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1 Stanley to South America Cruise Reviews

First note that this was NOT with Quark Expeditions but with Zegrahm Expeditions, which leased the same ship. Thus this is NOT A REVIEW OF QUARK! Just the ship and itinerary as done by Zegrahm. Zegrahm is however owned by the same parent ... Read More
First note that this was NOT with Quark Expeditions but with Zegrahm Expeditions, which leased the same ship. Thus this is NOT A REVIEW OF QUARK! Just the ship and itinerary as done by Zegrahm. Zegrahm is however owned by the same parent company as Quark. There is no entry for Zegrahm above. This was an all-included cruise, including beer and wine at lunch and dinner and the numerous parties. All I paid for was a couple of mixed drinks and laundry. Also, we did a circumnavigation of South Georgia with a couple of stops in the Falkland Islands. The debarkation was at Ushuaia. First the clientele: old and rich but almost all very fit says it all. I think this goes with circumnavigations of South Georgia without also visiting Antarctica too. Next the ship. It has cabins holding a total of 110 non-crew (i.e. includes customers and the naturalists and Zodiac drivers.) Our trip had, as best I could tell, 78 paying customers, many singles, as they had a big sale "no single supplement". I thought it was just lovely, if a bit old and obviously Yugoslavian (which it was). In fact, it is charmingly nautical, not at all like the land-bound Las Vegas (which I had just got back from.) The price included a flight from Santiago to Stanley (scheduled) and a chartered trip to Buenos Aires, on which the Quark clientele for the next trip had arrived. Both went flawlessly. There were no hotels. I arrived four days early in Santiago and went on a pre-paid custom trip of hiking in the Andes and in lowland hills (astoundingly beautiful waterfall surrounded by palm trees), plus a day tour of Valpariso. This pre-trip was arranged by Zegrahm. Don't cut the stop in Santiago too close ... two speakers (including checked luggage!) made it with only 12 minutes to spare, and two passengers never got their luggage. Take at least an extra day. We did lots of landings on South Georgia, in some cases three landings or landings plus Zodiac drives in one day. With only 78 passengers there is no wait to go ashore, its all over in a few minutes. We did the "usual" long list of places for such a long cruise and saw the usual list of penguins and seals. I'm not going to list them. In fact, we saw just about every animal or bid one expects on land there, including every single truly rare bird species. The scenery was awesome, but not more so, or less so, than the Antarctic Peninsula. We did however notice that there were very few birds or whales around the ship on "at sea" days. I previously went to Antarctica on a similar size ship (G Adventures "Expedition") which had the same "feel". It also had the same food. Not just same food quality, it was essentially identical, down to the delicious raspberry flaky pastries for breakfast. I thought the food was just fine: an attempt at modestly fancy for dinner, buffet otherwise, which was not actually really fancy, but was good. It was clearly aimed at Americans. It was all you could eat, including multiple entrees for dinner. Oh yes, they had infinite cookies 24 hours a day in the lounge, crunchy sugar/butter things some with chocolate chips; the average person was eating say 6 of these a day. They had a 4 pm tea with savory tidbits and seriously caloric sweets plus snacks just before dinner. The talks were excellent. We had a much longer and more varied list of talkers compared to my previous cruise, no better, just more of them. On the way back we got hit with high winds, slowing us to 5 knots and bouncing a lot at times. The ship held up nicely and I at least was never in danger of getting seasick. There were huge waves hitting the bow; they had covered up the windows in the forward-facing lounge with heavy metal plates, and they were needed. Because of this we lost a couple of landings on the Falklands. I should add that one of the few complaints I heard while on board was that "the windows in the lounge and dining room need to be bigger" which is true for the lounge ... but then one risks damage like happened last year to that fancier ship. (Our piano stayed put, but one leg showed signs of distress.) This cruise was at the right time for people who wanted a lot of walking time on land. The seals were plentiful but avoidable. A couple of people, myself included, despite being very careful, got in the way of charging fur seals, but had no difficulty getting to safety. Reports are that a week later the seal situation had become intolerable for landings in most places. We did do several long (up to three hours plus) hikes, some over seriously tussock-grass impeded terrain or quite steep snow. Nobody had a mishap. I very strongly recommend bringing instep crampons or other ice walking aids! Overall: its awesome. But remember, if you do this plus an Antarctic Peninsula trip as two separate ones, you will absolutely rate whichever one is first as "just a little better", barring disaster on one of course. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015

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