As asked by the farewell printout and of our own free will, we would like to share our experience and of our voyage with Heritage Expeditions which happened in August, 2017.
By and large, we are sadly dissatisfied with this long-time tiresome adventure we have unfortunately got into. We had cruised around 10 times on medium-sized vessels from 30 up to 100 metres in length charging from USD 1,500 to USD 10,000 a person per week before this trip and this by far has been the worst experience we have had for several reasons.
To start with, the living conditions were quite disappointing. We lived in a room on the main deck and it was category 3 (cat.2 and the only luxe room were on the upper deck; the only difference between our room and others of cat.2&3 were: twin or double beds and space; bathroom planning was the same everywhere).
The shower floor was integrated into the whole bathroom including a toilet and a basin. Consequently, once you take a shower the rest of the day you cannot get into the bathroom without getting your feet or socks wet! Moreover, the issue of hygiene in this case seems to be absolutely absurd as after walking on the carpet of the room (which is constantly\continually accumulating dirt from both street shoes, tourist boots and rubber boots), you have to get into the bathroom -with the shower having no separate floor -and back onto the mentioned above carpet floor all the time. To make it worse, the room is cleaned by the staff in usual footwear.
One day we were taken aback returning from a landing and finding the floor there wet (most probably after some cleaning as the door was open and the distinctive smell of bleach liquid filled the room although we had specially aerated the room before leaving). Obviously we had to deal with the wet floor there the rest of the day which was upsetting as due to the poor conditions we had to plan the time of taking a shower beforehand. Quite probably the situation would have seemed much better if we had taken rubber flip-flops along with (to our regret nobody had informed us about this depressing nuisance and such necessity).
Next, the main crew of the vessel along with its captain were not invited to the opening evening held by the expedition staff (stuff?) members. Besides, the advertising material as well as the souvenirs on sale used the name of the vessel absolutely different from that of the ship (which we find to be reprehensible). The company’s brand instead would have seemed at least understandable.
Further, neither the Website of the company nor the material on board the vessel contained any information regarding usage of drones during the trip. As we expected no obstacles to use the device, we had specially bought it for the adventure. So repulsive appeared the prohibition from the team referring to the limitations in the phantom policy of the company which had no imprints neither in the documents, company’s Website nor in the pre-departure information provided by the tour agency. So we had considerable waste of money both from the purchase and from the overload in our luggage.
Particularly we would like to comment on the management of the cruises and landings during the trip:
- The timing for the above events stated in the program announced in advance (e.g. the previous evening or even in the morning) was changed several times afterwards (in the daytime).
- Announcements for loading the zodiacs were always confusing as everybody gathered in the air alongside the vessel deck in the wind and often had to wait for those zodiacs to be lowered on the water for approximately 10-15 minutes each time.
- Special relief was waiting us on board the vessel after the landings as water in the water hoses on the upper deck (specially designed to flush dirt from tourist boots) was NOT desalted.
- The info about forthcoming tours was sometimes intentionally incomplete to gladden the passengers with unexpected or untold encounters which resulted in a number of cases when we took the wrong camera lens and left the right one on board.
- Quite oppressing was the fact that it was Very difficult to take good photos of wild life (or make some videos) even being equipped with up-to-date hi-end cameras and lenses due to unreasonably far distances and rangers’ guidelines to show sth rather than take care of tourists’ interests with high-priced equipment onto themselves.
- As the location (Wrangel Island) is at a great distance from land, the voyage there and back took around 9 days and only 5 days were dedicated to the spots of the island. However even the time granted for the aim of the whole trip was limited because of a special mini-group of tourists on board the ship (the lucky ones) who travelled across the island on SUVs with rangers apart from the rest passengers. These lucky men had paid for this extra option, the offer was limited and after the sale other passengers (at least the majority of them including us) had not been informed of such an omission (probably to whitewash the program). Therefore other travelers had fewer landings on the island and few zodiac cruises around cape Dezhnev (there were some picturesque views with white bears on high rocks).
And, as a result, the ship could not be moored more time at some interesting locations as it had to pick up cross-island travelers at certain time at a different (frankly speaking – opposite) part of the island. This fact proves again the lame organization of the trip.
Last but not the least (actually even the worst) disappointment was the local cuisine. The portions were ludicrously and impermissibly small. There was no buffet for lunch or dinner and no choice as a matter of fact. So if you did not like the food you had to stay hungry without alternatives. Sometimes they did not serve a starter if you came late. Some example to prove that our claims are not ungrounded: lunch: a bowl of green salad with lettuce+ small limited amount of tomatoes+quinoa as a starter (one big bowl for a table of 6 eaters) and a small personal portion (150-200 gr) of fish or meat (often cooked in an exotic way); once it was only one hamburger instead. You could not chose what to eat – fish or meat (besides, both were tasteless after deep freezing; no vegetarian option was available except for the salad), with some specific sauce or without it. The ration was ideal for people on a strict diet as many things were quite specific and the only option was to lose weight. The fruit plate served for breakfast was emptied instantly as it was not offered any other time of the day and for many people it replaced lunch. Lucky we were as we had bought several bunches of bananas and chocolate bars (and it was NOT in vain). Literally everyone (i.e. the passengers) was dissatisfied with food. Breakfast was acceptable (the buffet).
On the day of farewell everyone had early check-out as the crew needed to prepare the ship for the next group of visitors and the rest of the day (5 hours) we had to wait for our flight at the tiny local airport. We had to pack the bags and leave them outside the cabins BEFORE breakfast.
The evening before the departure we were told about boxes for tips in the lobby or restaurant area. We honestly tried to find them (to leave tips at least to the crew – not the expedition team, definitely!) - but alas! We failed to find any.
The lunchboxes given to the tourists contained juice boxes (of New Zealand origin) which were out of date.
It was then that we remarkably recollected a curious fact. On the 1st day of the voyage everyone was charged USD 1,500 each. We had thought that this money was aimed at maintenance of the locals along our journey as during some landings many of them treated us to local exotics and entertained. But as a matter of fact (we asked them about it) unfortunately they did not receive anything from the operator. It became obvious that this money was the very tips charged beforehand by forward-looking managers.
Some passengers had previously travelled with Heritage Expeditions to other distant routes and as they said organization there was very poor as well.
As we happened to learn, Heritage Expeditions is a family-run company operating for the sponsorship of the owner’s journeys. I.e. it is NOT a client-oriented business (we were actual eyewitnesses and experienced it personally).
The one and only excuse for the trip was a lucky encounter with a colony of whales feeding along our route (one day in the end of the voyage) which presented us a unique opportunity to take many really good striking photos.
To be honest, another positive side of the trip was that several expedition members of the staff were very knowledgeable about wildlife and delivered really interesting lectures (special thanks to specialists\scientists on birds and whales).
Finally, in all honesty, we incurred moral damage for all the inconvenience and intricacies of our lengthy holiday. We definitely not recommend this costly company \operator to deal with unless you are a vegetarian or on a diet, you have much money to burn and you are eager to have possible unforgettable experience of a wildlife encounter despite feeling uncomfortable the whole trip.
P.S. Hereby we did not intend to cause offence to anyone, just expressed our dissatisfaction. Generally we do NOT post info on our journeys on the Internet. Yet we decided to make this exception not to keep this outrageous case secret. It may well be that it will keep some adventurers from expense at their own’s nerves cost.
Hope this will help you to make the right choice. Wish you happy journeys.
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