4 Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) Luxury Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise to continue our exploration of the South Atlantic, having already been on a Seabourn Antarctic cruise the year before. We embarked in Ushuaia, Argentina and had been there the year before. This cruise included a ... Read More
We chose this cruise to continue our exploration of the South Atlantic, having already been on a Seabourn Antarctic cruise the year before. We embarked in Ushuaia, Argentina and had been there the year before. This cruise included a flight from Santiago to Ushuaia as part of the total cruise fare. And this is where things became odd. We were awakened at 1:30AM in Santiago, Chile, to join the charter flight to Ushuaia that left at around 6 in the morning. We had initially been told by Silversea's agent that because Silversea had chartered the flight, there would really be no issue with baggage. However, when we received our cruise documents, there was a baggage restriction of 50 pounds, per person. That necessitated considerable reorganization of our luggage situation as we had traveled a long way to get to the cruise and had post-cruise safari plans in Africa. The flight left after some delay and we arrived in Ushuaia only to find that we could not go directly to the ship but had to go onto a lunch somewhat out of town. This disappointed us because we were tired and might have preferred to see some of Ushuaia rather than go riding on a bus out of town to a countryside restaurant. Following the luncheon, we returned to the ship at around 2pm and boarded. Oddly enough, though, for all of the effort expended in getting us to Ushuaia very early, the ship did not depart until around 10pm. We feel this issue might have been better handled so as not to drag people out of bed at an unholy hour. We also felt that had we known of the baggage limitation and the hour of departure in advance, we might have made our own flight arrangements from Sao Paulo, our first stop in South America. Further, once on board, we came to learn that there had been a pre-cruise tour offering to Iguazu Falls. We were disappointed to learn this as we truly would have been interested in seeing the falls, having traveled all the way to South America from East Asia. On board, we elected to purchase an upgrade to the free internet provided to every passenger on the ship. This proved to be nothing but a waste of money and I would warn anyone against it. The charge was some $350.00 and the upgrade proved to be just as slow as the free service. The other negative was that we had confusion with a name on the cruise documents. We contacted Silversea's agent about this and he assured us that proper documents were on the way. The head office never managed to send the documents on time and they were not received until we returned home. One last annoyance was the daily briefing held by the expedition staff. This occurred every evening at 6pm, often after a day of going on 2 excursions. Though attendance was not mandatory, one felt compelled to go as details of the next day's activities were spelled out at that time. Perhaps this could be better managed in future. As for the positives, they are many. The food on board was excellent. Our cabin, though smaller than balcony cabins on Seabourn and Regent, was comfortable and functional. The staff on board were superb, especially our valet and the room steward. We felt that anything we needed or wanted was somehow found promptly appeared. The expeditions were excellent and we certainly appreciated the efforts that the expedition staff went through day in and day out - it is no simple matter bringing people safely ashore in isolated places, through sometimes rough surf. And the scenery on shore was spectacular, to say the least. Though two expeditions were done a day and one might have felt tired, they still were worth every minute and any effort. Shore excursions were fine but perhaps, Silversea might let people know the options available for shore excursions in advance of sailing. Would I recommend a Silversea Expedition? Definitely. But be aware of the issues I highlighted as attention to them could make for an even better experience. We did not travel with children and this type of voyage might better be best for people who are mature enough to grasp the significance of what one is experiencing. Would I go again? Yes! But mindful of the negatives that I mentioned. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
I chose this cruise because I wanted to see this part of the world. A better name would have been Patagonia and Chilean Fjords. Antarctica was not really covered. Ushuaia was a loveley port, but the ship did not provide an overnight or ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I wanted to see this part of the world. A better name would have been Patagonia and Chilean Fjords. Antarctica was not really covered. Ushuaia was a loveley port, but the ship did not provide an overnight or even an option to discover Antarctica. Luckily I decided to stay an extra day and forgo the charter flight from BA on the same day. Silversea provided an excellent lunch and a great checkin option in Ushuaia and I had no problem joining the ship there. Embarkation was quick and efficient. My cabin was a Vista Suite and I had much space and lots of storage. The bathroom was good, except for the smell of urine....they changed my room within a few days of embarkation... a little late but it seemed to have been a known problem. The ship is lovely for a purpose-built ship and the staff was excellent. Initially, they did not exceed expectations, but during the course of the cruise I came to the realization that they were excellent, if not low key, and came to appreciate the service. I had no real complaints. Hilman and Elisa did a wonderful job of caring for me. Reception exceeded expectations, handling everything from any issues to room service, Maria stands out and Carlos was also excellent. Dining staff were wonderful ... Robert and his team are so professional and fun.... bar staff.... thank you Shannah Kay et al for your attention every day with a smile! The Expedition Team were amazing....Luke was superb at keeping everything on time and everyone in the know. While some who had been on expeditions before thought this was "Expedition Lite", I didn't have much frame of reference and thought things were good. I could have used a little more "action" but overall was happy with what I learned ... or DIDN'T learn ... sorry Luke.... about flora and fauna .... that's what google is for! LOL Chef Ross tried hard but the food choices didn't provide a lot of "local" stuff even though it was snow crab season. Everything was tasty and we spent a few nights braving the environs upstairs in the Grill! I am not a "sheeple" tour person and some stuff was a little too much herding about for me. Loved the recap nightly and info next day. Captain Piers was approachable, fun, present and informative always. After hundreds of cruises, it was amazing to see a Captain so inclusive and approachable. And interesting, LOL The public rooms are spacious and accommodating. Dining rooms are lovely. Room service always whenever, wherever and attention to detail on every level exceeding expectations.... including martini service in laundrette and morning green smoothie service following me wherever I went to get away from it! Thank you Zoran! What a team. Ports were interesting....saw amazing things. Attention to time on deck looking for things to see .... excellent. I can make my own fun wherever I go....but I was really happy to have been looked after so well from a personal standpoint and was appreciative for the Captains constant attention to advise us of everything! Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
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
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

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