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  • Writer's pictureSal Schmidt

Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week eight

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Tropical Waters and Remote Island Communities in the Caribbean - United States, Belize

Week eight on our 13-week bucket list Pole to Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions, we embark on a new segment exploring Central America and inch closer to the Panama Canal.

Day 50 - At Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, US

A very relaxing day at sea, we were all treated to a poolside BBQ with the crew and an opportunity to catch up with our fellow Pole-to-Polers over lunch (Thank you, Jackie, for capturing the moment below).

It seems the weather has been switched on, and we are now enjoying 28 degrees, such a dramatic change from last week, our with the summer wardrobe. Fortunately, we travel with our entire wardrobe, so easy enough to dress for the ever-changing weather.

The bridge is open for us to visit each afternoon to pop up and check what Mother Nature has in store for us.

We travelled through a few rainstorms today, but the sun shone again within minutes.

This evening we were joined by the Captain and officers for dinner in the lovely Lindstrom; many of the guests also enjoyed dining with some new dinner companions.

Caption TJ updated us on our progress and confirmed it is going well; we have good seas at present but expect this to change. We are on schedule to dock in Miami as planned on Thursday morning. Our Captain is incredible and has the passenger's comfort as his top priority.

We have been blessed considering the obstacles we have faced with Hurricane Fiona & Ian. As we crossed from Canada to the US this morning and were greeted with some tumultuous waters, the weather gods are on strike, a dramatic change from the day before.

Day 51 - At Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, US

A peaceful night's sleep and another relaxing sea day. We jumped online again and were busy catching up.

Fortunately, lunch was back in Lindstrom à la carte (not a fan of buffets, one of the primary reasons we opted for a suite), so we enjoyed a nice bottle of Riesling and caught up with our lovely crew, more leaving in Miami, I know they are looking forward to going home after six months, but we will miss seeing their friendly faces each day. Thank you, Rosalie and Cesar, for the laughter and incredible service over the past month or so.

This evening was pizza night, our first pizza in 50 days, so we were excited! They were fresh and crispy thin pastry, delicious!

We are just waiting out Hurricane Ian near the Bahamas. Hopefully, it continues, and we can dock tomorrow in Miami. We go to sleep hoping to wake up to the good news and praying for everyone's safety during this terrifying event of Mother Nature storming its way through Florida.

Day 52 - Miami, Florida, US

We made it to Miami 🇺🇸. Thank you to our fabulous Captain TJ for safely arriving through the hurricanes; you are the best. 👏

After a very comfortable evening sailing into Miami, we were up early to check our app (utterly addicted to watching the weather patterns worldwide). We were delighted to see we had a clear path to dock in Miami.

We arrived at port about 10 am, only two hours from the schedule, and all enjoyed the Miami city skyline from Deck 11; it was a little grey, very humid and windy, but surrounded by calmness; we were all excited to have the day to explore after five days at sea.

The 20 of us were eagerly waiting by the gangway from 11 am to get out and explore the vibrant city of Miami.

After two hours of waiting for US customs to give us the clearance finally, we raced off to make the most of our five hours on shore.

We jumped in a taxi and then were given a price of $45 to go the short drive of 10 minutes from the pier to Miami's design district; we were keen to shop! Our taxi driver wouldn't start the meter, and we knew it was $20, so we quickly exited the cab and booked an Uber, which was super efficient, beautiful, clean, and friendly. Lesson learned always use Uber!

We arrived at the rodeo drive of Miami, think five-story designer stores and enjoyed some quality shopping and a few treats; it is our wedding anniversary in a few days, so a great excuse!

After strolling through the streets in 30 degrees and high humidity, Wayne and Sal were done shopping, and it was cocktail time.

We jumped an Uber with the most friendly driver from Venezuela, who was also celebrating an anniversary on 1st October; he was four years in Miami. He recommended South Beach, Lincoln Road, to relax for the afternoon. We strolled the same streets back in 2014, this time avoiding the vodka shots whilst shopping.

We came across a Ritz Carlton with an excellent restaurant by the pool to while away the last few hours of our time in Miami, and they had delicious cocktails and snacks. David, our lovely waiter, ensured we were taken care of and shared some stories about this vibrant city. Unfortunately, we still had to be back on the ship at 6 pm due to the gangway being closed, even though we had to overnight in the port.

One bite-size nugget he shared was that 3 miles out of Miami are international waters, so casinos can open on cruises shortly after departing. However, our ship is casino free (not a bad thing), and we were staying in port for the evening for provisions following delays due to Hurricane Ian.

We were cautious of the time, so back in an Uber for the ship, the Ubers in Miami are super-sized! But all our drivers were super friendly with lovely clean and modern cars.

We made it just in time and entered a ship full of new passengers, which was a little strange after having the boat to ourselves for five days, but it was full of an energetic vibe and a younger demographic; the next ten days would be fun. This is a beginning of a new segment, Central America, and next up is the infamous Panama Canal, a place on everyone's bucket list.

Upon arriving at Lindstrom for dinner this evening, the restaurant was buzzing; it was nice to see the vibrant energy.

An announcement and notice were provided this evening of a slight change to the new segment, and Lighthouse Reef (Half Moon Caye) in Belize would be no longer possible; due to time constraints, we need to stay on schedule and meet our other destinations; we were happy to hear Belize city was still on the list so no dramas, the life of an expedition cruise, you roll with it, and we are very excited about the journey ahead.

Being in port for the evening, not only were we guaranteed a very peaceful and uninterrupted sleep to prepare for the adventures ahead as we sailed to Belize, but we were blessed to have a fantastic view of Miami from our balcony with a calming sunset over the cityscape.

Day 53 - At Sea, Gulf of Mexico

This morning we were welcomed by the Miami city skyline and enjoyed the morning in the sunshine and the last of the Miami views.

Let's take a little tour around our suite; an Expedition Suite, ME category.

This afternoon we had all our provisions loaded to make our way to South America and Antarctica.

Sail away was during the afternoon; we all bid farewell to the states and embarked on a fresh new journey to Central America; Belize is up next.

As we sailed away, we were grateful for being on Hurtigruten Expeditions and a hybrid ship, protecting our environment after seeing the neighbouring vessels and their emissions into the city sky).

It was interesting to arrive in new waters and the dramatic change in Miami to an enchanting turquoise and sea of blues as we sailed away and excited about the new destinations and the magnificent waters we would experience.

As usual on all new segments, we had a welcome with the Captain and crew; this time, we were treated to Bollinger champagne 🍾 (must be the arrival of the travel writers and social media influencers for this leg), so of course, Wayne and I snuck in a couple of extra pre-dinner drinks to celebrate the arrival of our new Captain, it's nice to see his friendly face back again on the ship.

This was followed by some sightings of bottlenose dolphins who sailed with us for a short time at the ship's bow, and we were lucky enough to capture a few short videos.

Relaxing dinner in Lindstrom followed by a peaceful evening enjoying the calm blue waters by a crescent moonlight.

Day 54 - At Sea, Gulf of Mexico

Happy Anniversary to us! Sixteen years of magical moments and travels around the world. We are blessed to have found each other and to be on this epic journey of unwrapping the layers of the world together. I had fun collecting all these beautiful moments to surprise hubby this morning.

Straight to lunch today as we sailed towards Belize to enjoy a romantic lunch and were truly spoilt by our beautiful team in Lindstrom.

Upon arriving back at our suite, we were overwhelmed; we had a fabulous colourful display to celebrate our special day. Thank you, Francis!

We were also very grateful for the lovely surprise from our fellow Aussie passengers, Mary and Steve, who were so thoughtful in gifting us with a bunch of gorgeous fresh white roses, and reminded us of the time we left Wayne's sunglasses ashore back in Alaska (fortunately we found them again, and now we have the glass chains to keep them secure around this neck). A very happy anniversary to Mary & Steve's daughter, who also celebrates 1st October.

Thank you to Judit, Francis and our beautiful housekeeping team for the colourful display of love hearts scattered around our room; even Sami, the Seal, was spoilt, and thank you for a bottle of our favourite champagne Bollinger; it was also our fave on our wedding day.

It has been a day filled with love, champagne and surprises. The excellent Hurtigruten crew went above and beyond to make us feel extra spoilt and loved. Upon arriving for dinner, our table was full of love. Thank you, Raymond and our gorgeous Lindstrom crew; we even had our very own serenade from our lovely waiter Armani (Arman); it was an evening of magic. Thank you, Judit, Zoltan and the entire crew, for sharing our special day with us and the delicious cake.

Day 55 - At Sea, Caribbean Sea

We love sea days! The perfect excuse to wake up naturally, open the curtains and enjoy the morning sky, which has all been a beautiful shade of blue lately!

We had noticed the ship had slowed this morning and was nearly stopped. We were curious as to why we were stopped in the deepness of the Caribbean Sea.

During our morning coffee, an announcement was made to satisfy our curiosity. It is a ritual for the expedition team to reposition into the warm waters from the icy cold waters to have a dip in the deep blue waters from the expedition deck, and the passengers were invited to join.

The ship came to a complete standstill, locked in her position via the DP, and everyone raced to their cabins to quickly change. As we arrived on Deck 3, it seemed no one was going to miss the opportunity to have a deep sea swim off a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

The team had the Zodiacs out to provide a platform for the passengers to jump, dive or slide into the deep sea currents with a cosy warm temperature of 30 degrees.

Wayne was excited to try out the warm waters, especially after his arctic swim of 2 degrees, which dramatically changed in only a few weeks!

The afternoon was spent meeting some of the Hurtigruten team who have joined us for this leg and followed by another dolphin sighting; thank you, Anders, for the heads up and the added bonus of a Brown Booby’ bird landing.

The evening was low-key, and we enjoyed chatting with our new fellow passengers in Lindstrom, who all joined the ship in Miami.

We all retired into our suites, ensuring our cabin lights were all dimmed to ensure we didn't disorient any birds migrating overnight. It was an early night as excited about our anchor side tomorrow in Belize, a new destination!

Day 56 - Belize City, Belize

'Week eight' closes with a new milestone achieved. On 'day 56', we also visited our '56th country', Belize in Central America.

Belize City is the largest city, was once the capital of former British Honduras (as Belize was then named), and is part of the Commonwealth. Belize City is home to about 60,000 and hosts the second largest barrier reef in the world. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the first. The city was almost destroyed in October 1961 when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore. It was the capital of British Honduras until the government was moved to the new capital of Belmopan in 1970.

Whisked away in the first tender, which the local citizens operate to Belize city to travel in the luxury of an air-conditioned bus for our excursion to Altun Ha, an ancient Mayan city, an archaeological site and ruins located in the Belize District about 50 kilometres north of Belize City. Believed to be from BC900 and was discovered early 1960s, now a popular tourist destination and one of the temples has also become the logo of Belize's leading brand of beer, "Belikin".

We were kept entertained and educated on the country of Belize by our warm and friendly host Anni; she filled us all in on the nuggets we needed to know as we drove the hour to the site. I have shared some of the Belize fun facts below.

Upon arriving at Altun Ha, we were offered to join a group with a tour guide, or we could roam independently and meet back at the bus; we opted for the independent.

I love to take the opportunity to capture some fun photos and to enjoy the peaceful nature of the site; it is also perfect for capturing those uninterrupted pics. Thank you to our Expedition team host, who was very kind in offering to capture some couple moments for us; the pics are fantastic.

After an hour, we were ready to escape the scorching heat and were back in the AC on the bus.

Shortly after we were all transported back to the port, we were keen on exploring more of the city. Still, unfortunately, all the shops and dining establishments were closed in the harbour. There were no recommendations to visit the city on your own, they have suffered greatly from the cruise industry going on hold for a few years and restarting slowly, so we put safety first and headed back to the ship.

A special thank you to Keith, our fantastic chef in Lindstrom, for the extra servings of vegetables the past few days; incredibly grateful for the clean greens!

Fun facts:

  • Belize only export the juice from their Valencia oranges; as the orange rind is green, most people think they are not ripe due to the colour

  • Cacao beans were basically the national currency back in the Mayan days. The Mayans and the Aztecs believed (and perhaps some people still do) that chocolate was a gift from the gods

  • Mayans make up 11% of the current population today

  • Belize's favourite hot pepper sauce Marie Sharp's, is award-winning on the international hot sauce circuit. Exported to many parts of the world

  • 40% of Belize's GDP is tourism, mainly due to the cruise industry

  • Eco-friendly country, they are earnest about protecting their wildlife, all species are protected, they are home to crocodiles, five breeds of large cats, monkeys, manatee, southern stingray, black-collared hawk, whale sharks and Parrots, to name a few

  • The tropical country is only 180 miles in length

  • Creole is the local language, a mashup of African and British words. English is the official language, followed by Spanish.

Join us for 'week nine' as the ship embarks on yet another new segment, the Central America leg, and as we inch closer to another bucket list experience, the Panama Canal.

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