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Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week four

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Week four on our 13-week bucket list Pole to Pole cruise on the luxury hybrid expedition ship MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions.

Day 22 - At Sea, Beaufort Sea, Canada

Let's talk about the dining scene on the MS Roald Amundsen. You have three restaurants to choose from for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Soft drinks, beer, house wine (premium at an additional cost) and coffee/tea are included in your meals in each restaurant. Each restaurant is elegantly designed, with floor-to-ceiling windows for beautiful cruising viewing.

Lindstrom Restaurant - Located on Deck 9 and available to suite guests for all three meals, open from 7-9 am, 12-2 pm and 6-9 pm. The menu changes almost daily for lunch and dinner; some days, it remains the same, but no more than two days in a row. Think fine dining and very high-quality cuisine and service (which is outstanding in each restaurant). Non-suite guests can experience Lindstrom for dinner at an additional cost of 25 each.

Aune Restaurant - Located on Deck 6 and available for all guests for three meals daily, the times are the same as Lindstrom. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style, and dinner is a la carte, except maybe once per week when they have a buffet evening. We have dined in Aune several times over the past few weeks and recommend the a la carte evenings. The daily menu for each restaurant is published each morning in the app, so you can easily decide which restaurant you wish to dine in during the evening.

Fredheim Restaurant - Located on Deck 6 and available for all guests to dine in for three meals a day, and takeaway options are available. Dining hours are extended; you can dine from 12 pm - 9 pm. The menu stays the same with your classics, pasta of the day, hamburgers, hotdogs, fish, chicken, steak with vegetables, a new weekly Mexican dish, and other dishes.

Day 23 - Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, Canada

Long gone are the early risers! We have been making up for years of lost sleep on this cruise and rising at least from 10 am daily. We make it for morning coffee and then straight to lunch!

Just after lunch today, we arrived in a tiny community called Ulukhaktok in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Home to a couple of hundred locals.

Everyone was eager to get on our Zodiacs for the landing. Once onshore, we were greeted by the local indigenous to take us around their village. It was eye-opening to a different way of life. The homes were primary but were shelters.

The locals dressed in coats enhanced with animal fur on the cuffs and neckline. There were approximately three grocery stores (surprising to see the volume of processed foods/sweets with very little fresh produce), where a couple of flights arrived weekly to stock up and another to deliver gas.

Their primary means of transport was by foot or four-wheelers—primarily hunters and gatherers (berries), tiny else to keep them busy.

We were given four hours to explore, but after 90 minutes, we were ready to return to the ship.

The village had the opportunity to put on their arts/craft market when we arrived, but they scheduled this for later in the afternoon when most passengers were back on the ship!

Missed opportunity to have the passengers ready to shop; 400 passengers can quickly help fund the community for the next few months; maybe the government subsidy is more than enough.

There was not much to see here and trim from the team as to why we visited; it felt like the community existed purely because of subsidies, as no one appeared to be very busy. You could question the carbon footprint, and seeing the rubbish scattered around the village was disappointing.

Today, we marked the 106th anniversary of Roald Amundsen's expedition to the South Pole. The Norwegian explorer after whom our ship is named was the first human to reach the South Pole. The ship celebrated with pre-dinner bubbles as we sailed through the Amundsen Gulf. We then finished the evening with a rare and beautiful sunset.

Day 24 - Sea Day, Amundsen Gulf, Nunavut, Canada

Today was a chilled sea day; we love these days! It's a great excuse to relax genuinely. We received our certificates for crossing the Arctic Circle and kept busy blogging to record all our extraordinary adventures and memories.

We enjoyed a beautiful dinner at Lindstrom and celebrated life with a lovely bottle of bubbles, followed by another magical sunset.

Day 25 - Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada

Last night, we slept with the curtains open to bring our body clocks back to normal, and we were up at 7 am! It's been a few weeks since we had breakfast, so we took advantage of the early morning and popped up to Lindstrom; surprisingly, it is hectic in the mornings, and we even had to queue!

After breakfast, we were ready to Zodiac across to our new destination for the day, Cambridge Bay, a small community village of approx 1400. It is also the home to The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), a world-class research facility that enhances research and analysis of Canada's North.

We wandered around the village and learned about its short history, founded around 1940; we were even offered a sample of whale, a local delicacy, but we politely declined as we were uncomfortable with the offer.

After two hours, we were back on the ship for lunch and a cheeky afternoon tea; we found the' cake time' for the first time in 25 days. Every day in the Explorer's Lounge on Deck 10 for one hour, you are offered a selection of freshly baked cakes; the sponge was divine; we must learn to stay away from 3 - 4 pm each day; otherwise, we will need a new wardrobe!

The sun blessed us with its presence and warmth this afternoon as we sailed away from Cambridge Bay to our next destination in Northern Canada.

A pleasant surprise this evening! The sky was dancing in lights. We finally see our first Aurora with Hurtigruten Expeditions.

Day 26 - Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, Canada

Mother Nature has been the week's highlight, with the spectacular Aurora show in the sky we experienced last night.

This afternoon, we arrived at Gjoa Haven at the heart of Northwest Passage, where Roald Amundsen noted it as 'the finest little harbour in the world!

Gjoa Haven is where the polar explorer Roald Amundsen stayed for two winters during his famed quest through the Northwest Passage. Once his ship was free from the ice, he continued his pursuit in 1905, successfully crossing the Northwest Passage.

Gjoa Haven is another small, lonely village in the Arctic Circle, with a local Inuit community of 1400. The permanent community was founded in 1927 after a trading post opened; in 1950, there were approximately 110.

The last three landings have been underwhelming, and we wonder why they have been chosen; they don't seem to align with Hurtigruten's values of sustainability. We have been quite disappointed with the pollution level (especially in Gjoa Haven).

There was not much to see; the people appeared to have very little pride in their land, each village needed supplies, and the pricing for this one was quite a shock! CAD 43 for a frozen dessert, $20 for a frozen pizza, and $18 for 1L of orange juice (not freshly squeezed).

You would ask how the locals can afford these heavily processed foods with minimal employment opportunities or industries other than fishing or hunting. We chatted with a grocery store lady, who agreed everything was expensive.

We asked how they could afford them, and she confirmed you needed to work. We suggested making the pizza from scratch would be much cheaper (and healthier). Her response was this is much easier. We also noticed the 'We are hiring' sign as we entered the store; this has been a regular occurrence in all villages.

We are starting to question these small hamlets' carbon footprint and sustainability.

We were blessed with a gorgeous day; the sun was shining, so we enjoyed the weather to get our steps up as we navigated around the rubbish, dead birds and fish as we strolled the coastline of the small village.

After a few hours, we returned to the ship to enjoy another fabulous dinner and catch up with fellow passengers over drinks, hearing many stories.

Day 27 - Sea Day, James Ross & Bellot Strait, Nunavut, Canada

Today, we woke up to views of sea ice as we navigated our way to the Bellot Strait to embark on the Northwest Passage and Greenland.

We had a sea day, and the fog was lifting us to enjoy some new scenery, refreshing from the desolate and bare coastlines over the past few days.

This morning, Captain Terje updated the ship on navigating us through the Northwest Passage. It was very insightful regarding the ice, weather, permits, and approvals for making the trip. He is also very considerate of the waters; we loved how this is very important to him. For example, he will anchor the ship further from the shore if he thinks the ship is causing disturbance to the sea floor due to the bow thrusters. He also loves that the ship has DP (Dynamic Positioning) as it is much more friendly to the sea and does not cause any damage to the sea as opposed to anchors, which are also much more stable.

This evening during dinner, we entered the Bellot Strait, the northernmost point of the Americas and accessible only during Aug/September to sail as iced over during the other months. Bellot Strait is a passage in the Canadian Arctic and is very narrow. Captain Terje perfectly timed our sail through the stunning scenery through the golden hour of the evening.

The strait is named for Frenchman Joseph Bellot, one of the many adventurers who set out in the 1850s to search for the doomed Northwest Passage mission of Sir John Franklin.

I believe the marine sediments of the canyon walls were very interesting; they were a mixture of three or four and constantly changing. We shared the sailing with another ship passing us by. The passage has complex currents; they were strong in the strait, and many giant whirlpools surrounded us.

Exiting Bellot Strait, we sailed past Fort Ross, an abandoned former trading post on Somerset Island. Founded in 1937, it was the last trading post established by the Hudson's Bay Company.

This evening's sunset was magical; we have been blessed with clear skies and sunsets this week.

Day 28 - Prince Leopold Island, Nunavut, Canada

This morning, we woke at about 10 am. We have changed our clocks considerably in the past ten days, losing an hour each time. As we skip breakfast, no big deal and start the day with lunch and wine, no complaints!

During lunch, we arrived at the spectacular Prince Leopold Island. We are all spellbound; it is beautiful!

The island is one of the most important seabird colonies in the Canadian Arctic; therefore, seabird life was abundant. It is located in Lancaster Sound at Prince Regent Inlet and Barrow Strait.

The natural landscape and cliffs of the island were over 1000m and had a natural sequence of limestone.

We were very excited today, as it was our first polar bear sighting; we saw four as we arrived at the island. Perfect lunch viewing whilst devouring another delicious lunch of pulled lamb in Lindstrom! Perfection!

The bear sightings were announced over lunch, and all knives and forks were instantly placed down, and everyone raced to the windows on the port side to catch a glimpse. Fortunately, we had a window table for front-row seats. Binoculars were a must and provided a clear image of the bears running along the beach, catching their fish or birds for lunch; we ensured the lovely Lindstrom team and fellow passengers shared our binoculars so no one missed out on this beautiful moment.

We later learned from the expedition team that Canada has surveyed the island and has no oil prospects, which is positive news as this will protect the island's beauty.

After lunch, we were all geared up for the 2 degrees and ready to head out on our Zodiac cruise. Unfortunately, the zodiacs and kayaking were cancelled due to passenger safety, as polar bears were nearby. They can run up to 40 km per hour, and the waters are rough; therefore, passenger safety comes first. Instead, we took advantage of the magnificent views and captured candid pics and moments.

The ship sailed away later in the evening and into the night to continue our way to the next destination of Beechey Island, where we all prayed to the weather gods to be kind so we could enjoy a new landing for the morning.