51 Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) Luxury Cruise Reviews

I chose it based on "Cruise Critic" reviews of all the companies that had sailed to Antarctica during the previous season. Ponant was rated as one of the leaders (#2 in small ship cruises to Antarctica). Also I was not asked to ... Read More
I chose it based on "Cruise Critic" reviews of all the companies that had sailed to Antarctica during the previous season. Ponant was rated as one of the leaders (#2 in small ship cruises to Antarctica). Also I was not asked to pay a single supplement. These two points made it very attractive. The timing of the cruise was also correct for me as I was on vacation in November elsewhere and I intend to travel again in late January. I was atracted by the itinerary of the cruise and the expertise and knowledge of the guides. I also had the opportunity to explore Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls before flying to the cruise terminal. Everything about this cruise was well organized and even when we could not land at one of the harbours, due to ice, we quickly moved on to an equally breathtaking location. The meals were top class with plenty of variety and flavours. I have already booked back to back cruises with Ponant for 2019, through the Northwest passage to Vancouver. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose this cruise and company because of (1) It's a place we have wanted to visit for many years and (2) we had sailed with Silversea before on Silver Whisper 2016 in the Baltic. Of course there was the problem of the ... Read More
We chose this cruise and company because of (1) It's a place we have wanted to visit for many years and (2) we had sailed with Silversea before on Silver Whisper 2016 in the Baltic. Of course there was the problem of the ship's fuel pump breaking down and the curtailment/cancellation of her first voyage after her USD40m refit. Problems can happen to anyone at anytime. Silver Cloud had steamed all the way from Malta to the South Atlantic before her fuel pump problem - and we understand a few other cabin problems. But that is in the past and having just returned from her other 'first' Antarctic cruise we both felt we had received more than 'just' value for money. Our stateroom (622) was large and comfortable - with the now almost obligatory balcony. Handy for taking some photographs from, but not the ideal place to sit when the average temperature is only between -1C and +1C. Our room attendant (Joshua) kept the room smart, clean and tidy. Only quibble would be that the laundry didn't keep pace with the facecloth supply. Not a major problem as do have our own! We ate mainly in the main Dining Room and mostly had a table with a great view outside. Each time we had the same waiter (Renaldo) who couldn't do enough to keep us happy and well fed. Three nights we ate in La Terrazza - the Italian themed restaurant and the food and service there were second to non. We found all the staff there to be friendly and welcoming (especially Francesco who is from Portugal though and not Italy!). Breakfast was in L Terrazza as was our Lunch option. The self service buffets were excellent in choice and quality. Though sometimes the service got a bit too 'fussy' - I can carry a plate from the buffet to a table some, oh lets say 2mtrs away. Though it became a game for me to see if I could get to the table before being 'interrupted' by one of the many attentive waiters. They mostly won though! Being an all inclusive voyage the bars were comfortable to sit in and have a Cosmo (or four...) watching the sea outside the bar - though we had to keep opening the blinds as the ever attentive Marta kept them closed - no doubt some official reason or other. Shore excursions were by zodiac to beaches to visit Penguins - lots and lots ... and lots of Penguins. Cute and adorable they maybe but the smell... I don't know how David Attenborough stands it. Remember what goes in the Penguin (Krill) also has to come out! If you want an expedition to the Antarctic then Silver Cloud (Expedition) is THE ship to travel on. She is small enough to get into the remotest places and large enough to be a stable platform in bad sea conditions. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose Linblad/National Geographic (Nov. 29th-Dec. 19th, 2017) because of the reputation of National Geographic. Touring Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island (the Serengeti of the Antarctic), South Shetland Islands, South Orkney ... Read More
We chose Linblad/National Geographic (Nov. 29th-Dec. 19th, 2017) because of the reputation of National Geographic. Touring Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island (the Serengeti of the Antarctic), South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands, and ultimately Antarctica was truly a trip of a lifetime. Bit of a cliche perhaps but it truly was awe-inspiring and life changing to walk amongst hundreds of thousands of penguins, seals, and sea birds. The crew on the National Geographic Orion, at every level, were friendly, helpful, anticipatory, informative, and a lot of fun! This was a very active cruise on a smaller ship (about 100 passengers) that offered different levels of hikes plus zodiac tours all with a specialist, most of whom had PhDs in their respective fields. Who knew that a lecture on the cryosphere (all things ice) could be so interesting? We learned so much about the flora and fauna of the Antarctic zone and saw so many marine animals, birds, and interesting plants. The food on board was always fresh (how do they do it when at sea for 3 weeks?), every meal different, and the bar a lively spot after a day of hiking and photographing these wonderful Antarctic creatures. We saw both fin whales and humpbacks feeding so close to the ship and even on a zodiac tour! The captain and expedition leader both get a shout-out as they endeavored to find areas of discovery teaming with wildlife while taking advantage of excellent weather conditions. Those few days we transited at sea between the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica passengers availed themselves of yoga/stretch classes, stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, and 40 laps on the 6th deck=2 miles! Additional lectures added, during transit days, to our growing knowledge of this unique part of the world. Ultimately seeing these creatures in the wild led us, personally, to a decision to be more proactive in our support both financially and in sending emails to our elected representatives about the importance of this fragile area of our planet. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
It's not until you stand in front of a elephant seal or surrounded by penguins that you realise how extraordinary is the experience on this ship. Then you return to the ship to superb luxury, warmth and friendly service. The ... Read More
It's not until you stand in front of a elephant seal or surrounded by penguins that you realise how extraordinary is the experience on this ship. Then you return to the ship to superb luxury, warmth and friendly service. The captain literally took the ship to places where no Ponant ship had been before. We stood on an iceflow and drank champagne with the ship's bow above us. We navigated through icebergs and ice flows at night and we steamed past Cape Horn itself. Simply a beautiful ship, superbly run and a real expedition. The theme of the cruise was Antarctic and expedition and we did both. I wonder if the floor show was needed (although they were very good) and if more lectures could be given on the area itself. Onboard activities were well run. The whisky tasting was a hit (well with me anyway). The cuisine was amazing and the portion sizes just right. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
National Geographic “Explorer” to Antarctica…… we will never be able to top this spectacular vacation. The ship is an example of impeccable attention to detail. Everything about this ship is designed to make this a perfect trip for ... Read More
National Geographic “Explorer” to Antarctica…… we will never be able to top this spectacular vacation. The ship is an example of impeccable attention to detail. Everything about this ship is designed to make this a perfect trip for the guests on board. The crew is exceptional. Every single member of the team on board this ship was friendly, knowledgeable, attentive to our needs, and always put our safety first. Our cabin was perfect. Plenty of room for two people, spotless, all the amenities we could possibly need. The food on board was as good as any restaurant we go to in our hometown of Chicago. There is a library on board and a small dining area for afternoon tea, plus a huge lounge that was used for cocktails and lectures by the scientists on board. The scenery is nothing short of spectacular, and the wildlife is amazing. My husband and I travel for work and travel for pleasure and nothing has ever compared to this trip. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
Chose this cruise because we did the same cruise 10 years earlier and were anxious to return to Antarctica. The Explorer carries 148 passengers; our earlier trip was on Endeavor, which carried 105. Chose Lindblad Expeditions because we ... Read More
Chose this cruise because we did the same cruise 10 years earlier and were anxious to return to Antarctica. The Explorer carries 148 passengers; our earlier trip was on Endeavor, which carried 105. Chose Lindblad Expeditions because we were so pleased with the earlier cruise and we were not disappointed with this one. We liked the informality; no dressing up or coats and ties required. Breakfast and lunch is buffet but guests are invited to order something specially prepared if they prefer. Dinners are served and seating is open, which gives passengers the opportunity to meet each other. Meat, fish, and vegetarian entrees available every day. Alcoholic beverages are not included except at Captain's cocktail reception, farewell cocktail party, and special dinners in a private dining room with ship's naturalists, historians, or photographer. The fitness center is well equipped and there's nothing like walking the treadmill while the ship navigates sea ice! Kayaking, cruising in the Zodiacs, and walks among the penguin colonies are handled efficiently, with emphasis on safety. Educational talks by scientists, naturalists, and historians on board bring meaning to the experience. Very good trip! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
To discover Antarctica: the wild, the peaceful, the pristine landscapes, the animals, in their very own habitat, and visibly not disturbed by these strange visitors coming from other continents, To do so onboard a small size ship to be ... Read More
To discover Antarctica: the wild, the peaceful, the pristine landscapes, the animals, in their very own habitat, and visibly not disturbed by these strange visitors coming from other continents, To do so onboard a small size ship to be able to go in shore as much as possible around the icebergs and the whales, to enjoy the feeling of being part of a small family (only 200 passengers), to benefit of a strong and caring team of naturalists who were extremely helpful in preparing the visits... And to top it up, to relax in a large, nicely furnished room with a large bed, a balcony... and to enjoy a constantly amazingly good food, and good wines. What else? Very friendly staff, always ready to help. Excellent service at the various bars and restaurants. State of cleanliness very much OK. And I appreciated as well the availability and dedication of the Captain and of the Cruise Director who did everything in their power to make our cruise a memorable one, probably the "cruise of my life"... Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
Antarctica had been on my bucket list for years, and I finally made that dram a reality in December 2016. It was an amazing voyage, and lived up to the high expectations I had planted in my mind. Travelers should realize that when you ... Read More
Antarctica had been on my bucket list for years, and I finally made that dram a reality in December 2016. It was an amazing voyage, and lived up to the high expectations I had planted in my mind. Travelers should realize that when you cruise to Antarctica, you really only visit the tip of the Antarctic peninsula, not the great mass of the continent to which only intrepid explorers and crazy people go. Some cruises sail from Ushuaia just to the peninsula and back, usually over the course of 10-12 days. I wanted to take a longer, 16-day, cruise that included the Falklands and South Georgia island. Why Ponant? I was looking for a combination of itinerary, comfort, cuisine and cost, and it appeared that Ponant scored high on all categories. I'm sure that Silversea's offering is wonderful, but they were much more expensive. Hurtigruten was less costly, but they fall short in the comfort and cuisine areas. Ponant, which has only been actively marketing to Americans for two years or so, seemed to have the right balance. The Le Soleal is a new ship with comfortable cabins, an attentive and helpful crew, excellent food and the perfect itinerary. The French connection was another plus. My wife speaks French fluently, but she gets rusty from disuse and was savoring the idea that she would be able to hear and speak French for 2 1/2 weeks straight. The Cabin: Most of the cabins on Le Soleal have balconies, but I intentionally chose one of the few cabins with only a big window. Why? Because I simply didn't think I'd use the balcony very much in Antarctica. What's more, my cabin (#302) was exactly the same size as the others, except that their 30 square feet of balcony was a 30 square foot sitting area in mine. I don't regret the decision. Beyond that, the cabins were just fine. . . nothing opulent, but well-equipped and quite comfortable. A quick digression: The trip I booked was "all-inclusive" and included wine, liquor and gratuities. The mini-fridge in the cabin was stocked with sodas, water, beer and a few mini-bottles of booze, all complimentary. That was nice. But elsewhere in the cabin was an assortment of what I recall were crackers and cookies, that you were welcome to consume for several Euros each. They simply didn't fit the nom de plume "all-inclusive". I had my cabin steward remove them on the first day. Embarkation day was a disaster, most of which was NOT Ponant's fault. An eight hour strike by the baggage handlers on the day of our departure resulted in dozens of passengers missing luggage for a week, and a few of us (including me) missing luggage for the entire cruise. Ponant's senior crew and their on-shore representatives did a horrible job that day communicating with affected passengers. We were given little information and much of what was communicated was wrong. I - and many others - spent a couple of hours just before departure scouring stores in Ushuaia for socks, underwear, pants, shirts,hats, gloves, toothpaste, razors, etc. (I learned that the only place to buy underwear in Ushuaia is the grocery store.) I have to give Ponant a lot of credit. After the initial luggage SNAFU, Ponant got their act together, stepped up and bent over backwards to assist those of us without our bags. They defrayed our on-shore expenses, provided clothing items from the shop on board as well as from the crews' clothing outlet in the bowels of the ship, and gave us complimentary laundry service. They even planned and successfully executed a rendezvous six days later with another Ponant ship which enabled most of the delayed luggage to be reunited with its owners on Le Soleal. Dining on Le Soleal was excellent. There are two restaurants on Le Soleal. L'Eclipse on Deck 2 is full-service while Le Pytheas on Deck 6 is buffet and less elegant. Both were outstanding with lots of choices. I was especially impressed with the produce on board.. Remember that this was a 16 day cruise with no opportunity along the way to resupply the kitchen. Nonetheless, the fruits and salads were always excellent. Granted, as the days wore on, kiwi and bananas disappeared, and a few days later we had no more lettuce. But there was little else missing. Ponant did an outstanding job providing fresh, tasty produce throughout the cruise. Language. The passenger compliment on Le Soleal was probably 50% or more French speaking European, with the other half a mish-mash of Aussies, Americans, Asians, etc. Announcements were almost always given in both French and English. Efforts were often made (on Zodiac rides, eg., and some lectures) to have the entire group English speaking or French speaking. It was sometimes cumbersome, but necessary. (If you would prefer a totally English-speaking passenger compliment, Abercrombie & Kent, Tauk, and other companies sometimes charter the entire ship for an English-only experience.) Most passengers were quite friendly and outgoing, and I got to know and spend lots of time with many wonderful fellow travelers from around the world. I truly hope and expect that some of those relationships will endure. Daily and nightly entertainment on board were pianists and lounge singers who performed often in the lounge and observatory. Le Soleal also had a troop of young, very flexible and energetic dancers (four girls and a guy) who performed several creative and high-energy, productions in the theater. We also made out own entertainment. Kudos to Patrick, our cruise director. When several of us lobbied Patrick to schedule one or two karaoke nights, he happily complied, and we had a great time singing, dancing and making karaoke fools of ourselves. Excursions. All the above is nice, but the main reason travelers come to Antarctica is to see and walk among the wild life. And we did that in spades! There were thirteen naturalists on board. All of them were good and some were truly excellent. They were experienced, knowledgeable and willing to share with the passengers. The large fleet of Zodiacs on board was adequate to the task and Ponant had a well-trained crew to safely and efficiently get us where we needed to go. The wildlife is incredible! We saw, up close and personal, eight species of penguins, including a nesting colony of some 400,000 King Penguins on South Georgia Island. We saw what has to be the most photographed bird in Antarctica: a single, solitary Emperor Penguin on an ice shelf in Wilhelmina Bay, some two hundred miles or more from where most of the rest of the Emperors were congregating. The whale watching on this cruise was, by far, the most incredible I've ever seen. We observed Fin Whales, Minke Whales and even a rare Blue Whale. We watched a couple pods of Orca Whales. But the stars of the sea were the Humpback Whales. They were all around us, often only a few feet away from the Zodiac, lunge feeding, flipper-flapping, and, of course, proudly displaying their tails as they dove back under the surface. They were magnificent! Bottom Line: This cruise was just about everything I had hoped it would be. I would highly recommend Ponant and Le Soleal to anyone considering a cruise to Antarctica. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We chose the cruise upon the recommendation of a friend who had previously traveled with Ponant. We found all the staff (especially the expedition staff) to be terrific people who all seemed to enjoy their job very much. The expedition ... Read More
We chose the cruise upon the recommendation of a friend who had previously traveled with Ponant. We found all the staff (especially the expedition staff) to be terrific people who all seemed to enjoy their job very much. The expedition staff had an obvious enthusiasm for all the places we visited. Other guests were friendly. All the meals and drinks were excellent. Did not have a bad meal. Our only disappointment was the obvious mess up in getting all guests on to the chartered flight from Beunos Aires. We were amongst the 45 passengers who were not advised of the chartered aeroplane's early departure. The B.A. staff from the Ponant office were excellent and did all they could to get us to Ushaia. It was disappointing that no apology was forthcoming from the captain regarding this inconvenience. (We waited 13 hours at Jorge Newbury airport before leaving for Ushaia). Nous avons choisi la croisière sur la recommendation d'un ami qui avait auparavant voyagé avec Ponant. Nous avons constaté que tout le personnel (surtout le personnel d'expédition) a été les gens terrifiants que tous ont semblés apprécier leur emploi très beaucoup. Le personnel d'expédition avait un enthousiasme évident pour tous les endroits que nous avons visités. D'autres invités étaient sympathiques. Tous les repas et les boissons étaient excellents. N'avait pas de mauvais repas. Notre seul désappointement était le désordre évident en haut dans le fait de monter tous les invités au vol chartered de Beunos Aires. Nous étions parmi les 45 passagers à qui on n'a pas conseillé du premier départ de l'avion chartered. Le personnel B.A. du bureau Ponant était excellent et a fait tout ce qu'ils pourraient pour nous recevoir à Ushaia. Il était décevant qu'aucune apologie n'était prochaine du capitaine quant à ce dérangement. (Nous avons attendu 13 heures à l'aéroport de Jorge Newbury avant le départ pour Ushaia). Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Simply wonderful.This is a trip I have wanted to do for many decades and I am so pleased I opted for Abercrombie & Kent. I chose to fly business class to Buenos Aires (there was no First Class available with BA), this made an expensive ... Read More
Simply wonderful.This is a trip I have wanted to do for many decades and I am so pleased I opted for Abercrombie & Kent. I chose to fly business class to Buenos Aires (there was no First Class available with BA), this made an expensive trip into a very expensive trip, but that was my choice. My cabin or stateroom as they are rather pretentiously called, was on deck three and I was more than happy with it, it was close to reception, the Grand Salon, the restaurant and I was very comfortable. The food on board was excellent, personally I thought it was remarkable they could offer such wonderful selections of fresh fruits and salads throughout the trip. There were two restaurants, an informal buffet restaurant that was often busy on level six and a more formal and quieter restaurant on level two. Some guests complained about the choice etc, but then you will always get some people who just take a delight in finding something to complain about. It was a boat with 200 guests and 100 staff not 3,000 guests; they served three meals a day plus snacks and afternoon teas and even crepes some afternoons. If at anytime you were hungry, you could always order from the extensive room service menu for which there was no extra charge. All drinks including from the cabin's mini bar were included with the exception of high value vintage wines and vintage champagnes.The staff on board were on the whole simply delightful. Many of the waiters etc were from Indonesia or Bali, they were charming and smiled and tried as hard as possible. The criticisms I had were relatively minor but I think justified: one my trip, we only had part of one day in The Falklands, I would have dearly liked to have spent more time, atleast two or three days; the films on the TV in the cabin were awful; readers might think this is a stupid comment, but in rough seas I wanted to spend time on my bed doing nothing and would have really appreciated a far better selection. The laundry and (sporadic) internet connection I felt unnecessarily expensive, my extras for the two weeks amounted to only $280 but that was just laundry and the internet. Sadly for me some of the lectures were dull, but it gave you something to do, and if like me, you could always go to sleep in them. The scenery was of course out of this world; if you want to see Penguins, seals, and whales, they all came to you, and delighted everyone. I met some lovely people, both guests and staff; and of course there were those who I won't be sending Christmas cards to in future, but that's life. I came away feeling sad I had to return to the realities of home and very fortunate that I was in the position to be able to have afforded such a trip. No amount of photos could ever do the trip justice and I could never put into words the feelings of wonder and excitement that I experienced. Read Less
Sail Date December 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
Where to begin...We have gone on 10 Cruises with Silverseas and have always been satisfied..but this was totally different. If you are not the explorer / outdoors type of person then maybe you should not do this cruise. Here is my ... Read More
Where to begin...We have gone on 10 Cruises with Silverseas and have always been satisfied..but this was totally different. If you are not the explorer / outdoors type of person then maybe you should not do this cruise. Here is my blow-by-blow account: The charter from Buenos Aires was a ridiculous ordeal. So we are on a high-end cruise and they have all passengers on a required charter that is in a crappy coach style, 3 across airplane with some of the most vile excuse for food ever. Most of us could not remember the last time we had flown coach so what makes them think that this is acceptable?! Why not spend a little more and have a premium experience to start the trip?! (But they ended it badly also, as i will describe when i explain the disembakiing issues.) When we arrived in Ushuaia we sere taken to a nice restaurant where we had the best meal that we would have for the next 12 days. Then we were taken to the ship where the check in was reasonably simple and efficient like it always is and should be with Silverseas. The safety drill was conducted partially in the cold and wet but that cannot be avoided so I will not complain as it is necessary i guess per maritime law. The excursions and the zodiac crew were very knowledgeable and did their job well and were friendly, only complaint was that they drove faster at times than they really had to. The crossing of the Drake passage was not too bad but it was extremely boring and there are very limited activities on board. that is where they really should improve like maybe having a cruise director or at least movies or some form of entertainment or trvia pursuit or something to do. they do have some lectures but?! Boring! Dining: Breakfast and lunch were always buffets and really not so good. Dinner was much better. Attire: So here is one of our major issues! Along with all of the cold weather gear that we had to pack we were told that the dress code was usually Smart Casual and so we packed accordingly. Well here is what others were wearing: pajamas for breakfast, ballcaps and jeans with tee shirts for dinner and worse. OK if that was the dress code i could live with it but please don't have me pack for smart casual and allow everyone to dress in dumb scummy. Another problem was that the excursions were more strenuous than advertised. Moderate walk on the Falklands translates to almost heart attack inducing hike. Disembarking: It never is fun when the trip is over as they are always ready to hustle you off and get the new group on but this was insane. They take you off in a bus and then you are left in a parking lot for hours. Next we were driven to the airport very slowly in a round about manner. The airport was a mess. There was a long line with one person checking everyone through. Then the plane was late and apparently it always is. Now the main source of income for this crappy place are these cruise passengers so you would think that they could figure out how to handle this 3 month ordeal. Short version is that the scenery was great. The staff is good.The food and attire issues need to be addressed as do the charter and the disembarking issues. For an expensive premium experience Silverseas can do a whole lot better. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
I had not intended to lodge a critique on our cruise if the Silver Sea cruise line had acted honourably and answered some of the queries raised by our travel agent in Australia. On our return from the cruise on the Silver Shadow from ... Read More
I had not intended to lodge a critique on our cruise if the Silver Sea cruise line had acted honourably and answered some of the queries raised by our travel agent in Australia. On our return from the cruise on the Silver Shadow from Argentina to Lima Peru over Christmas 2014, we related most of the issues we had and the agent was so incensed, she wrote to Silver Sea in Australia. That was in January this year, and they haven't had the courtesy to respond. Hence this review. Wonderful ship, some wonderful staff, destinations wonderful, but this was overshadowed by so many faults it left a bad taste in our mouths, and a resolve never to go cruising again. We purposely paid the high rates demanded by Silver Sea, believing we would have fantastic food and service. Sure the cabin was brilliant and thankfully we had a first rate butler looking after us, but apart from that, you can begin to see many compromises. I don't intend to give you chapter and verse what went wrong, and there were many things that did go wrong, but suffice to say that the food overall was very disappointing. I know my seafood, and how come I am able to produce flavourful prawns from frozen product at home, but they can't do it on the Silver Shadow. Researching other comments on various websites, one can only reach the conclusion that the company is buying cheap food and cutting back on quality to remain in the game in this highly competitive market. The ship boasts ' exquisite cuisine inspired by Relais & Châteaux' – we paid the extra demanded to sit in this so called top restaurant on the Silver Shadow on Christmas Day, and when the main course arrived and we couldn't get a knife into what should have been a tender rack of lamb, we just walked out, much to the horror of the staff. There was little difference in the quality of the food between this top restaurant and the other restaurants on the ship. The wine selection was supposed to be top class – it was the same as the rest of the ship. The service was awful, the food was worse. We began to avoid even going to the restaurants on board to avoid what we called the 'dining gauntlet', of crowds of mainly Asian waiters and waitresses walking guests arm in arm to their tables and whipping the plates out of our hands at the buffet to march them and us back to our tables. It was embarrassing and totally over the top. Just leave us alone, we wanted to say at every meal. Not that the meals were worth writing home about. Yes, there were many things that this cruise line did wrong for our trip of a lifetime, but the final insult came with a note on our door one morning, informing us that because the cruise line supported some unknown charity somewhere in the world, they knew we would want to support it too (without asking us if we wanted to), and they had ripped $1 US per day per person off us and it was on our bill. But if we opted not support this great cause, whatever it was, we had to fill in a form just to get our money back. What an insult. We and others stormed down to the main desk when we got this note and demanded that these amounts be taken off our invoice. I accused the staff of blackmail, and they simply nodded meekly as if to say, 'yes we know, but we are made to do it.' Well if that's the Silver Sea experience, you can keep it. In summary, the food is ordinary, the level of service and bowing and scraping is annoying. Their daily newsletters and everything you do on board is designed to upsell the passengers. It becomes so obvious and annoying, one would think that a cruise line that thinks it is 6-star would know better – obviously not. The wines from South America thankfully were all superb. But there's more to life and cruising than having your glass constantly topped up to overflowing by over-enthusiastic waiters. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
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
I’ll start this review so that readers have an understanding of my background: late 30s couple, travel 3 months of the year, and have done over 100 cruises in my lifetime. I can enjoy the finer things in life as well as an outdoor BBQ in ... Read More
I’ll start this review so that readers have an understanding of my background: late 30s couple, travel 3 months of the year, and have done over 100 cruises in my lifetime. I can enjoy the finer things in life as well as an outdoor BBQ in Texas that’s a dive. This was our second Silver Seas Cruise and I think if you are spending the kind of money we just did ($30k for the two of us for Antarctica) you expect things to reflect that cost, when they don’t, there is a disconnect. We had a "French balcony" room which essentially is the higher end of the rooms, only 20 on the ship. Here are some highlights of my thoughts on this cruise: 1) The ship looks like its 25 plus years old, it has aged and I was shocked to find out it was built in 2008 2) The stateroom beds are horrific, imagine sleeping with a crease down the center in two small beds, and invest in a mattress top. The closet space was far too small for cruises like this where you have winter clothes and the TV had 4 channels, yes 4. Fox News, BBC, a French news station, and CNN. Really? 4 channels on a cruise ship with no entertainment, no casino, nothing to do? 3) The food was HORRENDOUS. We have sailed NCL, RCCL, Celebrity, and yes even Carnival has more variety than this ship. I get it, you are in Antarctica, but that’s no excuse for the lack of variety or quality of food. Dinner menu every night was "a steak that really wasn’t a steak, but cuts of a strip in a sauce, lamb, fish filets like the ones you could find on Golden Corral Buffet, and a vegetarian menu. That’s it. And believe me plenty of other passengers were not happy with this. For the money they charge it is a DISGRACE. Even the ice cream was bad. 4) The most annoying part of the cruise was the expedition team leader, this woman found it necessary to come on the loud speakers at 6am, YES 6am and 7 am on numerous days where the first landing or excursion wasn’t for 2 hours. She would come on and let you know that breakfast was being served and remind you that the first expedition would be in 90 minutes. I am sorry, but they had briefings each and every night to let you know this and on top of that it would come the night before in your daily itinerary. Getting woken up at 6am by someone on a loud speaker you couldn’t turn off right above your bed was downright ignorant. The ships staff was amazing with details and service, but it doesn’t make up for the issues above. I would NOT recommend booking with this at all, it doesn’t live up to the Silver Seas name.   Read Less
Sail Date February 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
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 travelled as one of 4 couples - of the eight of us, we were the only Silversea/cruising novices. Turns out many of the passengers were returning guests, and/or planned to book again on the Silver Explorer for future expeditions. We ... Read More
We travelled as one of 4 couples - of the eight of us, we were the only Silversea/cruising novices. Turns out many of the passengers were returning guests, and/or planned to book again on the Silver Explorer for future expeditions. We had expected to be the youngest passengers (we are in our 30's) but there were several families with children, and numerous passengers of our own age. Our cabin was on the 3rd deck, so I believe it was relatively stable. Nevertheless I am sensitive to motion and was quite seasick, despite enjoying "Drake Lake". Rather than eat up at the restaurant, my butler was frequently able to arrange for me to have whatever dish I wanted served in my cabin. A much appreciated benefit of the butler service! Indeed, the 8 of us enjoyed almost all the food that was served. Given that we were 12 days at sea without fresh provisions, the range and quality of the food was excellent. I have special dietary requirements and these were catered for without apparent difficulty. For someone who was predominantly confined to the cabin, I found it fairly comfortable. All the ship's staff were very friendly and welcoming, while the expedition staff were outstanding - many had a long association with the Silver Explorer and their enthusiasm for the ship and the destination was infectious. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
This was a trip we had been planning for some time and our expectations were very high. the transfer flight to Ushaia was fine and boarding was a quick as possible onsidering all the passengers arrived at once. Our Expedition Suite was ... Read More
This was a trip we had been planning for some time and our expectations were very high. the transfer flight to Ushaia was fine and boarding was a quick as possible onsidering all the passengers arrived at once. Our Expedition Suite was lovely and spacious and iimmaculate. On this expedition we had a dream run, not only because of the weather which was fantastic, but the crew and the expedition team who were superb. Robin the expedition leader ran the expedition side of the ship extaordinarily well. He and his team ensured we saw everything possible, cared for our well being on land and in the zodiacs and there was always someone from the team around us imparting information on the wild life, flora and the geology of the region. We really cannot praise them enough, they ensured we saw and did more than we ever anticipated - thanks for getting us onto Elephant Island, quite a feat. We saw everything from blue whales down to the tiny seal pups and thousands of penguins, it was just amazing. The ships crew coped so well with the weird hours we ate at some days, very early risings and were instantly ensuring we were happy, warm and fed. Our Cabin crew Rom and Ith were the best we have ever had in our long relationship with cruising. Perhaps the only grizzle we could have was with the dining room. the breakfast buffet was often cold and there seem to be a shortage of wait staff who were not well run by the Maitre D. They were willing and charming but somewhat over worked. The perfect culmination of the trip was the showing of the trip video on our last night. Richard Sidey the photographer had done a brilliant job and was treated to a standing ovation, it seems everyone bought a copy. As this trip was so very special it is impossible to really tell anyone how good it was, but the video shows it all and the photography is outstanding. My advice to potential Antarctic cruisers - if you do nothing else in your life do this cruise which includes the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, it is truly wondrous. do it with Silver Explorer, they do it so very well. This expedition exceeded our expectations totally and we look on it as probably the most special experience of our lives. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Antarctica is a very special place. We very much wanted to go, but as someone who does not cruise we were a little ?? about having to take a cruise to do it. Note: there are other options, but they are extraordinarily expensive, one ... Read More
Antarctica is a very special place. We very much wanted to go, but as someone who does not cruise we were a little ?? about having to take a cruise to do it. Note: there are other options, but they are extraordinarily expensive, one lives in tents and there is no wildlife to speak of. Anyway, I cannot give any kind of comparisons to other ships, so I will just give you our view from that perspective. Pros: The expedition staff was incredible and I cannot imagine a better run expedition with more qualified staff. The landings, the side trips, the zodiac cruises - just AWESOME!! I must include the personalities of the expedition crew really added to the fun. In some ways it was a little like camp and these were the camp counselors... way more serious and professional, but since us guest are such noobs - well we have to be shown the ropes, and they did a terrific job of breaking us in. The ship - We felt the size was about right, and due to the nature of the trip we decided to spend the extra cash to get one of the larger suites. Ours was the Expedition suite mid ship on the 4th deck. It was really nice and we enjoyed the extra space. I sort of wish I had spent a little more for the Silver Suite since one can open the doors and get fresh air. The food was quite good, not the best in the world, but heck - were provisioned for 10 days Once. Our butler was very nice and all the little things were done to make us comfortable. Heck, the staff even help "dig in" so we could get the Super Bowl live on the ship. I am quite sure we were one of, if not the only ship to get the game. The staff even put out chips, burger and dogs(and they are all European and still made it work). Cons: Parts of the ship are getting a little tired, namely the Observation Lounge - to me it seemed like a complete waste of space - renovate it and put a bar up there - after 10 days we got tired of the same "go to" lounge. Fitness center is way too small - the people who take this trip are a generally active group and a decent fitness center is needed. All in all - go to Antarctica - spend the extra coin to go on a nice ship like the Explorer and enjoy an unbelievable experience. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
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 feel compelled to write a review although it is now 2 1/2 years since we went on the ship. I am amazed at some of the poor reviews the ship has received. If you go on an expedition cruise on a small expedition ship you cannot expect the ... Read More
I feel compelled to write a review although it is now 2 1/2 years since we went on the ship. I am amazed at some of the poor reviews the ship has received. If you go on an expedition cruise on a small expedition ship you cannot expect the type of facilities you would find on a larger ship. A lack of wild life, poor weather, limited iternet access, lack of fresh food towards the end of a long trip and other equally trite complaints are outwith the control of the cruise line. Passengers need to read the information available about their trip, their ship, its facilities and what they can expect before they book. Neither Silversea nor any other cruise line can guarantee sightings of wild birds and animals. Internet access when far from the usual modes of communication is inevitably patchy. Lack of television is the same although why one would want to sit in a cabin watching TV while on an adventure ship is beyond my comprehension. We had the most wonderful 18 day trip, the crew were marvelous, the naturalists highly knwowledgeable, the zodiac expeditions were wonderfully organised, the lectures and evening round ups on what we had seen and what we would do the next day were first rate. The penguines, seals and birdlife were amazing. We saw whales and dolphins. We were never bored even though we had several runs of "sea days". The food was good to excellent, yes there was a declining offering in respect of fresh fruit and some supplies but what can you expect after two or more weeks at sea. There was a good choice at mealtimes, the wines were first rate and if the white or red being offered at any mealtime was not to your taste then the Maitre d' would offer you something you did like. Free seating at dinner meant we met a lot of people from all parts of the world sometimes sharing tables for numbers varying from 4 to 8 and only rarely seeking the seclusion of a table for 2. We loved our trip so much we have booked to go back to sail on the Ushaia to Cape Town trip next March so we can enjoy a return to the Falklands and South Georgia and then go on to Tristan da Cunha. The prospect of this trip in the early spring is something lovely to savour and look forward to through the winter months. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Antarctica is a once in a lifetime experience. Having read the critiques preceding ours we expected much more from Prince Albert II. Yes, Antarctica is breathtaking, a natural wonder affordable only to a minuscule percentage of the ... Read More
Antarctica is a once in a lifetime experience. Having read the critiques preceding ours we expected much more from Prince Albert II. Yes, Antarctica is breathtaking, a natural wonder affordable only to a minuscule percentage of the world's population but this natural wander is free. What you pay for is getting there + the guidance & explanations. Our disappointment was immediate. Having boarded a very tired looking ship with stained carpets, we entered our suite to find our own carpet stained, a plate of semi rotten fresh fruits, stained bed covering, old bathtub with 2 dirty towels. We could not believe the poor condition of our cabin, even our window had salt stains obscuring the view.When we mentioned these shortcomings to the Hotel Mgr. Martin, his arrogant & condescending comment was that "this is an expedition ship and expected... you did not do your homework". Having paid $20,000 for 10 days accommodations we certainly expected more. My reply was that there's no excuse for the dirty bathtub, rotten fruits and since the ship was in port, windows should be cleaned. Although following our complaint, the room steward did the best he could I can honestly state that if I was to rate Prince Albert II as a hotel, giving it 2** would be generous.Regarding the "gourmet cuisine" offered on board I can only say it was hit or miss. Food was mostly good but far from superb. Selection of desserts was very limited and on several days the cakes were bad and almost uneatable. Having a sweet tooth, I appreciated the upshot that here's a cruise that I will not gain weight on. On the plus side, the guides & lectures were excellent as were all landings. We lucked into some great weather and managed 2 outings/day. The gifted Parka provided by PA II, is warm; a secondary warm jacket is not required but do make sure you order it at least 1 week prior to departure as they may not have your size on board. Boots were plentiful and I certainly don't recommend you purchase your own unless you have special needs. Lack of entertainment (piano man only) was not a significant factor since we were tired from the daily expeditions. Informative lectures filled in voids. Lack of entertainment will be relevant if weather does not permit landings.Finally the 2 day Drake passage crossing (both directions) had many passengers succumbing to sea sickness so be prepared even if you've been on rough seas. This ship is only 30,000 tonsIf I am to do Antarctica again, I would choose National Geographic's Explorer expedition ship. You certainly get more value for your money. Other passengers felt the same way. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
We have realized the thrill of visiting Antarctica, our 7th continent, and thanks to the weather, new friends we made on the sailing, the professional crew, and the extraordinary service we received each day, we doubt this cruise will ever ... Read More
We have realized the thrill of visiting Antarctica, our 7th continent, and thanks to the weather, new friends we made on the sailing, the professional crew, and the extraordinary service we received each day, we doubt this cruise will ever be topped. Silversea required us to purchase their charter air package and although it had a few rough spots (check-in at the Buenos Aires domestic airport and a long wait for baggage once we returned to Buenos Aires) we understand why they did it the way they did and we really can´t complain. We were taken to a ski lodge 25 km from Ushuaia for lunch on the 8th and the lamb BBQ was pretty good. We boarded the vessel around 2pm and our luggage was waiting for us in our suite (all cabin categories are called suites). The welcome we received at the ship really started the cruise on a positive note. The suite was roomy and a bottle of champagne was waiting for us. The sail away was nice and the trip down the Beagle was uneventful. Apparently it was a bit rough the previous day but the initial stage of the transit of the Drake Passage was pretty smooth. It got a bit bumpy after 11pm and it stayed that way throughout most of the 9th. We made good speed across the Drake on the 10th and actually arrived early enough in the South Shetland Islands to take a bonus excursion at Half Moon Island where we visited a chinstrap penguin colony. The 11th began a stretch of weather that can only be described as extremely rare for the region. We actually had 14 landing or Zodiac cruising events when only 12 had been planned so we were very fortunate. Sunny days with temperatures hovering at 0°C were the standard for the next 6 days. We crossed the Antarctic Sound and had a morning excursion at Brown Bluff where we visited gentoo and adelie penguin colonies. We saw a few chicks and some hauled out seals and then hiked about 1.2km up a glacier to see some great views of the ship and bergy bits in the Sound. The afternoon brought a Zodiac cruise along the shoreline of Kinnes Cove where we saw more penguin rookeries, seals, and a pod of some 12 to 15 Orcas. The 12th tooks us on a transit of Gerlache Strait to Paradise Bay and we saw humpback whales and majestic scenery. We had a Zodiac tour at Skontorp Cove and saw the magnificent ice sculptures floating there. We saw some Antarctic Shag bird nest areas and listened to the snap, crackle, and pop of the melting brash ice in the water around us. In the afternoon we stopped at Base Brown for a climb up a hill to a point some 80 meters above the water. We slid down the hill in a snow chute made by our expedition team, it was great fun! Some of the heartier passengers made multiple trips down the chute. The wind picked up to 60 kts and we sailed in a blizzard during the night. On the 12th we tried to sail through the Lemaire Channel but it was blocked by considerable ice. We shifted to Plan B and took a Zodiac tour of Hidden Bay which was breathtaking for us Antarctic rookies as well as our seasoned expedition team. A planned second landing was cancelled by a massive amount of new snow from the night before so we stayed on the ship and enjoyed each others company. ¨Glorious¨ does not do justice to the 14th and the excitement of the crew was evident at every turn. We visited a Chilean Navy base in Dorian Bay, made a bonus stop in Danco Bay where we climbed another hill and did another slide to the bottom,and stopped at Cuverville Island. At all 3 points we had the pleasure of watching gentoo and adelie penguin antics between their mating/nesting areas and the sea. Some were trekking well over 100 yards from the shoreline to their communities. We always gave them the right of way and they had absolutely no fear of us. We observed the 5 meter rule but many of them did not! The nest building ritual was fun to watch as males brought pebbles to the nests from the coastline or from the nest next door. The actual penguin mating routine looked to be quite difficult and required good balance. Everything penguin related was very amusing! We did see some penguin nest raiding by skua birds but understand that is part of the lifecycle of wildlife here. The 15th was a carbon copy of the previous day weather-wise. We visited the Port Lockroy station, mailed some postcards, viewed more gentoo´s and shags, and did some shopping at the store. We took another Zodiac ride and spotted a humpback whale. We enjoyed lunch on the aft deck of Prince Albert. During the night it snowed again. On the 16th we arrived at Whaler´s Bay on Deception Island and enjoyed a 1.0 km hike to a great viewpoint above the bay. That afternoon we stopped at Telefon Bay for a longer 3+km hike to a point overlooking the old whaling operation. Many opted for the ¨Polar Plunge¨ and everyone had a grand time either participating or simply watching. As we departed the South Shetland Islands for Ushuaia the wind picked up (50+ knots) and the Drake became a bit grumpy again and the swells hit around 10 meters. King Neptune kindly eased up on us for the rest of the Drake crossing on the 17th and 18th and we arrived back in Ushuaia in time to take a stroll around town after dinner. Prince Albert II has a very professional and friendly crew. Every one of them knew all of our 128 names by the start of the 3rd day onboard. The dining room team led by Ali and Andrea was so kind and always ready to accommodate every request. They managed to to give us a variety of dining partners while at the same time allowed us to sit with new friends. Norbert the head chef is so gifted and goes out of his way to make each meal offering special. He even took requests! The cooks do a phenomenal job every day. The food servers were friendly and their recommendations were spot on. They often carried our meals to our table. The breakfasts and lunches were served buffet style and the variety of food was always more than one can imagine. Dinners were characterized by numerous choices cooked to perfection. Desserts, especially at lunchtime were always tasty and different. The chocolate mint ¨zero-zero¨ ice cream was our favorite. The drink servers quickly learned our personal preferences and were ready to take good care of us until the wee hours. Perry on the keyboard has an incredible repertoire of music and never overpowers the room as he plays. Our suite butler, Jim, and attendant, I Gede, were largely invisible but our suite was always well supplied and immaculate. They always had a welcoming smile to go along with their desire to provide anything we wanted or needed. The immensely experienced and hard working team of nearly a dozen experts, skilfully directed by our Expedition Leader Conrad, was absolutely top-notch. Their knowledge of all things Antarctica including history, politics, birds, seals, penguins, whales, geology, geography, marine biology, and climatology was mind boggling. Their lectures were well organized and presented in an entertaining manner. Their Zodiac driving skills were commendable as they kept us thrilled and safe at all times. Our photographer, Kristine, did a fabulous job recording our journey and her DVD of the cruise is a work of art! We dined with members of the expedition team on several occasions and their conversation added a lot to our understanding of Antarctica. Hotel Manager Martin Blanar runs a tight ship and also has a marvelous staff who go out of their way to attend to every need. We had the pleasure of dining one night with Martin and he is a true gentleman. Captain Peter Stahlberg leads an experienced bridge team that gave us no concerns throughout the voyage. The Captain is clearly a great leader who is loved by his crew. After this amazing adventure it is small wonder that so many of us booked another expedition with Silversea while we were onboard. I doubt anyone can provide the high degree of service and overall outstanding expedition experience as we received onboard Prince Albert II. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
DW and I had done 19 previous cruises to the usual places (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Alaska, etc) and recently visited Iceland and Greenland on a Transatlantic cruise. The scenery was fantastic and got us thinking about visiting ... Read More
DW and I had done 19 previous cruises to the usual places (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Alaska, etc) and recently visited Iceland and Greenland on a Transatlantic cruise. The scenery was fantastic and got us thinking about visiting Antarctica. We like hiking and wildlife viewing, but also like coming home to a nice hotel or cruise ship where we can have a great meal and a clean place to sleep - we're not into tents or camping. We also were looking to check off continents #6 and #7, and this itinerary gave us the chance to see Buenos Aires & Ushuaia, as well as a chance to step on the continent of Antarctica. We knew that a larger non-expedition ship that only does a drive-by would not satisfy us. Booking was easy; there were a few cabins still available in July so we plunked down some extra to get a larger suite, as well as business class airfare. For long flights, it's worth it, IMO. We used Silversea's air program which gave us a very nice itinerary; from Albany NY to Buenos Aires with one stop in Atlanta. Using Silversea's air program was handy when our first flight from Albany to Atlanta was delayed 6 hours due to mechanical difficulties; I called our TA while waiting in the (long) line at the airport and she got us switched to a new itinerary through JFK within a few minutes. We arrived in BA around 11 AM and were met by a SS rep just outside of customs. Luckily, it was a national holiday so there was minimal traffic on the way to the hotel and we were there just after noon. Check-in was quite efficient and we were in our room for a shower and change of clothes by 12:30, ready to go exploring. I've used other cruise lines hotel packages and they don't guarantee room availability for early check-in; SS does and that was a really nice perk after a long night of flying. Buenos Aires was OK and we did some fun things there, but that's not really the topic of the review. The hotel (Park Tower BA) is a Starwood Preferred Group property and quite luxurious; breakfast was included and we really enjoyed the hotel. 2 days later, we had to be ready to catch the bus to the airport at 5AM so we could get to our charter flight to Ushuaia. The charter flight was probably the least organized/smooth aspect of the whole cruise, but not bad by any means. We arrived at the airport at 5:30 or so for a 7:00 flight, but it got delayed until some time after 8:00 so we all sat around for quite some time not knowing what was going on. The flight down was OK; coach class on LAN. Ushuaia airport is tiny and from there we got on buses and went for a scenic drive, then lunch. After that, we went for a bit more sightseeing before driving to the pier to embark. Embarkation was lightning fast and the cabins were ready when we got there. The ship itself is small but our suite was quite nice; the size is larger than a Penthouse suite on Oceania but smaller than the Owner's suite. Decoration was comparable to or nicer than what we've had on Oceania or Princess. Amenities and toiletries were Bulgari; the suite felt very luxurious. We had a bottle of champagne waiting for us but with all the wine and drinks included, it was almost impossible to find time to drink it! Also, we had a nice box of Godiva truffles waiting for us as well... The ship layout isn't very complicated - the back stairs connect the dining room (Deck 4) and the Panorama Lounge (Deck 5), and the front stairs lead to the theater and the Observation Lounge (both Deck 6). Cabins are on 3, 4, and 5 mostly mid-ship; there are a few suites on 7. There's also a neat spiral staircase in the dining room that leads directly to the Panorama lounge - so you don't need to walk as far for your after-dinner drink. Not much entertainment, but enough - if you're here to see Antarctica then that isn't really a problem. Nights in the Panorama lounge there was a piano player, and we got to do some dancing, relaxing, talking to other passengers and staff, and every few nights they had Karaoke (ugh)... I can't say enough about the level of service that we encountered - hands down the best we've seen. By day 2 most of the staff knew our names and our drink preferences. When we appeared in the Panorama lounge after lunch the bartender would bring our double espressos as soon as he saw us. The bar staff were attentive and would get you whatever wine you desired. The dining room staff were excellent as well. Food quality was probably a touch better than Oceania - which IMO is a real compliment. I wasn't expecting such good food on an expedition ship, and we were quite surprised. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet-style which initially worried me - some bad experiences on the buffet line with other cruise lines... But the buffets were uniformly excellent, and the variety quite good. Dinners were traditional sit-down style with usually 3 appetizer choices, 3 soup/salad choices, and 4 entrees including a vegetable option. Suffice it to say we never had a bad dish the whole time. Seating was open for all meals, with some tables for 2 and some larger tables. We often joined other couples at tables for 6-8. The neat thing about that is that the expedition staff would come in and eat with us at these larger tables - so it was a great chance to talk to them informally about a wide variety of topics. The expedition staff were uniformly fabulous. Conrad was expedition leader, and from him on down they were all personable, knowledgeable, and friendly. In addition to Conrad there were 2 asst. leaders, a historian, a mountain guide from Patagonia, and 4 other naturalists. We learned so much from them, and really enjoyed their company. They lectured once or twice a day on various interesting topics, and gave ad hoc small presentations during the nightly recap meetings. We got through the dreaded Drake Passage with time to spare and attempted a bonus landing at Penguin Island the night before our first "scheduled" landing. Ice conditions and weather precluded making this landing, so we were disappointed but eager to land the next day. We were divided up into 4 groups and 2 would land at one time. Group 1&2 landed first, then 3&4. For the next landing, Groups 2&3 landed first, then Groups 4&1, and so forth. So we all had a chance to land first (early morning - ugh) vs. later on in the day. The process of gearing up for landing took some learning... Traffic flow to and from the mudroom is tricky with everyone milling around the relatively small reception area. It might make sense for them to have us gather elsewhere, and then take us to the mudroom to change into boots in smaller groups. But that's only a minor issue. Zodiac rides were fun, and occasionally you'd get splashed. We kept our cameras in Ziploc bags and/or under our parkas and they were fine. Landings were "wet" with a few steps in the water before reaching land. The crew were pros at getting us into and out of the boats with minimal difficulty. We made our first landing at Brown Bluff, on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, so this was our big moment to claim #7. After savoring that for all of 2 seconds, we were engrossed by the innumerable penguins milling about withing 20 feet of the landing site. Gentoos and Adelies nesting in huge numbers, swimming, waddling around - I'm sure they got Kodachrome poisoning from all the pictures being taken. Saw a skua stealing an egg which was a downer though. Had a nice hike up the hill to a panoramic view of huge tabular icebergs floating in the Antarctic sound... Lovely day. After that we went to Deception island - which is a ring-shaped island with a lagoon in the center - think Santorini with snow and ice. Made two landings there - one at an old whaling station; the decrepit buildings in the harsh volcanic landscape were very picturesque. Some of us took the opportunity to make a "Polar Plunge" in the bracingly cold water... The first few inches were volcanically heated, but after that it took your breath away. We were rewarded by a few chinstrap penguins on the beach. Later we landed on another part of the island and hiked to the volcanic crater from the 1970 eruption. On the way back there was a crabeater seal hauled out on the beach, and more chinstraps. Next day we went to Paradise Harbour further down the peninsula to visit Gonzalez Videla - a Chilean base which is smack in the middle of a huge Gentoo rookery. Guano everywhere! We tucked our rain pants into our rubber boots and were glad we did... But rewarded by great views of nests, eggs, and penguins all over the place. No chicks yet; a bit early in the season. After a brief stop in their small gift shop (T-shirts and landing "certificates") we pulled up anchor and moved to a different spot in Paradise harbor for Zodiac cruising among the icebergs. We were rewarded by seeing several Weddel seals out on the icebergs, as well as nesting Antarctic Shags, Petrels, and Skuas. Next day we went to Arthur Harbor for a visit to the US Palmer base and Torgensen Island. The island is small and had a big Adelie rookery. Lots of eggs, but still no chicks. We caught a glimpse of a leopard seal lurking about off shore, but had a great view of a large group of elephant seals lounging about on an adjacent island. They are noisy and rambunctious - great views of them flopping about, half-fighting half-playing with each other. Palmer base is larger than Gonzalez Videla - we got a tour of their facilities, gift shop, and Antarctic aquarium. It is still a bit early for the summer "crowd" (about 150 at peak occupancy) so not much science to see. After the tour we had hot chocolate and brownies, and talked informally to some of the staff. Lastly, as an added bonus we were able to squeeze in a short visit to historic Port Lockroy, where we could buy postcards and mail them to folks back home with authentic "British Antarctic Territory" stamps. More Gentoo penguins, guano, and skuas here as well as interesting rooms left as they were in the 1950s when the buildings were last used as a working British base. After a long day, we were glad that the next day was easier - we did scenic cruising through the Lemaire channel in the morning. The skies were overcast so we couldn't see the tops of the mountains but it was neat cruising through brash ice and occasionally maneuvering around larger bergs. The weather started getting blustery with snow flurries but we decided to try landing on Petermann island anyway - a bit of a scramble over wet rock but manageable. Once there, we finally saw our first Adelie penguin chick! We also hiked up to the saddle to look south, as this was the southernmost point of our expedition - about 65 degrees, 10 minutes south - only 70 some miles to the Antarctic circle - so close, but not for this trip. We turned north to make one more stop in the South Shetlands - the Aitcho island group. We had a special treat at this stop - in addition to tons of Gentoos and Chinstraps, there was one lonely King penguin hanging out at the rookeries looking for - what, we didn't know. But it was quite unexpected, as they breed much further south. Great photo ops - green hillsides with moss, the larger King next to the smaller penguins, a leopard seal lazing on the distant beach, more elephant seals, another skua attack... We climbed a snowy hill and slid down on our parkas. Wonderfully picturesque and great nature shots. After that it was time to brave the Drake - first night was a bit rough but we still made good time and got into the Beagle channel early Sunday morning. Leisurely cruising by mountains, Magellanic penguin rookeries (that made 5 species seen this trip), and a massive colony of terns. We arrived in Ushuaia by dinnertime so had some time to explore that evening - the town isn't much but it has beautiful scenery and great sunsets. Disembarkation was smooth the next morning - we had a leisurely breakfast and disembarked just before 9AM. It was a short hop on the bus off the pier to the town; from there we had until 11:30 to spend as we liked. Again, the town isn't much and the other problem with this was that nothing is really open until 10:00 AM. So we wandered, took some pictures, looked at overpriced souvenirs, and finally sat on a park bench overlooking the Beagle Channel watching a tall ship go by and catching some sunshine. From there, we went to the Ushuaia airport and back to BA. Had to transfer between the airports which was a 75 minute ride in rush-hour traffic, but we figured it was either rest on the bus, or sit in the airport so no problem spending extra time on the bus. From BA, an overnight flight back home and that's about all. I have to say this was the best cruise out of 20 that we've now taken in terms of food, service, pampering, and organization. Silversea seemed to go out of their way to make you comfortable and happy the whole time - from the moment we were met in the airport to the time they dropped us off. DW and I have found our new "Favorite Cruise Line" and booked a trip to the Arctic with them for August 2011. It can't come soon enough! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009

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