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Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week nine

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

In week nine of our 13-week bucket list Pole to Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions, we explored Central America. We fulfilled a bucket list item: the Panama Canal.

Day 57 - At Sea, Caribbean Sea

Today's most eventful item was the incredible display of birds over lunch; we were mesmerised by the flying creatures following the ship, hunting fish, and even tackling each other for food. The Brown Boobies catch the fish, and the Frigatebirds attempt to steal the Boobie's meal.

We had a fantastic view from our window table in Fredheim.

Lunch was also impressive, and we tried the soft steam buns filled with delicious chicken and peppers; they were so good we had to order seconds.

As we chose to visit our Erik and King Richard in Fredheim today, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to order a crepe; we were delighted when the chef made a little taste of home for us, just what we needed. Simply lemon and sugar crepe! Thank you, team Fredheim.

Day 58 - Providencia, Colombia

Welcome to Country 57; moving our country tally up has been a great week, with another one later this week. We are edging closer to 60!

Coffee first, as always, over a chat with the lovely Seth, who happens to be working at Hurtigruten in the Customer Care team. He was a ball of energy, and we loved sharing our travel stories. Thank you, Seth, for popping over to say hello.

We were called to board our tender, and unfortunately, it was complete. Hence, a handful of us passengers had to wait for the crew tender, which, in hindsight, was in our favour due to the tropical rain arriving for a moment, so we missed the downpour and only had to receive a light shower.

Sparkling clear turquoise waters surround us, filling you with wonder and delight.

Providencia is a small tropical Caribbean island part of Colombia; unfortunately, they were still in repair after a significant hurricane two years ago. They are all busy rebuilding and cleaning up, and the small village community didn't let this get them down. They were all full of kindness and warmly welcomed us. We couldn't wait to support them and give them a little financial boost to help them rebuild faster.

We welcomed the half-hour walk to town with only a light shower, and it was a blessing to keep us more relaxed from the scorching sun and humidity. As soon as the rain stopped, you could feel it coming back; the locals welcomed us with a big wave and hello and took cover under their porch as we walked by.

The island is bursting with bright colours, slowly starting to resurface from the remnants of the hurricane damage. The locals are resilient, and I know it will return to its full glory soon.

We sought a local establishment to support lunch and a cold drink.

We finally arrived at one and raced in to spend the afternoon treating ourselves to sample the local Colombian cuisine and mojitos (in a can, but delicious). We chatted with our fellow passengers who had found the same venue and our lovely new friend Seth joined us; we had a perfect afternoon full of laughter and mojitos!

Based on Seth's recommendation, we popped into a cafe nearby and sampled the Colombian coffee; we were a little sceptical not being black coffee drinkers, but Seth was spot on, and it was incredible! Thank you, Seth!

We started our return to the tender and, fortunately, found a shuttle going by. We jumped in and enjoyed a singalong in Spanish with our driver and the latest state-of-the-art air conditioning; leave the doors open. We had a blast.

Stopping every so often to pick up fellow passengers and give them solace from the heat, I think we managed to squeeze over ten of us in, and our driver wanted to pick up more!

We were back on the ship for a much-needed cold shower to enjoy the evening on the ship; unfortunately, we were trying to get back for the local cultural performance but arrived too late once we were showered due to the delay with the tender, and everyone was trying to do the same.

The evening was spent enjoying cocktails, meeting fellow passengers, and sharing their day stories.

Day 59 - San Andres, Colombia

Today, we arrived around 9 am in San Andrés, a Colombian island in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Nicaragua. It's known for its coral reefs and reggae music, popular with tourists.

All excursions were delayed due to a slow clearance from authorities. Once we were cleared, the passengers were on the tenders to embark on their tours. There is usually an inclusive tour and a couple of paid options to visit villages, sample local cuisines, beach days and snorkelling adventures. We commonly opt for the independent as we love to get lost in a new place and explore at our own pace.

We enjoyed a coffee from our lovely Arnel in the Explorer's Lounge (he truly makes the best coffee) and used the time to research the best places for lunch and cocktails.

Around lunch, we were on the island, a very short tender, although very hot, so we tried to nab a seat in the open air. Once on the island, a free shuttle took you 30 minutes into town. Watch these guys as they still want you to pay on arrival, even though Hurtigruten has provided them for passengers.

A quick stroll to our restaurant on the boulevard, with views of the crystal waters and air-conditioned indoors! We thoroughly enjoyed the new cuisines, we had a day of Asian, it was most welcomed, and the cocktails were a nice warm-up to the day! After being in Canada and the US for a few months, it was also a pleasant surprise to receive a lazy lunch bill of AUD100, after the average being AUD350, and we quickly had six cocktails and a few courses.

After lunch, we took on the sweltering heat to stroll the beach, were quickly defeated and waited for our taxi; he messaged to say he would be half an hour late, which meant we would have missed the last tender, so we hailed a cab for USD20 and were back in time.

We spent our first night in the room; after a hot and humid day, it was nice to hide away; we were incredibly spoilt by our beautiful team in Lindstrom, who was only happy to deliver our meals. Thank you, Raymond and Helen 🙏

This evening, we received a letter to advise another country has been removed from our Pole to Pole due to COVID restrictions on cruise ships. To avoid the risk of the vessel being quarantined, Peru has now been cancelled, and we now have an additional port in Ecuador and four seas instead. Hopefully, we will be surprised with a new destination from Ecuador to Chile🤞 Nicaragua was also cancelled for the same reason this week.

Fun fact:

  • Always walk the beach before you decide to frolic in the water, and do a quick check on the health of the water.


Day 60 - Bocas del Toro, Panama

It is a busy week of counting new countries for these two slow travellers. Last year we visited six countries and are already three this week!

Bocas, as the locals refer to it, is the archipelago of Panama. It stole our hearts from the island vibe and the beautiful people, and with stunning views, it is fast becoming a gastronomic destination right up our alley!

In a new country, the ship and passengers needed to be cleared; after a few hours, we explored Isla Colon, one of the three islands in Bocas, which is attached to mainland Panama. The zodiacs were out to whisk us to shore, the sun was taking a break, and the rain was to keep us company; we didn't let this get us down. We just ducked out of the walking excursion and escaped to Meren Pool Club, a new beach club, to stay dry and quenched for the afternoon.

The food and cocktails were excellent, and the Panamanians' beautiful nature and the beach club's decor and design were very chic.

All places have incredibly high-speed wifi and English menus, making it a perfect destination for digital nomads.

We bar-hopped back to the ship and loved meeting the locals for a chat; even as we walked along, we were enthralled in conversation with locals.

After chats with the locals and feeling at home with the island vibe, think of Koh Samui in Thailand. We are already planning an extended stay in Isla Colon, Panama.