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Approaching the Snares in a Zodiac

When It’s An Adventure!

There is so much more to an expedition cruise than luxury—not that that isn’t enough incentive for most cruises (it sure works for me!).  Indeed, if you take luxury accommodation, fabulous food, wonderful evening entertainment, and great service as givens on a cruise, then you won’t be disappointed on some of the expedition ships, like those listed below. I want  to show you another side of cruising–expedition cruising–that offers pretty much all that the others offer, plus an amazing adventure.

Whether your taste runs to something in the tropics, like an expedition to Borneo, or the far north, as in Norway and the Arctic, or, like me, you yearn to see Antarctica (That’ll have to wait another year for me, but now that I’ve got all the thermal wear, I’m sure to do it!) you’ll find an expedition cruise that will take you there in style.  They aren’t cheap, but you do get great value for money.

Here are links to a couple specific expedition cruise companies; there are others as well.
http://www.orionexpeditions.com/ (the cruise I’ve described was on the Orion)
http://www.silversea.com (It offers similar expedition cruises on the Prince Albert)

One of the added dimensions that an expedition cruise ship can offer is that these ships are much smaller than most cruise ships–usually around a hundred or so passengers–and they are able to go into places the bigger ships can’t get to.  And many of them are specially equipped for the kind of destinations they visit. For example, those that venture into places like Antarctica are specially built to sail in regions where pack ice is an issue.

They also have an Expedition Team on board with the training and expertise to fit the particular nature of the expedition. For passengers, it’s a learning experience as much as an adventure. Expedition cruises often go into places that are protected for environmental reasons. For example, the Sub-Antarctic Islands are all World Heritage Areas. As such, there are strict rules about how many visitors a year are allowed (e.g. 500 visitors per year), how many can visit at one time, what can be taken ashore, how to clean shoes and clothing before going ashore, and exactly where you can wander. Don’t even think about going ashore without a visit to the Mud Room before and after…

Not all expedition cruises are in World Heritage Sites, but one thing that will be a feature on any such cruise is that protection of the environment and the wildlife is paramount. It’s what Eco-tourism is all about.

There is so much to see and learn, and so much fun and excitement, I can’t imagine why I waited so long to get into it!

And, you get to ride around in Zodiacs a lot!

Was all that Expedition Packing really necessary?

In a word, Yes. And was it worth it? An even bigger Yes.

In an earlier post I regaled you with an account of the waterproof pants and gumboots and thermal wear I would be buying and packing.  I thought I should report back that it was definitely necessary. Not because it was that cold on land, but because we spent a fair bit of time in the zodiacs. (Zodiacs are the big rubber duckies we were transported from the ship to the islands in.) In some cases, where landing was not allowed, we remained in the zodiacs and cruised in close to the shore where we could see the wildlife and vegetation. The Southern Ocean is a cold, wet, windy place. When you’re in a zodiac you need all the protection you can get to face the elements.  I used it all.  Even the thermal beanie.  Well, I did wind up buying another rather fetching hat to wear that kept my ears warmer.  But I still have my thermal beanie and I anticipate further opportunities to wear it.  Heaven only knows where…

The Look We Were Striving For

I should add that when I chose a cruise that went to the sub-antarctic I knew about the conditions in the Southern Ocean. Many expedition cruises go to places like Borneo, or the Kimberly, in Australia. I doubt you’d need any of the cold weather gear there. Horses for courses, as they say. What is important, I think, is that you follow the advice of the specialists who advise you what, if anything special, you might need.

All at Sea

So what’s it like on the ship when you aren’t out exploring some fascinating destination? Well, for a start the food on the Orion was fabulous, and the service just as wonderful. Whenever the weather suited, we dined outside on the deck. Otherwise, it was in the Restaurant, where we were served in silver service style.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing!

There was a terrific musical duo onboard who provided music in the lounge while we enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea, and a variety of fun musical evenings after dinner, usually involving an opportunity to dance if you are so-inclined…  Inclined is the operative word here.   Dancing on a rolling ship is quite an interesting (and risky) pursuit.

Spa and beauty treatments, as well as gym facilities, also were available. There was a Trivia Challenge every afternoon (which, oddly enough, always seemed to be won by the same team. I’m just saying…) Our Expedition Team members gave lectures on subjects relevant to our on-shore activities which were always guaranteed to be entertaining as well as informative. All of these activities were optional, of course, but if you really just wanted to sit in the library and read, or use your computer (or theirs), that was available too. As was the bar.

Dinner on the Deck With Friends

Another great thing about a small ship is that you get to know everyone. It’s a friendly, relaxed environment. What more could you want?

I hope I’ve given you a wee taste of Life On Board the Orion. Speaking of wee tastes. I should also mention that on the birthday of Robert Burns (or ‘Rabbie Burns’ as a Scotsman would say) we celebrated the occasion properly. We all had a wee dram of Scotch, the Chef read the Address to the Haggis, then he cut the Haggis, and we all had an opportunity to taste it, along with the traditional neeps and tatties. It was delicious. I still haven’t entirely recovered from that dram of straight scotch, though.                      MM