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Lindblad Expeditions

QC Articles About Lindblad Expeditions

Sven-Olof Lindblad.
Lindblad's Return to Service By Anne Kalosh. Like all other cruise operators, Lindblad Expeditions' ships are laid up to wait ...
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Responsible Travel Trends
Responsible Travel Trends By Anne Kalosh. Promising news in this era of coronavirus fears: Lindblad Expeditions is implementing "Premium Purity," ...
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Quark Expeditions' Ultramarine new ship for 2020
New Ships of 2020 By Anne Kalosh. For small-ship lovers, a bevy of oceangoing new builds are set to enter ...
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Guests get up close to a calving glacier in Southeast Alaska, at the Sawyer Glacier.
Lindblad Expeditions Goes Carbon Neutral By Anne Kalosh. Great news for QuirkyCruisers who care about the impact of their travel ...
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Lindblad’s New National Geographic Venture
Lindblad’s New National Geographic Venture By Peter Knego. My Lindblad Expeditions “Among The Great Whales” adventure aboard the brand-new 100-passenger ...
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Reader Reviews About Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad in Alaska
Reader Review: Lindblad in Alaska's Inside Passage. REVIEWER Elizabeth Moss from the USA. CRUISE LINE Lindblad Expeditions. SHIP National Geographic ...
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Nat Geo Venture Reader Review
NAT GEO VENTURE in Alaska. REVIEWER Laura Virkler  from the USA. CRUISE LINE Lindblad Expeditions. SHIP National Geographic Venture. DESTINATION ...
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QuirkyCruise Reader Review: NAT GEO ORION in Antarctica (Lindblad) by Anisha M.
Orion in Antarctica (Lindblad). REVIEWER Anisha  from the USA. CRUISE LINE Lindblad Expeditions. SHIP National Geographic Orion. DESTINATION Antarctica. # ...
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QuirkyCruise reader review
National Geographic Endeavour II in the Galapagos REVIEWER Sapna Rao from Singapore. CRUISE LINE Lindblad Expeditions. SHIP National Geographic Endeavour ...
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QuirkyCruise Review QuirkyCruise Review About Lindblad Expeditions

Based in New York, Lindblad Expeditions has a long legacy dating back to Lars-Eric Lindblad’s pioneering expeditions to Antarctica, Easter Island and the Galapagos beginning in the mid-1960s. In the intervening years, the firm, under the leadership of his son, Sven-Olaf Lindblad, has expanded its fleet and ship charters to basically blanket the world for those in search of an adventure by sea. Destinations are expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica; natural history and wildlife cruises to the Galapagos, Indonesia and Borneo; cultural and historical voyages to the British Isles, Greek Isles and Morocco, revived cruise tours to Ancient Egypt — the list goes on and on.

The joint venture with the National Geographic Society established in 2004 expanded Lindblad’s passenger base and drew on the Society’s expertise; especially its photographers who enrich the pages of National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Traveler.  The relationship has expanded from itineraries in the US, Australia and New Zealand to Canada and Latin America.  As a four-time passenger I have always had the strong sense that the expedition and enrichment staff genuinely want to bring you absolutely the best experience possible. The large number on every voyage makes a huge difference in having them readily at hand when ashore or in Zodiacs and providing a rich variety of expertise.

Lindblad Expeditions

The N. G ENDURANCE represents the latest in Expedition ship design. * Rendering: Lindblad Expeditions

In January 2017, Lindblad took delivery of the 96-passenger NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENDEAVOUR II to replace the long-serving N. G. ENDEAVOUR  in the Galapagos. Then in July 2017, a newly-built 100-passenger NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC QUEST became the first of two ordered ships to sail alongside the veterans N.G. SEA BIRD and N. G. SEA LION in Alaska, British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest and to reintroduce Belize itineraries.

The second, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VENTURE, l entered service in October 2018 on the U.S. west coast. Her seasonal itineraries will be in Baja, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. US-flag ships come from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, near Seattle. Not stopping there, in mid-March 2018, Lindblad held a keel laying ceremony for the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENDURANCE (126 passengers) commencing construction at the Crist Shipyard in Gdynia, Poland. This Polar Class 5 rated ship is due to be delivered in the second quarter of 2020, and ENDURANCE recalls the name of Ernest Shackleton’s pioneering Antarctic expedition vessel.

Lindblad Expeditions

N.G. ENDURANCE offers 13 two-room balcony suites. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

 

The ships vary from perhaps the best-equipped expedition ships afloat to the most nimble for poking around confined spaces, along narrow rivers and into tiny island coves. Here, we treat the ships one by one, to see what they offer and where they venture — some go all over and others stay in one region.

It is hard to beat Lindblad for its creative and professional approach to expedition cruising, so be prepared to pay for the high standards.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

National Geographic Explorer

Lindblad Expeditions

N.G. EXPLORER. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER (148 passengers & built 1982 as the rugged Norwegian coastal passenger and roll-on, roll-off ferry liner MIDNATSOL, enlarged for the same service 1989, and rebuilt into an expedition ship in 2008).

Passenger Profile

Mainly 50+, though younger passengers come on selected expeditions and so do families; Lindblad has a fine program for children, best in the Polar Regions and Galapagos.

Passenger Decks

6. An elevator serves all decks apart from B-Deck for Internet center, Mud Room and lockers.

Price

$$$  Super Pricey

Included Features

All shore activities, Zodiac and kayak explorations, all alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, gratuities to the crew. So what’s not? WiFi, Spa treatments, shop souvenirs.

Itineraries

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER (NGEX) covers more territory in one calendar year than any other in the fleet. In winter, the polar regions include Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia (along with N.G. ORION); in summer the Norwegian fjords, Arctic Norway, Svalbard, Iceland (including a circumnavigation), Greenland, Canadian Arctic and Canadian Maritimes; Fall down South America’s west coast from Peru south to Chile and Argentina (Patagonia) for another Antarctic season; and closing the circle, a spring return to Europe via the Atlantic Islands, Iberia and onto the British Isles and Ireland. Watch for new itineraries. One Iceland and Greenland itinerary includes flights over the latter’s remote glaciers as well as land and sea travel.

Why Go?

The NGEX is  one of the best equipped expedition ship afloat with a fleet of Zodiacs and kayaks, as well as sophisticated equipment such as a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) for underwater exploration, hydrophone, underwater video camera, a superb expedition team that provides enrichment aboard and explorations ashore via Zodiacs, and a National Geographic photographer and instructor. On European itineraries, cultural experts and historians are aboard.

When to Go?

The ship ventures to various regions in the most suitable season such as Antarctica in the Northern Hemisphere winter and the Arctic regions in summer.

Cabins

All cabins, of mostly moderate size (some larger suites), are outside, majority with windows, eight with portholes, and all thankfully have blackout curtains for 24-hour daylight sailings. Beds are queen-size, twins with some convertible to queens, and seven can take a third person at 50% reduction of the double occupancy rate; 13 have balconies. A nice extra is a World Atlas placed in cabins and open to the page you will be exploring. How about that for service?

Public Rooms

Main lounge (seats everyone) with bar equipped for films, slide shows and presentations; observation lounge on Bridge Deck with domed-roof and adjacent library; navigation bridge is generally open to passengers for meeting officers, learning about navigation and spotting wildlife; chart room for studying the region sailing to; fitness center, spa and sauna, Internet café.

The bridge aboard the NGEX is often another public room for the passengers.

The bridge aboard the NGEX is popular gathering place for  passengers, one of the delights of expedition cruising. * Photo: Ted Scull

Dining

Single seating dining room forward and adjacent Bistro (same menu) has additional seating (some tables for two) in a more relaxed arrangement. Meals also offer buffet items at breakfast and lunch. The food is of good quality and well prepared, though that extra freshness may be lacking in remote regions. Lunch buffets also take place up in the domed observation lounge. Go for it; the view while eating is great!

Activities & Entertainment

Apart from the excursions ashore and in Zodiacs accompanied by the expedition staff, sharing pre-dinner recaps are amongst the expedition highlights — with underwater videos shot that day being shown, a look back at the day’s happenings, and a plan for tomorrow presented by the expedition staff. Unscheduled Zodiac excursions may occur when wildlife appears along the shore.

On Svalbard, for example, a polar bear may be spotted as a tiny speck on the ice, and passengers begin to gather, standing in total silence at the bow to watch the distance between the ship nosed into the pack ice and curious bear get ever shorter. I have seen polar bears walk up to the bow and sniff the smells we give off.

This curious polar bear came right up to the bow during a cruise around Svalbard. (Spitsbergen)

This curious polar bear came right up to the bow during an expedition cruise around Svalbard. (Spitsbergen) * Photo: Ted Scull

Special Notes

A full-time doctor is aboard

QuirkyCruise Review

 

National Geographic Orion

Approaching the Orion from the stern off Australia's Kimberley Coast.

Approaching the Orion from the stern off Australia’s remote Kimberley Coast. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ORION (102 passengers & built 2003 as ORION for Australian-based Orion Cruises, acquired by Lindblad in 2013 and underwent a major refit.

Passenger Profile

Mainly 50+, though younger passengers and families come on selected voyages. Given the cruising areas, now Antarctica and the South Pacific, expect some Europeans and Australians.

Passenger Decks

5 decks with an elevator connecting all but the Expedition Deck for the Mud Room, Zodiac boarding and Doctor’s Office.

Price

$$$  Super Pricey

Included Features

All shore activities, Zodiac and kayak explorations, all alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, gratuities to crew. So what’s not? WiFi, Spa treatments, shop souvenirs.

Itineraries

Winter in Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia from Ushuaia, Argentina (along with N.G. EXPLORER);  in spring, the NGOR heads first to Chile then across the South Pacific via Easter Island and Pitcairn Island for cruises to Tahiti and around French Polynesia. Also, in the summer in Alaska and along the Aleutian Islands to the Bering Sea, and the Russian Arctic and Russian Far East.

Why Go?

Here is a prime example of an expedition ship that excels for its comforts, style and travel adventure. The N.G. ORION is particularly well-equipped with a fleet of Zodiacs, kayaks, snorkeling gear, scuba diving gear for 24 passengers (on certain itineraries), a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), hydrophone, underwater video cameras, video microscope, a superb expedition team that provides enrichment aboard and explorations ashore and in Zodiacs, and a National Geographic photographer and instructor.

When to Go?

Itineraries are geared to the best season exploring a specific region such as Antarctica in the Northern Hemisphere winter November to March, while the rest of the year most other cruising areas are in tropical waters.

Cabins

Roomy for a small ship and beautifully-designed and furnished; twin beds that convert to queens, all are outside, 19 with oval windows; 9 with balconies, some of which are small and some shared with neighbors (no partitions); flat-screen TV with DVD/CD player, mini-fridge, personal safe, Internet access for laptops, shower except 4 suites with bathtub. Third person pays 50% of double-occupancy rate in triple-bed cabins. 4 single cabins.

Public Rooms

Attractive main lounge with sit-up bar that seats all for talks and films; renovated observation lounge and library; open bridge policy makes the navigation center another well-used public room.

Orion: Lunchtime on deck. * Photo: Ted Scull

Orion: Lunchtime on deck in Australia.
* Photo: Ted Scull

Dining

Meals are served at one open seating in a restaurant with large-view windows; delightful outdoor café serves buffet breakfast and lunches, and barbecue dinners when the weather is warm. Food is very good and often connected to the cruising region.

Activities & Entertainment

Apart from the guided excursions ashore, including on foot and bicycles, and in Zodiacs, the evening pre-dinner recaps are amongst the expedition highlights with a film of underwater videos shot that day, a recap of the day’s happenings, and the presentation by the expedition and the lecture staff of the plan for tomorrow. Small hot tub aft on Observation Deck. Fitness center, sauna and spa.

Special Notes

A full-time doctor is aboard.

QuirkyCruise Review

National Geographic Endeavour II

Ships, Years Delivered & Passengers

This ship replaced the long-serving NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENDEAVOUR  in early January 2017. The replacement started life as the VIA AUSTRALIS (b. 2005 & 136 passengers), and after major refit now carries just 96 passengers. The family friendly ship will has seven sets of connecting cabins and six triples, and for solo passengers, nine single cabins.

Passenger Profile

Mostly Americans, with some other nationalities, and as Lindblad is well-prepared to handle children, families during the school holidays.

Passenger Decks

6 and no elevator.

Price

$$$   Super Pricey

What’s Included

All shore activities, Zodiac and kayak explorations, 24-hour, coffee, tea, soda, bottled water.

Itineraries

Repeating 9-night (including overnights en route) Galapagos island wildlife cruises with ship departures every Friday; land extensions available to Peru — Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Why Go?

If swimming with sea lions and sidestepping marine iguanas stretched out in the sun sounds intriguing, then think about a week’s small-ship adventure in Ecuador’s Galapagos Archipelago. Even wildlife names and antics are intriguing, such as blue-footed boobies doing their mating dance by lifting one foot, bending their wings and whistling. Days are spent on the water in Zodiacs, in the water snorkeling, and on land hiking with a trained naturalist guide.

                                                                                                                                                      Marine Iguanas. * Photo: Suellyn Scull

When to Go?

That requires a somewhat complex answer. The peak seasons, because of the school holidays, last from mid-June to early September and mid-December to mid-January. December through May, the water is warm for snorkeling and swimming but there will be fewer fish to see. Most days in the first months will see some rain.

The latter part of the season is spring mating time for animals and birds on land, especially sea lions and turtles, plus wild flowers in bloom. June through November brings on the colder waters of the Humboldt Current, therefore, more fish and sea birds are looking for prey, but snorkeling is going to be less comfortable and the ocean is rougher.

Cabins

56, all outside with windows or portholes on Main and A decks. Most cabins are smallish and have compact bathrooms with showers. Amenities are a small fridge and video player.

Public Rooms

Lounge with bar seats all passengers; separate library on the deck above; open bridge policy provides another room and fraternizing with the officers; spa, sauna and fitness center.

Dining

Restaurant is forward on Upper Deck with large view windows either side, and the food is of good quality with some local island ingredients, and Ecuadorian fish such as Wahoo and Dorado.

Activities & Entertainment

Apart from the hikes ashore, in Zodiacs and the glass-bottom boat with guides and snorkeling (wet suits in cold weather), the evening pre-dinner recaps are jolly affairs with videos and the day’s results of the underwater camera screened, a look back at the day’s happenings, and a plan for tomorrow presented by the naturalists. Small dip-in pool on Veranda Deck aft.

A newly introduced  activity is plein air drawing where a resident artist instructs passengers during regular sessions on board and shore to create images of the wildlife they see, and many are tame enough to pose for you. Look for the departure dates that include this activity.

Lindblad Expeditioins

Sea lion and pup in Galapagos Islands. National Geographic Islander in background. * Photo: David Vargas

Special Notes

A doctor is aboard. Naturalists that Lindblad hires are likely to be amongst the best available in a very active cruising area. Crew and most of the expedition staff is Ecuadorean.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

National Geographic Islander

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ISLANDER (48 passengers & built as the twin-hulled catamaran ISLANDER in 1995, first cruised in Scotland, and taken on by Lindblad in 2004 and renamed).

Passenger Profile

Largely Americans and some Europeans; varied ages and families at holiday periods.

Passenger Decks

4. No elevator.

Price

$$$  Super pricey

Included Features

All shore activities, Zodiac and kayak explorations, 24-hour coffee, tea, soda, bottled water.

Itineraries

Repeating 9-night (including overnights en route) Galapagos island wildlife cruises with ship departures every Friday; land extensions available to Peru — Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Why Go?

See N.G. ENDEAVOUR II above, plus the advantage, for some, choosing a ship with half the number of passengers compared to N.G. ENDEAVOUR. Also see this ship above for “Why Go.”

When to Go?

See N.G. ENDEAVOUR II above

Cabins

24 outside, mostly compact cabins on three decks, all with windows. Twins may be arranged as a double or as queen beds. Two cabins can accommodate a third person. Eight cabins on the Upper Deck have glassed-in terraces.

Public Rooms

Aft lounge seats all passengers for evening recaps, lectures and films; adjacent library and Internet Café, fitness center, covered seating aft on Upper Deck, open bridge policy.

Dining

Restaurant is aft on Bridge Deck with open seating for all to dine at one time. Food is average to good with some tasty Ecuadorian specialties.

Activities & Entertainment

Apart from hikes ashore, in Zodiacs and glass-bottom boat with guides, and snorkeling (wet suits in cold weather), the evening pre-dinner recaps are jolly affairs with videos and the day’s results of the underwater camera shown, a look back at the recent happenings, and a plan for tomorrow by the naturalists. See additional Activities under the N.G. ENDEAVOUR.

Special Notes

A doctor is aboard. Crew and most of the expedition staff is Ecuadoran.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

National Geographic Quest & National Geographic Venture

Ship, Year Delivered + Passengers

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC  QUEST  (built in 2017 and 100 passengers); NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VENTURE followed in 2018.

Passenger Profile

Varies depending on the itinerary but mostly Americans, and some Europeans and Australians. Family during the school holidays, attracted by special programs and connecting cabins.

Passenger Decks

4 decks with an elevator serving all desks.

Price

$$$ – Very pricey

Included Features

All sightseeing excursions, Zodiac trips and kayaking, snorkeling gear, wet suits, non-alcoholic drinks..

Itineraries

The NG QUEST expedition ship offers many options, depending on the season and in brief they are: Alaska and Inside Passage (along B. C. coast at the beginning & end of season); Columbia and Snake rivers; Channel Islands off California; Baja California; along the Costa Rican coast and islands and Panama, including a canal transit; and Belize for the reefs, rivers and Mayan ruins.

NG VENTURE covers Alaska and B. C. coast; San Juan Islands; Channel Islands off California; and a long stint in Baja California and the Sea of Cortez.

Lindblad Expeditions

Skagway. * Photo:: C&V Bureau

Why Go?

The NG QUEST, completed in 2017, and NG VENTURE in 2018 have many of the latest features for an expedition vessel and a wide variety of destinations.

When to Go?

The itineraries are geared to the best season for visiting  the destinations.

Cabins

50 outside cabins(136 to 185 sq.ft., and 22 of these with step-out balconies). 6 cabins connect providing side-by-side accommodations for families.

Public Rooms

Large lounge for gathering before meals, including the day’s recap, lectures and videos, and leads out to a viewing platform; dining room aft with windows on three sides; gym and spa; open and partly covered sun deck; and open bridge policy, in effect providing another public room.

Dining

All dining is at one open seating, and the menus will reflect the wide-ranging itineraries.

Activities & Entertainment

While the so-called entertainment category includes presentations by the expedition staff before and after dinner and time at sea; the activities ashore will vary according to the specific itinerary; equipment available includes 10-12 passenger landing craft embarked from two landing platforms and 24 sea kayaks and a fleet of paddelboats; remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for exploring the sea beneath the ship and bringing back images; bow camera, underwater camera, hydrophone for collecting sounds that sea creatures make, video microscope, kayaks, wet suits and snorkeling equipment.

Special Notes

This pair was built by Nichols Brothers, Whidbey Island, Washington, the same yard that completed the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SEA LION & NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SEA BIRD. They fly the US flag hence they can sail on domestic itineraries without having to call at a foreign port, although the pair does venture south to Mexico and Central America.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

National Geographic Sea Lion & Sea Bird

Sea Lion, whalewatching in the Pacific off Bahia Magdalena. * Photo: Ted Scull

Sea Lion, whalewatching in the Pacific off Bahia Magdalena. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ships, Year Delivered & Passengers

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SEA LION & NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SEA BIRD (62 passengers & built 1981, later upgraded and reduction in passenger capacity by eliminating lowest-deck cabins.

Most recently with the arrival of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC QUEST and NG VENTURE the old pair were further refitted with newly redecorated interiors for the lounge and bar, dining room and cabins. They carry sea kayaks, a fleet of paddleboats, video microscope, hydrophone and bow camera.

Passenger Profile

Mostly Americans, generally 50+ and few families on the Columbia-Snake itineraries, and more likely on the other trips, especially during school holidays.

Passenger Decks

3 and no elevator

Price

$$ Expensive but less pricey than the two new US flag vessels.

Included Features

All shore activities, Zodiac and kayak explorations, 24-hour, coffee, tea, soda, bottled water.

Itineraries
  • Southeast Alaska cruises between Juneau and Sitka.
  • One-way positioning cruises early May and early September between Seattle via the Inside Passage along the British Columbia coast, calling at Haida Gwaii (island) and into Southeast Alaska.
  • Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean coast of Baja California for serious whale watching. In the height of whale watching season — gray and hopefully sperm, blue and fin whales in the lagoons along the Pacific Coast, and the islands in the Sea of Cortez.
  • Channel Islands and Santa Catalina from Los Angeles for the beach life, hiking, sea kayaking, paddle boarding and meditation sessions.

Intense birders on the Costa Rican coast. * Photo: Ted ScullIntense birders on the Costa Rican coast. * Photo: Ted Scull

Why Go?

Every itinerary has its numerous attractions. Alaska: glaciers, fjords, wildlife on land and sea and with the grandeur of Glacier Bay National the highlight, especially enjoyed on such a small ship; Baja California on both coasts for the varieties of birds; snorkeling among sea lions; coastal and island hikes.

Both vessels are about as simple as any small ships get, a bit pokey, past their prime, yet well maintained with excellent expedition staffs. So forget any thought of luxury and go for the wonderful experience. The Columbia-Snake rivers route was my first soft-adventure by ship – the Sea Lion, some 30 years ago.

Dramatic scenery along the Columbia/Snake Rivers. * Photo: Ted Scull

Dramatic scenery along the Columbia/Snake Rivers. * Photo: Ted Scull

When to Go?

The two ships are positioned where the weather is best for expedition and soft adventure activities, so there are no cautions needed.

Cabins

Small and all outside with view windows, some twins may be converted to a double bed, and a few can take a third person at 50% of the double occupancy rate. Cabins on Bridge and Upper decks open onto a side promenade, while Main Deck cabins are accessed from a central corridor. These latter six cabins are also adjacent to the dining room, therefore a convenient, but also trafficked corridor.

Public Rooms

A single forward observation lounge with a bar; forward outdoor open observation deck and partly covered Bridge Deck. Spa and exercise equipment.

Dining

Food is good with buffet at breakfast, family-style service at lunch and served dinners.

Activities & Entertainment

Evening recaps of the day; plans for the day ahead and talks (some illustrated) by the naturalist staff using results of underwater video and video microscope. Depending on the itinerary, kayaking, snorkeling (with wet suits in Baja), and expedition landing craft for going ashore on hikes.

Special Notes

A doctor is aboard on in Baja and Costa Rica/Panama and an undersea specialist in Alaska and Baja.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

And In Brief — Partial Year Ship Charters

Sea Cloud
SEA CLOUD approaching Nice. * Photo: William J. Mayes

SEA CLOUD approaching Nice. * Photo: William J. Mayes

Lindblad charters the 64-passenger SEA CLOUD ($$$), a legendary sailing vessel built in Germany as a private yacht in 1931 and converted to a cruise vessel in 1979. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience to sail in her —  in the Mediterranean, the Greek islands from Piraeus (Athens); along the Greek and Dalmatian coasts between Piraeus (Athens) and Dubrovnik; and Sicily and Malta.

The best, and the most expensive cabins, are the beautifully furnished eight originals on Main Deck when the Sea Cloud was E.F. Hutton’s private yacht built for his wife, Marjorie Meriweather Post (cereal heiress). The added cabins are modern, very attractively fitted and considerably less expensive, though not cheap. The main lounge is beautifully paneled and with parquet floors. Food and service are great, and some meals are taken out on deck. The Caribbean offers just the occasional one-week cruise from Barbados in winter.

Delfin II

Lindblad has chartered the Amazon riverboat DEFLIN II ($$$) since 2010 taking 28 passengers in 14 luxurious cabins on one-week cruises along two of the river’s upper tributaries. The riverboat has an enclosed lounge, an open lounge and bar under a top deck canopy. The dining saloon is the deck below with big windows facing aft, and the food is quite special and sometimes exotically sourced from the rain forest.

The cabins, with a desk and chair, are lovely with wood trim, wooden floors, large view windows, twin beds that can form kings; and two suites have king-size beds only. Some can be interconnected for families, and four face forward with terrific views. Bathrooms are roomy. Excursions ashore are made in 10-person skiffs and kayaks, plus some walking where paths exist.

A national reserve in remote Amazonia is the highlight, looking out for exotic bird species, monkeys and anacondas of the rain forest, and pink and gray dolphins, piranhas and red-eyed caiman in the dark waters, sometimes decorated with giant water lilies. Cruises operate year-round except April and September.

Lily pads along the Amazon.* Photo: Ted Scull

Lily pads along the Amazon.* Photo: Ted Scull

Jahan

The more than comfortable 48-passenger riverboat JAHAN ($$$) cruises the Mekong between Siem Reap (Angkor Wat), Cambodia and My Tho (near Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City) on 15-day cruise-tours from January to March. The famous temple complex, Cambodia’s capital at Phnom Penh, and the teeming life along the river are the highlights.

Harmon V  (Note: This ship is not currently operating.)

This chartered 46-passenger ship, with stabilizers, will take 46 passengers in all outside cabins with windows on 11-day cruise tours beginning in December and running through March. Days 1-3 are spent in Havana then 4-11 on board the ship calling at the colonial cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, located on Cuba’s south coast, Islas de la Juventud and the Bay of Pigs where a failed U.S. invasion took place in 1961.

First New Ice-Class Polar Vessel

Lindblad’s building its first ocean-going ice-class polar vessel, a 126-passenger ship with the distinctive X-BOW to provide fuel efficiency and significantly improve passenger comfort in rough seas. Delivery for the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENDURANCE is planned for early 2020.

Lord of the Glens
Lindblad Expeditions

Crinan Canal, Scotland. * Photo: Ted Scull

A Scottish 48-passenger, 4-deck vessel with 52 outside cabins makes 9-day canal, loch and island itineraries in June, July and August between Kyle of Lochalsh (across from the Isle of Skye) and Inverness. The route calls for stops on Skye, Eigg or Rhum, Iona, Oban, Loch Linnhe, Glenfinnan Viaduct, Neptune’s Steps (flight of locks) in the Caledonian Canal, then passing through Loch Ness to Inverness, thus having crossed the Scottish mainland to just short of the North Sea.

Note: For a fuller account of the ship and its itinerary, go to the ship’s owner, Magna Carta Steamship Company.

Oberoi Philae

The newly-rebuilt Nile riverboat with enlarged accommodations for 42 in 22 cabins and nearly floor-to-ceiling windows, including four suites, has two restaurants with one on the Sun Deck, and several lounges. 13-day cruise tours will operate between January and March and September to December.

The land portion begins in Cairo for the museum, Coptic churches in Old Cairo and Ben Ezra synagogue before flying south to Luxor and boarding the 6-day cruise that give access to the temple at Luxor and Karnak, a felucca sail, Valley of the Kings, Edfu, Kom Ombo and the island temple at Philae on the far side of the Aswan High Dam. After visiting the temple at Abu Simbel, fly back to Cairo to stay at the Mena House (the original and now much enlarged hotel adjacent to the Pyramids at Giza), plus step pyramid at Saqqara. A five-day extension is available to Jordan.

Contact

Lindblad Expeditions, 96 Morton Street, New York, NY 10014; 800-397-3348 or 212-265-3770.

TWS

 

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QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

Katie Lobe from Canada

Cruise Line

Island Windjammers

Ship

Vela

Destination

Caribbean

# of Nights

6

Departure Date & Ports

January 2018 from Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, to St Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars      (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating:  5

-Cabin Rating:  5

-Service/Crew Rating:  5

-Itinerary Rating:  5

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

I have been on 3 small ship cruises.

Review

Wow, What an Adventure!

As the Medical Officers on Amazing Grace of the previous Windjammer Barefoot Cruises fleet 20 years ago, my husband and I were able to visit the tall ships of that fleet as well as many of the Caribbean slands visited by the Grace from Bahamas to Trinidad and Tobago for a month long sail at a time.

We have recently arrived home from our first Island Windjammer sail on Vela, a surprise celebration for my husband’s 50th birthday.  We went into the adventure with high expectations and have returned home absolutely impressed!

Our group of 9 Canadian adventurers appreciated the focus by the Crew on all aspects of safety, which allowed everyone to relax, knowing we were in good hands.  A little note: be properly prepared to deal with seasickness as this is the real deal — navigating the Caribbean sea on a sailboat is not for the faint of heart!

The trip felt very familiar as the owners have captured the original Windjammer experience: sailing to see small islands the congested, large ships can’t get to, exceptional and well-trained staff (from booking to disembarkation) who go above and beyond to make sure your experience is what you want it to be, day trips, snorkeling and diving trips and even 5 o’clock swizzles and snacks!

The tour of the engine room is a must, as Frederick demonstrated the inner workings and the many talents demanded of him to keep the Vela operational at all times.  Chef Robert produced exceptional meals daily with the option available at times to purchase local meals ashore.  Great adventures ashore and on the water!  Accessibility to the Captain, Officers and Crew with whom you can take the time to share and learn about the sailing experience and each other’s cultures if you want to, while relaxing on the fantail or on the deck, leaves you knowing you have had an authentic experience.

We continued the Barefoot tradition of leaving clothing behind in our cabin for the crew at the end of our journey, knowing they will be able to share it with someone who needs it more than we do — thank you Island Windjammers for the wonderful memories!

 

See more QuirkyCruise Reader Reviews HERE, honest feedback from real passengers!!

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star clippers in thailand

Star Clippers in Thailand.

By Heidi Sarna.

With our beach bags and snorkeling gear slung over our shoulders, we filed down the metal staircase extended along side the 170-passenger Star Clipper and into a tender that would transport us to a Thai beach for the day. A short ride later, the boat was nudged into the sandy shoreline and we climbed out of the forward hatch, up and over the bow, and down a short ladder into the surf.

These wet landings would be the norm for the week; part of the adventure of visiting beaches without infrastructure. This was precisely why most of us had signed up for the 7-night Andaman Sea cruise in the first place, to go somewhere warm, sunny and remote, and to get there on a cool tall ship.

star clippers in thailand

Wet landings are business as usual on the Thailand itineraries. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Tall Ship Beauty

Star Clippers‘ four-masted Star Clipper itself was a destination. In fact some passengers didn’t care where the ship was going, they were there for the nostalgic sailing ship experience. About 25% to 50% of the time the engines are shut off and the ship moves under sail power alone — otherwise a combination of the two are used to propel the ship at speeds of about 9 to 14 knots — and it’s a sight to behold.

On the Star Clipper cruise I recently took with two friends Beth and Sheila, each evening, usually before dinner, passengers gathered on deck, many of us with a glass of wine or tropical concoction in hand. We were there to watch the Indian sailors nimbly handle coils of thick rope, wrapping and unwrapping it from pegs and cleats and pulling it along winches, to unfurl whichever of the 16 sails the captain wished to release to help us on our way.

As the sails inched skyward, the solemn theme song from the film “1492: Conquest of Paradise” was broadcast to set the mood. Passengers fixed their gaze on the sails and the twilight sky as the canvas flapped in the wind and the ship creaked through the waves like ships did centuries before.

RELATED: 10 Reasons to do a Star Clippers cruise in Thailand.  by Heidi Sarna

star clippers in thailand

Sunsets through the rigging are breathtaking. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

This appreciation for the experience is exactly what Swedish businessman Mikael Krafft had in mind when he started Star Clippers. He spared no detail or expense to design and build his fleet of three square-rigged clippers in the likeness of their speedy predecessors. Krafft and his team were guided by the original drawings and specifications of Scottish-born Donald McKay, a leading naval architect of 19th-century clipper-ship technology.

The result is a trio of tall ships with few rivals and lots of repeat passengers. The four-masted Star Clipper and twin Star Flyer were launched in 1992 and 1993, respectively, while in 2000, came the 227-passenger five-masted Royal Clipper. A fourth new tall ship, the Flying Clipper, is being built and will debut later this year.

UPDATE: While the Flying Clipper has been completed, a dispute between Star Clippers and the shipyard has delayed its debut; stay tuned. 

The fleet plies the waters of the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia, aiming for yacht harbors and remote bays and islands.

star clippers in thailand

The Star Clipper cruise sails round-trip from Phuket (yellow star) to islands in the Andaman Sea.

Andaman Sea Island Hopping

Round-trip from Phuket, we traveled 533 nautical miles around the Andaman Sea, as far north as the lower tip of Myanmar and south again to Langkawi in northern Malaysia. Most of our ports for the week were part of national parks and clusters of islands with names that weren’t easy to remember. But it didn’t matter what the kohs (also spelled ko) were called, what you remember about this itinerary are the beaches, the bright teal-blue water and those craggy towers and mounds of ancient limestone — partially submerged hills and mountains formed over millions of years.

star clippers in thailand

Some of Asia’s best beaches are in the Andaman Sea. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Each day took on a similar rhythm. After breakfast was a port talk up on deck by the captain or the funny and unflappable Brazilian Cruise Director Monica who loved repeating each morning on the approach to a new port: “Let’s go to paradise.”

The first visit was to KOH SURIN to the north of Phuket. We first snorkeled around reefs some distance from the beach, hopping in the sea right from a tender, ogling giant clams, brain coral and rainbow-striped fish. Then we hit the beach, where the ship’s watersports team had set up kayaks, sailboats and paddleboards. After successfully paddleboarding, a pleasant triumph when you’re no longer a spring chicken, we relaxed on the sand sipping water from coconuts.

star clippers in thailand

Beth gets up on the paddle board after the first try! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The busiest beach we’d encounter all week was in the SIMILAN ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK archipelago. As one German passenger joked after attempting to snorkel: “There were 3 fish and 2,000 legs.” Dozens of buzzing speedboats brought the mostly Chinese tourists on day trips from Phuket or Krabi, their revving outboard engines spitting water as they dropped off and collected their passengers from the beach.

We joined the multitude, finding a space for our towels in the soft, white sand that was surprisingly clean. We enjoyed the people watching, smiling at the throngs in their orange lifejackets taking endless selfies and playing in the sand. Most of the boats had departed by 4pm, leaving the beach nearly deserted with just a handful of Star Clippers passengers.

star clippers in thailand

An afternoon in the Similan Islands with lots of day trippers. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

In KOH KRADAN, part of the Hat Jao Nai National Park, we snorkeled near spiny sea urchins, mounds of brain coral and schools of neon fish. We floated in the water to keep cool and Beth went paddleboarding again, her favorite new activity. Dressed in floral shirts and white pants, the crew set up lunch on the beach, grilling delicious chicken, sausages and burgers that we ate sitting in the sand or on low hanging tree branches.

star clippers in thailand

Lunch on the beach, completed with grilled burgers and chicken. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The perfect ending to our favorite beach day of the week was a half-hour walk across the island to the other side and down a steep path to a secluded, rock-framed cove that could have been the setting for a cover of a Harlequin romance novel.

star clippers in thailand

Where’s the film crew?? * Photo: Mark

The week’s two non-beach days included LANGKAWI, the one Malaysian port of the week. Beth and I signed up for the guided kayaking through the mangroves of the Kilim Geopark followed by lunch and then a sweaty 3km jungle hike in the Raya mountains with an enthusiastic machete-carrying guide Hizam who pointed out monkeys and exotic birds the likes of the Great Horn Bill and Longtail Macaque. Sheila chose a thrilling tour I couldn’t have handled — a mile-long 2,000-foot-high cable car ride between the peaks of the Machincang Mountains on Langkawi’s west coast.

Star Clippers in Thailand

A kayaking excursion through the mangroves of the Kilim Geopark on Langkawi. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

We anchored in AO PHANG NGA (Bay) on the final day or our cruise and signed up for the “James Bond Island” speedboat excursion. We stopped at the Panyi Muslim village on stilts for a walk around the maze of small wooden shops and homes crammed together on rickety boardwalks.

The other stop was scenic James Bond Island, otherwise known as Khao Phing Kan, where parts of the “Man With a Golden Gun” were filmed back in the 1970s thanks to its spectacular rock formations, some resembling giant dripping icicles.

star clippers in thailand

James Bond Island. * Photo; Beth Crow

The best part of the tour was sitting at the back of the boat near the outboard motors as the speeding vessel bounced through the water for several hours between stops. The views of the karsts, some smooth, some rough and covered with tufts of green foliage, unfolded like a 3D movie.

star clippers in thailand

The breathtaking speedboat ride to James Bond Island. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Besides the handful of excursions offered during the week, there were optional daily diving opportunities with the ship’s dive master. There was also Star Clippers’ beloved “photo safari,” when passengers pile into the tenders to circle the ship and take photos under full sail.

star clippers in thailand

The ship’s two tenders circled the Star Clipper for more than an hour on the beloved photo safari. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Onboard Fun & Games

On board, the main activity for the week was mast climbing, when those interested strapped on a harness and climbed up some 65 feet onto a small platform.  For me, massages were the favorite extracurricular; the masseuse was excellent and the prices reasonable, probably because the treatments were doled out in a humble canvas cabana wedged between the diving tanks and ship tenders. Book a massage when the ship is moving to avail of the breeze and soothing ocean sounds.

star clippers in thailand

View from the top, WOW ! * Photo: Doug Stavoe

With three of us sharing a cabin, we didn’t spend much time hanging out in the room, a cozy 130-square-foot abode with portholes, twin beds and a bunk-style third berth. Designed in nautical navy blue fabrics and wood trim, there was a TV, safe, decent storage space, and bathroom with showers. The ship also has eight deluxe cabins that open right up to deck; one large owner’s suite with a sitting area, mini bar and whirlpool bath; and six inside cabins.

Star clippers in thailand

Some standards cabins have a third berth. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

A Social Affair

Chatting and mingling on a small ship like the Star Clipper is inevitable. We became buddies with Monica and Doug, two easy-to-talk-to fellow Americans in their 50s, and Mark, a good-natured 30-something English chap traveling solo. A group of Germans, led by the gregarious Roland, had an infectious sense of humor that made many of us laugh out loud. Of the 114 passengers our week, a third were Germans, 18 were from the UK, a dozen from North America, and the rest a mix from Australia and other corners of Europe — most were 50+.

RELATED: Reader Review of this Star Clippers Thailand cruise. 

Mealtime encouraged socializing as tables were open seating for 6 or 8. Breakfast with a made-to-order omelet station, and lunch with a featured pasta or meat, were buffet-style and generous, while dinner was ala carte with continental choices and a few Asian offerings as well such as Pad Thai. Dishes ranged from so-so (a rib-eye steak and pork stir fry were disappointing and the cheese plate came with Ritz crackers) to very tasty, including the chicken curry, shrimp tarts, and raviolis. But a Star Clipper’s cruise isn’t about the food, it’s about being outside on deck.

Star clippers in thailand

Pad Thai is a classic dish of Thailand. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The open-air Tropical Bar with its thick wooden bar top was the hub, where passengers congregated before and after dinner as the ship’s musician played happy pop tunes on his electric piano. Each evening, some light-hearted entertainment was featured, including a crew and passenger talent show, a traditional Thai dance from a shore-side troupe, and a silly “Pirate Night” party that was great fun.

Star Clippers in Thailand

Thai folk dancing with passengers * Photo: Roland Fella

Afterward, hits from the 60s and 70s were played on the sound system, putting us and new friends in the mood for some dancing as our gorgeous tall ship sailed through the Andaman Sea to our next port of call.

star clippers in thailand

Hotel director Herman at the ship’s hub, the Tropical Bar. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Fast Facts

Itineraries & Fares: Back in Asia after a long absence, through 2019, Star Clipper is doing 7-night Andaman Sea cruises between October and April starting at $1,360 per person, and spending the other half of the year cruising the Indonesian archipelago round-trip from Bali on mostly 7-night sailings.

Getting There: Most US flights come through Bangkok or Singapore, then it’s a short flight to Phuket. We stayed one night in the pretty Amari Phuket hotel along Patong Beach, near the ship’s anchorage.

star clippers in thailand

A relaxing stay at the Amari Phuket the day before the cruise. * Photo: Heidi Sarna Selfie

Weather & Dress Code: Thailand is just north of the equator, so it will be hot in the 80s and 90s and with short rain storms the norm. You’ll live in beachwear and cover-ups most of the time; at dinner, smart casual works — sundresses, skirts and pants for women and for men, khaki’s and polo shirts or short-sleeved button-downs.

Money Matters: The Thai Baht is the official currency, but there is virtually no opportunity to shop.

star clippers in thailand

Nature’s bounty is the entertainment on a Star Clipper’s Thailand cruise. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

 

RELATED: The Royal Clipper to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia.   by Christina Colon.

And here’s  Star Clipper’s website.

quirkycruise bird

 

 

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QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

Shelly Davis from the USA

Cruise Line

Island Windjammers

Ship

Sagitta

Destination

Caribbean: St. Kitts, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and Montserrat

# of Nights

6

Departure Date & Port of Embarkation

December 2017 — St. Kitts

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars      (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating:  5.

-Cabin Rating:  5.

-Service/Crew Rating:  5.

-Itinerary Rating:  5.

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

I’ve been on 1 small ship cruise.

Review

A great trip with kids!

My favorite part of this cruise was the ability to bring my kids along in a safe environment and let them experience travel the way I believe travel was intended. At 7 and 9, we finally felt this was the right time to let them experience a more adult trip. I was able to show them the real world and we explored it. They got to see an active volcano. They got to tour the engine room of the ship and watch intently as the crew members put the sails up and down . They experienced language barriers and learned about different currencies and cultures. The ship size allows for you to visit ports not typically covered over with huge cruise ships and volumes of oblivious tourists. We didn’t have every minute filled with electronics or events catering just to them. They even used their imaginations and performed a puppet show! I adored bringing my kids along on their very first adventure trip. We did a Disney cruise in February and it was lovely! Nothing against Disney at all. There is a time and place for everything. But this was more my speed and more what I want my kids to understand travel to be.

My second favorite part was the service. I cannot tell you how pleasant it was to be waited on nonstop. Even when I was quite capable and ready to pour my own cup of coffee, I wasn’t allowed. 🙂 They worked hard to satisfy every passenger on board. They would play a Ring Toss game with the kids and you could tell they genuinely enjoyed it. It wasn’t an act or chore! Some of my best memories were being the first passenger awake and the lovely conversations I had with the crew members who knew me by name and I knew them. The Operations Manager (Andrew) was on point at all times. He was patient with those of us who were chatty and eager to find on shore activities to please each of us. And there was always a suggestion that catered to the kids. I additionally appreciated his wit and humor he was able to include while remaining professional.

My third favorite part of this cruise was the food. OMG the food! I like good food, whether it be street food or prepared by a James Beard award winning chef. The food did not disappoint. I was repeatedly pleasantly surprised by how good each meal was. Even down to the appetizers. And you would eat it all trying not to miss out on a wonderful new flavor and then they’d come around and offer seconds!! No way! I’m saving room for dessert! Then I mentioned my husband’s birthday was occurring while we were at sea and I never thought about it again. But after dinner on his birthday a red velvet cake was brought out. The crew tried diligently (humorously so) to keep a single candle lit as they brought it out, but it was not going to happen.

Other notable and awesome things about Island Windjammers: 1) The passenger capacity. We made friends with everyone on our cruise. I am getting Christmas cards from these new friends and we have a Facebook group set up to share pictures and memories. 2) The rope swing and night swimming: How cool is it that they let passengers do that? When I realized there were no more opportunities for the rope swing, I got so sad!  3) I missed this National Geographic moment, but my husband got to witness a Needlefish become a Barracuda’s dinner one evening while looking over the side if the ship into the lit waters.

This whole trip was just wonderful. I genuinely hope we can make it back on board one of IWJ’s vessels. I would gladly do it again.

See more QuirkyCruise Reader Reviews HERE, honest feedback from real passengers!!

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Haumana Cruises

Haumana Cruises

N.B. It is with great sadness that Haumana Cruise has permanently shut down after four years of operating of French Polynesian cruises to the English- and French-speaking markets, due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Headquartered in French Polynesia, Haumana Cruises offers short three-night catamaran cruises that can be easily combined with a resort island stay to make it worthwhile to come all this way. This revived cruise line shut down in 2011 due to the recession and in June 2016 started up again with an Australian-built catamaran cruiser for up to 26 passengers. Huamana means Spirit of Peace.

Haumana Cruises

The catamaran at anchor while passengers enjoy paddle boarding. * Photos (all): Humana Cruises

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

Haumana, refitted 2017, 24 passengers

Passenger Decks

3 decks, no elevator

Passenger Profile

Europeans, especially French, North Americans who are active outdoor types. All Polynesian crew.

Price

$$ to $$$ Rates are geared to the High and Low Seasons.

Itineraries

One way three-night cruises begin Mondays at Bora Bora and sail to Taha’a and Raiatea, then make the reverse journey on Thursday from Raiatea.

Haumana Cruises itinerary shows bi-directional route.

Included Features

One excursion at Taha’a, all soft drinks, and wine at meals.

Why Go?

A dropdead gorgeous part of the world, and coming this far from home, it is best to combine a resort stay prior or post cruise at one of the embarkation ports.

South Pacific island scenery

South Pacific island scenery.

When to Go?

The high season rates will be a guide to the best time to go. However, the best months are May to October, the driest and with the lowest humidity. November to April is hot, humid and rainy with torrents falling in December and January.

Cabins

Three categories, with two offering queen-size beds and double windows, and one forward-facing suite with king-size bed.

Queen-size bed cabin.

Public Rooms

One lounge located on the upper deck behind the bridge and that opens to an aft deck with bar and for intimate dining for a few at night. There’s open space aft on all three decks and forward on main deck.

Dining

The restaurant is aft on the Main Deck serving all meals with an emphasis on using Polynesian fruits, vegetables and seafood.

Activities & Entertainment

Ashore or from the vessel, there is swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking. Excursions to a vanilla plantation and a pearl farm are highlights.

Special Notes

With Haumana Cruises newly revived, additional details will appear as more is known.

Along the Same Lines

Huamana is the smallest operator with regular year-round sailings in French Polynesia, while similar catamaran-type vessels operate in Fiji.

Contact

Haumana Cruises at 1-866-783-5462, haumana-tahiti.com/en.

 

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Ecoventura

Ecoventura

This family-run expedition cruise company has specialized in small-ship cruises to the Galapagos Islands for more than 30 years and owns a fleet of  three vessels — two 20-passenger motor yachts, two are more high-end than the third, and one 16-passenger dive live-aboard boat for advanced divers. All are custom-built in Ecuador for Galapagos cruising. Ecoventura is focused on quality, small-group travel with a guarantee of no more than 10 travelers per guide.

Ecoventura

The 20-passenger Origin. * Photo: Ecoventura

The conservation-minded company prides itself on its commitment to sustainable tourism, from reducing carbon emissions — for instance, by installing 40 solar panels and 2 wind generators on its ERIC yacht — to partnering with conservation organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and Ecology Project International to fund marine conservation education programs for local children and teens.

Back in 2000, Ecoventura was the first company to earn and maintain the Smart Voyager volunteer ecological certification that’s based on a set of strict conservation standards created by scientists and other experts that spurred other lines to do the same. More recently they earned another conservation verification set by the Rainforest Alliance for travel companies who meet a laundry list of comprehensive benchmarks for conserving natural resources, protecting wildlife and helping local communities thrive. You’re in safe green hands when you travel with Ecoventura.

Ecoventura

The sundeck on the upcoming Theory. * Rendering: Ecoventura

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

LETTY (b 1994; 20 p); ORIGIN (b 2016; 16 p); THEORY (b 2019; 20 p). The last ship’s name comes from Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and ORIGIN from his Origin of Species.

Passenger Profile

About 70% hail from North America, and the rest mostly from the UK, Australia/New Zealand and Europe (on SKY it’s a more even mix between North Americans and Europeans). About 40% are families with the kids and another 40% are active seniors 60+. Families with children 12+ are welcome at any time throughout the year, while for younger kids, there are special family-oriented departures during school breaks for ages 5 through 11 (younger kids are allowed if the family is charting the entire vessel). Every year there are a handful of special cruises geared to families with teens and a few others for families with college-age offspring.

Ecoventura

Wow, look how close I can get! * Photo: Ecoventura

Passenger Decks

4 and no elevators

Price

$$$

Included Features

Meals and non-alcoholic drinks, plus house wine and local beer at dinner (the higher-end ORIGIN and THEORY have an open bar 24/7), plus all guided shore excursions, use of snorkeling gear, kayaks, wet suits (coveted June to November when water temps are between 65 and 72 degrees), and transfers from the airport to the docks. While gratuities are optional, the suggested amount is a hefty $250-300 per person for the week for LETTY, ORIGIN, and tTHEORY.

Ecoventura

A giant tortoise, the star of the Galapagos. * Photo: Ecoventura

Itineraries

LETTY & ORIGIN and THEORY alternate between two different 7-night Galapagos itineraries round-trip from San Cristobal and departing every Sunday, making it ideal for those who wish to combine them for a two-week trip. (The Galapagos National Park requires lines to alternative routes in an effort to lessen over-use of the most popular islands).

Southern/Central route visits multiple points on the islands of San Cristobal, Espanola, Floreana, Santa Cruz, Bartolome, South Plaza and North Seymour.

Northern/Western route calls on multiple points on the islands of Genovesa, Santa Cruz, Fernandina, Isabela and Santiago.

Ecoventura

The beloved blue footed booby. * Photo: Ecoventura

Cabins

The LETTY has 10 outside cabins across three decks, measuring a compact 100 square feet or so. The décor has a nautical flair with polished teak wood and brass fittings; the rooms have two twins or one double bed, with two cabins accommodating three people. The Iguana Deck cabins, on the lowest level, have very small “port light” windows, while the cabins on the upper two decks have larger windows.

A Letty cabin with twin beds. * Photo: Ecoventura

A Letty cabin with twin beds. * Photo: Ecoventura

ORIGIN’s and THEORY’s 10 roomy double cabins have a modern, light décor and a much more upscale feel than the cabins on LETTY; they measure 140 square feet and are all located on one deck and have large windows. Twin beds can be converted to kings and there are two rooms with interconnecting doors and two with a third pull-down bunk-style birth. The cabins have Apple TV with pre-loaded movies, universal docking station and an Espresso and tea kettle set-up.

Ecoventura

A Double Cabin on Origin. * Photo: Ecoventura

Public Rooms & Dining

The boats has an indoor lounge for island briefings by the two onboard naturalists and for hanging out and mingling with your shipmates. There’s also a bar, a mini boutique for logo items, a small library, and outdoor deck space for lounging and scenery gazing. Aboard the ORIGIN and THEORY, the open decks have bed-sized chaise lounges and a pair of hammocks, and there’s a hot tub at the stern of the cabin deck.  ORIGIN and THEORY also have a small gym — a big WOW on ships of this size.

Ecoventura

The elegant common area aboard the Theory. * Rendering: Ecoventura

All have an indoor dining salon with buffet-style breakfast and lunch, and served dinners at tables for four on LETTY and aboard ORIGIN and THEORY, tables from 2 to 10). The ORIGIN and THEORY also have an outdoor grill and adjacent seating for lunch; occasionally lunches aboard LETTY  are also served out on deck. At dinner, you get a choice of two appetizers (such as mushroom risotto with goat cheese or a seafood and potato leek soup) and two entrees (from beef loin to crab encrusted wahoo fish over sautéed spinach), followed by a dessert the likes of cheesecake or bananas foster. There are always vegetarian options as well.

Letty's dining area. * Photo: Ecoventura

Letty’s dining area. * Photo: Ecoventura

Activities & Entertainment

Like on all Galapagos cruises, the main show is the wildlife and scenery of the destination itself, and it’s entertaining to chat about it all with your fellow passengers, naturalists and crew.  Each day, you’ll be exploring on land on guided hikes and also in the water via tenders and zodiac boats (2 are carried on board each vessel), flipping over the side to snorkel and swim. On all but the SKY dive boat, there are a handful of kayaks on board for passengers to take turns using where possible. If you’re feeling cold in the water (those hailing from warm climates may find the water chilly), there are complimentary wet suits to borrow. One naturalist per 8 passengers accompanies on all outings.

Underwater exploring may wow you with sightings of schooling hammerheads, giant whale sharks, bottlenose dolphins, octopus, rays of all shapes and colors, turtles, Galapagos fur seals and much more, i.e. considered some of the best sites in the world.

Along the Same Lines

Closest are Kleintours, International Nature & Cultural Adventures (INCA), Andando Cruises, Quasar, and Ocean Adventures (recently bought by Celebrity Cruises).

Contact

Ecoventura, 5805 Blue Lagoon Drive, Suite 160, Miami, Florida 33126; 800-633-7972 USA & Canada; 305-262-6264 rest of the world, www.ecoventura.com. For LETTY, ORIGIN & THEORY, the US-based sale agent is Galapagos Network (part of Ecoventura).

 

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Ted Talks Expedition Cruising

QuirkyCruise’s Heidi Sarna puts partner Ted Scull on the hot seat for a “Ted Talks Expedition Cruising” Q&A, with Ted sharing memories of his first expedition-style cruise, to Central America.

 

Q: Look back and tell us what prompted you to first consider an expedition cruise?

Ted: I longed to go to some remote parts of the world that otherwise seemed too difficult or potentially dangerous to independently travel to by land.

Ted Talks Expedition Cruising

Coming ashore on the Chagres River, Panama. * Photo: Ted Scull

Q: What was your first expedition-style cruise?         

Ted: I chose Central America — including Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama — for an expedition-style voyage of two weeks, operated by Lindblad.

Tikal, a pyramid in Belize.

Tikal, a Mayan pyramid in Belize. * Photo: Ted Scull

Q: Why did you pick that destination?

Ted: I had not been to any of these places expect for a passage through the Panama Canal, and these countries were noted for the variety of wildlife you might see on land, in the air and on and under the sea, and a chance to see close up how remote people lived.

Visiting a village in the remote Darien jungle, Panama

Visiting a village in the remote Darien jungle, Panama. * Photo: Ted Scull

Q: What time of year was it? Was it peak season for the destination?

Ted: It was March, and yes one of the peak periods. But with much of the destination being so remote, it would not be crowded with other adventurers.

As it turned out, we never encountered another group.

Q: Did you take different clothes from other ship trips you had taken?

Ted: Yes, fewer and simpler clothes as it would be warm and no need for layers. Expedition trips tend to casual affairs clothing-wise.

Q: Before you left home, what expectations did you have?

Ted: Since I often traveled independently, I hoped the others would be compatible, flexible, interested in seeing as much as possible, and non-complainers.

Q: What was your first impression when you met the other passengers?

Ted: They were an older lot who seemed relaxed with no preconceived ideas and desirous of having a bit of an adventure. Just my cup of tea!

Q: When you first saw the ship what did you think?

Ted: It looked kind of dumpy and obviously was not new, yet trim and well looked after. (The ship, then named Polaris, had started life as a day ferry in 1960 sailing between Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden and then converted to a small cruise ship.)

Ted Talks Expedition Cruising

The Polaris, originally built as a Scandinavian day ferry, then refitted as a small 80-passenger expedition ship. * Photo: Ted Scull

Q: Did you explore the ship straightaway?

Ted: I sure did. The main lounge and dining room looked comfy and inviting with large picture windows, and deck space was generous for viewing the surroundings.

You would never get lost on this ship.

Q: What happened at the first gathering?

Ted: We met in the main lounge and were introduced to the large expedition staff that numbered 10, each one with an expertise in such areas as marine biology, ornithology, geography, or history and some with long careers exploring remote areas. Then we learned about the program for the next day and had a rundown of all the safety features.

Ted Talks Expedition Cruising

William Lopez Forment aka “Batman” shows off his charge at a cocktail hour briefing. * Photo: Ted Scull

Q: What was the buzz at dinner?

Ted: There was a lot of discussion about past travels and how this already seemed to be completely different in so many ways, not the least being how tiny the ship was and the delight of being a small group of 80 passengers instead of 800 or more.

Q: On the first day, what made you realize that you were on something different from an ordinary destination cruise?

Ted: Well, we started out being summoned to the mudroom to get geared up with snorkeling equipment, being fitted for boots and stashing the belongings we did not need for this particular morning. We then climbed into rubber boats with an outboard motor and a naturalist at the helm. Referred to as Zodiacs, they were then new to me.

We sputtered off to explore nature’s aquarium to then encounter queen angelfish, blue tang, stoplight parrotfish, doctor fish, trumpet fish, yellowtail damselfish, Spanish grunt and dozens more exotic sea creatures. On this cruise, there would be no line of motor coaches waiting on the pier.

Q: How did you occupy yourself before dinner?

Ted: Nearly everyone headed to the lounge to have a drink and attend what was known as a briefing, where the guides highlighted some of the day’s events, what we had experienced, and then outlined the next day’s outing about what would be seen. We started a list of birds seen and added to it every day. On one night, some of the staff collected a container full of land crabs, numbered them for betting purposes, and released them in the center of a wide circle. We cheered them on hoping ours would cross the outer limit first. The crabs were then released the next day into their original habitat.

The crab scoots over the finish line to be declared winner. * Photo: Ted Scull

Q: On the forays ashore, what were some of the highlights?

Ted: Exploring a national park that the Peace Corps was helping establish in northern Honduras, and hearing howler monkeys erupt in warning and then looking down at us as we passed through their territory. There were even iguanas lounging in the trees. On another walk along coastal Nicaragua, we encountered eyelash vipers, army ants, beetles and spiders at home in their webs. A green vine snake dropped out of a tree nearby to where we were having lunch. It was all pretty adventurous with one surprise after another.

At the end of two weeks, the number of bird species we spotted topped out at 189!

Q: Do you find any of this scary business?

Ted: Yes, when walking through the rain forest. I made sure I was not one of the first in line to surprise some sleeping horror or the one who brought up the rear and got picked off and carried away.

I definetly preferred traveling trhough the rainforst by Zodiac.

I definitely preferred traveling through the rain forest by Zodiac rather than walking. * Photo: Ted Scull

Q: Were there disappointments or aspects that could have been done better?

Ted: No, none that I can think of. One did have to get used to the ship moving about as it was rather flat-bottomed.

Q: How do you think the other passengers felt about the voyage?

Ted: Those who were fit enough to traipse through the rain forest, go snorkeling and enjoy having a good look at what was underwater, had a ball. The guides and their varied personalities and interests added a positive personal element to the voyage. Some had great stories to share.

Snorkeling was a favoriute activity.

Snokeling was a favorite activity, and the variety of fish seen amazing. * Photo: Ted Scull

Q: Did this trip inspire you to look for more expedition destinations?

Ted: It sure did and in the next 10 years, I joined expeditions to the Canadian Arctic, Antarctica and the Spice Islands of Indonesia.

Q: When you look back to this first trip, how did it compare to some of your most recent voyages?

Ted: There is far more technology available now like underwater cameras, high-tech photography, instant replays of what we had done that day and the like, but being the first, I look back at the novelty of negotiating narrow waters and rain forest paths to get close to the wildlife, walking along completely deserted beaches and landing on tiny deserted islands to see what we might find.

Some of the newer expeditions have fancy accommodations, extensive spas and gourmet food, but I don’t need that. For me, it takes the focus off the adventure aspects that might include some discomfort and coping with the unexpected. All part of the adventure.

 

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QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

Andrea Stoeber from Germany

Cruise Line

Star Clippers

Ship

Star Clipper

Destination

Thailand

# of Nights

7

Departure Date & Ports

April 2017, from Patong Bay in Phuket, Thailand to Ko Surin, Similan Islands, Ko Rok Nok, Langkawi, Ko Kraden, Phang Nga and Ko Hong

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars      (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 5

-Cabin Rating: 4

-Service/Crew Rating: 5

-Itinerary Rating: 4

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

No, this was my first.

Review

Ooops, we will do it again!

Yes, we were bloody beginners, rookies! Our first cruise at all.

My in-laws, who had been on Star Clipper and Royal Clipper before, decided it was time for the four of us to experience our first cruise with them.

Thailand — the Andaman Sea.
We started with Singapore for a few days, flew to Phuket and checked-in on the Star Clipper.

And — I was full of prejudice:
Too many people (maybe Germans?), too many waves, too little space for me (with two teenagers on our side) in between the other guests.

I learned — thankfully the nice way — how wonderful a cruise can be and how addicted you can get.

My first lesson: Wonderful, not too many Germans , it was so international — a little bit of almost every continent. Not more then 170 guests, a seat for everyone while having dinner at the same time, enough room for all of us on “our“ Star Clipper and such a nice staff/crew, who did everything to make our time on that sail boat wonderful.

The second: No, not one of us got problems with being seasick, even in a little bit rough night we did fine and felt safe.

The third: I got addicted to the wonderful sunset time, when you sit on the main deck, they play the same music and set sail — and you’re in between everything of it, can watch how they do it.

A sundowner in your hand and the experience of a terrific beach day on one of the islands we visited, or sightseeing on Langkawi, on my mind.

Of course, we were not the only ones on some islands — but that’s how it is. Everyone wants to see the wonderful beaches, do snorkeling in clear warm water and enjoy the terrific scenery. But most other visitors left early — so there was some quite time left for us. The ship was decorated a little bit old fashioned — but so what. And of course — we have no other cruise to compare it to.

Consequence: We have to do it again in the not so far future and discover more on that “little big sailboat“, with the perfect amount of guests and space for us

Let them spoil us with a delicious breakfast buffet, lunch, happy hour with freshly made finger food when you come from your trip back to the ship

And a wonderful dinner menu, where everyone can find something for themselves. Even our “baby teenager” — who is crazy about pasta……

MY advice: You should try it, too !!

Andrea Stoeber
with her family

PS. No wifi is terrific !!

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QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

David Harrell from the USA

Cruise Line

Island Windjammers

Ship

Vela

Destination

Caribbean

# of Nights

6

Departure Date & Ports

September 2017, from Grenada to the Windward Islands

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars      (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

-Cabin Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

-Service/Crew Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

-Itinerary Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

No, this was my first.

Review

First Windjammer style cruise and it was Awesome!

My wife and I just completed a week cruise with Island Windjammers aboard the Vela. We have wanted to take a Windjammer style cruise for years and after researching options we chose Island Windjammers Pirate Week as our first adventure. I have to say this was by far one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. After a brief time meeting the other ‘Pirates’, I knew this was going to be a fun trip. It was a diverse group of folks but we all had that Pirate mentality and were ready for a special week.

If you like lounging around a pool, spending time in the casino, going to shows, etc. This is not that type of cruise.

However… If you are adventurous and enjoy meeting people and seeing places you’ll never see while on a large cruise ship, then you’ll love this. We sailed into small coves with great snorkeling, beaches, hiking and dropping into local bars in very, very small villages.

The crew members were awesome. Leah and Andrew laid out each day’s activities, providing tips on the best snorkeling spots, hiking, shops and food options. Chef Robert along with Panchoo prepared some amazing meals. You will not go hungry while sailing Island Windjammers. Something I had not given much thought to was our ability to get to know the crew. Something you can’t do on a large cruise ship. I especially enjoyed sitting with Captain Patricio and talking about his life fishing and sailing.

I definitely will be sailing again and I hope our photos and stories will inspire our friends to join us. However, we established what I hope will be long friendships with our fellow Pirates.

Overall it was an amazing experience.

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Inspired by the traditional Indonesian phinisi cargo ships that once plied the spice trading routes between China and India in search of nutmeg, pepper, sandalwood and textiles centuries ago, Silolona Sojourns’ pair of phinisi schooners are luxurious versions of these classic sailing vessels, motorized and built to German Lloyd’s safety standards.

Owner Patti Seery, an American expat who has spent 35 years in Indonesia, supervised their construction in Sulawesi, an Indonesian island known for its master boat builders. Made by hand with tropical hardwoods, the 164-foot SILOLONA and the 131-foot SIDATU BUA, have the big dark-colored gaff rigged sails of the traditional phinisi and the fore and aft sails used by classic European-built sailing ships.

Silolona Sojourns pair of gorgeous phinisi schooners.

Silolona Sojourns pair of gorgeous phinisi schooners. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Seery charters the boats to wealthy individuals who want to travel with their families, friends or colleagues to the remote islands of eastern Indonesia (and other places) on custom-designed cruises to scuba dive and snorkel — an expedition leader and a PADI instructor are aboard every sailingand to enjoy the good life with excellent meals, massages and lots of R & R.

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

SILOLONA (built 2004, 10 passengers), SIDATU BUA (built 2012, 6 passengers)

The Sidatu Bua is a masterpiece like her sister. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

The Sidatu Bua is a masterpiece like her sister. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Passengers Profile

Families and groups of friends from Europe, Asia, North America and other parts of the world looking for luxury and adventure.

Passenger Decks

2, with no elevators.

Price

$$$ Expensive

Included Features

Excursions, diving for certified passengers, snorkeling and water sports equipment, and soft drinks.

The islands of Indonesia are simply breathtaking. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

The islands of Indonesia are simply breathtaking. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Itineraries

One- to two-week cruises are scheduled in the region according to the four regional monsoon seasons for smooth sailing, but the exact itinerary and focus (whether diving or cultural experiences) is custom-designed according to what passengers are looking for. As each ship only has a handful of cabins, most cruises are chartered by families or small groups, though a few per year are sold to individuals.

  • April – August: Itineraries focus on the eastern half of the Indonesia archipelago, from Komodo, famous for its “dragons” and Flores to the islands of the Savu Sea for local culture and spectacular scenery.
  • September – November: The focus is on the islands of Banda, the Spice islands, the stunning Raja Ampat archipelago for excellent diving and snorkeling, and West Papua, known for the fascinating customs and culture of its tribal people.
  • December – March: Possible itineraries include Raja Ampat and Papua’s Cenderawasih Bay; the archipelago of Langkawi, off the northwestern coast of Malaysia, and the islands off the western coast of Thailand — both areas are known for their gorgeous limestone rock formations and slivers of gorgeous beach; the Mergui archipelago off the coast of southern Myanmar (N.B. not currently a destination) known for their exotic birds, wildlife, sea creatures, beaches and the culture of the local “Moken” people; and cruises around the Andaman Islands, belonging to India, located in the eastern Bay of Bengal and known for excellent diving and snorkeling.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are a big draw in the eastern islands of Indonesia. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Snorkeling and scuba diving are a big draw in the eastern islands of Indonesia. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Why Go?

To see remote parts of Indonesia in the lap of luxury in intimate surroundings with your family or friends.

When to Go?

The line schedules its cruises to avoid the prevailing monsoons in the various parts of Southeast Asia.

Cabins

SILOLONA’s five suites and SIDATU BUA’s three suites are predominantly wood paneled and tastefully incorporate Indonesian textiles, woodcarvings and handicrafts. They’re all air-conditioned, have portholes, and queen beds or twins beds. Amenities include robes, toiletries, hairdryers and safe.

Charming cabins incorporate traditional Indonesian art and design. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Charming cabins incorporate traditional Indonesian art and design. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Public Rooms

Each has an inside dining area and a lounge with a bar, plus outdoor seating including sun beds and small aft and forward lounging areas as well. Though the cabins are lovely, you’ll want to spend as much time up on deck as possible.

Sidatu Bua is gorgeous inside and out. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Sidatu Bua is gorgeous inside and out. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Dining

Meals are served at one or two tables and are a combination of Indonesian and western flavors, with local seafood, veggies and spices worked into the menu. From fresh sushi and prawns to flakey croissants and pancetta-wrapped sea scallops, mealtime is a highpoint.

Activities & Entertainment

The ships are certified PADI dive centers with a dive master, and you can get certified on board for an extra cost. Besides diving equipment, the ships also carry snorkeling gear, kayaks, water skis, wake boards, and fishing gear, along with several inflatable tender boats to zip passengers to remote spots to do all this stuff. On out-of-the-way beaches, wood and canvas umbrellas are stuck into the sand and the crew lays out rattan beach mats, towels and fancy picnic lunches.

For pampeirng on board, one or two crew members are certified massage therapists in addition to performing other duties. Requests like yoga classes and full-time massage therapists can also be accommodated, as this is a “your-wish-is-my-command” sort of cruise. There’s a music system on board and a TV in the lounge, and the musical crew invariably brings out their guitars and sings for passengers a few evenings a week.

Otherwise, it’s drinks, conversation and soaking up gorgeous sunsets through the rigging while reveling in the romance of being on such an exotic ship in such exotic places.

A fleet of Asmat canoes with warriors in traditional dress greets Silolona on arrival at Syuru village, Agats, Papua. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

A fleet of Asmat canoes with warriors in traditional dress greets Silolona on arrival at Syuru village, Agats, Papua. * Photo: Silolona Sojourns

Along the Same Lines

Sea Safari Cruises and ships offered for charter including the Dunia Baru.

Contact

Silolona Sojourns, www.silolona.com

— HMS

PollypaleGreen2 copy

 

 

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QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

Wendy from the USA

Cruise Line

Island Windjammers

Ship

Sagitta

Destination

Caribbean

# of Nights

6

Departure Date & Ports

August 2017, from Marigot Bay, St. Lucia to Dominica, Martinique, and Isle de Saintes

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars          (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

-Cabin Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

-Service/Crew Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

-Itinerary Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

I’ve been on 1 small ship cruise.

Review

Best Vacation Ever

Like most of my vacations I put a lot of time and effort beforehand researching the how and why of whatever we are planning to do. I knew we wanted to sail and I knew we wanted a small boat and the Caribbean. I did my research and Island Windjammers consistently seemed to get great reviews. We were not disappointed. I will start by saying everything from purchasing passage aboard Sagitta to disembarking went smoothly (saying goodbye to fellow shipmates and the crew, however, was not easy). Once you have bought your ticket to sail, Island Windjammers gives you access to a message board to chat with other would-be sailors so gearing up to go is extra fun. You can find very helpful posts, get answers to questions and chat with your soon to be shipmates! We buddied up with a couple of other travelers on our boat to share cab rides to and from the ship this way.

Island Windjammers’ Sagitta is a 120 ft motorsailer. For our sail we had 20 passengers and 11 crew. There isn’t a set itinerary, per say, but the days were very organized. Yes, you may do as much or as little as you like. The general course of events were — breakfast at 8, story time to follow (this is when you learn about your days options/activities), first dinghy usually left for shore around 9:30 (back and forth to the ship hourly), lunch at noon, snacks and “Sagitta-ritas” (delicious) at 5 and dinner at 7. All meals were delicious. George and Philbert prepared amazing food in that small galley. Standouts to me were the beef Burgundy, the trio of salads we had one day for lunch, the cheese burgers, all the breakfasts and all the varieties of juices offered. Our cabin was perfect. Clean with an amazing amount of storage (definitely try to pack light, I’m a notorious over packer.) We had our own bathroom, also perfect and surprisingly spacious.

There were plenty of things to do (or not do!) The crew made sure paddle boards were out and available as well as floats and my favorite — the noodle. We swam off the side of Sagitta using these and also took them to a couple of beaches. Snorkel equipment was also available. I believe we snorkeled in at least 3 different locations. There was also a rope swing off of the ship which received plenty of use. There were optional excursions offered as well. Almost everyone on our ship took the all day tour of Dominica. In the evening I believe several passengers played dominos and dice games. I was not up this early but I do know one morning dolphins were spotted traveling along with the ship by the Captain and a couple passengers.

The crew were all amazing. Always smiling, always helpful. They seemed to be having as good of time as we were just doing their jobs. Safety was taken very seriously. Sagitta’s Captain Patricio was serious about his job and confident which made me feel very safe. Jermaine was always pleasant to see on deck first thing in thing in the morning making sure coffee was available (beer wine and rum were also not in short supply, but only after coffee for me, ha.)

This is the best vacation we have ever taken. We plan on sailing with Island Windjammers again very soon. This time we would like to try the Vela or Diamanté just for variety sake.

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Thailand cruise

by Heidi Sarna.

In April, I took a 7-night Star Clippers Thailand cruise round-trip from Phuket aboard the 170-passenger tall ship Star Clipper. We tootled around the gorgeous rocky islands of the Andaman Sea in search of beaches and snorkeling sites. It was my fifth Star Clippers cruise — and it won’t be my last.

Here are 10 great reasons to take a Star Clippers cruise in Thailand. And here’s Heidi’s full feature article!

The Rocks.

The peaks of craggy ancient mountains poke out of the Andaman Sea like clusters of wild mushrooms, the result of tectonic activity eons ago. Scenic and very photographable, cruising among them on a tall ship is wonderous.

Thailand cruise

The rocky islands and formations of the Andaman Sea. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Beaches.

Beach bums will love this itinerary. The region’s islands, most of which are part of Thai national parks, are rimmed with arcs of white sand framed by picturesque rock formations and shaded by lush tropical foliage.

Thailand cruise

A gorgeous beach on Koh Surin. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

 

The Sunsets.

There’s just something about watching the sun set through the rigging of a sailing ship. Just about every night on this itinerary, a moody orange sunset slowly melted into the horizon to the delight of passengers gathered up on deck to watch the show.

Thailand cruise

Stunning sunsets are a daily affair in the Andaman Sea. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Ship.

The four-masted Star Clipper, like her two fleetmates, was built in the image of a 19th-century clipper, the fast kind that used to race across the ocean by sail power alone to transport tea and opium between China, India and England.  The Star Clipper is a beauty from stem to stern, and her sails, rigging and teak are constant reminders you’re on a classic tall ship.

thailand cruise

Star Clipper in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Snorkeling & Diving.

We snorkelled around shallow reefs and saw giant clams with purple lips, black spiny sea urchins and huge brain corals. Schools of fish, some cheeky enough to swim within inches of my mask, provided a constant stream of marine TV with their neon stripes and spots. All guests are issued free snorkeling equipment and a dive master is on board to take divers on optional excursions daily, to reefs further afield and around submerged black volcanic lava.

Thailand cruise

Snorkeling off the side of a tender near Koh Surin. * Photo: Sheila Healey

The Watersports.

The Star Clipper carries along paddle boards, kayaks, windsurfers and sail boats, and offers them for use right off the side of the ship when anchored in the right conditions and also sets up the equipment on the beach.

Thailand cruise

Paddleboarding is offered on every beach. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Massages.

Marietta the masseuse was excellent; she had just the right firm touch, working out the knots and kinks in a very relaxing and soothing way. The jury-rigged massage cabana is up on a sequestered section of deck near the dive tanks and tender boats.

The humble cabana where excellent massages were performed. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The Other Passengers.

Star Clippers attracts an international mix of folks from mostly Europe, the UK and North America who appreciate traditional sailing, offbeat itineraries and good old-fashioned socializing.

Thailand cruise

On route to the next great beach! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Thailand.

Thailand is a cool, historic, quirky place, there’s no two ways about it. Many passengers spend a few days in Phuket, nearby Krabi, and/or Bangkok, before or after the cruise, to enjoy the country’s delectable cuisine, famous friendly hospitality, and stunning gilded temples.

Thailand cruise

Bangkok’s gilded temples and stupas. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Singapore.

Ok, maybe this one’s cheating, but I love the fact that this cruise could happen after just a short 1.5-hour flight to Phuket from Singapore where I live! From North America, on the other hand, it’s a full-day’s schlep to get to Thailand, but it’s worth it, trust me.

Through 2019, Star Clipper is doing weeklong Andaman Sea cruises between October and April starting at $1,360 per person and spending the other half of the year cruising in the Indonesia archipelago round-trip from Bali.

And here’s Heidi’s full feature article!

Visit Star Clippers for booking info.

Star Clippers Thailand

A Star Clippers cruise in Thailand is one photo op after another. * Photo: Mark Brompton

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