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Warning about Quark expeditions


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This is truly more of a warning than anything.


I do not recommend Quark expeditions unless you have a high tolerance for losing half your trip or more.


We were scheduled for an Arctic cruise that boarded in Resolute. Our flight out of Calgary was delayed two days because their ship, the Ultramarine, could not navigate the ice to get to the port. This wouldn't have been a problem, but because Quark booked two cruises back to back, they will not extend the cruise. We will get three days on the ship. We are being refunded the missed days, but for a trip like this, the value is not enjoying the amenities on-board, but actually hiking/kayaking/seeing a reasonable amount of the Artic.


I have requested a full refund because, by the time we get to the ships, we will barely be able to leave Resolute (assuming that the Ultramarine actually manages to make it out of the ice). That is not enough time to do anything promised by the cruise - it's a day and a half of sailing out and then back, assuming we do not stop to hike/kayak.


Again, all of this is totally reasonable when traveling to a remote location, but Quark has handled this horribly. We were not told until 6pm the day before we were supposed to fly out. We have received zero communication from Quark except for physical updates once a day in the lobby. They irresponsibly booked two cruises back to back. They won't refund me, despite not being capable of actually delivering the trip I paid for. I do not recommend this company.


My opinion would be vastly different had they notified me at all before I arrived in Calgary, extended the trip, and/or refunded my money.


If you choose to go with Quark, book on a credit card as close to your departure date as possible:

- If you book within the time-frame you can do a chargeback with your credit card, at least you have some protection from this behavior.

- As a bonus, the prices also drop precipitously the closer you get to the departure date, which is fairly standard.

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Sorry to hear about your experience, but I'm confused about their booking "two cruises back to back."  Isn't this what all cruise lines do?  They don't book a cruise and then schedule the ship to sit around empty just in case.  So clearly I'm not understanding what happened.

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That's a great point! We've been reminded many times about possible weather delays. I would have assumed that a cruise that costs this much would have built time into the schedule to accommodate this time. My assumption is clearly incorrect, but I don't think it's totally unreasonable.

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It can happen on any cruise for a variety of reasons.  Last fall we had a cruise on Azamara from Venice to Piraeus.  Everyone knows how Venice messed things up, and indeed embarkation was moved to Ravenna which forced me to redo my pre-cruise plans.  But Piraeus Port was also messing around that year and our cruise line was told that their docking reservation was being pushed to the following day.  That extended our cruise by a day – but it therefore also shortened the following cruise by a day.  Azamara treated us very well:  covered the costs of changing flights and transfers and gave us the extra day at no cost.  I don't know what they did for the passengers on the following cruise [I expect they got a pro-rated discount] – but those who had booked back-to-back were told the extra day balanced the missing one, so no 'make-good' for you!

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Yup! They didn't tell us until 6pm the day we got there, and we had to physically go find the Quark people (instead of receiving any kind of update emails from the actual company). I felt terrible for the Quark representatives at the hotel because they were getting some grief. Most of the group seemed pretty passive about it, luckily. (I was not, but I was yelling into the void on the internet at least).


We had travel insurance, thank god.


To Quark's credit:


1. They paid for our hotel the days we were waiting

2. They gave each person $100 per day they were waiting

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My wife and I are currently in Calgary, waiting to join Quark’s next cruise to the high Arctic, originally due to sail from Resolute today. Quark’s challenge this week stems from the fact that the charter flights to Resolute require a refuelling stop in Yellowknife - which will not be possible due to the current state of emergency resulting from bush fires. We are advised that Ultramarine is presently repositioning to Iqaluit where we will board the ship on Tuesday. This means a totally replanned itinerary, focusing on Baffin Island instead of Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg and a loss of 2 days on the ship. 

To their credit, Quark has kept us well informed as plans have changed. They are providing hotel accommodation in Calgary for the lost days at sea and a couple of free excursions to see Calgary and the Rockies. In addition we are promised a ”pro rata” refund of the cruise fare for two lost days and $200 per person to cover additional expenses in Calgary. While it is very disappointing to miss out on the planned itinerary, we feel Quark has responded very professionally to a difficult sequence of events.

Our fingers are crossed that the new itinerary can happen without further problems!

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I'm really glad to hear that they're treating you guys better than they treated us. The fires were what I think ultimately cancelled our cruise as well. It's excellent that they're repositioning the Ultramarine and communicating with you. Has anyone emailed you officially throughout your delay, or is still just going to the lobby once a day at 6pm for information?


I WISH that Quark had given us ideas of stuff to do / free excursions. I would have been less livid. If you're still stuck in Calgary and don't know what to do, I recommend Heritage Park. It was pretty goofy, like a Canadian Colonial Williamsburg.


 I really, really hope that you guys are able to go and that everything goes smoothly 🙂. Have a great trip!

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  • 8 months later...

Thanks BlockChain,

I appreciate you taking the time to write this review.  Oddly enough I couldn't find this review in the Quark Section of reviews on Cruise Critic site.  There are a couple of reviews there with insight as well but most give it an overall high rating.  It looks like I'm scheduled to take this same trip in august and reading this gave me pause to see if I wanted to cancel.  Ultimately, since I got a 50% off on a solo cabin last minute-ish, I decided to follow through with the trip.  I really don't like companies that follow an... "easier to ask for forgiveness than permission" kind of mentality that leave patrons frustrated with an "oh, well" kind of attitude.  I'll make sure to audit this trip and see if maybe they've learned any lessons and hope it was a one-off.  If I have any similar experience to yours then I'll definitely be reinforcing the warning call!  Thanks again!

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