1. The staff didn't seem to prioritise our seeing and experiencing as much as possible. We felt that we were treated like sheep rather than sentient clients who had spent a lot of money for a unique and remote experience. While we understand that the places we travel to are highly regulated to preserve their existence, it seemed that the staff were performing a rote exercise in getting us somewhere and aborting or shortening any visits when conditions were not near perfect. We did not trust that the staff had our interests and maximizing our time with wildlife and on land as a priority.
As an example, we were supposed to have 4 days in Antarctica. Instead, we had less than 2.5. En route to Antarctica from South Georgia, we were told that there was a unique surprise opportunity to stop in the South Orkneys, a place none of the staff had ever been. We spent a day at Laurie Island (perhaps not coincidentally, the expedition leader's name was Laurie). This was described to us as a bonus or extra, but that evening, we were informed we still had a day at sea to reach Antarctica, so it meant our time there would be shortened by a day. We didn't have any input into this decision, which meant that we missed out on must-see highlights of Antarctica, like the Lemaire Channel or Port Lockroy. We will have to go back to experience Antarctica.
Moreover, our final day in Antarctica was shortened to finish by 11am due to an impending storm in the Drake Passage. We were told avoiding the storm would lengthen our route and this was a necessary change. We were thus surprised when we reached the entrance of the Beagle channel (just over 5 hours from Ushuaia) nearly 24 hours before we were due in Ushuaia. The ship slowed noticeably from the typical speed of 13 knots to 3-4 knots, as we would be well ahead of time to meet the pilot who would navigate us through the channel. That evening, we circled the port of Ushuaia all night. It seems that we missed our day in Antarctica for no discernible reason.
We also did not have our second planned day in the Falklands (Stanley). Laurie explained it was due to high winds, but the next day we learned that one of the staff was able to go ashore for a baptism. Also, even though we didn't spend a day in Stanley, we didn’t get to South Georgia early or get to spend more time elsewhere. With all the above, it felt like the ship and trip were to serve the staff more than the passengers.
2. In a related matter, it became clear that staff were incentivized for the extra activities, like cross-country skiing, based on the number of passengers who went/paid. As you know, we had both prebooked the skiing. Iris pulled out due to a prior issue, but Vanessa remained signed up. There were two ski guides, Pete and Chris, and Pete told us he was typically able to take passengers out skiing ~3 times. On our trip, we were told each day that the conditions were not right for skiing up until the very last morning of the trip, before we sailed back to Ushuaia. The activity for the remaining passengers was to visit a chinstrap penguin colony on the same island. I told Pete I would go skiing only if I could also see the penguin colony, as that was my priority given the limited time we had had on land. I told him that otherwise, I would go with the regular groups visiting the penguin colony. He told me we would find a way to do both, and encouraged me to join. On the zodiac on the way to skiing, he mentioned to the rest of the skiiers that I had expressed interest in the penguin colony and asked for input to see what other skiiers wanted to do. No one spoke up, so I said to the whole group, "If no one else is interested in the penguins, I don't have to come skiing, and I can join the other groups going to see the penguins." Pete again told me we would visit the colony, and told me to stay with the skiiers. About 1.5 hours into the skiing activity, he announced to the group that we had a decision point: we could either go see the penguins, or continue higher up the mountain, but not both. Most of the others in the group wanted to go higher up the mountain, with one other skiier wanting to descend. I thus suggested we split up the groups, but Pete refused. I saw a group of snowshoers from the trip (a last-minute scheduled activity that was free and went along much the same route as the paid skiing activity) passing us at that moment, and suggested I could descend with them to catch a zodiac to the penguin colony. Pete again refused, and told me, that is the consensus, and skiied away and up the mountain. I had to turn to Chris, the other guide, who after a 10 minute radio call with Pete, was able to resolve the situation. All of this was unnecessary drama and stress, and it could easily have been avoided if the staff had passenger interests as a priority. (Note: I spoke about this issue directly with Ryan, the guest services director on the ship, as I was quite upset. He handled it well and assured me Quark would be issuing me a full refund for the ski activity).
3. The jacuzzi and pool are advertised as part of the ship's amenities. When we asked for them to be filled on the second day, we were told that they would not be filled until we reached Antarctica, which was the last leg of our trip. It is strange to advertise something and then not be willing to offer it. When we reached Antarctica, we again asked for the jacuzzi and/or pool to be filled. This time, we were told that they were broken. No apologies or offers to make it up to us were offered. That is not acceptable.
4. The first day, we were informed that the bridge had an 'always open' policy, with some exceptions, like when navigating the Beagle channel. However, over the course of 5-6 visits, we only found the bridge open once. During that one visit, we were totally ignored by the crew and staff there, and no one seemed interested in engaging us.
5. There were also minor issues, like mold and leaking in our room, which destroyed two pairs of shoes, leaving water stains. One afternoon we did not have hot water for our showers. Several of the zodiacs had problems on our cruises, with engines breaking. On one occasion, we had to tow another zodiac, causing us to miss viewing a penguin colony. On another, our zodiac broke, and the replacement one was also faulty. We had to wait for a third zodiac to continue our cruise. There were several broken chairs in the main lounges, and it did not appear there was any attempt to fix them.
In general, we saw a theme of overpromising and underdelivering. When we are paying over $15,000 each for a trip, we expect Quark to deliver on their offering, and we do not think that was the case here.
Broke my luggage during disembarkation. and then lied about it. Then continue to lie about many items when we reached out to them for resolution.
Ship was really old, everything was broken. There was water leak and mold in room.