This was a once in a lifetime cruise starting in Santiago, Chile….glacial cruising around Cape Horn, Antarctica landings, up the east coast of South America, ending deep in the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil.
For booking, this cruise was forty-two days and technically two back to back cruises on Seabourn Quest, which is reinforced for Antarctica. This was the last summer trip to Antarctica for the season.
We are somewhat adventurous active 60’s with a strong FOMO attitude. This was our second Seabourn cruise. Our first was around the boot of Italy and Croatia. We were so impressed this time that we have signed on for Seabourn’s 146 day 2020 World Cruise.
A main difference for the Seabourn Antarctica cruises is their expedition style. The style during the six days of Antarctica landings is true expedition with professional naturalists, wildlife and geology briefings, safety briefings, equipment checks and lots of outdoor activities.
But no doubt, Seabourn Quest is a luxury ship for around 450 passengers with fine dining, spacious cabins, inclusive beverages (even alcoholic), spa services and intuitive anticipatory service. The ratio of crew to guest is about 85 to 100.
Food was better than cruise ship average but could still improve on spices and regional dish selection and variety. The main restaurant serves four courses with a variety of daily house wines. Premium wine is available at a premium cost.
The Colonnade is buffet style with excellent salad and entrée choices with indoor and outdoor seating. Menu is often theme oriented. Patio/pool side dining has basic fare of burgers, pizza, grilled shrimp, tacos and grilled meat of the day.
The Grill is an upscale “steak house” without added cost but limited seating requiring reservation. It is over the top service including some dishes prepared tableside. The menu has classic, timeless dishes like steaks, lobster thermidor, and Caesar salad. The menu has a varied “dish of the day” but other options remain the same.
In suite dining is inclusive and includes the restaurant daily course menu as well as basics.
Guests are regularly invited to share a table of eight to twelve hosted by a Seabourn Quest staff member or naturalist.
We chose a Veranda Suite which is just less than 300 sq ft and well designed with a walk-in closet, small desk space (sized and plugged for charging devices). There is a queen bed, nice living area with full square table for eating and working. There is a small comfortable sofa, chairs, pull out TV and bar area. (We had our cabin stewardess remove the over abundance of decorative pillows). There are additional drawers and storage space in the TV and bar cabinets.
The veranda has two chairs with a small table. Lay back loungers would have been a nice touch. The veranda is very private except in ports when moored beside other ships.
Cabin service is unmatched. Cleaning service is at least twice a day. Stewardess is quick to help with special requests. Lots of towels and no annoying signs about laundry/water conservation. For well traveled passengers, it is implied.
There are ample electrical plugs and lighting. Mini bar and house liquor,wine and glasses are promptly replenished.
Ship facilities are large and spacious considering the number of passengers. Pools and pool areas are small but chairs are always available and are is swept and clean. Towels and drink service easily available.
The Grand Salon has space for all passengers in a single sitting for information, lectures and entertainment. It has comfortable padded chairs and sofas for 3-5 people. But supporting columns are impossible to see around. So it was necessary to scope out preferred seats.
Self serve wine/beer/soft drinks were available upon entry to Grand Salon. Full bar table service was also available but limited number of servers, so minimal attention here.
Entertainment is pretty standard cruise ship style. In fact, we knew dancers from a previous (HAL) cruise. But the program on the first three week cruise was repeated exactly on the second three week cruise even though we were mostly the same guests. Regional programs brought on board were more enjoyable and unique even if not always in English.
The Seabourn Quest (and sister ships) are small and easy to navigate with lots of elevators. Staff is friendly always saying hello and often calling us by name. The Seabourn Square is comfortable with a minimal library. Available snacks, specialty coffees, drinks are included. Bar and club entertainment is OK. Lots of seating and dance space. Small casino.
Excursions are much improved from our first Seabourn cruise when more than half were cancelled. One of our excursions on this cruise went on even though there were only four people.
Local maps and information for us independent types was available at least a day before. But we did wish for the HAL just in case card that had taxi ready port address and phone numbers in local language.
The shore excursion staff will also make special personal arrangements. We used this service for opera tickets in Buenos Aires. Their follow thru determination included contact by fax for critical ticket timing and approval to a pre-cruise, on our own, resort without wifi. They arranged box seats and a driver to and from the Opera House.
The Antarctica week of the cruise was amazing. It was certainly expedition style. Included in our fare were daily landing excursions off the ship for all passengers. There were zodiac rides, hikes and penguin encounters. Hikes were short or long by choice. Might be a beach walk or a mile hike up the hill. Only 100 people are allowed ashore at a time so we were divided into five groups with changing daily excursion time.
Naturalists were waiting on shore as well as on the zodiacs. Zodiac landings were in groups of twelve. Of course, there was boarding assistance for safety and ease.
This part of the cruise does require stamina for physical activity and cold weather. But unmatched geography, animals, and ice!
A highlight was Deception Island. The captain maneuvered our ship inside this volcanic caldron. Even though the air and land temp was below freezing, the water was tea temp, approx. 90 deg F.
Parkas are provided. Boots and walking poles are available to rent. So no need to take up packing space for these. Gloves, hats, scarves and extra layers are absolutely necessary. An excellent list is sent pre-cruise.
Kayaking is available in Antarctica as an extra purchased excursion. This is an opportunity for a second daily landing, even for inexperienced kayakers. These are two person kayaks. The trips are well supervised by special kayaking naturalists. Kayakers get a special pass to join any zodiac group of the day for scheduling purposes.
Each Antarctica day ends with a pre-dinner recap in the lounge by the naturalists. This includes the next day plan and special documentary topics.
The rest of the cruise up the east side of South America was quite enjoyable but not nearly as unusual. Lots of beach and urban ports. We were able to take a Zodiac tour deep into the bays of the Amazon River.
All in all, the perfect trip for FOMO adventurists with strong luxury ship preferences.