L'Austral Cruise Review by Dutch Diver: Awe-inspiring Antarctica on l'Austral
Awe-inspiring Antarctica on l'Austral
A cruise to Antarctica is pricey, expensive even, but it is absolutely worth it! We saw amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery. It felt as if we were in a nature documentary for two weeks.
Having previously cruised on 2500+ passenger cruise ships, the atmosphere and the level of service on this 200 passenger mega-yacht was very different. No lines, for instance. Also, crew was very approachable. The captain welcomed everyone in person and he was present at several dinners. The naturalists/guides were always available to answer questions.
Even though French is the primary language on board, all announcements and briefings were in English as well. There was never a language barrier, nor were non-French speakers treated differently.
Our stateroom was very nice, with good size beds and all the comforts you would expect. Lots of storage space. Bath room with separate toilet and shower. Housekeeping staff was excellent. Always friendly, always able to help with More requests.
Compared to the big cruise lines like Carnival and NCL, the food on l'Austral is certainly better. However, don't expect Michelin star or Steak house quality. It's upscale restaurant food. I was surprised by the freshness of the ingredients, even after two weeks cruising. Also, there was good amount of variety, some days with exotic dishes like kangaroo and skate. The desserts were absolutely delicious!
We had a very rough Drake Passage, but once in Antarctica the skies were clear and the weather stayed remarkable friendly.
Expeditions were spectacular. There had been lectures by the naturalists to inform us about the wildlife we'd see, but seeing (and smelling) a penguin colony for yourself is very special indeed. We saw more wildlife then we'd ever imagined.
In the Antarctic Peninsula, we visited Paradise Bay, Neko Harbor, Wilhelmina Bay, Port Lockroy, Port Charcot, the Lemaire Channel, Dallmann Bay, Deception Island, Hannah Point, Gourdin Island and Brown Bluff. We then went back North via Elephant Island to the Falkland Islands for another four stops: Stanley, Volunteer Point, Saunders Island and New Island.
After the Falklands we had three sea days and we finished the cruise in Montevideo, Uruguay.
(for a more detailed review, including photos, visit the Antarctica section in Forums > Ports of Call) http://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=475 Less
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Cabin review: 315
Our stateroom was very nice and comfortable (about the size of a Carnival balcony stateroom). Two beds that convert to a king size bed, a desk with four drawers, a minibar, a clothes closet with hanging space and shelves, also with a personal safe, hairdryer and bathrobes. For your listening pleasure, there's an iPhone/iPod dock (with remote) that doubles a alarm clock. There are a two outlets at the desk, one 110V, one 230V. They voltages are labeled, but you'll see the difference as well by the shape of the sockets. Bring a power strip if you have more than 2 devices (who doesn't, these days?). On the wall above the desk was a (white) 32" flat screen TV. We used the TV mostly used for viewing the cruise info/map channel that also showed the daily schedule. Sometimes we'd watch the ship's front camera, but the picture was not sharp and a bit over-saturated. There was no satellite TV signal, as we'd be out of range most of the time. There's a (tricky to navigate) entertainment system to view about two dozen movies in several languages. You get two complementary large bottles of mineral water and housekeeping restocks them when needed. Housekeeping staff was excellent. Always friendly, always able to help with requests. Turndown service included two biscuits (varying nightly). Tip: bring a Ziploc bag to store these biscuits overnight and you have mid-afternoon treat. The bathroom is split into two areas with separate doors. One has a toilet and the other has a shower and sink. The sink/shower area has a window which lets the daylight in, with a sliding door if you need some privacy. The shower had decent pressure and a big hand-held hose. The balcony about the size of a Carnival balcony, maybe a little bigger. It has two wicker chairs and a small table. Balconies on deck 3 have a solid railing, slightly different from the decks above where the upper part is open. The result is that on deck 3 balconies you can't see much if you're sitting down.