- Photo Tours
- Live Voyage Reports
- Expedition & Niche Cruises
- Hurtigruten Midnatsol – North Cape
- Passing Cloud – Sailing Haida Gwaii
- Safari Endeavour – Alaska’s Glacier Country
- Safari Voyager – Mexico’s Sea of Cortes
- Schooner Zodiac – Brew Cruise 2013
- Schooner Zodiac – Wine Cruise
- Silver Discoverer – Australia to Indonesia
- Silver Explorer – British Isles
- Wind Spirit – Stockholm to Oslo
- Wind Star – Rome to Nice
- Luxury Cruises
- Mainstream Cruises
- River Cruises
- AmaLotus – Cambodia & Vietnam
- AmaLyra- Christmas Markets
- Emerald Waterways Emerald Star – Danube Delights
- Tauck ms Inspire – Maiden Voyage
- Tauck Swiss Jewel – Blue Danube
- Viking Baldur – Rhine Christmas
- Viking Freya – Danube Christmas
- Viking Longships Christening 2012
- Viking Longships Christening 2013
- Expedition & Niche Cruises
- Airport Guides
- About FTDC
- The Avid Cruiser
Coming Ashore At Brown Bluff With Hurtigruten
Monday, January 19, 2015
Because of a snowstorm that pounded Hurtigruten’s FRAM late last night, we awoke to the news that we wouldn’t be able to make our scheduled landing at King’s Cove. But this is the nature of expedition cruising; it pays to be flexible and expect the unexpected.
Even so, many guests – including myself – were up at 06:00 to catch our first sight of land in Antarctica, and we weren’t disappointed. We passed several large tabular icebergs on our morning of scenic cruising, and watched as penguins raced off icefloes as we made our way slowly past.
The beauty of Antarctica is as indescribable as it is magical. Words show their horrifying inadequacy here.
I’ve seen beautiful things in this world before. I’ve been lucky enough to watch elephants run wild in South Africa, and to see the sun set on the Mekong in Cambodia. I’ve looked on as lizards sunbathed themselves in the Galapagos, and sailed silently between the majestic rocky outcroppings of Australia’s King George Falls.
This wasn’t like that. This was like meeting your long-lost soul mate.
I saw my first glimpse of Antarctica, bathed in a million shades of grey and blue that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. The clouds boiled overhead, the seas rolled beneath our keel. Even here, in a land without a permanent population, everything that surrounds us is alive, in its own unique way.
After an enjoyable breakfast and lunch in the Imaq Restaurant (both of which are served buffet-style), we arrived at Brown Bluff, located on the coast of the Antarctic Sound at the end of the Tabarin Peninsula. Interestingly, the Peninsula gets its name from a popular Parisian nightclub that was favored by early polar explorers – though I don’t personally see the connection!
Brown Bluff is spectacular, with cliffs that tower 745 metres (2450 feet) above the rocky shoreline. This afternoon, guests aboard the FRAM made their way to Deck 2’s Mud Room to put their boots and lifejackets on in a procedure that is, at last, becoming quick and routine. It’s also fun – going down to Deck 2 to change footwear and put on all the necessary gear somehow heightens the experience.
Disembarkation is very orderly, and the Expedition Team are doing a fantastic job of managing the groups and crowds. Disembarkation today started with Kayak Group A, then moved on to those who were partaking in the first round of optional cruising-only excursions. Finally, Zodiac Groups 3,4,5 and 6 were able to disembark one at a time, followed by Groups 7, 1, and 2. Being in Group 3, I disembarked first this time – but our disembarkation tomorrow will be last, as groups are cycled so that not one group is always first or last. It’s a very clever – and fair – way of arranging things.
When guests come ashore, they’re given a short briefing by one of the Expedition Team members before being turned loose to their own devices. These short briefings are important and informative, and let guests know where they can and cannot go, and at what time they must be back at the Polarcirkel boats for the return to the ship. Most are conducted in English and German.
Today, guests could hike along the beach for kilometres so long as they were mindful of the carefully-placed orange cones and flags that denoted where the Adelie Penguin rookeries started. Guests are asked not to step over to the other side of the cones, though this can be difficult in some instances to determine which is the “right” side of the cone to be on.
As we walked along the beach, frequent stops were made to touch the many icebergs that had washed ashore. Contrary to what you might think, these aren’t made up of smooth, shiny ice like you’d find in the ice cube tray in your freezer; rather, most were made up largely of ice and snow pellets that you could scoop up in your hand.
It also made sense to stop and photograph these icebergs, many of which held huge crevasses tinted in varying shades of blue. This blue appearance is caused by compressed snow which forms glacial ice, and appears to be blue due to the refraction of light, which cannot penetrate the surface of the ice because it is so tightly compressed. “White” icebergs appear that way because their surfaces still contain a tremendous amount of air, reflecting the sun’s rays. I wouldn’t rely on my description to write your next science essay, but that’s essentially the gist of it.
Here’s my unexpected recommendation for anyone travelling to Antarctica: find yourself a rock or a snowbank and sit down. Don’t move. Just watch and listen.
We did as much, finding a nice rock near the shoreline to perch on. Initially, this was for a practical reason – walking in those rubber boots is tough business, and a rest was in order. But then something amazing happened: once we’d stopped walking and started watching, Antarctica came alive.
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM continues tomorrow from the heart of the Antarctic Peninsula as we explore Danco Island! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
Exploring Elephant Island
Sunday, January 18, 2015
I can tell you about my morning aboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM as she sailed through the Drake Passage en-route to Antarctica. It was a very pleasant morning, and guests onboard are settling into a nice shipboard routine.
What I will remember, though, is this afternoon.
Throughout the morning, we began to see small bergy bits of ice around us. A few larger bergs loomed on the horizon off our starboard side, and guests were out on the deck of the FRAM to do some bird and whale spotting.
The FRAM is a hugely comfortable ship to be sailing these waters on, and her interior décor has a lot to do with that. Not only do her interiors pay homage to some of Norway’s most important explorers (portraits of Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen grace the two onboard elevators manufactured by OTIS), Fram’s interiors drew their inspiration from the market she was always intended to sail: Greenland.
Designed by Arkitekt Arne Johansen AS of Norway, the names of Fram’s interior public areas all come from the native Inuit language of Greenland. The Nunami Lobby on Deck 4, for instance, translates roughly to “on shore”; while the Imaq Restaurant all the way aft derives its moniker from the Greenlandic Inuit word for “ocean.”
All of Fram’s public areas were situated on decks 4 and 7, with Deck 4 acting as the primary entertainment deck. Here, as with all other Hurtigruten ships, the 174-seat Imaq Restaurant is located all the way aft and surrounded by three banks of windows to ensure the polar scenery is never far from sight. Providing breakfast, lunch and dinner, the room’s décor is some of the most traditional aboard Fram, with plenty of dark woods and brass accents complemented by rich red carpeting and soft furnishings.
Deck 7 is home to the ship’s gymnasium and open aft deck with its two Jacuzzi tubs. Forward, the Observation Lounge offers sweeping 180-degree views of the scenery ahead – which, this morning was limited mainly to ocean.
You can also access the Fram’s Wi-Fi internet connection from here, along with the Reception Lobby on Deck 4. Six hours of internet time will cost you 200NOK, or 12 hours for 400NOK. It’s worth noting that, for whatever reason, guest internet access is limited to the hours of 14:00 until 08:00am; after that time, it becomes inoperative. Even still, at numerous points in the day internet access is completely out of reach; perhaps unsurprising when sailing in this part of the world. But, given the relatively high cost, you’ll want to ask yourself what it is worth it to you to check your emails.
Around 14:00 hours, we arrived off Elephant Island. FRAM’s anchor clattered and shook the bow as it let go, and the expedition team set out on the scout boat to see if they could find a good place for us to perhaps go ashore.
While this was going on, guests made use of the ship’s ample open deck space, including a bow that is built expressly for guests to stand on as an observation platform. Even high above the Observation Lounge on Deck 7 is an open deck, complete with a raised step that encircles the forward part of the deck to allow people to see over the protective wind screen installed there.
A little while later, the expedition scout boat came back with the news: the pack ice near shore is too thick to be a suitable landing site. But, because we’re an expedition ship (and the Hurtigruten team doesn’t give up), we pulled up our anchor and set out to completely circumnavigate it and arrive at Cape Lookout, on the southern side of the South Shetland, to try our chances there.
Around 17:45, the FRAM slowed to a crawl, and once again dropped her anchor. We’d arrived. Even just from the decks of the ship, superlatives fail to describe the majesty of this place we’ve reached. To simply call it “grandiose” seems, at least here, to be far to much of an understatement.
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM continues tomorrow from the heart of the Antarctic peninsula! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
Crossing the Drake
Saturday, January 17, 2015
It was a wild night here onboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM, but the purpose-built expedition ship handled it well. Despite Beaufort Force 9 winds and some monstrous seas pounding down upon us throughout the night, the only sounds that could be heard in my stateroom forward on Deck 5 were those of my toiletries clanking around in the cupboards.
In fact, upon hearing the weather forecast last evening, I secured anything that might slide around, from camera equipment to battery chargers. My laptop has rubberized pads, so it could stay seated on the desk in the room without it going anywhere. But preparation is key; you don’t want to have things break when they go bump in the night.
Since the forecast was…unpleasant, I elected to put on Seabands – little wrist bands with a pressure point that have helped with seasickness in the past. They worked. With the exception of trying to move about the ship and in the room at night and during the early morning, I really haven’t felt uncomfortable at all. Crashing around in the ship’s corridors – now that’s another story. But, as the old saying goes, keep “one hand for your drink, one hand for the ship.”
Not everyone is in the same boat, so to speak: so common are rough seas in this region that every stateroom, corridor and elevator lobby is outfitted with the dreaded “white bags.” And without going into detail, they’ve been well used. But – this is the Drake Passage. I came into this cruise, as did most people I’ve spoken to, with the knowledge that the first two days could be a little touch-and-go weather-wise.
Unfortunately for those who don’t have their sea legs just yet, there’s a lot of housekeeping duties going on today for the Expedition Staff here onboard the FRAM – and they all involve guests.
Today at 09:00, guests could proceed to Deck 2 when their Zodiac Group was called over the public address system to be outfitted with their bright-blue Expedition Jackets. Emblazoned with the Hurtigruten branding, these jackets are very cool – and not nearly as big and bulky as you might expect. But they are a good windbreaker, so just be sure to bring some warm layers to place underneath them.
Immediately following the jacket handout was an information lecture on the optional post-cruise tours guests could participate in back in Ushuaia and Buenos Aires, as well as the Voyage Adventures that can be booked onboard.
- Cruising in Antarctica’s Lemaire Channel. Max 24 people; 750 NOK pp.
- Max 10/12 people. Swimmers Only. 995 NOK pp.
- “An Amundsen Night” – tenting in Antarctica. Max 18 people. 3250 NOK pp.
- Deception Island Hike. Very difficult. Max 100 people. 250 NOK pp.
- Geology Cruise Deception Island. Max 24 people. 750 NOK pp.
Guests can fill out their requests on a form provided near the Expedition Desk on Deck 4. Because these excursions ashore are so popular, a lottery system has to be employed in order to accommodate the restricted numbers of guests these tours can carry. They also look to be quite popular; already, a small queue has built at reception filled with people either booking or enquiring about them.
This afternoon, we were called (again by Zodiac Group numbers) down to Deck 2 to be outfitted with rubber boots. Rubber boots are mandatory for all landings ashore, and Hurtigruten offers the possibility to rent them from onboard the FRAM at a cost of 120 NOK for the duration of the voyage.
Since boots are mandatory – and since this isn’t exactly an inexpensive voyage – I do find it a bit odd that the rubber boots carry an additional charge. But, it is a minimal one, and the boots are extremely high-quality. My advice? Don’t bother bringing your own boots – very few guests on my sailing did, and the few that I have seen will be completely unsuitable if we have to make a wet landing somewhere. The boots Hurtigruten has onboard nearly come up to my knees, so I’ll be warm and dry regardless of the landing location!
Someone once described a book as the only lover you can keep up on a shelf, and the FRAM has no shortages of these onboard, in the small but well-stocked library just off the starboard side of the Observation Lounge.
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM continues tomorrow we make our first landing ashore at Elephant Island! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
On January 14, 2015 By Aaron Saunders
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009