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Ashton Palmer and his team were great in recommending a cruise, and then providing support right up to departure. Ashton talked to me about what type of cruise I was looking for, and based on my own personal details, made suggestions. I couldn’t have been happier.

Our trip to the Galapagos was fantastic. We went in May and the weather was fine. Not sure if there is a bad time to go to the Galapagos regarding the weather. I think the main thing to consider for this trip is your stamina and mobility. Some of the hikes were strenuous, as well as requiring some balance walking over the lava rocks. Sometimes there are alternatives such as a zodiac ride. The expedition leader explains this for each excursion. The various animals and their behavior is the most unique aspect of this trip. Some don’t even happen on the excursion. For instance, a sea lion banging a fish against the ship below our balcony, breaking the fish apart in order to eat it.

Our trip planner really worked with us as this was our third attempt to get to the Galapagos. The first time, my wife broke her leg so we had to reschedule a year later. The second time, the cruise line expedition had a group charter their ship on our second date. We finally settled on another date. We worked with our trip planner on the rescheduling. Then on our departure, our flight was delayed and eventually cancelled. Our trip planner/logistic advisor (Monica) worked with us and the cruise line flight department to get rerouted to get to Quito. We did miss our night stay in Quito, but Monica followed up with the hotel so that we had a day room at the hotel the next morning on our arrival, so that we could at least wash up. Monica did a great job. This was a fantastic trip that we will remember for a long time.

Laurie's husband with the Sea Cloud Spirit in full sail.

Laurie’s husband with the Sea Cloud Spirit in full sail. Photo: Traveler Laurie Richter

My husband and I traveled on the Sea Cloud Spirit in mid April. Ashton Palmer organized the trip for us and we have used him before for Antarctica. In this case, as it was a sailing itinerary, Ashton’s involvement was all the communication with the Sea Cloud folks and because they are a German company, it’s not as easy as it would be with a big cruise company here. They helped us pick the right stateroom and ran interference when we had questions like what kind of outlets they had. As before, they were very responsive. Ashton also put together an itinerary for us that included all private guides at each port but we decided to go with what the boat offered as sailing on the Sea Cloud is a major investment even before you add excursions. I think he was probably right that the experience would have been better but we still had a lovely time.

Some things I would like to share about this boat because it is unknown in the North American market. The original Sea Cloud was owned by Meriwether Post as a private yacht in the 20s. It has a fascinating history and was bought by a German company who refurbished it and built two bigger (and more amenity-filled) versions. We were on the newest and largest but there were still only 77 passengers. It is a fully manual sail boat—meaning that every day, the crew climb up the lines to set the sails and do it in reverse when it’s time for them to come down. It takes about an hour each time and is an incredible spectacle and one of the main reasons you want to sail on this boat.

Our itinerary started in the Canary Islands and went up the coast of Morocco, ending in Malaga, Spain. The boat is beautiful but does not have stabilizers like some of the big cruise ships, so if you’re prone to seasickness and the weather is bad, you’ll feel it. This was our second Sea Cloud sailing (Sea Cloud 2 in the Caribbean) and what we found both times was that there were about 10-14 primarily English speaking passengers (US, Canada, England) and the remainder were all German because it’s very well known there. A few times a year, Abercrombie and Kent charters the boat and those sailings have primarily an English speaking crowd. There were some real benefits to being in the minority because lectures on board were done twice (German and English) and ours had a much smaller crowd. Also, the shore excursions were separated into two groups, one with an English speaking guide and one with a German guide. Their groups were 15-20 people, ours were 3-8.

The Sea Cloud ships are not cheap to sail on and most things other than gratuities are extra, including internet (we burned through it), drinks other than cocktail hour and meals, and all shore excursions. They had a lovely spa and with three full days at sea, we made good use of it. This is a unique experience that is not for everyone but I wouldn’t hesitate to go again and have Ashton plan it for us.

Travelers celebrated their arrival in Antarctica with champagne.

Barbara and Larry Schoenfeld celebrated their arrival in Antarctica with champagne.

Ashton Palmer was extremely helpful in finding the right fit for us for Antarctica in January 2024. We told him that we wanted a small ship with top-notch scientific experts on board. I was hyper-focused on the potential for unpleasantness crossing the Drake Passage. Comfortable cabins and good food wouldn’t hurt. And, we were not very flexible with travel dates. Ashton quickly produced a short list of recommendations, despite the availability constraints due to the surge in demand for travel to Antarctica. We sailed on the Seabourn Pursuit. It checked all our boxes, plus more. It is a luxurious new ship and is outfitted with stabilizers, which softened the rocky ride across the Drake. While in Antarctica, there were two excursions via Zodiacs daily—usually involving a hike on land or an island. They were varied and all were interesting and included walking among penguins and seals, floating among jaw-droppingly beautiful sculptural icebergs, traversing the rim of a caldera, and seeing ruins of former explorers and whalers. My favorite activity was kayaking. One more thing about Ashton: This was the second time he planned an Antarctica trip for us. Our first trip was booked but got cancelled due to COVID. He had to start all over again with totally different ship options and he did a stellar job.

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