Question about Ortelius

2017-02-02 08:20:09 by T4N
Travel Nico Collins 

Review of the Ortelius Ship to the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula Before you book your trip with the ORTELIUS through OceanWide Expeditions it is worth reading the following review of this boat. I wish it was available to us before we booked our trip. We chose the Ortelius, because of the incredible route that included the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula (19 days, 2016). In addition, we wanted a ship with a small number of passengers (112), which would allow multiple landings and maximum time on shore. The IATO rules allow only 100 people on each landing. Also, we wanted a NO FRILLS ship which would hopefully attract a certain type of travelers and will not resemble an American type mega cruise. Indeed, all of the above hopes paid off. The passengers were exceptionally well travelled and came from about 20 different countries, mostly European, some specialists in birding and photography, and on the whole interesting and engaging. We managed 12 landings and a few zodiac trips which allowed us un paralleled encounters with an abundance of wild life. Weather conditions prevented some landings and we missed seeing some species, but that is understandable on a trip as such. 1. THE MOST DISTRURBING ASPECT OF THE TRIP: On landings a serious ecological pandemonium unfolded: The passengers where free to roam anywhere they wanted with the end result of serious disruption to the wild life, taking pictures sometimes from one meter or less of penguins and albatrosses during the breeding season, while they nested or had chicks to protect or where trying to get back to their colonies thru the famous penguin highways. The animals where often in clear distress and the literature clearly spells out the damage of such disruptions. The appropriate distance was not observed or enforced, and the lecture about wild life observation rules and mandatory distance was perfunctory and presented explicitly only on the 3rd or 4th day of the sail, but barely enforced. That was probably the most distressing aspect for me to watch. Anybody who knows these magnificent species understands the incredible ecological damage that took place on the landings. We had situations in which seals came in direct contact with passengers or equipment to their detriment as well as the passengers’ detriment, but of course a great photo opportunity. I was appalled and my feedback to the guides on that issue was mainly rudely dismissed. As the trip progressed there was a staff attempt to remedy the situation. However, since some passengers did not hold themselves to the wild life observation rules, it is in my opinion, absolutely necessary to have guided tours in file as in the Galapagos, to keep the wild life safe and hopefully receive intelligent information from the guides during the visit in real time. I am not aware how other cruises handle the issue, but clearly as the number of people travelling to Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia is increasing, the impact will worsen. Finally, the guides were not consistent with the rules among themselves, and gave confusing messages as to the distance required in each landing and with each of the species we saw. The IATO rules most definitely were not observed. In addition, even on the whale watching zodiac trips, the 100 meter distance from the whales was NOT observed. 2. The quality of the GUIDES on trips as such can make or ruin a trip. On arrival to the shore for each landing, some of the guides seemed more preoccupied with taking their own pictures than guiding and enforcing good practices. On the only guided hike we had to a waterfall, the guide run in great speed ahead leaving the group to trail behind him at a great distance and once again with no instruction. There was No real time Guiding so we relied mainly on other passengers who happened to be bird experts, during the landings. A few of the guides were unfriendly, uninspiring, and provided perfunctory information and only when solicited. Surprisingly, for some of the guides this was their first trip on this specific route. This was absolutely annoying that we had to pay what was essentially their training. THE majority of the LECTURES on the boat where mostly sub standard and no better than information you can get from the Lonely Planet books. The presentations were dry and not interesting. A number of the guides had incredibly broken English and where not clearly understood. We sometimes got stuck with a zodiac operator who did not know a word of English so we could not ask any questions. Very few of the guides had serious academic background specific to the region. Since many of the passengers (including ourselves) had post graduate education and many with PHD’s as well as extensive travel experience, the lectures where minimally intellectually stimulating. The lead guide gave a very choppy overview of the route each day and there where no public maps where you could map the sailing route and the changes that were made to adjust for weather conditions and have that as a keep sake at the end of the navigation. It would have been nice to have a personal copy of the map and chart the circumnavigation as we went along. 3. The ship has a pitiful LIBRARY with 2 shelf rows tacked on a poorly accessible area at the bottom of a bar counter, consisting of old and torn books on the Antarctic and the Arctic. It is located in the small Bar Lounge of all places which has dim lighting and is often noisy, therefor not an appropriate place to study or at least watch documentaries. We saw only one documentary on Shakelton and luckily one of the passengers had the right equipment to screen the film as the crew did not have their own. Another passenger brought a series of Planet Earth documentaries which he got permission to screen. There were NONE offered by the ship. 4. The windows of the boat in the Bar, which is the only public OBSERVATION SPACE, are small so one cannot enjoy the views except outside. Furthermore, the bar cannot even contain the number of passengers on board. On briefings and recaps many people had to stand up as seating was limited. We did not know when the Bridge was open unless we were outside and when we did visit we felt unwelcomed and so we where uncomfortable to ask questions about the sail charts. 5. The FOOD was acceptable. However, it seemed that observing meal times took precedent over favorable weather conditions, so by the time the meals ended the weather would change and we could no longer land. I believe that after passengers complained and pressured the crew there was an attempt to be slightly more flexible with the landings and meal schedules, however with the end result of having about 4 hour gaps between each meal. In my opinion, preparing sandwiches and prioritizing landings, would have made much more sense. 5. SAFETY: we were on one zodiac that run out of fuel a little before we arrived back to the ship. Our guide herself was freaked out. The clean-up to prevent contamination from land to boat and visa versa was also poorly managed. We vacuumed our outer layer but than took it back to our rooms. Similarly, we cleaned our boots coming back to the ship and that was it. It would have been better to have our outer layer and boots remain in an incoming room, cleaned while there and wear it again before landings. 6. The ship has the policy of landing All passengers on board despite PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS, instead of describing the level of difficulty for each landing. The end result was that even if you could land with harsher conditions requiring better fitness, the policy prevented that. 7. We arrived to find our CABIN (on the 5th floor) with dental floss and many hairs of the previous passengers in the shower as well as a gross stain on the duvet cover. Another passenger reported that they found an empty whiskey bottle in their closet. 9. So overall, the POSITIVES had little to do with the ship’s leadership or practices. The route is fantastic and if you are a self learner you can compensate for the sub standard instruction. The price is competitive and probably the cheapest available for this route, but the cost of poor guiding and lack of environmentally superior practices is too dear to ignore in my view. The price tag: around 15,000 USA dollars per person for a double cabin with 2 small windows. Add to that the cost of the flight from the USA, appropriate clothing for the region and the very expensive travel insurance which is rightly required, as well as the recommended tips to the crew, it is not a cheap trip. In retrospect it may be better to spend more money to get a better Guide Crew and a better educational program, as well as a ship that has a respectable library, documentaries on the region, and better observation spaces. So did we have fun despite the setbacks? We were absolutely moved by the grandeur of nature, the cruel history of the region, the romance of adventure on the footsteps of great explorers, the sadness of human folly and destruction, the promise of Scientific discoveries and attempts of preservation and rehabilitation, and the amazing endurance of the species that call these barren lands HOME. Review of the Ortelius Ship to the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula Before you book your trip with the ORTELIUS through OceanWide Expeditions it is worth reading the following review of this boat. I wish it was available to us before we booked our trip. We chose the Ortelius, because of the incredible route that included the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula (19 days, 2016). In addition, we wanted a ship with a small number of passengers (112), which would allow multiple landings and maximum time on shore. The IATO rules allow only 100 people on each landing. Also, we wanted a NO FRILLS ship which would hopefully attract a certain type of travelers and will not resemble an American type mega cruise. Indeed, all of the above hopes paid off. The passengers were exceptionally well travelled and came from about 20 different countries, mostly European, some specialists in birding and photography, and on the whole interesting and engaging. We managed 12 landings and a few zodiac trips which allowed us un paralleled encounters with an abundance of wild life. Weather conditions prevented some landings and we missed seeing some species, but that is understandable on a trip as such. 1. THE MOST DISTRURBING ASPECT OF THE TRIP: On landings a serious ecological pandemonium unfolded: The passengers where free to roam anywhere they wanted with the end result of serious disruption to the wild life, taking pictures sometimes from one meter or less of penguins and albatrosses during the breeding season, while they nested or had chicks to protect or where trying to get back to their colonies thru the famous penguin highways. The animals where often in clear distress and the literature clearly spells out the damage of such disruptions. The appropriate distance was not observed or enforced, and the lecture about wild life observation rules and mandatory distance was perfunctory and presented explicitly only on the 3rd or 4th day of the sail, but barely enforced. That was probably the most distressing aspect for me to watch. Anybody who knows these magnificent species understands the incredible ecological damage that took place on the landings. We had situations in which seals came in direct contact with passengers or equipment to their detriment as well as the passengers’ detriment, but of course a great photo opportunity. I was appalled and my feedback to the guides on that issue was mainly rudely dismissed. As the trip progressed there was a staff attempt to remedy the situation. However, since some passengers did not hold themselves to the wild life observation rules, it is in my opinion, absolutely necessary to have guided tours in file as in the Galapagos, to keep the wild life safe and hopefully receive intelligent information from the guides during the visit in real time. I am not aware how other cruises handle the issue, but clearly as the number of people travelling to Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia is increasing, the impact will worsen. Finally, the guides were not consistent with the rules among themselves, and gave confusing messages as to the distance required in each landing and with each of the species we saw. The IATO rules most definitely were not observed. In addition, even on the whale watching zodiac trips, the 100 meter distance from the whales was NOT observed. 2. The quality of the GUIDES on trips as such can make or ruin a trip. On arrival to the shore for each landing, some of the guides seemed more preoccupied with taking their own pictures than guiding and enforcing good practices. On the only guided hike we had to a waterfall, the guide run in great speed ahead leaving the group to trail behind him at a great distance and once again with no instruction. There was No real time Guiding so we relied mainly on other passengers who happened to be bird experts, during the landings. A few of the guides were unfriendly, uninspiring, and provided perfunctory information and only when solicited. Surprisingly, for some of the guides this was their first trip on this specific route. This was absolutely annoying that we had to pay what was essentially their training. THE majority of the LECTURES on the boat where mostly sub standard and no better than information you can get from the Lonely Planet books. The presentations were dry and not interesting. A number of the guides had incredibly broken English and where not clearly understood. We sometimes got stuck with a zodiac operator who did not know a word of English so we could not ask any questions. Very few of the guides had serious academic background specific to the region. Since many of the passengers (including ourselves) had post graduate education and many with PHD’s as well as extensive travel experience, the lectures where minimally intellectually stimulating. The lead guide gave a very choppy overview of the route each day and there where no public maps where you could map the sailing route and the changes that were made to adjust for weather conditions and have that as a keep sake at the end of the navigation. It would have been nice to have a personal copy of the map and chart the circumnavigation as we went along. 3. The ship has a pitiful LIBRARY with 2 shelf rows tacked on a poorly accessible area at the bottom of a bar counter, consisting of old and torn books on the Antarctic and the Arctic. It is located in the small Bar Lounge of all places which has dim lighting and is often noisy, therefor not an appropriate place to study or at least watch documentaries. We saw only one documentary on Shakelton and luckily one of the passengers had the right equipment to screen the film as the crew did not have their own. Another passenger brought a series of Planet Earth documentaries which he got permission to screen. There were NONE offered by the ship. 4. The windows of the boat in the Bar, which is the only public OBSERVATION SPACE, are small so one cannot enjoy the views except outside. Furthermore, the bar cannot even contain the number of passengers on board. On briefings and recaps many people had to stand up as seating was limited. We did not know when the Bridge was open unless we were outside and when we did visit we felt unwelcomed and so we where uncomfortable to ask questions about the sail charts. 5. The FOOD was acceptable. However, it seemed that observing meal times took precedent over favorable weather conditions, so by the time the meals ended the weather would change and we could no longer land. I believe that after passengers complained and pressured the crew there was an attempt to be slightly more flexible with the landings and meal schedules, however with the end result of having about 4 hour gaps between each meal. In my opinion, preparing sandwiches and prioritizing landings, would have made much more sense. 5. SAFETY: we were on one zodiac that run out of fuel a little before we arrived back to the ship. Our guide herself was freaked out. The clean-up to prevent contamination from land to boat and visa versa was also poorly managed. We vacuumed our outer layer but than took it back to our rooms. Similarly, we cleaned our boots coming back to the ship and that was it. It would have been better to have our outer layer and boots remain in an incoming room, cleaned while there and wear it again before landings. 6. The ship has the policy of landing All passengers on board despite PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS, instead of describing the level of difficulty for each landing. The end result was that even if you could land with harsher conditions requiring better fitness, the policy prevented that. 7. We arrived to find our CABIN (on the 5th floor) with dental floss and many hairs of the previous passengers in the shower as well as a gross stain on the duvet cover. Another passenger reported that they found an empty whiskey bottle in their closet. 9. So overall, the POSITIVES had little to do with the ship’s leadership or practices. The route is fantastic and if you are a self learner you can compensate for the sub standard instruction. The price is competitive and probably the cheapest available for this route, but the cost of poor guiding and lack of environmentally superior practices is too dear to ignore in my view. The price tag: around 15,000 USA dollars per person for a double cabin with 2 small windows. Add to that the cost of the flight from the USA, appropriate clothing for the region and the very expensive travel insurance which is rightly required, as well as the recommended tips to the crew, it is not a cheap trip. In retrospect it may be better to spend more money to get a better Guide Crew and a better educational program, as well as a ship that has a respectable library, documentaries on the region, and better observation spaces. So did we have fun despite the setbacks? We were absolutely moved by the grandeur of nature, the cruel history of the region, the romance of adventure on the footsteps of great explorers, the sadness of human folly and destruction, the promise of Scientific discoveries and attempts of preservation and rehabilitation, and the amazing endurance of the species that call these barren lands HOME. . I have sailed with the Ortelius 2016-2017, Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica route, I would NOT recommend it due to quality of the Guides, the very poor Library facilities, and not adhering to the IATO wild life observation rules. .

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