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- One month in Argentina
Let's explore Argentina together, sit back, grab a drink and follow us on something different: Argentina's grand tour. With only a month in Argentina, we've selected to use the services of a Travel agent, the excellent Fred Schejtman at Argentina Exploration Journeys. Fred has created a first-class bespoke itinerary on short notice to maximise our time in Argentina while allowing us a more relaxed itinerary without any worries or stress. We'll start in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, post our North to the South Pole journey. Then it's off to experience the icy wonders of the world, the incredible Glaciers of Argentina, including ice-trekking inside and on top of glaciers in El Calafate. We'll experience Tango up close and personal in Buenos Aires while learning about the country's rich history and experiencing the French influence on architecture and the Italian impact on food. Next is a town in Argentina's Patagonia region called Bariloche. It borders Nahuel Huapi, a large glacial lake surrounded by the Andes Mountains and also known for its Swiss alpine-style architecture, heavily influenced by Germans and its chocolate. We will also horse ride, hike, and navigate the beautiful lakes by kayaks and boats. Next will be an extended stay in Mendoza to experience those fine Argentinian wines, winery tours and sunset horse riding. Our final destination is the magnificent waterfalls we will explore in-depth at Iguazú falls for three nights. We will then complete our travels to Argentina with an extended stay of nearly two weeks in Buenos Aires and explore life as a local. Value for money - Good Security - Great People - Friendly Travel - Easy Length - One month When - November Transfers - Ubers, planes and private transfers Accommodation - Hotels and Airbnb Tipping - 10%
- Ushuaia - Argentina
Argentina is country number 61 for us, and our first stop Ushuaia is an appealing pocket of the world. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and the gateway to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, one of the most beautiful spots for outdoor activities. Ushuaia is the end of the world and the gateway to Antarctica. We disembarked our three-month North to the South Pole cruise, checked into an Airbnb in Ushuaia for a week, and were blessed with the most magical views. It was a welcoming gift to be back on land and enjoy some home-cooked meals and our space. Ushuaia has a long and storied history, first settled by indigenous tribes over 6,000 years ago. In the 19th century, Ushuaia became a bustling port town with European and British settlers, whalers, fur hunters, and missionaries. Today, the city has become a significant tourist destination, with a booming tourist industry and a thriving cultural centre. Ushuaia is known for its breathtaking views of the Beagle Channel, the Andes Mountains, and the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Visitors can take boat tours to explore the Beagle Channel, hike in the National Park, and even take a scenic train ride to the nearby glaciers. We were in our element, and it ticked all our boxes! You are surrounded by snow-capped mountains everywhere you look (although rapidly melting as the sunshine kissed them all week), the ocean, and beautiful coffee houses for our daily coffee; you must check out Ana & Juana, stunning Airbnbs with views we were constantly in awe of and a culinary adventure, oh and of course the vino! For all you adventurous travellers, it is a haven for you too. Ushuaia is home to national parks in very close proximity, an abundance of treks so you can hike to your heart's content, boat cruises to penguin colonies and beagle channel and much more. We love this charming town at the end of the world and enjoyed resetting and recharging, maybe even having a few days off the vino! Okay, we lasted 48 hours! A new adventure awaits as we have the month booked to explore our new country by air travel. This time, there will be glaciers, horse riding, mountains, lakes, wine regions, boat and helicopter trips and, of course, the magnificent wonder of Iguazu Falls. We can't wait to share our next adventure in Latin America. For the weekend, we moved from our Airbnb on the top of the hill to a new Airbnb located in the heart, making it easier to explore and enjoy being local and visiting a salon to brighten the hair! The location was perfect, you were in the city's heart, and everything was a hop and a skip away. The views are everywhere; you are enveloped by the majestic mountains, two outside balconies perched above the streets, and a little oasis. We kept ourselves busy by getting some steps on; after three months on a ship with a couple of half-day stops a week, it is refreshing to get out and be more active again. The main shopping street is spotlessly clean, with boutique shops with various goods and dining establishments. The souvenir stores all have some class and not the tacky stores that line the streets of typical tourist towns. Friday evening, we booked into a fine dining restaurant 'Kalma' recommended by a fellow passenger. Unfortunately, it didn't quite deliver and was very overpriced. $40AUD for eight pieces of tortellini was uncalled for, and the meat dish was mediocre. Still, the wine was delicious, so points for introducing us to the pearls of Argentinean Malbec. We followed this with a visit to the local Ginoteria 'Jeremy Buttons'. We propped ourselves at the bar and enjoyed the staff's energy and impressive selection of gins and high-quality cocktails. Saturday lunch was the highlight, the Patagonian lamb Casimiro Biguá Parrilla & Asador Ushuaia. They slow BBQ over the wood fire a salted lamb in a room just off the restaurant, we were in our happy place, and we were offered to take some pics as we were leaving to get up close and personal, as most know we love our lamb! Sunday was a quiet day in town; everyone had a well-deserved rest, so most shops and dining establishments were closed. Still, we found a beautiful restaurant Augusto Ushuaia serving Pisco Sours (the best!) and a snack; before our adventure around Argentina begins, we have three weeks scheduled to explore the places not to be missed, and our first flight is to El Calafate, home to Glaciers and the Andes! We can't wait to share our new adventures with you all soon. (It has been a jampacked few months of travel - and we are busy trying to catch up).
- Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week 13
Patagonia & Antarctica Ultimate Adventure - Antarctica In the final week of our 13-week Pole to Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions, we experience the big white wonder of the world and our 7th continent - Antarctica. Day 85 - At Sea, Cape Horn & Drake Passage We started the day off with the news we had been waiting for over 85 days; we won the lottery for Kayaking in Antarctica and were in Group A, which provided us with the highest chance to get out on the water should the weather permit. We were very fortunate, as most of the 400 passengers also had this activity on their bucket list, with only four landings scheduled, a maximum of two sessions per landing and eight kayaks per session; you do the math, we were two of the lucky ones. It takes about two days to cross the Drake Passage; we had heard so many horror stories over the past few months from fellow passengers who had experienced the 'Drake Shake', so we were very fortunate to be blessed with the 'Drake Lake' for our crossing. Yesterday we were scheduled for a landing on Cape Horn. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong, resulting in a no-go, so we continued on our path to the Antarctic Peninsula. When we first set out on this cruise, we were unaware that the chances of landing on the mainland of Antarctica were very low, as we had booked a Pole-to-Pole cruise. As most are quick to let you know, our landings would be on the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula; this is not Antarctica. Therefore you haven't really visited Antarctica. Although we suggest otherwise, as we have come this far, the peninsula is part of visiting Antarctica in our book. A little like you have visited Tasmania, and then to find out you haven't been to Australia, or you have been to Koh Samui, but have you really been to Thailand - yes, of course! Today was making the most of a relaxing sea bay before the big arrival. Day 86 - Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica Welcome to our final continent; all seven are now ticked off! This continent has always been on our bucket list, and finally, setting foot on the icy continent of Antarctica has been fulfilled. As the fog lifted this morning to present the majestic views, they were breathtaking, like nothing we have ever seen. Blessed to be joined by the sun and blue skies, we cruised closer to the first land we had seen over the past few days. The pictures were priceless and a great taster of what was to come. So much ice! The elevations were surprising; these mountains are enormous! We later learned Antarctica has the highest average heights in the world. Our kayaking adventure was postponed due to the stronger winds, so we layered up for the landing on Half Moon Island. As we approached the island, we could see all the little penguins and spotted a few whales, so we were excited! Especially as it is usually too early in the season for whales. The landing took us across to land where we could experience being up close and personal with the penguins, two breeds; the main colony were chinstraps who come to breed (up to 15000 eventually) and then the Gentoos who come to hang out by the water. They were all incredibly cute and clumsy as they would make their way down to the sea to feed, constantly tripping over their own little feet; you could sit by and watch them all day. They didn't seem to be bothered by us humans, so they continued getting on with their day. It was cold, around zero, so thankfully, we layered up and enjoyed the hour on land and were mesmerised by the natural wonder and adorable penguins surrounding us. As we were leaving, we sat with the penguins, just enjoying being in close proximity to these birds full of character; watch the following carefully for a giggle, the one on the left:-) We can't wait for the next few days to experience this majestic place on Earth. Day 87 - Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica Today was fascinating; let's start in reverse! Heavy snow set in during dinner, and we scored a window table to make sure we could experience heavy snowfall as we were cruising; the first time we had been on a cruise and the ocean with snow, it was pretty surreal and beautiful, especially being in Antarctica. It was heavy snow, and the snowflakes were the size of a cotton plant; it was what movies and picture books are made about. As dinner progressed, the deep blue ocean that engulfed us transitioned into a tinge of foggy grey; it was freezing over as the snow settled, and a thin layer of sea ice was beneath us. Let's jump back to the morning; it was an early start as our Kayaking was scheduled; take two. We made sure to fill our bellies with some fuel, and during breakfast, the news came it was cancelled. The weather was changing rapidly, and snow was gracing us with her presence; we did enjoy the morning show with the seals relaxing on the icebergs as we cruised by. The ship fast changed its navigation from our original destination Orne Harbour to a new location Wilhelmina Bay, where we could bring out the zodiacs and all get a chance for a scenic cruise through the sea ice and flows and be within inches of the icebergs. Before lunch, we explored the ship; it was a surreal experience seeing it covered in snowfall. After lunch, we geared up; as the snow settled in, we loved popping back to our room to measure the snowfall; it felt like a winter wonderland with snow filling your balcony and a little like Christmas. We love it. Brendan was our host and zodiac driver through the sea ice for one hour, providing us with lots of insights on the icebergs, sea ice and all about the nearby birdlife as he expertly dodged and weaved all the ice flows and icebergs with limited vision. It was also fascinating to be part of the sea as it began to ice up. It has the same texture as a slushy; the water on the surface becomes a light shade of grey and is mushy. Great work, and thank you, Brendan, for keeping us safe. After being woken up on the water and showered with snow, we were back on the ship to bring our body temperature back to normal, prepare for dinner, and wait for the boat to unveil our next destination as we explore Antarctica. Unfortunately, the passengers who had booked the camping on the ice due to the weather were also cancelled. Day 88 - Neko Harbour, Antarctica Will we kayak in Antarctica is becoming the million-dollar question. Another early morning for take 3 for us kayakers who were the fortunate ones in Group A (this means we were first to kayak before all other groups). It was 8.05 am, so time to pop into our cold suits, one leg in and the announcement popped up that it had been cancelled, and the wind was picking up. So close! Fortunately, the zodiac was still on, and we happened to be in the first group of the day, so we dressed up for the cruising and went down to the expedition landing. We were first on the boats and surprised it was a little warmer than yesterday, much more civilised with only light snow dust. We navigated the sea ice and enormous icebergs on the hunt for some sealife; penguins were the spot of the day. The icebergs glistened in the water as the sun peeked through the clouds. Just remember that the visible part of the iceberg is only 10-20% of the actual size, so most of the berg lives underwater. We could see the entire length with the water pristine, and it was just wow! On the way back to the ship, we came across a sensational raft of gentoo penguins. Forty-five minutes later, we were back on the ship, and the weather was closing in, and the captain was concerned with all the sea ice also closing in on the ship that we could potentially be iced in the harbour, so it was time to pack up and move on. We made our way for Danco Bay, and take 4 of Kayaking was on the schedule, fingers crossed. The ship changed direction again, and a new destination was on the map until the wind blessed us with her presence at up to 90 knots at one stage, so the ship maintained its position to keep us all comfortable and to wait out Mother Nature. Later in the evening, she cruised along the majestic coastline of Antarctica, filling our senses with icy mountain peaks and wonders. We sailed into Damoy Point, a rocky headland on the west coast of Wiencke Island, filling us with more delight with the size of the glaciers. Where the ship decided to spend the evening as the weather conditions were good, and activities looked promising for our last day in Antarctica tomorrow. Let's go Kayaking! Today was spent enjoying the changing weather and genuinely appreciating the perils of the weather. I was fortunate to sneak in a 'patchy video' call to Mum and Dad to share the experience of the wonders of the world. Day 89 - Dorian Bay, Antarctica The million-dollar question has been answered, and we have hit the 'Kayaking in Antarctica' jackpot! 🛶 This morning we woke early to calm waters and weather, it was take five, and we were positive it was going to happen! On with our cold suits and straight to the meeting point, there was no time to waste. The sooner we were on the water, the sooner it was to become a reality. Fourteen of our fellow kayakers were on the same page, and everyone was set to go. We were given finishing touches to our Kayaking outfit, a special life jacket and gloves to keep us dry and hopefully warm. We piled into the zodiacs for a short five-minute cruise across to the waiting kayaks, and one by one, we were loaded into our kayak, two per kayak. Wayne was in the back, and I was seated up front as the head photographer. Fine by me, as poor hubby would need to do all the paddling (which, after knowing my rhythm, he much preferred to take control). Before we embarked on this magical experience through sea ice, we had a quick practice and 101 on manoeuvring the kayak and, of course, staying above the water. This moment was one we had been waiting for. It is nearly 90 days since we departed Vancouver, and we were hoping to kayak in the Arctic Circle; unfortunately, the weather continued to close the opportunities. The paddling commenced, and it was surreal. We were all lined up, navigating on the water's surface through large chunks of sea ice; the paddles driving their way through the ice chunks were eerily sounding but surreal and peaceful. We arrived at the most magnificent turquoise iceberg to capture pictures up close and personal. Unbeknown to us - this same iceberg would calve and start the process of tipping over a few hours later, which we were fortunate to witness from our balcony - play with sound. We continued closer to Damoy Point, a research station home to a Gentoo penguin colony. The station was being prepared for the arrival of four female researchers to spend the summer in a few weeks, so we all floated amongst the sea ice and bergs to enjoy the serenity, overshadowed by dramatic icy mountain peaks. We watched the penguins go about their day, swimming and diving, waddling and even swimming beneath our kayaks in the crystal waters beneath us. It was one of those magical moments that will remain with you forever. After about 1.5 hours, we made our way back through the sea ice. We were all becoming familiar with paddling through (or, in my case, my darling hubby was); I was too busy trying to get my little fingers and toes to circulate again and keep the phone from going for a swim in below-zero waters). We approached the ship and were to wait for our zodiacs to pick us up and take us back to our cosy cabins; they were running a little behind, so we took the opportunity to row around the ship. It was magnificent to experience this impressive vessel from the exterior and at the water level; very surreal indeed. We were shortly picked up once we reached the stern and delivered back to the ship. A huge thank you to Molly and Orto from the Expedition team for a very memorable experience kayaking in Antarctica; it truly was the perfect ending to our three months onboard. The afternoon was spent enjoying a lazy lunch, reviewing the incredible photos we captured, and celebrating ticking off another bucket list experience. Kudos to Hurtigruten Expeditions for being the first cruise ship to launch Kayaking in Antarctica this summer; we were the first group out on the water this season 👏 We were scheduled for a zodiac landing later in the evening to walk through the snow and see another penguin colony, but we decided to opt out, as it was on the peninsula. We were all hoping it was on the mainland; therefore, we wanted to stay on our natural high from the morning; it was our perfect ending to Antarctica. Dinner was spent back in Lindstrom chatting with our new Aussie friends and enjoying drinks as we entered the Drake Passage, all with fingers crossed it would bless us with a crossing of the 'Drake Lake', not the 'Drake Shake'. Day 90 - Drake Passage The Lake is slowly becoming the Shake! Therefore it has been a slow day. We managed to enjoy lunch and a bottle of wine; then, the afternoon was spent hiding away in the suite to stay horizontal! We find it much easier on the body; as soon as you wander around, the motion sickness creeps in. Fortunately, it takes quite a rocky ship now to upset us, and we know how to avoid it! Dinner was quick, and back to bed! One of those days! A little penguin love and kayaking highlights; I hope it gives you as much joy as it does me:-) Day 91 - Drake Passage This marks our last day at sea for three months. Fortunately, the Drake was easing up as we approached land around noon. We enjoyed our last day over a lazy lunch at Fredheim, thanking the team and preparing to pack our cases and disembark for the morning. Before dinner, we enjoyed catching up with the Pole-to-Pole guests for the captain's farewell; drinks were overflowing as everyone was sharing all the unused bottles of bubbles and shipboard credit, as you can't take it with you. This was followed by a fun evening with a group of lovely Aussies we met on this segment; it was full of laughter and entertainment from the crew. We were incredibly grateful to the lovely crew, who took care of us throughout the cruise; you all made our trip more delightful. Thank you, team; we will miss your friendly smiles and daily chats. Beautiful moonlight glistened over the ocean as we were welcomed by our next and final destination Ushuaia. Thank you for travelling with us as we embarked three months ago on our 'once-in-a-lifetime' cruise from North to South Pole; we hope you enjoyed our travel moments as much as we enjoyed visiting parts of the world on our bucket list. We look forward to sharing our next adventure, the 'Argentina Chapter, ' with you soon.
- Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week 12
Patagonia & Antarctica Ultimate Adventure - Southern Chile, Latin America Week 12 of our 13-week Pole to Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions, we cruise and explore the Southern coast of Chile and experience the majestic Chilean Fjords. Day 78 - Castro, Chile The dramatic change of scenery as we cruise the Chilean coast has been a welcoming gift. Chile has a coastline of 6500kms, the first week was spent cruising the Atacama desert, and now we feel we are in the Sound of Music with rolling lush green meadows sprinkled with wildflowers. We arrived in Castro this morning, a beautiful picturesque town on Chiloé Island in Chile's Lake District. You have a familiar sense of New England, surrounded by rolling green hills. It is unique, especially with the colourful wooden stilt houses that line the waterfront. We opted for 'Sal & Wayne' style today, bypassing all the excursions to get lost in a city and escape the crowds. It was a perfect city to explore by foot; the city centre was moments from the pier. We enjoyed exploring and hunting down a local cafe to experiment the coffee. Unfortunately, the first cafe scored no points, but we were impressed with the second find, a local bakery. Continued exploring the city, catching a glimpse of the Church of San Francisco. Declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2000, it is one of the most important historical buildings in the city. We stumbled on a viewpoint with a cascading view of the vividly coloured homes on stilts across the low tide, along with another smaller pocket on the other side of Castro. This set us up to enjoy the waterside walk and beautiful, unique homes; unfortunately, a fire struck six homes the year prior, and they were busy rebuilding the beautiful homes. We popped in for a coffee along the way; a gorgeous new boutique hotel 'Sizigia Hotel' was now occupying the space, We followed coffee with lunch on the deck with a view at the nearby local restaurant 'Sabores de mi Tierra'. Settling in to enjoy the local Pisco Sours, you only needed a couple at this fabulous restaurant; let's say they were well balanced with the Pisco, definitely on the sour side, which was our preference. The food was excellent, the freshest of fish and the atmosphere surrounded by friendly locals dining, and the magical hills and fishermen, oh and seabirds keeping you entertained—a perfect afternoon. Some of the beautiful and eclectic homes and architecture as we wandered back to the ship, with some dancing on the pier to finish the day. Castro is a perfect destination to slow life down. A very safe city and you are spoilt with luxury boutique accommodation, high-quality dining, warm and friendly people and scenic views, along with being on the doorstep of the Chilean Fjords. The late afternoon sail away was sensory overload as we cruised out of the rolling green hills, providing us with a taste of what was to come as we enter the magnificent Chilean Fjords. Day 79 - At Sea, South Pacific Ocean, Chile Enjoying the scenery and views as we approached the Chilean Fjords, the misty weather provided a beautiful backdrop. Today was a great excuse to take the time to have one of those much-needed chill days; who doesn't love one of those? Especially when you have the scenery below as you enjoy a lazy lunch and dinner in Lindstrom. Part of the day was also spent in the open ocean, so we did experience some rocky waters, which is always best to spend motionless to avoid any sea sickness. Day 80 - Puerto Eden, Chile Our first destination in the Magallanes Region after navigating through the channels and fjords was Puerto Edén. It is a Chilean hamlet and minor port located on Wellington Island and considered one of Chile's most isolated inhabited places, together with Easter Island and Villa Las Estrellas. Puerto Edén is hidden deep in the Chilean fjords, off the beaten path, with a tiny community of 170. We were on the first excursion, and the change in climate reminded us we were getting closer to Antarctica, and the skies were open, which is very common to Puerto Edén. A local resident guided us through the perimeter of the small village; they had a neat walkway from end to end with a few lookout spots as we strolled with the skies of Mother Nature, learning about village life. A bit further south, you will find Brüggen Glacier, the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica, and unlike most glaciers, it has been growing. The afternoon was spent navigating the channels southbound for Patagonia. The vast amount of waterfalls as we cruised was a sensory overload. Never have we seen so many waterfalls cascading from the melting snow; they were scattered along the magnificent coastline as we made our way out of this beautiful scenery. Day 81 - Torres del Paine, Chile Welcome to Puerto Natales, a port city on the Señoret Channel in Chile's southern Patagonia. It is the gateway to the famous Torres del Paine National Park. As we opened the blinds this morning, we were surrounded by snow-capped mountains and couldn't wait to be whisked away on our full-day excursion. The Pole to Polers was first up, and we were eagerly waiting as we headed to Torres del Paine, the UNESCO national park listed in 1978 and the 8th natural wonder in the world to visit the Gray glacier. It was about a two-hour drive to the entry, and we all enjoyed the magnificent scenery along the way and hearing all about the juicy details of the region from our very knowledgeable guide Gabriela. Upon arriving in the park, we were transported about half-hour deep in preparation for our boat cruise across the lake to get up close and personal with the Gray Glacier. We all settled in for a speedy lunch at the Gray Hotel, where the bar and restaurant overlook the glorious mountains and glaciers. Wayne and I even squeezed in a Pisco Sour on a mission to try as many as possible whilst in Chile. They only get better as we go, especially when ordering sugar/syrup free. After lunch, we were ready to embark on the glacier boat cruise, but Mother Nature had other plans. The winds picked up to 60km, and the snow started to fall, so Plan B was put in play; we were to jump back on the bus for a scenic ride around the park for the afternoon. Fortunately, the bus was comfortable and warm, and we enjoyed the views and a few lookout points. With the rapidly changing weather, it was difficult to do much more—microclimates on steroids in Torres del Paine. We captured the scenery as best we found from the bus, and Wayne would brave the strong winds, snow and rain for the lookout spots; he is a gem! As dark was settling in, it was time to head back to the ship as it was a few hour's drive. We sighted a few Guanacos on the way back, the native llamas, but unfortunately, no pumas. After a long day, we were all back on the ship at about 8.30 pm to quickly dine and rest. The ship was port side overnight in Puerto Natales, so we were looking forward to having the following day to explore the lovely town 'Wayne and Sal' style and to continue our Pisco Sour tour. Fun facts: 30000 islands amongst the channels and fjords in the south of Chile, 11000 have no names The Andes go for 8000km from Venezuela all the way to Cape Horn, under the water and resurfaces in Antarctica Chile is known as the Pacific ring of fire. It is one of the countries with the most volcanoes on Earth. It is estimated that there are almost 2000 volcanoes. About 500 volcanoes are considered active, 60 of which have recorded eruptions in the last 450 years. The largest earthquake of magnitude 9.5 was in Southern Chile. In 1960, the most powerful earthquake recorded in history struck southern Chile. The rupture zone stretched from estimates ranging from 500 kilometres (311 miles) to almost 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) along the country's coast. Day 82 - Puerto Natales, Chile Today was one of those unplanned days that filled us with so much joy. First up, Wayne and I just walked off the ship with a coffee shop in mind, as it is named Nomad, which we just had to support because our dear friends from Belgrade also have a restaurant called Nomad. The coffee didn't disappoint; it was a lovely little cafe with warm energy and a local vibe. Now we had coffee to kickstart the day; we strolled around the beautiful city centre of Puerto Natales. It is very neat and well designed, the town has a soul and is very inviting. Just before lunch, we found a cosy restaurant bar called Wild Hostel, with a very inviting wood-fired stove, a friendly resident dog and a sofa for us to chill and watch the world go by. The team were an absolute delight; we were friends in minutes, and the owner was Finnish. (My mother is also Finnish). We were joined by Pat & Bob, who wanted to join in the fun and soon after, Mary and Stephen. We all enjoyed a few Pisco Sours and snacks while chatting about our lives. After three months of cruising together, we feel like family. Stephen took hold of the guitar nearby and entertained us with his hidden talents. He has been hiding them very well over the past few months on the ship. It was a beautiful afternoon; we also enjoyed listening to the owner's life story. It was an inspiring adventure to bring him to where he is today, owning a beautiful hostel with his lovely wife and now based amongst the snow-capped mountains in Patagonia. After we finished up at Wild, we dropped into another beautiful restaurant called Vinnhaus to sample their cocktails. Another Finnish owner greeted us with a warm welcome from the team. You were transported back to the 1920s, the decor was just fabulous, and we found a hidden little nook to start our way through the cocktails. I have never seen a cocktail list that I loved so much. Luckily we had a curfew! The cocktails were impressive, and we enjoyed a few more hours onshore. We met the loveliest family from Chile, who were visiting from Santiago and chose this beautiful restaurant for their family dinner; meeting them all was a delight. We loved the atmosphere, ambience, cocktails and staff so much we are trying our best to come back and stay for an extended period early next year; they also have a super cute hotel attached. Wayne & I will feel at home, and Puerto Natales is a perfect destination to enjoy on the tail end of Summer. Surprisingly we made it back to the ship via a tender boat as the Nansen (our sister ship, which is identical to us, apart from a 1cm difference in length) had snuck in while we were ashore and took our place in port, so we all had the night just off the dock and enjoyed a peaceful night's sleep before we embarked on the journey to Antarctica. Day 83 & 84 - At Sea, Chilean Fjords & Beagle Channel, Chile Spent both days at sea, but with some magical highlights. We cruised through the White Narrows, an extremely narrow channel from Puerto Natales, to find our way through the Chilean Fjords. We all rushed to the Bow of the ship to witness the narrow passage; with a deep breath, we easily squeezed through the tight path. The scenery throughout the day was majestic, from waterfalls to glaciers to mountainscapes. The Chilean Fjords and channels are breathtaking. We filled one afternoon with a birthday celebration, a fellow pole to poler Stephen was signing in to his 73rd year, so we all spent the afternoon enjoying champagne, wine and even tequila shots! It was a blast! The ship was also decorated for Halloween with a pumpkin smoothie treat for those brave enough. We also enjoyed our favourite pancake treat from Fredheim. Thank you, Chef! The last day of week 12 was spent navigating more majestic scenery as we departed the South of Chile and made our way through the Beagle Channel for clearance to Antarctica. Puerto Williams was where the ship made a quick stop for clearance and entered the Drake passage, also known as the 'Drake Shake'. We were all warned it would be rough, so pop your pills and tuck everything away. We were cautious, followed the advice, and were surprised at how uneventful it was and that we slept through the night! Thank you, Mother Nature. Join us for the grand finale, 'week 13' next week; after three months, we finally experience the big white continent of Antarctica.
- Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week 11
Inca History, Colonial Highlights & the Panama Canal - Chile, South America Week 11 of our 13-week Pole to Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions, we arrive into Chile and explore the coast. Day 71 - Arica, Chile Country 60! We are certainly increasing our countries visited! Today we arrived in Arica, Chile's northernmost city, only 18kms from Peru. A port town with a population of 220k and surrounded by the Atacama Desert (also known for where fast fashion goes to die). Near the centre of Arica, a path climbs up to Morro Arica hill, with sweeping views over the coastline. The landscape upon arriving in Northern Chile is a sea of arid scenery, the rich greenery we have left behind. You can feel the dust as you immerse yourself in the city and wonder about Summer; it feels challenging to escape. We were fortunate to catch a glimpse of some of the desert drawings 'the geoglyphs of the north Chilean desert'. We were on an excursion to taste the flavours of Arica; it started with a short drive exiting the city via the coastline and the enormous centrepiece, a large rock, to delve deeper into the desert to visit a local olive and tomato farm. With a quick stroll through the tomato vines, olive trees dating back over 100 years old, and a quick sample of homegrown olives, we enjoyed capturing some fun moments and settling into the peaceful oasis set up to soak up the morning sun. Next, we visited the local farmers market; we enjoyed perusing all the fresh produce and purchasing a vibrant bunch of lilies (USD5) to bring some joy to our home, our suite on the ship. A visit to a handicraft village followed the market, a replica of the Altiplanic town of Parinacota, located at 4390m high, and the commune of Putre, 200kms from Arica. We were offered a local Mango sour (which was incredibly sweet for our palate) and could peruse the craft shops. We strolled around quickly due to the desolate atmosphere and rested on the bus. Once all passengers were back on the bus, we were provided with a quick opportunity to explore the centre of Arica, which was filled with walking streets and eateries, along with a lovely church and a historic building that was the original customs house designed by none other than French architect Gustave Eiffel in metal and wood. We spent the afternoon relaxing on the ship, devouring more delights from Fredheim and spoilt by another magical sunset as we continued down the Chilean coastline to our next destination Iquique. Fun facts: Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous peoples of the Andes. In Inca mythology, she is an "Earth Mother" type goddess and a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. It does not rain in Arica; there is zero rainfall each year. The Chinchorro mummies, the oldest mummies in the world, were recovered from the Atacama Desert near Arica, dating around 7020 BCE. Chile's coastline is 6,435 km (4,000 miles) long. Day 72 - Iquique, Chile It was an early arrival into port, so the ship was as quiet as a mouse, as everyone was out and about on their excursions when we surfaced at about 9 am. Due to only having half a day in port, we opted out of the excursions as we didn't want to miss out on experiencing the life of now in Iquique by attending the historical-themed tour of the ghost town Humberstone, a UNESCO site, an old mining town with an alarming and sordid history, or the city highlights tour with a guide. Iquique is a coastal city in northern Chile, west of the Atacama Desert, home to 200k. A prosperous saltpeter mining town in the 19th century, today it's a popular holiday destination due to the crystal clear pacific beaches and a Spanish-influenced seafront casino. We did it Wayne and Sal style and made our way to the old city (via a complimentary shuttle bus, being in a working port, it isn't safe to wander into town by foot). We were dropped five minutes from the port in the historic district by the iconic 19th-century clock tower in Arturo Prat Square, the city's central plaza. Giving ourselves a high five as we were exactly where we had planned on foot, a beautiful pedestrian street called Baquedano. A walking street lined with shades of pastel-coloured colonial-era buildings, now all operating as bars, cafes and restaurants. The first cafe we spotted we were in to order our morning coffee to continue our stroll through the beautiful street. The coffee was delicious too! I think it was 4000 pesos, so USD 2 each. We made sure to withdraw local currency via an ATM in Arica to make life easier, although cards were accepted in most places. We loved our morning walk; the weather was just below 20, so perfect, enjoying a sensational coffee, and the coastal views as we reached the beaches. Making our way back up Baquedano, we were hoping to visit a local barber; the last tidy-up was in Canada, so looking a little shabby, but he was closed. We had put our sights on a funky bar below the barber earlier, so it was now mojito time instead; I am sure it was noon somewhere! We chatted away with our friendly bartender from Bolivia, listening intently to his inspiring story; his family immigrated to England and of nine children, they provided the youngest three the opportunity to study for ten years; now, he has returned and is in Chile studying Electrical engineering. We loved chatting and picking up the must-visit places when we made our way to Bolivia. We also enjoyed being in the moment and watching the local life. Our onboard time was approaching, so we wandered back through the local markets to be shuttled back to the ship. We arrived in time for a Lindstrom lunch for a scenic sail away as we left Iquique. A special afternoon tea followed lunch with the Pole-to-Pole guests in Lindstrom. We were treated to a delicious array of savoury and sweet snacks, including a Hungarian-style crepe smothered with chocolate; who could say no? After devouring all that delicious food, it was time to rest and enjoy an afternoon nap. Day 73 - At Sea, Chilean Coast Today was a relaxing day at sea soaking up the last of the sun for awhile, enjoying the views, dining, and playing the odd joke on our fellow passengers. We overheard our fellow passenger Iain order sorbet of the day. We took this as the perfect opportunity to play a joke. We quickly got the troops together, the lovely staff and asked them to play along. We decided on Salmon Sorbet, as it was a dish this evening. So they organised a little slice of cooked salmon on top of a scoop and innocently served to Iain with the commentary ‘Sorbet of the day is Salmon’ and placed the bowl before him. Iain’s expression was priceless, followed by a swift turn in our direction and we were all in fits of laughter. Thanks to the crew for playing along and Iain for being such a good sport, he even devoured the ‘Salmon sorbet of the day’. Thank you Iain. It definitely, brightened up everyone's day and filled us all with laughter, especially with you devouring it; maybe it's your new favourite? Day 74 - Coquimbo & La Serena, Chile Welcome to our third destination in Chile, bordered by the Atacama to the north, Valparaíso to the South, Argentina to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is approximately 400 kilometres north of the national capital, Santiago. We opted for the city highlights of Coquimbo and La Serena, a colonial city, so off we went on the waiting tour bus to explore the highlights of both. The locals commonly refer to Coquimbo city as a city of calm and tranquil waters. Pics through rose-coloured glasses (our bus had a pink tinge to the tinted windows). Our first stop was overlooking the ocean for a few pictures of the beach, meeting local dogs and the immense wildflowers, and continuing to horseshoe bay and the coast lined as we migrated into La Serena. It was an active ocean with waves becoming more prominent as we toured the road, a segment of Route 5, the longest highway of 48000km, taking you from the end of the world in Chile to Alaska. Unfortunately, the university called off visits for tourists last week, so we continued to the city centre, where we were given 20 minutes of free time to peruse the local arts and crafts markets. Wayne and I popped off to explore the city centre and the local life. Shortly after; we wandered back to the group, it was a little unsettling with a feeling of being watched walking around on our own. Next was a visit to the Archeological Museum in La Serena, home to the ancient Moai stone from Easter Island. A replica is currently being carved for the city of La Serena; once finished, this replica moai, carved by the best sculptors on the Island, will be given to the town in exchange for the historical moai that is currently in the Museum. As recorded in history, at the request of the then-President of Chile, Gabriel Gonzalez-Videla, the ancient moai was sent as a "gift" to La Serena in 1952 in gratitude. We all walked through the city to a park in the market and were then delivered back to the ship. The evening was spent over a farewell dinner with our lovely new friends (sorry, Gunnar and Marit, we missed you guys in the pic, but we will find our way to Tromsø), we will miss everyone, but new-found friendships have been made for when our paths cross again. Fun facts: One of the strongest earthquakes registered was in La Serena at 9.2 (we later found out there was a stronger one at 9.5 in Puerto Natales) Economic activity in Coquimbo is mining (copper, gold, silver, coal), fishing, and tourism is growing. La Serena is the second oldest city in Chile. Day 75 - Valparaíso, Chile This morning was disembarkation day for our fellow guests, and we had the morning to explore the city independently. We were first off to make the most of it and jumped on the shuttle bus to be transported to the port terminal and closer to the city. As we were dropped off, we were instructed to pass through a hidden door in the port, all so mysterious, but we popped out into the city and could explore the city on foot; this is a video of re-entering the port later in the day. Our priority was haircut; first, our last one was in Canada, so we were excited! We passed a barber as we walked; the young kids had the same priority, so it was bursting with a queue, so we planned to pop back on our return. We just roamed the streets, it was Saturday and market day, so it was buzzing with locals and vendors selling absolutely everything. We loved wandering around, enjoying a morning coffee and chatting with all the locals; everyone was friendly and loved to stop for a chat and a picture, especially the men at the fish market; we had a hoot. Today was about sampling some local Chilean food. We stumbled upon a food truck corner with a great setup, so we popped in and supported a few, along with our first empanadas; they all loved having some Aussie visitors, so we kept busy capturing the moments. Back to the terminal, making sure to stop in for a tidy up at the barber's; they were fantastic and trimmed our hair with perfection for USD 6; we left them with a little extra as we walked out feeling ten years younger and refreshed. The Pole to Pole guests and transit passengers were all treated to an afternoon winery tour and lunch, so we were excited. We were whisked away with a local guide and his lovely family, who happened to be Aussies from Chile, and we spent the afternoon catching up and reminiscing on the Aussie way of life; we loved it. The winery we visited was Casas del Bosque, which translates to 'Houses of the forest' and is Chile's No. 5 wine producer. The wine region is Casablanca, only 30 minutes from Valparaiso and could compete with the best of them. It was world-class, and the food and wine were exceptional. We finally got to try our first Pisco Sour; next time, we will skip the syrup; we love our drinks dry and sour. We all enjoyed a slow lunch relishing the afternoon in the fresh country air. We enjoyed escaping into this natural wonder for the afternoon, basking in the sun and learning about the wines of Chile, which were very impressive, and a special thank you to Daniel from DSH Wines for organising the winery experience and the special treat to take home. Around 7 pm, we were delivered back to the ship to prepare for the new segment; we had about 400 new friends. We are looking forward to the final leg of the 3-month cruise exploring the South of Chile and arriving in Antarctica. Day 76 & 77 - At Sea, Chilean Coast, South Pacific Ocean The last two days of 'Week 11' were spent at sea cruising the Chilean coast and approaching the channels and majestic fjords. A great two days relaxing, and enjoying the peaceful sea days. Wayne and I love these in-between days, although they are very easy to fill with meeting new passengers, catching up with fellow pole to polers and enjoying meals. We also love having fresh flowers in our room; they definitely brighten up our days at sea. All passengers are busy preparing for Antarctica, settling in for their new voyage and booking excursions. We are all hoping we are lucky enough to win the kayaking (approx 20-40 passengers will be selected) and snow walks during our landings. We have a high number of passengers at 400 and only limited spots for these experiences; of course, we hope Mother Nature is also on our side. Fingers crossed. Join us next week for more adventures in Chile as we explore the South.
- Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week ten
Inca History, Colonial Highlights & the Panama Canal - Ecuador, South America In week ten of our 13-week bucket list Pole to Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions, we embark on the West coast of South America (Note: Peru was cancelled due to COVID restrictions, if the ship had one positive case, she would have been quarantined for two weeks). Day 64 - Manta, Ecuador 'Week ten' kicks off with Country 59. Welcome to Ecuador. On our way this morning, the ship was surrounded by a pod of dolphins, a lovely warm welcome to Ecuador. We arrived early afternoon in Manta, a popular beach destination in Ecuador, home to 200,000 residents and the second largest port city in Ecuador. The beaches were sandy and vast along the coast, the city was clean, and the locals were all just as excited as us, and smiles, waves and hello's at every opportunity, the people of Ecuador warmed our hearts. Today we felt the nature vibe, so we opted for the paid excursion to a nearby forest. A small group of us were on the bus, heading 45 minutes out of the city to make our way to the enchanted Pacoche Forest. We passed through some rural villages where 'The Montecristi' is generationally sourced, prepared, and handmade. The Montecristi is known to most of us as the 'Panama Hat'. We have learned a significant 'fun fact' this week: the hats are actually from and made in Ecuador, referred to as 'The Montecristi', a small village in Ecuador (near Manta) where they are hand-crafted by artisans. One hat with the finest straw can take up to three months and sells for over $1k. As we passed through the villages, you could feel the locals' warmth and pride in their homes and environment; all were spotless and uncluttered. From Manta to Pacoche, you experience three distinct microclimates; a semi-arid desert with expansive beaches; a transition area of dry forest with vegetation to arrive into a misty, humid jungle. Pacoche is a National Reserve natural wonder with a unique regional flora and fauna diversity. We are joined by a local national naturist who guides us through the hidden gem whilst providing commentary on all flora and fauna. We enjoyed the calmness of the forest and the fresh misty air as we completed a short 45-minute trek, listening intently for the unique Howler Monkeys; it is home to about 900 monkeys. We were mesmerised as we heard their roar bellow through the forest. We were lucky to sight them in the treetops feeding. The territorial roar of the Howler Monkey is said to be the loudest sound made by any land animal in the world; it was quite an eerie experience. It was a very insightful trek with our guide Rinaldo; he was born and bred in the region, and his love for the natural wonder shined through. We picked up lots of fun facts about the healing qualities of many plants and the not-so-healing qualities of some that can lead to the bitter end. As dusk and the mist were settling in, we were back on the bus to the ship; we were all delighted with the lunchbox we were gifted with local goodies. They were all delicious, especially the banana crisps, a local Ecuadorian banana, and the chocolate! This evening was a beautiful sail away from our first destination in Ecuador, the city of Manta; it's always lovely sailing away from a sea of city lights. Fun Facts: Ecuador is a major exporter of bananas, coffee and chocolate. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador, because of their qualities to protect from the sun. From Panama, the hat was internationally known, and people began to call it 'Panama Hat' even though the place of origin is Ecuador. Ecuador is also home to the smallest hummingbird in the world, 3-5cm in height, called the 'Bee Hummingbird' The Montencristi hat is known to the world as the Panama hat, but in Ecuador, it is the Monticristi. The hat production is commonly generational; one will go to the forest to collect the straw, another will dry the straw, and one will make the hat. The process is all by hand. Ecuador is home to the tagua tree, which produces the corozo nut. It is an ivory nut that, when fresh, you can eat and drink from, like a mini coconut; once dried, it becomes hard and is used to make buttons; they are very durable. Much more friendly and sustainable than using elephant tusks and plastic. Day 65 - Puerto Bolivar & Machala, Ecuador Ecuador and the beautiful people of this country are winning us over! A magical day exploring another beautiful pocket of Ecuador. This morning was all about exploring the local cities, starting with the port town of Puerto Bolivar, followed by the city of Machala, home to 250,000. We started with a visit to the local market in Puerto Bolivar, full of fresh produce, butchers and all essentials. A local hotspot for the locals to enjoy coffee and lunch while they grocery shop, the market was filled with locals and the tunes of the local music. We roamed around, meeting all the stall holders and loved checking out the local foods and meeting the lovely people. This was followed by a short bus trip to Machala, where we were welcomed with a cultural dance show and then could peruse the market of more local goodies; we couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase the chocolate they are very well known for, being spoilt with samples of the coffee they produce too, we loved supporting them. We came away with a bag of goodies, a beautiful hand-painted hat for both of us, some delicious-smelling soaps, and a few gifts. We loved how each stall had a student describing the goods from an English-speaking school, we loved the energy and helping them converse in our mother language. Wayne didn't pass up the opportunity for to dance and joined the crew, who shared their local talents of the Pasillo dance. Next was a visit to the municipal centre, where we were to experience more cultural shows, more Pasillo dancing and the incredible talents of the Ecuadorians. After this, we visited a park surrounded by friendly locals, and we could enjoy a freshly made cocktail; mojito was our drink of choice, and Wayne and I felt at home; it was even on the house. We were continually impressed with the cleanliness and pride they all have in their city; the city streets were impeccable, and you could feel the love for visitors to their wonderful city. Everyone loved to chat and take a picture to capture our visit; it was so heartwarming. It was a morning of positive energy, smiles, and moments with the beautiful souls of Machala, a city we fell in love with. Thank you for having us and welcoming us into your world, we had a guide who shared his love of his home with us, and we left with a bounce in our step and very warm hearts. Fun facts: Puerto Bolivar is one of the world's most prominent shipment points for bananas, most of them destined for Europe; about 80% of Ecuador's banana production is shipped through these port facilities Ecuador'sEcuador's currency is the US dollar. Day 66 - Guayaquil, Ecuador Ecuador's incredibly kind and friendly people have continued to capture our hearts. We are grateful we had the opportunity to visit Guayaquil, our last destination in Ecuador. We are smitten with only three destinations in this magical country, an undiscovered gem in Latin America. Docking in this morning, we were surrounded by the greenest mangroves on the edge of a large city, encapsulating 3.2 million Ecuadorians. It could easily have been the Capital City, which I believe was in the running initially with Quito. We couldn't miss the opportunity of being surrounded by the locals again; the energy they share with the world around them is infectious. So we opted for the 'City highlights' excursion, which was also included, so no additional cost. I think most of us opted for the same, so we were all packed into the buses for a half-day trip around Guayaquil. First was the Notre Dame-style cathedral in the city's heart and the park, which you could nearly mistake for a zoo. It was full of Iguanas roaming around, turtles and fish populating the pond. It was wonderful. Following this, we had a short walk to another square, where we were in awe of the gracious architecture; the buildings were stunning. As we walked, we were accompanied by the local police on bikes, not due to safety concerns, but more of a hospitable approach and welcoming us to their city. The rest of the passengers visited a museum, so this was our perfect opportunity to sneak away and experience life in Ecuador. We found a nearby coffee shop and quickly ordered a local coffee, which was delicious, another of their primary exports. Our lovely friend Alex, a local policeman accompanying the tour, also joined us for a coffee and the lovely cafe owner gifted us her homemade cake, which we all relished; it was divine! After our 15 minutes of freedom, we raced back to blend in with the tour and continued on the journey of learning about the history of Guayaquil. Our guide Allan then led us to a beautiful beachside esplanade, another museum, where we spent the time chatting with the locals and capturing moments. We then wandered into the old Spanish town. You instantly felt like you were back in Europe; the vibe was inspiring with the bright, colourful buildings, art galleries and boutique hotels. After spending the morning in Guayaquil, we were ready to add this to our list. We would love to come back and explore more and support all the local restaurants, cafes and bars. Ecuador is a hidden gem; you are guaranteed to leave a piece of yourself in this beautiful, warm and gentle part of the world. Fun facts: Ecuador has a population of 18 million; both Quito and Guayaquil have approx 3m Ecuador is the first country to give rights to nature - you can go to prison for harming or capturing a protected species. Guayaquil's main exports are Cacao beans, seaport services, bananas, and oil. Ecuador cacao beans were Queen Elizabeth II's first choice for making chocolate for the royal family. Recently Ecuador has started producing high-quality chocolate, sold at a premium. Guayaquil is the gateway to Galapagos Islands. Colombia and Ecuador have the world's highest number of species of birds. As we sailed away this evening, a beautiful sky joined us, with the local fisherman feeding the birds to bid us farewell. Day 67, 68, 69 & 70 - At Sea, South Pacific Ocean After a magical start to the week exploring Ecuador, we set sail for four days to make our way to Chile, bypassing Peru after some stringent COVID restrictions on cruise ships. We used this time to share the love of Ecuador on social media to help the local businesses and thank them for their warm hospitality and beautiful products. Sea days are always full of dining; here is a selection of the meals we enjoyed over the four days at sea in Lindstrom. We were treated to champagne and pizza one evening for the Pole to Polers, which of course, is always a welcome addition, and nice to enjoy some new cuisines. Afternoons were filled with the beautiful voice and music of the pianist, the lovely Julio from Brazil. We celebrated special anniversaries, birthdays, and dinners with our wonderful fellow passengers in the lovely Lindstrom, sharing travel, life stories, laughter and creating friendships; it was always inspiring. During one of the days, the ship came across a whale carcass; they slowed down and inched closer for us all to observe the bird life; it was quite eerie and hard to forget the stench. Always sad when we come across them, but the circle of life continues. We were also treated to a pre-dinner show one evening with the dolphins dancing around the ship, they were everywhere, and it was gorgeous! We were followed down the Peruvian coast by extraordinary sunsets that filled the sky with magnificent pastels during our sea days. Fun fact: Cheers in Norway, 'Skål' has a fascinating back story. It derives from thousands of years before the Vikings and refers to actual skulls with the top cut-off used as a drinking vessel to drink from. Thanks to our fellow Norwegian friends for the fun fact.
- Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week nine
Tropical Waters and Remote Island Communities in the Caribbean - Colombia & Panama. 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 and fulfiled a bucket list item, the Panama Canal. Day 57 - At Sea, Caribbean Sea The most eventful item today 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 full, so 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 now surround us, filling you with a sense of 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 still 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 cooler 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 to take 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 very resilient, and I know it will be back to its full glory soon. Our goal was to find a local establishment to support for 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; not being black coffee drinkers, we were a little sceptical, but Seth was spot on, and it was incredible! Thank you, Seth! We started our return to the tender, fortunately, found a shuttle going by, 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! 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 a few cocktails, meeting more fellow passengers, and sharing their stories of the day. 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'sSeth's known for its coral reefs and reggae music, which is 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 try to nab a seat by the open air. Once on the island, a free shuttle was there to take you the 30 mins 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 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 easily 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 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 sea 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 sanity check on the health of the water. , Day 60 - Bocas del Toro, Panama A busy week of counting new countries for these two slow travellers, last year we visited six countries and 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! A new country, the ship and passengers, needed to be cleared; after a few hours, we were across to explore 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, so a perfect destination for digital nomads. We bar-hopped our way 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 a few 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. We enjoyed a drink with the lovely Emilie from Hurtigruten, with her boundless positive energy and fellow passengers and headed back to the ship to make our way to Colon. Day 61 - Colon, Panama This morning was disembarkation day; we woke to a very peaceful ship as all guests had checked out to explore Panama City and to travel home. The Pole to Pole guests were fortunate to be on an organised excursion of Colon, which we were grateful for, as after researching online, it isn't recommended to do it independently. Below is the local prison, which was in very dire conditions, but a reflection of reality today in the city of Colon. For a city home to the Panama Canal with a revenue of approximately 15 million per day. Colón is a city and seaport in Panama, on the Caribbean Sea, near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal; it has traditionally been known as Panama's second city. The vast Colón Free Trade Zone offers tax-free shopping, and there are over 3000 stores in a nearby pocket of the city. It is the distribution centre of all goods for South America. A bus was waiting to take us on an excursion of popular sites near Colon. With Carlos, our guide and Jorge keeping us safe on the road, we drove through the streets of the outskirts of Colon. Seeing the reality of the living conditions for the people and the city was quite disheartening. Carlos was describing to us only yesterday the areas we were going through were one metre underwater, so they were dealing with the remnants of the flooding. First up was a surprise visit to the Northern entrance of the Panama Canal, Gatun Lock, where they have a visitor centre and viewing platform to watch the ships in transit. We were all very excited to hear one was leaving the last chamber and another entering the first. We got the whole experience from the viewing platform, the chamber gates opening and closing, and seeing the power of gravity as the water rises and releases in the lock chambers. It was genuinely fascinating, especially as we would all experience the transit on our ship the following day. Information overload as we learned all about the Panama Canal and the country of Panama, here are some fun facts below. As we were heading back to the bus, we were surprised to see we had a visitor out front, a Coatis, which is part of the racoon family. He was familiar with having humans in his presence, so we all took the opportunity to snap some pics of our first Coatis sightings. Next, we visited Fort San Lorenzo. To access the fort, you drive through an abandoned US army training base during the Vietnam War, a dense jungle rainforest and mangroves, hearing stories about the crocodiles who cross the roads at night to hunt; therefore, no night walking is recommended unless you are keen on being their appetiser, to also the road we travelled on being nicknamed 'crunch road' when the crabs are migrating, as millions come to the area to do so. It becomes impossible to avoid them as you drive through. We arrived at an 18th-century, well-preserved colonial military structure within half hour. UNESCO seaside ruins with sweeping views of the mouth of the Chagres river. We strolled through the historic site and admired the panoramic views. We even came across an army of very disciplined little ants delivering food and shelter to their home. The little things, we were all enthralled by the ant's trail. Upon leaving, we were also treated to another Coatis visitor as we departed. Carlos was an excellent guide; the insights he shared were just the right amount, and we picked up many fun facts. We were whisked back to the ship whilst getting a drive-by tour of Colon and the sites; also advised to steer clear and stay in our bubble of safety on the ship. A fantastic morning, a bucket list item was checked off, and after a quick duty-free shop, we were back in the safety of our floating home for a delicious lunch at Fredheim. Our new fellow passengers were embarking, and everyone was excited to kick off their vacation. They have all been an absolute delight onboard, sharing travel stories and the new segment as we explore the West Coast of South America. Fun facts: Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador; more on this next week Until 1979, Colon was part of America. US citizens can retire back in Colon and receive 20 years tax-free. 80% of Panama City is Chinese due to the building of the railway, and 80% of Colon is from Barbados and Jamaica due to the canal. Every little town has a different influence. Ships transiting through the canals pay for all containers/cabins, irrespective if occupied or empty. On average, it is 350k per ship to transit the canal. The canals make an average of 12-15 million a day in revenue, and the minimum wage is $600 per month. A dry canal refers to offloading containers in port and then using rail to transit the cargo, and another ship waits to collect on the other side to continue the move. Some companies want to save dollars, so they opt for a dry canal. Panama Canal was inaugurated in 1914; for 85 years, the US operated and had government control. In 1999 the canal was transferred to Panama; they now operate and manage the route; a new lock was built to transport more cargo and more than 40,000 workers to make, and the larger canal was inaugurated in 2016. The old canal does not recycle water; the new one uses the same water three times, then refreshed to avoid pollution and only recycles in the dry season. Fifty-two million gallons of water are released from the lake each transit in the old canal. Up to 10,000 people work in the the canal today; best salaries in Panama are from the canal; the top level is 500k a year for pilots. The locals of Colon are now making their home kitchen a restaurant, cooking up home feasts for people to enjoy for a small cost, eat healthily and support local businesses since COVID. Day 62 - Panama Canal Transit Today was the transit through the Panama Canal, an experience both Wayne and I have had on our bucket list for over 15 years. We booked a cruise back in 2009 but decided to change our plans and postponed the cruise (which never eventuated). We were advised we would enter the first Gatun Lock (the Atlantic exit) at 8.45 am, so we set the alarm and were up and ready. The ship was on schedule, and we commenced our entry into the first chamber (as we are a smaller ship, the old canal chambers were for us), there were three in total, and we were supported by a tug boat at the front and rear, along with the mules (locomotive trains). It takes about one hour to go through the three chambers as you experience the waters in the chambers using the force of gravity to raise you and bring you to the same level so we can continue on our transit to the South Pacific. The day was spent cruising through the Panama Canal, luscious green jungle scenery for the next five hours. We enjoyed this from Lindstrom, followed by our balcony; it was warm and humid but a once-in-a-lifetime experience; we captured lots of videos and pictures! We arrived at Miraflores Lock (the Pacific entrance) around 5 pm, and the same process to enter, lower and exit the chambers; this was perfect timing to call my Mum and Dad in Australia, who also wanted to share this moment with us, they were also able to enjoy it over the wifi. However, some video images were blurry but didn't ruin the moment. Once through the last of chambers, we had completed the entry into the Pacific Ocean; it was a beautiful evening, blessed with a vivid and colourful sunset, over a backdrop of ships all waiting their turn to cross into the Atlantic Ocean. After experiencing the Panama Canal locks from both outside and inside the ship, we felt the visit to watch the ships transit the locks was much more enjoyable; once on the ship, it is difficult to understand the full power of the process due to visibility, but all the same, we loved having the opportunity to experience both sides. Our lovely team spoiled us again this evening, and we enjoyed our dinner in the suite. A special thank you to our dear Aries and the team in Lindstrom. Day 63 - At Sea, Crossing the Equator, Ecuador Week nine finished with the crossing of the Equator from the North to the South Pacific Ocean. The sun was shining, and we were all treated to the Equator crossing ritual during the afternoon. The ceremony is a long-standing tradition of initiation that commemorates a sailor's first time crossing the Equator. King Neptune, the Captain in this case and the team all came out in preparation for the baptism. King Neptune is said to be the ruler of the seas, and this entire shindig is orchestrated to appease the King by showing him respect, keeping a sailor away from the perils of the sea and bringing good luck. We all queued up for the tradition, and Wayne, of course, was first; we were baptised with a splash of ice and bright red liquid (just food dye) and a refreshing spray from the fire hose as we crossed the Equator by the Captain and crew. It was definitely much easier than the Arctic Circle crossing, where the ice-cold water and ice ceremoniously drizzled down our backs in a few degrees! Everyone was energised and enjoyed the moment, with lots of laughter. There is a renewed energy on the ship for the new leg as we embark on our Ecuador and Chile segment. Unfortunately, Peru has been skipped due to local restrictions for COVID, which is outside of Hurtigruten's control, but it will always be there for another time. The poor expedition team were the ones who copped the worst of it, being their first time to experience the crossing. We followed this with the captain's welcome in the lounge and a meet and greet with the new members of the crew who have joined us for the next South American segment. Dinner was next, and we celebrated the lovely Barbara's 69th birthday; she joined us with her hubby for the new leg with the team. Smiles all around. We all retired early and prepared for our new destination, Manta, Ecuador, and our 59th country. We can't wait to share 'week ten' as we explore the undiscovered gem of Ecuador.
- Panama Canal - Panama
It was fascinating, especially as we experienced the visitor centre of the Gatun Locks chambers of the Panama Canal from the shore the day prior in Colon. Fun facts: Until 1979, Colon was part of America. US citizens can retire back in Colon and receive 20 years tax-free. 80% of Panama City is Chinese due to the railway building, and 80% of Colon is from Barbados and Jamaica due to the canal. Every little town has a different influence. Ships transiting through the canals pay for all containers/cabins, whether occupied or empty. On average, it is 350k per ship to transit the canal. The canals make an average of 12-15 million daily in revenue, and the minimum wage is $600 monthly. A dry canal refers to offloading containers in port and then using rail to transit the cargo, and another ship waits to collect on the other side to continue the move. Some companies want to save dollars and opt for a dry canal. Panama Canal was inaugurated in 1914; for 85 years, the US operated and had government control. In 1999 the canal was transferred to Panama; they now operate and manage the route; a new lock was built to transport more cargo and more than 40,000 workers to make, and the larger canal was inaugurated in 2016. The old canal does not recycle water; the new one uses the same water three times, then refreshed to avoid pollution and only recycles in the dry season. Fifty-two million gallons of water are released from the lake each transit in the old canal. Up to 10,000 people work in the canal today; the best salaries in Panama are from the canal; the top level is 500k a year for pilots. Panama Canal Transit Today was the transit through the Panama Canal, an experience both Wayne and I have had on our bucket list for over 15 years. We booked a cruise in 2009 but decided to change our plans and postponed the cruise (which never eventuated). We were advised we would be entering Gatun Lock (the Atlantic exit) at 8.45 am, so we set the alarm and were up and ready. The ship was on schedule, and we commenced our entry into the first chamber (as we are a smaller ship, the old canal chambers were for us); there were three in total, and we were supported by a tug boat at the front and rear, along with the mules (locomotive trains). It takes about one hour to go through the three chambers as you experience the waters in the chambers using the force of gravity to raise you and bring you to the same level so we can continue our transit to the South Pacific. The day was spent cruising through the Panama Canal, luscious green jungle scenery for the next five hours. We enjoyed this from Lindstrom Restaurant on the ship, followed by our balcony; it was warm and humid but a once-in-a-lifetime experience; we captured many videos and pictures! We arrived at Miraflores Lock (the Pacific entrance) around 5 pm, and the same process to enter, lower and exit the chambers; this was perfect timing to call my Mum and Dad in Australia, who also wanted to share this moment with us, they were also able to enjoy it over the wifi. However, some video images were blurry but didn't ruin the moment. Once through the last of chambers, we had completed the entry into the Pacific Ocean; it was a beautiful evening, blessed with a vivid and colourful sunset, over a backdrop of ships all waiting their turn to cross into the Atlantic Ocean. After experiencing the Panama Canal locks from both outside and inside the ship, we felt the visit to watch the ships transit the locks was much more enjoyable; once on the ship, it is difficult to understand the full power of the process due to visibility, but all the same, we loved having the chance to experience both sides.
- Colon - Panama
As Pole to Pole guests on Hurtigruten Expeditions, we were fortunate to be on an organised excursion of Colon before the Panama Canal transit, which we were grateful for, as after researching online, it isn't recommended to do it independently. Below is the local prison, which was in dire conditions but reflects today's reality in Colon, for a city home to the Panama Canal with a revenue of approximately 15 million per day. Colón is a city and seaport in Panama, on the Caribbean Sea, near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal; it has traditionally been known as Panama's second city. The vast Colón Free Trade Zone offers tax-free shopping, and there are over 3000 stores in a nearby pocket of the city. It is the distribution centre of all goods in South America. A bus awaited us on an excursion to popular sites near Colon. With Carlos, our guide and Jorge keeping us safe on the road, we drove through the streets of the outskirts of Colon. Seeing the reality of the living conditions for the people and the city was quite disheartening. Carlos was describing to us only yesterday the areas we were going through were one metre underwater, so they were dealing with the remnants of the flooding. First up was a surprise visit to the Northern entrance of the Panama Canal, Gatun Lock, where they have a visitor centre and viewing platform to watch the ships in transit. We were excited to hear one was leaving the last chamber and another entering the first. We got the whole experience from the viewing platform, the chamber gates opening and closing, and seeing the power of gravity as the water rises and releases in the lock chambers. It was genuinely fascinating, especially as we would all experience the transit on our ship the following day. Information overload As we learned all about the Panama Canal and the country of Panama, here are some fun facts below. As we were heading back to the bus, we were surprised to see a visitor out front, a Coatis, part of the racoon family. He was familiar with having humans in his presence, so we all took the opportunity to snap some pics of our first Coatis sightings. Next, we visited Fort San Lorenzo. To access the fort, you drive through an abandoned US Army training base during the Vietnam War, a dense jungle rainforest and mangroves, hearing stories about the crocodiles who cross the roads at night to hunt; therefore, no night walking is recommended unless you are keen on being their appetiser, to also the road we travelled on being nicknamed 'crunch road' when the crabs are migrating, as millions come to the area to do so. It becomes impossible to avoid them as you drive through. We arrived at an 18th-century, well-preserved colonial military structure within half an hour. UNESCO seaside ruins with sweeping views of the mouth of the Chagres River. We strolled through the historic site and admired the panoramic views. We even encountered an army of disciplined little ants delivering food and shelter to their home. The little things, we were all enthralled by the ant's trail. Upon leaving, we were also treated to another Coatis visitor as we departed. Carlos was an excellent guide; his insights were just the right amount, and we picked up many fun facts. We were whisked back to the ship whilst getting a drive-by tour of Colon and the sites; also advised to steer clear and stay in our bubble of safety on the ship. A fantastic morning, a bucket list item was checked off, and after a quick duty-free shop, we were back in the safety of our floating home for a delicious lunch at Fredheim. Our new fellow passengers were embarking, and everyone was excited to kick off their vacation. They have all been an absolute delight onboard, sharing travel stories and the new segment as we explore the West Coast of South America.
- Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week eight
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 windy.com 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.