Island Discovery

Expedition on a renamed cruise line and classic vessel

By: David Wishart

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 Island.

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 roof.

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 trans-Atlantic voyages.

Agents can request the Winter Voyages 2007-2008 or the Summer 2008 Voyages brochure from the line’s Web site.

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