Earlier this week, Kongo finished a 10-day cruise aboard Atlas Ocean Voyages‘ World Traveller. This is a detailed review of the cruise, the ship, and the total Atlas experience. If you’ve considered Atlas, or if you’re thinking of going overboard on the large cruise ships with thousands of guests, please read on.
ATLAS OCEAN VOYAGES
Atlas started cruising only in 2021. It’s a new venture with brand new ships, except that they don’t call them as ships. At Atlas they’re “yachts.” These “yachts” have a capacity of less than 200 passengers and are built to sail in Antartic/Arctic waters as well as calmer climes. Presently they operate three ships: World Navigator, which entered service in 2021, World Traveller that started sailing in late 2022, and World Voyager that entered the fleet in early 2023 . A fourth yacht, World Seeker, is scheduled to join the fleet in late 2024 and three others are “coming soon.” A detailed deck plan of the ships can be found here.
Atlas is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Kongo booked a 270 square foot Veranda Stateroom with a nicely sized balcony on Deck 6. It had a spacious bath and shower, queen-sized bed with room underneath for all the luggage, a roomy wardrobe, small desk, two chairs and a table, along with two chairs and a table on the balcony. The room had a very large smart television connected to satellite and onboard videos. Electrical outlets (US and EU) and USB ports were placed next to the bed, in the bath, and around the desk. A stocked refrigerator was built into the desk console.
One nice feature: the shower had a hand held sprayer, an overhead sprayer, and massaging sprays from the bulkhead.
A video of the cabin “unpacking” can be found by clicking the image of the stateroom.
The ship left Dublin and sailed to St. Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly (England), Douarnenez, France, Le Palais (Belle Isle), France, Port Medoc, (Bordeaux) France, San Sebastián, Spain, La Coruna, Spain, Porto, Portugal, and Lisbon, Portugal. Until we reached Portugal, the ship anchored out and passengers were ferried back and forth to the port via ship tenders, or in the case of the Isles of Scilly, chartered water taxis. There was a day at sea between San Sebastián and La Coruna.
The advantage of using the ship tenders is that you can visit small ports that the larger cruise ships will never see. Of course, if you’re using a wheelchair like the person in the image above, getting on and off can be more of a challenge and tenders are affected by the weather much more than mooring to a pier.
This itinerary appealed to the monkey for a variety of reasons. In many cases he had an opportunity to visit ports he would probably never have seen otherwise, it offered the hope that the ports would not be overrun with other cruisers, and it offered lots of variety in several different countries.
Many of the onboard cruisers were piggybacking cruises and had already been aboard for cruises from Scotland and Iceland, and were headed for the Canary Islands and Morocco following Lisbon.
Kongo likes rough weather. It reminds him of his days at sea aboard navy destroyers and the size of the World Traveller was not too much different from what the monkey sailed on during his days in uniform. Not all the visitors appreciated the rough weather, especially when the ship crossed the English Channel from the Isles of Scilly to France. The Atlas yachts do have ultra high lift fin stabilizers that dampen the rolls but you will feel the vessel’s movement more than you will on a larger cruise ship. The reception desk handed out lots of motion sickness pills.
There were 180 passengers aboard the World Traveller with Kongo. The vast majority were from the United States. There were a handful of Canadians and a few Europeans.
Ages ranged from thirty-somethings to those who had seen their eightieth birthday in the rearview mirror. With few exceptions, this was an active, fit group. A couple of guests had suffered recent injuries and were somewhat limited in their mobility but managed to get around nicely enough and the shipboard staff was very accommodating. In general the cruisers were very well traveled, had lots of previous sailing experience, and were fun to be with. Of course, on every cruise there will always be THAT guy or gal, or THAT couple, but Kongo (pretty much) got along happily with everyone. This was a fun, friendly group and it was easy to make friends and converse with strangers.
To Kongo, one of the best aspects of this cruise was the small number of passengers aboard. The monkey does not like large ships with thousands of passengers. The small guest size lends itself to a more intimate and friendly atmosphere. Since you’re likely to cross paths with other guests multiple times during the day it pays to be polite and friendly.
World Traveller is basically a brand new ship, only entering service about a year before Kongo climbed aboard. Everything sparkles. It still smells new. The furniture and accommodations are luxurious and tasteful. Kongo’s keen eye, from years of inspecting navy ships, found no rust or improperly maintained equipment.
Public spaces are immaculate and stylish. The main dining room on Deck 4 easily accommodates the entire passenger list for evening meals or buffet breakfasts. Additional dining is aft of the main dining room on an outdoor covered deck on Deck 7 by the pool.
There are bars in the main lounge, the pool deck, the observation lounge or you can order up anything from a bottle of wine to your favorite cocktail delivered to your cabin 24-hours a day.
There is a pantry offering specialty coffee drinks and snacks starting at 6:30 in the morning. Breakfast in the main dining room starts at 7:30 AM and is buffet style with special orders welcome. Evening meals start at 7:30 PM. Reservations are required for dining on Deck 7 in the evening at the specialty steak restaurant.
A pool and spa are located on Deck 7 with ample lounge chairs. A walking/running track as well as a helicopter landing pad is located on Deck 8.
The ship hosts a spa (Mrs. Kongo visited it twice and loved it), a fitness center, ship store, and library in the main lounge.
All the ships are built and registered in Portugal. Each Atlas yacht is 10,000 tons with a length of 423 feet and a beam of 62 feet. The Polar Category C- and Ice Class 1B-certified vessel has two Rolls Royce 9,000kw hybrid diesel/electric engines and incorporates 3D forward-looking sonar (FLS) technology to detect underwater hazards, obstacles and shallows. The system enables the ship to navigate ice fields, harbors and rivers for convenient access to city centers, exclusive yacht harbors and rarely visited destinations.
The World Traveller and other Atlas yachts are built for expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic with beefed up hull, propulsion, and sensor systems to operate in ice-bound waters. (No icebergs on Kongo’s cruise)
A brief overview video of the World Traveller can be seen here
STAFF and CREW
Kongo can’t say enough good things about the staff and crew aboard World Traveller. From Julie the tour director, to the stateroom steward, reception, spa staff, deck crew, bartenders, and wait staff. All were happy, polite, and went out of their way to make you feel special and feel at home. The stateroom was made up twice a day. Room service was timely and well executed. Laundry was inexpensive and properly done. In a word, the staff and crew are pretty much perfect.
FOOD and BEVERAGES
Atlas had billed this cruise as an Epicurean adventure and a guest chef was aboard the entire time making special entrees, giving demonstrations, and showing off cooking tips.
Kongo did not have a bad meal during the entire time onboard. Most meals were excellent with only a few just being “very good.” Now, the monkey is not an adventurous eater and Epicurean adventures tend to go over his head to land somewhere in the jungle for hyenas to eat. If you don’t like the special offerings, there is always steak, salmon, or chicken dishes available for dinner. The meals are presented quickly, just like you ordered, with a lot of attention to detail. All the meals had plant-based offerings if anyone preferred to avoid meat. Unlike most of his cousins in the wild, Kongo is a meat eater. Meals are highly subjective and Kongo recognizes everyone and one has their own quirks about food but the monkey thinks nobody is going to lose weight on this cruise!
No need to buy a drink package aboard any Atlas ship. Premium wines and spirits are all included all the time in all the venues. The bartenders are friendly, fast, and competent. You can order up a drink to your cabin 24 hours a day as well as food service for when you get the lat night munchies. The wine pairings for dinner were excellent.
If there was one thing that prevents Atlas from getting perfect scores for the cruise it would have to be the shore excursions. They were very much hit or miss and there are several reasons for this.
Some of the ports are so small that frankly, there’s not much to do there on your own. Tours let you do things that you would otherwise miss. Sometimes weather or changing schedules skewered planned tours. Some of the tour guides were less than fully fluent in English. One guide was obviously sick and coughed throughout the tour. (The COVID alarm bells kept going off in the monkey’s mind but so far, all is well.)
Frequently there was too much time on the bus. In one port, protesters against cruise ships in general tagged the bus so we drove around Brittany is a bus with “TOURISTS FUCK YOU!” on the side but that wasn’t the fault of Atlas. Actually, the monkey liked that tour and thought that the protest somewhat ironic since a major portion of revenue in this part of France comes from tourists like the monkey. Sardines just aren’t the business it used to be.
The Atlas website that describes the shore excursions sucks. No other way to describe it. It’s simply awful. You can’t tell from the descriptions what to expect and you have to hunt through the entire universe of potential Atlas tours (over 300 online pages) to find the tours relevant to your cruise.
Kongo won’t assault his gentle readers with all the bloody tour war stories. It doesn’t matter anymore anyway. To be fair to Atlas, they were prompt in refunding money when you complained about a tour that missed the mark. And although some tours were utterly forgettable, others revealed amazing sites, new cultures, and afforded the opportunity to do things you haven’t done before.
Atlas did a great job getting you on and off the ship, checking in, and departing the boat. There was a glitch in the initial boarding in Dublin when Atlas forgot to inform anyone that the advertised berth location changed to the other side of town! Like, how do you forget this? The ship profusely apologized and quickly reimbursed passengers for their cab fare. After a few welcome drinks, all was well.
The check in process was pretty amazing and the best Kongo has ever seen on a cruise. You drop your bags on the pier, have some welcome drinks and snacks in the lounge, and within a few minutes someone from the reception staff checks your passport, gives you a room key, and when you’re ready someone escorts you to your cabin where your bags are waiting. Magic. Pretty much the same process in reverse when it’s time to leave the ship after the cruise.
As mentioned previously, many of the ports required you to tender in and back to the ships. It was a pretty painless process and the ship anchored close enough that the boat rides were only a few minutes in length.
Kongo spent three days in Dublin and Lisbon before and after the cruise on his own. It enabled time to adjust to the time zones and decompress. It also afforded the monkeys an opportunity to better explore two great places to visit.
This is not a showboat cruise. You won’t find magicians, fancy song and dance routines, disco nights, or visiting folkloric troupes. What you will find every night is “Piano Paul” who does a great job playing piano. Julie, the cruise director, frankly missed her calling. She belongs on Broadway and in fact is an accomplished actress, amazing singer, quick witted, and all around cruise cheerleader.
There were plenty of cooking demonstrations hosted by the visiting chef which you could watch in person or on the shipboard CCTV. There were trivia games, a crew talent show, and raffles. (Kongo won a stuffed penguin and a wine stopper)
If you wanted, you could watch a large selection of movies from your cabin large screen TV. Kongo didn’t care to watch movies on a cruise. He can do that anytime.
If you cruise for onboard entertainment, this is not your cruise. You might want to consider Carnival.
ALL THE REST
The Middle East blew up shortly after the monkeys boarded their ship. Additional security in the form of police boats nearby while at anchor and on the pier were present but unobtrusive.
US dollars are the shipboard currency. Ashore it was Euros, except for the Isle of Scilly, which, being part of Great Britain, is no longer in the EU and uses English pounds. They also took Euros.
The monkeys each received a complementary metal water bottle and a very nice backpack to keep.
Internet is available on board. Everyone gets a starter package and you can upgrade for more. Kongo asked for some upgraded data packages so he could keep blogging while underway and they ended up giving it to him without charge. Internet speeds was fast. Faster than Kongo has ever seen on a cruise ship.
Cell phones. The monkey pair bought three-week E-sim cards for their Apple phones prior to leaving the US and it worked great. Your really need a cell phone in Europe to avoid getting lost, get tickets for sights, and to keep up with your kids. For most of the time, the ship was close enough to shore to get workable 5G service.
IS THIS CRUISE FOR YOU?
If you’re tired of the regular large-scale cruise ships and are looking for a vessel to get you off the beaten path and see sights you might never see otherwise, then this cruise is for you!
Kongo rates it 4.5 out of 5 bananas. And, yes, he plans to cruise with Atlas Ocean Voyages again.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will answer it as soon as I can.
Travel safe. Have fun.