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6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
We previously sailed with Variety Galileo in Greece, had such a good time we repeated for Panama and Costa Rica. To start at the beginning, they used to embark at Shelter Island, a somewhat picturesque location but now its Colon which is ... Read More
We previously sailed with Variety Galileo in Greece, had such a good time we repeated for Panama and Costa Rica. To start at the beginning, they used to embark at Shelter Island, a somewhat picturesque location but now its Colon which is industrial and nothing to look at. Orientation and life boat drill took three hours which was a little tiring after traveling. Half the reason we took this trip was to see the San Blas Islands, with a beach barbecue and swimming. It was disappointing to learn that part of the trip would be cancelled due to high winds. Of course, safety of the passengers and ship is foremost but it should be considered, because this is a small ship, you may not be going where you think you will. Instead we went to Portobello for two nights instead of one. It was a ten mile trip instead of 64 miles but its safe to say not many had the ability to sleep and some were sea sick due to the rolling of the ship. This ship will roll considerably even at anchor. After the rough ride we had to listen to the anchor chain scraping on the deck above our heads all night due to the wind. Avoid a forward cabin at all costs. Portobello is a small town with history but can be done in a few hours. To compensate we were taken to an indigenous native village, the Embarra people, after a 1 1/2 hour bus ride and up a river and dugout canoes. It was very interesting but we felt that since the ship travelled 20 miles instead of 168 miles Variety could have done something extra for the passengers considering what they saved in fuel, but everything was priced the same. The first dinner I had something of an altercation with the dining room manager over seating, concerning a tour group. Usually on a small ship like this open seating is the rule, but he was insistent on grouping them together which was annoying because we were happily mixing at that point. When I mentioned it should be open seating he angrily threw up his hands and said"What can I do?" Later, even the tour group told him they were adults and were perfectly capable deciding where to sit. The food is good but nothing memorable. The dining room service was excellent. Twice complimentary drinks were served but contained so little alcohol you could have had them for breakfast. . We really enjoyed the swimming off the boat in Greece but only one opportunity on this cruise and all the stops involved donning life jackets and using Zodiacs, where in Greece the boat always docked. You could walk on and off at will and slept well. It has to be mentioned that when you don't sleep well the next day you are not up to par. We had one snorkeling opportunity at a small island also.The Panama canal was very interesting but traverse mainly at night, so you can see the locks which are lighted but none of the surrounding country. Bow thruster noise sounded like it was next to your head here. Another night of little sleep. Why the thruster was necessary I can't figure out since four locomotives kept the ship centered in the canal. The Osa peninsula trip is described as incredible and spectacular wildlife, but all we saw was some monkeys and large numbers of ants. We did the zip line in Quepos and found it adventurous but challenging remembering the rules and staying safe. The descriptions of the excursions are really florid and overboard. Manuel Antonio was better for wildlife. Orientations and instruction take up a lot of time and some days you have to rise pretty early to eat breakfast, get orientated and zodiaced. Passengers were generally between 60 and 70 years of age and sociable. Service personnel from the captain on down to the maids did everything they could to be friendly and helpful, except for the mentioned dining room manager. I was interested in taking the Seychelles trip with Variety but won't now because i don't want to travel halfway around the world to find out we may be going to some african village instead because of the weather. That's the name of the game with small ships, Variety cannot control the weather, I know, but choices have to be made for value. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
How surprised and lucky were we when we arrived on "The Panorama " in Cienfuegos, (having been transported in a small comfortable bus from Havana.) to find that there had been a big cancellation and we were the incredible number ... Read More
How surprised and lucky were we when we arrived on "The Panorama " in Cienfuegos, (having been transported in a small comfortable bus from Havana.) to find that there had been a big cancellation and we were the incredible number of 8 passengers, our own private yacht !!! This did not deter from the excellent team's enthusiasm in helping us to have a wonderful cruise, which we did. We were lucky to get along very well with the other 6 passengers and a great time was had by all. Our cabin was spacious , well appointed and beautifully kept. The staff were always helpful and smiling. The seas were quite rough but we were in extremely competent hands and really enjoyed the exhilaration of it all. What an experience to see Cuba from the sea...the excursions were interesting and our guides very good. The fact that the ship actually moors up in Central Havana is a plus, making it easy to enjoy this vibrant city. We were sad to say goodbye, but, until the next time, thank you Variety Cruises for organising this exceptional cruise, what wonderful memories. 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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
The entire crew was very hospitable and made us feel like home. There were only 45 persons on board with much crew and by day 2 we all knew each other on a first name basis. The whole on board experience was like being on a private ... Read More
The entire crew was very hospitable and made us feel like home. There were only 45 persons on board with much crew and by day 2 we all knew each other on a first name basis. The whole on board experience was like being on a private ship along with friends from many corners of the world- Australia, US, France, Spain, Germany also a few from South America and from New Zealand. The M/S Galileo is a fantastic ship. We picked a Category A cabin but we would perfectly stay on a lower category because we spent so much time ashore discovering the destinations. Cabin 6 was our home for the week, a category A cabin and was located on the upper deck. Perfect size, good matresses, and very clean every day. The highlight of our life on board were the swimstops in bays where literally noone else was! Our first swim stop was in Poliegos island -an uninhabited island- with crystal blue-green waters. By then, we knew this was not a conventional cruise -not even a conventional small ship cruise. We enjoyed two stops where our Captain Nikos drop anchor and we swam off the side of Galileo. We also used the kayak and made it till the shore. The crew also organized for us one beach bbq- again on an uninhabited island near Paros and then we continued to Paros. We had optional shore excursions every day. We picked the ones in Delos, in Santorini, and in Syros island. The rest of the days we decided to explore the ports on our own, as it was so easy with our ship docked in every island we went at. we simply walked on and off the ship. Also, the itinerary included overnights at the 90% of the ports, so we also tasted the local tavernas and bars on the islands. The itinery lasted seven nights and eight days, we embarked on a Friday afternoon and disembarked next Friday after breakfast. the best thing with the Jewels of the Cyclades cruise itinerary was that we visited 7-8 ports of call. half of them were much loved greek islands like Mykonos and Santorini and Paros, and the rest were islands which we never heard of. We loved them all, with our least favorite being Poros island. We enjoyed the privacy and comfort of being two among 45 passengers. It made days on board and on shore very special and it has been a highlight of our lives which we will cherish forever. We will be back! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
We recently went to Greece on a Variety Cruise. It was the Antiquity to Byzantium cruise aboard the Panorama II and it surpassed our expectations. The boat is comfortable with lots of places to either be by yourself and read or chat with ... Read More
We recently went to Greece on a Variety Cruise. It was the Antiquity to Byzantium cruise aboard the Panorama II and it surpassed our expectations. The boat is comfortable with lots of places to either be by yourself and read or chat with new friends. The food was delicious!!! Three meals each day with lots of choices and pastries at tea time while we listened to the lecture of the day with our fabulous tour guide. The staff was wonderful. The wind in the Greek Isles can be a challenge and the captain and cruise director were able to deal with the weather and were able to re-arrange the itinerary and make sure we did not miss anything. We can’t wait to sail with them again.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
We cruise a lot on all different lines and this is the first ship we felt was UNACCEPTABLE. This is especially disturbing since the ship was chartered by Vantage 'Deluxe' Travel which we had heard was a terrific travel company. ... Read More
We cruise a lot on all different lines and this is the first ship we felt was UNACCEPTABLE. This is especially disturbing since the ship was chartered by Vantage 'Deluxe' Travel which we had heard was a terrific travel company. But, they chartered and continue to charter this ship which has poor accommodations and is not maintained or operated properly. (I tried to post a review like this right after the cruise but CruiseCritic did not have this ship available to review at the time.) I'll start by saying the itinerary, crew and cruise director were great. Only the ship was deficient. First, design. 'Deck 1' on any other ship is above the water line. But on the Harmony G 'Deck 1' is below the water line with small windows AT the water line. So, you feel like you're in a washing machine any time you're in your cabin. 'Luckily' our toilet didn't work so they 'upgraded' us to a forward cabin on Deck 2. This was somewhat better, but because it was forward it had a lot more motion than amidships cabins. As the cruise wore on we realized that the passenger cabins were sorely deficient in ventilation and cooling. Any time it was warm outside, it was hot and stuffy in our cabins. The common areas, the dining room and lounge, were always freezing. And, their doors did not close properly, so that the cool air was constantly being lost outside. I think the engineer purposely used the cooling resources for the common rooms and didn't care whether cool, fresh air got to the passenger cabins or not. The other issue was stabilizers. The ship has them, but the captain only turns them on when they think it's rough seas. And their idea of 'rough seas' is a whole lot different than my wife's idea of rough seas. The food was just 'ok' and they were accommodating to the extent possible with such a small ship and crew. The passengers were average age of probably 75 and preferred to come back to the ship for lunch rather than eating in port. I just don't understand why you would travel all that way to eat average American food. In short, don't sail on the Harmony G. Vantage did not adequately respond to our concerns so we will avoid Vantage 'Deluxe' Travel as well. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
My experience was a few years ago so things may have changed since that time, but I'm a new member so thought that I would reflect back on my experience aboard the Voyager. I did a week long cruise on the Variety Voyager which ... Read More
My experience was a few years ago so things may have changed since that time, but I'm a new member so thought that I would reflect back on my experience aboard the Voyager. I did a week long cruise on the Variety Voyager which included St Tropez, Monaco, Corsica, Elba and the Cinque Terra. I rushed into Nice after an incredibly rushed ten days in Europe on business and it was such a relief to know that I would only be unpacking once for the week. I'm a strong believer in choosing the right style of travel for the destination. In the past few years, I have backpacked through South East Asia, taken an expedition ship across rough seas to Antarctica, and enjoyed French luxury aboard a Ponant ship . For me, I look at the destination first before the style of travel. So a 50 passenger Antarctic icebreaker expedition ship was the perfect way for me to spend a month in Antarctica, but to really relax and enjoy the Med I knew that a small luxury yacht was what I was after. It really did feel like the right way to travel as we pulled up next to gigantic super yachts, and even spotted Joan Collins partying on a yacht. Southern Europe at that time of year is bananas and it was so nice to not have to deal with any traffic and to be delivered by a short zodiac to the centre of town. Quite often I explored independently, but I also joined a couple of tours to a winery in Corsica and a museum. I liked that we would often travel at night, so we could make the most of our destination, exploring piazzas and the shoreline in the evening before returning to the yacht. For me the ship was luxurious enough but not ostentatious. The informal style suited me. I can imagine though that if you are used to larger cruise liners it may be quite a difference. My cabin was clean and well fitted out. The yacht was well equipped, the only thing that would have been great would have been a spa pool or plunge pool. We didn't swim that whole week (although there was talk of it) so that was a little disappointing in summer. The food was good, and plentiful, but I also enjoyed dining out on shore. In terms of the activities, I found them sufficient but as I said I often did my own thing. I can imagine that if you were wanting a more structured plan or more interpretation, it could have been disappointing. I would have liked to have a historian onboard, context was given by local guides, but I think it would have been fascinating to learn more about the culture and history, especially regarding Napoleon's exile in Corsica, as one example. All in all though, it was right for me and for what I was looking for. I hope that this is useful! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
This was our first cruising experience and we travelled a long way to do it ! The appeal of a small group and exploring places that weren't crawling with tourists did not disappoint. Our itinerary was Corfu - Kotor, Montenegro - ... Read More
This was our first cruising experience and we travelled a long way to do it ! The appeal of a small group and exploring places that weren't crawling with tourists did not disappoint. Our itinerary was Corfu - Kotor, Montenegro - Dubrovnik & Korcula, Croatia - Bar, Montenegro - Saranda, Albania - Paxo & Corfu, Greece Highlights : Amazing crew. Captain George, Cruise director Nina, Manager Yanni and Bartender/whatever you need Lovvy were all fantastic as were the whole team. Destinations were all amazing - we will never forget sailing into the Bay of Kotor, zipping around on Scooters on Korcula or nights out in Paxos and Corfu. Who can forget Greek night !! Havent laughed that much in years :-D Swim stops were lovely and something the big cruise ships just cant do Customs was all handled for us and we effortlessly did our shore excursions and visits without any queues or hassles The food was sometimes fantastic especially the traditional Greek meals and the BBQ's Housekeeping was great - rooms done twice a day and nothing ever a problem including several last minute ironing requests The other passengers - only 31 in our group including 10 French, 8 Americans, 6 Australians. Got to know most people really well and was a great mix of ages - 10 - 84 ! Have made several friends for life !! Lowlights : Being a small ship there is a fair bit of rock and roll sometimes. We had one pretty rough night but generally calm sailing. Medication readily available. The food was sometimes woeful ( tinned carrots !) and this feedback has been passed on. There was plenty of it and some dishes were incredible. In saying that we were not expecting a gourmet cruise and were more than satisfied. Sometimes its better to eat in town anyway ( Paxos!) Cabins are a little tired. Bizarrely they insist on putting ugly old brown breadspreads on the beds during the day but remove them for the white doonas at turn down - they look far better ! Wifi - extortion like most boats. When is someone going to upgrade their equipment and be the first to break this mould ? Many people are trying to still run businesses back home ( its even marketed to this demographic) so they need to be enabled. The pros far exceeded the cons and overall this cruise was great value for money. We would not hesitate to recommend to others and are already looking at some of Variety's other offerings   Read Less
Sail Date: March 2014
This was a week-long cruise booked only three weeks ahead by someone who wasn't keen on the idea of travelling one of those vast cruise liners. And this cruise was a wonderful experience! The gorgeous, Greek-operated yacht, Variety ... Read More
This was a week-long cruise booked only three weeks ahead by someone who wasn't keen on the idea of travelling one of those vast cruise liners. And this cruise was a wonderful experience! The gorgeous, Greek-operated yacht, Variety Voyager, with a cosmopolitan, friendly and hugely competent crew, provided a sociable and attractive setting, serving up delicious food, perfect cocktails and even a beauty therapy salon. A naturalist from Costa Rica was on board to tell us about the places - and the fabulous wildlife - we were going to see, and a comprehensive list of optional excursions allowed us, for example, to visit Panama City and see from above the Canal we had just passed through. We had the opportunity to visit remote spots both in Panama and Costa Rica most easily accessible by sea and the ship's Zodiacs would take us to deserted beaches and islands, where we could swim and snorkel (all snorkelling equipment provided!). Always fresh towels available, both for the beds on the sun deck and when we set off to swim from these beautiful beaches. Wi-fi available at a cost, but a little unreliable. My cabin was on the lowest deck - a twin-berth (very comfortable bed) with two portholes, plenty of space for my suitcase and a second case, a decently-sized wardrobe, with safe and refrigerator (and plenty of bottles of water), dresser, flat-screen television set with DVD and a good bathroom. European voltage (240v), with both European and American sockets available. Good lighting (something I always notice!) and air-conditioning. Also plenty of mirrors - often in short supply in hotels. I enjoyed it so much that I am taking another cruise two months later, this time of the Greek Islands! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
I am basically a land lover but I decided to go on a charter through the Panama Canal. The group was from ivy universities and was scheduled in 2014 to celebrate 100 years since the Panama Canal was opened. The trip was magical, because of ... Read More
I am basically a land lover but I decided to go on a charter through the Panama Canal. The group was from ivy universities and was scheduled in 2014 to celebrate 100 years since the Panama Canal was opened. The trip was magical, because of this experience I have gone on the ship, not charter weeks, two more times. The second trip was through the Canal again. The first time the Canal passage was during the day, the second was at night. The two had different ports and tours. Both were in winter months and took me away from cold, nasty weather to warm and magical. The third trip was in October to Sicily and Malta. Each morning, going into another port was an experience making the trip worthwhile in itself! The ship is not large, 70 passengers, 30 crew. The ship is spotless, the food is varied and delicious. All the professional crew members, as well as the maintenance and cleaning individuals were friendly, helpful and charming. The three outstanding individuals for me were: Captain Andreas, open bridge policy, experience, and knowledge of the ship and ports; the musician/ IT man, Milos, his help to the passengers with any Internet or computer situation, but above all, his live entertainment...keyboard, singing, special requests, many passengers commented to each other and to me what a delight; Elliott, the Costa Rican Conservationist, unbelievable knowledge of plants, animals, insects...a delight to hear and watch his presentations and then to go ashore and take in the best of the country. The onshore tours were all educational, and completely worthwhile. The crew is made up of individuals from many different countries, Greece, Egypt, Serbia, Ukraine, etc...everyone I met spoke more than one language, all speak English, none have English as their first language. For me, this fact led to more charm. Reading and relaxing on deck, taking the Zodiac to shore, sometimes with a wet landing requiring extra shoes, swimming on a beach or off the ship, relaxing or learning about a new area or port during the day and dressing for a sit down dinner at night, listening to live music or disc jockey night with dancing, many choices for various tastes and desires, a world of its' own exists on this ship.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
Harmony V Classical Greek Cruise by Variety Cruise is FANTASTIC!. My husband and I celebrated my 60th birthday with a trip to Greece. We had never been on a cruise and knew that we had no interest in a large or mid-size ship. Everything ... Read More
Harmony V Classical Greek Cruise by Variety Cruise is FANTASTIC!. My husband and I celebrated my 60th birthday with a trip to Greece. We had never been on a cruise and knew that we had no interest in a large or mid-size ship. Everything about this cruise turned out perfect – the staff & crew, the service, the ship, the itinerary – it was all flawless. The staff was extremely accommodating and helpful. Joseph, the cruise director was a highlight everyday with his informative and entertaining guides and reports and we always enjoyed the excursions that he led. He patiently took care of every detail and has a great sense of humor. Spiros, the “hotel” manager and his staff were very efficient. Cabins were cleaned twice a day and the restaurant/bar service was perfect. The food on board was as good as any on the islands that we visited - Daily buffet breakfast with an egg/omlette station, buffet lunches & dinners and 2 plated 5 course meals. The captain and crew were very experienced and provided regular updates about weather and sea conditions. The ship holds a maximum of 50 people which provided the opportunity to travel to islands that can’t accommodate large cruise ships. The rooms are not large because of the size of the ship but they are quite comfortable. We had a room with twin beds with plenty of storage room and a bathroom that was small but not confining. The dining room, bar and outside deck area are well maintained with plenty of room to accommodate all the guests. The itinerary allowed plenty of time to see the islands and we stayed at port at many locations through the evening so that we could have dinner and enjoy the nightlife. It was great fun to have swim stops in coves along the way on various days. We never felt rushed with any of the schedule. One of the nicest things about this cruise is the small ship experience. We got to know the other passengers quite well and really enjoyed meeting new people from all over the world. As Joseph kept reminding the passengers – “you are travelers, not tourists” and that is exactly the experience that you have with this small ship cruise. We highly recommend Variety Cruises and particularly Harmony V. We will definitely book another vacation with Variety Cruises again!!   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
My husband and I had a wonderful experience on the Variety Cruises' Harmony V doing it's Classical Greece itinerary. We had never been to Greece before and we couldn't imagine seeing it any other way. The cruise itinerary ... Read More
My husband and I had a wonderful experience on the Variety Cruises' Harmony V doing it's Classical Greece itinerary. We had never been to Greece before and we couldn't imagine seeing it any other way. The cruise itinerary had a very nice mix of destinations and because of the ship size, we got to see some obscure islands that we would have never seen otherwise like Monemvassia, Kea and Kythira. We loved the fact that we could visit a new place every day and the ship even stayed docked until early morning so we could really enjoy the nightlife that many of the islands offered. The crew was fabulous and we especially enjoyed our Cruise Director, Joseph's knowledge and amusing personality. The maid service was so efficient and would clean our room almost the moment we stepped out. The ships chef was also top notch and we had some of the best meals on the ship. The ship was beautiful and spacious with an intimate feel. There were about 30 people on our ship and although we got to know everyone, the ship was big enough to give you personal space. I would highly recommend this cruise line to anyone and we are already planning another Variety Cruise vacation with some friends. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
I had the absolute pleasure of spending the end of June aboard Variety Cruises' Harmony V doing its Classical Greece itinerary. I had been to Greece several times before and I have to say that having done the whole island hopping ... Read More
I had the absolute pleasure of spending the end of June aboard Variety Cruises' Harmony V doing its Classical Greece itinerary. I had been to Greece several times before and I have to say that having done the whole island hopping thing using catamarans and car ferries, constantly packing and unpacking, there truly is no better way to travel than this. We would literally wake up to a new port of call every single day and the best part about these types of cruises is that the ship literally stays docked on the islands up until very late at night so that you can go out and enjoy the nightlife as opposed to the other cruises which literally have you spending only 4-5 hours at each port of call. The itinerary itself is a very nice mix of the more popular and well known ports of call like Mykonos and Santorini but, then it also covers some of the more out of the way, not so touristy, more exclusive spots like Kythira, Monemvassia and Hydra for example which I have never been to. The ship itself is magnificent, modern and sleek in design, it's the closest I'll probably ever come to feeling like Aristotle Onassis. The staff was excellent and the service could not have been better, they were literally picking up after me in my cabin at least two or three times a day it seemed. The great thing about these small ship yacht cruises is that you really do get a very personalized experience. The ship is small enough so that you get to know everybody on board and yet at the same time it is also large enough so that it never feels too crowded. There were about 25 people on our trip so I believe that the ship was about half full. There's free wifi on board as well which definitely helps pass the time while you are on board. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
We just returned from a great trip on Harmony V, through Variety Cruises. A 7 day trip that was fabulous! From the itinerary to the service,the food, to the boat to the weather. Please note that this is a cruise for travelers, not ... Read More
We just returned from a great trip on Harmony V, through Variety Cruises. A 7 day trip that was fabulous! From the itinerary to the service,the food, to the boat to the weather. Please note that this is a cruise for travelers, not cruise-ship folks. The boat is small, holds 54 passengers. We had 27, which made it wonderful too. We visited: Kea Mykonos Delos (day excursion, extra $, but well worth it with a paid guide) Santorini Rethymnon/Crete Kythira Monemvassia - Nafplion Hydra Ranan, our cruise specialist, led us through each town on a walk to point out the main points of interest, routes to go, shopping, etc. She was great! The boat is perfect for this type of vacation. Plenty of space to relax, which we did later in the week while sailing during the day. Breakfast is provided, and was great. Each day, either lunch or dinner is provided, giving guests the opportunity to have a meal on each island and try the local cuisine. Each port had plenty of tavernas or more upscale restaurants. It was a great way to explore each place.We had a mixture of Americans, Spanish, Italian and Greek people on board with us. The service on board was exceptional. The crew truly worked hard to make sure we were happy. I highly recommend this company. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
With the exception of Santorini we were able to dock at each port and even there we had a good-sized tender to take us to the Cable Car to Fira. On the first evening Captain Emmanuel warned us that he didn't think he would be able to ... Read More
With the exception of Santorini we were able to dock at each port and even there we had a good-sized tender to take us to the Cable Car to Fira. On the first evening Captain Emmanuel warned us that he didn't think he would be able to go directly to Delos and would proceed to Mykonos. He was right! The Meltemi winds were blowing and the sea was dancing with white caps. We arrived in Mykonos early in the AM and after breakfast left for Delos on one of the regular tour boats. Sometimes an ill wind does blow good because it made Delos tolerable when on a non-windy day it would have been dangerously hot. Others have complained about Variety's changes in plans, but in our case, instead of dinner in Mykonos,because we had to leave port early, we had a great fish dinner in Paros and watched the ferry from Athens disembark crowds. Paros may be the new Mykonos. We were particularly interested in visiting vineyards in Santorini, our next port, so our on-shore cruise director arranged for twelve of us to go on a wine tour instead of the usual itinery. We found some REALLY good Greek wines and an incredible Vin Santo at Arguros Winery. Our gang of ten opted for the beach at Rethymno instead of Knossos in Crete. The beach was equipped with umbrellas and chaises as well as water sports facilities. The people who chose to go to Knossos returned to say that the 3-hour bus ride was tiring and the heat awful. (I wonder if Variety could dock Harmony V nearer to Knossos for that reason.)Greek night took place on Crete with a small troupe of excellent dancers who introduced us to classical dancing, followed with some wild Cretan versions of dancing to bouzouki which we all tried to emulate, not necessarily well. We skipped Kythera early the next day--more Meltemi. But we went on to Monemvassia, the fantastic castle town. Some people even found a beach. We arrived in Nafplio in the evening instead of the next morning and were able to have dinner at an exceptional fish restaurant on the quay in one of the most beautiful towns in Greece. The next day we went off to Mycenae, which reminded us that we needed to make another visit to the Archaeological Museum in Athens to catch up with the real "Mask of Agamemnon." Nafplio has competition from Hydra,where the natives are serious about preservation. Hydra is even more sophisticated than Santorini in certain ways. The Captain's Dinner took place that evening anchored at Aegina. The next morning we woke up in Marina Kea. We did not have a full complement of passengers on the cruise--only 36--which probably added to the positive experience. The wait staff and room staff were pretty young women from the Ukraine and the bartender was a young Russian; she made fantastic Mojitos and Margueritas. The crew were friendly and helpful. Our fellow passengers were really compatible; as far as I know there were no complaints and no "primadonnas." There were four Americans besides our group of ten while the rest of the complement were European and Australian. The cruise is good value for money. The staff are well trained and the service exceptional. Breakfasts were better than our 5-star hotel in Athens, the lunches very good, but perhaps the chef shouldn't try so hard to produce a "gourmet meal" for those dinners aboard. His moussaka and stuffed tomatoes were as good as mine and his lamb on "Greek Night" superb. This is not a cruise for someone who wants casinos, daily pseudo-Broadway entertainment, non-stop eating, and pampering. It's for people who like a laid-back experience and are capable of entering the spirit of small ship cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
Unfortunately we were very disappointed with the cruise for the following reasons. When we booked the cruise we were told that Seafarers did not have the 2010 brochure but would send us the 2009. We were told that everything was the ... Read More
Unfortunately we were very disappointed with the cruise for the following reasons. When we booked the cruise we were told that Seafarers did not have the 2010 brochure but would send us the 2009. We were told that everything was the same except the prices. However once on board we were told that we had to pay for our drinks at meal times. Whereas the brochure stated that these were free with our meals. At best with a cruise costing £3700 this is extremely mean - secondly contravenes the Trade Description Act. As a 'Mega Yacht' we expected some level of luxury. The cabins are no bigger or better appointed than a standard cabin on a larger cruise ship. Our shower to say the least needed some tender loving care. There was only 11 sun beds for 44 people! It was impossible to use the lounge as the TV was on all the time with the volume very high! The 'Full American Breakfast' consisted of some cereals and fruit was very nice, however, the hot breakfast comprised to two hot trays. Not exactly a full breakfast! The main meals of the day provided very good food but the only choice was for the main meal - there was never a choice even for desert! Besides all this as we ended up spending over half the 'cruise' in Patmos Harbour due to high winds in the Aegean SEA . We fully accept that the Captain was correct in protecting our safety and comfort. But From our point of view it is not much of a cruise sitting in a harbour. While we understand we could not keep to the itinerary we do not understand why we could not have at least cruised to islands in the area where the weather was fine. There were many much smaller vessels coming in and out of the harbour all the time. Obviously the actually cruising is a large part of the enjoyment on going on a cruise. We may have just as well stayed in a Hotel in Patmos, where we would have had much more room and a swimming pool - for a lot less money!!! A concern is that one of the passengers had done this cruise twice before and has never been to Mykonos??!!! So three cruise and he still has not seen the island. I have since spoken to someone else who did this cruise and they also did not get to Mykonos!! Because of the 'bad weather' we had to return to Athens by a massive Ferry along with cars and trucks. The Captains meal was brought forward a day and therefore made the end of the holiday. So the next day was just hanging around waiting to go home. Even that day the lunch and dinner were a buffet - surely one does not pay all this money to queue up for your food!! The evening meal was brought forward to 7.00pm although we could not get on the ferry until 11.00pm!!! Again, much hanging around. In effect it took us 22 hours to get home - excluding the whole day of Thursday in effect waiting to get on the ferry. Had to pack in the afternoon and put the cases out before 7.00pm. But they where still there at 10.00 pm!!! This was to us going to be a 'once in a lifetime' cruise. So we had hoped you can understand our disappointment. The whole idea was a luxury cruise with more room and meal choice as opposed to the large ships, but in fact it was the opposite. On the positive side we would have to say the crew at all times were very helpful, efficient and smiling. In particular Christian was very knowledgeable and helpful. Especially with the change of itinerary and with the ferry. We have emailed no end of times to Seafarers although the lady in the office always answers these - her manager took 2 months to even acknowledge our disappointment.Had numerous excuses that he was on holiday the top man of Variety Cruises was on a trip etc etc. Over 3 weeks ago he promised to come back to me at the end of that week and guess what - !! Read Less
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