Day 7 – Day at sea….and navigating the dreaded Drake Passage
The previous evening, Captain Carl had promised early morning waves bigger than any we’d had thus far and recommended that those prone to seasickness take their precautions before heading to bed. This didn’t stop us from sleeping well, but on waking we figured it would be advisable to avoid the treadmill as that could be dangerous. Instead we had another lazy morning including a relaxing breakfast and subsequently made our way to the Living Room. The rest of the morning was spent talking to a really nice couple from New Zealand, Murray and Sandy. The time flew by….and soon we were ready for our next meal.
Much as we were told the that there was a 5 metre swell, we seemed to be rolling over it so it was a lot more comfortable than when we were bashing directly into it earlier in the week. We couldn’t have wished for better conditions when crossing the treacherous Drake Passage! Hopefully it doesn’t repay us with the opposite on our return.
We made it to the gym and the treadmill in the evening. The large swell made it feel as though we’d set it at an incline then straightened it again. A bit dangerous to run, so we just walked – and Glenda was too nervous to let go of the siderails on the machine in case she went flying off.
After an elegant evening meal in Discoveries, we went to the Cabaret Lounge for the evening entertainment. A winner of Britain’s Got Talent was our act for the night and her mix of magic and comedy made for an entertaining time.
Day 8 – Entering the Arctic Circle – icebergs & whales
There was a buzz around the ship from early morning. We were up and about eating breakfast so we could head to the Sunday Service at 9am. There were close to 50 people in attendance and it was good to spend time together hearing from the Word and reflecting. We also met a friendly couple from Auckland, Peter and Cheryl.
The Living Room was abuzz with activity as we looked for whales and anticipated our first iceberg sightings. So much so that the security people were looking somewhat anxious, even preventing pieces of banana being served atop cocktails – a slipping hazard perhaps?! The whale sightings started first but it was impossible to see the icebergs as there was way too much fog.
That is until we reached the edge of the Antarctica Continent itself. Then there were huge cliffs covered in ice and snow. And icebergs – large and small – make there way around in between.
Layered in thermals, fleeces, down jackets, scarves, beanies and gloves, we braved the top deck to get a birds eye view of what was to offer. As we did so, the snow fell around us creating a magical (and cold!) atmosphere. One of the staff wondered around serving cups of hot chocolate which were much appreciated.
We couldn’t tear ourselves away from the Living Room, so we just grabbed a couple of small sandwiches for lunch. Followed by one of the most decadent and yummy dark chocolate tarts. Good thing we managed a trip to the gym and a run on the treadmill later in the day to burn up some of the calories. As the captain had stopped the ship to maximise viewing, we were able to run this time. Luckily, very few people on board have realised the wonderful view that the gym has to offer – we were the only ones there for the 45 minutes we were running and cycling (apart from some of the spa staff that wondered in).
As the day progressed, the sun came out and the skies turned blue, further enhancing the already vibrant turquoise and royal blue colours visible in the ice. It’s an absolute dream and privilege to be amongst this vast expanse of wonder. We can’t believe how close the icebergs are floating past the ship (and the window of our stateroom).
Our server at dinner was Norman from Jamaica. A large majority of the staff on the ship are from the Philippines and very helpful and friendly. It was a nice change to have some fun with someone from elsewhere. Dinner was followed by a show – a singer named Eric John Young shared a repertoire from Broadway – an amazing voice and great entertainer!
We eventually lost count of the number of whales we’d seen for the day. Sitting on the couch in the Living Room after dinner, we saw at least 3 or 4 more pods passing by.
Sadly, we didn’t make it to the 11:30pm sunset, so turned our light off and closed the curtains so as not to be waken up when the sun came up soon after 3am.
Day 9 –A day in Paradise…….and lots of penguins
Before breakfast, we made our way up to the Living Room to admire the spectacle from the large windows. We had spent the night in the open water outside the peninsula so as to avoid the icebergs in the dark. By the time we arrived up top at 7:30am, we had long been amongst the ice-covered peaks and shapely blocks of ice floating everywhere.
It’s impossible to describe how awesome it is! An absolutely pristine part of God’s creation, seemingly untouched by human hands. The hundreds of icebergs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and in a multitude of colours from white to turquoise to royal blue. The penguins seem to prefer the flatter bergs – and we oo-ed and aa-ed as we watched the sliding into the water, swimming around and jumping back out. And then repeating this manoeuvre over and over again.
The previous day we had been unable to make it up to Paradise Bay as there was too much ice around to enable a safe passage. Today we were unable to pass through the Lamaire Passage – we had to content ourselves with watching an icebreaker make its way through the ice- but we did manage to get into Paradise Bay. Again, there are no words to describe the wonder of the surroundings. Given we’re in a ship, we can only imagine how small those people would feel that were on the yacht that was venturing past us at one point during our visit in the bay. We’re about 592ft (180m), they were about 40ft!
It’s funny to see everyone dressed in whatever they need to keep warm – rather than in their nice clothes they were wearing the first couple of days!
We had an informal night at the buffet in Windows Café as we figured we’d get the best view from there. It was British food night, so roast beef, Yorkshire pud and fish & chips were some of the fare on offer. The selection of desserts seemed more appealing that normal, so we both pigged out on sweet stuff.
The cruise director, Tony, was the entertainer for the night, together with wife, Christine. They put on a great act and kept us entertained until 11pm bed time.
Day 10 –Going inside an active volcano…and exploring iceberg alley…
Having been told we would be arriving at our first viewing of the day around 7:30am, we were up and about grabbing a spot in the Living Room. Before long, we could see Deception Island, an island in the South Shetland Islands archipelago with one of the safest harbours in Antarctica. The island is the caldera of an active volcano which seriously damaged local scientific stations when it erupted in 1967 and 1969. It previously held a whaling station but is now a tourist destination and scientific base, containing Argentine and Spanish research stations.
We entered the relatively narrow opening and entered the volcano before doing a full navigation of the inside. An amazing experience and very dramatic although not as strikingly gorgeous as the snow and ice peaks we’d seen elsewhere.
On exiting the volcano, we headed down past Baily Head where we could see a long black beach housing a large rookery of penguins and some seals. Whilst they were too far away to see them in detail, we could certainly smell them. Sadly, we didn’t see any of the orcas that apparently seem to be drawn to seal and penguin areas.
Soon after lunch, the pool deck was full of people. Only a crazy few were there to swim whilst the others were there to watch said daft people get in the pool. They had filled the pool with Antarctic ice and men and women were diving in and swimming across before being rewarded with a hot chocolate and a certificate. Would take more than that to entice me in! Captain Carl led the way and folk of all shapes and sizes followed. Everyone was in a swimsuit except for Tony, the cruise director, who went in clothes and all. Brrrrrrrr!!!!!
The next key destination was Iceberg Alley. This where the bulk of the icebergs in the Southern Ocean come from and float out from there. On the way to the alley, we passed a HUGE iceberg called Alpha57Alpha. This berg broke off on 25 February 2018 and was apparently something like 40-50km long. It is still pretty sizable, measuring over 20km. Looking at the gigantic expanse of ice, it’s hard to imagine that 90% of it is hidden from view under water.
As we neared Iceberg Alley, we dressed up in all our layers and ventured outside, soon gaining an understanding of where it gets its name. A long expanse of ice and bergs floating all over the place. We couldn’t hang around as long as the captain had hoped as the wind picked up and he had to move quickly to get us out of trouble. Would hate to be boxed in or have an iceberg heading for us. Good move Captain Carl!
We followed the flow of icebergs for the rest of the day, reaching more open seas. This meant that our run on the treadmill that afternoon was somewhat challenging.