Expedition to Antarctica
Expedition in Antarctica. What a holiday, absolutely amazing throughout, we feel so privileged to have been here. We started from Heathrow to Amsterdam, then to Santiago with KLM via Buenos Aries, where we stayed for two nights. We had previously arranged two excursions prior to the holiday for our time here, one being Highlights of Santiago , which was very interesting, but the temperature was 42 degrees, which wasnt very comfortable for walking around, then a folk law show and dinner on our way back. During our time at the hotel, Hurtigruten were in the hotel, ensuring all the details required for our next leg of the journey, and any queries were answered, ready to join the ship, and labels to identify our entire luggage. Leaving Santiago, very early in the morning after enjoying our packed breakfast bag, in the hotel lobby we went to the airport for our next flight to Punta Arenas. This flight was to be approx 3 hours, after a short delay due to someone falling down , and had to be taken to the hospital, we were on our way. Arriving in Punta Arenas we were given a city tour, including information of the town. On arriving at the port, our luggage had to be identified, and then we walked through a small building in and out, which turned out to be customs, to get back on the bus and driven down to the ship. We only had to take on board our hand luggage, as we were told that our main cases would be outside our cabins, which they were. We had to check in, which was available on several decks, to attain our cabin keys, and register our onboard accounts. We then went to check our cabin out which was an inside on deck 7 at the back. As you came through the door, wardrobes to your right, bathroom to your left, soap for shower and hands provided, which also had under floor heating, plus more wardrobes and a dressing table fitting, and two single beds, which you converted one to a settee during the day, a wall mounted television, which was useful for checking weather conditions, on awaking, very useful. Your table number and sitting, and daily program was also there. We were informed that lunch was waiting for us, on boarding, so we went to check the dining room out, and hopefully change our sitting to the second one, and be included on a larger table, of which we left our names with the maitre de. This was an open sitting and self service buffet, really good food. with lots of choices. We then went to get our weather proof jacket, which had been included in the holiday, after several tries of different sizes, we were nearly set up. We then went to explore the rest of the ship, catching up with the people we had met with previously, during our journey. We also had to attend the boat drill prior to sailing, which was slightly different to other ships as, we were using RIBS to assist us on landings, not covered tenders. We then prior to dinner were, introduced the captain and all the officers and expedition team leaders. The next day we went to collect our rubber boots, which were essential when going ashore either for a dry or wet landing, you were not allowed to wear your own due to possible contamination to Antarctica, also you had to take any item that contained Velcro, to be hovered just in case, it had any seeds or foreign items on it, we were now ready to go We attended a lecture later in the day on correct procedures for getting in and out of the RIBS, also the expected wild life we were about to see and rules of etiquette around wildlife. Our first RIB experience was the next day in the Garibaldi Fjord; we were all allotted to different groups, ours being Humpback Whales, of which you were given a badge to wear on your jacket, so as when your group was called to go ashore, you could directly go to the tender pit to board the RIB. At this point you were assisted by a team member, one on one arm and one on another to help you down the steps into the RIB, each one holding 18 +2 staff. Again if you were having a dry landing you exited the RIB by the front, and a wet landing you had to face the driver and swing your leg over the side into the water, either or you were always assisted. Next was Puerto Williams the last habited place at the southern tip of Chile. We then sailed to Cape Horn, which unfortunately were not able to land due to the currents, but we did manage circumnavigate it, the first time, the captain and one of the team leaders has manage it in 20 years. We then followed through the Drake Passage, just like a mill pond, to several landings in the South Shetlands, Cuverville Island, Neko harbour, Wilhelmina Bay, Deception Island and more. Each day you attended a lecture on the following day landing place and wildlife varieties, really interesting. There were optional extras such as a camera course, canoeing, also snow shoeing, and a couple of trips for the Falklands, but everything else was included. The expedition team went ashore first to mark out where we were allowed to walk, and strategically placed themselves through out, the course, on every landing, plus giving assistance if required. Walking poles were always available; also towels if you were brave enough to take a swim, in icy waters!! Some did, who received a certificate to prove they had done it. The whole expedition team were at hand to explain everything from flora, fauna, wildlife , rocks, history, and any samples collected by them were shown in the laboratory, which had 8 microscopes and sample trays. Our return journey was slightly different as we hit a hurricane force 12 in the Drake Passage during the night, but they had refitted a special propeller and some other features at the bow, and you could hardly tell you were in a hurricane. Also the next day we came into another one force 11, again everyone went for lunch no problem. Arriving at the Falkland Islands in sunshine, we had opted for an off roading experience to Volunteer Bay, certainly worth it, seeing the King Penguins and a packed lunch. Returning for a tour of Stanley, and time for shopping. We also visited New Island, the chance to explore on foot the wonderful wildlife with out snow, and Carcass Island, superb white sand and again an abundance of wildlife, which included a superb afternoon tea after a 3 mile walk. Today included a group photograph on the helicopter pad on deck 9 at the back of the ship, and unfortunately packing we sailed through the Magellan Strait back to Punta Arenas. We were given appropriate coloured labels according to which flight you were on back to Santiago, and departure times from the ship and coach numbers, everything was so well organised. On leaving the ship, all the officers and the expedition team were lined at the bottom of the walkway to wish us well and a safe journey home. The staff that served you in the restaurant of an evening, would be servicing your cabins the following day, possibly the barman would also be on tender pit duties likewise. All the staff appeared to be really happy working for Hurtigruten, and the standards are very high. Depending on the activities of the day, the restaurant had open sittings for breakfast and lunch, then either early or late sittings for dinner, very successful. Also there was always soup and small snacks in the afternoon on deck 8 if required. The whole cruise was very well organised, but the captain made sure every opportunity was realised and executed for the passengers enjoyment. Schedules could be changed according to weather conditions, and circumstances, there was always a plan A, B, C so to speak. Tea and coffee and table water were free throughout the cruise, you were also able to drink the water from your cabin. Bottles of wine were quite expensive, bar prices slightly above average. Some cabins did have kettles etc in them. We would certainly recommend Hurtigruten in every department, an amazing expedition cruise. We had pre booked a folk law show including dinner in Santiago, which turned out to be quite disappointing; they possibly need to look at their menu choices, some you win some you loose. Our flight home with Air France certainly wasnt as good as with KLM out, standard of staff and the food wasnt good at all. If you love wild life and adventure this should be on your bucket list, you wont regret one moment, Hurtigruten have got it right !!!! Here are some of the amazing wild life we saw, Magellanic, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Rockhopper and The King Penquins. Also Fur, Crabeater, and Weddle seals plus the elusive Leopard Seal really specialHumpback Whales, Minky Whales and The Wandering Albatross, Turkey Vultures, Skewers, Condors plus too many to mention, all being recorded and listed on the ship daily.
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