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14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Celebrity runs a top notch operation in the Galapagos. From our arrival to departure we were well taken care of! The tour guides were informative on land and the naturalist offered their vast knowledge on the islands. The whole tour runs ... Read More
Celebrity runs a top notch operation in the Galapagos. From our arrival to departure we were well taken care of! The tour guides were informative on land and the naturalist offered their vast knowledge on the islands. The whole tour runs like a well oiled machine....with safety of the passengers always present. The ship is smaller than any I have ever cruised on, but perfect for this location. Lack of internet is a issue I think Celebrity needs to address in this day and time. I'm sure almost all passengers would be willing to pay for a high speed internet package. The food was typical cruise fare....good, but not highly seasoned! I found the seafood to be the best choice almost every night! The beef was not good and lacked flavor! The Dinner Under the Stars was disappointing! The menu is the same every night that Dinner Under the Stars is offered. Service was slow and sketchy! I would not book that option if I went again. The service in the dining room was also slow and spotty.....Dinner almost always taking almost two hours. The crew was great, always greeting us and taking care of our needs! The charter flight out to Baltra was good and I did upgrade to First Class. We checked off almost every creature on the Galapagos list! Snorkeling was excellent and I urge everyone to do the Deep Water Snorkeling...it was the best! The zodiac rides along the coast were an enjoyable change from the hiking. Information was given every day regarding the excursion and the clothes, shoes, rain gear, sunscreen, and bug spray needed! We had rain only one day and hardly ever felt a bug. Sunscreen was a must...Hot! Hot! Hot! On our final day in Quito we picked the Spa option and it turned out to be the Piece de Resistance to our whole trip! After the rigorous excursions....a spa day was the perfect ending! I would highly recommend! This was truly the trip of a lifetime and I checked it off my bucket list! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
The Galapagos was on my bucket list. My college roommate and I had booked this cruise and waited 2.5 years for it to come to fruition. We had a great time, however both of us and our husbands got sick in Quito. As part of the ... Read More
The Galapagos was on my bucket list. My college roommate and I had booked this cruise and waited 2.5 years for it to come to fruition. We had a great time, however both of us and our husbands got sick in Quito. As part of the cruise-tour, we ate where Celebrity took us. Both our husbands got sick just before they embarked on the Xpedition. My roommate and I got sick at the end of the tour after eating salad at the Marriott. I believe the food on the ship was safe. The food on the ship was okay. It was not the same quality as what you would find on a regular Celebrity ship. Our room was comfortable and quiet. It was nice to roll out of bed, walk down the hallway to breakfast. I found the staff on the ship to be pleasant and enjoyed being with a small group of people. The Naturalists were good. Some were better than others. With the exception of getting sick, we had a lot of fun. Read Less
40 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
I believe other reviewers miss the point in comparing their experience on Silver Galapagos with other cruises. The Galapagos is a closed, tightly regulated market; only ships exclusively dedicated to the Galapagos can operate there. So ... Read More
I believe other reviewers miss the point in comparing their experience on Silver Galapagos with other cruises. The Galapagos is a closed, tightly regulated market; only ships exclusively dedicated to the Galapagos can operate there. So the question is not how Silver Galapagos compares to Silversea or other cruises outside the Galapagos; the question is what is the best way to visit the Galapagos. Unless you want to be on a small boat with a group of 16, the answer is almost certainly Silver Galapagos. You come to the Galapagos to see the animals, plants and landscapes of these unique islands, not to eat, drink and party on a boat. So job one for any company operating there is to get permission to sail the best possible itineraries, and then to attract and retain the best possible expedition leaders and guides. This Silverseas has done. Everything else is secondary. Silver Galapagos carries 100 passengers, the maximum permitted. The ship is the largest and best equipped operating in the islands. The all-Ecuadorian staff (required) makes up in enthusiasm and warmth what they may lack in polish. In terms of true hospitality, they could teach a thing or two to their Silverseas colleagues operating in international waters. The room for improvement lies not with the crew, but with Silversea. They erred in investing too heavily in cosmetic improvements, and insufficiently in the infrastructure of the vessel. In the choppy waters of the Pacific, the stabilizers were "undergoing maintenance," and apparently had been for months. The nicest suite, recently gussied up, was plagued with mechanical problems such as broken doors and non-functing electronics. If Silversea wants to continue to associate its brand with this ship, it needs to invest in the vessel, and also invest in the crew. If they want to retain the best people, Silverseas should strive to be regarded as the best employer in the Galapagos. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
Our first cruise on the Minerva. This was a trip made up of two cruises - Timeless South America and Natural Wonders of Latin America. We flew to Santiago in Chile from London Heathrow with Iberia. The flight was poor with a 2 hour wait in ... Read More
Our first cruise on the Minerva. This was a trip made up of two cruises - Timeless South America and Natural Wonders of Latin America. We flew to Santiago in Chile from London Heathrow with Iberia. The flight was poor with a 2 hour wait in Madrid airport. The first section of the flight was considered short haul so any food or drink had to be paid for. This was not explained in advance so came as a surprise. We arrived in Madrid at night and all outlets for coffee, snacks etc were closed. There was food etc on the long haul section but this was a couple of hours into the flight so we hadn't eaten for over 12 hours. The aircraft was fairly basic and the cabin crew mostly non existant. However, on arrival at Santiago transfer to the ship at Valparaiso was smooth and interesting. We were soon in our cabin. The ship only holds a maximum of about 350 passengers with no dedicated facilities for children. Most of the passengers were of retirement age and above. There is one, small swimming pool, a spa room and a small but reasonably equipped gym. It has an excellent library. We spent half the cruise in a small cabin on the Aegean deck with an outside window. This was comfortable enough; clean; more than enough storage space (including under the beds for the cases) and a small but perfectly functional bathroom. The second half we transferred to a Balcony Suite on the Sun Deck. This was lovely; very comfortable with a large balcony. There was a big, comfortable bed; settee and armchair; coffee table with a fruit bowl which was regularly filled; desk with chair and fridge. This does come at quite an extra cost though (considerably more than bigger cruise ships). This deck was below the Promenade Deck and we did have a slight issue with the thumping overhead of the early morning joggers (as early as 6.00am). The ship is very nice with plenty of comfortable lounges. There is a very pleasant, covered outside seating area at the back of the ship where you can also eat. I cannot praise the crew enough who gave their guests their constant attention. Service was excellent and the quality of the food was consistently very high. Both restaurants are Freedom Dining and waiter service. We took most meals in the Swan Restaurant and the waiters soon got to know us along with our likes and dislikes. Most of them are Filipino and eager to please. Tips are included in the cost of the cruise. Particular thanks go to Sherwin, Mark, Danny, Randy and Willard. There are a series of lectures each day. Personally, we found the subjects too random and somewhat unrelated. We would have preferred them to be more aligned to the areas/countries that we were visiting and what we could expect to see and experience. Entertainment was gentle and more low-key than on a bigger cruise ship. The cocktail pianists were very good. There was a three piece band who were also very good but somewhat let down by a very average vocalist. There was also two Opera singers; these were particularly good in the second half of the cruise. The only show was presented by some of the crew which was very good fun. You have to admire their eagerness to please and to show off their national dances and costumes. Excursions were very varied and prepaid within the cruise price. There were plenty to choose from to suit all interests and physical capabilities. They were very good and gave us the opportunity to both see and experience the areas that we visited. As the cruises were marketed as 'Discovery cruises' there was little opportunity to spend any own time in the towns with no Shuttle buses from the ship. However, this was made clear at the time of booking. If you like a cruise ship with larger swimming pools, a theatre, cabaret bars etc then this is not the ship for you - it is a quieter, more gentle existence. However, although we enjoy the larger cruise ships, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Minerva. Thank you. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
From the moment we arrived it was like clock work, everything was in order and very organized, ship shape . The Grace is everything you would imagine, its beauty and charm made each day after a long hiking or swim a pleasurable sanctuary ... Read More
From the moment we arrived it was like clock work, everything was in order and very organized, ship shape . The Grace is everything you would imagine, its beauty and charm made each day after a long hiking or swim a pleasurable sanctuary to return too. Our Cruise Director Debra was so amazing and was always looking after everyone on the ship. The food was very good, and many choices to be had. Our stateroom was small but efficient the bathrooms were very nice and roomy. Each day there were many excursions usually two after breakfast and one late afternoon before dinner. There were two naturalist guides , Alex and Gilda, both extremely knowledgeable . I preferred Gilda because she was very sweet and kind to me . I tended to stay away from Alex , for some reason he was always reprimanding me and making me feel bad, so in order to not ruin the already wonderful trip i stayed away from him. Other then that, i did enjoy the trip and hope to someday come back and do the other half on the galapagos and maybe try the Evolution to compare. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 ... Read More
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 p.m. and on day 19 you are going to be leaving the ship at about 7.30 a.m. So, effectively it is a 17 day cruise. The Fram is an excellent ship for the job, being large enough to be comfortable but small enough to get into places that bigger liners would never get to or be allowed to go to, South Georgia for instance has a limit of 100 people ashore at any one time at most of the places we stopped at. Try that on a 2 - 3000 passenger liner. We were blessed with good weather and we landed at almost all of the places intended, however, Hurtigriten do like to make the most of a 'captive audience'. They offered us organised trips at Ushuaia and on the Falklands. All of them seemed quite expensive for what they were so we only pre-booked one which was at Port Stanley. It was fairly interesting, a visit to a penguin colony, but given that we visited numerous others for no extra cost on South Georgia and the Antarctic Islands subsequently this trip was a waste of money, and time as you don't get long in Stanley. Other extras were offered once on board: snowshoeing, kayaking, trips in the Polarcircle RIBs and several hikes. All of these were quite expensive for what they were for instance about £75 for a 2 hour cruise in the RIBs just to see the sights along the shore, almost £100 each for two and a half hours kayaking which, with 5 two-man kayaks earned the line about £1000 for the use of the boats plus two guides. Even the hikes which usually have over 50 people on them will cost you around £25 per person when you might think that they could throw in a guided walk of a few miles free of extra cost especially when you consider that the 'trainee' members of the Expedition Crew are not even being paid by the Line but are doing their jobs unsalaried just to gain experience. They rely, of course on the "well, I'll only be here once" thought that goes through our minds and makes us pay these silly extra costs. Then there's the bar prices. I didn't want a 'booze cruise' but it would have been nice to have a beer at the end of an active day or a bottle of wine with dinner but with Carlsberg lager (the only beer they had and one that I don't like) costing almost £7 per pint and Chilean 'plonk' that sells in Buenos Aires supermarkets for about £5 a bottle being priced at around £25 per bottle on the ship I had a very 'dry' holiday. Obviously it is not that people who can afford the cruise can't afford the drinks but I object to being 'milked' in this way especially when the Line presumably buys the stuff as 'Bonded Stores', that is to say, without having to pay duty on it. They also x-ray your cases when you come aboard, including hand-luggage. This is not as you might think to protect you from guns and bombs. It is to protect their bar profits by spotting and removing any alcohol you may have brought with you. To add insult to injury they also charge for water to drink in the restaurant but they offer a 'deal' whereby you can pay about £20 per head for the privilege of having a carafe of 'mineral' water on your table every evening. This deal is supposed to be per person whereas, of course, it should be per couple but having had a very early start (up at 01.45 a.m.) to catch the flight to Ushuaia I allowed myself to be bounced into agreeing to it for each of us so we paid almost £40 in total. It is a real shame that Hurtugruten feel the need to rip-off their clients in these petty ways as the cruise itself was everything we could have hoped for but the constant feeling that you are being 'milked' leaves a nasty taste that even their very expensive water cannot wash away. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
There were two of us on this cruise: my father, who is 85 and retired, and myself, a 53-year old educator. My father has gone on many cruises; I have just been on four. The Cabin As one would expect on a "mega yacht," the cabin ... Read More
There were two of us on this cruise: my father, who is 85 and retired, and myself, a 53-year old educator. My father has gone on many cruises; I have just been on four. The Cabin As one would expect on a "mega yacht," the cabin was quite small. Nonetheless, it was quite pleasant and I never felt crowded or claustrophobic. There were two single beds (comfortable), as well as a small desk and ottoman chair, a two-seat sofa, a night stand, a shelf, and a closet. In addition to the portholes and the overhead lights, there were small halogen reading lights over the beds. The bathroom was surprisingly spacious (almost a quarter of the overall space in the cabin), and included not only a large shower, toilet and sink, but also side shelves and a retractable laundry string. Issues: The door to the bathroom is translucent glass. That means while it maintains privacy, when you turn on the bathroom light, it illuminates a portion of the room. That never bothered my father, but it might bother someone sensitive to night light. Other people on the cruise reported occasional problems getting hot water in the shower, but we always had plenty. The one serious issue was the water color. We were advised at the beginning that there may be some discoloration in the water early in the trip, but that this would quickly pass. It didn't. By the third day of the trip, I was still showering in orange-colored water. One guest was quite upset; not only did this mean that she couldn't wash her white clothing, but she was concerned about the iron in the water dying her grey hair. We spoke to the hotel manager and he assured us he would fix the problem. Afterwards, if I let the water run for about 10 seconds, it cleared up. The other guest, however, still had to let her water run for 10 minutes. An odd situation given that the ship is only two years old. Ship Facilities Overall, I found the ship facilities quite good, given the limitations of size. The Horizons Dining Room was very comfortable and since the ship was only at 2/3rds capacity, there was always plenty of room. Similarly, there was always plenty of space in the Riviera Lounge and the seats were comfortable. I didn't use the spa facilities, but I saw several other guests using them and they enjoyed them. They have a treadmill, a bicycle, some weights, etc. Issues: The Riviera Lounge has long sofas and low coffee tables. I would have like there to be a few regular tables, where one could play cards or do a crossword puzzle. They did have such tables outside on the deck behind the Horizons Dining Room, but given the high heat and humidity, I wasn't comfortable using them. Ship Crew The bridge officers, the waiters, the cabin staff, and bartenders, the cruise director, the naturalist, and musician were all good. One morning, my father had breakfast with the captain and very much enjoyed his conversation. Like many other passengers, I went up to the bridge and chatted with the captain and first officer. All the staff worked to address any issues that arose with passengers. The Food In my experience, Celebrity Xpedition (in the Galapagos) set the bar for small-ship cruising, and Variety Voyager did not come close to that level of quality. Nonetheless, the food was fine, if not particularly exciting or inspiring. Breakfast was a buffet, with hot items, such as grilled tomatoes, potatoes, crispy bacon, omelets, etc., as well as someone making omelets or pancakes to order. There were also cold items, such as greek yogurt, fruit compote, cold fish, fresh fruit, cheese and cold cuts. There was toast, cereal, milk, jam, juices, and danish. Lunch varied. If we ate on the ship, then it was also a buffet, with assorted hot items such as quiche, various greek dishes, some salads, and some roast animal at the carving station. They also had a dessert table with slices of cake and fresh fruit. The best meals (of the whole trip), however, were the two occasions we had BBQ on shore. On both occasions, the menu was Greek-inspired with some pita, mediterranean salads, and various grilled items: mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, lamb chops, sausage, tiger prawns, meat balls, and fish. I thought the lamb chops were excellent. They also had some nice Greek desserts, particularly the kadayif. Dinner was almost always a sit-down affair with a menu (the one exception was the evening we crossed the Canal). There was some kind of appetizer and soup, followed by a main course and dessert. The soups were generally very good. There were three options for the main course: 1) a meat dish of some kind – pork, veal, beef, or turkey; 2) a fish dish of some kind – sole, grouper, salmon; 3) a vegetarian option. Desserts varied and included crème brulee, profiteroles, or cake. For Christmas Eve they served a pudding of some kind, but there were large swells and I felt slightly nauseous and went back to my cabin to lay down. The last night they went all out, but I felt their ambition exceeded their grasp. While the lobster bisque was very good, the scallop salad (a few dingy and tasteless things on top of tired spinach dressed in mustard) was almost inedible. We all ordered the chateaubriand, but only the woman who asked for it rare got it anything but well done (hers was medium rare). When we came back from various excursions they offered us a warmish ice tea, and there were macaroons and slices of somewhat dry cake by the coffee station in the Riviera Lounge. I ordered several of the daily cocktail specials and they were quite good, as was the cappuccino (the later was complimentary). Excursions On the whole, I would say (with the exception of Logistics, below), this was the weakest part of the trip experience. Some of the problems are inherent; others could be mitigated. Before I get into that I should mention that we shared the ship with a group. They made up about a third of the 48 passengers and had a separate naturalist, went on the same excursions but separately from us, and ate dinner at their own tables. This created an odd dynamic; it wasn't annoying or off putting, but it was just a little strange. In the Galapagos, each excursion group was limited to the size of the Zodiac. This was critical so we could interact with our naturalist as he or she pointed out various aspects of life or geology or history on the islands we visited. In Cambodia and Vietnam, the groups were somewhat bigger, about 25 people, but there, most of the information from the guide came when we were en route or on ship, with less when we were on the ground walking around. In both cases, the items we were seeing required no special tools. Costa Rica and Panama are different. The highlight of most excursions was seeing the wildlife, but these creatures were mostly small and camouflaged or high up in the trees. The guides were quite efficient at using their view finders to help us see the various items (e.g., tree sloths), but that meant waiting in line for quick glimpses through the view finder. If it was a large group (25 people), and they were noisy (as they often were), the bird might fly away before the people at the end ever had a chance to see it. While this cruise did include some younger, more active passengers, as would be expected, most passengers were retired. I would suggest that the company consider arranging a less-strenuous excursion option for those days with highly strenuous trips. I took all the excursions offered on the cruise, so here's my evaluation of them all: Day 2, morning: Curu Nature Preserve - Extra This involved a wet landing on a somewhat muddy beach. Highlight: seeing the white-faced capuchin monkeys, the howler monkeys, and the spider monkeys close up. While the description said there would be time for swimming, that was not the case. Day 2, afternoon: Isla Tortuga – Included Here we had a very nice BBQ lunch on the beach. The wet landing in the surf, however, was a daunting prospect for those who had mobility issues. A lunch was provided on the ship for them, but since that option wasn't announced, my father didn't know about it. The water was too murky for any snorkeling, but the water was nice for swimming and they provided kayaks and paddle boards for anyone who wanted to use them. Day 3 morning: Manuel Antonio Reserve – Extra This is a small, but very popular reserve. It was extremely crowded with groups of a dozen or more tourists clustered around each naturalist and his view finder. The highlight: seeing the two-toed and three-toed sloths. While the brochure and cruise director praised the wonderful swimming in the park, we only had 25 minutes at the beach. As it was, I was the last to rejoin the group as I needed to change back into my normal clothing for the walk back. Day 3 afternoon: Zip Lining – Extra. I had never zip lined before, so part of my issues here involve my own misconceptions. But here's how the cruise described the excursion: "During your journey you'll stop and rest at 16 strategically located platforms and 12 cables where you are most likely see the surrounding wildlife. Many of these platforms are almost 100 feet high, nestled in the trunks and branches of trees that are centuries old. Our staff of professionally trained guides shows guests the abundant wildlife along the way; including Titi monkeys, two and three toed sloths, poison dart frogs, iguanas and toucans." In fact, there was no looking at any native wildlife, nor did we rest on the strategically located platforms. We simply zipped from one to the other and then quickly on to the next one. The only time we paused was to allow the tour operators to reposition. In addition, my own fears (and my tendency to lose control and have my helmet rubbing against the cord at high speeds) meant that I really couldn't focus on the natural beauty. It got better after they added another harness to stabilize me. Day 4 morning: Osa Peninsula – Extra This was one of the best excursions but it was also one of the most mismanaged. Simply put, the description provided by the cruise in no way matched what we actually did. First, here's the official description of the excursion: "Start the day off at Piro Research Center and hike through our extensive, easy-access & safe trail system to see the incredible array of Osa’s wildlife and do some spectacular bird watching. Look up to catch a glimpse of some of Osa’s 400+ bird species, including toucans, red-plumed scarlet macaws, and stunningly beautiful turquoise cotingas. All 4 species of monkeys and the wide array of forest mammals can be spotted in these lush forests. Later we take a short trip on foot through the rainforest to the beach, where you can spot tracks of mother sea turtles who have come out of the water to lay their eggs in the sand the night before. From there, take a walk to the turtle hatchery, where you’ll get an introduction to sea turtle conservation by our trained staff and watch our volunteers care for the newly hatched turtles until they are released back into the sea. After these unforgettable and easy hikes in the cathedral-like forests, head back to Piro Research Center and we return to Puerto Jimenez." Now, here's what we actually did: we drove about twenty minutes outside of Puerto Jimenez to something called "el bosque encantado" (the enchanted forest). This is an old-growth jungle on the Osa Peninsula. There were some walking sticks available at the beginning, but since were told this was an easy hike, I passed on them. This turned out to be a mistake. The trail descended down an incredibly slippery muddy trail through the jungle to a stream bed and then back up the other side. Many people, including those who had walking sticks, fell or slipped in the mud. There was little opportunity to bird watch as most of the time our eyes were on the ground to keep from falling. We reemerged from the jungle where we entered and had some fresh fruit. Then it was back to the dock. No research center, no beach, no turtle hatchery, etc. While I really enjoyed walking through the jungle and seeing and hearing howler monkeys, I felt unprepared for how strenuous the trail was. Had I known in advance, I would have packed hiking shoes with better traction and taken one of the walking sticks. Instead of getting my hopes up about seeing sea turtles, I would have concentrated on seeing the forest. Day 4 afternoon: Casa Orquideas – Extra This was a lovely private home with botanical gardens, many of which are orchids. We saw not only lovely flowers, but many kinds of birds, including toucans. Here, too, the brochure talks about time for swimming, but there was no swimming permitted on the beach. Instead, I joined a few others in swimming off the back of the boat, but for less time then we were told we would have. Day 5 morning: Granito de Oro Island – Included This day was slightly modified in order to arrive in Panama City in time the next morning. The Granito de Oro snorkeling was supposed to be in the afternoon, but we went in the morning instead. I saw large schools of brightly colored fish. Other snorkelers saw reef and nurse sharks, eels, and a turtle. Day 5 afternoon: Coiba Island – Excursion Cancelled In order to arrive in Panama City on time, the hike to the top of the island overlook was cancelled. Instead, we only had a very nice BBQ on the island. Day 6 morning: Panama City – Extra This excursion had two halves: one hour at the Miraflores Locks and Panama Canal Museum, followed by one hour in the Old Town Quarter. My favorite part was standing on the top of the museum where we had a great view of ships entering and exiting the Canal at the Miraflores Locks. The tour of the Old Town Quarter was mostly forgettable. Day 6 evening: Panama Canal – Included This really isn't an excursion, but it was more exciting than I expected to pass through the Panama Canal. Unlike on large cruise ships, our small size, even when in tandem with a small cargo vessel, meant we had good views of the sides of the locks and the operation of the gates. The musician had a nice mix of music playing on the aft deck and it was loud enough that it inspired some of the sailors on other cargo vessels to dance along with us. Day 7 afternoon: San Blas Islands – Extra This is the closest we came to the kinds of excursions we had in Cambodia and Vietnam: being taken to a village to see the "native" people. On those trips, I always felt a little uncomfortable with the way the tourists would treat the locals as objects. Here, at Carti Island, the situation was reversed: the locals (Guna Yana indians) charged a dollar for every photo taken of them, so they were seeking us out as sources of revenue. The dance number is rather hokey, but I did very much enjoy wandering around the village (except for all the people trying to get me to take their picture). Day 7 afternoon: Gran Perro Island – Included Because of the severe delays in getting through the Canal (more below), the BBQ lunch on the island was cancelled. In addition, choppy seas prevented us from mooring in such a way as the snorkelers could visit the sunken ship. Still, the beach and water was very nice. Some interesting corals, including brain coral, as well as some colorful fish, some starfish, and a baby eel. Some others saw a young sting ray. Logistics This is where the cruise line fell the most short. First, embarkation. Since my father and I arrived in Costa Rica a few days early, we came to the embarkation site by a transfer we booked from Monteverde. According to the information provided by Variety Cruises, we would embark at the Los Suenos Marina in Playa Herradura beginning at 3 pm. My father wanted to arrive early, as he (wrongfully) assumed that we would be able to board early and he could rest in the cabin. This was not the case. We arrived at 12:15 at the Los Suenos Marriott Hotel and they directed us to the Marina, but no one at the Marina knew anything about the Variety Voyager, least of all where we needed to go to board the ship. Our driver took us all over the Marina, and she spoke to various officials, none of them knew anything about the cruise ship or where it would be picking up passengers. They tried calling the ship, but no one answered. About an hour and a half after we arrived, we were able to hitch a lift with the ship's naturalist back to the boat. Second, the itinerary. As noted above, not all the excursions matched what was promised in the guide provided by the cruise line. Even stranger was the fact that the prices charged for each excursion didn't always match the prices listed before hand in the guide provided by the cruise line (the actual prices were higher). Third, crossing the Panama Canal. At 2 pm, we anchored near the Pilot's House to await the arrival of the Inspector, who comes on board before the Canal Pilot. Around 3 pm, I was sitting in the Riviera Lounge when a passenger came in to say there was someone wanting to board the ship. I went out and the inspector from the Panama Canal Authority wanted to come on board to start the process, but no one was there to allow him on. He asked me to get a crew member. I went in and found the musician and told him. "Impossible!" he exclaimed. No one could approach the ship without the bridge knowing. I told him the inspector asked to speak to a crewman and he was in the crew. He went out, talked to the inspector and then called the bridge. Within a minute, bridge officers came down and they helped the inspector come on board. I have no way of knowing if this was the reason our entering the Panama Canal was delayed from 6:45 pm until 9:00 pm, but we were delayed. As a result, our activities for Day 7 had to be significantly modified as we arrived four hours late. Finally, disembarkation. Our ship disembarked at a different location than we were told before hand. We were supposed to come in to the Shelter Bay Marina, across the bay from Colon, but instead we landed at the Colon 2000 Marina in Colon, about 15-20 miles away. This change was not announced. My father and I booked our transfer to Panama City airport through the cruise line, so the person meeting us at the dock knew that the place where we would be arriving was changed, but several other people had no such luck. One was able to reach her driver at the Shelter Bay Marina; the others couldn't reach their transfer company since it was a Sunday morning and they were not answering their phones. This wasn't the first change the cruise company had made. About a third of the ship had booked the cruise when it was originally arriving not in Colon, Panama, but Cartagena, Colombia. In that case, Variety did agree to cover the costs of transferring from Colon to Cartagena so they could make the flights they had booked before the itinerary was changed. For that reason, I would suggest that anyone traveling with Variety in the future anticipate that boarding and disembarking locations may change and prepare to be flexible.   Read Less
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sail Date: June 2013
We stayed in an aft Balcony of the ship - a great spot. The Star made a good impression, but not the excellent impression as I have had on other cruise ships. The ship's excursions are pricey. Thank goodness, we did good in ... Read More
We stayed in an aft Balcony of the ship - a great spot. The Star made a good impression, but not the excellent impression as I have had on other cruise ships. The ship's excursions are pricey. Thank goodness, we did good in shopping for outside tours in our pre-cruise planning. They are both cheaper and tour group sizes are small. And with a embarkment from Copenhagen you sure want to ship around for your pre-cruise and post-cruise planning in Copenhagen for it is extremely expensive. Leaving the ship for a port excursion needs to be better organized for safety and efficiency, because everyone wants to begin their excursion tour time as early as possible. The deadlines to be back on the ship always seem to be too early. The embarkation from the Copenhagen Freeport pier seems remote. If you plan to take the train to Nordhavn station to get there, beware that you will need to lug your baggage about 0.6 miles to the ship. A free shuttle offering would have been great . On my next cruise, I will be particularly thinking about booking on some smaller size cruise ship. Seems like the smaller vessels are able to moor much closer to the cities visited that might allow walking distance hop-off and hop-on. While the free style dining was convenient, we didn't get the truly great menu selections as offered on other past cruises. The first night we were offered lobster which is probably the high point. While the menu did offer a local dish from the locale, it was not impressive. While the breakfast-lunch=dinner buffet was good, its selections were routine consistent each day, with none of those surprises that we pleasantly experienced in the past. We only happened to stumble into the "Chocolate" evening on the final Monday evening - we usually pay attention to announcements, but we missed this one somehow. State room quality was great. And our porter took care of us. Ship check-in seemed different than past cruises. There was no fanfare or first-rate hospitality available for the long lines of people. The receptionists desk onboard the ship somehow struck me wrong with very curt attitude. Entertainment was fair, particularly for a trip through the Baltics where it is particularly cool, and everyone stays typically inside the ship. Only the last night of the cruise was there a theater show that was truly worth seeing. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
We enjoyed a two week Central America cruise on Le Boreal, a 2010-built vessel with 264 pax capacity. We had 186 on board. Crew 144. New vessels offer lots of advantages. First, the pluses: Cabins are small but feature a tasteful ... Read More
We enjoyed a two week Central America cruise on Le Boreal, a 2010-built vessel with 264 pax capacity. We had 186 on board. Crew 144. New vessels offer lots of advantages. First, the pluses: Cabins are small but feature a tasteful contemporary design with superb European finishes and fittings. King size bed and bedding was very comfortable. Bathroom is small, but top quality. Toilet is separate. L'Occitaine toiletries are standard. All suites have a small balcony. The food is excellent, as expected of a French vessel. Desserts are superb. There are two dining areas, one more casual, the other light and bright on deck 2. Open seating. Service was terrific, especially from the Philipino and Indonesian staff. The (non-European) French-speaking waiters were somewhat haughty, which we thought unusual. The French maitre de, Christophe, was superb, as was the sommelier, Charles. Young, vibrant and personable. Ship's officers were convivial and Captain Garcia deserves special mention. It is not often you can be on the bridge for a Panama transit. When he said it was an open bridge policy he truly meant it. One treat was an unscheduled stop in the Pacific for a swim from the ship's stern marina deck. Fantastic. Tours were standard, average value and consistent with most cruise ships. Nothing special. The French tour staff were most helpful and convivial. There were only 4 English speaking passengers on our cruise, albeit many French and EU passengers did speak English. This did not concern us but may be a drawback for those seeking more social interaction. One good feature is that in restaurants, bars etc. the French are very quiet. We like this. Overall noise levels are subdued. Now for the not so good points: The alcohol policy on board is outdated. Beer and wine of good qualities are served free during meals, but pouring finishes promptly when the restaurant Is closing. You can buy an 'open bar' ticket for $80 per day per person. Otherwise cocktails are $15 and standard drinks $10. Tea and coffee $3. So you are forever signing chits, even with an open bar provision. My advice is to negotiate an open bar deal when booking if you like to drink out of meal times. The pool is purely for immersion. Not very good. And the smokers congregate here too, especially flocking to the outdoor dining area. Tipping is encouraged on an 'all staff' basis at the end of the cruise. Like most Australians, we consider this a blatant impost to top up the wages of crew so we chose to simply tip those staff individually who provided exceptional service. Le Ponant needs to adopt what is rapidly becoming the market standard, a contemporary all-inclusive policy for drinking, tipping and tours. Cruise passengers are increasingly looking for no-extras once on board. IT services were below average. The in house TV was poor, with a clunky interface and poor graphics for navigation etc. No satellite news on TV, but printed daily news. About 20 movies on line - the usual popular releases. The library is both stylish and comfortable but the choice of books is limited. Internet service was variable and much the same as other ships. Unreliable, slow and expensive. About $20 per hour. Policy is stated as non-smoking, except in designated areas. But there are quite a few of them, including the outdoor dining area and pool surrounds as well as other locations. The French appear to smoke more than most so this is a real negative, especially in the pool and outdoor dining area if you don't like to share your meal with tobacco smoke. And there were pipes too. As we were sailing in equatorial areas, it was more comfortable to dine indoors anyway, but the smoking policy may be a put-off for many. Ponant need to change this should they wish to broaden their passenger base. We did not check out the entertainment at night. It appeared to be a standard cabaret offering with a Paris touch, as well as dancing. The lounge pianist played classical music standards during cocktail hour with much the same playlist every night. Not exciting. The lecturers (two) were both charming and excellent company however English language skills were lacking, as well as the topicality of subjects and depth of knowledge. This was a key issue for us as lectures are so important for our cruising. Before taking another Le Ponant cruise, we would be seeking more details of lecturers and their CVs. Overall, we rated this cruise very highly - the combination of a terrific (new) ship with a number of nooks and crannies to lounge in, coupled with excellent food and restaurant service. This ship is very comfortable in all respects, with great sea-keeping. The friendly officers added to the experience. Captain Garcia is a gem. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
My husband and I are in our early 40s and this was our second trip on Xpedition. We took the 10-night cruisetour in Sept. 2007 and enjoyed it so much that we wanted to return. We decided to take the 13-night Galapagos cruise B with Machu ... Read More
My husband and I are in our early 40s and this was our second trip on Xpedition. We took the 10-night cruisetour in Sept. 2007 and enjoyed it so much that we wanted to return. We decided to take the 13-night Galapagos cruise B with Machu Picchu this time. Xpedition only had a single itinerary last time so we had a hard time picking between the A and B itineraries for this trip. There were aspects of each that we really wanted to see again. North Seymour Island was the deciding factor for us since that was our favorite stop from the previous trip. We booked cabin 502 (same as previous cruise) to be close to the Blue Finch Bar. On our previous cruise, the bar was open so we were able to run out the door, get drinks, and return to our cabin - very convenient. The bar was never open for this cruise so we had to go downstairs to deck 4 for drinks, but not really a big deal. We recognized some faces from our previous cruise. The cabin layout was changed slightly to add a loveseat, which made it more cramped than before but we managed. There is adequate storage in the cabin and in the bathroom. The beds are not very comfortable at all - thin, lumpy mattresses. I asked about getting a foam pad for the bed but was told they don't have any. There is only 1 -110V outlet but a couple 220V outlets. My camera battery charger will use either so I was able to charge my batteries off the 220V and use the 110V for other things. I noticed when I had my laptop plugged into the 110V supply that the power would fluctuate quite a bit. My battery symbol would change from "charging" to "battery" every few seconds. A couple people onboard mentioned that their camera batteries didn't seem to be charging correctly. I didn't have a problem with mine - the 220V supply seemed steady. The internet connection (Wifi) was unreliable. We were initially given 3 free hours. I used about 10 minutes of mine then lost the connection and couldn't get it back to log out. I lost all my minutes but was given more after I mentioned the problem at guest services. There were many times that I was unable to connect at all. The staff at guest services told me that I was the only person onboard who was having problems and it was because I was using a Windows based computer (which she called "obsolete technology") rather than an iPad. As she was explaining that I needed to buy an iPad, another passenger using an iPad came in to complain that he couldn't get a connection. I could understand if she had said the connection will be slow or even non-existant since we were in the Galapagos, but saying the problem was due to my using WIndows didn't make any sense. I think overall the food was better this trip than last time. Xpedition offered a nice variety of choices and I was mostly satisfied. There were a few things (chicken and grilled items) that turned out dry. The ship was still having problems with stabilizers. I didn't get seasick, but I was almost rolled out of bed one night due to the ship's rocking. We had problems with drawers and doors opening/closing due to the rocking. It was very annoying at night. We tied the handles together on the closet to hold them closed. We shoved Kleenex between the drawers and casing to keep them from opening/closing. Those are tricks we picked up from previous cruises where we had occasional problems. On Xpedition it was every night. In general the guides do a good job of explaining the excursions available. The one failing was Sullivan Bay. I don't think they correctly depicted how rough the terrain really was for the longer hike. The trail was a dry landing but required being able to take a large step out of the rocking zodiac then walking across sharp lava rocks with loose stones. I am very mobile and brought hiking shoes with ankle support so I was fine. It was also very sunny that day so the black lava rocks were really hot. An elderly couple on the tour did not realize how bad the trail was. They were having problems keeping up with the rest of the group. I informed our guide that they had dropped way back and we should let them catch up. His reply was they should have picked another excursion and he kept walking. I agree that they should not have taken this walk, but I was upset that the guide showed such disregard for their safety. If one of them had fallen, they could have been seriously injured on the sharp rocks. Celebrity does a fanastic job with the Galapagos portion of the trip. I only wish the Machu Picchu portion had been that good. Of the passengers onboard, 24 of us continued to Lima. We flew from Baltra to Quito on the charter flight with the all the other passengers from Xpedition. Once in Quito, we were told that we would have to wait about 10 minutes for our luggage to get off the plane before checking our bags for the flight to Lima. We were left standing in the middle of the terminal for almost an hour before our luggage showed up. We checked in for our flight to Lima then had another couple of hours to wait at the airport for the flight. Celebrity booked us at the Colony Club hotel in Lima, which is a beautiful facility. However, by the time we arrived in Lima, got through immigration and customs, and spent an hour driving to the hotel, it was almost 11 PM by the time we got to our rooms. We had to leave in the morning to drive back to the airport to catch our flight to Cusco so we were only in the room for about 9 hours. I would have preferred a hotel closer to the airport to eliminate the hour transit time each way. We stayed at the Montesario Hotel in Cusco, which is a converted monastery. The rooms are rather small but the location is nice. When we arrived at the hotel, my checked bag was missing. Our guide didn't seem to understand why I was upset about the missing bag. He kept telling me that I needed to go on a tour and I could find my bag later. I was adament that I needed that bag since it had almost all of my clothes. He eventually agreed to have another staff member look for it. It had been delivered to the wrong room and was finally located. I also noticed that my name was misspelled on the paperwork for the hotel. I pointed this out to our guide who said it wasn't a problem. It was true that it wasn't a problem for the hotel but would be a problem later. We were divided into 2 groups of 12 for the tours, each with a guide. I was not impressed with the quality of our guide. She didn't like to answer questions and would repeat the same information several times. A couple times when people asked questions she would say that she didn't want to discuss that right now. Several people in the other group had nothing but praise for their guide so I wished we had been in his group. We saw several of the Incan sites in the Sacred Valley but also got stuck doing the obligatory cruiseline shop tours. I would rather skip the alpaca sweater shop and silver shop since those items hold no interest for me. I know some people feel that a cruiseline approved shop is preferable and many people made purchases at the shops. The train ride to Machu Picchu was nice but I wished we had a couple more hours to spend there. The city is facinating and really needs a full day to explore it rather than just the 3 hours we had. We returned to Lima the day after Machu Picchu. When I checked in for the flight from Cusco, the agent informed me that the names on my passport and boarding pass didn't match. Celebrity had booked the flight and had misspelled my name again. I asked the agent what would happen and he told me that I might not be allowed on the plane and would have to buy another ticket if one was available using my correctly spelled name. I was upset since I had expected Celebrity to make sure my information was correct. My name was spelled correctly for all the Galapagos paperwork. I informed our guide again about the misspelling of my name and asked what would happen if they wouldn't let me board the plane. He shrugged it off and said I would be responsible for purchasing another ticket and getting to Lima on my own. I know how strict they are about passport name exactly matching the boarding pass name for US flights so I was afraid I wouldn't be able to fly to Lima with the group. Since it wasn't long before our flight, my husband and I wanted to go through security rather than sitting in the lounge to see if I would have a problem. Our Celebrity guide wouldn't come with us so we went on our own. The agent at the security area didn't speak English very well so she had us move aside while she called another agent over who spoke some English. He asked us a few questions before speaking to the first agent in Spanish. My Spanish is very limited and from the way they were gesturing, I kept thinking that they weren't going to let me through, but he finally gave me my passport and boarding pass and let me into the gate area. I was so relieved that I must have said "Gracias" a dozen times. The flight was uneventful after that and we arrived in Lima around noon. We were supposed to make a 45 minute stop at a museum then have lunch. Our guide got bogged down in the details at the museum so our 45-minute stop took over 1.5 hours. We continued the tour and were supposed to have some time at the end to visit a few shops but our guide said we had taken too much time at the museum so no shopping. I was a disappointed because I wanted to pick up something for a nephew. I really enjoyed the Galapagos cruise. I don't know that I would do it a third time, but the second trip was definitely worthwhile since we got to see the islands during dry season previously and rainy season this time. The tour of Machu Picchu was a reminder of why I stopped taking ship tours. I thought it would be nice to leave the planning details to someone else, but I realized what a mistake that was. I prefer to set my own pace and make my own arrangements for what I want to see. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2013
Xpedition is billed as a "luxury" cruise in the Galapagos. The reality is that the Galapagos islands are a long way from anywhere (600 miles off the coast of Ecuador), in a challenging environment, so any cruise line operating ... Read More
Xpedition is billed as a "luxury" cruise in the Galapagos. The reality is that the Galapagos islands are a long way from anywhere (600 miles off the coast of Ecuador), in a challenging environment, so any cruise line operating there will face challenges. I believe it would be practically impossible to create a true luxury experience in the Galapagos. The Xpedition is as good as you're going to get, but you have to realize that some elements will not be luxurious. The air-conditioning on the ship strains to keep up with the heat and humidity, particularly on the upper decks (5 and 6). We passed some uncomfortably hot nights in our XS suite on the 6th (top) deck. The motion of the ship is significant. Frequently the drawers, closet door and shower door in our suite would start banging open and closed in the middle of the night because of wave motion. One night the motion was so bad that a wine glass on the counter in a high-sided, boxlike tray provided by the ship, flew out of the tray and smashed all over the place. We are not affected by seasickness, so this was only mildly annoying to us. If you are susceptible, get a patch or pills, because the ship does move a lot. The food is adequate. Don't expect the quality and presentation you may have experienced on larger cruise ships. They are working with local suppliers, so the quality of the products they get is variable. The fish was always pretty good, as were the pasta dishes. Salads were so-so. A lot of things that should have been cold (sushi, salads, etc.) were lukewarm. I kept expecting to get food poisoning because of that, but we were fine, so I guess their sanitation is good. Like Ecuadorean food in general, we found the food on the Xpedition pretty bland but also relatively healthy (few heavy sauces, lots of grilled stuff). Desserts were very good and breads quite good. The excursions are fantastic. The scenery is great, the animals are of course amazing, and the naturalists are top-notch. Some naturalists are better than others in various ways: some are more enthusiastic, some have better English skills, some are more safety-oriented than others. They are uniformly well-informed about the animals and plants, though. I think it's nice that the naturalists are assigned to the Zodiacs randomly, as they all have different things to offer, and this allows you to experience different approaches. (Apparently in at least one competing program, people are assigned to the same naturalist for the entire trip!) The ship's staff are all eager to please, which is especially impressive because there's no tipping. The ship's facilities are limited, as you'd expect on such a small craft: the "fitness center" is a bit of a joke, etc. But everything is well-thought-out for the specific purpose of the cruise, which is the excursions to the islands. They have efficient systems for handling the snorkel equipment, loading the Zodiacs, etc. I was very impressed with that. If you're considering this trip, please do a realistic self-evaluation of your fitness and health status. This is not a trip to Disneyland! There are real dangers, and we saw people who were way out of their depth and hurt themselves or others. Several had to be rescued. This itinerary is best done while you're still pretty agile and able to do a reasonable amount of physical activity. If you're unsteady on your feet or have brittle bones, this is not for you: you are going to have to get in and out of a rocking Zodiac. If you want to do some of the best excursions, you'll need to hop over the side of the Zodiac onto shifting sand in shallow waves. You'll have to pick your way over sharp lava rocks. If you can't walk a mile over uneven ground, do yourself a favor and don't go on this cruise! If you can't handle heat and humidity, forget it. That said, you just need to be reasonably fit and have decent balance. You don't have to be an Iron Man competitor. My husband and I are both overweight and I have bad knees, but we can and do walk/hike 3-10 miles a day on a regular basis. We are both good swimmers and know how to snorkel. We managed the excursions just fine, though I skipped one that involved hundreds of stairs. Sadly, too many people on our cruise didn't seem to have realistic ideas about their own abilities, probably because they never do any physical activity outdoors. Before you go, find out: can I walk up 300 stairs? How about 10 uneven, slippery stone stairs? Can I hop from one little boulder to another? Do I know how to snorkel? Can I swim in a current? etc. That will help you assess whether this trip is for you. The majority (I'd say 8 out of 10) of the "long" or "hard" version of the excursions are not that taxing, as long as you're even moderately fit and healthy. I did a couple of the "easy" or "short" excursions and thought they were a waste of time -- riding around in a Zodiac was hot and usually boring. The hikes are where you see all the best stuff. If you can't manage most of the longer/harder excursions, I feel you'd be wasting your money. In terms of seeing wildlife, there are only 6 excursions I would consider "must-do's" -- and it wasn't always clear from the descriptions which fell into that category. We were on the B itinerary and I felt the best excursions by far were Puerto Egas, Rabida, Elizabeth Bay (the only worthwhile all-Zodiac/no-hike excursion), Las Bachas, North Seymour (DO NOT MISS - nesting site for frigates and boobies) and Santa Cruz Highlands (only opportunity to see giant tortoises in the wild). I don't mean to be discouraging about taking this cruise. Visiting the Galapagos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we felt it was well worth the trip. But it can be challenging in some respects, so be prepared. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
Exotic Western Carribean. NCL Dawn Cruisers: Ccboltie (52) and DD Katie (22) Day 1 After waking up in the middle of the night due to daylight savings time, we landed in Tampa at 9 am. We took a taxi to the port and were able to ... Read More
Exotic Western Carribean. NCL Dawn Cruisers: Ccboltie (52) and DD Katie (22) Day 1 After waking up in the middle of the night due to daylight savings time, we landed in Tampa at 9 am. We took a taxi to the port and were able to check our luggage with a porter. We walked to channel side and found a little chocolate shop. The pastries were great but the iced coffee was pretty bad! We were able to check in at 10:30 and boarded within the hour. It may be the easiest check in ever! We had lunch on deck then sided to go to our room. The cabin is definitely smaller than carnival but the bathroom was better. We decided to do the spa tour, with the hope of winning a prize. The gave some short demonstration and the hot stone massage felt great, but at $195 I think I will pass. Of course it is one big sales pitch, but the prizes sound awesome. After a mercifully short boat drill (no life jackets required). We went on deck and snagged a drink (my first BBC) while the ship sailed away from Tampa. Then back to the spa for the prize drawing, since you needed to be present to win. There were less than 100 people, so our odds were pretty good. Alas we did not win a prize, but I was impressed with the gym and spa. Katie signed up for a TRX class for 8 am the nextday. We like to dress up, so we did. There was definitely a line for the Venitian but the gave us a pager. We went to the reservation desk and made dinner reservations for 7:30 each night and by then our table was ready. We had a little table for 2 and the service was very prompt. Hard to believe it but I almost miss that first awkward dinner of meeting your table mates. The onion soup was average but I have to say the surf and turf was quite good. The cheesecake was definitely better than the chocolate torte. After a short walk around the deck, it was time for bed! Day 2 I have read some complaints about the beds, but I have to say I slept very well. We woke up early, oh wait we need to turn the clock back an hour so it is really 6 am. We decided to get coffee and watch the sun rise. I was surprised at all the early risers in the cafe. We made our way to the quiet zone at the front of the ship. It was quite windy but we persevered and were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise! What a great start! I did an hour on the treadmill while Katie took her class TRX class. She said it was well worth the cost of admission. After the M&G we found a couple of deck chairs. It was a very windy day and the ship was really rocking. The pi'a coladas were frosty and the sun was shinning. You couldn't ask for more. We spent the afternoon on deck and realized that spray sunscreen was a mistake. We both ended up with odd sunburns where the spray must have blown away. We happily put on our cocktail dresses and scored a glass of champaign. I couldn't talk Katie into a photo with the captain but we did a formal portrait. Then on to Gatsby's for a champaign cocktail. Dinner reservations made the dining experience much more pleasant. The Cesar salad was crisp and the NY strip was cooked to perfection and the green beans were tasty. The deserts were once again disappointing. Day 3- Roatan, Honduras We turned the clock back another hour, so of course we were up fairly early. Breakfast on the Garden cafe was very good and I think the omelet was even better than the dinning room. It is a little overcast, hopefully it will clear up for our tour. We watched the ship come into port. The music had a very jungle like beat and the native dancing was entertaining. We booked the Dolphin encounter and swim at Anthony Key Resort with NCL, and Katie is really looking forward to the experience. Twelve of us boarded the van for a short ride to AKR. The resort itself was gorgeous. We took a short boat ride to Bailey Key where we entered the crystal clear bay to meet Out trainer and the gorgeous Gracie. We learned about dolphins including the fact that they weigh 500 lbs and eat 40 lbs of fish a day. Our group of 5 had many opportunities to pet her. After our hug and kiss shots the let us grab our own cameras. We had plenty of photo ops and got to see Gracie do several jumps with her daughter. Then we donned our fins and snorkels. A trainer guided us through the most amazing experience. We swam in the bay, which is home to 20 Dolphins. The soon came to play and we were told to dive down and grab some sea gradd, the dolphins will take sea grass right from your hand. There was a baby who was quite curious and sure enough she took it right from my hand! They seemed to enjoy interacting with us. It was so much fun to see Katie dive down and twist and turn, the dolphins loved it too. The dolphins love were free to come and go as they pleased. It was definitely something I will remember for a long time. Katie said it is the closest she will ever come to being a mermaid. We were then escorted to the gift shop where we purchased the amazing photos for a very reasonable price of $50 w all of our pics. I had plenty of time to grab our passports, since they had a stand set up to prove a stamp. All in all an excellent day in Roatan. A short nap was in order. After dinner we went to the Cirque du Soleil style show with Jocko & Maria. It was both graceful and athletic. We quite enjoyed the performance, It made Katie want to go to circus school! Then it was on to dancing with the dawn stars. Alas Katie did not get picked but it was fun to watch! Day 4 -Belize City Another dreary cool day. We obtained tender tickets and made it to shore easily, no long waiters. We checked in with Eco tours and had about a 40 minute wait. I was optimistic that the sun would come out, but that never happened. After a 30 minute boat ride, we made it to the island. The girls thought it looked small, but it was exactly what I expected.it was so windy and cool that it was hard to appreciate. The sea was quite rough, however the call soon went out for those who wanted to snorkel. We took a boat out to the reef and were all given a life preserver. I thought I would wrap around my wrist so that I could dive down but after the first big wave I quickly put it around my waist as did the others in our group. The water was quite warm and visibility wasn't bad but the wind and waves made it a struggle. The guide did his best to point out what fish there were and he dove down several times to bring up sea creatures. Although I saw some interesting coral it was difficult to enjoy with the conditions. We finally made it back to shore and I can honestly saw we all were just greatful to make it back. The small silver lining was that we were no longer cold. After a long wait in the BBQ line we were told no lobster, just chicken. Although tasty, it was another disappointment. In hindsight, I am surprised that they took us out to the island, it would have made more sense to cancel and offer us a different tour. I can see that in good weather it would have been paradise, but we were ally quite happy to leave and head back to the ship. We were able to get right back on the ship and were more than ready for a nap. We had 7:30 reservations for Cagney's. the atmosphere and service were outstanding and the food was top notch. The crab cakes were delicious, although Katie didn't care for the lobster bisque. I opted for the filet and famous parmesean fries with truffle oil and Katie had the small filet with a lobster tail, an extra cost but well worth the extra $8. The food lived to it billing and the Coffee made in a French press and was the perfect end to the meal! Back to the room for a quick change into our whites and up to the pool party with the "white hot angels", yes the cruise staff actually had on wings. It was without a doubt the best pool party I have ever been to on a ship! We all bought a coveted blinky cup (mission accomplished) Day 5 - Costa Maya I was on deck in time to see the ship dock, I definitely get the fishing village vibe. And lookat that, the sun is out! So excited for our day at Maya Chan! After a short bus ride we arrived in paradise. The resort is very natural and we were quickly shown to our palapa. We bypassed the welcome punch for the special of the day, a watermelon daiquiri. It was a beautiful sunny day, but very windy. I quickly found on of the floats and hit the water. Yes there is sea grass and the surf was quite churned up, but it did nothing to detract from our day! In fact, it just seemed very authentic. There was plenty of privacy if you wanted it, but we chose to chat with some of the other CC folks. We opted out of the snorkel since the seas were again quite choppy. I watched as the chopped my coconut for a fresh coco loco, which they delivered to us in the sea. We moved on to watermelon margaritas and they were absolutely delicious! The ratings on trip advisor are well deserved! The taco buffet was superb. Be sure to try the sea bass cook in white wine, butter and garlic, it was fabulous. Katie did a 30 minute massage and she said it was do amazing I decided to try myself. It was so relaxing with the sound of the surf and the ocean breeze. It certainly lived up to the billing and at $25 was an absolute bargain! All too soon 3 pm arrived and it was time to take the taxi back to port. There was no better way to spend the day, I highly recommend this resort. Great drinks, food and service, Maya Chan exceeded our very high expectations. We can't wait to go back! Day 6 Cozumel Every 5 weeks the dawn tenders and unfortunately it was our turn this week. We waited almost 3 hours to get to shore....evidently they usually have 5 smaller tenders but the seas were too rough so the needed to bring in larger tenders. We had reservations for the day at Mr Sanchos for the all inclusive. When we arrived at almost noon, we discovered that our chairs had been given way since they didn't think we were coming. The resort was very crowded with 8 ships in port, but the beach was beautiful so we decided to stay. The drinks were strong, the sun was shining, the water was crystal clear and the food was delicious. Once the crowd started to thin the manager brought us a lounge chair and even managed to provide an order of the coconut shrimp, which was amazing. There were plenty of water sports available but we decided to soak up some sun. After a rough start I have to say we ended up enjoying the day, even if it was too short. We more than got our money's worth and this resort has something for every one from young to old! We had some time to shop and of course get a drink at Senior Frogs. They brought the ship in to dock, which was definitely better than the tender! Day 7 - sea day We began the day once again with breakfast in the garden cafe, the custom on let's are our favorite! We snagged chairs by the pool. The sun was out but the breeze made it a hit cool, I don't think we have to worry about sweating! Final thoughts: The ship was nicely appointed and the staff was friendly. There was a wide range of ages and a fun spring break vibe. The food was good for the most part, although the deserts were disappointing. The best part of this trip was the island ports, Roatan and Costa Maya were our favorites! I am not sure the "free style" atmosphere is for us, since we enjoy more traditional cruising. I give this trip a solid "B" Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
The Ryndam is a nice mid size vessel that is well-appointed, albeit showing its age a little. It's western Caribbean itinerary suited our need to experience sun, swimming, and adventures with different cultures. Traveling with my ... Read More
The Ryndam is a nice mid size vessel that is well-appointed, albeit showing its age a little. It's western Caribbean itinerary suited our need to experience sun, swimming, and adventures with different cultures. Traveling with my spouse and adult brother, we had our online boarding passes and got to the terminal with no problems. Embarkation took about 15 minutes at 1pm, so all was well. When we got to our staterooms, first problem- rooms were made up with twins not queens. Then called for dinner reservations for our "as you wish" dining and learned we had been assigned 8pm fixed seating. So now I'm wondering why I bothered to use the online system to register preferences?! Went to lido for food - wow what a zoo! I understand the need to contain disease, but they needed twice the number of servers or needed to get them to move a little faster. This was followed by an exceedingly disorganized lifeboat briefing. Not a good start. After that first days things picked . Our 8pm dinner time arrived and we were seated at "our" table, which was a 4top with just the 3 of us. Perfect. The waiters were great and food delicious, we decided maybe 8pm fixed seating would work for us after all. Returned to stateroom and found bed reconfigured to queen. All is now well. Good stuff : room service. Always prompt, no errors. Dining room staff - attentive, accommodating, remembered my drink order every night, 5star. Cabin stewards - excellent as always. Food - very good for the most part. Not so good: smoking is allowed on private verandahs - upwind of us the occupants smoked constantly. As a result we hardly ever used our verandah. Don't pay extra for a verandah if you're sensitive to smoke. Some cabin appointments were tired - refrigerator barely closed and leaked, wood furniture scuffed, lanai upholstery sun faded. Ports of call were the reason we chose this cruise and did not disappoint. Key west a cool, funky place, Roatan is an island we will return to for more water sports. Guatamala really interesting culturally and beautiful scenery on the rio dulce tour. Costa maya allowed great access to Mayan ruins. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
Just completed a 9-day Amazon cruise on Seadream II, Iquitos Perus to Manaus Brazil. I won't dwell on the stops and specifics of the cruise itself because Seadream (SD) announced that this will be the final Amazon cruise. My thoughts ... Read More
Just completed a 9-day Amazon cruise on Seadream II, Iquitos Perus to Manaus Brazil. I won't dwell on the stops and specifics of the cruise itself because Seadream (SD) announced that this will be the final Amazon cruise. My thoughts on SD itself are: SD is a good "small ship" alternative to "large ship" cruise lines like Princess or Holland America. Instead of 2,000 or 3,000 passengers, SD sails with 85 to 110, basically about 3% to 5% of the passengers. Accordingly, the service is much more personalized - the crew all know your name and take all of your requests or problems seriously. The service is 5-star. The food is also much better than the large ship cruises. It's better than the "specialty" restaurants on the large ship lines with no extra costs. As a matter of fact, there are very few extra costs - drinks, tips and most expeditions are included in your fare - no last minute tipping or add ons. The chef is very accessible - you can just walk up to him during lunch or breakfast and introduce yourself and ask him for a kitchen tour or for a special dinner or lunch the next day and he will be happy to oblige. The concierge desk is manned 24-hrs a day and they know who you are. If want to call them or walk to the desk and ask them anything, they are friendly and anxious to please. Overall, all of the crew give you personalized service and will do everything possible to comply with your requests. The ship itself is attractive and clean. 5 decks with smallish but very well-designed cabins - lot's of storage space and shelving. Flat screen TVs with DVD players. You can feel the ship's engines on the lowest and cheapest deck (Deck 2). Small but adequate gym. Small pool and spa with uncovered recliners were not very used. The outdoor Balinese beds were largely not used because (1) half of them were right next to the heat and smell of the engine exhaust and (2) all but one of them were unshaded. Very nice 24-hr library which was usually not used. Attractive large Deck 2 dining room for dinner and outdoor Deck 4 and 5 lunch areas. Possible negatives: SD is not for children (a plus for me) - it is for active and semi-active adults. SD is also not for 1st time cruisers or mobility-impaired individuals. The ship is not ADA accessible. Finally, potential Seadream cruisers should be (1) experience cruisers who are looking for a small ship, personalized experience where they can mingle with other experienced cruisers, (2) not be looking for an Expedition type cruise (SD is not a true Expedition cruise line - they are more of a Caribbean/ Mediterranean luxury water sports type line), (3) not need lots of help entertaining themselves (no Broadway shows, magicians or the like). I would definitely cruise with Seadream again - for me, cruising with SD emphasized how mediocre large line cruises are, however SD may not be for everyone. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
We took the eight-day Galapagos cruise on the Celebrity Xpedition. While the Galapagos animals and environment are the core of the trip, Celebrity does finesse the supporting logistics. Like many visitors, we weighed up the big ship/small ... Read More
We took the eight-day Galapagos cruise on the Celebrity Xpedition. While the Galapagos animals and environment are the core of the trip, Celebrity does finesse the supporting logistics. Like many visitors, we weighed up the big ship/small ship option. The Xpedition, at 100 pax, is the largest vessel operating in the Galapagos. Other vessels are 15-20 pax. Some friends said a larger ship may not be able to get close in, maybe Zodiac transfers will take longer? But we detected no difference and these guys are good at mobilising people into boats. So, any delays would be more than compensated by having much more space, menu variations and other 'large boat' facilities, like the spa. Airport meet and greet arrangements were good, as were transfers between Quito and Baltra, the embarkation port. The charter flight was good - B737 with meal service for a two-hour flight. The JW Marriott in Quito is a fine hotel and the day tour of Quito was first rate. Baggage arrangements were also first class. The vessel is well suited to the locale, which is essentially a new island or site every day, with a morning and afternoon excursion. There is enough time to rest up between the morning and afternoon excursions. The vessel is flat-bottomed with shallow draught, so is subject to a lot of lateral movement, even at anchor. Cabins are comfortable, a bit small (except suites on decks 5 and 6). Bathrooms are good and bedding acceptable. Staff on board were hard to fault in any way. Bar service was fantastic and service in the restaurants was terrific. The Maitre de, Se'or Fernando, is one of the most attentive hosts we have encountered in many years of travel. One evening, when the restaurant was crowded and I mentioned I had a hearing problem, Sr. Fernando set up a table on an outside deck (upper level) and personally delivered our dinner and poured the wine! Quite exceptional. This gentleman should be cloned by all cruise lines. The cruise director, Sr Jorge was also first rate. The naturalists were excellent, and exhibited broad knowledge of flora, fauna and landscape. One of the primary interests for us was the geology and geomorphology of the Galapagos. And the ocean currents and climatic issues. While the guides satisfied most general queries, they may not have the depth required for the visitor with a strong interest in this area. In summary, spend more time in pre-reading on geomorphology and climate and less on the animals. The naturalists know the animals backwards. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2013
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it ... Read More
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it was when we started. Felt the ship was fairly dirty when we got there and it took about a week for it to really look better. By the time we left 49 days later, it was looking really good. Experienced some of the same problems the lady from the previous cruise wrote about. Our commode over flowed several times, but they responded quickly each time. The ship was the coldest we have ever sailed on and there were MANY people sick with colds, etc. I swear you could almost see your breath in some of the spaces. Cabins in our area lost partial power several times but maintenance was right there. The food and service in both the dining room and the Lido deck were very good. The only complaint was that there were times when it seemed the dirty dishes would never be picked up, especially in the outdoor areas. Due to the length of the cruise, we may have had special entertainers, but all were very good. I couldn't have afforded to pay to see them on the outside. All of the staff were very friendly and the customer service people, ie. Future cruise, computer help,excursions, etc, kept longer hours than usual. We had several tender ports and in general, they went pretty smooth. Over all a pretty good cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2013
This was a cruise that opened up a totally different world to me and that is what really made it special... from the over the top production of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro to the basic life of the Amazon. Holland America had a great ... Read More
This was a cruise that opened up a totally different world to me and that is what really made it special... from the over the top production of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro to the basic life of the Amazon. Holland America had a great itinerary. Going to the Sambadrome was an experience of a lifetime - although expensive, it was worth every cent! Then traveling the Amazon was on a totally different track with the focus on basic living. The variety of the ports made it very interesting. Food was a step better than on previous Holland America cruises. Life on board was good, but there could have been more and more varied activities. Only real criticism was the shore excursion director. He did not seem to be on top of the tour guides and when this was pointed out, his people skills seemed lacking. Several of us guests had issues with him. He also did not promote the Brazilian way of life... I tired of his remark to "lower your expectations" for Brazil. BUT, an exuberant travel guide and Brazil itself more than made up for him. Embarkation was long- moved slowly through the ship to the showroom for our papers-they need to work on doing this better... did not use port facilities that were available. Disembarkation was a disaster. Almost 3 hours to get through customs - There were few agents to start with and on top of that, the number of wheelchairs that were all ushered to the front of the line was unbelievable.... Saw so many people who had never had showed any mobility issues in wheelchairs - guess they had learned to work the system. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2013
After a short flight from our home in Buenos Aires, we arrived in Valparaiso and joined the Star Princess. Our group consisted of 10 family members of which I am the only English speaking member. I have sailed with Princess before, so the ... Read More
After a short flight from our home in Buenos Aires, we arrived in Valparaiso and joined the Star Princess. Our group consisted of 10 family members of which I am the only English speaking member. I have sailed with Princess before, so the ship itself provided no surprises. One of the main reasons for picking this cruise was to visit the Argentinian cemetery on the Malvenas Island, otherwise known as the Falkland Islands. Unfortunately The Malvenas was cancelled and we were not able to pay our respects to family members lost. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. Our cabins were sufficient, clean and comfortable, we did not spend much time in our rooms. The Cabin steward was friendly and made sure we had everything we needed. We found the food on the ship to be good in most cases. We utilized the Crown Grill and found the quality and service worthy of the $25.00 per person surcharge. In the afternoons we would grab a quick bite at the horizon buffet, and in general found the food decent with the exception of the black beans and rice which in no way represents typical South American food. Our dinners were taken in the Portofino dining room where we found the quality of food and service to be very good. With 4 sea days, we found ample activities to keep us busy. We enjoyed the port director, Joe May who supplied us with the Spanish translation of all the shopping and tours available in the upcoming ports. The Spanish culinary demonstration and the Spanish relaxation session by the hypnotist Fernandez were excellent. Our group did not attend the dance shows or comedians but loved Lovena Fox and the Spanish hypnotist show, especially since two members of our party were hypnotized on stage. I did notice however, that the shows were much shorter and would have preferred longer shows.30 Minutes is not long enough when you are enjoying great entertainment. Our most memorable excursion was to Punta Tomba, where we were able to walk through the Magellanic penguin's natural habitat and see them up close. We wanted to take a helicopter tour in Ushuaia, but found it extremely expensive as were most tours for a family of our size. We really appreciated the efforts of the Argentinian Assistant Cruise Director Matias, who was in charge of all of the Spanish events, he went above and beyond the call of duty to make our experience the best possible. Without him, we would have been lost as we barely saw the British Cruise Director. Disembarkation was extremely chaotic and unorganized and something that Princess Cruise lines needs to address and correct. It was every man for himself and left a bad taste in our mouths after a memorable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
Boarding was very smooth, but a bit long in Seattle. Our luggage arrived to our room without any issues. Tough to get elevators when you first board because of the elevators being used for baggage movement. It was perfect having a ... Read More
Boarding was very smooth, but a bit long in Seattle. Our luggage arrived to our room without any issues. Tough to get elevators when you first board because of the elevators being used for baggage movement. It was perfect having a cabin with french doors so you could open them and get fresh air. It didn't matter that we had an obstructed view by the life boats, as long as we could get fresh air. We had the doors open every night. The cabin AC didn't seem to work well or at all. Room safes are locked by using your sail and sign card. Only problem with this is if there are two of you and one of you uses your sail and sign card to lock it, your spouse or cabinmate can't open it unless you are in the room. Would much prefer a number coded locking system like in most hotels. The overall food was very good. The dining room food was perfect every night. The choices were plentyfull. The wait staff was great. Not pushy. Not fake. The nightly wait staff show was always entertaining. All other food choices were good to very good. Some breakfast items were not warm enough and eggs were watery at times, but overall no complaints. There was ice cream and frozen yogart 24/7. Cabin was always kept clean and neat by Jeffrey!! He also always made sure we had ice in our room. I think they actually cleaned/entered our room 3 times a day. A very multi-cultural staff was always pleasant and willing to assist you. No matter where you were on the ship. The spa services were good, a bit pricey I think, but good. I had a message that was good, but aftwords they sold me a bunch of stuff that I didn't really want or understand that it was costing me money until she brought me my receipt to sign. I ended up returning it all the next day and received a full refund. I went to a "reduce back-pain" seminar. Was surpsised to find out it was an informercial for the Good Feet product. However, I ended up buying a set of Good Feet for $189, which they said was $90 off of the regular retail price. And the kicker, they actually worked at reducing my back pain!!! The casino is rather small and at times can contain the usual idiots that you will find in any casino. Most of the dealers were nice, some were very difficult to understand due to their language barriers. It rained almost the entire time on the cruise. BEWARE!!! All of the commercial (not locally owned) stores you will find in every port you go to. There are smart shuttles to take you from the pier to the stores. 2$ each way or 15 minute walk. In the rain, I'm paying the 4$!! Multiple stops in town so you can get off an hop on any where. My reccomondation, get off at the start of the route and get on at the other end of town. Easier to get a shuttle with open seats. We took the Jeep Adventure tour. Not what we expected. The excursion information led us to believe you were 4-wheeling in the back country for 5-5.5 hours. Not the case. You end up driving a highway for about 63 miles. Great views, but its a highway. The stop and let you get out at the half way point and then take you up a mountian road to do some 4-wheeling in an open area. Fun, but thought we would be doing that the entire trip. On our way back, it started snowing. The Jeep did not handle well in the snow. I also don't care for bridges or hieghts. My wife ended up driving a lot. In the Canadian territories the driving was better for me. Some nice commentary over our radios by the lead tour guide, who is not native to Alaska. Overall, I'm glad I went on the excursion, but woulndn't reccomend it if you also take the train ride like we did. The train ride was great. Juneau was the best shopping place for us. We were the next to last cruise for the season. Most everything in the stores were 30-50% off or MORE!! Kick myself for not buring more in Juneau. Not enough time in port to do excursions and shopping. My wife and I split up. She did the white water rafting tour which was great. Ketchikan was a nice little port. Smallest of them all, but still not enough time in port to shope and do excursions. We watched the lumberjack show, which I didn't want to see, but it was very good. Great funny guys and great at what they do. Reccomend the show. Still not enough time in port!!!! Victoria was supposed to be our last port, but we never made it there. The schedule had us in port for 4 hours, which I think is a waste of time. Not much to do in 4 hours at all by the time you figure on debarking and embarking times. As we were coming in to Victoria, we were told that the winds were to strong for us to dock....????????? Found that very intersting. We ended up anchoring in the bay for several hours and then continuing on our way back to Seattle. Now, the problem with this is that as soon as you enter Canadian waters, the shops and casinos have to close.............so, no casino or on-board shopping while we were sitting in the bay. NOT GOOD!! They did add a couple of onboard shows and bingo, but that was it. They should have compensated us monetarily for missing a port. They did reimburse us $17.85 for the taxes and port fees for Victoria, which they didn't have to pay because they didn't dock there. I would strongly reccomend dropping the Victoria port in lieu of adding more time to Ketchikan and Juneau. This was my biggest complaint of the entire cruise and I heard it from a lot of other passengers as well. Overall, I would give the cruise an 8.5 out of 10. Good and plenty of food. 95% of the staff were great. Bed was fantastic, in fact much better than most hotels I've stayed in. Never woke up when they docked. Drinks are a bit expensive, especially after they add their mandatory 18% gratuity. Average drink (Crown Royal and 7up/Siera Mist) was nearly $8.00. I didn't choose to buy the all you can drink card because I wouldn't have drank enough each day to be worth it. They need to make this cruise either 8 days instead of 7 and/or drop Victoria from the itinerary. That would make this a much better cruise. Read Less

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