Are you ready for something new in cruising? How about taking it a step further, and start an actual adventure.
I recently experienced something completely unique in the cruising world, at least to me. I spent two exciting weeks aboard Hurtigruten’s Explorer vessel, the MS Fram. This beautiful, small, expedition style ship is specifically designed to take explorers to unique sites. In my time aboard the MS Fram, as they transitioned from the Antarctic to the Arctic Sea, we visited the San Blas Islands, San Lorenzo in Panama, Boca del Toro, Nicaragua’s Corn Islands, Isla de Provencia (Colombia), Cayos Cochinos in Honduras, a couple of days in Belize, and Cozumel.
Even though I’ve been on many Caribbean Cruises, everything about this was new to me. Hutigruten has been around since 1893, mostly in the Norwegian area. They have developed into a line with a highly trained and educated crew that specializes in exploring the unexplored, more difficult to visit, areas of our beautiful planet. Instead of a Cruise Director, they have an Explorer Team. This is made up of Biologists, Geologists, and Zoological Specialists from all over the world. There were daily lectures in both English and German, on the many experiences we were about to have. These included marine life, local birds, plants, geological structures, history and indigenous people of each area to be explored.
Each area was pristine, beautiful, and still full of the flavor of the native people. With only 150-175 passengers, and 85 crew members (total, including room stewards, kitchen and other hotel workers, and the exploration team) there was never an over-crowded feeling. With only a few people in each group, it was easy to feel like I was the first person to explore this island, reef, or cay.
Where Hurtigruten really shines is in exploring the far reaches of our planet. In the Southern Hemisphere’s Summer (Dec-Feb) they take adventurous groups onto Antarctica itself, to wander with the Penguins, and walk on the ice flows. Due its size, it is permitted to make actually landings on the continent itself, something the larger cruise ships are banned from doing. In the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer (Jun-Aug) they cruise the entire Arctic Circle, touching Canada, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, and Norway. They have polar bear and whale spotting competitions and walk out on the icebergs. The cruise itself includes ocean kayaking, snorkeling (for the Caribbean relocation cruises), paddleboards, and motorboat coastal explorations. All of these activities are included in the price of the cruise.
The Chef on board The Fram is very careful to prepare dishes to please every palate. They were composed of organic and high quality produce, seafood, and meats. Though they do not have the 24 hour food availability many other cruise lines offer, I never felt hungry or lacking in meal options.
Hurtigruten is starting to market more and more in the U.S.A. and many of the ships are, or will soon be, undergoing extensive rehabbing, including the MS Fram. They have just launched their premier ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, a green hybrid, which runs mainly on electrical batteries that are charged by small diesel generators. This hybridization makes these wonderful ships the greenest, most earth-friendly ships sailing today.
From the crystal clear turquoise Caribbean waters, to the humid rainforest, this was an expedition I will never forget. It was an experience that has opened up so much of this beautiful planet to explore and love.
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