MS Roald Amundsen
Pioneering Eco-friendly Antarctic Exploration
By Jill Friedman
Our Hurtigruten cruise began by following Darwin’s footsteps through Patagonia’s Beagle Channel. Glaciers crept down the mountains- shining white with hints of turquoise blue against the greens of the southern spring. Our voyage continued conjuring the early Antarctic explorers- Scott, Nansen, Shackleton, and our ship’s namesake Roald Amundsen.
We climbed Cape Horn’s steep cliffs to visit the famous Albatross Monument- a memorial to sailors lost in the treacherous sea nearby. We met Chilean Navy Captain Otaiza and his family assigned to tend the lighthouse- they happily posed for photos and sold postcards and souvenirs.
We nervously anticipated crossing the Drake Passage. We wondered if we must endure the notorious Drake Shake.
Our luck held, and time was spent enjoying the fresh sea air and amenities aboard our splendid new ship. We kept busy: steaming in the hot tub and sauna, attending interesting lectures, helping with citizen science projects, learning how to paint and model clay penguins, reading, and playing games and puzzles with new friends in the explorer lounge.
The excellent food was another delicious distraction. Starting with buffet breakfasts where you could load up on choices already set out or ask for eggs to order. Options included many varieties of bread, fruits, meats, cheeses, fish, cereals, and yogurts. There were Norwegian specialties to try as well. I especially liked the Brunost, brown cheese.
Lunch was served buffet-style in the main restaurant Aune, or you could try the Fredheim for casual a la carte items like burgers, baked potatoes, tacos, crepes, and milkshakes. Options at Aune always included soup, salad bar, at least two meat entrees, a seafood entree, pasta, and a vegetarian option.
Dinner alternated between the buffet and a gourmet menu with 2—3 choices for appetizers, entrees, and desserts. For example, appetizers of prawn cocktail with avocado cream and tomato mayonnaise, soup of beetroot consommé with roasted walnuts, soya creme, and lemon.
I chose the butter roasted chicken supreme as an entree and chocolate ice cream, lemon sorbet, cheese plate, and fruit plates for desserts. You could opt to pay a little extra to dine in the Lindstrom for even more premium ingredients and service.
Fabulous weather allowed an early arrival at Half Moon Island, our first stop in Antarctica. As our assigned expedition group was announced, we dressed in our muck boots, ship-supplied red jackets, and life vests, then met in the ship’s black-box to board the RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) which would ferry us ashore. The crew scouted ahead and marked areas for our day’s adventure. They kept a watchful eye out for anyone wandering off too far or approaching the wildlife. Strict rules of engagement, no closer than 5 m, were enforced.
Bright orange cones led to a group of chinstrap penguins huddled atop a rocky outcrop high on a ridge. Further on, the scenery opened to overlook a huge glacier across the water. Lowering clouds and darkening skies signaled it was time to return to the ship.
With a mug of hot chocolate, I retired to my comfortable cabin to relax and listen to the day’s lecture as the ship sailed on to our next stop, Orne Harbor. Each voyage is different. The captain makes decisions depending on weather conditions and other vessels in the area. There are restrictions to protect the pristine environment. This is expedition cruising even though the ship may seem luxurious. Flexibility is key.
We spent the next week exploring Antarctica. The MS Roald Amundsen is perfect for Polar cruising. Specially designed with a hybrid propulsion system, she can sail silently on battery power alone. It also saves fuel and cuts down on emissions. Her ice-strengthened hull allows passage through ice that other ships must give a wide berth. Her dynamic positioning system eliminates the need to anchor, so no noise to deter wildlife and no damage to the sea bottom environment.
We saw the value one morning as our captain drove us deep into the pack ice. After the ice was tested for safety, we disembarked the gangway to frolic in the virgin snow. Our wake was the only mark in the unblemished sheets of ice overlaying the deep sapphire sea.
Afterward, we visited Ukraine’s Vernadsky research station- where the resident scientists cheerfully showed us around and shared their home-made vodka. We shopped in the Southernmost souvenir shop in the world and sent postcards home.
These are just a few of the unforgettable experiences available while enjoying an expedition cruise to Antarctica. It’s an amazing adventure and now possible to do it in comfort and style, unlike those early explorers. Roald Amundsen would be proud of his namesake. To learn more about an Antarctic exploration, visit Hurtigruten. ~TPM
About Jill Friedman—Jill got the bug early. An opportunity to sail a square-rigger around the world in high school changed her life. As a merchant mariner, she sails the world and gets paid for it. Jill blogs about her adventures at Captain Jill’s Journeys and has been published in Sidelights, Maritime Executive, Brazos Monthly, and Incomes Abroad.