36 Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) Expedition Cruise Reviews

My husband and I recently returned from a 10 day cruise in February to Antarctica. Le Lyrial is a beautiful ship and given our geographical location handles the rough seas and conditions very well. It was hard to find fault with a ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a 10 day cruise in February to Antarctica. Le Lyrial is a beautiful ship and given our geographical location handles the rough seas and conditions very well. It was hard to find fault with a ship that was only 10 months old. Our cabin on deck 5 was more than comfortable with plenty of storage and the cabin stewards took pride in keeping the cabins very clean with plenty of fresh towels and french toiletries. Nothing was ever a problem to them. Our dining experiences on both Level 2 and Level 6 were very enjoyable. There was plenty of choice for both buffet and fine dining with very attentive staff making sure all was okay. As this was an expedition cruise the expedition crew were exceptional and we looked forward to their daily informative talks about the wildlife and the places we would visit. Each day our zodiac excursions whether they be to go ashore or cruise around icebergs or shipwrecks were a highlight. The crew made sure we had plenty of time ashore to look at wildlife or just to take in the scenery. The ease of getting on and off the zodiacs is handled very well with every effort taken to make one feel safe. This is not your normal cruise and cannot be compared to the bigger cruise ships. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sailing on a luxury ship in a very isolated part of the world. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Silversea is one class act. All possible categories to review were excellent, so no need to spend time with details. The Captain, his crew and the Expedition team exceeded every expectation that I had for the adventure. Chef Pia ... Read More
Silversea is one class act. All possible categories to review were excellent, so no need to spend time with details. The Captain, his crew and the Expedition team exceeded every expectation that I had for the adventure. Chef Pia astounded us with her resourcefulness and creativity despite food inventory constraints of being at sea for 19 days. All other staff were professional, experienced and personable. Antarctica is a vast, grand, incredibly pristine and quiet place on Earth. It defies all positive adjectives and superlatives. The penguin and seal colonies in South Georgia and the Shetland Islands are beyond belief. You'll never go to a zoo again. Silversea Cruises conspired with Mother Nature to hit this expedition "right out of the park". Before we disembarked, we booked a Silversea Silver Explorer expedition in the Artic. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
A Zegrahm cruise on a vintage Quark ship, which they use routinely. We selected Zegrahm for the itinerary. Unfortunately we missed the entire west coast of Antarctica, barely made it to the Peninsula, because the ship wasn't in full ... Read More
A Zegrahm cruise on a vintage Quark ship, which they use routinely. We selected Zegrahm for the itinerary. Unfortunately we missed the entire west coast of Antarctica, barely made it to the Peninsula, because the ship wasn't in full working order. A propeller was seriously malfunctioning which Zegrahm knew before we departed. Hence we missed 4 days of the itinerary, arrived late at many landings so light was very poor for photography, landed on Deception Island in total darkness. Because so9 many clients were unhappy with all the time at sea, Zegrahm finally offered a weak compensation package, which still required considerable haggling. Their offer was largely dependent on future bookings, in other words Zegrahm making more money. A good deal for Zegrahm, not for the clients. After considerable discussion, they finally offered 10% cash on a very expensive, once in a lifetime trip. In addition, the ship is in dire need of interior renovation, grimy, seats falling out of the lounge banquette. We recommend Natl. Geographic - new ships, faster, with more time on the ground. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
The Explorer is we feel the best of the 3 Silversea Expedition Ships Having said that I think it is important to say that some passengers/guests expect the Expedition Fleet of Silversea to mirror in terms of service and food and ... Read More
The Explorer is we feel the best of the 3 Silversea Expedition Ships Having said that I think it is important to say that some passengers/guests expect the Expedition Fleet of Silversea to mirror in terms of service and food and amenities their main line Fleet. On the Explorer the Crew were brilliant - kind , professional, helpful and attentive. Always remembering your name and invariably your favoured tipple in the bar! The ship has a large range of suite sizes and choices - perhaps unusual for a small expedition ship. If there is any criticism we thought the food could go up a couple of notches and the complimentary wine list needs rewriting. ( when will Silversea get the message on this?) The trip was for us was just outstanding. A little swell on the way across to Antarctica, but then and the rest of our trip we enjoyed brilliant weather and very calm seas. We even had lunch and dinner in deck on at least 4 occasions. What a memory that will always hold Not sure words can be found to sum up the sheer beauty of Antarctica! It was just stunning! If you have half a chance should not be missed as future expedition destination. The Siversea Expedition Team did a magnificent job taking us ashore twice every day whilst we were in Antarctica. Their specialist knowledge of the area just added so much to our day to day activities on shore . We loved too the daily briefings by the Team. All 10 or so of them are true pros and a great ambassadors for Silversea Expeditions. So all in all a trip we wouldn't have missed. A long journey, but a couple of days in Beunos Aries also so worthwhile and enjoyable so do visit if you can. our days in a Finca, well north of BA rounded off a truly special trip. If you have got half a chance do go. It is truly a special place Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black ... Read More
This is a fantastic way to experience the Antarctic, the Falklands and South Georgia. If you want to go on an expedition to see wildlife and nature this is for you; if you want dancing girls with feathers and dinners with tuxedos and black cocktail dresses then book another sort of trip. This is a professional operation with an excellent boat and expedition crew. Personally, I pay good money to avoid dancing girls with feather but YMMV. We saw penguins unnumbered, humpback whales bubble netting, whales surfacing next to the ship (!!!), seals hunting penguins returning to the rookery, Rock Hopper penguins kamikazimg off the cliffs to avoid seals, fantastic hospitality of the Falkland Island residents, Hour Glass dolphins viewed from the observation deck, Wilson's Storm Petrels and Falkland Island Steamer Ducks doing what they do naturally, visits to British 1950s Antarctic Stations and a fascinating impromptu talk by a Norwegian ex-whaler (and I am a card carrying anti-whaler!). The only problem is should we be travelling to this delicate and fragile eco-system? We would be back again (for the third time) but for wrestling with our conscience about whether we should be travelling here at all. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
We went with Celebrity Expeditions to the Galapagos about 8 years ago and thought that experience could not be topped. We were wrong. I did extensive research on all the different Antarctic cruises. Most cost the same, all have zodiacs ... Read More
We went with Celebrity Expeditions to the Galapagos about 8 years ago and thought that experience could not be topped. We were wrong. I did extensive research on all the different Antarctic cruises. Most cost the same, all have zodiacs with naturalists, all have food included. None have alcohol included and the luxury experience you get with Silversea. The ship is a smaller icebreaker but lovely cabins and dining room. It did look a little ready for refurbishment in some places but overall was very nice. But the biggest thing of all is the Antarctic. We were extremely lucky on our Drake passages, they were calm and uneventful. We had a mid-ship cabin on the third floor which was very stable. Our window was very large but there were excellent shades to cover so that us light sensitive sleepers could rest. The bathroom was large, had a tub and was mostly done in marble. I was shocked. We got a fantastic table at the rear of the ship and had amazing views. The maître d'hôtel, Anna was very gracious. The chef was wonderful and often came to the dining room to be sure we enjoyed our food (which was divine). We usually stopped at two ports per day. Most were shore landings but there were a few zodiac cruises. Everything was outstanding. We were very lucky to have fantastic weather and saw an amazing array of animals. Other people got tired of the penguins but I think they are crazy. Mid-January was a perfect time to go as most of the penguins and birds were just hatching chicks. We actually got to see a penguin chick hatching from an egg! It was funny to watch them squabble over tiny rocks and slide across the ice. Then they would jump in the water and be the picture of speed and grace. We saw lots of seals, orcas and seabirds. We saw many whales (humpbacks, minke) and were very lucky that our captain stopped the boat for an hour so we could watch a group play. The best naturalist was a young man named Travis from South Africa. He would make noise on the bottom of the zodiac to get the interest of the whales. We saw them come very close and one time they even followed the zodiac. I wished we had known we could invite the staff for dinner with us, we would have loved to get to know some of them more. They are meticulous about making sure you don't take any unwanted seeds or plants from the mainland. It was just very professional and the trip of a lifetime. We included it with another 2 1/2 weeks of hiking in Patagonia and the whole experience was Nirvana. You have to go. Just do it. It's expensive but worth every penny. I was worried people might be pretentious but the staff were wonderful and most of the people were nice. Don't wait until you are so old you can't move around much. It seemed like some people just wanted to 'tick off' their final continent which I think is a waste. It is truly a gorgeous destination with so much to offer. Go, Go, Go!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships ... Read More
First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships but none that are more seaworthy. A very good value. The cruise officially began in Buenos Aires. We spent a week there on our own so had not purchased an airport transfer from Hurtigruten for the charter flight to Ushuaia. This became the source of some stress when we belatedly learned that our flight was to depart at 4:40 AM, meaning finding a cab on our own at 2:00 AM. If we had known about the ridiculously early flight in advance, we would have spent the last night in Buenos Aires with the Fram group. We were met at the airport in Ushuaia by Fram personnel. No problem with check-in on the ship, and our luggage was already in our cabin when we arrived. As been mentioned before, the standard cabin on the Fram is astonishingly tiny. There are two berths with very little space between them. During the day one berth is turned up and the other becomes a couch, to allow for more floor space. There is adequate storage space, but it is mostly in open cubbyholes. Travelers used to large cruise ships will be shocked. The "superior outside stateroom" is much larger and nicer, with a queen-sized bed and large bathroom, but is of course more expensive. We have cruised on the Fram before, and to save money had paid for an "unspecified inside cabin." After all, we never spend any time in the cabin on an expedition cruise. As it turned out, we were upgraded to a "superior" cabin, our good fortune this time. The Fram is a lovely ship, especially built for polar conditions. For this cruise it was completely booked with 224 passengers. Public rooms are very attractive. There is a large observation lounge on Deck 7 forward, a wonderful place to watch the scenery in a hostile climate. Deck 4 is the nerve center of the vessel, with the dining room with windows on three sides; two lecture halls; a cafe with drinks and snacks; a shop offering cold-weather gear and a few souvenirs and essentials; and the administrative center. There are large windows on both sides. The ship also has an outdoor hot tub and a fitness room with a sauna. Outside on Decks 5 and 8 are large observation areas. Of course, in the Antarctic these were used primarily when something especially exciting was going on, such as whale watching or threading our way through gigantic icebergs. We were generally fortunate with weather. The notorious Drake Passage was glassy smooth on the two-day cruise south, and we were able to make two landings a day in Antarctica. (On the return trip over the Drake, it blew a full gale, force 8 on the Beaufort Scale.) The temperature on the Antarctic peninsula hovered around freezing twenty-four hours a day. There is no real darkness this time of year. For shore excursions we wore layers and shed them if there was no wind and the sun was out. Then it seemed surprisingly warm. When it was windy, or when we were in the 8-passenger "Polar Zirkel" boats, we needed all our cold-weather gear, including waterproof parkas (a gift from Hurtigruten) and pants. We also wore study rubber boots for all excursions. These were available for rent from the ship at a reasonable cost. It's hard to describe the eight days we actually spent in the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is not a place, it's an experience. Twice-daily excursions brought us into close contact with three species of nesting penguins, who have no fear of humans and will walk right up to you. We also had close encounters with seals on land and on icebergs. The scenery is beyond spectacular. We've all seen pictures and videos of glaciers and icebergs, but no pictures can capture the reality of being there. We visited a couple of inhabited islands and got a change to understand what it's like to live there. Some historic sites were included, such as a former whalers' processing station, and Elephant Island, where Shackleton's crew managed to survive for 4 1/2 months awaiting rescue. Lectures on the wildlife, geology, and history of the region by members of the outstanding Expedition Team put things in context. In addition to the included daily shore excursions, there were optional kayaking trips and "boat cruising" in the small boats. There was also one long guided hike, and the chance to spend a night ashore in a tent. These optional excursions cost extra but provided an even more intimate experience with this unique environment. There was no evening entertainment per se: a "Crew's Show," a Tango demonstration, some relevant movies, etc. We were too tired after the busy days to have any interest in evening activities, and I never heard anyone complain about the lack of entertainment. Breakfast and lunch were always buffets; there were two official dinner seatings, but because of the extensive shore excursions, all but three dinners were buffets. Service was excellent throughout. I have read complaints elsewhere about food aboard the Fram. It certainly does not measure up to the standards of a traditional cruise ship. However, we found that there were plenty of options, including lactose-free and gluten-free. The beef was not great, and vegetables tended to be overcooked, but the fish, cheeses, salads, breads, and desserts were outstanding. And does anyone expect meals on an expedition cruise to play the important role that they do on, say, a Mediterranean cruise? We were quite satisfied. Passengers were a diverse group. Probably more than half were American, but there were large contingents from Germany and France, and we also met South Africans, Australians, Japanese, and Indians, to name a few. This was a very well-traveled assortment of lively, adventurous people, as you would expect on a cruise to the Antarctic. We've been on many cruises, including some to rather exotic places (Greenland, Svalbard, Galapagos, Amazon), but Antarctica will always stand out in my mind. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity of experiencing it. It is totally unlike anywhere else on earth, absolutely indescribable. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Traveled with excellent Tauck group from Buenos Aires on charter flight to Ushuaia. Boarded Le Soleal in the afternoon. Welcomed by captain and officers. Immediately impressed by cleanliness, subtle design and classiness of this new and ... Read More
Traveled with excellent Tauck group from Buenos Aires on charter flight to Ushuaia. Boarded Le Soleal in the afternoon. Welcomed by captain and officers. Immediately impressed by cleanliness, subtle design and classiness of this new and beautiful small ship. Enjoyed smooth Drake passage and great Antarctica weather. 12 zodiac landings led by outstanding team of naturalists. Impressed by safety and care taken by crew and naturalists. Cabin housekeeping excellent. Superb cruise director. Officers friendly and evident. Open bridge policy meant you can observe the ship being maneuvered, navigated and operated. Food good with choice of buffet on level 6 or dining room on level 2. Don't miss the superb steak tartare served at one lunch buffet. Pastry, desserts and baking fabulous. Crew smiling and helpful. Truly a fine voyage on a well run friendly ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
We selected the Explorer for our Classic Antarctica cruise, a bit apprehensively, as our only previous SS experience was a disappointing cruise on the Shadow. Still, we were looking for that sweet spot of comfort, education and adventure ... Read More
We selected the Explorer for our Classic Antarctica cruise, a bit apprehensively, as our only previous SS experience was a disappointing cruise on the Shadow. Still, we were looking for that sweet spot of comfort, education and adventure and the Explorer delivered. ITINERARY This was the standard "Classic Antarctica" itinerary common for the shorter trips. That said, there can be no assumption about what will and will not be seen as all of the ships in Antarctica are subject to weather and ice conditions. The ice rating of the Explorer allows the ship more flexibility and that is a real consideration in this area. What impressed us most was the clear objective of the captain and expedition staff to show us as much as possible and we were able to do a few special things like cruise through the Lemaire Channel, which was breathtakingly beautiful. There was variety in our landings - usually two a day - with zodiac tours, Port Lockroy and several stops for penguins/birds. Bad weather forced us to leave Antarctica a day early, which was a decision made for safety and seemingly understood by all. As a result, we spent an extra day in Ushuaia. SS put together a tour of the beautiful national park but, because of heavy rain, it was more like a sort of tedious bus trip. Overall, we were very satisfied that we had a good overview of Antarctica. Of course, it was short and, time permitting, it would have been nice to go to South Georgia and similar ports, but it was sufficient. SHIP CONDITION This is not a new ship, and it is a bit frayed around the edges. However, it was kept very clean and that is our priority. For an expedition ship, we found the ship very comfortable. FELLOW PASSENGERS There were 107 people on board: 45 were from China and the rest was a mix from all over the world - for sure, UK, US, Netherlands, Russia, NZ, Australia, Ireland, Germany, among others. Large groups can change the dynamics of a sailing and one group of 26 was challenging at times. My suggestion is that the staff, right upfront, makes it clear that there is a rotation of zodiac groups and that people are NOT permitted to go other than at the appointed time. Overall, however, it was a pleasant group of travel companions. FOOD/BEVERAGE We were very impressed with how hard the chef, Pia, and her staff worked to make the meals interesting and provide numerous options given the limitations of the kitchen and supplies. The food was superior to ours on the Shadow, which wasn't expected. The dining room was very friendly and Anna was masterful at making people feel comfortable and seating them as they wished....it was no problem to dine alone or with others. We can't comment on the wine, but the beverage staff was terrific in all venues of the ship. In addition, the wait staff was fantastic. CHARTER The charter days were tedious. We arrived at the domestic airport two hours before the flight, as requested, and our boarding passes for the LAN charter were already printed. There didn't seem to be much opportunity to make seating requests. There didn't seem to be much concern about the weight limits on the way down, but there were some hassles with carry on weight for some people on the way back from Ushuaia. The flight down was approx. 4 hours. Upon arrival, we were driven to lunch at a restaurant and were there for two hours. Following that, we were driven to the ship, with several stops along the way, all designed to kill time. It was a very long day.... On the return, we were put on buses at 9 AM and driven about 150 yards to a parking lot in Ushuaia where we had "free time" for two hours. Then a two hour wait at the airport followed by the 4 hours flight back to Buenos Aires' domestic airport. At rush hour, the drive to the International airport can take well over an hour, so be sure to leave enough time for a connecting flight. EXPEDITION STAFF The staff on board was sensational - all specialists in various topics and excited to share their interests with the passengers. There were many lectures which could be watched in the theater or on TV in the room. As an aside, the sight lines for the theater are terrible. Everyone is on the same level, so a few tall people upfront (isn't that always the way?) can block half the screen. There are also poles scattered around the room. The expedition staff spent a lot of time with passengers and added greatly to the experience. CABINS The cabins were surprisingly comfortable for an expedition ship. I know that many people don't spend time in their rooms, but I was happy to have a larger space for the long days on the Drake Passage. There are 4 butlers for the ship, so they are very busy, but we found ours to be delightful and responsive. The room was kept in good order and any minor issues were addressed quickly. ATTIRE This is a very casual cruise. There were only two "casually elegant" nights on the ship and maybe a bit more than half of the men wore jackets on those evenings. Otherwise, it is mostly sweaters and slacks for all meals. Sneakers are fine for walking around the ship. Some people had Uggs. Again, casual footwear and definitely rubber soles. We rented boots from the ship and were very happy with them. The red parka provided to all guests was perfect - warm and waterproof. Sizes could be changed for either, which was on the questions I had before we got on board. For landings, we followed the guidelines suggested - two layers and waterproof pants/parka. A gaiter is a must. We had two sets of clothing for landings and that was plenty. There is a self service laundry on the ship as well as laundry service by the staff, so don't overpack. NITS We were not impressed with the documents provided by Silversea. There was not a lot of detail in some areas and we had to call them for a few kind of obvious questions. We also missed the "leave behind" information for our family. Finally, the booklet and and separate paper regarding the charter had different weight limits listed, something many of our fellow passengers noted. This is an important detail and the correct limit should be clear. On departure day, we were told that no changes to our bill could be made after 8 AM. Our bill arrived in our room in the middle of the night and had an error of a few hundred dollars. At 6:15 AM we were told that the person with authority to change the bill could not be found. It took until 7:30 to get this sorted out. While it may not be a big deal, it seems obvious that, with such a small window for corrections, the person responsible should be available on departure morning. OVERALL We were delighted with our choice of the Explorer for our trip. The crew was professional and caring and there was a surprising degree of comfort given the locale.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 ... Read More
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 p.m. and on day 19 you are going to be leaving the ship at about 7.30 a.m. So, effectively it is a 17 day cruise. The Fram is an excellent ship for the job, being large enough to be comfortable but small enough to get into places that bigger liners would never get to or be allowed to go to, South Georgia for instance has a limit of 100 people ashore at any one time at most of the places we stopped at. Try that on a 2 - 3000 passenger liner. We were blessed with good weather and we landed at almost all of the places intended, however, Hurtigriten do like to make the most of a 'captive audience'. They offered us organised trips at Ushuaia and on the Falklands. All of them seemed quite expensive for what they were so we only pre-booked one which was at Port Stanley. It was fairly interesting, a visit to a penguin colony, but given that we visited numerous others for no extra cost on South Georgia and the Antarctic Islands subsequently this trip was a waste of money, and time as you don't get long in Stanley. Other extras were offered once on board: snowshoeing, kayaking, trips in the Polarcircle RIBs and several hikes. All of these were quite expensive for what they were for instance about £75 for a 2 hour cruise in the RIBs just to see the sights along the shore, almost £100 each for two and a half hours kayaking which, with 5 two-man kayaks earned the line about £1000 for the use of the boats plus two guides. Even the hikes which usually have over 50 people on them will cost you around £25 per person when you might think that they could throw in a guided walk of a few miles free of extra cost especially when you consider that the 'trainee' members of the Expedition Crew are not even being paid by the Line but are doing their jobs unsalaried just to gain experience. They rely, of course on the "well, I'll only be here once" thought that goes through our minds and makes us pay these silly extra costs. Then there's the bar prices. I didn't want a 'booze cruise' but it would have been nice to have a beer at the end of an active day or a bottle of wine with dinner but with Carlsberg lager (the only beer they had and one that I don't like) costing almost £7 per pint and Chilean 'plonk' that sells in Buenos Aires supermarkets for about £5 a bottle being priced at around £25 per bottle on the ship I had a very 'dry' holiday. Obviously it is not that people who can afford the cruise can't afford the drinks but I object to being 'milked' in this way especially when the Line presumably buys the stuff as 'Bonded Stores', that is to say, without having to pay duty on it. They also x-ray your cases when you come aboard, including hand-luggage. This is not as you might think to protect you from guns and bombs. It is to protect their bar profits by spotting and removing any alcohol you may have brought with you. To add insult to injury they also charge for water to drink in the restaurant but they offer a 'deal' whereby you can pay about £20 per head for the privilege of having a carafe of 'mineral' water on your table every evening. This deal is supposed to be per person whereas, of course, it should be per couple but having had a very early start (up at 01.45 a.m.) to catch the flight to Ushuaia I allowed myself to be bounced into agreeing to it for each of us so we paid almost £40 in total. It is a real shame that Hurtugruten feel the need to rip-off their clients in these petty ways as the cruise itself was everything we could have hoped for but the constant feeling that you are being 'milked' leaves a nasty taste that even their very expensive water cannot wash away. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I cruised on Le Boreal as part of a chartered Abercrombie and Kent expedition including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic peninsula in Dec 14/Jan 15. There are many reasons to select Le Boreal/A&K for this ... Read More
I cruised on Le Boreal as part of a chartered Abercrombie and Kent expedition including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic peninsula in Dec 14/Jan 15. There are many reasons to select Le Boreal/A&K for this adventure: * Itinerary: every other expedition in this category and with these stops is 20+ days. This was 17, and was certainly not too short. It hit all the highlights you want to see, and there were plenty of expeditions at each stop. * Expedition staff: A&K gathered an impressive team led by Dr. Marco Favero, and cruise director Jannie Cloete. There were several PhDs, and many other skilled naturalists, photographers and historians. From my research, only Lindblad/Nat Geo can compare with this level of experienced staff. * Ship: Le Boreal is new, clean, and incredibly stylish. The cabins are streamlined but comfortable, and the public spaces are subtly beautiful. Look at the Lindblad/NatGeo ships and you'll see old-fashioned, somewhat hokey interiors. I cannot overstate how nice the ship design is. AND, every single cabin has a balcony, which I found incredibly nice. * The price: Though A&K is by no means known as affordable...the combination of the shorter itinerary and discounts for early bookings resulted in this cruise being several thousand dollars cheaper than the alternatives like Lindblad/NatGeo, SilverSeas, etc. And * The ship staff: service and professionalism was at the highest level. The captain and crew kept the bridge open to visitors daily, and navigated skillfully through heavy and icy seas...often changing course to see whales, add stops to our itineraries, etc. Bar and Restaurant staff...a mix of French and Filipino...was tremendously friendly and offered great personal service. You can read the company websites and brochures for day-by-day detailed itineraries so there is no point in repeating those here. Here are some tips/tricks/observations: * You are at sea for several days at a time with no stops, and there is limited entertainment, so bring books, movies, games, etc. Expedition staff will give lectures that can vary in quality, and there are about 20-25 movies on demand...not alot. The onboard library has a small selection of books, and WiFi is available by satellite, but quite expensive. In short, don't go if you are easily bored and you don't like reading or quiet times. * Food is overall good, but a bit on the French hotel bland side. The weakest areas are proteins...fish and meats usually overcooked. But, over 3 weeks with no stops to resupply there was always great fresh fruit, salads, and vegetables. Soups were good, desserts as well. And, breads and pastries were always consistently excellent. There is a buffet and a sit-down restaurant, and both were open for all meals. Cookies and tea were served in 2 bars off hours. A brief room service menu was available 24x7 when the restaurants were closed for meals. * Packing. Everyone but me seemed to ignore the many warnings to limit baggage to a minimum. There were huge suitcases, and about 1/3 of people had packed suits/ties and cocktail dresses for the welcome reception, xmas dinner, new year's eve, and farewell dinner. On this trip, you could rent boots for the onshore expeditions, and I recommend that option rather than bringing them. * Spa and Fitness Center. The spa was roomy and super comfortable...but I didn't hear anyone rave about the treatments. In France, there are levels of massage...with the highest requiring training and licensing and practiced usually in medical offices This is not what you get on Le Boreal. I heard people say it was usually light Swedish massage that was only passable. I got a facial which I thought was pretty good. The fitness center is nice but VERY small...2 treadmills, 2 bikes and a combination cable/weight machine. The end. It gets understandably crowded. * Getting to the ship from Buenos Aires. A&K arranged airport pickup which was perfect, and overnight stay at the Sofitel in BA. Ask for a high floor with a view...because I was on floor 3 overlooking an airshaft. Have patience during the trip to Ushuaia. A&K screwed up our tickets...we got boarding passes to the NatGeo charter flight...so all info was wrong. We also waiting in the airport for quite a while. I get that its hard to move 200 people around, but things seemed especially slow and ponderous. * When to go. We chose the xmas/new year "family" cruise with A&K...and it was a great choice. The demographic was younger than the usual A&K stuffy and pretentious oldsters...which livened up the mood. There were about 30 kids from 7 to 18...and they were all great.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This was my third cruise on a Silversea ship, and the second on the Explorer. The itinerary was fabulous, and the expedition staff was utterly superb; many of them were PhDs. There were frequent lectures, and many of the lecturers were at ... Read More
This was my third cruise on a Silversea ship, and the second on the Explorer. The itinerary was fabulous, and the expedition staff was utterly superb; many of them were PhDs. There were frequent lectures, and many of the lecturers were at a college or university level. The Explorer is a smaller ship, and the amenities are certainly not at the level one would expect on a larger ship. That having been said, the cabins were completely adequate, and a couple of issues with my cabin were resolved quickly. The dining room was a highlight, from the superb staff captained by dining room manager Anna (a superstar in every respect) to excellent food and a delightful staff. The only complaint was that dining in the evening sometimes ran a little long because people loved to talk! Most impressive was the attention the expedition staff paid to getting passengers on and off the ship, which in almost every case was via zodiac. The zodiac operation was smooth, highly professional, and the expedition staff and ship staff who worked with the zodiacs could not have been more professional. Land tours were fantastic, and expedition staff made exceptional efforts seeing that everyone got around to see as much as possible. It was obvious that the staff enjoyed their jobs and were enthusiastic about doing them well. Antarctica is a challenging trip under the best of circumstances, but Silversea is to be commended for making this a particularly outstanding trip. Visiting one of the most remote parts of the world in luxury is a real treat! Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Arrive in Ushuaia after an overnight stay in Buenos Aires. 13 hour flight from London then a 4 hour job from Buenos Aires. Board mid afternoon and sail an hour later. Bremen is a great little expedition vessel with 4*+ luxury. 170 ... Read More
Arrive in Ushuaia after an overnight stay in Buenos Aires. 13 hour flight from London then a 4 hour job from Buenos Aires. Board mid afternoon and sail an hour later. Bremen is a great little expedition vessel with 4*+ luxury. 170 passengers or so, mainly German but this voyage had 22 Noble Caledonia booked Englanders ! And we were put into our own group for everything so we all got to know each other very well. Ages ranged from mid 50s to mid 70s but all active and relatively fit - which you need to be for a holiday like this. Next day at sea saw us equipped with boots and parkas. Then it was 2 days in the Falklands, 3 days at South Georgia and 6 days in the antarctic peninsula. Landings all by zodiacs, all wet except Port Stanley. Saw all the different penguins and seals. Also humpbacks, orcas, fin and minke whales. If you are into birds then you would be in heaven. Cabin, food and services on board better than Cunard. Lectures given in German then in English so we didn't miss out on anything. Dining is casual, we were told Hanseatic, their 5* vessel, was more formal. Weather not bad. Mainly overcast and we got caught in a blizzard in Sth Georgia which was interesting. Drake Passage crossings were a bit lumpy but not bad at all. Days were quite tiring. Often 3 landings a day which was great but we were all a bit knackered by the end. But I think we all would have loved the trip to last longer. Anyone looking for an antarctic experience should check out these holidays. A tad more expensive but worth it. A proper antarctic experience.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
A cruise to Antarctica is pricey, expensive even, but it is absolutely worth it! We saw amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery. It felt as if we were in a nature documentary for two weeks. Having previously cruised on 2500+ passenger ... Read More
A cruise to Antarctica is pricey, expensive even, but it is absolutely worth it! We saw amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery. It felt as if we were in a nature documentary for two weeks. Having previously cruised on 2500+ passenger cruise ships, the atmosphere and the level of service on this 200 passenger mega-yacht was very different. No lines, for instance. Also, crew was very approachable. The captain welcomed everyone in person and he was present at several dinners. The naturalists/guides were always available to answer questions. Even though French is the primary language on board, all announcements and briefings were in English as well. There was never a language barrier, nor were non-French speakers treated differently. Our stateroom was very nice, with good size beds and all the comforts you would expect. Lots of storage space. Bath room with separate toilet and shower. Housekeeping staff was excellent. Always friendly, always able to help with requests. Compared to the big cruise lines like Carnival and NCL, the food on l'Austral is certainly better. However, don't expect Michelin star or Steak house quality. It's upscale restaurant food. I was surprised by the freshness of the ingredients, even after two weeks cruising. Also, there was good amount of variety, some days with exotic dishes like kangaroo and skate. The desserts were absolutely delicious! We had a very rough Drake Passage, but once in Antarctica the skies were clear and the weather stayed remarkable friendly. Expeditions were spectacular. There had been lectures by the naturalists to inform us about the wildlife we'd see, but seeing (and smelling) a penguin colony for yourself is very special indeed. We saw more wildlife then we'd ever imagined. In the Antarctic Peninsula, we visited Paradise Bay, Neko Harbor, Wilhelmina Bay, Port Lockroy, Port Charcot, the Lemaire Channel, Dallmann Bay, Deception Island, Hannah Point, Gourdin Island and Brown Bluff. We then went back North via Elephant Island to the Falkland Islands for another four stops: Stanley, Volunteer Point, Saunders Island and New Island. After the Falklands we had three sea days and we finished the cruise in Montevideo, Uruguay. (for a more detailed review, including photos, visit the Antarctica section in Forums > Ports of Call) http://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=475 Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We sailed the Polar Circle itinerary Feb. 1 2013. The Antarctica scenery, wildlife, and landscape are spectacular and the itinerary met our every expectation and more. The ship public spaces are clean and in good repair with a very nice ... Read More
We sailed the Polar Circle itinerary Feb. 1 2013. The Antarctica scenery, wildlife, and landscape are spectacular and the itinerary met our every expectation and more. The ship public spaces are clean and in good repair with a very nice observation lounge/bar on Deck 5, good space around the lecture rooms and coffee bar on Deck 4, and good outside space for observation when weather permits. There are very nice saunas for men and women and two outdoor hottubs. There is a small but adequate fitness area with treadmills and and weight equipment. It is usually not crowded and easy to access but there is no drinking water and towels are on a different floor. We purchased return air from Buenos Aries to Ushuaia embarkation point and airport transfers in Ushuaia. The flight down and embarkation was without incident but the dis-embarkation and return flight were poorly handled. We were told to board a bus at 7:45 am for a two hour city tour and transfer to the airport. We got on the bus, it drove to a parking lot at the end of the pier, parked, and we were told we had 2 hours free time for whatever we wanted to do. The ship told us nothing about walking around the town and few were prepared for a walking tour. We were fortunate that the weather turned out well or it would have been two hours sitting on the bus. The return flight was scheduled for 12:30 pm and was delayed an hour. It is 3 1/2 hours. Hurtigruten made no provision for lunch and told us nothing about the lack of lunch. Communications from Hurtigruten before the cruise were limited and terse. Our final cruise documents had to be emailed because we still had not received them a week before our flight departed. We received a notice that a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park, which was included in the package that we purchased, would no longer be included and we would have to pay an extra $105 pp to take it. We got this straightened out but the messages from Hurtigruten were flip to terse and showed little respect for us. This lack of communication continued throughout the trip. Ships officers dined in the dining room but seldom said hello or engaged with passengers. The expedition leader was not visible on the ship at all. Expedition team members seldom interacted with passengers on board outside of their lectures. Daily programs were fragmentary and not very descriptive of what shore excursions would be. The shore excursions are included in the price and there were about a dozen in different places. Most were short walks, some difficult, with good views of penguin colonies and landscape. Safety during landings in the Polarcircle boats were a priority for the expedition team and were conducted safely under sometimes difficult conditions. We had suite 638, one of the highest category suites on the ship. There was a spacious balcony. The suite itself was very spacious but not as conveniently appointed as we have seen on other lines. There was not much storage for this size cabin and the bathroom was very small and without the finishes and amenities that we have seen in suites on other lines. This is an expedition ship and you are constantly changing into and out of shore landing gear but there was no accommodation in the room for the gear or for drying wet landing apparel. Amenities were better than other cabins on board but much less than we have seen in lower category suites on other lines. The restaurant and hotel staff were friendly and helpful but there did not seem to be enough staff to meet needs in a timely fashion. The waiters started clearing tables well before people were finished and once they started clearing it was difficult to get service. Eight of our 12 evening meals were buffet. The served dinners were fixed menu with one option for the entree. Lunch and dinner buffets were heavy on starches and pasta. Salads were available but vegetables were limited. We found the food quality to be mediocre and often less than well prepared. Wine and beer are available for meals but expensive. Our cabin rate included wine and beer with meals and the servers were trained to recognize this without issues about charges. There is coffee, tea, and some pastries available at no charge during the day but no other food available between meals. The crew did two evening talent shows that were fun. Movies were available some nights but no other entertainment. There are limited itineraries that sail below the Antarctic Circle and MV Fram will have to be considered if you want that itinerary but be aware of the shortcomings of this company and vessel. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We were on the Hurtigruten Polar Expedition leaving Ushuaia on 1st February 2013, having been inspired to go on it by a group tour of the Fram when she was docked in Portsmouth in 2011. Our favourable impressions of the boat and its cruise ... Read More
We were on the Hurtigruten Polar Expedition leaving Ushuaia on 1st February 2013, having been inspired to go on it by a group tour of the Fram when she was docked in Portsmouth in 2011. Our favourable impressions of the boat and its cruise programme were fully borne out by our experience on this vacation. Good intentions to write a review upon return were finally spurred into action upon reading the largely negative Cruise Critic review for the same cruise. Our review offers a more positive perspective which was shared by all the other English-speaking passengers with whom we socialised. The ethos and purpose of this Hurtigruten Expedition are rewardingly different from the 5-star luxury and pampering to which the writer of the previous review is perhaps more accustomed. The pre-trip information provided was comprehensive; we did need to phone about certain details which were unclear, and our queries were dealt with efficiently albeit somewhat brusquely. Our flight from Heathrow was smooth and reception at Buenos Aires welcoming but somewhat chaotic. From the comfortable Emperador Hotel we had a whistle-stop coach tour of BA which gave a good overview of the city. The transfer to Ushuaia was well-managed and smooth (notwithstanding the rather shockingly early 3.30am start from the hotel to the domestic airport). Upon arrival in Ushuaia, the coach trip/visits within the Tierra del Fuego National Park were informative and interesting. Embarkation was smoothly handled. Over the next 48 hours of navigation down the Beagle Channel and across the Drake Passage one became aware of the enormity of the task of registering, preparing, orienting and briefing 240 passengers with regard to the on-board regime, the landings which we would be experiencing, the potentially dangerous polar environment, and the international 'code of conduct' for Antarctica. It was also a chance to relax after the tiring travel to embarkation, and to become acquainted with the ship. The Fram is modern, spotlessly clean, comfortable, and well-appointed with some lovely decorative touches and artwork throughout. The panoramic observation lounge with bar offers fantastic vistas of the awesome scenery and wildlife. Other seating areas also provide places to relax, read or chat. Most of the meals were buffet-style, with set-menu table service on a few special occasions. The food was generally of good quality, with lots of fish and seafood, and the most superb desserts. The salads did get a bit samey; but any criticism of on-board cuisine must take into account the fact that there is no opportunity for re-provisioning on an Antarctic cruise!!! The cost of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is high (in Norwegian waters, Norwegian taxes will apply; but surely the Antarctic is a duty-free area?!). The largely Philippine restaurant staff were charming, courteous, helpful and for the most part efficient, although frequently too rushed off their feet to respond as quickly to requests as one would hope. The iceberg shaped Plexiglas dividers between joined tables were an unfortunate touch which impeded conversation and in our view should be done away with. Our cabin (307) was compact but comfortable with fold-away twin beds (one to give a sofa), plenty of storage space, tv screen, desk (but the chairs which block access to the cabin and ensuite shower-room need replacing with less bulky ones!), and a large porthole. Brilliant showers, shelves for toiletries; our loo did block a couple of times but was rapidly and effectively fixed. The Bridge visit and explanations from the Captain on the construction, technology and operation of the Fram gave insight into the state-of-the-art design of the vessel for polar navigation. Many cruise boats ply to and from Ushuaia and the northern reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula, but very few venture as far as Latitude 68o14'S (our southernmost destination), or are equipped to offer such an extensive opportunity for landings (of which we had 13, over 8 days). Impressively coordinated teamwork is required to launch the 8-person RIBS, land a recce party, organise groups for disembarkation, manage safe movement of passengers ashore plus enabling them to have an enjoyable and informed experience, and then to bring everyone back to the mother ship. We saw an amazing range of wildlife at close quarters, and had many fascinating visits to historical bases both manned and deserted. The expedition team comprises an international group of 9 all of whom are experts in their fields (geology, exploration, biology, photography, flora, ornithology), and they were frequently available to answer questions and give guidance (and, I have a photograph of the Team Leader chatting on-board with a passenger.) Any criticism of their unavailability at certain times should be viewed in light of the fact that there can be no fixed itinerary, and in the context of the need for quick and flexible planning responses to prevailing weather and landing conditions. Their on-board lectures / slideshows were well presented and interesting; there were also some films. 'Entertainment' is NOT the focus of this cruise, and does not purport to be. With only one notable exception (regarding the aborted Lemaire Channel RIB expedition), the announcements were clear and provided necessary information. Given how many were necessary, it would have been inappropriate and confusing for them to be more 'chatty.' Each evening, there were group briefings (in German and in English) for the next day's planned itinerary and landings. As for the criticism that "ships officers dined in the dining room but seldom said hello or engaged with passengers:" their responsibility lay in navigating and operating the ship, which was underway for 18-24 hours every day, and with maintaining the safety of passengers rather than socialising with them. Passenger were aged 40's upwards, most being well-travelled people of retirement age. Germans constituted the largest proportion, then many English-speaking nationalities, with smaller numbers of Europeans of other nationalities. The atmosphere on board was a relaxed, convivial, and informal. Upon return to Ushuaia, disembarkation was efficient. A coach transported us to the starting point for a trek through the scenic Tierra del Fuego National Park, with well-informed guides who provided information about its history, ecology, flora and fauna. The flight to Buenos Aires was delayed by an hour and Ushuaia airport was crowded and chaotic, but this was not Hurtigruten's fault. The evening of our return to Buenos Aires, we learned by chance from companions with wifi connection of the anticipated several-hour delay for our next day's flight (due to technical fault with a BA plane). However the Hurtigruten rep failed to systematically contact all affected clients, and at least one couple were unaware of the delay until they appeared next morning at the originally planned time for the coach. We were booked for an excursion on this last day which clashed with the original departure time; Hurtigruten should have spotted this anomaly and cancelled the booking earlier. A refund was forthcoming only after we wrote to Hurtigruten requesting it after our return. In summary: any criticisms centre mainly on administrative shortcomings and poor communication around the 'fringes' of the cruise, but overall our feedback on this once-in-a-lifetime experience is overwhelmingly positive, and compliments are due to the ship's crew as a whole for their excellent teamwork, professionalism, and cheerful friendliness. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We had always wanted to visit Antarctica and we are so glad we chose the Fram. Everything was exceptionally well organised - we were most impressed by the attention to detail and safety. The ship was very comfortable -even in a force ... Read More
We had always wanted to visit Antarctica and we are so glad we chose the Fram. Everything was exceptionally well organised - we were most impressed by the attention to detail and safety. The ship was very comfortable -even in a force 11 storm we didn't feel ill!!. All the cabins were well apponted, clean and tidy. The food was excellent. Although there was not always a hugh choice, there was always a meat, fish and vegetarian option. On one occasion we didn't like any of the options so the chef did us steak instead. The crew were fantastic - very friendly and couldn't do enough to help you. This was ALL the crew - from the Captian downwards! The visits ashore were made using the Polarcirkel boats - great fun. We were lucky to make 5 landings in Antarctica itself. When chosing an Antrctic voyage - be aware that a lot of the cruises don't actually allow you to land - you just sail the Antrctic waters. If you are looking for a cruise with lots of entertainment, then this s not for you. ther were talks about the wildlife and what we would see but this is very mush an 'Expedition/Explorer' cruise so there is no entertainment as you would get on a large cruise ship. Howver, you are with people who are all really keen to experience the Antarctic. Throughtly recommended - we are looking to go on the Fram again!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
It was my second cruise with Silversea but my very first time experiencing an expedition voyage. I must say it has been the best trip of my lifeDestination: extraordinaryCrew staff: incredibleCaptain: extremely friendly and very ... Read More
It was my second cruise with Silversea but my very first time experiencing an expedition voyage. I must say it has been the best trip of my lifeDestination: extraordinaryCrew staff: incredibleCaptain: extremely friendly and very professionalExpedition staff: I was not expecting such a well trained team. Out of ordinary!!Food: I couldn't ask more considering that we were in such a remote area of the worldBoat: old but very well maintaned. spotlessStateroom:  Veranda Suite: great view from french balcony. spotless. marble bathroom. luxury bedding, binoculars, refrigerator with all inclusive beverage, too tiny closet (even if my butler was very capable in fiiting in there all my cloths) Butler: very useful. always anticipating my needsweather: sunny almost everydayDrake Passage: quite calm but still a lot of people got seasick. Bracelets are very usefulsince day 1 litteraly all crew members remembered my name...impressive can't wait to my next expedition cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We traveled back-to-back cruises, Antarctica and the Chilean fjords, on the Silver Explorer in February/March 2012. The brilliant expedition team; marine biologist, geologists, ornithologist, botanist, historian were available to answer ... Read More
We traveled back-to-back cruises, Antarctica and the Chilean fjords, on the Silver Explorer in February/March 2012. The brilliant expedition team; marine biologist, geologists, ornithologist, botanist, historian were available to answer questions almost 24/7. They doubled as our zodiac drivers, accompanying us on all landings and excursions. Lectures every sea day from these professionals added enormously to our understanding and enjoyment. Silver Explorer has an open bridge, officers and crew happy to explain what's happening. Zodiac expeditions were well organised, generally two a day while in Antarctica. Because only 100 pasengers are allowed to land at one time, 60 would land while others did a zodiac cruise. We had plenty of time onshore, the area you can explore is limited, usually by inaccessible cliffs of ice and some environmentally sensitive area declared out of bounds. Landings catered for all fitness levels with long, quite challenging, hikes for the very fit, short, not so steep walks for the almost fit and short gentle strolls on flat ground for the less active. Several passengers and crew took the option of the "polar plunge," a dash into the calm but near freezing waters of Deception Island. All landings and excursions are included in the fare as are all drinks. Your cabin bar will be stocked with the drinks you ask for. All cabins are outside, very comfortable with decent sized bathrooms. Some cabins have balconies. Stewards and butlers attend to your every wish. We were very happy with our cabin mid-ships on deck 3, especially when the seas were rough. There is a guest laundry, washing machine and dryer, on board. Washing dries very quickly in bathrooms. Silversea provide very warm parkas and backpacks and have rubber boots left behind by former passengers available for loan. We found plenty of delicious choices from the breakfast and lunch buffets, hot dishes were always hot. I particularly enjoyed the lunchtime casseroles. The dinner menu offered three choices for each course; if the choices don't suit you can order "off menu". Dinner service wasn't swift but we enjoyed chatting to our new friends. The officers and crew were very friendly and attentive. Ratio of crew to passengers is about 1:1. There is a small gym, well patronized on sea days. There is no "big cruise ship" style entertainment. A pianist, a well-stocked library both of which we appreciated and movies to watch on cabin TV, which we were too well occupied to use. There are no formal nights, two or three dinners where we tried to dress more smartly, especially when invited to the table of the captain or other officers. Certainly our style of cruising. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We took L'Austral to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands from Ushuaia, Argentina. This is an expedition cruise on a boat with less than 200 passengers, so a different experience from your usual cruise. The boat is ... Read More
We took L'Austral to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands from Ushuaia, Argentina. This is an expedition cruise on a boat with less than 200 passengers, so a different experience from your usual cruise. The boat is armed with a fleet of 8 zodiacs, staffed with several naturalists, all the things you'd get on a more rugged cruise, except you got plush accommodations and good food. BOOKING - Booking was easy over email, Lisa was very helpful. It was a bit disorganized at the end when we were suddenly asked for all the documentation that we'd already provided, just days before the cruise, and we actually had to write and ask for our boarding passes the day before the cruise because they hadn't been sent. Other than that, all was fine with the booking. LANGUAGE - The boat is French, and so the main language on board is French, but they always spoke in English too, and worked hard to ensure that English speakers were together on the expeditions, also at meals, so that there wasn't a language problem. There was also one German speaking naturalist for the German contingent, though they weren't as well catered to as the French and English speakers. We didn't find the language to be any problem, it was well dealt with by the ship crew. EMBARKATION - This was well handled except we didn't appreciate having to drag our luggage all the way down the cruise port with no assistance. SHIP - The ship is brand new and very nice. Well climate controlled with everything you need. There are three lounges, though the outside bar was rarely open. It handled the 18-20 foot seas of Drake Passage very well, even though waves were smashing over the sixth deck. STATEROOMS - We had the Prestige Cabins on the 5th floor. They were quite spacious for a ship - about the size of a normal hotel room, very new and well appointed with flatscreen TV (movies only, no reception for TV), Nespresso machine, Nice shower and separate toilet, a desk, and a balcony with two chairs and a table. The only problem we had was the balcony door first creaked very loudly and also was very drafty. Bed was comfortable. Telephone in the room, also wi-fi (exorbitantly expensive). SERVICES - There is a spa onboard, and a very nice fitness center which has a view of the ocean. There is wi-fi, but it is massively, ridiculously expensive, horribly slow, and intermittent (three days at a time without access at all). They sell it by the time block, with no refunds if you don't use it all. There are three computers that can't print, and the internet rarely worked on them. There is no TV signal (one day we had CNN) but a few movies to watch. There is a Wii and a few board games. Three lounges. FOOD - The food was a real surprise. The ala carte restaurant was a gem, with an amazing variety for the 16 day cruise, always fresh, always well presented and creative. It wasn't always good (mostly though), but they get an A for effort. There were always 2-3 choices of each of the 4 courses, with some other things you can get every day. You can also eat at the buffet restaurant which at least when we were there was of poor quality for dinner. It was better for breakfast and lunch though. Also a good variety considering no ports of call for restocking for 16 days - amazing we could still get fresh fruit at the end of the trip, for example. Unfortunately, except for the meals, there was no food available except peanuts in the bar. With lunch at noon and dinner at 8:30 PM, everyone starved all afternoon with nothing but room service possible, not even a croissant (there was an afternoon tea with a few cookies). STAFF - The staff was surprisingly friendly and nice. Everyone was very pleasant and tried hard, even at the end of a very long cruise. The cruise director had a great sense of humor and kept things light. The Expedition leader was also funny and very nice and professional. The naturalists were all pleasant but not very proactive - they spent most of the time on shore taking their own photos or wandering around making sure people didn't get too close to the animals, rather than proactively interacting with the guests. They were there to answer questions if you had some, but other than a quick 1 minute briefing when you got to shore, they weren't proactive about it at all, which was a suprise. EXPEDITIONS - The expeditions were professional and well organized. The parkas were of high quality, and nobody was cold. The naturalists were good about keeping everyone where they were supposed to be, and the landings were spectacular. One million adele penguins at one landing at Heroine Island was absolutely stunning. Another in South Georgia with 400,000 King Penguins, elephant seals, fur seals was spectacular. Zodiac cruising through the ice in Antarctica was magnificent, even though it was raining and snowing. Another day we sailed inside one of only three navigable calderas in the world, very cool. The hikes were marginal, and we would have liked to do one more day of ice and one less day in the Shetland Islands, but otherwise very, very good. We did an average of 2 landings each day that we had calls, with two days of sea in between areas. We were very pleased overall. The photgrapher and videographer did a stunning job - wow. We bought both CDs. Incredible work. ENTERTAINMENT - The entertainment schedule was lacking in imagination - by day you had a couple of naturalist briefings, which were really boring for the most part. Good subject matter, just dry presentation (reading off a paper like presenting a research paper rather than entertaining tourists). There was fitness and streching each day, and that was pretty much it. A couple of days there was Wii but with no kids and most people over 60, I don't think that was a big hit. By night it was better with a couple of relevant movies, a talented dance crew, and very good lounge singing. It wasn't a big variety at all, but by then most people were tired anyway and went to bed. They could really have done more fun things with the daytime entertainment though, not just fitness, streching and dancing. Card tournaments, cooking classes, wine tastings, and things like that would have been more age-appropriate for the guests I think. Overall, we had a very good cruise on L'Austral. Many people complained of boredom during sea days, and about the quality of the lectures and the bad internet, some about the food and the naturalists not being proactively engaging with the guests, but mostly I think people were satisfied. The expeditions that we all came for were great, with the only complaint being only one morning in the ice. There should have been one more. When you consider the alternative accommodations to Antarctica, L'Austral is way above any of the others, except Silver Explorer which is double the price. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
I want to first state the expedition quality of this cruise was fantastic. The scientists onboard, lectures, zodiac tours and landings were beyond wonderful. The cabin was equal to any onboard Holland America or a Viking or Avalon river ... Read More
I want to first state the expedition quality of this cruise was fantastic. The scientists onboard, lectures, zodiac tours and landings were beyond wonderful. The cabin was equal to any onboard Holland America or a Viking or Avalon river cruise. The cabin did not compete with Celebrity suites. However, the breakfast and lunch buffet were always cold. This was true even if you went to the dinning room immediately upon opening. Room service also suffered from cold food. Eggs ordered off the menu were brought to the table over done or under cooked. Tapas served in the Observation Lounge were still frozen. I just didn't understand the lack of quality food on a cruise that was this costly. Coffee was hit or miss. Some lattes were right on and then the next might be undrinkable. Wine included with meals was pleasant. Dinner selections on the menu were difficult to interpret. Sometimes the items were lost in translation. We did find that there was a "secret" menu. If you gave 24 hours advance notice, you could get an Indian dinner or lamb chops, lobster and other entries. The risotto was poorly executed anytime it was on the menu. I also had a difficult time wrapping my head around a Silversea practice of auctioning off the chart from the cruise (signed by the staff) for thousands of dollars. When we asked where the money goes to we were told it goes towards clothing, entertainment and shore excursions for the crew. When fellow passengers asked "which" crew, the expedition leader did not give a clear answer. On our cruise, a record was set and a gentleman paid $11,500 for the chart. This guy had won the auction on the Arctic and wanted to have the Antarctic "side by side". Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Hotel before the cruise: 2 nights at the Tierra del Leyendas in Ushuaia. What a wonderful little hotel! Warm, inviting with great service and food. It is hard to imagine a better start to an Antarctic trip than a stay at this little ... Read More
Hotel before the cruise: 2 nights at the Tierra del Leyendas in Ushuaia. What a wonderful little hotel! Warm, inviting with great service and food. It is hard to imagine a better start to an Antarctic trip than a stay at this little gem. Highly recommended! The cruise: Before getting into the cruise, I have to make a few points about Ponant Customer Relations. We and our TA found it lacking and the communication very poor. Very shortly before departure (3 weeks), the company informed our agent they needed medical forms - and that we would be denied boarding if we did not have them signed by a physician and submitted. While the requirement of the form is not surprising, none of us had heard about the requirement since the cruise was booked (almost a year before sailing). In addition, no one had asked us about sizes for the parka we were to receive or how they were to be distributed. By comparison, Silversea asked our size for an Arctic cruise last year on the PA II (now the Silver Explorer) and had them for us when we boarded. Different procedures for different companies is certainly understandable, but a lack of communication and poor organization is not. As an aside, we were told the Ponant agent with whom our travel agent booked the cruise is no longer with them. Not exactly a surprise! On the dock before the cruise: Ponant unfortunately continued to provide a less than expected experience when we had to pull our own luggage all the way to the end of the dock to the gangway. I have never had to pull my own bags (not just my carry-on) all the way to the ship. Surely there was some way to take baggage from passengers and convey it to the ship. By the way, once on board we had to go back to reception to bring 2 of the 4 bags to the cabin since they were left standing there. Very disorganized and somewhat weird. The cruise: OK, enough of the bad stuff (just a little more to come). I am sure you think I am going to slam the cruise, but that is definitely not the case. I just felt it was necessary to share the bad with the good. The ship is beautiful and very comfortable. The last bit of bad stuff is that there is a design flaw in the balcony doors on Deck 3. On the first morning in the Drake Channel (25-30 foot seas) our cabin flooded twice in the space of 3 hours. The flaw lets water in under the sill of the door as well as around the seal. Until the ship makes a technical stop (their term) it cannot be corrected. As a result, at least 7 cabins on Deck 3 had the water problem and we were all moved to unsold cabins on Deck 6. Thank goodness they had them available. Service: Excellent. The cabin staff was tremendous and the dining room staff was superb. Food: This has been a hot topic of debate on the reviews. The quality of the food and preparation was absolutely top-notch. I can understand, however, how some passengers might have been disappointed with only 2 choices of soup, 2 choices of starters, 3 choices of main course (a fish, a meat, and a pasta), and 2 choices of dessert nightly. There were limited choices always available - Caesar Salad, Grilled Ribeye, ice cream, and a cheese plate. For the Captain's Gala Welcome and Farewell Dinners, the menus were fixed - and delicious. For me, there was always an appealing choice and I would rather have fewer selections of excellently prepared, top quality food than a lot of so-so items to pick from. Breakfast was a buffet (plus one featured dish prepared to taste) and lunch was a themed buffet daily. Nice house wines and beer was served with lunch and dinner with extra cost selections available as well. Public Rooms: Very appealing and well laid out. Cabin: Except for the flooding in our first stateroom (325), they were well designed and laid out. There were two quirks, however - 1) There is a panel that can be moved to reveal a fixed window that looks into the bath from the bed area; 2) The toilet is in a small area by itself. You have to exit it and go into the separate area with the shower and sink to wash your hand. Very odd. Entertainment: There were some very talented singers, dancers and musicians on-board. Entertainment was better than expected and made a nice way to end some evenings. In addition, Wii was available (I had never played) in 2 locations and made a nice diversion for the 5 children (and some adults - like us!) on-board. There was also a library (with a couple of tables for card playing or writing), computers (with available Internet packages), etc. In addition there were daily briefings and lectures like you would find on other Expedition cruises. Expedition Staff: Very competent but not as outgoing or sociable as on Silversea. All in all, though, they were dedicated to our safety, making sure we had every opportunity to enjoy Antarctica, to enforcing the rules and regulations. I don't think you could ask for more. I will also include the Videographer and Photographer in this category. They were incredible and very helpful. The video DVD and photo CD (available in US and non-US formats) are fantastic. Antarctica: The scenery and wildlife were amazing. Weather was always a challenge (snow probably half the time and rain others while near or on the continent). We saw the sun perhaps 1 or 2 days in addition to sail away and the day we returned. The tentative itinerary will definitely change due to ice, sea conditions (40 foot waves while fighting north on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula) and weather. Favorite moment? There were 2. Brown Bluff (huge Adele Penguin Rookeries with new chicks and taking zodiacs to get off on an ice flow in Wilhelmina Bay. I can only suggest that you go. You are in for an exhilarating and unique experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Booking- We booked directly with Ponant's US office. Office staff were generally poorly responsive. Emails and voicemails were not were not regularly responded to and it was difficult to reach a person when calling. The office ... Read More
Booking- We booked directly with Ponant's US office. Office staff were generally poorly responsive. Emails and voicemails were not were not regularly responded to and it was difficult to reach a person when calling. The office also apparently neglected to forward information regarding the dietary restrictions of one of our party to the ship. Charter flight to Ushuaia/tour of Tierra del Fuego- We spent several days on our own in Buenos Aries. Since we'd heard flights to Ushuaia can be unreliable, we decided to pay the premium and reserve seats on a LAN flight chartered by Ponant. We were given instructions to be at AEP at 4:30 AM, where we'd be greeted by representatives of the cruise line who would get us our boarding passes and on the plane. We arrived at the airport at 4:20 to find no representatives and no indication what to do. Only the heroic help of the LAN representatives got us to the gate--the plane was half boarded at the time. Since it was a charter flight, there were no published flight times on the LAN web page, and the departure time had been moved up and we received no notice. Once arriving in Ushuaia, we had about a half hour to explore the town before our bus tour of the national park and traditional lamb BBQ. They had a bus specifically for English speaking guests. The bus tour was run by a local agency and we enjoyed it, although it was a pretty whirlwind trip and in retrospect would have enjoyed spending more time in Ushuaia. The cruise: Our big bags met us on the boat. We were happy with our cabin. The divided restroom is a little bit strange--it'd be nice to be able to get to the sink immediately after using the toilet. As mentioned in previous reviews, the shower/sink half of the restroom has a window to the rest of the cabin with a sliding door to close for privacy. It'd be nice to have the control of the privacy screen on the inside rather than outside of the restroom. We also would have appreciated one or two more electrical outlets. The ship itself is very modern and luxurious. Between our balcony and the common areas at the front and rear of the ship there was plenty of space for viewing scenery and wildlife. However, since everyone has a balcony, there isn't really a continuous deck you can use to, say, chase a whale around the boat. Dining-Breakfast and lunch were both buffet style. Lunch had a different ethnic theme (some more successful than others) each day while breakfast was pretty much the same thing every day. The food was good with a lot of options, but salads and desert in particular were pretty repetitive. Most dinners were 4 courses, with two options for each course. There was also an "alternative" salad + steak menu that was always available and a "light" option which was typically a steamed fish of the day. We were happy with these dinners. There was also the upper dining room, where a buffet was served. This dining room was really affected by the waves and closed on rougher days. There were 4 more "formal" nights with 5 course, fixed menus where everyone was expected to eat in the main dining room (upstairs was closed). We weren't a big fan of these nights--our companion with dietary restrictions (basically for a low fat/salt heart-healthy diet) wasn't very well accommodated. The alternative menu was available, but not the low fat option. Also, for anyone with a weak stomach, options are nice and the combination of noise and over application of perfume from everyone being in the dining room made these nights a bit nauseating even without the waves. Also, the main dining room had advertised that they took reservations for large parties but it became clear that they took reservations for everyone who wanted one. What ended up happening is that each night (especially the formal nights) ended up having more and more tables reserved. We apparently missed the memo, and had great difficulty getting seated a few nights. It was a weird hybrid combination of open and reserved seating, and we would have been totally happy if they'd just outright assigned everyone's seats on the formal nights in particular. We never took advantage of the breakfast room service, but had room service a few times at night. While there aren't a lot of options, service was pretty fast and the food was good. Entertainment-There wasn't a whole lot to do on the boat on days at sea (which there are plenty of on the S. Georgia loop). There tended to be live music in the lounges most hours of the afternoon and evening. There were also several nights when there were very talented dancers performing. Service-We were really happy with the service in the dining room and our cabin stewards. Our cabin was rapidly serviced when we wanted it to be, and the staff generally very accommodating with our requests in the dining room and elsewhere. The guests-This was a French cruise with English as the second, alternative language. Even among the English speakers, native speakers were only a plurality. Perhaps 1/4 to 1/3 of the boat spoke English, and of these 1/3 were native speakers, while the rest were a mix of Israelis, Spanish speakers, and Germans. Naturalists, lectures, and shore excursions- Not one of the naturalists was a native English speaker, but everyone could speak English and they were happy to talk to you if you had questions. Now, I didn't pay attention to how the French schedules to compared to ours, but the lion's share of our lectures were given by the two naturalists who spoke the best English. Lectures were fit for a general audience and covered mostly the animal life we were seeing, with a few historic/conservation-oriented lectures sprinkled in. The shore excursions are why you are on an Antarctic cruise and we were extremely fortunate with ours. L'Austral is a bigger boat so you generally had between 60-90 minutes on shore at a time. You are assigned a color group (they seemed to put most of the English speakers in one group) and they rotated who went first. There were two opportunities to go on longer hikes for the more physically able (3+ hours on shore), although we missed one of these because of the weather. Our scheduled landings were as follows: Falkland Islands (2): New Island, Grave Cove South Georgia (6): Salisbury Plain (Cancelled) , Fortuna Bay (Shackleton hike to Stromness), St. Andrews Bay, Grytviken, Gold Harbor, Cooper Bay (Zodiac cruise) Antarctica (4): Weddell Sea (Zodiac cruise/Sea Ice Landing), Brown Bluff (cancelled), Neko Harbor, Paradise Bay South Shetland Islands (3): Bailey Head (cancelled, missed hike opportunity), Telephone Bay, Aitcho Island Cape Horn We had a total of 3 landings cancelled due to weather--and for good reason! A few landings were borderline, but the expedition staff always had our safety first and foremost. I also have to commend the staff for doing everything in their power to accommodate low mobility passengers. While you probably won't be able to do every hike and explore as much of the landing site as more fit individuals, the staff will do a great job getting you in and out of the zodiac both from the cruise ship and on shore. Announcements and daily wrap-ups were done both in English and French at the same time. They always said more in French than English, which was a bit frustrating at times (What are they joking about? Etc.) This was really illustrated in the final wrap up, which was split into separate English and French groups, where the French wrap up went over the allotted time (hour and fifteen minutes in total) while the English version went for about a half hour. It was most frustrating when there was a whale sighting. They would go through the whole announcement in French--telling you where it was at, fawning over the majesty of nature--before saying in English where the whale was--I really just wanted to be told where the whales were at as soon as they were seen. Value-Booking the cruise with Ponant and sailing on L Austral was surprisingly affordable compared to other ships. In particular, it was probably 1/3 less than sailing on Le Boreal, the sister ship, which is chartered out by Abercrombie and Kent for most of the season. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I was surprised to read the review by Tilly-Loves-Seabourn, because our experience was nearly identical on a 10-day cruise to Antarctica in December 2010. The saving grace was that our cruise was chartered by Abercrombie & Kent, who ... Read More
I was surprised to read the review by Tilly-Loves-Seabourn, because our experience was nearly identical on a 10-day cruise to Antarctica in December 2010. The saving grace was that our cruise was chartered by Abercrombie & Kent, who supplied all of the on-board lecturers and naturalists who worked hard as our zodiac guides. This ship (and its new Ponant owners) may have five-star aspirations but they don't seem to have a clue as to the requisite service levels and cuisine. I am sad to report that both service and cuisine are below the standard of Royal Caribbean mega ships, far below Celebrity, and not even comparable to Seabourn and her real peers. We had bartenders so green that they could not identify brand-name bottles on their shelf or find/mix the drinks on their cocktail list. We had waiter-busboys so inept that they were scraping cleared plates tableside, oblivious to standard clues as to when diners where finished with a course, unable to take accurate non-standard meal requests (e.g., substitutions). And don't get me started about the unsanitary way that I saw cutlery, fruits and straws handled. There were a few senior people in the dining room who seemed to understand our expectations but when privately pressed were frankly embarrassed that they lacked the new corporate head office support for adequate staffing or quality supplies. That may be true, but they were doing a poor job of training staff and working with what they had. There also was a certain French indifference to service requests, even though I'm fluent in French. Room service breakfast after 10:00 a.m. (because the restaurant stops serving at 9:30, even on at-sea days) -- impossible (not even toast or a hard-boiled egg). Someone is sick in the cabin and we need sheets changed -- no message passed on to the cabin stewards who arrive 3.5 hours later on their regular rounds. Except for the A&K Staff, there was virtually no entertainment or activity on board (not even a daily crossword puzzle). This may be the best looking boat sailing in the Antarctic, but I'll bet that many others offer better service and far better food. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
The biggest decision to make in regard to going to Antarctica on an 'expedition' ship is how much time you wish to spend 'off the boat', and what style you want to experience while on-board. Le Boreal is still probably ... Read More
The biggest decision to make in regard to going to Antarctica on an 'expedition' ship is how much time you wish to spend 'off the boat', and what style you want to experience while on-board. Le Boreal is still probably the most stylish way to explore the peninsula, but because it carries 200 passengers, you will spend less time roaming about in the zodiacs than on a smaller ship with less than 100 passengers (by regulation, only 100 individuals are allowed onshore at one time). Le Boreal does have it's failings though (as other reviewers have indicated), and when it comes up against all the other ships sailing other parts of the world, it would have some issues matching up. But in Antarctica, it will not be wanting for passengers... as only a small number of ships tour there, and more and more people are visiting each year. The staff will get better at being more professional, and the ship will work on eliminating some of the shakedown style problems. Bottom line, if you want to visit in style, and being restricted to only 3-4 hours a day off the ship is not an issue, than you will probably not do better than going on the Le Boreal... other parts of the world are another matter. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010

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