look and right on cue, the thing calved, not once but twice. This was the first time we've had to request a table change due to incompatibility. There was five of us seated at a table for six and (I do not wish to go into details) when it became apparent that we would need to leave, I asked the gentleman next to me if he'd be insulted were we to leave the table. His reply was 'Only if you don't allow me to go with you." Too bad this had to happen but it did. The only other thing that really bothered me but not my wife, was the ship's Cruise Director's irritating habit of mispronouncing words ending in 'ing.' Like the noise a bell makes when it rings -DING-, this director simply avoided that and pronounced dining like dinen, sailing like sailen and eating like eaten. Boy was I annoyed by that, even sending off a note to the Hotel Manager and despite having been assured that the matter would be brought to the Cruise Director's attention, she continued that irritating habit. How did she get this far without ever having been corrected of it. Notwithstanding this, she did, however, make great announcements. We earned our third Mariner Star on this cruise so just another 125 days and we'll get our fourth. We'd recommend HAL to anyone and suspect that others would also recommend other lines also but, Iike I said earlier, we feel at home on HAL. Richard Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
It was apparent from the start that Carnival is trying to enhance their bottom line, often at the expense of their "guests". The so-called "shows" were pathetic...almost all dancing, and even that not well done. The ... Read More
It was apparent from the start that Carnival is trying to enhance their bottom line, often at the expense of their "guests". The so-called "shows" were pathetic...almost all dancing, and even that not well done. The costumes were second rate as well. Our room was a nice size (mini-suite), but the decor was in bad taste. It had a "glitzy" feeling....oranges, golds, pinks, etc. Around the fifth day, someone came in and installed some more granite in the bathtub area....but, they left the drain and four screws out....it was not not possisble to get the water to the shower position w/o getting soaked in the process. We did have a good cabin attendent, but we tipped him every night to encourage the service. The martini's were good, and were filled to the brim by freindly bartenders (one of the better parts of the trip) Unfortunately, the food was pathetic. We ate in the dining room one night; that was enough to convince us not to come back. We ate one dinner in the Steak House (extra charge) that was very good. The rest of the time we ate at the buffet, which was fair to medium...not on par with buffet's on other ships we've been on. I have sailed on Holland America, Princess and Celebrity in the past, and I can truthfuly say Carnival is nowhere near the caliber of service offered by these lines. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2013
In September 2013 my husband and I spent 4 nights on the Zambezi Queen, a lovely and well-run houseboat on the Chobe River. This was truly a highlight of our month-long stay in Southern Africa! The cabin was very comfortable and ... Read More
In September 2013 my husband and I spent 4 nights on the Zambezi Queen, a lovely and well-run houseboat on the Chobe River. This was truly a highlight of our month-long stay in Southern Africa! The cabin was very comfortable and attractive. In addition to the balcony along the side of the boat, this cabin has a balcony with two chairs and a table right at the front of the boat (next to the wheelhouse). The booking for this "floating hotel" includes all excursions (most by small skiff so you can get really close to the animals), meals, drinks at meals (including wine) and game viewing. The choices are many: game viewing from the river, 1/2 day game drive in Chobe National Park, fishing, visit to a Namibian village...). We did everything except the fishing. Since our 2nd day was really an arrive or depart day for everyone else, Wayne, our wonderful manager, sent us off on a skiff with a private guide, Gibson (who was great) and a boxed lunch to spend as long as we wanted on the river! Highlights of our time on the river were seeing a herd of elephants crossing the river, seeing crocs up close and personal, and viewing many, many birds close up (no binoculars needed!) as they fished in the shallow water near shore. We even saw crocs feeding on an elephant carcass in the water! Our guides Gibson and Bernard shared so many interesting things with us and genuinely seemed to care about their jobs and the guests. We found no negatives at all about Zambezi Queen experience and enthusiastically recommend it. I would be happy to answer questions from any future travelers.   Read Less

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