Natalie & Mike Whitehouse

United Kingdom

Customer
Rating

10

Customer Rating On return from their adventure we ask customers: “On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend or colleague?”

Natalie & Mike Whitehouse's Trip Date:

11th Dec - 10th Jan 2017

Overall, how was your trip?

Stunning scenery, icebergs everywhere some of incredible sizes both in length and breadth, wildlife, whales of various species. 6 types of penguins, birds nesting and following the ship, and all overlaid with amazing historical sites and stories. My grandchildren will hear how their grandmother was picked up by a 6 foot 3 inch giant and thrown from a beach into the zodiac, got knocked off the tubes by the strength of the waves, and then returned, soaked, to the ship with 8 inches of water in the zodiac!

In one sentence, what did you think of Antarctica? Did it live up to your expectations?

Antarctica was great and surpassed our expectations, helped in no small way by excellent weather.

Would you visit again?

Maybe

How was the service that Swoop provided?

Swoop was excellent. All paperwork arrived in good time, and was printed out for us as the printer was mis-behaving. The flights we wanted were booked, and seats confirmed. The ship was almost luxurious, compared to the previous vessel of 5 years ago. The "epic" voyage was demonstrably different from before, and the time of year produced lots of things we hadn't experienced/seen before. Everyone I spoke to was super helpful, and Alex's knowledge of the seasons and what we could expect was spot on.

How likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

10 out of 10

How were your experiences on the zodiac excursions and shore landings?

All the zodiac drivers were skilled, some knew more than others anyway, but all were in contact with other staff so if we asked a question they didn't know, they could get an answer over the radio. And often the staff expert who had replied followed up with a conversation with us later. There were lots of zodiac cruises offered if we didn't want to go ashore to trek, or slide down hills! Often we would spend half the time ashore, and half cruising, which was nice. People could do exactly what they wanted. The quantity of the wildlife was spectacular, the expedition leader seemed to know lots of "unusual" landing sites, which the majority of the staff had never been to. We also had on board 2 penguin counters from Oceanites, who were very good at explaining how and where and why, and also suggested sites. We landed on an iceberg - a first for most people! We were SO impressed with the ship operator's staff, who worked SO hard, giving lectures, often later on into the evening, knew all our names almost immediately, were solicitous if it was rough and people retired to their cabins, checking they were OK. Always happy to stand and chat, always had a smile on their faces!

​How would you describe {vessel.title} if talking to somebody potentially interested in going to Antarctica, and what tips would you pass​ on?

Vavilov is an expedition ship, but has more than some cruise ships! The cabins were spacious - well ours was, but you pay for what you get. The 3/4 person cabins were small, but if you're young and getting a good deal, perfectly adequate. We switched to a Shackleton suite half way through the cruise. If I did it again, I wouldn't bother - the private cabins were excellent and the Shackleton had some ergonomic problems (doors opening onto other doors for instance) and the bedroom was far too small. Hot water was always available, linen changed when we wanted. The food was good, and plentiful with a meat, a fish and a veggie choice each night. Lunch varied from a buffet to another served meal. (We both put on weight!) Smoothies in the morning before breakfast was another nice touch. And we never saw food run out for any latecomers. The wet weather gear and gumboots supplied were superb. Even when I slipped off the tubes in the zodiac into 8 inches of water, I was dry underneath! The binoculars were well used, and one of the lecturers even did a briefing about how to get the best from them. We kept commenting on how the ship's operator seemed to really care for their passengers.

If Swoop arranged some of your travel before/after your voyage. How did we do?

The travel arrangements were excellent with seats booked where we had requested. The fact that LATAM is a rubbish airline and Chile, like most South American countries, has no concept of time or passengers who have to clear immigration prior to boarding an onward flight, is not Swoop's fault! I booked our accommodation in Santiago and Punta Arenas independently, using on-line recommendations, which worked OK. Some language/communications problems, but mainly because we don't speak Spanish, and there are not many English speakers. Probably something to warn future customers! But no huge, insurmountable problems. Recommendations? We ALWAYS split our luggage between our two bags, and carry something for an emergency overnight stay in out carry-on. At least 2 passengers on both trips had bags go missing. This isn't only for S American flights, but we have seen it on both our trips south!

Do you have any tips or advice for other people planning a trip to Antarctica?

Layer up - it's cold! Leggings for both sexes work well, but don't spend a small fortune on them!. Easy pull on tracksuits to go under the coat and trousers you are provided with. Dress down in the evenings. Take at least 2 of everything, including gloves, to allow stuff to dry out. If you have waterproof gloves they are great. Thick socks under wellies. Slip on shoes to get from your cabin to the mud room and return - unless you want to get your feet wet after excursions, when you leave your boots in the mud room and have thick socks on.

Anything else? Tell us anything you’d like to share that we forgot to ask! It’s ok to leave this empty too :-)

The ship's operator is Canadian! They ask for sizes of boots needed- are these US sizes? UK? European? We had to swop some sizes - not a problem but a pain! They also don't make it plain that you can tip with credit cards along with your final bill. One problem we encountered. The ship's operator had accepted a booking for 26/28 Thai doctors on the second half of our epic trip. This skewed the whole trip, with an "us and them" feeling. Their culture is very different-constant chatter during briefings, flouting of IATO regulations of the 5 metres rule, and general rudeness/queue jumping/and no spacial awareness of others also taking pictures! On the final comment sheet on board I requested that the ship's operator learn from this and never accept big groups on small tours. The staff were too constrained to comment, but our EL was fully aware of the problems. I realise economics come into play, but I for one, have learned that there is another question to ask on booking. Small groups would have been fine, but these people dominated. Be warned of the negative effect it has on the rhythm of the ship

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