This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.)
We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things!
As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time).
I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :)))))
All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :)
Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less
STAR PRINCESS Antarctica Cruise Feb. 19 - March 6, 2008 By Mary & Vincent Finelli
We anticipated this 'trip of a life time' with eagerness, and now that it is over we are still awe inspired by this southernmost continent: ... Read More
STAR PRINCESS Antarctica Cruise Feb. 19 - March 6, 2008 By Mary & Vincent Finelli
We anticipated this 'trip of a life time' with eagerness, and now that it is over we are still awe inspired by this southernmost continent: Antarctica. So little is known by many of us, that when we think COLD, it is the Arctic North Pole which first comes to mind; however, actually it is Antarctica and the South Pole where the coldest temperatures are recorded (-112 to -130 degrees F. in the winter and 41-59 degrees F. in the summer). Don't forget that the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. Antarctica is a frozen desert with hardly any precipitation. Then why go there? Actually less than 20,000 people have visited it. But, those of us who have, can now relate the beauty of the snow covered mountains, the stunning variety of icebergs seen in "Iceberg Alley" and the various wildlife (whales [9 varieties], seals [3 types], penguins [5 varieties] and the many other birds like albatross, petrels, cormorants, etc.).
Now let us go back to the beginning -- We flew American Airlines from Miami, FL on Feb. 17th. Flight #909 was set for a 8:15 pm departure and we boarded on time. Then we sat on the tarmac for two hours while baggage handlers searched for a passenger's luggage in order to remove it, since this person had opted to be paid to make a latter departure. In the waiting areas, it was obvious that AA had over booked several flights and enticed passengers to give up their seats for money plus free hotel rooms and meals etc. We left two hours late, but the time was made up in flight and we arrived on schedule in Buenos Aires, Argentina the next morning. We spent overnight with Vincent's family and embarkation was Feb. 19, 2008 at noon.
EMBARKATION Embarkation was chaotic to say the least. In port were the MS Symphonia and other ships. There were no baggage carts and very few handlers to take luggage. Vincent with the help of his cousin Fabian found someone to help with the wheelchair, but there were huge potholes and we didn't get far. Out of the blue, the taxi driver from yesterday at the airport appeared: Giorgio! He came straight to us and said,"Signora! May I help you." Problem solved. When Vincent returned and heard about it he said,"nothing like tipping well." We had done pre boarding at a downtown hotel the day before and received cream colored boarding cards. Thus, we moved straight ahead to buses and the ship's gangway. It all seemed well, but we were told we still needed boarding cards which were supposed to be on the pier. After a mix up, where our passports were sent back to the pier, Jr. Asst. Purser Suzanna Romano got our boarding passes from the ship. She assured us our passports were safe with the ship's personnel. And they were, because all passports were collected, so that clearance for each country we entered was done on board in each country we visited.
SHIP The Star Princess was built by Fincantieri in Monfalcone, Italy and launched in January 2002. Her length is 950.1 feet; Breadth is 118.1 feet and she has a draft 27.7 feet. Her total passenger capacity is 3,100 and she sails with a crew of 1,120. She is propelled by six diesel electric engines. Her cruising speed is 21 knots and maximum speed 23.3 knots.
The Star Princess is beautiful both inside and out. We have already done a deck by deck description of this ship, published in 2005, when we first cruised on her in the Caribbean. So this review will center on the Ports and the gorgeous natural vistas offered by Antarctica. There were over 1,800 Princess Captain's Circle Members on board and Captain Bob Oliver of Harwich, England hosted four cocktail parties in order to accommodate us all. We had a fantastic Bridge Tour with Capt. Oliver and his 3rd Officer Raffaele Ansanti. We learned of the many ship's components all linked to the LIPS joystick giving terrific maneuverability to this huge 109,000 ton ship. This was soon to be appreciated as the very able Captain threaded our way among icebergs.
Overall the ship's decorations are in exceptionally good taste. There is simplicity and elegance rather than neon and gaudiness. We found the ship to be in excellent condition and well kept.
CABINS Our wheelchair accessible cabin #E304 on Emerald Deck 8 is centrally located near the forward elevators. It has a wide entrance which is necessary for a wheelchair. On the left is an excellent large bathroom with safety rails all around. There is a fold away seat in the 5'x5' shower. There are also two large shelves for toiletries above the single sink.
There are two low dressers flanking the king size bed with the "de rigor" heavy white puff, but, for the first time, since we were travelling to the South Pole, this puff was necessary. When entering on the right there is a parking space for the wheel chair. Next, there is a triple armoire with hangers in, two sections and shelves and a private safe in the third section. There s a TV, bar and refrigerator,and a long desk/vanity with a lighted mirror and four drawers. The back wall has a huge window which was partially obstructed by a life boat. Our view was "letterbox", just as when viewing an old Vista Vision film on TV. Top and bottom are cut off, but the panoramic sweep is wonderful. We had an excellent view of the continental shelf from our cabin.
Our steward was Luis and he was very efficient. Thanks. SERVICE & FOOD Service is overseen by Passenger Services Director (PSD) Claudio Mazzoni, who was extremely helpful in answering our many questions. The ship service is excellent, Asst. Purser Suzanna facilitated boarding, assessed delays and took control. How nice it feels when it seems everything is mixed up and someone can take control and ameliorate the situation.
We were leery about taking this trip so far away from home with a wheel chair etc. Mary has a distinct fear of falling, since she broke her leg that way last October. However, Dr. Marguerite Bozian, our travelling companion, was the one who slipped and broke her arm. Princess' Dr. Stewart Buchanan and nurse Vina came to the rescue: they expertly cared for her and sent her home with a write up, DVD, X rays and a history of the whole matter. All of which her husband Dr. Richard Bozian termed as "not only efficient, but accurate and sensitive....the whole matter was impeccable" and a credit to Princess Cruises. Thus, we learned about the medical service on board through our friends, and it is comforting to know that the quality is excellent.
Of course, it is in the dining rooms where service reaches its apex. The suave Maitre D'Hotel Daniele Saredi secured for us a table for six near the entrance to the Capri Dining Room. We don't like to disturb diners with our walker or wheel chair. We had sixteen happy evenings with our travelling companions the Drs. Bozian and the Drs. Chen. Our Waiter Emmanuel and his Asst. Waiter Ariel were spot on. The Head Waiters Silvio and Angelito always charmed us with Executive Chef Francesco La Forgia's marvelous food! We can still smell the wonderful Limoncella cake served in an artisan crafted chocolate bowl. How delicious!
The best way to describe the food is to start at the beginning; each morning we were served continental breakfast in our cabin by the very prompt and efficient Elena. Her smiles and her bouncy curtsies were a delightful way to start off the day. The meal consisted of Cappuccino, hot chocolate, croissants, and brioches with fresh fruit plates and marmalades along with cereals. Excellent!
At lunch we mostly dined in the Portofino Dining Room where Maitre D' Vincenzo outdid himself with excellent tables near the windows. The lunch menu was terrific. Some of the selections were Mozzarella in Carrozza , fried calamari, Monte Cristo sandwich (ham & cheese on French toast) and crispy English style fish & chips. So many choices, so many decisions. When the weather was nice, we went up to the Horizon Court Buffet or to Prego Pizza and the Trident Grill, for Hamburgers, Chicken Sandwiches, Hot Dogs or German sausages, which were served with the lightest French Fries afloat.
Dinner was the best time for our group, because we all got together after going our separate ways during the day. We talked of the ports, the Antarctic scenes, the photos we took, the gigantic tabular icebergs, the wildlife and the wonderful food. Appetizers were Pate', shrimp, pineapple boats, etc.... Soups included Lobster Bisque, clam chowder, cream of wild mushrooms, clear broths with tortellini, or refreshing cold slurry style soups of pineapple or mangos --- so nice.
Entrees of many types were offered, plus a pasta course. Try the Fettuccine Alfredo served in a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese bowl, or spaghetti alle vongole or primavera. The main entrees included succulent and tender beef Prime Rib; fillet Mignon; veal, lamb or pork chops; and seafood such as salmon, Chilean bass, shrimp, lobster, etc.... Desserts were many and varied pies -- lemon, apple, pecan, etc.; profiteroles; souffle`, cheese cakes and mousses -- plus a large selection of ice creams and sorbets. Our hats are off to Chef Francesco La Forgia. When he strolls through the dining room, you can't miss him-- 6'2" with a 10" chef's toque, he's easily spotted.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Frank Castiglione keeps the passengers hopping with the following: Bingo, Trivia (Get some new questions, players are tired of seeing the same back-to-back and round the world cruisers walk off with all the valuable prizes [the real plastic key chains and the Princess logo luggage tags are collectors items!] and No, if you are on the ship nonstop for 76 days, it does not make you smarter than the rest of us, even a parrot could win if it heard the same questions over and over again). There are dances in the Skywalkers Night Club on Sky Deck 17and Casino tournaments. The on board Lectures by Joe May and other University Professors were very well received. The Las Vegas style entertainment each evening was lead by the following: Philippa Healey with her mix of opera and classical songs had a standing ovation, the tenor Vincent Talarico was enjoyed in concert. Maurizio, who played several nights in the Atrium, Plaza Deck, was a sensation in concert one night titled "The Duke of Verona" in the Vista Lounge. The ship has many areas for entertainment and relaxation. We had a wonderfully relaxing time, but of course, it was the itinerary which drew us so far from home. This was a never to be forgotten trip. In view of an article dated March 6, 2008, which detailed the breaking off of a 400 square kilometer ice sheet from the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the SW Antarctica Peninsula and with scientists saying that this is another indication of global warming, we feel that future generations probably will not be as lucky as we have been to enjoy the wonders of Antarctica. Perhaps, these wonders will diminish with the passing of time.
ITINERARY 2-19-08 Buenos Aires, Argentina Sail away. 7:00pm
2-20-08 River Plate out to the Sea headed to the Falkland Islands.
2-21-08 At Sea
2-22-08 Stanley, Falkland Islands Arrive 7:00am Depart 7:20pm Tendering to the on shore pontoon.
2-23-08 At Sea. At 1:15pm we passed over the Antarctic Convergence Zone where the sea temperature falls rapidly due to the constant melting of Antarctic ice into the Southern Ocean. The first look outs for icebergs were put to work on the Bridge.
2-24-08 Elephant Island -- The first pieces of ice were detected on the ship's radar. This island juts out of the ocean. At 4:30am we passed latitude 60 S. and formally headed into Arctic waters. At 9:00am we sighted Elephant Island, numerous icebergs and many penguins. After cruising around the island we headed SW.
2-25-08 We set course toward the Antarctic Sound, but conditions worsened and at 8:24am we turned around and began a slow exit of the Sound and crossed the Bransfield Straight towards Admiralty Bay. This was the first of several stunning days, with the slow movement of the ship affording passengers magnificent views of icebergs and spouting whales. The sun was shining brilliantly and we approached 400 foot high icebergs. Surreal! They were so huge compared to the ones in Alaska.
This was our first glimpse of Antarctica and it was spectacular! The age of an iceberg is told by how low it sits in the water. The blue ice is the oldest and most compact, the white ice is newer and has more air in it. These huge icebergs usually last about 8 years and are eroded by water and air. They turn over in the water and there is a tide line around the bergs. The seals are in the water even in the winter. During the winter, this area is 80% covered in ice and only ice breaker vessels can enter here.
The famous explorer Captain Cook would pull up the smaller icebergs, called "Burgy Bits" and bring them on board as a source of fresh water. On the Port side of the ship we saw part of the ice shelf 100ft. above water and 800ft. below. There were spectacular icebergs every where, with some bigger than the ship. There were tabular perfect rectangles of pure white that looked as if they were sawed off. There were some shaped like ramps which could be used for water skiing. Our first glimpse of Antarctica revealed its pyramid shaped mountains, snow and vertical striations and the ice cap that in some places can be over 5 miles deep.
We sailed through out Admiralty Bay and at 1:15pm the scientists from the Polish Artowski Research Station boarded the Star Princess and gave a short informative talk. They were invited to dinner and left soon after to return to King George Island. Their station has been operating continuously since 1977. We heard of glacial movement and the micro chemistry of their layers which trap pockets of atmosphere. At 6:32pm we passed out into the Bransfield Strait and headed south to the Neumayer channel.
2-26-08 Sunrise 5:55 am and Sunset 9:47 pm gave us an almost 16 hour day -- fantastic, like the white nights of the Baltic! This morning there was a brilliant sunrise. Humpback and orca whales were sighted spouting everywhere, easily spotted by the oil slick they leave on the water. Penguins were also seen. The orca whales work in packs much like wolves; they separate out the weaker prey and attack. Thank heaven, we did not witness them in action. The view from our cabin window is picture perfect.
The on board Antarctic specialist says this is a rare clear day here. Port side lets us view the Ice Cap and the Antarctic Peninsula. It is the narrowest point of the peninsula called Paradise Harbor. The other side of the peninsula is the Weddell Sea. The water is incredibly calm and there are Burgy Bits everywhere with penguins on them and pods of whales in the Gerlach Strait (Gerlach was the first explorer to spend a winter here and with him was Armundsen the first man to go to the South Pole). At 11:20am we reached our Southernmost point of this voyage, latitude 64, which places us 3,898 nautical miles south of the equator. The eeriness and quiet of this scene is remarkable, the water is almost glass like, today.
Lion Island is at the head of the Neumaier Channel. It looks like a sphinx with a black face. There is much more snow and ice here, actually, yesterday we saw snow flurries. In 1819 Anvers Island was named by a Belgian Expedition. We sailed northeasterly toward Deception Island.
2-27-08 At 7:45am we approached Deception Island and it was visible from some 10 miles away. All morning we saw minke and humpback whales and then penguin colonies on the shore. The island is actually the remains of a volcano with a caldera similar to Santorini. From here we turned away from the Antarctic and faced patches of fog where visibility was near zero.
2-28-08 We crossed the Drake Passage neared the Pilot Station at Cape Horn. The waters were exceptionally calm, unlike the last time we rounded the Horn. The pilot boat was an hour and a half late and Capt. Oliver circled patiently waiting. Fortunately, the sea was very calm, and we had an excellent view of the Chilean Flag over the weather station and the Albatross Monument dedicated to those sailors who lost their lives in these treacherous waters. There is an old tradition for sailors who round the Horn: they had their ears pierced, got a tattoo and had a drink of rum, which they shared with the sea by pouring some into the ocean.
2-29-08 Ushuaia, Argentina Arrive 6:50am Depart 4:28 pm Many passengers were happy to set foot on terra firma and do some shopping. Magellan called this Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). It was named that because sailors feared it due to the wildness, fierce winds and the rocky shores that literally ate up whaling ships. Today it was 58 F degrees and bright and sunny in the morning. In the afternoon we headed for the Beagle Channel. The Argentinian pilot debarked and the Chilean pilot steered the Star Princess through the Beagle Channel past the European named glaciers. We have seen these glaciers six years ago and we were amazed by how much they have receded: in some of them the ice that once arrived all the way down to the water has been replaced by waterfalls, more evidence of global warming.
3-1-08 Punta Arenas, Chile Arrive 6:48 am Depart 7:50pm This is the southernmost Chilean city which is a center for oil drilling. It has stark snow less mountains and was the turning point of our journey, for today in the rain we headed back east and then north to Uruguay. Our travel companions returned to Sotito's Restaurant where we had dined in 2002. They enjoyed it, but not as much as when we had eaten there before. 3-2-08 At Sea Smooth seas and a sunny day in the open waters of the South Atlantic.
3-3-08 At Sea Sailing Northeasterly in over cast skies.
3-4-08 At Sea Sailing Northeasterly in clear skies.
3-5-08 Montevideo, Uruguay Arrive 7:45am Depart 5:00pm
3-6-08 Buenos Aires, Argentina Arrive 6:00am Debarkation 8:30am
DEBARKATION This was much smoother than embarkation. We had wheelchair assistance from our cabin to the bus only, and then we were stuck until we were moved to luggage pick up. Once more we were on our own until we managed to get a porter. Needless to say, it was not too smooth, and we were happy to see cousin Fabian again, waiting for us outside the terminal.
CONCLUSION Definitely, this has been one of our best cruises ever, considering the itinerary, our traveling friends, Marguerite and Richard Bozian and Yvonne and Alan Chen, the excellent food and service, especially in the restaurants, and our return to the Star Princess. And just think that we almost canceled the booking of this cruise due to Mary's recent knee replacement surgery. We are glad we didn't!
We have booked two future cruises with Princess, one on the Norwegian Cruise Line without specific dates and one in November on the new RCI ship Independence of the Seas. We have not booked a cruise for this spring or summer due to Mary's knee surgery scheduled for April 10th. However, we hope that she will recover fast, so we don't have to wait too long for the next cruise. Happy Cruising! Read Less
We were very pleased with our Star Flyer experience, although we didn't sail much, mostly motored, presumably due to light winds that week. Our cabin was small, but comfortable, with sufficient storage. The ship is very attractive, ... Read More
We were very pleased with our Star Flyer experience, although we didn't sail much, mostly motored, presumably due to light winds that week. Our cabin was small, but comfortable, with sufficient storage. The ship is very attractive, and altogether different experience than the big cruise ships. The embarkation and disembarkation worked quickly and smoothly. Breakfast and lunch were expansive buffets. Breakfast included eggs cooked to order (omelets, fried eggs), grits or oatmeal, fruits, cheeses, usually some smoked salmon, croissants and pastries, toast, several types of fruit juice. Lunches included breads, cheeses, platters of cold cuts, smoked salmon, marinated herring, etc., several salads, three or four main dishes, potato and rice, and fruit plus three desserts (usually a tart, a mousse and a warm dessert such as a cobbler) Dinner was also very good, and included one choice of sorbet, salad and soup, two choices of appetizer, and four choices of main dish including a vegetarian, and three choices of dessert, all elegantly presented. I recommend that if you would like iced tea with lunch and dinner, ask for it. It was never offered, but after the first day, I realized it was available, and after asking a couple of times, the waiters remembered, and automatically served it to us every day. Our cabin steward was excellent. One day, on Tahaaa, we had a motu picnic with a barbecu and Tahitian show -, plus water sports -= very nice. the last night, a Polynesian dance and musical group presented a show on deck - amazing dancing! The weather was perfect, and Polynesian ports were truly beautiful. We were travelling with a group, so had several arranged tours. The two ship's excursions that we took were truly wonderful. We would highly recommend them!! One was the HELMET DIVE on Bara Bora. You descend 10 feet below the surface with a helmet over your head which permits you to breath normally underwater, and you can even wear your glasses (I don't snorkel due to the need for glasses, being very near-sighted)There were at least 100 varieties of fish swimming very close to us - amazing!! You have about 30 minutesof viewing time. If there are enough people for 2 groups, you laos get about 390 minutes of snorkeling time, while the other group is diving. My husband said he snorkelling was also very good. The other was the DOLPHIN WATCH with Dr. Michael Poole , who is a world famous expert on dolphins and whales. Dr. Poole is very personable and interesting. We boarded a covered boat, and within minutes of casting off, there were dolphins playing about 40 yard off the boat. Each of the passengers spent some time sitting up at the bow, and when it was our turn, there were dolphins swimming right in front of it, so they were 5-6 feet below us. Incredible!!! WE spent about 1 1/2 hours watching the dolphins swmiming and playing, then as they moved away, we cruised around the lagoon, observing the huge yachts moored there and learning about the area, and about dolphin lifestyles. Don't miss it! Papetee definitely has most of the shoppihng opportunities, either at the marketplace (open on Sundays from 5-8 am, closed the rest of the day) open during the week. The upstairs is where to buy souveneirs, and that isn't open on Sunday at all. Quite a few businesses close for a midday lunch break. One of the islands is known for it's black pearls, but you can buy them on any of the islands. Read Less
Our holiday began by flying from Stansted airport in Essex, England and arriving at our starting departure point of Tromso in Norway's Arctic Circle. The flight was around 3.5 hours. The date is June 3rd, 2008. And the weather looks ... Read More
Our holiday began by flying from Stansted airport in Essex, England and arriving at our starting departure point of Tromso in Norway's Arctic Circle. The flight was around 3.5 hours. The date is June 3rd, 2008. And the weather looks surprisingly good!
We had a choice of beginning our tour from the most Northerly point, close to the Russian Border at Kirkenes, however, we began in the City of Tromso. Remember, this is Summer and above the Arctic Circle, you have the best of the sunshine, - that is 24 hours a day, the sun isn't going to set! (Don't forget, Winter tours mean the opposite, 24 hour darkness!). It's an odd feeling waiting for sunset that never happens and having the difficulty in telling yourself why you should retire to bed, after all, it is approaching 1.30am! Luckily the windows on board have shutters and the port holes have 'black-outs' but for the first night at least, this is not going to be easy!
The Cruise Liner ( in this case, the MS Finnmarken) also serves as a lifeline to those people who live in such remote areas and this becomes their post-ship, their ferry and a means of moving essential provisions along the inlets and fjords. For the first night it is additionally difficult to sleep as you feel that every couple of hours, the boat is about to dock, - and it does, sometimes for no more than 15 minutes, - not completely without noise especially if you have a cabin close to the thrusters or the rope lines. But you will get used to it, I assure you.
The cruise makes it's way South through inlet and passageway, fjord and achapeligos, bordered by snow peaked mountains, sapphire blue Arctic seas and persistent sunshine. The sea has a very strange calm, rippleless effect as though it's made of syrup, - I'm told, it's cold - really cold and that's how the sea is up in the Arctic. Very unusual and the majority of the passengers found it equally bizarre yet somehow weirdly hypnotic!!.
As the Cruise meets different ports of call, various interesting excursions are on offer, being sold on board or you can pre-book before you go. I'd wait and purchase on board, as you really need to see where you are, as some areas may not be what you imagine and some excursions could be ruined by bad weather. No matter where you are, however, this country is beautiful from start to finish, sometimes very mountainous, sometimes extremely remote, many times - amazing, you're spoilt for choice. If you love sea and mountains then this is a cruise for you, we had some magnificently good weather with continuous blue skies. But, I was told that this wasn't the norm and the high temperatures are not to be expected. Take a couple of warm and dry waterproof garments - and please, please take your sun tan lotion. It's not easy to get hold of it and it's hell expensive. Don't be caught out, when the sun shines, it's hot!!!
The cruise travels further south and passes the Arctic Circle between Ornes and Nesna. This area is very remote! Surprisingly there are some large and well established communities above the Arctic Circle, which at first seems to beg the question, why would anyone want to live here? - but they do and on reflection, I would love to as well. But I would have difficulties in 24 hour darkness I think :-). As we travel more south and reach Trondheim, the sun lies gently upon the horizon but still does not set. A permanent sunset of gold and tangerine seas for 90 minutes - what a feast for the eyes!
Trondheim was a lovely city yet I do prefer the smaller towns and settlements and it seems that every place no matter how small or large, has it's own magnificent display of suspension bridges crossing the fjords, dotted beneath by canary yellow, sky blue and rust red weatherboard housing .. this is Norway!
Of all the towns and villages we visited on our cruise I must highlight a few of my favorites. Tromso with it's magnificent Arctic Cathedral and Mountain backdrop, Sandnessjoen - a lovely town of weatherboard houses and a quaint typical Scandinavian 'flavor' high street. Kristiansund, just south of Trondheim is a most beautifully positioned and colorful town perched on several islands upon a deep inlet and Molde, one of the most stunning places on out tour, in my opinion anyway. This resembles Geneva or maybe Montreaux by a fjord backdrop with a Ski resort in winter and a Jazz festival during the warm summer months. A must to visit and I would always return to Molde - a five star resort.
We finally after 4 days at sea, arrive in our destination town of Bergen. I truly believe that we were all shocked as the ship came up the fjord and approached Bergen in the distance. Imagine, the temperature was close to 28 Celsius, high 80's fahrenheit and the sea was shimmering with an array of colored yachts and power boats circling the ship. Along the coastline, hundreds of people sun bathing on the beaches - yeh, beaches, and the high tree lined slopes are dotted with hotels, multi colored housing, villas and a glorious mountain backdrop. You would honestly think that you were in Monte Carlo or Ventimiglia, not Bergen in Norway.
They call it the 'Rainy City' and we were ever so fortunate - you won't be disappointed however, come rain or shine - or blizzard - this is a wonderful place. Full of history, full of interest and bars and restaurants galore, - this would be my true home from home for sure. Bergen - What a surprise finale... One must do, if nothing else in Bergen, take a funicular rail trip on the Floibanen, 320 meters above the town, a great trip, and you can walk back down if you wish. Of course there's the area of Bryggen, UNESCO world heritage listed, by the Wharf front and the famous and interesting Fishmarket area. Some much to do.
The Cruise is operated by the Norwegian company, Hurtigruten, who know how to look after you. The staff are friendly and our thanks and compliments are made to everyone of the staff who worked so hard to ensure that our holiday was perfect. In fact, this was my Honeymoon, and I couldn't have wished for a more romantic setting.
Good points: Excellent Cruise and Company, Great food and very comfortable. Most beautiful country and highly recommended to all, YOUNG AND OLD!!
Negatives: Highly expensive country with a high cost of living. Examples of cost as at June 2008, on board or off the ship, very little difference...
Cup of Coffee: 26 NOK (Norwegian Kronner), = £2.50, apx. US$5 A standard 40ml glass of Beer: 59 NOK, = £5.80, apx. US$11.50 A Bottle of Cote du Rhone Wine: 320 NOK = £29, apx. US$55. Take-Away Margaritta Pizza for 2: 240 NOK = £22, apx. US$42 Hotel Standard Breakfast for 1: 160 NOK = £15, apx. US$28 Two course 3 Tapas meal & Beer for 1: 350NOK = £33/ US$64
But despite this, a very worth while, once in a lifetime opportunity to see a very unspoilt part of the natural world in which we live. Before it's too late, may be?! Read Less
Review of MS Bremen
The four cruise ships of Hapag-Lloyd, the German shipping company, are well-respected in Germany but little-known in the United States. Only some of their cruises are marketed to English speakers. It's a ... Read More
Review of MS Bremen
The four cruise ships of Hapag-Lloyd, the German shipping company, are well-respected in Germany but little-known in the United States. Only some of their cruises are marketed to English speakers. It's a shame. We cruised on the expedition ship MS Bremen from Nova Scotia to Greenland, leaving June 14, 2008, and disembarking in Iceland June 30. What an experience! There were some shortcomings, and while the Bremen considers itself a four-star ship, it probably falls a little short of that. Still, this was a cruise to be remembered always. The Ship. The Bremen, which features an ice-hardened hull, is nearly 20 years old. It is attractive, it looks like a ship should look, and it is well-maintained and staffed by a friendly crew, most of whom spoke good English. Getting around the ship is easy. The captain and other top officers were frequently available to talk and answer questions. The bridge is advertised as being open to passengers, although too frequently it was closed. Smoking is unfortunately allowed in some areas, though not in the main dining room. The Bremen carries up to 164 people in pleasant staterooms that are typical cruise-ship in size and decor, with typical cruise ship bathrooms. Some have balconies. Ours, No. 428, did not and I can not see why anyone would need a balcony. Our room had two chairs and a desk but no sofa. Storage space is good. The rooms readily allow noise from adjoining cabins. The ship television system was not worth much. There is one main dining room, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a club/bar that serves a breakfast and lunch buffet, plus afternoon tea and a late-night snack. Dinner is one sitting. Service is good but not great. The library is small and does not offer enough to English speakers. The internet worked some times, but not other times. The daily report of news from the USA and the world was poor. The ship has a small pool, no whirlpool, but a decent exercise facility. There is a large meeting room on the top deck, with excellent views, and an outdoor stern sitting area where passengers can take drinks and food from the club. Being an expedition ship, there was little entertainment and no casino, which was just fine with the passengers. This was advertised as a bilingual cruise. All announcements and written material were in German and English. We had about two dozen English speakers aboard. A single English speaker on a cruise like this would feel very lonely. The Food. Sometimes the chief purchased food from locals along the way. One morning in a little Greenland town, we observed cod, just recently caught, being loaded onto the ship. Breakfast was very European, with heavy emphasis on sliced meats and cheeses, not something that appeals to all Americans. Eggs, bacon and pancakes were available. Lunches and dinners followed a varied menu. Dinner offerings were particularly ambitious, sometimes featuring game dishes like hare. The food was almost always good to very good, sometimes excellent. The duck breast, wild boar and venison were superb, the beef Wellington won raves. There was a surprising lack of shrimp, and veal appeared on the menu too often. Failures did occur. The halibut one night was overcooked. The prime rib was so bad it should never have left the kitchen. The chef was personable and frequently available. But hints to him that ice tea should be provided for American guests went unheeded. The Cruise. The passengers were nearly all adults over the age of 30. We embarked in Halifax, with very smooth procedures, except that luggage delivery was terribly slow. We left on time and headed for Greenland. We had an ambitious itinerary, in a difficult travel region just above and below the Arctic Circle, in a part of the world where cruises ships do not often venture. Things did not always go according to plan, but we had fabulous times. The ship sailed by ice bergs as large as office buildings. One morning we encountered whales, so the ship slowed and circled while they swam around us. High, barren mountains were often seen ashore. One highlight was a visit to a glacier, where the ship entered an uncharted inlet surrounded by ice bergs, stopped, launched the Zodiac boats, and took passengers as close to the glacier as was safe. Before returning to the ship we were dropped off on a rocky beach, walked to the top of a rise, and found to our surprise that the chef had set up a hot dog lunch with warm spiced wine. What a treat! We had interesting sociological visits to several Greenland towns. But there were frustrations. Three towns we were scheduled to visit were dropped because of weather/ice conditions. Two other towns were substituted, but it was not an equal tradeoff. We had knowledgeable lecturers aboard, but their talks did not always convey the flavor of the places and societies we were about to visit. Yet, when we talked to the lecturers ashore, they were frequently illuminating. Preparations for shore visits were lacking. We visited one town on a national holiday, which meant many businesses were closed. In another town, no one told us about the best local souvenir ship-we found out from a local resident. Museums and churches too often were closed, and reported efforts to open them failed. We were not given nearly enough time in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. Nice restaurants were available in some of the towns for a ship-wide luncheon, but that was never done. In no town did the mayor or other civic official meet us and answer questions. Surely, in some places, that would have been possible. We had expected more Zodiac boat landings in unusual, uninhabited places, but that did not happen. Ice conditions and weather were issues. We encountered far more floating ice than expected, which hindered navigation. Some days were glorious, sunny with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Other days were foggy and gray. The sea was rough for several days and very rough for two days, when dishes and silverware flew from dining room tables and walking in the hallways was difficult. Sickness bags were placed on hallway railings. We did not need the ship doctor, but other passengers did. He was said to be excellent. The cruise ended on schedule in Reykjavik, where we spent several delightful days on our own. Was the Trip Worthwhile? The cruise cost us about $7,500 a person, not including airfare and hotels before and after. We met interesting fellow passengers from several countries, dined and resided in fine fashion on a cruise ship for more than two weeks, learned about the Inuit culture, Greenland and Iceland first-hand, and saw parts of the world not a lot of our friends will ever see. Would we book the cruise again? That is the ultimate question of worth, and in our case, the answer is absolutely yes. Read Less
The Prince Albert II reigns as the best expedition ship afloat. Despite her name, she - no ship can be male - is the Queen of expedition vessels. This isn't surprising as the Prince Albert II is the latest vessel added to the ... Read More
The Prince Albert II reigns as the best expedition ship afloat. Despite her name, she - no ship can be male - is the Queen of expedition vessels. This isn't surprising as the Prince Albert II is the latest vessel added to the Silversea fleet and she provides her passengers with unrivaled Silversea excellence in an expedition setting.
The ship, the refurbished World Dicoverer II holding 132 passengers, features extremely well designed, comfortable staterooms plus bathrooms stocked with terry cloth robes and Bulgari toiletries. The restaurant, outdoor grill and room service provide superb food. Finest of all, is the uncompromising Silversea service - with each and every courteous and charming staff member addressing passengers by name within 48 hours, remembering their beverage (all are free) or stateroom preferences, and fulfilling every passenger's desire within minutes - often before they asked. All this, even with a no tipping policy.
The officers were equally gracious and Captain Roche made it his mission to welcome all passengers by mingling with them every day and generously giving each of them his time and attention. In essence, the services aboard the Prince Albert II were unsurpassed although she did lack one amenity, a manicurist - but then, who is expected to want a manicure while on expedition.
The itinerary from Acapulco to Santiago was not the most exciting from a cultural or sociological viewpoint because most ports were located in the Peruvian and Chilean desert areas. However there were excellent opportunities to visit some extraordinary archaeological sites and to study a multitude of marine birds and mammals. As with most expeditions, almost all excursions were conducted by zodiac - and it must be noted that no ABS on any vessel were better trained and skillful in assisting passengers in and out of the zodiacs with utmost safety.
There was one weakness - but it can be attributed to Silversea's first time venture into expedition travel. This was the lack of personal, hands-on research into each and every port by the expedition leaders. While a variety of superior excursions were offered, visits to some very interesting areas and events were overlooked. Fortunately, these could still be enjoyed by passengers who struck out on their own - although a local guide or on-board lecture would have greatly enhanced their experience. With regard to the lectures, briefings and debriefings - otherwise known as expedition entertainment - almost all were well presented and enlightening.
As always, with Silversea, embarkation and disembarkation was beautifully managed, along with transportation and baggage handling to and from hotels and airports. In summary, the Prince Albert II raises the bar for expedition vessels and Silversea has successfully met the highest of expectations in merging adventure with luxury travel. Read Less
We left Toronto and flew to Miami on American Airlines. After spending four hours in Miami, we left for Quito at 6 pm. At 8:30 we were back in Miami, for what was said to be a quick instrument repair. This turned into a change of planes, ... Read More
We left Toronto and flew to Miami on American Airlines. After spending four hours in Miami, we left for Quito at 6 pm. At 8:30 we were back in Miami, for what was said to be a quick instrument repair. This turned into a change of planes, and after luggage was transferred and reboarding was complete we were on our way to Quito again. We arrived just after 3 am, and were quickly transferred to our hotel. The Celebrity representative told us the city tour was to start at 9 in the morning, but we could decide what time we wanted to go. There were eight of us on that late flight, and we decided that we could be ready by ten o'clock. We were very glad to reach our room, which was spacious and well-appointed. Because we were Captain's Club members we were upgraded to the executive level, which offered a few extra benefits, but we were not too concerned about that at 4 am.
We met in the lobby at ten the next morning, and boarded a mini bus for the tour. We had a walking tour of the old city, with some impressive churches and other buildings then met up with the rest of the group for lunch at a restaurant on the edge of an extinct volcano. From there we drove to the "Middle of the Earth" for the obligatory Equator photos! That evening we had dinner at the Theatricum Restaurant where we were entertained by a tenor while we enjoyed a meal with wine.
On Sunday morning we had to have our cases outside the room by 7 am, then we had breakfast and were bussed to the airport for the flight to Baltra. The flight was uneventful and the airport was a very short distance from the port so we were on board right on time. The Xpedition doesn't dock in the Islands, so Zodiacs are used for every landing.
Other reviewers have detailed the excursions so I will not repeat these, except to say that the variety and proximity of the wildlife exceeded our expectations. We usually took the high intensity options, but did not find them to be too strenuous. (We are in our middle sixties and of average fitness.) The intensity level was determined by the terrain and length of the hike, but since we stopped frequently to see wild life the distance was not an issue.
After the morning excursion we usually headed up to the hot tub to relax. The first time we stopped in the bar to order cappuccinos and the waiter offered to bring them up for us. After that, each morning when we returned he greeted us with "Cappuccinos in the hot tub?" and brought them for us.
Some reviewers have found dinner service to be slow. We considered it to be leisurely! Although there were no assigned seats for dinner, we formed a group of ten and the waiters set us the same table each night. We enjoyed chatting with our new friends and were often the last table to leave the dining room because the conversation was flowing so freely. The choice of food was not as varied as on a larger cruise ship, but there were three or four entrees each evening and all were well prepared.
This cruise was truly all-inclusive. Excursions, tips, and wine with meals were all included. in Quito as well as on the ship. Bar drinks were also included on the ship, so apart from some small purchases from the shop, we only paid for laundry. Service was excellent and we were looked after every step of the way. We returned to the JW Marriott in Quito for one night before heading home. Our flight home was early so we left the hotel at five in the morning.
This was truly the experience of a lifetime. The only thing that would stop me going again is the fact that there is still a lot of the world that I haven't seen yet. Read Less
I am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. My E-Mail is: email@example.com should you wish to contact me. This was our 24th cruise, and like most of our fellow passengers, our first trip to French Polynesia. It was also Princess' ... Read More
I am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. My E-Mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org should you wish to contact me. This was our 24th cruise, and like most of our fellow passengers, our first trip to French Polynesia. It was also Princess' swan song for the inter-island cruise route; purportedly because of a dispute with the French authorities over higher port fees. As far as we know, only Regent Seven Seas' Paul Gaugin and the Windstar fourmasted sailing vessels will do the seven to ten (or eleven) day island tours.
Getting there and aboard
We let Princess do the transportation from Phoenix. They booked us on the later Air Tahiti Nui flight from LAX which left at 4:30 P.M., and with the two hour time zone difference, landed us in Papeete 8 1/2 hours later at 11:00 P.M. This small airline does a pretty good job with its passengers. The food in economy class was quite edible, and they, like all good Frenchmen, poured wine without charge. An efficient bus transfer and pretty rapid check in got us into our cabin just after midnight.
Tahitian Princess was one of the Renaissance ships number 1 through 7. When this cruise line folded after September 11, 2001, they were up for grabs. Oceania bought three, then Celebrity two others to form Azamara cruises. The Spanish company Pullmantur bought two, but sold them to Princess who renamed them Tahitian Princess and Island Princess. They are small, 32,227 grosstons, but neat, elegant and very conveniet to get around for the maximum 680 passenger capacity. We had sailed on Oceania's Insignia twice and Nautica once, so we were very familiar with it.
Our cabin was 7046. Decks 6 and 7 are mostly standard verandah cabins. Deck 8 is for mini-suites which are about 50% larger. Deck 4 has window cabins in addition to the passenger service desk and excursion booking desk, while 3 has 15 porthole cabins. Larger suites and a few inside cabins are scattered about. Deck 5 has the Cabaret Lounge, a low-tech showroom venue, forward and the main dining room aft with shops, a lounge and the small casino in between. Deck 9 has the spa and gym (with a private spa jacuzzi)forward, the pool area midships and the buffet aft. Deck 10 has a very nice lounge area forward with another dance floor and great viewing, a jogging track around the midships, and the lovely library found on all these ships, as well as the two specialty restaurats aft. There is a small open sun deck forward on Deck 11.
Where is Tahiti anyway?
French Polynesia consists of 5 island groups scattered over an area the size of Western Europe; that is, about 1300 miles east to west and 1100 miles north to south. Papeete is the capital and located on the island of Tahiti. It is about 4050 miles southwest of Los Angeles, 4640 miles due west of Peru, 2640 miles due south of Hawaii, 2480 miles northeast of New Zeeland, and 3870 miles slightly northeast of Sydney. In short, it is in the middle of a very, very big ocean. The actual land mass of all 118 island is small; 1544 square miles. The city of Los Angeles is 469 square miles by way of comparison. But then, all of French Polynesia only has a population of 280,000, 70% of whom live on Tahiti.
The 5 island groups include four which are volcanic uplift islands, much like Hawaii. These four are, the Society Islands which includes Tahiti, Bora Bora and most of the tourist spots; the Australs and the Gambier groups, south and east of Tahiti, and the Marquesas, about 875 miles north. The 5th group is the Tuamotu Archipelago, which are all atolls, coral reefs with small islands (motus) forming a central lagoon. The islands can have fairly high mountains, Mount Orohena on Tahiti is 7334 feet high; but the highest point on any atoll is about 10 feet.
The islands are definitely French. There is some local autonomy with a legislative body, but the people vote in French national elections, elect delegates to the French National Assembly, and are totally part of France when it comes to military affairs, the justice and court systems, education, tariffs and national taxes. French is the official language, spoken by all, but sunce the 1980's the teaching of Polynesian (Tahiti variety) has been taught in the schools and is used by many in addition to French. While nominal Polynesians comprise over 75% of the population, with Chinese and Vietnamese (brought here when that country was "Tonkin" French) about 12-13% and the rest French from France; the French attitude to relaxed integration makes the amalgem of races quite interesting. We were interested when we found out that two of our guides were a fairly young French girl and man who had come here from France in the past 12 years. The weather never varies much all year long, or during the day. It is much like Hawaii, always in the 70s or 80s with high humidity. Although we were supposed to be in the rainy season, we were affected by rain only once.
We got up the next day to find our luggage outside. We unpacked in a liesurely manner after breakfast and then in the afternoon took a ship's tour of Papeete and part of the island of Tahiti. We visited the museum home of James Normal Hall, one of the "Mutiny on the Bounty" authors, a lovely waterfall slightly inland and a few other sights. Our guide had moved to Tahiti from Los Angeles about 15 years ago to marry a local girl. I am not sure if she is French or Polynesian. He provided a good deal of useful information on the history and present days status of these islands. Traffic in Papeete can be quite bad. This tour was a worthwhile introduction to the islands.
This was our first stop. We anchored in a beautiful bay separating the two parts of the island, and tendered ashore. We took a local form of transportation called "Le Truck" which basically is a medium sized truck with covered wooden benches in the back. It provides transportation, and serves sometimes as a school bus all over the islands. For $5.00 we went about fifteen miles to a small local town where some of the group went to the beach, and we strolled around the residential area, admiring the school and the neat, well cared for small homes, all with open doorways framed with colorful drapes. The crime rate in French Polynesia is very low. The inhabitants are froendly and relaxed. There is not much of a tourist industry on Huahine; the population engaged mostly in agriculture and fishing.
After a sea day we arrived at Rangiroa, a huge atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago whose lagoon is about 20 miles across and 40 miles long. There are about 240 islands (motus) along with the reef as the atoll is 175 miles around. The main island where we visited is only about 500 yards wide, although it does have an airport. We came into the lagoon through a pass, accessible at the afternnon high tide, and anchored a few hundred yards off the lagoon side shore. This atoll is a divers' and snorkelers' paradise. I participated in the latter activity the next day. The water is warm and unbelievably clear, and the fish population large and varied. Edith did take a van provided by one of the dockside vendors to a Black Pearl Farm, which was mostly a store. This is really a spectacular place and well worth the trip away from the other islands.
After a second, and last sea day, we arrived at Raitea. Like most of the Society Islands, it is surrounded by a coral reef which protects it from the ocean. This particular reef also encloses another island called Tahaa. The lagoon however is deep enough to allow docking at a pier so we could walk ashore into the town of Uturoa, which is the second largest city in French Polynesis, but still pretty small since the whole island only has 12,000 people. Here I did ship's drift snorkeling excursion off Tahaa in a pass between two small motus in the coral reef. One of the motus is privately owned and occupied by a Relais Chateaux Hotel with rates starting about 1100 Euros per day. We were caught in a rainstorm returning to Uturoa, but arrived without incident. Edith visited a true pearl farming operation and a vanilla farm. Black Pearls and vanilla are French Polynesia's principal exports, but fall behind tourism which provides about 25% of the cash income.
Again we stayed overnight and sailed the next morning to Bora Bora arriving about noon. This is a very beautiful island, marked with two steep twin peaks. It was the "model" for Bali Hi in James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific" and the subsequent play and movie. The U.S. Navy had occupied Bora Bora during WWII and built the airfield there. Bora Bora has a large lagoon with a number of fairly good sized motus as part of the reef. These are the sites for several five star hotels, along with one or two on the main island. They make this island the center of the high end tourist trade, and the town into which we tendered, Viatape, had some first class jewelry and artifact stores to cater to these hotel guests. We had arranged for a tour on the internet which took us the next day completely around the island in the lagoon, with stops to snorkel, feed some sting rays, and have an "island lunch" on a motu. This was a five hour excursion, and very delightful. We sailed for Moorea at5:00 P.M. arriving the next day.
Moorea is very close to Tahiti, about 10 miles at the closest point. We tendered ashor and selected a peirside vendor for a FWD tour of the interior. It was marked by a trip up a hill with a magnificent view of two bays, and a trip to the local high school of agriculture, with its large, productive farm. We also visited a Polynesian "temple" whci is essentially a small square formed by a stone wall about 30 inches high. There are many of them scattered around the islands. Our guide was Polynesian, but spoke English pretty well and was friendly and informative. The price was quite reasonable also compared to a ship's tour.
At 4:30 we sailed away to Tahiti, arriving at the pier in Papeete at 7:45. We skipped the entertainment that night to pack.
This was a unique experience. Our flight; which had many of our fellow passengers, did not leave until 11:30 P.M. So Princess provide space in one of the specialty restaurants to store our carry on bags, and allowed us to remain as guests on the ship all day, even though we had to vacate our cabin at 8:00. This allowed us to have a liesurely breakfast and the lunch at the buffet. It turn out we ate with a couple that had embarked earlier that day for the trip to Fort Lauderdale that would arrive on January 15. We actually got off in the morning to arrange for a FWD tour through the Tourist Office; which we boarded at 2:00 after lunch. We went deep into Tahiti, between the mountains into some beautiful valleys studded with waterfalls, along a river. Most of where we were was national park, but even the privately held land was untouched. Our guide was the young French man who had come to Tahiti about 10 years prior, and after he relaxed he was entertaining. There were six of us on the tour, including one couple from France. This was a very enjoyable trip. We got back to the ship in time for dinner in the buffet, and then picked up our carry on bags and went to the Cabaret Lounge at 7:30 to await transportation to the airport. When we got there we had to wait for a while before they opened the ticket counters. The check in was fairly easy, and the security a little more relaxed than in the US, even when it came to my steel hips. There was some wait of course until we boarded at 11:30; but we arrived at LAX on time and would have made our Phoenix connection easily; except for the fact that we we bounced from our flight and had to wait another three hours.
Entertainment on Board
There were four "Production" shows with two singers and six singer/dancers in the Cabaret Lounge, which provide a pretty close up view. For once the sound was well contriolled and enabled us to enjoy the music more than on many prior cruises. There was also a juggler comedian, a singer comedian, and a magician comedian; all reasonably okay. There was one folkloric show by natives from Riatea which was entertaining. There was a guest lecturer fro Moorea who was very informative and entertaining as well. He had moved with his father to N+Moorea when he was 10, in 1965.
Princess is pretty good in this department, although not quite up to Celebrity or Oceania, nor of course, Crystal. (Does anyone beat or even match Crystal?) The coffee is poor and the orange juice watered. The bakery department, headed by a young Swiss chef, was superb. There are two specialty restaurants, one Italian and one sort of a steak/chop house. They were open on alternate nights and had a $20.00 pp "cover charge". Reservations were suggested. This is in sharp contrast to Oceania, which has these restaurants open every night with no extra charge.
Service and care of the ship
Princess has always had a first class operation insofar as shipboard services and care of its ships are concerned, and Tahiti Princess was no exception but for the room temperature, which we felt was chilly and not subjet to thermostat control. The Master was always around the ship, often on the P.A. system, and of seemingly boundless enthusiasm for his job. That was a nice feeling. The cabin steward was quiet and efficient and our waiter, a young Italian, was very friendly, hardworking and generally efficient.
We missed having the daily satellite newspaper. We received satellite CNN (mostly poitical stuff), so I know of no technical reason why we could not have had a newspaper. We missed the string quartet or trio playing classical music. Even Carnival had this as do Celebrity, Oceania and Crystal.
We had only 620 passengers out of a possible 680, but a higher number of children than any cruise we could remember, even though these ships have no facilities for children, and there were no programs designed for them. There was one extended family group from Utah with 48 members, a number of them children and teen agers, but they were well behaved. In fact there were only two children who were annoying, running around the buffet area. We think the water activities available on the islands kept the children busy and happy. There were 28 nationalities among the passengers, so this was a cosmopolitan group, and also a fairly good number of young adult couples, some of whom were certainly honeymooners. All in all, it was as diverse as any cruise we have taken.
This was one of our more memorable cruises; attributable largely to the beauty and charm of the islands and the people. It is one we would want to repeat if we can locate one with a reasonable cost basis in the future. Read Less
Silversea Prince Albert II My wife and I sailed on the Silversea Prince Albert II to Antarctica December 11 to December 21st 2008. This was the trip of a lifetime for us. My wife and I are both in our mid 50's and have been on ... Read More
Silversea Prince Albert II My wife and I sailed on the Silversea Prince Albert II to Antarctica December 11 to December 21st 2008. This was the trip of a lifetime for us. My wife and I are both in our mid 50's and have been on several cruises, this was the first time on a Silver Sea vessel, I can assure you that it will not be the last. About a year ago we decided to go on an exploration cruise to the Antarctic (I have always wanted to go there) My sister is a travel agent, and she investigated a number of options and learned about the Silversea Prince Albert II, and based on the Silversea reputation we booked the Antarctic exploration cruise on the Prince Albert II. WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED.
Rather than detail our Antarctic Voyage on the Prince Albert II, I will refer you to the Silver Sea Voyage journal at http://www.silversea.com/silversea.aspx?id=1447&page_type=journal&page_id=princealbertII voyage 7823, I will list each area of interest.
CRUISE LINE Silversea Cruise line is outstanding, the pre cruise documents were beautifully packaged and presented, the transfers from B A, Argentina ie: the charter flight to and from B A, Argentina to Ushuaia were flawless. We especially liked the all inclusive concept, with all of the food, beverages, and tips included in the cost of the voyage.
SHIP The Prince Albert II is an ice capable ship so she can go where others fear to tread. The accommodations, cabins, public rooms, and decks are very comfortable and well appointed by any standards, and unheard of by expedition standards. Note: unlike some of the other expedition ships that we saw while in port the Prince Albert II has plenty of exterior deck for the guests to enjoy.
THE FOOD The food and beverages were outstanding, the dining room staff and kitchen staff made every meal memorable.
THE CREW The ships officers and crew exuded confidence, while sailing in the very challenging environment of Antarctica. It was obvious that they made safety a priority and did everything possible to accommodate our many Zodiac / Antarctic Landings. The open bridge policy allowed many of us to become familiar with the ships operations. The ships officers often joined the guests for meals and lectures given by the expedition staff.
THE EXPEDITION STAFF The expedition staff worked tirelessly to provide the guests with meaningful lectures and briefings about the Antarctic environment that we were visiting. The expedition staff planned and organized and executed our Antarctic excursions flawlessly, sometimes accommodating as many as two or three landings a day, depending on the weather conditions. NOTE: When on an expedition ship, particularly in the Arctic / Antarctic environment, flexibility is the name of the game. Be prepared to have the daily planned schedule change according to exploration opportunities and changing weather conditions.
GENERAL COMMENTS This was the trip of a lifetime. We enjoyed the company of all of the other guests on board. We were very fortunate to experience the hospitality and professionalism of the Prince Albert II staff and crew on a Voyage of a lifetime to the Antarctic.
We would like to thank everyone that we shared this voyage of a lifetime with including the Prince Albert II Staff, and the other Guests that we shared this experience with. Read Less
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO)
DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior ... Read More
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO)
DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior we sailed on the old Noordam from Rio to Valparaiso on our honeymoon. We were excited to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (New Year's Eve) by doing this itinerary again. The added bonus of Antarctica, which had always been a dream for us, made this a cruise we'll never forget.
AIR - HAL arranged the air from Vancouver to Valparaiso, and Rio back to Vancouver. We were booked on Air Canada flights from Vancouver to Toronto and then Toronto to Santiago. It snowed the night before we left Vancouver which caused several flight delays. We were extremely lucky our flights were not delayed at all.
We landed in sunny warm Santiago on time at 12:30 PM, a 5 hour time difference from home. We went through two separate lineups - one to pay the $132 US each reciprocity (airport) fee and then through customs. A HAL rep greeted us in the luggage claim, checked off our names and then guided us to another HAL rep to a waiting bus. Our checked luggage was put on a truck that went to the ship and was delivered directly to our stateroom. It took about an hour from landing in Santiago until we were on the bus. The drive to Valparaiso was 1.5 hours. After check-in at the terminal we bought 2 bottles of wine which were free to take on board on embarkation day. We then went through security and onto another bus which drove to the ship. We arrived too late for our embarkation picture to be taken however we were able to get one made up with a picture taken later in the cruise. We just had enough time to drop our bags in our stateroom, freshen up and grab our life jackets for the lifeboat drill. It was 1 hour before sailing - which to us was cutting it way too close!
SHIP The ship was decorated throughout with colourful Christmas trees. The front office was decorated with fresh flowers and poinsettias which looked quite festive. The tree lighting ceremony took place at 7:30 PM the first night and Christmas carols were sung. There was a nativity scene on the lower promenade level atrium and a few Christmas trees with white lights which were quite pretty. The lower atrium had a mirrored wall reflecting millions of colours. The main dining room was decorated with stars hanging from the ceiling and white poinsettia garlands around the upper inside.
STATEROOM Our stateroom was 3345 - just steps away from the lower promenade atrium (and right beside the self-service laundry). This was the quietest stateroom we'd ever been in and we never heard any noise from the adjoining staterooms, above, below or the laundry room at all. The stateroom was quite spacious with 2 large twins put together, a love-seat and chair. We each had our own closet space as well as a closet for coats, shoes etc. There was storage space under the bed for our luggage. We were surprised to see that we didn't have a mini refrigerator. The washroom was average size with adequate storage space for our personal toiletries. The wall-mounted hair dryer got too hot after 20 seconds. Luckily there was a portable hair dryer (in HAL bag) in one of the dresser drawers to use instead.
We were somewhat disappointed that we only received one canvas HAL bag this cruise. On the Explorer cruise we took 10 years ago, we each received one HAL canvas bag, rain poncho, small Spanish dictionary, small South America guidebook, mini binoculars, journal and wooden pen.
SERVICE Outstanding. Our stateroom was attended to by Agus and Ikhwan who were quite efficient and not intrusive. HAL seems to have cut their staff as they seemed to be responsible for a great many staterooms. The same also seemed to apply in the dining room.
DINING - We chose second seating dining at 8 PM at a table for two. We opted for formal dining as it was a holiday cruise. DH grumbled at first at the thought of bringing a suit, shoes etc. but next time will consider renting a tux, not to mention the extra luggage space that will be saved.
Our waiter was Paul and his assistant was Theodor. Our wine steward was Dino and his assistant was Joseph. All men were quite pleasant the entire cruise and never stopped smiling. The maitre'd always stopped by our table each night, called us by name and would inquire how our day and meal was (how he remembered everyone's names we don't know.) The meals were excellent and nicely prepared. We enjoyed the chilled soups whenever they were on the menus. A latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate could be ordered after dinner at no extra charge.
It was disappointing to note that some men and women wore jeans on formal and smart casual evenings (obviously they hadn't read their Welcome Aboard literature which clearly stated no jeans). Anyone paying this amount of money on a cruise can at least afford a pair of dark pants don't you think. The maitre d' should have gently reminded these people to either change or suggest eating in the Lido Cafe instead, but it seemed he didn't want to rock the boat.
We once skipped dinner in the dining room and went to the Lido Cafe - where anything on the menu was the same as the dining room anyway. Then you could see what you wanted to eat in advance.
We ate breakfast in the dining room just once. Several times we ordered in-room dining where the meals were always delivered on the dot. At the Lido Cafe there were a number of make-to-order stations for eggs benedict, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage. You name it they had it. Some days it was hard to decide what to have.
For lunch in the Lido Cafe there was a great variety of pasta and sauces, wraps, grilled sandwiches and salads to choose from. We tried to avoid eating where people served themselves - not everyone used the hand sanitizer or used the tongs. The pool area had a few kinds of greasy pizza slices; also at the Terrace Grill you could order a hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger or hot dog.
PHOTOS Each 8x10 picture cost $14.95 - pretty steep and the price adds up. Many photos were not bought - perhaps many more would have been bought if the price and size was reduced. Almost every night the ship's photographers were set up to do portrait or green screen photos. They were also visible on deck during scenic cruising and at the various ports.
SHOPS Just a few "dam" souvenirs and the usual expensive jewelry. There were few people in the shops the entire cruise. The souvenir South America T-shirts were a bright cayenne pepper colour which we never saw anyone buying. Also for sale were light jackets with an Antarctica patch sewn on and these didn't even have a hood.
CASINO This was one of the smallest casinos we'd ever seen on a cruise ship, and hardly anyone ever in it. There were penny slot machines with no one ever sitting at them. We usually enjoy the slot machine tournaments but there didn't seem to be much interest so we didn't bother.
BINGO We never bothered to check this out.
GYM We never bothered to check this out.
SPA Did not use however DH had his hair cut for $25 and they did a nice job.
ART AUCTION We never bothered to check this out (not even for the free glass of champagne LOL).
LIBRARY We rented a few DVDs ($3 each) to watch in our stateroom on sea days - "Message in a Bottle" and "Pirates of the Caribbean - World's End" which was aired on TV just after we watched it of course.
SHOWS The one and only show we went to in the Queen's Lounge was a comedian named Tom Sutton from Britain. He was one of the worst comedians we'd ever heard. His material was either political or quite dated - references to Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. Some people walked out of the theatre and I wished we had done the same - we should have chosen to do our laundry instead.
DRINKS We purchased a card for $56 which entitled us to 10 cocktails. The frozen (strawberry or lime) margaritas were the best and ended up being $1 cheaper than you would pay individually.
MOVIES Among the movies we saw in the Wajang Theater were the "Dark Knight", "Swing Vote" and "Christmas Vacation". These movies were broadcast on TV the following day.
LAUNDRY $2.00 (8 quarters) for the wash cycle and the dryers were free. We found the best time to do laundry was after dinner otherwise everyone tried to go there at the same time, usually on sea days.
CRAFTS Creative Christmas Crafts class hosted by the party planner who explained that HAL had not hired a crafts person this cruise. She brought a large plastic container filled with construction paper and glue she'd gotten from the children's area! Her suggestions were to either make a wreath out of hand prints (no thanks) or a Santa to hang on our stateroom door. Some ladies walked out at this point (I wished I had) but I stayed, made a lame looking Santa that I would have been embarrassed to hang on our stateroom door. I didn't attend any future crafts sessions.
PORTS We had visited each port on our previous South America cruise. The only shore excursions we took were in Punta Arenas, Falkland Islands and Rio de Janeiro.
Puerto Montt The tender took about 15 minutes and docked near the Angelmo artisan market (about 30 artisan stalls). We walked about a mile to the Paseo Mall. The mall had 3 levels with a food court including KFC and Pizza Hut, and on one level there was a tiny McDonalds kiosk selling ice cream. Ladies take notice - when going to the bano (bathroom) - take your paper first from a giant roll before going into a stall as there was no paper provided inside. The mall also had a large supermarket called Full Fresh where we bought pisco in a dark Easter Island decanter and Artesano pisco sour which was already mixed. We walked back to the Angelmo artisan market selling hand-made woolen caps, scarves, jackets etc. We had bought a lot of this stuff 10 years ago so we only bought a few postcards.
Punta Arenas Patagonia Experience - Otway Bay tour (we did this 10 years ago). The bus ride was about an hour and we stopped a few times to see rheas by the road side. The weather was overcast but did get a bit sunny. There was a large parking area (a few people had come in taxis), washrooms, a small cafe and a few souvenir kiosks. It was about a mile walk along roped boardwalks out to the Magellanic penguins. We saw many penguins, which marched in comical lines down to the water. A viewing platform was available to see the penguins in the ocean.
A trailer back on the pier sold woolen hats, sweaters, gloves and souvenirs. I bought a woolen alpaca hat (flannel lined) with ear flaps for $5, a souvenir penguin mug and a book on Antarctica. That alpaca hat was the best $5 purchase I ever made when we cruised in Antarctica!!!
We split the cost of a taxi ride into town for $10 with another couple. In the middle of town was a square with a statue of an Indian with a golden toe - if you touched it legend states you'll return again some day (and here we were!). Around the square were a number of handicraft tables. DH bought a hooded alpaca sweater and a hat.
Ushuaia, Argentina Very picturesque with the snow capped mountains all around. We docked at 1 PM and the wind blew fiercely as we walked off the ship. We went through a security building then out to the town. We walked along San Martin, the main street, with several souvenir shops. We stopped at Laguna Negra, a chocolate shop which had a little cafe in the back where we enjoyed bottles of Cape Horn pale ale.
Cape Horn We were out on deck at 7 AM where it was windy and overcast to witness passing the tip of South America. We thought there was supposed to be a monument with an albatross but we didn't see one.
Antarctica cruising (December 23) It was quite foggy and snowing lightly (how often can you say you've been on a cruise and it snowed?). We could just make out the mountains and the ice made it quite an awesome thing to see. We saw our first penguins far off on land in the distance. People wore an odd assortment of footwear - from flip flops with socks to high heel sandals.
A group of people came on board from Palmer Station to give a slide presentation of the research they do which was quite interesting.
In a corner of the Crow's Nest was a "Base Camp" which was a tent recreating the Shackleton Antarctica adventure. Maps were on display of where we would be cruising in Antarctica. A TV played a DVD of the movie "Shackleton" over and over. DH and I watched the 2 hour movie one afternoon with a tango class in the background so it was hard to hear some parts of the movie. This base camp should have been set up in a small room elsewhere on the ship.
Antarctica cruising (December 24) A beautiful morning with spectacular views of icebergs as we retraced the route we went the day before, which was completely different without all the fog. Many people remarked this was a surreal experience seeing this and it was so awesome to describe. We passed by the Argentina and Chile research stations. In the afternoon we went up on Lido deck aft for the "Penguin Dip" in the pool. It was cold though the pool water was warm. Waiters were ready with cups of hot chocolate as we came out of the pool. Certificates of this event were delivered to our stateroom a few days later.
Antarctica cruising (December 25) We started the day by seeing Adelie penguins on an iceberg! The sky was clear and blue but cold. We stayed out on deck until 10 AM - rushed in to have our pictures taken with Santa in the Queen's Lounge - then went back out on deck. We saw the Esperanza research station belonging to Argentina. About 42 people live there with 2 school teachers, and the children are considered part of the Argentinian school system.
All the dining room staff wore Santa hats and most people dressed formally for dinner. We passed by Elephant Island just before dinner - DH went outside and took pictures but we were not close enough to see any elephant seals. Sundown was 11 PM and sunrise 4 AM.
Stanley, Falkland Islands We had originally planned to do OBT Sparrow Cove and were wait-listed on the Volunteer Point Penguin tour. The night before we got confirmation for Volunteer Point. We got onto the tender at 6:45 AM, and the water was so choppy we almost didn't make it to the dock. If it had been any worse they probably would have discontinued the tender process.
There were 48 people on our tour and we went in groups of 4 in Land Rovers (these are shipped to the FI, but the tires are specially ordered from the UK). Our guide and driver was Neil, born in the UK and now a resident of FI. Apparently he had been waiting since 6:15 AM for us to arrive (we were an hour late), and apologized for not shaving LOL.
Neil told us about the FI war of 1982 of which there were still land mines in the ground but were roped off. He said when a cruise ship is in, everyone pitches in do driving - lawyer, doctor, dentist etc. All education is free in the FI and tuition and expenses is paid if you further your education in the UK afterward. Medical and dental expenses are also free.
The countryside was pretty bland, bleak and very windy. Part of the way was off-road and quite bumpy in some spots.
At Volunteer Point there was a small portable with toilets and info. Bag lunches were provided consisting of a ham or cheese sandwich, bottle of water, roast chicken chips and an apple.
We had 2 hours to see the penguins. Ground rules were don't run, let anything flap, talk loudly and stay outside the ring of stones which served as a perimeter for the penguins. Inside the ring of stones there were a number of baby penguins still with some of their fluff. Wardens wearing bright green fluorescent vests ensured that everyone obeyed the rules. The king penguins we saw were awesome! They just stood there and posed while we took close-up shots. Down at the beach, the water was a tropical turquoise blue and the sand a very fine white powder like talc. There were king and gentoo penguins here. This was the most incredible experience to see these animals up close. The only other place in the world to see king penguins is on South Georgia Islands.
Our tour guide let us off close to the whale bone arch where we walked back to the tender. We only had 30 minutes so we went into Capstan Gift Shop, a really nice gift shop selling penguin souvenirs, cards, DVDs, glassware and all kinds of things.
Buenos Aires, Argentina We were awakened at about 12:30 AM by the captain announcing over the PA of "bright star, bright star, cabin XXXX" which sounded like an emergency code of some kind. We asked our dining room waiter about this and he said a female passenger had had a heart attack and passed away that morning.
It was sunny and warm. It was mandatory to take a shuttle bus from the ship to the cruise terminal as the ship was docked in an industrial area. We walked up to the Florida pedestrian mall which stretched for 6 blocks and branched off another 6 blocks. We took a taxi to the Recoleta and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and then walked back to the ship.
The Filipino crew show was awesome to watch - we don't know when they ever found the time to practice!
Montevideo, Uruguay The cruise director announced over the PA that docking would be delayed by one hour so all tours would depart an hour later. Some people complained of this as we had only traveled about 87 miles from Buenos Aires the previous evening. The cruise director explained that the appropriate arrangements had to be made so that the husband of the deceased passenger could disembark with her body.
It was overcast and a bit cool. We walked up the street where shops were just opening. Many buildings looked old and rundown, and the streets and sidewalks were uneven. DH collects stamps so at the main post office he bought a first day cover of Ano Polar Internacional canceled with a penguin stamp. The fellow who helped us apologized for dressing so casually - as it was New Year's Eve the custom around mid-day was that people threw their old calendars, day-timers and water from buildings at people below in the street!!! We later watched as a bunch of people getting on and off a bus got drenched with water. We were careful crossing the street but a few seconds later we both got wet - I just looked up, smiled and waved to the people laughing. I looked like something the cat dragged in LOL as we walked back to the ship.
At a small wine store across from where the ship was docked we bought a bottle of Maria Zarranz MEtodo Champenoise Extra Brut wine from Uruguay ($25 US) which we used to bring in the New Year that night.
We received a congratulatory card from the captain for our 10th anniversary. In the dining room we found New Year hats at our table. The New Year's Eve Gala Dinner included caviar and seafood cocktail and lobster. For dessert there was a chocolate tower filled with mascarpone mousse and crème de cacao and had Happy New Year 2009 in gold lettering. The maitre'd brought a small cake with a candle on it (white icing with chocolate cookie crumbs on the outside and devil's food on the inside) and he and our waiters sang a lively Filipino tune, wishing us a happy anniversary. We had the cake delivered to our stateroom.
All of the public lounges were decorated with paper streamers and sparkly confetti. We went to the Queen's Lounge around 11:30 pm which was already half full at this time. We picked up blowers and noisemakers as we went in. We got a good seat off to the side, and each table had 2 balloons, black top hat and star confetti and paper ribbons. It was quite noisy with everyone blowing their horns and turning their noisemakers. Waiters made the rounds with free champagne 20 minutes before midnight. The stage had been converted to a dance floor with rails at the edge so people wouldn't fall off. Big screen monitors on each side of the lounge counted down the time to midnight. At midnight the whole lounge erupted with noise and a net of balloons was released from the ceiling. What a mess was left on the floors throughout but of course was all gone the next morning.
New Year's Day We had New Year's Day brunch at the Pinnacle Grill ($30 each). We'd never eaten at a restaurant on a ship with a cover charge. There were about 25 people who came and we were offered a glass of champagne at the door. The buffet area was set up in the back and consisted of various seafood (jumbo shrimp, crab legs, herring, salmon and caviar), cold cuts and cheese, roast beef and salads. Breakfast items such as omelets were made to order. A dessert tray consisted of assorted squares, pastries and freshly dipped chocolate strawberries. White and red wines were served. DH had 5 servings of caviar. We were so stuffed we went back to our stateroom and rested for the afternoon.
Went to the Dessert Extravaganza at 11:30 PM that was set up on tables around the pool. There were ice sculptures, a chocolate fountain, a few crepes stations and quite an assortment of pastries.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil We were out on deck at 5 AM as we sailed into Rio, past the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. We chose the 8 hour Rio Extravaganza tour for both days in Rio for these reasons: (1) in case the weather didn't cooperate one day, (2) we were guaranteed seeing the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf and (3) safety - we'd read it wasn't very safe to be roaming around in Rio (even by taxi).
The first day it was about 33 degrees and humid. We drove to Sugar Loaf first. We were glad we were on a tour as we bypassed everyone standing in line for tickets. The tram stopped at one level where you got off, took pictures and then went to the next level. Our tour description stated lunch at a seafood restaurant but was at a barbecue restaurant instead. A number of tour buses were already there and we sat at a table for 10. We helped ourselves to the salad bar. Platters of food were brought to the table like rice, puffy cheese puffs, fried bananas and french fries. Huge skewers of meat (lamb, beef, pork, sausage and chicken) were brought around and were sliced onto your plate with a huge knife (careful not to move LOL!!!) Dishes of vanilla soft serve ice cream with fruit cocktail were served for dessert.
Corcovado. The tram ride was 20 minutes through the Tijuca Forest with lush greenery on both sides. There were chachaka trees with large yellowish hanging fruits. It was quite an amazing incline when we arrived at the station. Again we were glad we were on a tour and bypassed the crowds. We boarded a narrow elevator (only 5 people at a time) then up a few escalators (the highest in the world?). There were a few souvenir shops all selling the same little statues and souvenirs. Back at the bottom of the tram station there was a Hard Rock Cafe kiosk. DH wanted to buy a ball cap but they would not accept US dollars (he bought one later at a HRC kiosk in the terminal where the ship docked). We bought a poster of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf signed by the photographer for $82 US.
Our bus drove past the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches which were packed.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (disembarkation) We waited in our stateroom for our ticket (luggage) number and colour to be called for our tour. At the end of our tour, we would be dropped off at the airport. It was overcast and cooler which was a bit of a relief. Our tour bus was full and we went to the Corcovado first. It was quite windy and raining slightly when we got there. Once we got up to the top we were told the elevators weren't working as the winds were too high (felt like a hurricane). We walked up the few steps to the Corcovado. It was completely misty in some spots. Our lunch stop was at a different barbecue restaurant where the food was essentially the same as the day before but just as good. Our tour guide phoned ahead to Sugar Loaf in case the trams weren't operating. They were - it was windy with intermittent rain. We drove past the beaches again, completely deserted this time.
We were dropped off at the airport around 5 PM. Everyone's luggage from the ship had been put onto trolleys but not in a totally secure area. Our flight to Miami was not until 10:15 PM but we got in the ONE lineup for international flights anyway. It took 90 minutes to get to the first security desk. An AA rep had our e-ticket printouts. Then we waited another 30 minutes to check in our luggage. We were given boarding passes for all 3 flights (Rio-Miami, Miami-Dallas Ft. Worth and DFW-Vancouver) however for the first flight to Miami we did not have seat assignments and were told to deal with the AA rep at the gate before boarding the plane.
We went through security into a confusing mess of people. Half a dozen other people at our gate were also without seat assignments. We never thought to check our flight status on the Internet on the ship and we could have averted this confusion altogether. We managed to get home safely with all our luggage intact.
Overall, we had an awesome vacation and would do this itinerary (especially Antarctica) again in a heartbeat. Read Less