Prince Albert II Review
Ushuaia - Antarctic Peninsula - South Georgia - Falkland Islands 16-day Cruise
March 8 to 26, 2010
This was our second cruise ever - the first one was a 4-night/3-day expedition cruise through the Chilean fiords.
We planned the Antarctic cruise for two years. We were looking for the same expedition experience with the same level of comfort and organization of our first cruise.
We bought the full package with flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back, as no other option was offered. The flights were on the same days of embarkation and disembarkation.
Also comprised in the package was a lunch in Ushuaia on the embarkation day, supposedly a typical Patagonic lamb barbecue. We rated that lunch bellow the rest of the cruise standards.
In the aftermath, we would rather have flown on our own account to Ushuaia one or two days before embarkation - that would have allowed us to have the full scent of that beautiful city and its several tour options.
Embarkation itself was easy and convenient, as well as the butler's attention/guidance and the welcome cocktail. Our luggage was transferred directly from the plane to the cabin. Silversea pampered us with a bottle of champagne and a box of Godiva chocolate.
We stayed in the Expedition Suite on deck three, which is much advisable for rough seas - cabins in lower, more central locations will feel less effect of the swell.
Our suite was spacious - separate sitting room, bedroom, closet and bathroom (with douche and tub). There was plenty of space for our gear. Both sitting room and bedroom were equipped with flat screen TV sets where we could opt to follow the itinerary (with a lot of navigation and weather data), attend lectures or choose from a quite broad selection of films and documentaries, free of charge. Although available, we didn't watch the open channels.
The sitting room was equipped with a sofa-bed, two arm chairs and desk for comfortable reading and computer browsing.
Two windows allowed seeing all the scenery while being washed by the waves.
Most of the ship's activities are performed in the fourth to the sixth decks.
We were frequent visitors of the Library (fifth deck) - where the Internet cafe is located - and the Panorama Lounge, for the good selection of books in both areas. Internet and mobile phone were usable during the entire cruise, with reasonable rates for the Internet. The Fitness Center has four pieces of equipment, enough for the average guest profile. Some well-fitted guests used the tread mill even in rough sea days, while we only ventured on the bicycle.
External areas are quite limited: one front deck in the fifth deck linked by outside corridors to the Outdoor Grill in the back, where two whirlpools are installed. In the back of the sixth deck there is a Viewing Deck. Only when cruising through calm fiord or channel waters the Captain opened the frontal viewing deck at the forth deck. Therefore, viewing areas could get pretty crowded sometimes - especially where whales and orcas were spotted.
The whirlpools were filled and heated in some shaky seas, but no guest took the chance - it turned out the most of the hot water ended up in the ocean or on the open decks/stairs. Even in calm water few passenger used the whirlpools but it is an excellent experience after a full-day walk in Port Stanley, and a weird one with Antarctic snow flakes dissolving in the steam. In the whole trip only 8 passengers used it.
Decoration was elegant in all areas, including cabins. Internal temperature is uniformly 20o.C.
The Boutique offered the customary clothing and drugstore items, along with some souvenirs and some, say, unexpected items like watches and jewelry - we would be surprised if we ever see a guest buying one of those. On the other hand, products more connected the expedition experience - maps, documentary DVDs, books, etc. - were unavailable. We are map lovers and had to buy our South Georgia and Falklands maps on those islands, and Peninsula maps in Ushuaia.
Food and Drink
The Restaurant (forth deck) can handle all guests at the same time. The Chef did an excellent job with the menu, offering a varied selection of dishes at every meal. The carte des vins was quite correct.
Breakfast and lunch are served on a buffet style. Dinner is a four course meal à la carte. All meals are open sitting which is very nice to get in touch with different guests each time.
Morning bullion and afternoon tea were served in the bar, but didn't taste these intermediary meals, as it is not our habit. Also in the Bar we had evening rendezvous with our fellow guests, with piano and karaoke.
On the fourth deck there is a free guest laundry with two washing and two drying machines. It was very busy on sea days.
Beauty Salon and Spa
The Salon is located next door to the launderette. The Spa (sauna and massage room) is on the fifth deck. In comparison to the Launderette, those areas were quite inactive. Susana tried the nail polishing and Marcus tried the massage.
Most of the dinners were dressed casual, only on two were casual elegant - but even then with a broad range of variation. We did enjoy this relaxed code, much in accordance with the whole expedition idea.
Weather allowing, we spent several hours on the outside decks, switching occasionally to the inside lounges to recoup with coffee. Therefore, the usual clothes layering and delayering was quite in order - My husband preferred his own lighter tropical windproof jacket instead of the heavier Silversea parka for this purpose, and for the longer, warmer walks in South Georgia and Falklands.
Our route included Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falklands islands during 16 days. We think it is a short period for the proposed itinerary because we spent 8 days at sea, therefore, activities were quite compressed in the remaining 8 days. For a more reasonable sea-to-land ratio, we think 20- to 22-days cruises should be preferred.
When we first planned our trip, we thought just 10-12 days in Antarctica would be good enough. Availability made we opt for the longer itinerary. Obviously, Antarctic Peninsula is the top experience, and would deserve 1 or 2 more days at least. But South Georgia is as spectacular as the White Continent and should not be missed, if possible. Figure out someone laying a piece of the Alps in the middle of the ocean to imagine the landscape. Add to that hundreds of thousands penguins, elegant albatrosses, beautiful mountain trekking and a bit of history.
We were traveled with a well diversified passengers group. About 25% were US, but Aussies were not far behind. Europe was mostly represented by English and German people; Latin America by us, Brazilians, and an Argentinean couple.
The vast majority aged above 35, only 2 bellow the 30s, but sky is the limit in the upper part of the age range. Most people are well-experienced travelers with lot of stories to tell - a guaranty of good conversation.
Here is one of the strong features of Prince Albert II. All personnel are very gentle and attentive - almost everyone remembered our names.
The Captain and his team made the best to smooth our sailing. Indeed, he inverted the original itinerary (which was supposed to begin in the Falklands and end in Antarctica) to avoid the several weather systems that crossed our path.
The Expedition Team is well organized and quite knowledgeable of their respective fields: we had a historian, a botanist, an ornithologist, 2 naturalists, a geologist and a photographer - all led by 3 expedition leaders. They presented very informative lectures during sea days.
In the Restaurant, service was impeccable even in rough seas. The Hotel team provided every request we made.
The crew was so good that, although gratuities were included in the price, many passengers handed extra tips.