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Everything posted by kaisatsu

  1. By your fellow campers? They usually head out after dinner and return before breakfast. Usually there’s no reason to resort to cannibalism.
  2. Will residents of Norway be allowed to enter the US by then? We have been planning a cruise with my family but have had to cancel it twice so far, since Norwegian residents still aren’t allowed into the US without first spending two weeks in someplace like Mexico.
  3. I’ve never seen moleskin in particular recommended. All of the recommendations I’ve seen are to wear moisture-wicking base and mid-layers and then a waterproof windproof outer shell. The most common fabric recommendation I see is wool. There are a lot of expedition staff who are starting to turn away from synthetics entirely because of the pollution created by the micropolymers that enter the water system during washing (especially when laundering fleece midlayers). It’s possible that this may play a part in the recommendations for right-weave cotton as an alternative to synthetics.
  4. I agree with hallasm. If they’re selling this as a “Norwegian fjords” cruise, they’re being disingenuous. The Norwegian coast is beautiful (the Hurtigruten coastal voyage has been a popular trip for a reason), but most of the coastal ports are not deep in the fjords (for obvious logistical reasons). As a tourist, this could be an interesting trip if you want to explore some of the smaller and less-visited bits of Norway. However, if it is your first time visiting, it skips all of the typical highlights. Not even Bergen (which isn’t a fjord port)!
  5. Book an independent excursion in Longyearbyen if there isn’t anything offered by the cruiseline. It is a tiny town and you can’t legally leave the town limits due to the polar bear threat. Often cruiselines don’t offer excursions (because outfitters are small and limited), so look at private options on VisitSvalbard.com There are hikes, kayaking, small boat trips for birdwatching, etc. The museum in town is interesting but doesn’t take more than an hour or so, and it is typically mobbed in the morning by cruise visitors.
  6. 5 May is quite early for a lot of summer-season activities, so I’m not sure they’d be open yet. I’ve seen some other sites mention a late-May opening, but your best bet is probably to drop them an email and ask. https://www.kollensvevet.no/apningstider#contact
  7. We did a similar van tour one night when we were staying in Tromsø for a weekend. I definitely recommend it over the bus tours, because they tend to go farther afield. The night that we went, it was completely clouded over nearly all the way to the Swedish border, including the spots where most of the buses stop. The van driver was tracking the cloud cover and we ended up alongside one other van in an area where the clouds were broken up. Sadly, we were unlucky that night and had only the briefest moment of activity. (Thankfully we had been luckier the night before with clear skies over Tromsø and moderate auroral activity. So we just walked over to Mandelasletta and were able to enjoy them from there.)
  8. Most of the southern ocean can be rough, so to and from South Georgia could potentially be pretty rough. But again, like the Drake, it could also be calm. Once you start heading north for BA, the trend is a lot calmer. Also, if you're sailing north from the Falklands towards Buenos Aires, watch the horizon at night for the kind of glow you'd get from city lights. North of the Falklands along the continental shelf is a prime fishing location for the massive squid fleet. They use extremely powerful lights to attract the squid, and we were able to see them glowing in the distance from hundreds of miles away! It was truly eerie to see glowing lights in the middle of the ocean knowing there was no land around!
  9. If your primary goal is the Northern Lights, I would definitely consider a land-based trip over a cruise. First and foremost, seeing the aurora requires a clear sky. On land, especially in an area like Tromsø with several small localized weather systems, even if the weather isn’t behaving, you can travel elsewhere to someplace nearby with clear skies. This is why if you do opt for a cruise, having an overnight or two in a prime location is essential. Second, if you’re planning to try to photograph them, you need a very long exposure. On a ship, it can be hard to maintain stillness long enough for a clear shot. Even if the ship isn’t moving, the small movements and mechanical vibrations can have an impact. That said, the best display I’ve gotten to see happened to be on a cruise! We did an expedition cruise in Northeast Greenland in September, and the staff had an hourly rotation al night to watch for the lights, making announcements when they appeared. Since we were directly under the aurora band for a full week, we expected to get to see them at least once. Luckily, we ended up with three nights of activity, including one that was particularly strong. Another thing to add: Remember that the lights look very different to the naked eye than they do in photos. Most displays in Northern Europe are a very pale greenish white, which ends up looking much more vibrant green in photos. Under strong conditions you can see more of the pink and purple colors appear. But the movement and dancing are indescribable. As is having a wide band of lights stretching overhead in an expanse that can’t be captured in standard photos.
  10. Germany enjoying its green status!
  11. This is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. Would you rather visit the Norwegian fjords or some smaller less-visited Baltic cities? Is there a particular reason that you only want to visit the fjords if you can go to Flåm? The ports you listed seem like a pretty solid fjord offering. Honestly, the sail-in/-out from Geiranger is much more dramatic than the one to Flåm. The more dramatic steep-walled fjord near Flåm is actually the Nærøyfjord, ending at the nearby town of Gudvangen. Flåm itself is on a wider arm of Sognefjord, and most of the cruising time on the way in/out is spent in the large stretch of Sognefjord. On a larger ship, you really only see the UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord if you take a separate fjord cruise while you're in port. The Flåm railway is fun, but not significantly different from mountain railways elsewhere (the valley turns behind a hill, so you don't really have fjord views on the way up). Cycling down from the other end of the railway is special, but having visited both places more than once, I still like Geiranger more. Especially when there are cruise crowds in town, since it's easier to get off the beaten path.
  12. Oslo has some kid-friendly options. A highlight might be the open-air Folk Museum, which often has live reenactors during the summer months. https://norskfolkemuseum.no/en A lot of kids have fun at Vigelands Park recreating the crazy poses of the statues, though 3 and 5 may be a bit young for that. (FYI - The statues are all completely nude if that's an issue.) The city's visitor info site has a page dedicated to visiting with children: https://www.visitoslo.com/en/your-oslo/children/
  13. I did this after my first trip. I had tickets home from Buenos Aires, but then I needed to be in Rio that week for work, so I changed my ticket. Since it was a work trip, I probably had the company travel agency book it, but it’s not hard to do yourself. Rio-BA is a well-trafficked local tourist route. In fact, my boyfriend flew down from Rio roundtrip for a few days before my trip to see me. Using an online flight search like kayak will help you find which airlines fly the route. Then you can book directly with the airline website or with an online flight agent (Orbitz, etc). As for hotel and activities, that depends on your travel style and the amount of research you want to do. There are some serious safety concerns in the city, so you need to stay in the right areas and avoid unsafe situations. Most of the beaten tourist track is fine during the daytime, but stick to safer neighborhoods at night. Ipanema is a good choice for safety and location (slightly safer than Copacabana, where you shouldn’t venture much farther north than the Copacabana Palace Hotel after dark). Avoid shared taxi vans. Beyond safety, don’t travel up to the Christ statue at Corcovado on a day that you can’t see it through the clouds (because it’s not SO interesting without the view). Try lots of things at the juice stands, especially ciriguela, acerola, and soursop (graviola), if you haven’t tried them. Pineapple with mint (abacaxi com hortelão) is another of my favorites. And try the open empadas at the Boteca Belmonte on the west side of Praça General Osório in Ipanema. It looks a bit of a dive and is overrun during football matches, but they are so good. Especially the carne seca with catupiry. Sorry! Got carried away there! I’m overdue for a trip to Brazil due to the pandemic.
  14. Keep in mind that Ushuaia is a cruise port on its own, serving cruises that embark from the surrounding countries. And Tierra del Fuego has its own health and environment restrictions when arriving from elsewhere in Argentina (Ushuaia closed for ship arrivals a week before Buenos Aires at the start of the pandemic). It’s a promising first step, but we still need to watch Argentinian border rules and flight logistics.
  15. The sail between Hellesylt and Geiranger is splendid and not to be missed. If you do not want to stay up for the sail-out, I would skip the all-day excursion and choose the sail-in. There is some beautiful land around Geiranger, but the highlight really is the fjord. I’d personally plan to enjoy the sail-in and then opt for an excursion that will get you up to the hills for the higher vantage point (Dalsnibba or one of the other overlooks). The fjord is beautiful in a very different way from these higher perspectives. I’ve cruised into Geiranger multiple times now, and I never get tired of it. I typically take photos from the upper decks where I can easily move from one side to the other. But I like to enjoy the sail-out from an aft hot tub leaning back and looking up at the towering fjord walls! It’s a beautiful way to relax after a full port day getting up into the hills!
  16. The expedition companies are hopeful and I’ve seen crew for some have been vaccinated and started to be called back, but none of the expedition staff seem to have clear contracts. The big risk is the situation in Argentina. There has been talk of operating out of Punta Arenas instead, but they can’t handle the same number of ships as Ushuaia. The sentiment I’ve heard throughout the industry is that fingers are still crossed for late season, but no one seems to expect the season to start on time (if at all).
  17. @Sailkeywest Have you looked at GAdventures? Their Antarctica Classic trips for the 22/23 season are around the same price for mid-season. They're only 11 days, but the MS Expedition is smaller than Hondius, and since they sail with a slightly reduced capacity and have a separate kayak program, they can usually put everyone ashore at once. They also have a similarly-priced 13-day trip (Antarctica Classic in Depth) that runs a bit earlier than peak season. It looks like they're running that one as late as early December, which is well into main season these days. Having been down with both Oceanwide and GAdventures, I'd say that they're quite similar experiences on a typical trip like this one.
  18. Personally? Nope. $11,000 pp (assuming USD) is a very healthy budget. You can easily go mid-season on a <200pax ship for that. I’ve even seen trips that include South Georgia for that price. Since it sounds like you aren’t specifically interested in this time of year or itinerary, I would hold out for another season. Sign up for all the mailing lists of the operators you’re interested in, and watch for early booking discounts when itineraries are first posted (typically Jan-Mar). Normally late bookings are also more discounted, but the upcoming trips are all flooded with additional people from the canceled 2020-21 season. Late March will typically be getting cooler, but there really isn’t a huge swing in temperature throughout the season. You’ll see more below-freezing temps than in mid-summer, but for the most part the averages are still above -5°C during the day at either end of the cruise season. And honestly temperature doesn’t make a huge difference as a passenger. My last trip (much farther south on the Ross Sea side) had a landing on a day that was -25°C. I wore extra socks and the warmest layers that I typically only use on zodiac cruises, and I was fine. (I cannot say the same for the expedition staffer driving the zodiac back and forth! He was a human icicle.) As for deposits and booking procedures, travel agents often have slightly different terms and prices. It could be worth asking the expedition company if they can honor the offer you’re finding elsewhere. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  19. They do look pretty cool! I think it will be a few years before I can take a trip that long! My last expedition was 30 days, and I thought that was a logistical challenge even before we tacked on an unexpected extra 10 days (due to Covid port closures). If I ever do a repositioning expedition (intentionally), I want to do the mid-Atlantic and visit Tristan da Cunha. I’d really love to make it to Inaccessible Island. I mentioned this to an expedition staffer once, only to have him break out in a huge grin telling me proudly that he has landed on Inaccessible Island.
  20. This depends on the exchange rate. I booked my Hurtigruten trip in the US when the NOK suddenly weakened and saved quite a bit. But especially for the Norwegian coastal voyages, yes, the Norwegian prices are often lower.
  21. I haven’t seen anything around $5000 in years (aside from the mega ships with no landings). If it’s possible to save up a bit more, you can find some last-minute or early-booking deals around $7000 on an expedition ship. And if you can find some friends to join, booking a quad or triple cabin can save a few $K!
  22. There are a few but you would need to research and book this well in advance. It’s not particularly common given the high cost of labor. A lot of people choose completely DIY activities planned on their own, since Norway is a fairly easy place to navigate in English. There’s plenty of information on the board about Olden and Ålesund, but the others are much less visited by cruise travelers. It’s a bit of an unusual itinerary, with calls at lots of small coastal towns and only one fjord port (Olden).
  23. You’ll pretty much always “get through to Antarctica.” In early season trips, there may be some landing sites that are still iced in, but you’ll still reach the continent (and almost certainly land in a few places). We missed a few landings on my November trip because the ice hadn’t broken up yet, but we were able to make quite a few landings (including a continental landing for the purists who won’t count an island a few hundred meters off the mainland). However, later in the season still isn’t a guarantee that you’ll make all of your landings. On my December trip, we still missed a landing simply because some brash ice had been blown against shore by the winds, so the zodiacs couldn’t reach shore. On a late-season Weddell Sea trip, you’re actually a lot more at the whim of sea ice than most earlier itineraries. The Weddell Sea is notorious for its tricky ice conditions. One of the few ships to be actually iced in recently was doing a Weddell Sea trip. They spent a few days before they were able to get free and move on. Some of the passengers thought it was a great adventure, but obviously others were frustrated to “miss” a few days of the trip. I would think this is an even bigger risk on a late-season trip, since the sea ice may be starting to reform. We got to see this last year when we were extremely far south in early March, and the varying pancake ice was incredible! But the changing ice conditions did have a huge impact on our trip. In general, the details of an Antarctica trip are almost completely irrelevant. The only details that matter are the ship size, the length, the time of year, and the general area. Once you’re in the area, the expedition leader will make calls about where to go based on conditions. They will always do their best to make the best trip possible given the options. If you like the idea of a complete adventure where you have no idea what to expect, the Weddell Sea trip is a great choice! Just take people’s personal experiences with a grain of salt, because your trip may be very different! If you’ve never been down before, the rotation during landings probably won’t bother you much. I have been on the same ~200 passenger ship (and trip by coincidence) as people who have no complaints about rotates landings. Having already been to some of the same areas on a smaller ship, I did feel more rushed. I assume that I wouldn’t have noticed it if I didn’t have anything to compare it to.
  24. Mid-March is VERY late season. Most of the penguin colonies will have started clearing out. They say that there are statistically more whale sightings in the late season, though. I love the Weddell Sea with its massive tabular icebergs and think this trip could be interesting for the ice watching, but if you’re looking for wildlife it may not be the best choice. I suspect that since this is an end-of-season itinerary, they’re using the opportunity to explore a little and go to places they don’t visit as often. So if you prefer ice to animals and are happy to see where the trip takes you with no expectations, it could be a lot of fun! However, if you are looking for a more traditional trip with classic landing sites and nesting penguins, you could easily be disappointed. For me personally, since I’ve had plenty of penguins and traditional landings, I would definitely consider it. My only reservation is that the Hondius is a bigger ship than I like, so she has to rotate landings to keep the numbers down. I definitely prefer Ortelius and Plancius for the size, but I’ve heard from friends who’ve worked on Hondius that she’s lovely!
  25. Nearly all zodiac landings are wet. Most of the time you’ll be stepping out into ankle-deep water. In tougher conditions you might end up in up to your knees, which is why the waterproof pants are important and should be worn over your boots. The water presses the pants against the boot, so it forms a seal that will keep you dry long enough to step to shore. These days most companies use either Muck Arctic boot or a similar model from Bogs for their expedition boots. I have fairly wide calves, but since they carry men’s/unisex boots, I don’t have as much trouble as I do with women’s boots. Especially since I need to size up 2-3 sizes to fit my thick wool sock layers comfortably (too-tight boots are a recipe for cold toes). Is there a shop you could visit that stocks Muck or Bogs boots that you could try them on and see if any would fit? Or a website that you could order and return? Although insulated boots are the norm these days, my first trip used uninsulated thick rubber wellies. I sized up a lot and layered a second pair of wool socks under my Smartwool expedition socks, and I was warm enough even on long zodiac rides or low-activity landings. Since there’s a lot more availability in simple rubber boots, that could be an option. And one final stopgap is too look at shorter height boots. You might want to clear this with the expedition company, but I have seen someone on one of my trips use a mid-ankle boot she brought due to difficult shoe sizing. It was fine for most of the landings. And when we needed to wade across a stream in South Georgia, she just changed into a pair of regular expedition boots that were way too big for her to walk around in but got her to the other side of the stream.
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