We all remember “The
Love Boat,” the hit television series filmed on the Pacific
Princess, and occasionally, the Island Princess. With that series
in mind, I had mixed feelings as I boarded the Discovery (the
former Island Princess) in Valparaiso, Chile. Would this be a fond
reunion, or a big disappointment?
I need not have worried. The new operators, Voyages of Discovery
(formerly known in the U.S. as Discovery World Cruises) present the
vessel in very good condition. Other than the absence of balconies,
Discovery does not feel much different from any other cruise ship.
Carpets and furnishings are generally like new, there is little
vibration, and its small size (20,000 tons) means it can handle
itineraries and ports that bigger vessels can’t.
It is big enough, however, to handle any ocean voyage, and the
company’s aim is to offer worldwide destinations, both classic and
remote, at an affordable price. Expedition cruising, mainly to
Antarctica and Galapagos, is a focus and Discovery carries
inflatable boats for landings.
Typical is the cruise I sampled, which sailed from Valparaiso to
Tahiti via Robinson Crusoe Island, Easter Island and Pitcairn
Our two days on Easter Island, with its famous huge moai stone
carvings, was a highlight of the trip for many. The line will offer
three itineraries next year (ranging from 23 to 40 nights) that
call on this mysterious but charming place.
Robinson Crusoe Island was no less interesting. This is where
Scottish seafarer Alexander Selkirk spent four years marooned,
which inspired the book Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. On our
visit, we took on fresh lobsters, a nice touch that only a small
ship can afford.
Pitcairn Island, settled by the mutineers of the Bounty, does
not have a dock so islanders came on board and set up a
well-attended craft market in Discovery’s lounge. Pitcairn’s
administrator said the island expects more than 40 cruise ships a
year when the planned dock is built.
Discovery had just 380 passengers on my cruise. Technically the
vessel holds 750 but in practice the cruise line prefers to operate
with around 600 passengers, and it is restricted to 500 on
Galapagos sailings. There is plenty of deck space with traditional
wooden lounge chairs, a spa, hot tubs, library, Internet center and
three restaurants, including a midships area with retractable
The two-seating main restaurant, faintly art deco in style,
works well, with a wine list at very good prices. Cruise veterans
enjoyed the final night’s baked Alaska parade and crew chorus.
Standard cabins are adequate but not roomy at 135 square feet
and clients on longer voyages might want to opt for the Promenade
or Bridge decks where cabins are a more ample 195 square feet.
Being an older ship, there were a few problems, such as with air
conditioning, but we were impressed with the speed that technicians
were dispatched to make repairs.
The Discovery captain was visible every day while hotel manager
Eddie Thomson always had his door open.
Entertainment was provided every evening in the show lounge, as
were a series of first-rate lectures.
On my sailing, more than half of the passengers were British,
along with a number of Canadians and Americans. Most were
well-traveled and happy to have plenty of sea days mixed in with
the unforgettable island scenery.
Voyages of Discovery
Voyages of Discovery will offer more than 40 different classic
adventure voyages for 2008. Highlights include sailings to Chile,
Easter Island and Machu Picchu; the Mediterranean, Galapagos and
the Panama Canal; Scandinavia, Russia, Greenland and Iceland; the
Antarctic and South America; the Caribbean; the South Pacific; and
Agents can request the Winter Voyages 2007-2008 or the Summer
2008 Voyages brochure from the line’s Web site.
Commission: 10 percent