Sunday, December 4, 2016: Crossing the Drake Passage – Life on board ship
Today is a day at sea, so I thought I’d write about life on board ship. Hurtigruten is not your typical cruise line – either in Norway or here in Antarctica. We’ll let the discussion of Norway for another time, and talk about the experience here in Antarctica. First, one needs to realize that this is NOT a cruise. It’s an Exploration Voyage. What this means above all else is that things can (and will) change constantly. So just because your daily program says we’ll have a lecture on the history of Antarctica at 6:30 pm does not necessarily mean it will happen at 6:30. For example, we walked into the amphitheater for such a presentation one evening, sat down and were about to start when the lecturer got up and said “We are about to pass through some of the best icebergs you’ve ever seen. Do you want me to give the presentation now or should we postpone it till 8:30 or 9:00?” We all voted to postpone, of course, and were certainly glad we did.
So everything needs to be flexible. One day we were scheduled to land on Danco Island. When we got there it was packed with ice, so we just sailed over to Cuverville Island instead. Of course, all the landing times that were in our program needed to be adjusted.
Entertainment on board is different. No casino, no big production shows, no karaoke. Instead, it’s primarily educational presentations on the wildlife, geography, history, or culture of the area. There is also a science lab on board that members of the exploration staff run. They will gather a sample from wherever we are, bring them on board and we can examine them under microscopes, for instance.
Speaking of Exploration Staff – this replaces the Cruise Entertainment Staff on other cruises. We are on a ship with 325 passengers and there is an Exploration Staff of 20 consisting of two photographers (they don’t sell pictures to you, they help you take great pictures), botanists, kayak instructors, geologists, experts in marine life, birds, etc and lifetime explorers including a guy that has skied to both the north and south poles in the same year. In other words, this stuff is packed full of knowledge and there is nothing they love more than showing you their world.
Meals on board consist of buffet breakfast and lunch (very good I might add) and then dinner which depending on the day’s activities could be a buffet or a county-themed dinner – American one night, Italian another, etc.
Unlike other cruises, you don’t put on your T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops and get on a tender boat to cruise to the town dock. No, instead you put on your waterproof jacket, waterproof pants and boots to join 15 other people in a rubber Zodiac to land on a stone beach in the middle of nowhere.
There are some of the normal amenities on board such as fitness center, a shop with clothes and souvenirs, a couple of bars, etc but some of the best entertainment is when the bridge comes on a says there is a pod of feeding whales just in front of the ship and the ship comes to a stop for the next 45 minutes so we can watch nature at its best.