Silver Cloud Expedition Cruise Review by Carol From California
- Sail Date: February 2018
- Destination: Antarctica
The summer season for the 10 day Ushuaia to Ushuaia cruises runs for three months, from December to February. We were on the last 10 day cruise of the season. One thing I noticed is that as the cruise date approached the fares kept going up so I would recommend booking early for the best pricing. Silversea also often runs a 10% discount for paying in full which we also took advantage of. Our cruise was fully booked with just under 200 passengers. Passengers were a diverse group. We met people from all over the US, Australia, England, China, Africa, Dubai and other countries. Crew numbers over 200.
Silversea also offered a business class air package which we thought was well worth it. For $2,950 per person It included the roundtrip air, an overnight at a hotel in Santiago, Chile, and a charter flight to and from Santiago to Ushuaia with all transfers.
We left Los Angeles on February 16 and flew to Houston for our connecting flight to Santiago. We arrived in Santiago on February 17 and were met by Silversea representatives at the airport. We were transported to the San Cristobal Tower Hotel in Santiago. We were told that we had to be in the lobby at 4:15 am the following morning for the bus ride back to the airport for our charter flight to Ushuaia. There were strict reminders about luggage weight and carryon bags but nothing was checked or enforced. We got to the airport and departed at 1 PM. The flight is around 4 hours. When we landed we were taken in a bus to a lovely hotel in Ushuaia up in the hills where they served us a buffet lunch. We departed the hotel a few hours later to the port in Ushuaia where we boarded the ship. Eventually we had the muster drill, finally embarked and were on our way to the Drake Passage. We were very fortunate to have a very smooth crossing, which wasn’t the case on our return. More on that later.
We were in a balcony cabin on deck 5. We originally booked a cabin on deck 4 (no balcony) but were upgraded. I was glad we had a balcony as there were times that I stepped out on the balcony to take photos. When whales were sited just off the ship, it was announced on the loud speaker and we would run out to the end of deck 5 where they opened it for passengers to take photos. Both humpbacks and orcas were sited. It was very exciting to see them play alongside the boat and they were huge!
When we first went in our cabin we found our pre-ordered parkas on the bed, two backpacks, and two insulated flasks. We brought our own boots and trekking poles but the majority of the passengers rented them. Boots are labeled with tags showing your cabin number. The boots are kept in a special room on shelves by suite number. Each time you return to the ship you go through a process to clean your boots from penguin poop. There is a machine that is sort of a “car wash” for your boots.
There was a mandatory zodiac briefing and kayak briefing for those who wanted to kayak. There was a lottery for the kayaks. We signed up and were selected but on the day we were supposed to go my husband did not feel well so we did not do it. Those that did it said it was really great.
Every evening we received the daily Chronicle in our cabin which would outline the activities for the following day. Every passenger is assigned to a color group which is listed on the back of your room key. We were in the black group. The group times rotated so that you were not always the first one or last one off the ship on the zodiacs. There were two times each day to go out on the zodiacs. Each time you went out it was for around 1 1/2 hours. At 7 am there was an announcement in our cabins letting us know where we were going. There were certain landings we were supposed to go to, and occasionally the conditions were such that they decided to go someplace else. This makes each voyage unique. We had very good conditions at all the stops and weather varied between 32 and 35 degrees. We were not cold because we were well prepared.
For clothing, we had the base layer, second layer, the provided parka, wool socks, the boots, gloves, gaiter, and hat. Trekking poles were useful on some of the landings.
From the Captain’s Log:
Ushuaia to Aitcho
Aitcho to Yankee Harbour
Yankee Harbour to Mikkelsen Harbour
Mikkelsen Harbour to Charlotte Bay
Charlotte to Danco Island
Danco Island to Gonzales Videla Station
Gonzales Videla Station to Cuverville Island
Cuverville Island via Lemaire Channel to Borgen Bay
Borgen Bay to Whaler’s Bay
Whaler’s Bay to Half Moon Island
Half Moon Island to Ushuaia
Total Nautical Miles: 1919 Nautical MIles
We saw lots and lots of penguins. There were Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins. We also encountered many humpback whales and even orcas. There were lots of fur seals as well as leopard and weddell seals. There were many varieties of birds unique to Antarctica. The glaciers and icebergs were spectacular. We witnessed some glacier calving. Being at the end of the season we were very fortunate to see the whales.
The expedition staff, led by Kara Weller were outstanding. We attended many lectures on the ship. There are marine biologists, birders, scientists, photographers, geologists, historians, and more.
The ship has a first class photo studio where you could attend clinics and print photos on board. At the end of the trip you have the option of purchasing a video with music, which highlighted the voyage. Included are several hundred photos. We of course purchased it.
When we visited Deception Island there was an opportunity to do the Polar Plunge. The site of a former volcano there is steam at the water’s edge which heats the water somewhat, but it is still very, very cold. I didn’t do it but was surprised that so many did!
Ship dining: The Restaurant (main dining room) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, La Terrazza for breakfast, lunch and dinner (reservations required for dinner), The Grill (Hot Rocks) for lunch and dinner (reservations required for dinner), La Dame for dinner ($60 per person and reservations required). There is a daily tea time in La Terrazza. We thought the food overall was very good, but not the very best we have had on other cruises. We had dinner at La Dame for our anniversary.
The crew are outstanding. From our butler Dorothy (yes we had a female butler), to all the restaurant wait staff, cabin steward, etc., all are very friendly and many call you by name. Special kudos to Scott and Allan in La Terrazza….but really, all the crew are fantastic!
Our conditions on the way back through the Drake Passage were not the same as the way down. We encountered rough seas and 20 foot waves. This was a more normal Drake Passage we were told. Most of the passengers were well prepared with either the patch or medications, but the Chinese group were not and many of the them were sick.
We arrived in Ushuaia one day early on the return. We were told that every cruise does this, so to be sure that the ship is back in time for the next voyage. This gave us the opportunity to get off the ship and walk around Ushuaia the day before debarkation. On the day of debarkation we were told to be off the ship by 8:20 am. A bus was there waiting for us. We got on the bus and were driven to a parking lot in Ushuaia where we were told that we would be for a few hours before driving to the airport. We were told we could walk around Ushuaia or stay on the bus. Everyone was somewhat angry about this. We eventually made our way to the airport in Ushuaia. There was a further wait for our flight which did not depart until 1 pm. Arriving in Santiago we had to wait until almost midnight for our next flight which was to Houston. We had a short stopover in Houston. From the time we disembarked the ship and until we landed at LAX was 31 hours! This was the worst part of the trip….the flight times out of South America are really awful and the airports are also miserable and disorganized. There were long lines for immigration and customs in both directions.
In summation I would describe this cruise as a “trip of a lifetime”. It truly was a magical surreal experience and a very special way to celebrate our anniversary. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We would consider taking another expedition cruise with Silversea, perhaps to the Arctic or Galapagos.
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