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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
We were on the Cape Verde cruise starting from Palmeira on Sal, in November 2018. We enjoyed the experience; the only drawback with this particular cruise is that the ports on Santiago and Fogo are commercial ports, not designed for cruise ... Read More
We were on the Cape Verde cruise starting from Palmeira on Sal, in November 2018. We enjoyed the experience; the only drawback with this particular cruise is that the ports on Santiago and Fogo are commercial ports, not designed for cruise ships nor geared for " doing your own thing". Thus the choice is the excursion or staying aboard. Captain Ioannis, Cruise Co-ordinator Dietmar, and Hotel Manager Petros worked wonderfully well as a team, as did their staff, and despite some rough weather their attention to our comfort and safety was exemplary; we never felt any anxiety, or wanted for anything that they could supply. The last three days of the cruise, in San Vicente, and Santo Antao, are the best. The towns are near where the ship docks, taxis are available, so one can create ones own expedition; in fairness, for the morning of the last day of the cruise one would be better on the organised tour, which was informative and drove through amazing scenery. The ship is not the best of Variety's fleet, but with discipline, cabins are just large enough; as another reviewer mentioned the exception - the two Category B cabins forward on the main deck. Okay for single, couples should avoid. The Category C cabins on the lower deck, waterline level, were reported by fellow guests as good for value, the least expensive and the least affected by the ship's motion. For Category B try to get 202, on the main deck near the dining room, but Variety cruises will not allow reservation of a cabin by number, in advance. Dining room is a little cramped, though the food generally is good. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
What a pleasant trip.Staff were so friendly they made you feel at home. The Food was good to excellent and the cruise was a wonderful opportunity to meet lovely people and new friends from all round the world. It was our first time ... Read More
What a pleasant trip.Staff were so friendly they made you feel at home. The Food was good to excellent and the cruise was a wonderful opportunity to meet lovely people and new friends from all round the world. It was our first time in Seychelles and the 7 night cruise on this small ship was an ideal way to see most of the main islands. The cabin (category A) was pleasant and the shower was good but we do not understand why we paid more for a category A cabin than a B cabin as there is no difference between the two other than an A being more pricey. The waters were choppy and large swells made the ship rock and roll which can make one feel sea sick(my wife) but others found it enjoyable! Entertainment was fine and the activities visiting the islands were enjoyable but the snorkeling disappointing. Disappointed that we spent 2 nights in the harbor especially the one at Praslin and suggest the management reconsider this as an overnight stay. All in all an enjoyable first time experience on the this small cruise. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
The ship was exclusively chartered by Vantage World Travel for a cruise around the British Isles. After an overnight in the beautiful Hotel Principal in Edinburgh, we were driven by motorcoach to Inverness, where we embarked on the ... Read More
The ship was exclusively chartered by Vantage World Travel for a cruise around the British Isles. After an overnight in the beautiful Hotel Principal in Edinburgh, we were driven by motorcoach to Inverness, where we embarked on the Voyager. We had a total of 61 passengers, and about 30 crew. This was our tenth trip with Vantage. The ship is well-decorated; we had cabin 330, the largest category except for the owner's suite. There are five decks including the sun deck. There is no lift/elevator, so there are lots of stairs, and they are steep. The dining room was on the same deck with our cabin, and the lounge was one deck below that, so most of our stair-climbing was between those two decks. The next deck down contains a small spa and library and a rear deck from which, in warmer weather ports, one can swim. The wi-fi is available for a charge, and unlike other ships I've been on, it is very slow and is suitable only for email. The food on board is fair-to-good. Dinner rolls were always stale, coffee was always weak, and main courses at dinner were always drowned in sauces. The breakfast and lunch buffets were good, never great. Dinners were not well-thought-out. One night we had lamb shanks, the next night osso bucco (veal shank!) Desserts were only fair. The ship is small, and in rough seas it can really be rough. We had two nights when it was difficult to get into bed because of the ship's movement. Now the good news: The crew was sensational. Most of the executives were Greek, and the servers from Mauritius or Ukraine. The excursions were excellent. And James, our Vantage program manger, was fantastic. He knew every passenger by name, and took care of all of us. We stopped in the Isle of Skye, Orkney. Oban, Belfast, Dublin, two places in Wales, Stonehenge, and finally overnight in London. There was regional entertainment on board, and all of it was worthwhile. Overall a very good cruise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Our cab driver pulled up to the dock and we could not believe how beautiful the Galileo was. Luckily, he recognized the Greek spelling for Galileo and drove us right to the gangplank. The crew and staff offered friendly and premium ... Read More
Our cab driver pulled up to the dock and we could not believe how beautiful the Galileo was. Luckily, he recognized the Greek spelling for Galileo and drove us right to the gangplank. The crew and staff offered friendly and premium service from the moment we arrived and through the entire cruise. Passengers were allowed to be casual and comfortable. The food was delicious, authentic, plentiful and in true Greek fashion they begged us to take more. They were graciously able to accommodate dietary restrictions. Our cabin was comparable to the hotel room we stayed in while enjoying Athens. Our plan to see the Greek Isles was cancelled due to high winds. Day by day we would learn the new itinerary and next adventure. The stops that they found for us were outstanding and included many sites of historic significance. Lion Gate, Olympia, Monemvassia, and more. The excursions and entertainment were well planned. Every port people would run over with cameras to see our ship. By the end of the trip we were all convinced that small ship travel was the way to go. Passengers who started out as strangers became friends. Some of us will be visiting each other in Australia, UK, and US. Most importantly, as women traveling alone we felt safe. We are looking forward to our next adventure with Variety Cruises. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
The itinerary from Malaga to Lisbon, Portugal appealed to me and my sister. Additionally, we hadn't cruised on a small ship before. The best things were the informality of it, the personal attention of crew, and the lively ... Read More
The itinerary from Malaga to Lisbon, Portugal appealed to me and my sister. Additionally, we hadn't cruised on a small ship before. The best things were the informality of it, the personal attention of crew, and the lively interactions with other cruisers, and of course, Spain and Portugal! Things work differently when there are less than fifty passengers on a cruise. When a port change was necessary due to weather, the captain gathered us in the lounge and explained wave height, etc. From our last port (in the Algarve) we were bussed a few hours into Lisbon instead of enduring a gruelling overnight trip around the coast. I am not sure that I would want to cruise out into the Atlantic on a ship that size. I didn't have any trouble with seasickness on the other legs of the journey, but I could feel the rocking. The crew was friendly and personable. My sister got an impromptu galley tour when she looked at the inside dining room. We chatted with the captain on several occasions. We were only 35 cruisers on that trip so the ratio between crew and cruiser was great! Dining was on a sheltered deck with several large shared tables. Seating was not assigned. The food was okay with a choice between two main courses (fish or meat). On a couple of evenings, there were self-serve buffets with a wide range of food choices. Desserts were not the chef's strong suit, but fruit was available. The ports were well chosen. I particularly liked Cadiz, a charming small city. We overnighted at most ports of call so evenings out was a possibility and no fear of missing the ship. We took the train into Seville on our first day in Cadiz and visited the royal palace. There was a ship's tour on offer but we opted for the lower cost do-it-yourself option. We only took one ship's tour - to Ronda. We enjoyed the international crowd on the ship. We had informal dancing on the deck a couple of times. The only other entertainment - some board games in the lounge, movies, and swimming (once) off the back of the ship. We didn't miss shows, etc. because many of our fellow cruisers were well-travelled and we enjoyed good conversations. The cruise would not work for people with more than minor mobility issues. One port required tendering - but in a Zodiac with PFD's on! The stairs to the lower deck was very steep. The ship would particularly appeal to groups of friends travelling together and to gregarious people. It works well for fine weather cruising since there is not a lot of indoor common space. And we had fine weather! It was disappointing though that the sails were only put up once, just as a demo / photo opp. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
The staff and our Itinerary made by our Travel host ( Expo Cruise)were outstanding. Rooms were clean, service was outstanding. Food was great. Everything was handled with great efficiently. I think it helped that the majority ... Read More
The staff and our Itinerary made by our Travel host ( Expo Cruise)were outstanding. Rooms were clean, service was outstanding. Food was great. Everything was handled with great efficiently. I think it helped that the majority of our fellow passengers were a happy, well travelled group. Entertainment on board is fine, but with our travel group we were able to dial it up. The Crew read the group well and adjusted to making fun loving , action pack trip . The food was fresh and good. I would not say a gourmet , but well presented. If you had a special request they did there best to accommodate. We found the all the staff eager to help and learned individual request quickly. The Captain was engaging and available at any time. You could see he was well respected, and his leadership skills were evident thru out. Would most definitely cruise with them again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2016
We chose this cruise because friends we went with had very little available time on their trip to the USA. We all enjoyed the two night cruise - a lot more than expected. Our friends had the top of the line cabin which was really lovely ... Read More
We chose this cruise because friends we went with had very little available time on their trip to the USA. We all enjoyed the two night cruise - a lot more than expected. Our friends had the top of the line cabin which was really lovely with a balcony - twice as big as ours (at nearly twice the price) with a fridge, large flat screen TV, drinks and toiletries and a bath as well as shower. Our cabin was fine - good size but no fridge. Nice window though and clean. Bed very comfy. We had our first meal (lunch) in the buffet restaurant which was awful. Food was fine but seating like a packed McDonalds. Most passengers seemed to prefer it to the dining room which I found strange. We ate in the Admiralty Club the first night - food and service (particularly Yurii) was amazing but we ate in the same restaurant the second night and had the normal (free) fare which was also amazing so don't know about the value of an extra $30 per person unless money is no object. We had breakfast in the main dining room - again very nice with linen tablecloths and napkins. Breakfast food not so great but adequate. We could order eggs from the kitchen which was perhaps advisable. The staff were great and very helpful although we did twice ask for directions from staff and were sent in the wrong direction! We didn't go to any of the shows - spent 2 hours eating and then went to bed at 11pm. The noises later from the passage were pretty loud. This cruise had far more young people than the only other cruise we have taken. One word - if you are a beer drinker, do not buy the liquor package. It's cheaper without the voucher. Voucher is fine for wine, cocktails etc. We were a little upset that foreigners were not allowed to disembark until Americans had done so - orders from Immigration. We would have waited hours had our friends not had royal treatment from the ship's staff. We tried to leave the ship at 8.30am and had to wait until 9.00am until the crew arranged for us to leave - by then the queue for US passport holders was huge. I think there were very few foreign passport holders so don't understand the logic. This had nothing to do with the ship but not enough Immigration officers maybe? Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
This was my first cruise ever and I really loved it. It's amazing to be sailing with a small ship. There were only 17 guests on board so you had a feel of having the ship for yourself. We did the adriatic cruise and visited 4 ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever and I really loved it. It's amazing to be sailing with a small ship. There were only 17 guests on board so you had a feel of having the ship for yourself. We did the adriatic cruise and visited 4 countries in 1 week: croatia, montenegro, albania and greece. Unfortunately we weren't able to get a close spot in the harbor/port in every city so sometimes you need to walk or take a bus/cab to get to the nearest city center. The crew is extremely nice and helpfull! Every day (except for one) we were able to do an excursion on shore to see the sights. I could really recommend the excursion to Butrint in Albania, the palace of queen elizabeth of austria (sissy) in corfu town and the city of Budva in Montenegro. The other cruises were not really worthwhile. Due to the fact that the ship arrived early in the morning we were able to avoid the big cruise ship masses. That's another advantage of a small cruise ship. On the minus side: * The food is okay especially breakfast and lunch but for dinner we only had 2 buffet style dinners and the rest was a strict menu (you could choose between fish or meat). I prefer buffet type of dinners. * You can buy wifi access on board (€20 per 500Mb). The data limit is a problem because lots of people have their smartphone settings tuned to wifi (to transfer photos etc). I also use a travel app to inform family and friends which I was unfortunately not able to use due to the limit. * We had less guests on board which is great but on the other hand you pay the max price for the excursions which made it very expensive. * During dinner/breakfast time the servants grabbed your plate out of your hands and brought it to your table (even if you were one step away). This felt extremely awkward for all of the guests and although they must have felt it (guests were saying no) they kept on doing that. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We chose this cruise because bus trips aren't my thing. We also wanted to see Cuba before the American economic invasion. The ship can hold 49 people but we were only 13 passengers - ideal! Since there were so few of us, they put ... Read More
We chose this cruise because bus trips aren't my thing. We also wanted to see Cuba before the American economic invasion. The ship can hold 49 people but we were only 13 passengers - ideal! Since there were so few of us, they put everyone in a main deck cabin, which had windows instead of port holes. Crew walked by, as I discovered to my surprise one afternoon lounging on my bed, but it was nice to have more of a view. The cabins were on the small side, which seems to be usual with small ships. It was impossible to put the luggage under the beds because they were on wooden platform although the crew could store luggage elsewhere if you wished. We ate breakfast & dinner on the ship, with lunches ashore in privately run restaurants. The breakfast was the usual: eggs, oatmeal, dry cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc. Dinners always had a fish entrée & a meat entrée. There were courses for appetizers, soups, entrée, and dessert; often we just had the entrée because of having a large lunch ashore. The last night we had a buffet of Greek food that was great. We ate on a covered top deck, but many nights, when we were usually anchored, it was very warm. There was a bar on the main deck with cocktails, wine, or beer on offer, and drinks could be ordered with dinner as well. All the sightseeing, which was mandatory under the rules for visiting Cuba, was included, and we went to many art galleries, a choir, a Tabaco farm, etc. The towns of Trinidad and Cienfuegos were my favorites. The crew could not have been more helpful. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
We were lucky; we got a substantial discount, including all shore excursions free, our boat was only half capacity, and the folks we did sail with were some of the most congenial we've ever met. If not for all this, I fear we may ... Read More
We were lucky; we got a substantial discount, including all shore excursions free, our boat was only half capacity, and the folks we did sail with were some of the most congenial we've ever met. If not for all this, I fear we may have been disappointed. The Voyager is a very attractive boat, the crew uniformly friendly, helpful, and cheerful. (I suspect that was mainly due to we being such an easy crowd to deal with). Our cabin, 214, was small as expected, but there were plenty of places to stow our gear and we never felt jammed in. The bathroom was surprisingly large. Our two portholes were too high up to look out without a stretch, but we spent as little time in our cabin as necessary anyway. Do be aware that all forward cabins get the noise from the bow thrusters and anchor chains, which can be quite loud. I can only recall one time they were used during sleeping hours, though, and my partner slept right through the noise. The food was good to very good, but never what I would call gourmet. Service in the dining room was excellent. All alcohol is extra, but prices were not unreasonable. The theme of this trip is the natural life of Costa Rica, but, as the excursion descriptions note, sightings cannot be guaranteed. Our first stop, Curu Reserve, had a very intimate feel. Our guide had grown up there and his affection for the place was evident. It was a very easy landing and walk that gave us close up views of many iguanas and monkeys. This was probably the best of the wildlife walks. After our morning visit, there was a short trip to another island for the first of two beach barbecues, easily the best meals of the week, then plenty of time for swimming. The next stop, Manuel Antonio Park is described as a guided walk on small trails through dense rain forest. Actually, you are walking along a very crowded road, the only way through the park as far as I know, and crowding around the guide's telescope hoping for a sight of something. Entry to the park is supposedly controlled; we were kept waiting at the gate for about 45 minutes, then the waiting crowd, probably about 200 strong, was let in all at once. The description also says the tour ends with time at the beach. The beach is indeed beautiful, but those choosing to stay and swim must make their own way back to the ship. The time and distance involved make that impractical. The next stop, Quepos, is made mainly for those wanting to try zip lining. The town itself has little to offer, and the beach is not recommended. We did try the zip lining, had a great time, but don't feel the need to try it again. The Osa Peninsula walk was disappointing - the wildlife just wasn't cooperatin - and the walk was a bit trickier than described; indeed, in wet weather, it must be almost impassible. The description mentions a visit to a turtle hatchery, but it didn't happen and was never mentioned. Casa Orquedas is a private tropical plant preserve, and is indeed a little Garden of Eden. The landing was tricky, on a beach of slippery stones, but the walk very easy. We had the chance to smell and taste many tropical plants and fruits. This was the best excursion for plant life. The next day may have been the best. The morning was spent on Granita del Oro, a speck of sand and palm trees that offered perfect snorkeling conditions, even for us beginners. We really felt like castaways. In the afternoon we sailed a short distance to Coiba for another great beach barbecue. Two nature walks were offered, neither of which anyone felt was worth the effort. There was plenty of beach time here, as well. The last excursion was to the town of La Palma, a small town of mostly African descendants that is trying to build a tourist trade. I did not go on this trip; those who did had mixed opinions. Some felt awkward, others that it was important and worthwhile. Finally, we reached Panama City. We started with a trip to the wonderful Miraflores Locks overlook and canal museum. We then drove to the Old Quarter, which will probably be a great place to visit in another five years or so. Right now, most of it seems to be a construction zone. Our stop here seemed a bit of a waste. The Canal transit is done at night (the cruise line has little say in this) and was quite a thrill. We officially disembarked at Shelter Bay, an attractive little marina, but a few folks got off at Colon when we made a refueling stop. Allow at least two hours for transfer from Shelter Bay to Panama City. All in all, we enjoyed ourselves very much, but I think that if we had paid full fare and for each excursion, we would have felt letdown. I do feel some of the excursions were a bit overhyped. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
Panorama (48 passenger maximum) may be the first small ship in Cuba; this was its first season and rumor has it that it will return next year. Avalon Cruises contracted with Group IST in New York to provide U.S. approved People to People ... Read More
Panorama (48 passenger maximum) may be the first small ship in Cuba; this was its first season and rumor has it that it will return next year. Avalon Cruises contracted with Group IST in New York to provide U.S. approved People to People trips to Cuba for American Citizens who have not previously been able to travel there. Off-ship activities were arranged by Group IST. Most People to People tours are land-based, so this one was unique, and since it was on a small ship, activities included beach time, snorkeling, and beach barbeques. Ship provided masks, fins, and snorkels, but receiving the stuff was not handled efficiently with everybody grabbing for equipment at once as we were about to leave the ship. Equipment to be loaned could have been assigned leisurely earlier in the week to avoid the chaos. On board, the service was excellent, even elegant at dinner. Unfortunately, the food did not match. The chef managed to cook fish, chicken, and beef to cardboard consistency. Best meals we had were at restaurants off ship. The ship was a bit careless in not keeping track of its passengers; it was the ship's responsibility to provide a list of passengers to the Havana port officials who checked each passenger's passport against the list provided. Names were there for three people who canceled the trip at the last minute, but the names of three passengers who were actually there were not on the list, which caused a 40-minute delay when we tried to leave the ship in Havana. We were assured that the ship would accept credit cards, but when it came time to pay, the hotel manager would not accept cards without raised numbers. The newest cards don't have raised numbers, and passengers who tried to use them had not been made aware that theirs would not be accepted, which caused grief for some people who were low on cash. 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
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
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