472 Reviews of Small Ship & Expedition Cruises Tours
Adventure Smith was exceptional. Antarctica 21 corporate office was deplorable. August 20193.0
My mom, brother, and I booked with Antarctica 21 (A21) in February 2018 with an initial deposit and paid for the remaining balance in Sept 2018 for a late Jan-early Feb 2019 Antarctic cruise. We booked through Adventure Smith Explorations (ASE)—who were amazingly helpful throughout. Mom completed the A21 travel and health information when we each paid the trip deposit in Feb 2018, and she disclosed that she was in her early 80s and on anti-coagulant medication. Mom’s doctor also certified in writing to A21 that she was fit and able to take this trip. Then, 20 days before the start of the cruise in late Jan 2019, A21 sent an email to cancel Mom’s trip and refused to refund her $11,995 cruise price—citing medical concerns. We were stunned. When we asked the A21 representative to clarify which medical concerns led them to cancel Mom’s trip, she cited Mom’s age and use of anti-coag--- but all of this had been disclosed a year prior when the trip deposit was first paid in Feb 2018. Our representatives from ASE tried to appeal with A21, but to no avail. A21 flatly refused our offer for both of Mom’s doctors, whom she had visited within 40 days prior to the cruise, to provide additional fitness certification. A21 stated that no further information would be accepted and that their decision to remove Mom from the cruise was final.
My brother and I left for the trip without Mom, although this was supposed to be a memorable family trip together. On board, as we shared our experience with other passengers, people readily described their own medical conditions and were appalled that our Mom was not allowed on the cruise. Many of the 50-80 year old passengers said they were also on anti-coag and had various medical issues. At least six people told us they had significant health issues-- one had extensive knee surgery 3 weeks prior to the cruise, another had a stint placed in her heart a week before the cruise, two people had fused spines and very limited mobility, two others walked with canes and needed assistance. Three of the A21 team on board the ship told us directly that Mom had been too honest in noting that she took anti-coag. Many other passengers, including the six with major health issues and those on anti-coag, said they had not shared any of their conditions with A21. The last day of the cruise, we spoke with the cruise manager, and at first she would not give us any information about the decision or contact information at their corporate office. Several hours later, she reconsidered and shared one contact information at their Santiago corporate office, but she discouraged us from meeting with their team in Punta Arenas in person.
Also: Be careful with travel insurance. Mom paid over $1,800 for travel insurance for the trip. However, the insurance company denied her claim for reimbursement when A21 canceled her trip. A21 refused to put any reason in writing for us to use with the travel insurance claim. Most thankfully, Adventure Smith Expeditions reimbursed Mom the price of the cruise of $11,995, although Mom still lost the airfare to and from USA to Punta Arenas, Chile. Adventure Smith Expeditions deserves my most stellar recommendations for their help and information throughout our initial booking, during the trip, and once we returned.
Part 2 of the review: Onboard with A21: If you are able to take the trip, the on-board experience with A21 is good quality. My brother and I enjoyed the trip, although it was deeply bittersweet without Mom. The landscape, wildlife, and pristine Antarctic views were truly amazing. Many other reviews describe the actual cruise experience well, so I will be brief on this. A21 used the Ocean Nova ship for our cruise. The ship is well laid out, the ship staff (including captain, dining, and cleaning teams) were very helpful, rooms are tiny and spartan but as advertised, all public areas were very clean, and food quality is reasonable. The A21 tour manager (admin and logistics), expedition manager (excursion leader) and guides on board are enthusiastic, and many of the guides have extensive experience in the Antarctic and are happy to talk with passengers. With ship activities, including two landings on average each day, we stayed busy with information briefings and excursions plus three meals. A21 has other ships, including a new one they will launch in 2020, so look at the options carefully. This cruise option on the Ocean Nova worked well for us, with just 70 passengers for a smaller group although more modest accommodations.
As noted above, definitely buy travel insurance, as our flight from the Chilean military base back to Punta Arenas was delayed two days given bad weather, and we stayed on the boat during this time. A21 has some of the same investors as DAP, the airline for these flights, so our ship had priority with DAP once flights resumed, while other ships (major tour companies, researchers, etc) had to wait further. Travel insurance covered my revised ticket home, hotel in Punta Arenas, and other minor expenses, which were all more than the cost of travel insurance.
Visit to Russia and the cruise on the MS Rostropovich. August 20195.0
I am emailing to thank you personally for the very efficient service provided by Express to Russia. From the initial enquiry, through the provision of additional information, to the conclusion of the booking you have always responded very promptly to my emails. This made the whole process much easier than it might otherwise have been and I would most certainly recommend your services to others.
Thank-you and best wishes for the future. Read more
Operator Express to Russia
Sail in Greece SUCKS June 20191.0
My main issues are with the safety and cleanliness of the boat. There are absolutely no safety briefings as you board the ship and a lot of my group did not know where the life jackets were. This became relevant when we had awful weather that was throwing the boat around as if it was nothing, breaking the anchor/chain. The crew were telling us that it was quite normal to have rough seas but if that is the case, it makes sense to prepare the group for the possibility. We had to sail for 8 hours in the night and we all had no idea what to expect or do. Things were smashing, broken glass everywhere, you could not stand or even sit without being thrown out of your seat. Communication from the crew was poor especially that night and would not have happened without our insistence.
The boat stinks. I absolutely refuse to believe that sailing boats normally smell like this. Vomit from seasickness and other human waste fermenting presumably in a septic tank is not something I had ever smelt before and hope never to smell again. This smell comes up through all the drains so it’s inescapable. The toilets were flushing with brown pooey water. Often you would find someone else’s poo in your toilet having made its way around all the pipes of the ship. It's horrifying. Oh, also I had a ‘functioning’ toilet. Half the ship did not so some of the group were literally holding in their poo until they got to land, so as not to make a big unflushable pile and make the smell worse. I didn’t know this until our final night on the boat. Many people bring the smell up when they review this tour and Sail In Greece state ‘no issues were reported by our staff’ every time. But based on what I saw, I doubt the crew are doing a daily updated check in with head office. For example: no toilet paper is allowed to go down the toilet, which is fair, but we were told the bins would be changed each day. My bin was changed once in 7 days. I doubt that if they give that few fucks about the cleanliness of the cabin bathrooms that they are doing daily quality assurance and reporting back on it. Oh and my ‘freshly made’ bed had a top blanket which had some crusty white stuff on it.
Things described on the itinerary are not likely to happen. Our itinerary described free ouzo, a night of unlimited cocktails, a private boat party with DJ. When we enquired about this, our tour guide had absolutely no idea. Because Niko was such a lovely guy I am reluctant to throw him under the bus but he is employed by the company and he should also be familiar with what has been quoted on the itinerary. Sail in Greece replied to our email saying "at no point did we say drinks are provided" but it absolutely read like that, otherwise we would not have expected it. For 10 separate people to interpret a statement the same way, you've used misleading words.
Sail In Greece have this disclaimer: ‘the itinerary is subject to change at the captains discretion or due to unforeseen circumstances’ but I think they use this to cover themselves to change things on a whim, things that are completely within their control. We are reasonable enough to understand that the weather can be unpredictable. But we lost two full days of activities and time on the islands due to a administration problems with them needing to get a new captain? It's frustrating beyond belief to be ready waiting to go and the crew can't tell you what is happening. And being stuck on the boat literally all day.
It was an absolute shitshow and if you read all that I am glad because it probably means you were quite seriously considering this trip. Don’t book with Sail In Greece.
Operator Sail in Greece
DO NOT BOOK WITH SAIL IN GREECE. June 20191.0
Our first captain who brought his feral dog on board (who pooped on the deck and bit the guests) was kicked off after 2 days and replaced with another captain. The two captains needed an entire day to figure out the transition and left us on the boat with ZERO communication about what was happening.
We all got off the boat a day early after the Captain snapped an anchor and we floated seemingly aimlessly in the water while everything came crashing down from the walls/shelves as the boat rocked violently from side to side. The crew were running around frantically, crockery and glass was smashed everywhere, we all thought the boat was going to sink and we hadn't been briefed on any safety procedures and had no clue where the life jackets were.
This YOLO cruise was absolute chaos, Sail in Greece refused to acknowledge our complaints and have really shown themselves to be total scam artists.
Operator Sail in Greece
Vietnam and Cambodia multi day tour May 20195.0
For my fiancee and her son, this was a first in a lifetime vacation and she was very nervous about many things. So it helped tremendously that drivers were there for us at the airports, we were picked up promptly each day and all of the hotels were ready for us.
All of our guides were fantastic and we enjoyed our conversations with them. And what really impressed me was the day our tour ran late due to traffic in Hanoi. We arrived at Cu Chi at about the time our tour should have been over. That conflicted with lunch which was included in our tour. GoAsia gave us the option of having our meal in Hanoi instead of a rushed lunch at Cu Chi.
Mike also met with us in Hanoi and made suggetions on options we might like. We paid for the options which afforded us a day to sleep in late in Phnom Pehn and got to experience sunrise at Angkor Wat. There was some confusion upon arrival in Siem Reap because of the changes in our itenirary that MIke quickly resolved.
I highly recommend GoAsia. Read more
Operator Go Asia Travel