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Hebridean Princess is on the dream travel list

Places to Travel Next.

By the QuirkyCruise crew.

Many of us miss the ability to travel right now; to plan, book, dream, pine and take a trip with the ease that now seems unimaginable. For those of us who not only traveled for the love of exploring, but because we’re travel writers doing our jobs, it’s been especially trying to adjust to the new normal. We will travel again and are heartened to see travel bubbles emerging. The gradual return to small-ship cruising is on the horizon.

In the meantime, we can plan and dream and noodle on places to travel, and that’s exactly what Ted and I and our quirky contributors are doing.

Here are three places each of us is hankering to go to as soon as the coast is clear.

Ted Scull

I am based in New York City, and my hopes for travel are widely varied as they always have been.

1.  I have contracts, with Cunard, renewed on an annual basis, to serve as a lecturer twice a year aboard a Queen May 2 westbound crossing. Just being at sea for a week is pure joy, and with a purpose. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent April crossing was cancelled as has the next one scheduled for October. Prior to the transatlantics, my wife and I had planned to spend a week to 10 days either in the UK and/or on the Continent. I look forward to resuming these land and sea options in 2021.

Ted's Places to Travel

Ted before the Queen Mary 2 at Southampton.

2.  For a completely different experience, I would love a week aboard a small ship, and I mean a wee one, with from less than three-dozen passengers on down to 12, cruising Scotland’s Western or Northern Isles. It’s been my favorite inter-island cruising region since the 1970s. Happily — and Yikes! — there are so many new choices.

Ted's fave places to travel

St. Kilda, a bird sanctuary beyond the Outer Hebrides. * Photo: Ted Scull

RELATED:  Cruising Western Scotland, an Overview.  by Ted Scull 

3.  My most ambitious travel adventure would be an overland train journey from London to Shanghai, with a half-dozen stopovers such as Moscow and a couple of cities along the Trans-Siberian, thence to Ulan Bator (Mongolia), Beijing and finally Shanghai. I would allow a month, and we definitely want to share the trip with at least two or more people for company and security. Several friends have expressed interest. I made a similar-style adventure in 1976 traveling by train, ferry, smallish liner and bus from London via the Balkans, Turkey, Gulf States across India and finally by Toy Train up the narrow gauge to Darjeeling.

Ted's wish list include a London to Shanghai train journey


The end of the train journey: London St. Pancras to the Bund in Shanghai. * Photo: Ted Scull

QuirkyCruise.com co-founder Ted Scull is happiest near water, over water or better still on a conveyance moving through water. Over many decades, he has spent more than five years of his life on overnight vessels of all types — ocean liners, cruise ships, riverboats, night boats, coastal vessels, expedition ships, sailing ships and even a couple of freighters, while traveling to over 120 countries on seven continents. Read more here.

Heidi Sarna

I’m based in Singapore, so some of my “I-can’t-wait-to-go” places to travel are in the region, as regional travel will likely be more accessible for the near-term, as “travel bubbles” open between neighboring countries.

1.  I’ve been dreaming about doing the Upper Mekong in Laos and also the Chindwin River in northern Myanmar, both with Pandaw, one of my favorite small-ship lines. These itineraries are more off-beat and less traveled than Mekong river cruises in Cambodia/Vietnam as well as Irrawaddy river cruises, both of which I’ve done and loved. Ideally, I’d love to combine a Pandaw sailing with a guided Grasshopper Adventures cycling trip before or after.

A cruise on the Laos Pandaw is on Heidi's travel list

The 20-passenger Laos Pandaw. * Photo: Pandaw

2.  Definitely, a sailing cruise in Indonesia is top of my list, either around the Komodo Islands or further east in the stunning Raja Ampat region — both of these remote areas boast some of the best snorkeling and diving in the entire world, not to mention off-the-charts scenery. I’d love to do these trips with Star Clippers, Seatrek Sailing Adventures or Aqua Expeditions.

Komodo islands is a place to travel soon

Sparring Komodo dragons. * Photo: Aqua Expeditions

3.  I’m really eager to do a Douro River cruise with a few days in Porto before or after. I love wine and loved a short visit to Lisbon a few years ago, so looking forward to spending more time in Portugal soaking it all up.

Douro River Valley is on Heidi's wish list

A river cruise through the breathtaking Douro River Valley. * Photo: Ama Waterways

QuirkyCruise.com co-founder Heidi Sarna has explored 78 countries around the world by boat, road, plane, foot, bicycle and camel. She started her travel writing career covering the big ships for guidebooks and magazines, though over the years she realized it was the small ones that really floated her boat. And so QuirkyCruise.com was born.  Read more here.

Peter Knego

1.  My first hoped for choice would be to sail on one of CMV ASTORIA‘s final cruises from the UK to Norway in the fall. Such a special, historic ship. See more about the Astoria here in Peter’s photo essay in USA TODAY.

The historic Astoria is the place Peter Knego wants to travel

Peter in front of the historic CMV ASTORIA.

2.  Second on my list would be to get on a sailing of the 95-passenger MV SERENISSIMA, a former Norwegian coastal liner operated by Noble Caledonia. A perfect itinerary on her would be a round UK cruise.

The MV SERENISSIMA is one of the places Peter Knego wants to go

The MV SERENISSIMA is a former Norwegian coastal liner operated by Noble Caledonia. * Photo: Noble Caledonia

3.  Finally, I’m long overdue to do a Galapagos cruise, ideally one that would include an extension to Machu Picchu.

Blue-Footed Booby birds in the galapagos

The famed Blue-Footed Booby birds of the Galapagos. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Peter Knego is a cruise journalist, as well as a historian and collector of ocean liner fittings and art — see www.midshipcentury.com. He writes for top cruise and travel pubs, including USA Today, Travel Weekly and Ships Monthly, and has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, SeaTrade Insider and others. Follow Peter on instagram @Knego.

John Roberts

1.   I’m hankering for a Morocco and Canary Islands cruise with Star Clippers.

Climbing the masts on a Star Clippers Greek Isles Cruise

Climbing the masts! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

2.  Douro River cruise with Uniworld. I’ve never been on this river and have heard so many great things.

Uniworld Douro river cruise is on John's travel wish list

A suite aboard Uniworld’s Douro River boat, the São Gabriel. * Photo: Uniworld

3.  Belize and Guatemala with UnCruise. It’s a new itinerary with great activities on the water and on land that really appeals to active travelers like me!

Belize is one of the top places John wants to visit

John chilling on one of Belize’s cayes.

John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel. He’s been on more than 60 cruises in destinations all over the world, always keeping an eye out for how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences. Follow John @InTheLoopTravel on Twitter and Instagram.

Anne Kalosh

I’m not thinking about personal or professional travel yet — by ship, plane or even on the local metro. My thoughts are with how the tens of thousands of crew members still stuck on cruise ships due to port closures can get home safely to their families.

Anne Kalosh

This is an urgent focus for the cruise industry, and I hope governments will have a heart and facilitate passage for the seafarers caught up in this crisis.

I’m also keenly interested in how society and the cruise industry will harness their ingenuity and drive to come up with technological advances, operational changes and innovative solutions to overcome this pandemic.

Let’s hope lessons learned will make travel safer and society more humane. Then I’ll begin to dream again about my own trips.

Anne Kalosh has written about cruises for decades and her favorites involve small ships. She writes a cruise column for Afar.com, is the U.S. editor for Seatrade-Cruise.com and Seatrade Cruise Review, and has contributed to a bazillion pubs, including The Miami Herald, Cruise Travel, USA Today and Cruise Week.

Gene Sloan

1.  Moldova. After my wonderful Ukraine visit last year (on a Quirky Cruise! …. read about it here), I am intrigued by that corner of the world. I hear good things about Moldova.

ukraine

Gene’s visit to the Ukraine last year got him thinking about Moldova next.

2.  Liechtenstein. This is purely a country count play. I had a 48-hour dash to Liechtenstein using frequent flier miles on the books for February that I had to cancel when corona-virus blew up. I want to get it back on the schedule. No idea what I will do there. But that’s the point sometimes. Maybe I’ll extend my timeline a few days and make the trip about hiking. I hear they have mountains in Liechtenstein. From where I am, I can get to Zurich nonstop (from Newark) on United and then be in Liechtenstein by train in a couple hours.

Vaduz Castle in Liechtenstein

Vaduz Castle in Liechtenstein. * Photo: Principality of Liechtenstein Tourism Board

3.  The Jersey shore. Hey, no judgment. It’s an hour away, getting warmer by the day, and I can hunker down in a rental house where no one will infect me in between days at the beach.

Cape May is on the travel list

Cape May, on the New Jersey shore. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Gene Sloan has written about travel for nearly three decades, with a longtime focus on cruising. He spent more than 20 years as a travel writer and editor at USA TODAY, where he co-founded the paper’s travel section and later founded and ran its online cruise site. At last count, he’d sailed on nearly 150 ships. Follow Gene on Twitter at CruiseLog & Instagram!

Ben Lyons

1.  Transatlantic crossing on QM2. For the pandemic, I’ve been (fortunately) holed up in Montana the whole time. Montana is beautiful, but it is also landlocked.

I haven’t gone this long without seeing the ocean for probably 25 years.

So when cruising is back, top on my list is a transatlantic crossing on QM2 — a glorious week just staring at nothing but North Atlantic.

2.  Antarctica. Post COVID, I think we’ll see an interest in getting as far away from large cities and back into pristine nature. And when it comes to pristine nature, you can’t do much better  than Antarctica. I’ve been going to the White Continent every year since 2007; for many, the experience of visiting somewhere without cell phones is a  bit of a reset in life, even in normal times. Post COVID, I think it will be even more welcome.

Ben in Antarctica.

Ben in Antarctica.

3.  Hebridean Princess. Footloose walking cruise in Scotland. I believe when it comes to quirky cruises, the smaller the better. Hebridean Princess, a former Scottish island ferry turned luxury cruise ship, is about as small as they come with only 50 passengers.

Small groups are the way forward in a post COVID world.

And so a week spent cruising the Hebrides, while going ashore for long extended hikes across sparsely populated islands, seems a pretty ideal return to cruising trip.

Hebridean Princess is on the dream travel list

The 50-passenger Hebridean Princess is a great way to travel to the remote western isles of Scotland. * Photo: Ben Lyons

Ben Lyons has been obsessed with ships since he was five years old. Since then, he has spent almost every waking moment figuring out how to spend more time at sea, ultimately deciding on careers as a ship’s captain and travel writer. Follow Ben on Twitter @EYOS.

Lynn & Cele Seldon

1.  East Coast with Pearl. We were scheduled to travel up the East Coast from Charleston to Halifax with Pearl Seas in April, prior to the coronavirus crises. Although we have been to the majority of the ports of calls, we were anxious to try Pearl Seas as a line. And sailing along the East Coast is somewhat reminiscent of river cruising, with easy access to exciting cities without the hassles of larger vessels.

And, now, at least for the short term, there is the added appeal of sticking a little closer to home.

Seldon Ink share their top places to travel

Cele & Lynn Seldon of Seldon Ink.

2.  Iceland. We traveled to Iceland several years ago on a land-based trip, spending the majority of our time in Reykjavik and the surrounding area. And we always said we’d go back. However, this time, we’d like to do it by sea and experience a circumnavigation of Iceland to be able to explore all of the small towns and nooks and crannies of the island.

"Adventure Canada" Specials

Iceland. * Photo: Michelle Valberg for Adventure Canada

3.  Patagonia and the Chilean Fjords. What a perfect place to combine a land and sea exploration of the stunning scenery of such a different part of the world. Add on a few days in the wine regions of Chile and Argentina and you’ve got the makings of a bucket list trip for these intrepid adventurers (and wine drinkers!).

Seldon Ink is the travel journalist team of Lynn and Cele Seldon. Lynn brings their travels to life in words and pictures, while Cele, after a corporate marketing career, writes, edits, shoots, and handles marketing and research. In their 25-year career, they have taken 100+ cruises and have written for more than 200 publications, including Cruise Travel, CruiseCritic, and others. Follow them @Seldon Ink on Twitter & Instagram.

Judi Cohen

My first trip when the border opens between Canada and the USA will be to New York to hug my son and his new fiancé. They got engaged on April 19 in Central Park.

1.  Then, I would like to do a small-ship cruise on Pandaw in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Judi on the Mekong

Judi on the Mekong River with Pandaw.

2.  Another small ship cruise with UnCruise in Panama, Costa Rica or Hawaii would be at the top of my list. I had to cancel a Costa Rica/Panama cruise on UnCruise for March 19, 2020, just as corona-virus was spreading internationally.

Alaska cruise writer Judi Cohen aboard UnCruise's Legacy

Judi Cohen at the bow of the 90-passenger Legacy. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

3.  I’d also love to do another river cruise with Viking in Europe very soon.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Viking Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Judi Cohen has travelled to more than 80 countries with her family, and as a tour leader. Writing about her off-the-beaten track journeys by train, helicopter, plane and small quirky cruise ships is her passion. Judi is also an inspirational storyteller, social media influencer and speaker. Visit TravelingJudi.com and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @TravelingJudi.

Robin McKelvie

1.Home. In a slightly bigger sense. We’ve been restricted in Scotland to driving within five miles of our homes. I’m desperate to get out further and from July 15 we can. I’m celebrating by heading out on a cruise with Red Moon so look out for the write-up on QuirkyCruise.com!

Caledonian cruise is one of Robin's places to go

Bagpiper plays a tune for Robin’s cruise on Scotland’s Caledonian Canal.

2.  Slovenia. Meant to be updating my Bradt guide to Slovenia this summer, but that’s not happening. Was looking forward to heading back to a wee gem I consider Europe in miniature. Epic mountains, balmy coast, postcard pretty cities, welcoming people and Michelin just issued their first restaurant stars for Slovenia. Brilliant, world class food and wine.

Ljubljana, Slovenia is on Robin McKelvie list of places to travel

The rooftops of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. * Photo: Robin McKelvie

3.  Canal du Midi. Was booked to cruise along France’s famous waterway with European Waterways in a wash of fine wine, outdoor hot tubs and sheer luxury in May. Desperate to get back after seeing what they could do in Scotland with their Spirit of Scotland — you can read about that superb cruise on QuirkyCruise.com.

Hot tubbing with European Waterways for Robin

Robin loved the European Waterways hot tub on his Scottish cruise and is looking forward to more of the same in France.

Robin McKelvie is a Scottish based travel writer and broadcaster specialising in cruises, especially small ships. A native Scot, he’s the author of National Geographic Scotland and has been published across five continents in magazines and newspapers including CNN Traveller, The Daily Telegraph, Times, The Australian and The Straits Times. On Twitter @robinmckelvie and @scotcruises, Instagram @travelwriterinakilt and @scotcruises.

Elysa Leonard

1.  Bonaire. I have joined the board of directors for a charity called Aquarium Divers for Coral, but had to postpone a trip to the lovely island of Bonaire for a week of diving and learning how to restore coral reefs. I can’t wait to tell that story! Bonaire is definitely one of the places to travel for me.

Scuba Diving in St Lucia

I’ll be back. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

2.  Bermuda. Once my island home, my family and I will be headed there as soon as the coast is clear, to see friends and enjoy every nook and cranny of this amazing tiny country.

Bermuda's Horseshoe Bay is Elysa's next travel place

Horseshoe Bay on Bermuda’s South Shore. * Photo: Bermuda Tourism Authority

3.  A quirky cruise anywhere in the Caribbean where the diving and snorkeling are plentiful, with Island Windjammers or Star Clippers!

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

The Vela under full sail. * Photo: Island Windjammers

Elysa Leonard is a scuba diver who sure knows her tropical fish — she can identify more than 100 kinds. Writing about diving and snorkeling while on a small-ship cruise is her new nirvana. When she isn’t underwater, Elysa is CEO of Splash Communications, a global marketing and public relations firm.

Chrissy Colon

1.   My partner Peter and I would love to do a Greek islands cruise on a small ship with outdoor dining, perhaps couples only. Walking the islands and exploring ruins are all safe outdoor activities.

The Greek Isles is on the travel places list

A Greek Isles cruise with Star Clippers. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

2.  We would do another driving tour of English estates, staying at small B&B’s often owned by the family members who inherited these expensive properties. When we’ve done them in the past, we rarely encountered other people, as the tours were often small and some even by appointment only. Audio guides with timed admission would allow for safe distancing between visitors.

3.  Also, we’d plan an overnight driving trip to a stately old private estate in the northeast of the US, with botanical gardens and formal landscapes. We will look for B&B’s that are a stand-alone cottage or secluded motels. We prefer to wait a while before we jump on a plane even after flights are allowed.

Travel places include the estates in Stockbridge MA

A moon gate on the grounds of the Naumkeag estate in Stockbridge MA. * Photo: Peter Barnes

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Happy Holidays from Quirky Cruise

Happy Holidays from the QuirkyCruise Tribe

by Heidi & Ted.

QuirkyCruise.com wouldn’t be what it is today with our tribe of excellent contributing writers. They’re a well-traveled and experienced group with impressive pedigrees, a flair for writing and many years plying the world’s rivers, lakes, coastal areas and oceans on small-ship cruises under 300 passengers.

A big big thank you to all of them wherever they cruising this holiday season!

Happy Holidays from Quirky Cruise

Happy Holidays from Quirky Cruise

And as a gift to you…
Our experts share their favorite small-ship cruises.
Enjoy! And Happy Traveling in 2020!
Happy Holidays from Anne

Anne Kalosh

Anne Kalosh

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

I love small ships because they’re able to go to the most interesting places without impacting the environment and they attract the most interesting passengers — people traveling with a purpose.

My favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

I like them all! 

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

  • Climbing the mast on Star Clipper. I was scared to death, but a handsome officer came along to help.
  • Crunching through the ice in the otherworldly atmosphere of Antarctica aboard A&K’s Explorer (now gone).
  • Nudged against a riverbank in Cambodia where kids jumped rope beneath my AmaDara balcony.
  • Stepping back centuries from Kristina Regina at the Solovetsky Monastery in the White Sea.
  • Dazzled by the colored lights and glinting gold of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon on Aegean Odyssey.
  • Hiking amid puffins on Fair Isle from Clipper Adventurer.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

I love sharing my enthusiasm for small ships and am thrilled to be among thoughtful and inspiring writers like Heidi, Ted, Peter Knego, Ben Lyons and so many others.

Tell us about YOU!

I’m a long-time editor for Seatrade-Cruise.com and I freelance for many others.

Anne’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Mekong River Cruise Adventure with AmaWaterways

Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators Voluntarily Ban Heavy Fuel Oil

More of Anne’s articles here …

_______

John Roberts at the Holidays

John Roberts

John Roberts

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

I really enjoy the intimacy and flexibility. You are more likely to meet like-minded travelers who are seeking immersive experiences and regard the vessel as merely a way to get there. The atmosphere is more conducive to meeting people and creating new friendships.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

  • My favorite experiences have been with UnCruise Adventures (I have taken five expeditions with them) because the guides and crew are so passionate about wildlife and conservation, and the program offers so many thrilling activities that adventure-seekers would love.
  • Avalon Waterways is an amazing line, with especially outstanding sailings on their small ships in Southeast Asia.
  • AmaWaterways is my top river line for exploring historic European waterways like the Danube and Rhine. They offer a great wellness program and wonderful cuisine and service onboard.

My favorite small-ship cruise memory is …

I sailed on Avalon Myanmar along the Irawaddy River. This 36-passenger ship offered an amazing experience visiting such a remote and exotic place. The people are so warm and inviting and the children just precious, curious and an overall delight.

We had a similarly outstanding experience on Avalon Siem Reap sailing the Mekong from Cambodia to Vietnam. We can’t wait to return. We learned so much about the culture and history on these voyages.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

QuirkyCruise.com has been a great outlet for me to tell the stories of my travels and adventures in fun ways using my voice. Plus, the story designs encourage the use of a lot of photos and videos, so readers get a lot of information and can get a true feel of what the experience on a voyage will be like for them.

Tell us about YOU!

I write for Porthole magazine, Cruise Travel magazine, Cruise Passenger magazine in Australia, Travel Age West, Cruise Fever, Cruise Addicts and my site In The Loop Travel, among others. I also have a fun YouTube channel that features a lot of trip highlights and ship tours. Follow me on TWITTER @ InTheLoopTravel & INSTAGRAM @ LoopTravelPics.

John’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Active European River Cruises

Sporty New Zealand Cruise

More of John’s articles here …

_______

Happy Holidays from Gene Sloan

Gene Sloan

Gene Sloan

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

To me, the travel experience is always richer and deeper when you’re in a small group. Small ships are more intimate, and they can get you more off-the-beaten-path.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are ….

  • I’m a big fan of UnCruise’s super-small vessels in Alaska, which can get you deep into the wilderness of the region far from the tourist hordes in Juneau and Ketchikan. They carry Zodiacs and kayaks for exploring. They’re not the newest or snazziest ships, but that’s not what matters in a destination like that.”
  • I also love Windstar. They’ve got this wonderful collection of small vessels that go to both mainstream and off-the-beaten-path places all over the world. Former Seabourn executive John Delaney has done a great job with that line since he took over in 2016. He’s really expanded the itinerary offerings, and he’s also overseeing a major update of the ships, which all are around 30 years old. For the record, these mostly are vessels in the 150 to 200 passenger range. What John has done in keeping these small ships alive is great news for the small-ship lover.
  • I also will give a shout-out to tiny Adventure Canada, which offers expedition-style cruises in the Canadian Arctic each summer. The ship they charter for the trips isn’t fancy. It’s the old Ocean Endeavour, which dates to the early 1980s and is about as no-frills as it gets. But the breadth and depth of the team of onboard experts and guides that they put together for the sailings is stunning. They really know Arctic Canada — including the fabled Northwest Passage — like no other company. 

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

Bumping through the ice in the Arctic Sea above Russia on a small but rugged Hapag-Lloyd Cruises expedition ship. You feel like you’re a million miles away from the world.

Also, sailing through the Caribbean on a Star Clippers sailing ship. I love the feeling of being under sail, experiencing the awesome power of the wind. Star Clippers ships also visit some wonderfully out-of-the-way places in the Caribbean that are off limits to bigger ships.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

QuirkyCruise focuses on small vessels that often are overlooked by the mainstream travel media but shouldn’t be. I truly love the opportunity to bring attention to some of these lesser-known cruise offerings, which often are wonderful experiences. QuirkyCruise also gives its writers a lot of freedom in their writing.

Tell us about YOU!

I’ve written about cruising for more than 25 years and for many years oversaw USA TODAY’s award-winning cruise site, USA TODAY Cruises. These days I mostly write for The Points Guy, the fast-growing travel site that points-and-miles expert Brian Kelly started about a decade ago as a blog (it now has an editorial staff of over 40 people and 7 million unique visitors a month). I’m also writing quite a bit for Afar Magazine, both print and online. On social, you can follow my cruise travels on my Twitter page and Facebook page.

I’ve sailed on nearly 150 ships and have served as a cruise expert for The Travel Channel. I’ve written travel guides for Frommer’s and my work has appeared in more than 70 outlets. I’m the proud winner of a Lowell Thomas Award (Society of American Travel Writers) and a Gold Prize Award (North American Travel Journalists Association).

Gene’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Sailing to the Canary Islands with Sea Cloud

Viking River Cruise in the Ukraine

More of Gene’s articles here …

_______

Holiday Greetings from Ben Lyons

Ben Lyons

Ben Lyons

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

I love small ship cruising because (often) it is all about using the ships as platforms to reach areas that are otherwise inaccessible. There also develops  a wonderful sense of community on smaller ships — an element that I think many first-time small-ship cruisers overlook or don’t expect.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

  • A “footloose” hiking cruise through Scotland on the Hebridean Princess is absolutely one of my favorite cruise experiences. I love the charm of the ship, and it fits perfectly into the destination.
  • I love what Windstar is doing on many levels. Sailing on the Wind Star around Tahiti with the sails up… a spectacular combination.
  • I’ve always had a soft spot for the ships of SeaDream dating back to when they were the Sea Goddesses. They were trailblazers in the small-ship industry and the ships have actually gotten better as they get older.

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

Undoubtedly my first trip to Antarctica has to stand out — I can still clearly remember my first ice berg, my first King Penguin, etc. My highlight from that trip: spending 4 hours just cruising through thick ice south of the Antarctic Circle. It was for me — as a ship’s officer used to larger ships — a real eye opening moment in what was possible.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise.com?

I enjoy helping to bring attention to many of  these smaller operators. I love the diversity in the cruise industry and want there to be more and more of these smaller ships and operators, so anything I can do to help bring attention to them, the better.

Tell us about YOU!

I was thrilled to make the Seatrade 20 under 40 list!

Ben’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Barge Cruising in France

An UnCruise Adventure to Alaska

More of Ben’s articles here …

_______

Seasons Greetings from Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

There is no better way to see the world than by water and small ships are the ideal way to do it.  As much as I’m impressed with the technology and engineering, I’m not fond of the crowds, amusement parks, casinos and the whole over-the-top aspects of modern mega ship cruising.

Smaller ships enable travelers to mingle with and get to know like-minded people in an intimate setting and not overwhelm the places they visit.  They also can get into more remote ports that are not yet spoiled by tourism.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are ….

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

Hard to limit to just two! A few years ago on the former Hapag-Lloyd ship HANSEATIC, I enjoyed a rather thrilling zodiac ride only a few feet away from the prow of the moving ship. The first officer was driving the zodiac at exactly the same speed as the HANSEATIC while the ship entered Alaska’s magical Misty Fjords on a brilliantly sunny morning — we were literally in the shadow of the moving bow, bone in teeth lurking within arm’s reach!

Another favorite experience was a nighttime stingray encounter with UnCruises’ SAFARI EXPLORER off Hilo. We gathered in a circle at the surface as the massive rays swam up from the depths to feed, gently brushing against us in the process.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

I started writing blogs over 20 years ago, so it is nice to be able to do so again with QuirkyCruise.com. Perhaps fittingly, my writing style is a bit quirky, so it’s nice to be able to inject a little personality into my experiences when I contribute to Quirky, something that is not always possible when writing for industry trades or more nuts and bolts consumer markets. And, as a cruise fan, I’m so happy there is a site exclusively dedicated to smaller ship cruising.

Tell us about YOU!

My other outlets are USA Today Travel, Cruise Travel Magazine, TravelAgeWest, Ocean and Cruise News, Porthole, Ships Monthly and MaritimeMatters.com.

I own MidShipCentury.com, which is a website and e-commerce site dedicated to the classic cruise ships and ocean liners broken up at Alang, India in the past two decades, featuring artworks, furniture and fittings that I have rescued.

In 2014, I was the recipient of the Samuel Ward Stanton Lifetime Achievement Award from the Steamship Historical Society of America for my contributions to the world of ocean liners and cruise ships.

Peter’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Great Lakes Cruising Aboard Victory I

Lindblad Adventure in Baja California

More of Peter’s articles here …. 

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Happiest Holidays from Judi Cohen

Judi Cohen

Judi Cohen

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

Because they are not big!! I enjoy getting to know the other passengers and the crew, the casual style for meals, and the opportunity to see and learn about our close encounters in places many larger ships might not be able to visit.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are …

Spending Christmas and New Years aboard the Pandaw Kalaw in Myanmar with only 18 guests including some friends and my family. Partying with the crew and captain into the wee hours under the stars along the Irrawaddy was just magical.

Many memorable moments on UnCruise in Alaska when the captain turned the boat for a pod of Orcas. Breathtaking moments approaching the glaciers and watching global warming in action (sadly) as massive sheets of ice and snow collapsed into the water around our skiff.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

QC is a treasure chest of interesting and current information on small-ship cruises. Writing for Heidi has allowed me to connect with like-minded small-ship cruise lovers and share my first hand off-the beaten-path experiences.

Tell us about YOU!

My website is TravelingJudi.com and I also write for AllThingsCruise.com, Food Wine Travel Magazine and Travel World International Magazine. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @TravelingJudi.

Judi’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Brahmaputra River in India

Antarctica on a Russian Research Vessel

More of Judi’s articles here …

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Sarah says Happy Holidays

Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Sarah GreavesGabbadon

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

Because it combines the convenience and many of the amenities of modern cruising with the intimacy and romance of sailing. And when a small ship enters a port with a couple of hundred passengers or fewer, I believe you get a more authentic experience of the destination. Because when 3,000+ people disembark in any given place, there’s no way it can remain unchanged!

What are your favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax)?

My favorite small-ship cruise memory is ….

My circumnavigation of Iceland on Windstar last summer was unforgettable. I was awed by the beauty of the landscape and discovered that I’m a natural-born hiker!

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

I appreciate that the site is run by editors who truly care about the subject and spreading the word about small-ship cruising.

Tell us about YOU!

You can follow my globetrotting, fitness and shopping adventures on my website and on my @JetSetSarah social media channels. I’m kind of a big deal on Instagram! 😉

Sarah’s articles & videos for QuirkyCruise.com

Iceland Circumnavigation with Windstar (article)

Iceland Cruise Excursions (video)

Iceland Cruise ABCs (video)

JetSet Sarah Takes the Polar Plunge (video)

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Randy Mink

Randy Mink

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

I love small-ship cruising because, as in real life, I can’t deal with big complicated things.

My favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

  • Scenic (Europe rivers)
  • Iceland ProCruises
  • Latin Trails (Galapagos)

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

I loved sharing a Galapagos cruise with my veterinarian daughter. There were only 16 people onboard Latin Trails’ yacht-like Sea Star Journey, and three were dad-daughter groups, including two Australians with their 83-year-old dad.

On my circumnavigation of Iceland, I treasured the free time I had to poke around the little port towns — peeking into backyard gardens, talking to Icelandic ponies on the other side of the fence and just getting a sense of how people live in this isolated country at the top of the world.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise.com?

I like writing for QuirkyCruises.com because I feel I’m part of a community.

Tell us about YOU!

In everyday life, I am editor of Cruise Travel Magazine, which has been published since 1979.

Randy’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Galapagos Islands Cruise

Circumnavigating Iceland with Iceland ProCruises

More of Randy’s articles here …

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Seldon Ink says Happy Holidays

Lynn & Cele Seldon

Lynn & Cele Seldon

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

We prefer the intimacy of a smaller group of like-minded travelers. And the ease of everything from embarkation to excursions to less choice. We also love the shared experience with the other passengers. And we love getting to know the staff and crew. It usually adds to the experience.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are ….

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are …

We loved exploring the nooks and crannies of Cuba while circumnavigating the island with International Expeditions. It was the perfect way to immerse ourselves in the culture, from visiting a local school house to exploring the prison where Fidel and Raul Castro were held. One of our favorite memories was going to the Tropicana in Havana on New Year’s Eve and celebrating with the incredible music, costumes, dancing, and, oh yes, the Cuba Libres!

Kayaking amongst the crystal-blue glaciers of Fords Terror in Alaska with Alaskan Dream Cruises is also a memory we will not soon forget.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

We love sharing our experiences and spreading the gospel of small-ship cruising with others.

Tell us about YOU!

We also write for Cruise Travel magazine; Porthole; AAA Carolinas GO Magazine; AAA Carolinas Traveler; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and FoodNetwork.com. Follow us on Instagram @SeldonInk and on our site: www.seldonink.com.

Lynn & Cele’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Alaska with Alaskan Dream Cruises

Cuba with International Expeditions

More of Lynn & Cele Seldon’s articles …

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Happy Hols from Elise

Elise Lentz

Elise Lentz

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

If you’re reading this post, chances are, you are an avid fan of quirky cruises, and a member of the small-ship cruising community thus sharing a like-minded approach to travel. We tend to thrive on the ways small cruising gives us the ability to more easily interact with and get to know our fellow cruisers. I love being able to access unique and remote ports of call that only small-ship cruising can offer.

My favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

  • Tauck’s River Cruises are great for chartered groups. The tour operator staffs the riverboats with their own tour leaders and cruise director, and packages the excursions and programs specific for group travel. The food gets great reviews and the ability to easily venture off the boat for independent exploration is a definite plus.
  • Ponant ships offer chic accommodations and smooth sailing. The line is continuing to expand their fleet so some of the ships are “hot off the presses.” This line offers a cruising clientele with an International flare and the ships present themselves with a sleek/modern design.

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

When I was first introduced to the QuirkyCruise family, I remember seeing a post from Ted Scull about a Panamanian indigenous group, the Embera. When I reflect on one of my favorite small-ship cruise memories, my numerous visits to this beautiful and amazing group of people, always rises as #1.

My voyages to the Darien were onboard the Le Levant (also previously known as the Tere Moana). The Darien is so remote; there are only a small number of cruise/tour operators that are able to arrange these visits.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise.com?

Writing for QuirkyCruise has allowed me to share some of my behind-the-scenes’ drama that happens while working in the travel industry. I absolutely love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world. So, thanks to you, the loyal fans and readers of QuirkyCruise, for your continued support of QuirkyCruise and its contributing writers.

Tell us about YOU!

Want to hear what others have to say about us?  Visit our website at Global Tour Management. Tim and I also teach for the International Guide Academy (IGA); check out their website if you have an interest in becoming a tour leader.

Elise’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Packing Tips: Some Like it Hard

Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 12)

More of Elise’s articles …. 

 

Reader Review bird

 

 

Don’t miss great articles, reviews, news & tips about small-ship cruising, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

bamboo gangway to the Mahabaah

Brahmaputra River Cruise.

By Judi Cohen.

I booked a river cruise on the Lower Ganges with Pandaw Cruises six months prior for my family of four and a couple of friends. You can only imagine my shock on receiving an email a few weeks before departure that the cruise was cancelled. (We were told the boat had not arrived in India from Myanmar in time, as apparently there is a lot of paperwork involved in moving boats from one country to another.)

Given a choice by Pandaw of getting a refund or doing a land tour in India, neither of which interested me, I took it upon myself to fill the 8-day hole in our family’s month-long India adventure. QuirkyCruise’s co-founder Heidi Sarna, and a few other travel colleagues, suggested a Brahmaputra River cruise aboard the 46-passenger MV Mahabaahu.

RELATED: Heidi’s article about her Brahmaputra cruise adventure

Not only did Pandaw book us on the alternate cruise, but they also covered the costs for changes to our airfare. I never would have imagined that we’d be cruising in a remote part of India rarely visited by tourists, but it wound up being super memorable.

So, here’s my story of our journey on the mighty Brahmaputra River from Guwahati to Jorhat.

SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates & special offers… and to be inspired to go small-ship cruising!

Brahmaputra River Cruise

Judi loving her Mahabahuu cruise on the Brahmaputra River. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Brahmaputra: No Ordinary River

The Brahmaputra is a destination unto itself. It’s the only river, apart from the Zambezi in Africa, from which you can easily access a game park. Kaziranga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site referred to by National Geographic as “the Serengeti of India.”

You’ll see that the Brahmaputra’s ever-shifting sandy banks are also home to colorful birdlife, herds of deer and antelope, and elusive tigers.

Sandy banks of the Brahmaputra River

The sandy banks of the Brahmaputra River. * Photo: Judi Cohen

With its fast-moving currents originating in the Himalayan mountain range, the water levels rise and fall, and sandbanks form and then disappear, almost as if they were melting before one’s eyes. A small pilot boat accompanied us and used bamboo sticks to test the river depth ahead.

The Brahmaputra River was a fascinating backdrop to a week spotting wildlife and exploring remote villages.

The MV Mahabaahu

Mahabaahu, one of the very few riverboats sailing on the Brahmaputra River, was launched in 2011 by Adventure River Cruises (ARC).

Our home for seven nights was comfortable and unassuming, with a somewhat industrial-looking exterior and a homey interior.

bamboo gangway to the Mahabaah

The gangway to the quirky Mahabaahu. * Photo: Judi Cohen

All cabins had large windows, and some, including ours, had a small balcony. We had a comfortable king bed, loads of closet and storage space, as well as a fridge and safe. The bathroom had a surprisingly large shower with strong water pressure.

Mahabaahu balcony cabin

Judi’s balcony cabin had great views. * Photo: Judi Cohen

While cabins had TVs, none worked, and the air-conditioning units were difficult to control so we were either too hot or too cold. These were small concerns relative to the unique experience.

The ship has five decks, with cabins on the second and third decks. There are two suites, two luxury cabins, seven deluxe cabins, and 12 superior cabins (without balconies). While the ship has a capacity of 46 passengers, we had just 26 guests aboard our week.

All decks are easily accessible from a central staircase. There is also a lift, however, it was out of service during our sailing. Although the weather at this time of year made it too cold to swim, around 22C (71F) degrees during the day and 11C (42F) degrees at night, there was a lovely little pool.

Swimming Pool on the Mahabaahu

The Mahabaahu has a small pool at the stern near the smokestacks. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The sun deck was the “go to” spot to enjoy the lounge chairs, bar, and a panoramic view of the riverbanks.

Neena, the CEO of ARC, managed every aspect of the guest experience on the ship, and worked closely with her team of 28, including Sandeep, manager of hospitality; Cruise Director Rajeesh; and Mayuresh, destination manager, naturalist and photographer.

There was even a tailor on the boat who made clothing for guests out of fabric sold in the pop-up gift shop in the reception area. My friend had several pants made and was very happy with the results.

Reception area of the Mahabaahu

Reception area had a pool table and was also used as a pop-up gift shop. * Photo: Judi Cohen

While the ship’s marketing characterizes the MV Mahabaahu as a “luxury ship,” in my opinion, the ship would not be considered luxury by international standards. However, there are very few other tourist-class vessels that traverse the Brahmaputra, as cruising along the rivers in India has only recently become practical and fashionable.

Experientially, this small-ship Brahmaputra River cruise met all my expectations.

MV Mahabaahu Inclusions

All shore excursions and transfers to and from the airports were included. Bottled water was freely available at no charge; while alcoholic beverages were available in the bars and in the dining room at reasonable prices.

A recommended tipping guide for the crew and staff was provided and was optional at the end of the cruise. Ayurvedic massages in the spa were also extra, though reasonably priced. 

Fellow Passengers

Passengers ranged in age from 6 to 65 and were all very adventurous. The well-travelled group was English-speaking from Australia, England, Singapore, Denmark, Canada, and some from India exploring their own country.

The ages on our cruise skewed a bit lower than normal as we were cruising at Christmas, when families travel together. Children are rare on this cruise.

Family group aboard the Mahabahuu

Judi and her family. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Daily Routine

My general routine started with an hour of morning yoga, led by Neena, on the sundeck. This was an invigorating, crisp way to start the day, and nearly half the guests tried yoga at least once.

Yoga on top deck of ship

Yoga on top deck of boat. * Photo: Judi Cohen

There was a morning excursion, departing by tender, with a return for a buffet lunch. Following lunch, we either relaxed on the ship or set out again on an afternoon excursion. At some point each day, we could attend an informative short lecture by Mayuresh, highlighting the next day’s stops.

In the evening, cocktails were served (at a charge) in the Soma Lounge bar and following dinner we returned to the lounge for mingling, movies, games like getting the ring over the bottle (to win a bottle of beer), board games and more drinks.

Dining with Local Flair & Flavours

The Mungri Mingrum dining room featured large windows and warm woods. I must admit, however, I would have enjoyed some al fresco dining, particularly at lunch. In fact, some of the guests did take their food up to the sundeck for a change of scenery.

Breakfast was available between 8-10am, with Indian and international choices, including an omelette and pancake station.

Lunch buffets included tasty curries, varieties of paneer and rice, fresh local vegetables and salads, Indian breads, and tempting Indian sweets.

Indian food on Mahabaahu

Delicious Indian fare. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Neena, the boat’s general manager and cruise director, quickly learned about our tolerance for spice and food preferences. She guided guests with food allergies and special orders were accommodated without hesitation.

Dinner was a sit-down meal. Orders were taken at lunch each day for our dinner choices (vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Continental and Indian Cuisine). Highlights included the palak paneer, butter chicken, paneer tikka masala, and the traditional Assamese dishes.

Following dinner, the lounge was open again for after-dinner drinks, however we often retreated to our cabin for a good night’s sleep after a tiring day.

Brahmaputra River Cruise Excursions

We flew from Kolkata to Guwahati, the largest city in the Indian state of Assam. Bordered on the northeast by Bhutan, south by Bangladesh, and west by Bengal, Assam is known for the vast Kaziranga game park.

Our group was met at the airport and transferred to the boat for our Brahmaputra River cruise, with a short stop at the Hindu Kamakhya Temple. According to legend, this is where the gods Sati and Shiva met, and it remains an important center for followers of Tantra, or the esoteric traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Boarding the Mahabaahu for arahmaputra river cruise

The lovely welcome aboard ritual entails being given an Assamese scarf and a marigold garland. * Photo: Judi Cohen

As we travelled upstream, we visited a number of small villages. Approaching each one in our open-top tenders, we were greeted by curious families with many children watching as we trundled from the tenders and along the sloped sandy shores holding onto make-shift bamboo railings.

Check out  Judi’s TIPS to help you prepare for your very own Brahmaputra River adventure!

Day 1: Embarkation & Peacock Island

Our first visit was to Peacock Island, a tiny tree-covered island with a small temple and one outgoing Golden Langur monkey, who came down from the trees to pose for photos.

Golden Langur on Peacock Island

A cheeky Golden Langur on Peacock Island. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The sunset views from the island cast a stunning golden hue across the water as we returned to the ship.

Sunset over the Brahmaputra

Gorgeous Brahmaputra sunsets were daily affairs. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 2: Bangla Village

Our next visit was to Upera, a Bangla Muslim farming village. We walked through sprawling fields of yellow mustard flowers and cabbages, passed cows and goats, and were struck by how beautiful the girls and women were.

Always asking permission to take photos, the villagers were happy to oblige, and they all wanted us to show them the photos, giggling with us.

Village in India

The Bangla Village Welcome Wagon! * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 3: Sea Day on our Brahmaputra River Cruise

Our third day became a sea-day due to unexpectedly foggy conditions, which we were told only occur on 19 days out of each season.

No problem, everyone welcomed the relaxation time. I used my afternoon to try an exceptional two-hour Ayurvedic massage for the first time. Very different from other massages I have had, the Ayervedic holistic techniques focused on the relief of both physical and emotional stress.

It was heavenly having four-hands (two people) apply gallons of hot essential oils and a variety of herbs as they massaged every inch of my body. While I was lying directly on a hard teakwood slab table, I felt far more relaxed than I have ever felt during a massage and even nodded off a couple of times, something I normally can’t do while being massaged.

My daughter and I each had two massages over the course of the week.

Day 4: Kaziranga National Park

Elephant-back Safari & Jeep Safari

The highlight of our Brahmaputra River cruise was the safari experience over two days in the 430-square-mile Kaziranga National Park, home to the endangered one-horned white rhinoceros. We were told poaching is ever-present and a controversial “shoot-to-kill” policy is in place if rangers discover poachers. Despite this, poachers do still hunt rhinos, although thankfully we did not encounter any.

Nobody minded the 3am wake-up as we headed out in four-wheel drive vehicles to Kaziranga for an elephant-back safari. In twos and threes we climbed on top of these majestic elephants escorted by mahouts and armed guards for a 90-minute safari. As the red sun came up, we watched the mist rising from the tall elephant grass, with warm rays streaming through the mist.

Elephant Back safari

Judi & Lawrence on an elephant Back safari in the misty morning. * Photo: Judi Cohen

elephant safari Brahmaputra river cruise

The baby elephants are free to follow their mothers on the 90-minute safari. * Photo: Judi Cohen

While I was conflicted about riding an elephant, we were told that these elephants do only two morning rides, and then are free to graze in the grasslands for the rest of the day. Further, their babies were allowed to playfully follow alongside their mothers.

 

As the one-horned rhinos, along with wild boars, deer, antelope and buffalo, appeared out of the morning mist, we saw mounds of bright pink flowers that grow on rhino dung. The rhinos were an awesome sight, looking downright prehistoric with their many folds of “armour.”

one-horned white rhino on Brahmaputra River cruise

It wasn’t hard to spot the one-horned white rhinos. * Photo: Dustin Cohen

Riding these elephants at sunrise and seeing the one-horned rhinos up close in the tall grasses was one of the most memorable experiences in all my years of travelling.

one-horned white rhino in Kazi

Seeing a one-horned white rhino up close is a thrill. * Photo: Alison Cohen

In the afternoon we set out on a Jeep safari. Unfortunately, the park was busy with tourists visiting Kaziranga over Christmas and New Year’s, and the jeeps were following one another closely on a narrow dusty road, which created a less than optimal experience.

jeep safari in Kaziranga

Judi and her family on the jeep safari. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Nonetheless we were glad to spot more rhinos, deer and buffalos. There are 3,400 wild water buffalo worldwide, with half living in Kaziranga. And, the eastern swamp deer are only found in Assam. While I am not a birder, I still enjoyed seeing hornbills, kingfishers, and giant storks.

Tea & Jute

On the way back to the ship, we stopped to watch a traditional Assamese dance performance with colourful costumes at a tea plantation.

We also visited the a jute factory. Dating back to 1959, this was a genuine throwback. Walking through the factory with our masks on and ear plugs in, I could only imagine this factory operating in earlier times, with its archaic softening, spinning, twisting and spool-winding equipment.

The factory employs over 300 men, and while the government could mechanize jute production, we were told by our guide that it keeps it in operation to support the workers, whose jobs are coveted.

Jute factory in India

The Victorian jute factory is a fascinating stop. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 5: Bishwanath Ghat & Boat Safari

In the morning, we took our tender and visited Bishwanath Ghat, a weaving village, with looms in almost every house.

The bright coloured textiles made the village look beautiful and they, of course, were for sale. Many of the passengers tried on the clothing and wrapped themselves in fabrics before carefully choosing their purchases.

The children played happily in the dusty laneways and gave us a very warm welcome.

saress and textiles for sale in a village

Sarees and fabrics for sale. * Photo: Judi Cohen

A boat safari using our tender in the eastern range of Kaziranga National Park capped off our day. Our naturalist, Mayuresh, told us that a few months prior they spotted a tiger at the base of the steep cliffs.

While we were hopeful, there were no elusive Bengal tigers to be seen. We did see many birds, deer and buffalo as we cruised upstream against the strong current.

That night we anchored at a large sandbank where we made a campfire. We walked across the narrow gangway onto the sandbank and were welcomed to “the Island” with drinks, music and a barbecue.

bonfire on the banks of the Brahmaputra

Cocktail hour on the sandbanks with a bonfire. * Photo: Judi Cohen

We played a lively game of charades under the stars, and capped off the evening by releasing traditional lanterns into the river while making a wish.

It was a magical evening.

sunset on the Brahmaputra River

Lovely sunsets nearly every day. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 6: Mishing Village

Our last two days featured visits to two unique villages. The first was the ethnic village of the Mishing with their bamboo homes on stilts. Their ancestry can be traced to Tibet and they are followers of Donyi-Polo animistic worship.

We stopped in the centre of the village to watch a demonstration on the tying of the Mishing’s traditional clothing. My 34-year-old son was dressed by the villagers in a dhoti and kurta, with a red and white traditional scarf, while one of our shipmates was dressed in a colourful silk Mekhela Chaadar sari.

The children followed my son, still dressed in his dhoti and kurta, for the rest of the day. I am not sure who enjoyed this more, my son or all of the children!

Mishing village with the locals

Judi’s son Dustin dressed in a kurta during a stop at the Mishing village. * Photo: Judi Cohen

To top off a perfect day we were treated to an Assamese-themed evening, which included being outfitted in local garb by Neena, dancing in the lounge with cocktails, and a traditional Assamese dinner. The maasai tinga (fish curry) and baanhgajor lagos kukura (chicken with bamboo shoots) were very tasty.

Just like Cinderella, we took off our beautiful outfits (mine was a stunning lime green sari and my daughter’s was rich red and purple), and placed them in front of our cabin doors before we went to bed, and they were gone by the morning.

This was another very special and memorable night for all of us on our Brahmaputra River cruise.

passengers in traditional Assamese clothes

Judi’s family dressed in traditional Assamese outfits. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 7: Majuli Island & Sivasagar

Our last sailing day proved to be busy with a morning visit to Majuli Island for immersion into the Neo-Vaishnav Hindu sect who calls this island home. The Neo-Vaishnavite movement started in Assam in the 16th century and reached its climax in the middle of the 17th century.  It had missionary components lifting up the lower classes and minimizing caste distinctions.

public ferry to Manjuli Island

A public ferry on the way to Manjuli Island. * Photo: Judi Cohen

We learned about the island’s many different dance forms and philosophies, and at the Kamalabari Satra temple, we watched an intriguing and complex dance performance by priests called “Gayan Bayan.”

brahmaputra river cruise dancing monks

Dancing priests performed the entrancing “Gayan Bayan” music. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The afternoon excursion took us by road on a five-hour visit to Sivasagar to learn about the history of the Ahom Kingdom, which had 600 years of influence on the history of Assam.

We climbed the Sivasagar Savadol structure built by the Ahoms and enjoyed seeing the local street activities leading to the temple, where we had blessing strings tied on our wrists.

Sivasagar Savadol on a Brahmaputra River cruise

The beautiful Sivasagar Savadol. * Photo: Judi Cohen

After our return to the ship, free cocktails in the Soma Lounge and a farewell dinner was served. We enjoyed the cruise video that Mayuresh put together. A USB drive with professional photos from the week was available for 2300 rupees. (about $33 USD)

Brahmaputra River cruise guide

Mayuresh and Judi in the restaurant. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

Day 8: Time to Say Goodbye …

Our final stop was visiting a tea plantation for a home-made lunch and a presentation by a tea master. We met the owners and toured their property.

tea plantation on a Brahmaputra River cruise

A presentation at the tea plantation. * Photo: Judi Cohen

After lunch we were whisked off to the Jorhat Military Airport for our flight to Delhi.

Although this wasn’t the original Lower Ganges cruise that we had planned, this Brahmaputra River cruise offered us a glimpse into an unexpectedly vibrant, diverse, and geographically beautiful area of northeast India that was not at all on our radar.

I look forward to returning to the region again one day.

For booking details, visit Adventure River Cruises.

sunset on the Brahmaputra River

Lovely sunsets nearly every day. * Photo: Judi Cohen

RELATED: Heidi Sarna’s article about her Brahmaputra River cruise.

RELATED: Judi’s TIPS to help you prepare for a Brahmaputra River adventure!

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

 

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© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Alaska cruise adventures aboard UnCruise's Legacy

Small-Ship Alaska Cruise Adventures.

By Judi Cohen.

The moment I arrived in sunny Juneau where my Uncruise “Glacier Country Adventure” would begin and end, I knew this would be no ordinary 7-night Alaska cruise. As we were welcomed aboard the 90-passenger S.S. Legacy, UnCruise owner Dan Blanchard flashed the cruise brochure and exclaimed: “These brochures are out of date as soon as they’re printed. Everything on the planned route is subject to change based on the weather, park permits and wildlife sightings — Mother Nature will be in charge.”

With no traditional “ports of call” during the 614-nautical-mile cruise, the Legacy would serve as a wildlife and adventure platform and our comfortable home.

Alaska cruise adventures aboard UnCruise's Legacy

The charming 90-passenger Legacy. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Introducing the SS Legacy

The 192-foot S.S. Legacy, built in 1984 (and renovated in 2018) as a replica of a Victorian-era steamboat, would have fit perfectly into an Alaskan Gold Rush movie.

While there was nothing fancy about the Legacy, I found her Victorian-style décor and furnishings exceedingly comfortable and welcoming.

Her four decks include a sun deck with two hot tubs, an exercise room and lounge chairs. An elevator between Decks 1 and 3 makes it easy for those with mobility issues.

Alaska cruise writer Judi Cohen aboard UnCruise's Legacy

Writer Judi Cohen at the bow of the 90-passenger Legacy. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

The dining room and Pesky Barnacle Saloon are on Deck 1, while the lounge and bar are set on Deck 2 along with some cabins. The rest of the cabins line Deck 3.

Most of the 48 passengers on my Alaska cruise were active and fit with an average age of 50. We had options for morning and afternoon excursions including free and guided kayaking, bushwacking, “yak and wack” (combo kayaking and bushwacking), and skiff tours — tours on small 12-passenger inflatable boats. Morning stretch class or yoga was offered on the sun deck.

An Alaska cruise on a small ship

Excursions by skiff were a daily event on Judi’s Alaska cruise. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Wonderfully All-Inclusive

Adventure equipment (kayaks, paddleboards and skiffs) were carried on a portable launch pad called the “Sea Dragon.” Equipment like walking poles and “Alaskan Tennis Shoes,” aka rubber boots, could be borrowed. And lessons and excursions are included.

Alaska cruise and kayaking excursions

Judi and Lawrence being lowered into the water off the Sea Dragon platform. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Wine, spirits, soft drinks, juices, snacks, coffee and tea are also included. Wine could be ordered by the glass or bottle and Kyle the bartender was open to all requests.

There was a signature cocktail in the lounge before dinner that we enjoyed with hors d’oeuvres daily. Coffee, tea and snacks were always available.

The busy Lounge and bar

Lounge and bar: a hive of activity all the time! * Photo: Judi Cohen

Naturalists & Crew

There were five naturalists and experts on board our Alaska cruise. They were our expedition guides, sharing their knowledge and passion about Alaska’s wildlife, plants and history on board and during our many excursions.

In addition, Kate Troll and Bill Hanson, Alaska residents since the 1970’s, were invited onboard to provide a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to live, work and play in Southeast Alaska. Called “Alaska Insiders,” they never ran short of interesting stories shared in the lounge, dining room and the bow, and during our excursions.

They told us about their careers in natural resources, and their lives as hunters and foragers. The pair spoke about changes in the glaciers, wildlife, local people, variety of salmon, and effects of commercial fisheries. I learned, for instance, that Alaskan salmon is the gold standard due to stringent sustainability legislation.

Kate read passages from her book, The Great Unconformity – Reflections on Hope in an Imperiled World, and spoke about the dramatic changes she has seen in Alaska.

Alaska cruise with UnCruise lecturer Kate Judi with Kate

Judi with Kate, one of the cruise’s “Alaska Insider” special lecturers. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

Bill shared a passionate story during a presentation about hunting for venison, discussing their connection to the land and the necessity to eat what they harvest. I was moved when Bill said “there is some sadness felt about killing a deer.” He explained the ritual of putting their favorite food in the deer’s mouth, placing his hand on the dead deer, and saying thank you for giving them food.

The Uncruise team, notably the expert guides, Sarah, Andrew, Jessie, Teresa, Bobby and the expedition leader, Megan, along with  Captain Tim Voss, were all vital in making our awesome Alaska cruise as memorable as it was. No doubt they loved what they were doing and encouraged us to try everything, going out of their way for first-timers like us.

They generously shared their experiences and knowledge during our excursions and onboard the ship. In the same spirit, the captain welcomed everyone in the bridge whenever we were sailing.

On cruising days, the captain excitedly announced wildlife sightings, as everyone poured out onto the bow or the top-deck of the ship. The guides were as excited as the guests to see and talk about the sightings.

Alaska cruise mountain goat sighting

Guides pointing out bearded mountain goats in Glacier Bay. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Alaska cruise wildlife

Bearded mountain goats in Glacier Bay. * Photo: Uncruise

Cozy  & Compact Cabins

Cabins range from 110 square feet to a 600-square-foot two-room “Owner’s Suite” on the sun deck with its own wet bar and library. All have outside windows, and accommodate singles, triples and quads. Each offers a private bathroom with shower, bathrobes, alarm clock, safe, small flat-screen TV with DVD player, and an iPod docking station.

My cabin (306) on deck 3 was a 145-square-foot “Commander” category, with a private bathroom with shower, and a window and a door opening to the outdoor promenade. With fixed twin wooden beds, storage drawers, small desk, and closet with a safe and binoculars (to borrow), we had room to move around and unpack all of our clothing and gear.

A nice surprise was that we could drink the water from all sources on the ship, including in our bathroom.

Cabin #306 aboard the 90-passenger Legacy

Judi’s cabin, #306. * Photo: Judi Cohen

I loved seeing the sunrise from the bow. It was my favorite place on the Legacy. With my hair blowing and the ship’s flag waving, all I could hear was the movement of the water and the call of seabirds.

There is something romantic about being out front on the bow. Day or night, it’s like having a front row seat to the greatest nature show on earth.

Alaska cruise with writer Judi Cohen on bow

Judi on the bow of the SS Legacy. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

One night, we were woken up with an announcement to get out on deck if we wanted to see the Aurora Borealis on the port side. Everyone scrambled from their rooms. Some came out in bathrobes, while others quickly threw on some clothes.

Alas, by the time I made it out the colors remained for only a few seconds, replaced by large white streaks of light in the dark sky. I guess seeing the Aurora Borealis will remain on my wish list for a future Alaska cruise.

The Grand Salon Lounge and Bar

The Lounge on deck 2 was the ship’s hub, with its welcoming bar area that comprised a small library with books and DVD’s (a good thing since there is no internet access on the Legacy). It was the gathering area not only for drinks, but also presentations, games and general relaxation. There were comfortable sofas, marble-topped tables, and large picture windows.

The Klondike Dining Room

The dining room on deck 1 was bright and warm with large windows, an old-fashioned tin ceiling, two-tone wooden pillars and carpeted floors. It featured a mix of booths along the windows with larger round tables in the center.

Dining Room with swinging doors into Pesky Barnacle saloon

Dining Room with swinging doors into Pesky Barnacle saloon. * Photo: Judi Cohen

I enjoyed sitting with different guests at each meal since there was no assigned seating. We regaled each other with stories about the day’s adventures and talked about the day ahead.

Swinging saloon doors from the dining room opened to the Pesky Barnacle Saloon with wrap-around windows and a poker room vibe. It was the perfect place to play cards or just enjoy the panoramic view. On our sailing, the space was also used as a place to gather before excursions, don lifejackets, put on sunscreen, and fill our reusable water bottles.

Getting ready in the Pesky Barnacle

Getting ready in the Pesky Barnacle lounge. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Mealtime was Pure Joy

With many active and fit guests on our Alaska cruise, there were healthy options that also satisfied cosmopolitan foodies like my husband and me. All of our meals were served in courses, like dining in a restaurant.

Breakfast was served at 7:30 or 8:00am depending on the planned activities, and always included choices of eggs, yogurt, fruit, bacon, and fresh squeezed orange juice. A daily omelette made with a choice of carmelized leek, manchego, artichokes, chorizo and other ingredients.

And if that wasn’t enough, there were frittatas with roasted peppers and a crispy kale topping, blueberry pancakes with whipped cream, a full English breakfast, and cornflake-crusted French toast with bananas foster topping.

Full Breakfast with all the fixins

Full Breakfast with all the fixins. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Lunch one day included bison chili, vegetarian chili or a mixed salad with hardboiled eggs, shredded chicken and tortilla strips. On another day we had the choice of BBQ brisket, pulled jackfruit with coleslaw, mac ‘n cheese, or a salad with sockeye salmon.

There were no bad choices! Delicious freshly-baked breads, pastries and desserts accompanied every meal.

Following happy hour in the lounge, dinner was served at 6:30pm. Our dinners always started with a homemade bread and an appetizer or antipasti board with cheeses like baked brie, gruyere or blue-cheese custard, nuts, poached apples or other jams and berries.

An appetizer shared board with blue cheese, date topping, carrot butter, fruit, nuts and fig bread

An appetizer shared board with blue cheese, date topping, carrot butter, fruit, nuts and fig bread. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Our plated dinner included a meat, fish and vegetarian option. I found it difficult to choose one night from among beef tenderloin with mushrooms and demi-fried shallots, Coho salmon with rhubarb marmalade and pickled strawberries, or the vegetarian beet Wellington with leek cream and roasted radish.

Two of my favorite meals were the pepper-crusted lamb popsicles with fenugreek curry and the poached ling cod with cilantro basil oil.

Lamb Popsicles with fenugreek curry and charred broccoli.

Lamb Popsicles with fenugreek curry and charred broccoli. YUM! * Photo: Judi Cohen

Our all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab dinner was both a gourmet treat and a learning experience as we mastered how to crack the claws and pull the meat out of the shells.

Dungeness Crab Dinner with guests from Australia, UK,and California

Dungeness Crab Dinner with guests from Australia, UK and California. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Chef Cooper kept bringing out large bowls of crabs. It was quite a messy job and I concluded that it would not be wise to order Dungeness crab on a first date!

Alaska cruise dining on Dungeness crabs

Chef Cooper with Dungeness crabs galore. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Desserts were beautifully presented and always worth saving room for. The pastry chef’s creations included pumpkin cake with fresh whipped cream; fruity pebbles, candy floss and root beer macarons; and salty toffee brownies that could all have come from the finest gourmet bakery!

Dessert, fruity pebbles and candy floss macarons

Delish dessert: fruity pebbles and candy floss macarons. * Photo: Judi Cohen

A Week of Non-stop Adventure 

Map from bulletin board, updated daily

Map from bulletin board, updated daily. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 1: Juneau

We were welcomed aboard around 4pm by the captain and crew, shown to our cabins and given a safety briefing. Before we knew it, our Alaska cruise had begun and we were on our way to Glacier Bay National Park.

With almost 15 hours of daylight at this time of year, we enjoyed the golden sunshine on the bow until late in the evening.

Day 2: Tidal Inlet & Glacier Bay National Park

We anchored in Tidal Inlet with breathtaking views of the snow-peaked mountains, rocky shores and the glassy smooth water for most of the day.

Alaska cruise reflections in the waters of Glacier Bay

Stunning reflections in the water in Glacier Bay. * Photo: Judi Cohen

I was very excited that my husband and I, along with nine other guests, chose to take the “Kayak 101” lesson with Bobby from the expedition staff. After 90 minutes we were both confident and comfortable in our kayak.

Judi and Lawrence in a Kayak

Judi and Lawrence at the Kayak 101 training, at Tidal Inlet in Glacier Bay. * Photo: Judi Cohen

We were thrilled to embrace this learning opportunity and could hardly wait to kayak again on our Alaska cruise.

Alaska cruise kayaking

Judi fell in love with kayaking on her UnCruise Alaska adventure. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

Following lunch, Ranger Caitie, who boarded at Bartlett Cove wearing her National Parks uniform, gave an orientation session on Glacier National Park. She noted that “only two large cruise ships, four small ships, and a few kayaks are allowed in the park at a time.”

So this part of the trip felt like a privilege, especially since we would be in the park for two full days!

Judi with Ranger Caitie before she departed in Bartlett Cove

Judi with Ranger Caitie before she departed in Bartlett Cove. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

As the Legacy sailed along Tarr Inlet in Glacier Bay, Kate pointed out the partially hidden Grand Pacific Glacier in the distance where Canada meets Alaska.

We slowly approached the majestic blue-veined Margerie Glacier and Ranger Caitie requested a moment of silence. We stood on the bow listening to the glacier grumbling and bergy bits growling and crackling in the water all around the ship; it was a highlight of my Alaska cruise.

Alaska cruise approaching Margerie Glacier

Approaching Margerie Glacier. * Photo: Judi Cohen

With the clear skies, we were able to see the snow-covered jagged peak of Mount Fairweather, the highest mountain in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Lawrence on the sundeck

Lawrence on the sundeck. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 3: Lamplugh Glacier & South Marble Island

A planned morning skiff ride and beach walk near the magnificent Lamplugh Glacier quickly changed to just a long skiff ride after a brown bear was spotted a short distance away on the beach and another bear was swimming towards the beach.

We passed slowly by the odorous South Marble Island with lazy sea lions and seals making belching and farting noises. Meanwhile, loads of seabirds were flying overhead. Humpback whale blows and flukes could be seen in the distance.

Alaska cruise wildlife includes Sea Lions

Sea Lions enjoying the sunshine on South Marble Island. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Before lunch about half of the passengers and many of the staff did a “polar plunge” off the Sea Dragon into the frigid waters of Glacier Bay. The rest of us cheered them on (I have to admit, I hate cold water and couldn’t fathom jumping in!).

Alaska cruise UnCruise Polar Plunge

Polar Plunge in Glacier Bay. Brrrrr! * Photo: Judi Cohen

We then sailed to drop off Ranger Caitie at Glacier National Park headquarters in Bartlett Cove. Along the way we saw many bears digging for food on the shore — and we could see them without binoculars, that’s how close they were (this could never happen on a big-ship cruise!).

The sight of a mother brown bear with two fuzzy cubs was my best Mother’s Day gift ever! My Alaska cruise was even better than I had imagined.

Mama Brown Bear and Two Cubs

Mama Brown bear and two cubs on Mothers Day! * Photo: Judi Cohen

After dinner, we all went for a walk to see the Huna Tribal House on the shoreline of Bartlett Cove. We admired the carved totems and the exterior painting representing the stories of the Glacier Bay clans.

Guests walked along the one-mile Bartlett River shoreline trail or just relaxed on the sandy beach near the dock to enjoy the colors and listen to the sounds of the birds.

Huna House Bartlett Cove in Glacier National Park

Huna House in Bartlett Cove in Glacier National Park. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 4: Neka Bay Wildlife Extravaganza

The Legacy was anchored in the untouched wilderness and the quiet calm in Neka Bay. Our morning skiff tour turned out to be a wildlife extravaganza, with eagles, gulls, golden plover, pigeon guillemot, harlequin ducks and sliders.

Alaska Cruise Bald Eagle Sighting

A majestic Bald Eagle sighting. * Photo: Judi Cohen

We were treated to humpback whales blowing and breaching, and harbor seals and porpoises playing near our skiff.

When we returned to the ship, I decided to do some free-kayaking for an hour before lunch in magical and serene Neka Bay.

Judi and Lawrence free-kayaking in Neka Bay

Judi and Lawrence free-kayaking in Neka Bay.

In the afternoon we were dropped off on a rocky beach with an array of spitting clams, starfish that were 10-20 inches across, and red rock crabs. Here we would experience a two-hour bushwack.

Giant starfish on Judi's hat before bushwacking trek.

Giant starfish on Judi’s hat before bushwacking trek. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

Our guide yelled “aaayo” loudly many times to let any bears know that we arrived. Unlike a hike along a marked path, bushwacking required effort and attention as we made our own way through the forested and mossy undergrowth. We stopped to learn about the moss, fungus and flowers and even tasted some of them.

Judi bushwacking

Judi bushwacking! * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

I worked up quite a sweat and peeled off my layers of clothing right down to a T-shirt! When we made it to a clearing, we spotted a lumbering brown bear and quickly planned a detour back to our skiff.

Our many bear sightings were definitely a very special feature of an Alaska cruise on a small, nimble ship like the Legacy, that can meanuever close to shore.

We sailed all evening and night to Thomas Bay, also called “The Bay of Death” or “Devil’s Country.” As the story goes, early prospectors reported seeing “Kushtaka,” the shape-shifting creatures of Tlingit tribal legend that can take the form of man or otter.

We passed Huna, a fishing village, that is now a cruise ship dock with the longest zipline in North America. Thankfully we did not stop here!

Captain Voss announced that a pod of Orca killer whales were on our port side. He stopped the ship so we could enjoy them bobbing and moving gracefully. The guides even lowered a microphone into the water to hear them better.

Killer Whales portside - binoculars focused

Killer Whales port side: binoculars focused! * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 5: Scenery Cove & Baird Glacier 

Our morning excursion was a skiff ride in Scenery Cove, just in front of Baird Glacier. We navigated around large oddly-shaped grounded icebergs of many colors, which is only possible in a skiff with a very experienced operator familiar with the changing tides and water levels.

We did an easy guided hike in the afternoon up to Cascade Creek to see a winding waterfall that flowed from the top of the mountain down through rocks and forests. The mist from the waterfalls made the steep rocky stairs very slippery, so ropes were available along the sides for stability.

Hiking at Cascade Creek Alaska

Hiking at Cascade Creek. * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

Day 6: Robert & Crow Islands, Plus Woodspit

This morning our skiff was surrounded by dozens of playful Steller sea lions as we soaked in the lush green surroundings. We spotted Arctic terns, puffins, cormorants and murrelets and other birds.

Lawrence and Earl on a skiff

Lawrence and Earl on a skiff. * Photo: Judi Cohen

On our way to Woodspit in the afternoon, we were on a whale search and sure enough Captain Voss spotted a pod of Humpback whales.

Humpback Whale fluke

Humpback Whale fluke. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The breaching whales put on a show that lasted a couple of hours. The ship turned several times so we could get the best views.

What a show!

On the bow watching humpbacks

On the bow watching humpbacks. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Day 7: Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier — The Highlight of my Trip!

This was the highlight of the trip for me as we sailed through the sapphire-colored near-frozen waters in Endicott Arm surrounded by turquoise icebergs. I was on the bridge as we sailed through this tranquil paradise with waterfalls, forests and ice.

On the Bridge with Captain Voss heading towards Dawes Glacier

On the bridge with Captain Voss heading towards Dawes Glacier. * Photo: Judi Cohen

On our skiff tour we heard the crackling of icebergs in the water as we moved closer to the face of Dawes Glacier — over 600 feet tall and a mile wide. We witnessed the thundering sound of the calving glacier when giant chunks of ice broke off and crashed into the water without warning, creating waves that rocked our skiff.

It was a sobering reminder of the reality of climate change and a dramatic way to end the cruise.

Day 8: Disembarkation in Juneau

When we disembarked in Juneau, Dan Blanchard took us on a fascinating tour of downtown Juneau pointing out the rich history of prospecting and gold mines. We had succulent Alaskan halibut and chips on the pier and took in our last views of the beautiful cloud-shrouded mountains, lush forest and choppy seas before our transfer to the airport.

Lawrence Cohen enjoying our last Alaskan Fish and Chips on the dock in Juneau

Lawrence Cohen enjoying our last Alaskan Fish and Chips on the dock in Juneau. * Photo: Judi Cohen

End Note

I was grateful for the opportunity to be unplugged and disconnected from my normal wired life, and reveled in reconnecting with my body and curious spirit on this very special Alaska cruise. Blessed with a week of sunshine, I enjoyed all of the adventurous activities and up-close wildlife sightings in the water, on land and in the sky.

My interest has been piqued, and I look forward to seeing more of the untouched wilderness and incredible miracles of Mother Nature in Alaska. I hope to return again one day for more adventure and genuine UnCruise hospitality!

UnCruise’s 7-night “Glacier Country Adventure” cruise starts at $4,795. per person; click here for more details.

Alaska cruise aboard UnCruise's Legacy

The Legacy is an excellent way to explore Alaska’s Inside passage.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

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New Viking Einar Impresses

New Viking Einar Impresses A First Timer

By Judi Cohen.

This was my first ever Europe river cruise, and I was awed the moment I stepped into the spacious and bright two-story atrium of Viking Cruises’ 190-passenger Viking Einar.

The natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows and the reflection of the water danced with the light woods, the beige and blue carpeting, the woven fabric on the walls, and the large artworks to create a warm, yet dramatic, environment.

I was aboard Viking Einar last month for the boat’s naming festivities and afterwards, a four-night mini Rhine cruise. Click here for the Naming story.

Judi on Sun deck of the Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

 Pretty Public Spaces

The Viking Einar is typical of Viking’s fleet of 72 longships, though Richard Riviere, the architect and veteran designer of the fleet, explained to me that each vessel has minor design differences, from the color of bathroom tiles and fabrics, to the type of wood flooring.

Judi and Viking Cruises Designer Richard Riveire in the Einar’s Lounge.

The Atrium

As on many boats and ships, large and small, the Einar’s atrium was the hub of activity. The reception, gift shop, concierge and blond Scandinavian wood and fabric chairs were all found here. Looking up to the second level above was a small library with sofas, two computer workstations, and a 24-hour refreshment nook with coffee, tea and cookies.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Upper level of atrium looking down. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Aquavit Terrace

The Einar was designed with a rounded bow to create an indoor/outdoor lounge and viewing area called the Aquavit Terrace at the stern, where I spent much of my time. Some days I enjoyed dining alfresco on the Aquavit Terrace at breakfast and lunch, and then returning in the evening for a glass of wine to watch our transit through the Rhine’s many locks.

Aquavit Terrace on the Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

From the Aquavit Terrace, I could easily go up to the sundeck for a 360-degree view and check out the boat’s well-manicured organic herb garden (used for cooking on the ship), walking track, putting green, and shuffleboard.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Sundeck with Organic Herb Garden. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Lounge and Bar

Before dinner, passengers gathered for cocktails and a catch-up on the day’s activities in the spacious lounge and bar on the upper deck. Many made the most of their time while aboard the ship at the bar with its signature “clinker” overlapping wood-plank-on-wood-plank design harkening back to early Viking boat-building techniques.

With the aid of a large video screen, the cruise director briefed us on the following day’s schedule and shore excursion options.

The lounge, with floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides, was also a lovely space to work and gaze at the scenery as the ship made its way along the river.

On our final night, a four-piece orchestra played Bach and the Hungarian Czarda, and everyone seemed to enjoy it very much.

New Viking Einar Impresses

The Lounge. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Delightful Dining

Located on the middle deck, the restaurant offered one dinner sitting for all guests. Open for breakfast and dinner daily, the restaurant was bright with large floor-to-ceiling windows and comfortable blond wood tables and chairs. There was plenty of space between tables for circulation and service.

The buffet area in the centre of the restaurant featured white granites and steel, and was approachable from all sides, with space in the middle for the chefs. This is where I ordered my omelettes every morning. The service was wonderful, and by the second day I didn’t even have to say how I wanted my omelette made! There were loads of fresh fruit, plus yogurts, nuts, smoked salmon, bacon, open-face Danish sandwiches, and all sorts of breads and pastries.

The dinner menu offered “classics” that were always available including a rib eye steak, poached Norwegian salmon, and roast chicken with a Caesar salad. Dessert choices included creme brûlée, cheese, seasonal fruit, and ice cream. Beer, wine and soft drinks at lunch and dinner are included in cruise fares.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Norwegian salmon dinner. * Photo: Judi Cohen

There were also options that changed daily, and I typically ordered from the three-course tasting menu with recommended wine pairing. The honey and rosemary rack of lamb with a potato gratin was outstanding as was the three-onion soup prepared Lyonnais style with punchy provolone and gruyere cheeses.

The Surf and Turf, with lobster-au-gratin and slow cooked beef, was paired with the sommelier’s recommendation of Valleta Barbera d’Alba Schloss, a full-bodied red wine — they were perfectly matched.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Surf and Turf dinner in the Restaurant of the Viking Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Being a dessert fan, I could not resist trying the specialty every night. From the mango lassi cake with chia passion fruit sauce, to the Heisse Liebe, a vanilla parfait with crunchy nougat and raspberry sauce, I enjoyed each burst of unique flavour.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Mango cake with ice cream. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Cabins

The Viking Einar’s 95 outside cabins were located on the first three of the boat’s four decks, comprising 25 standard cabins, 22 French balcony cabins, 39 veranda cabins, seven veranda suites and two explorer suites. There are no inside cabins aboard the Viking longships.

Most cabins have floor-to-ceiling windows or doors, while the water-level cabins on the main deck have smaller windows at the top of the outside wall.

My cabin (309) was a Category B, 205-square-foot Veranda cabin located mid-ship on the upper deck, making it very easy to get to the atrium and central staircase. I found the closet and drawer space generous and loved the heated bathroom floor, mirror, and flat-screen TV.

The light wood counters above the dresser drawers and desk provided ample space to work along with a comfortable chair. When I wanted a break, I could sit on my private balcony and watch the world slowly float by.

The white fluffy towels and crisp linens made me feel like I was in a fancy hotel. In fact, my daughter Face-timed me, and I showed her my cabin. She could not believe I was on a river boat and not in a Four Seasons Hotel!

Judi’s Balcony Cabin 309. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Ports

While the ship was a beauty, the food excellent, and my cabin very comfortable, the highlights of the mini-cruise were the ports and shore excursions. There were tours offered in each port, but it was also easy to walk along the short gangway from the ship directly onto a sidewalk. With temperatures between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day with sunny skies, all I needed was a light down jacket.

Rhine cruises typically start in early April and for me, it was a perfect time to go.  Ahh…springtime in Europe!!

Flower Garden in Old City of Mainz, Germany

Flower Garden in the old quarter of Mainz, Germany. * Photo: Judi Cohen

On this four-day mini-cruise, we sampled some of the ports visited on a full cruise including Basel in Switzerland and Strasbourg, France, along with Heidelberg and Mainz in Germany.

The full 7-night “Rhine Getaway” cruise would also visit Breisach, Cologne and Koblenz in Germany, and Kinderdijk and Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

In each port, the fare includes one two- to six-hour shore excursion, usually a walking tours and sometimes via bus. Optional excursions are available including “Privileged Access” tours at an additional charge, such as “The Hermitage Behind Closed Doors” ($129 USD pp) in St. Petersburg. It starts with a private tour of the museum’s public collection followed by a transfer to an off-site location with an art historian to learn something about the millions of pieces of art, furniture, gifts to Russian royalty and imperial carriages that are held in secured vaults.

In Prague, a half-day “Privileged Access” excursion visits the “Lobkowicz Palace” ($119 USD pp), the residence of one of the region’s most avid patrons of the arts. Learn about the 400-year Lobkowicz family history and enjoy lunch in the family’s original living quarters and then a private concert in the Baroque concert hall.

Basel, Switzerland

This was our embarkation point with the vessel docked only a 15-minute walk from the city centre. Shuttles ran regularly as well. During the walking tour in Basel I loved seeing the blend of old and new buildings with colourful trams running in all directions from the centre.

Basel, Switzerland’s Old Quarter. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The large red sandstone 15th-century Basel Minster cathedral dominates the old town, and the streets are full of small shops selling unique Swiss trinkets like cow bells, cuckoo clocks, swiss flags, and other handicrafts.

Many fine jewelry stores, including the iconic Patek Philippe watch store, were located throughout the old city.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Basel, Switzerland. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Strasbourg, France

Leaving the ship around 9am allowed a full day to enjoy this historic and colourful city. The morning excursion began with a short scenic bus ride from the port to Strasbourg’s historic old town. The bus took us along streets of well-pruned trees where storks sat in giant nests.

We passed university areas, parks and churches, as we made our way to Petite France, a historic quarter on Strasbourg’s tiny “Grande Ile” island, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We meandered along Petite France’s canals, admiring the half-timbered houses and cobblestone roads lined with tiny shops and buildings.

Being a foodie, I was thrilled that the afternoon optional “Taste the Best of the Alsace” excursion ($189 USD pp) started with lunch in a charming French restaurant, and included eating opportunities as we strolled through Petite France. We visited gingerbread bakeries, macaron and chocolate shops, high-end fromageries (one with the largest cheese bell in the world!), and wine stores.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Judi’s all day “Taste of Alsace in Strasbourg” * Collage: Judi Cohen

Our taste tour culminated with our group seated at a long wooden table in one of the quaint Alsace wine shops, feasting on everything we had bought along the way.

The afternoon tour concluded with a wonderful “behind the scenes” private organ concert in the 13th-century Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral; a visit to the cathedral is included on many tours but rarely an actual concert. WOW! Imagine being one of only 30 people in this majestic space to hear the organist play for almost an hour. It was truly magical. Listen to Judi’s video below!

 

Heidelberg, Germany

We had a full day in one of Germany’s oldest, and in my opinion, most romantic cities: Heidelberg. Following a short 20-minute bus ride from the port in Mannheim up a winding road to the 12th-century Heidelberg Castle, we enjoyed a walking tour around the red-sandstone ruins of the Renaissance-style complex high above the old town.

New Viking Einar Impresses

The ruins of Heidelberg’s impressive hilltop castle. Some sections date back to the 12th century. * Photo: Judi Cohen

We then drove down to the old town to see the 14th-century Heidelberg University (Germany’s oldest university, with some 56 Nobel Prize winners as alumni) to walk around the Baroque-style old quarter with its narrow cobbled streets.

In the town there are several memorials to the Holocaust, one that caught my attention were the stumbling stones (Stolpersteine in German) placed in front of buildings where the Nazis removed residents for transport to the death camps. Each concrete block bears a brass plate inscribed with the name of a victim persecuted and killed by the Nazis, and the date and place of death.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Heidelberg’s moving “Stumbling Stones” (Stolperstein) * Photo: Judi Cohen

During our bus ride along the Neckar River back to the Einar we saw well-manicured private homes and many old vaulted bridges.

The Einar was now docked in Worms, Germany, for our onward short sail to Mainz, Germany.

Mainz, Germany

Mainz was our last port of call. Docked right in front of City Hall and the major shopping area of Mainz, we were met by our guides and taken for a brief walking tour in the city centre to see the flower gardens and the thousand-year-old St. Martin’s Cathedral and under renovation. The town square was packed with restaurants and crowds enjoying the sunset with drinks and food.

New Viking Einar Impresses

The city center of Mainz, Germany. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Our tour continued to the Gutenberg Museum with a private visit to see two of the famous 15th-century Gutenberg Bibles kept in a security vault. We were also given a demonstration of how early printing was done during the time of Johannes Gutenberg and saw some of the historic printing presses. Fascinating!

As our mini-cruise was, sadly, over, the following morning I headed to the Frankfurt Airport, (a short 45-minute drive) for my flight home to Toronto.

New Viking Einar Impresses

New Viking Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

It was a whirlwind of a week immersing myself in the Viking brand of river cruising aboard the newly christened Viking Einar.

I must admit I am hooked on “The Viking Way” and I look forward to another Viking river cruise one day soon.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Until next time! 🥂

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Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Antarctica on Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

By Judi Cohen.

You’ve probably seen a ton of documentaries about Antarctica on the Discovery Channel and loads of National Geographic photos of penguins, vast untouched vistas, huge icebergs, and rugged early explorers, but how often have you actually thought about going to the great white continent?

After all, it’s far from, well…anything!  As out of reach as it may seem, visiting Antarctica is not just doable, but it’s the adventure of a lifetime. Plus, you’ll get a much-needed “digital detox” to re-connect with nature and yourself.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Zodiac through an iceberg WOW! * Photo: Judi Cohen

Aboard One Ocean Expeditions’ Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Our small expedition ship, One Ocean Expeditions’ Russian research vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov, departed from Ushuaia, Argentina, on a 10-night cruise last winter.  We were joined by 84 passengers from all corners of the world. A lucky group of 20 Grade 10 students from Brisbane, Australia added a youthful spirit on the ship, and brought down the average age on our sailing to about 50. Our oldest passenger, a former submarine engineer, was 85 years young. The ship has a capacity of just 92 passengers, which is ideal, given that, in Antarctica only 100 passengers from the same ship can make a shore landing at the same time. We were all able to participate in excursions without taking turns.

Most passengers chose to see Antarctica on Akademik Sergey Vavilov because of the cache of the vessel and the caliber of the experts on board; the learning component was a huge motivator for most of us.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Akademik Sergey Vavilov. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Built in 1988 in Finland as a research survey vessel for the Russian Academy of Science, the Russian-flagged ship was later converted into a polar expedition vessel. The Vavilov is certainly not a “luxury ship,” but our Twin Private Cabin with lower berths was very comfortable. The cabin — with it’s own private toilet and shower — was kept impeccably clean, with fresh fluffy towels and bathrobes.

Other cabins had shared washrooms with either double or triple accommodations. Solo passengers were matched when possible with others in a shared cabin of their choice based on budget; some sharing double and trip cabins on our trip. A friend proudly invited me in to see her Shackleton Suite, which was very spacious with two rooms and a bathtub! There are six suites available on two decks.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilovl

A Twin Private cabin. * Photo: One Ocean Expeditions.

Daily Routine

Most mornings went something like this: smoothies in the ship’s lounge with panoramic views, a buffet breakfast in the dining room with a daily briefing, morning excursion, lunch, afternoon excursion, technical briefings by one of our experts, happy hour in the lounge, dinner, and finally a nightly fireside chat with one of our experts. We looked forward to the briefings that focused on Antarctic history, excursion overviews and instructions, and anticipated sightings of species and terrain.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Dining Room during a pre-dinner presentation. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

The ship’s dining room prettied up for dinner. * Photo: One Ocean Expeditions.

There was ample time to enjoy all of the ships’ facilities, like the library, flush with books on Antarctica and the Arctic, and the multi-media room with computers to edit photos and videos. There was a small fitness room, and a relaxing wellness centre with sauna, salt-water plunge pool and outdoor hot tub, along with a massage therapist to ease any post-hike sore muscles…particularly for those of us who are not natural athletes.  

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

The onboard gym. * Photo: One Ocean Expeditions

The First Few Days

Our 10-night itinerary involved sailing from Ushuaia across the Drake Passage, with a return flight from King George Island to Punta Arenas, Chile. By flying back, we were able to enjoy two additional days in Antarctica. The itineraries offered by One Ocean Expeditions vary in trip length and sail/fly options. Our itinerary was designed for everyone to sail one way and fly back the other.

The trip started as we set out across the infamously choppy Drake Passage, between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. I came prepared with nausea patches, pills and wristbands of every shape and size…but when the sun finally peeked out after two days of huge swells, grey skies and high winds, we all agreed that the “Drake Shake” was a rite of passage for visiting Antarctica. (Not all crossings are quite so rough — on a previous crossing, I experienced a “Drake Lake” with waters smooth as glass.)

As we crossed the Drake, escorted by a plethora of seabirds, we received our mandatory IAATO briefing (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators). We learned about the protection of wildlife and nature, scientific research activities, and about keeping Antarctica pristine. Next, we received instructions on boarding and disembarking from the zodiacs, the correct way to “lock arms” with the sailors who would be assisting us, and the need to remain seated and holding on to the ropes in the zodiac at all times. Finally, we had fittings for our parkas, snow pants and waterproof boots, and we were shown how to use our life jackets. Those who wanted to Kayak had a fitting for their dry-suits. These tight-fitting GORE-TEX “onesies” kept the kayakers dry from head to toe.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Judi and Lawrence in a Zodiac with all gear, lifejackets and dry sack.

The first voice we heard every day was that of Boris Wise, our expedition leader, a naturalist, wilderness guide and photographer, who has been guiding voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic since 2010. During our meals he updated us on the weather, our route changes and planned excursions. We loved hearing his cheerful voice and seeing his confident smile, even when the news was not so good regarding pending storms and itinerary changes.

Day Four, We Reach the Great White Continent

By the fourth day, the Drake’s fury was behind us and we arrived. Nothing can prepare you for your first sighting of the great white continent. Dozens of us stood on the deck, completely silent as we approached and took in the scale of immense glaciers calving into the sea, massive icebergs, and a palette of vivid colors, from the deep blues to the rich aquamarines of the ice and water, along with a soft pink sky.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

“Iceberg porn!” * Photo: Judi Cohen

That morning, we took our first zodiac excursion to Fournier Bay where we saw glaciers and odd-shaped ice formations. In the afternoon, we had a hiking excursion to Danco Island and enjoyed the splendor of the rugged land and the snow and ice covered mountains. Most passengers did both excursions either by kayak or zodiac. Some passengers stayed on board for one or both excursions.  At least one passenger on my trip did not do any excursions due to physical limitations.

That night, about 40 passengers took zodiacs to Leith Cove for an outdoor sleep-over on the Antarctic Peninsula. Considered a highlight of the expedition, the opportunity to sleep out was offered at no extra charge and all campers were provided with state-of-the-art insulated and waterproof sleeping bags. They dug what they called “graves” in the snow and put their sleeping bags in the snowy holes.

(I, on the other hand, was happy to wave goodbye to the campers and tucked myself into my comfortable bed for a good night’s sleep aboard the ship!)

The following morning, some tired-looking campers told us about cold toes, how hard it was to fall asleep without darkness under a dusty pink sky, and how the condensation from their breath in their sleeping bags created cold dampness. Despite these challenges, most said that it was a worthwhile, memorable, and once-in-a-lifetime experience. When I return to Antarctica, I will definitely give it a try!!

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

BBQ Dinner on deck, what a backdrop! * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Next Six Days

This is not a trip where you’re stuck aboard the ship. We had the opportunity to kayak, take zodiac excursions through ice fields and make landings to hike, walk, sketch, learn about the Antarctic history, or just sit along the shore and observe the wildlife, glaciers and icebergs.

“Going with the flow” is definitely a defining theme on an Antarctic cruise. Despite our planned itinerary, the winds, snow, and ice caused continual route adjustments. We ended up having to cross the Brandsfield Strait twice (both crossings were unplanned in the original itinerary). I did not realize that the changes were made since I was sleeping off my seasickness. We maintained our position in Maxwell Bay for two additional nights (another unexpected change) at the end of the trip until it was safe to disembark and board zodiacs to take us to Marsh Airstrip at King George Island. (Our trip ended up being 12 nights aboard the Vavilov instead of the planned 10 nights. All of our flights and hotel reservations needed to be changed accordingly. The Antarctica itinerary options aboard the Vavilov range from 10 nights to 19 nights on the ship, plus one or more included hotel nights.)

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Map of the route. * Photo: Judi Cohen


Highlights from our Zodiac Excursions and Landings

Zodiac Tour of Cierva Cove

I felt all the thumps and bumps as we navigated through thick flows of broken ice. At first, this was a little unsettling since all I could think about was how strong the bottom of our zodiac was!

Surrounded by magnificent ice formations, we turned our heads and cameras to take it all in! I was overcome by sensory overload with the deep blue ice, the gurgling of the air bubbles in the ancient ice flows, and the thumping of the chunks on the bottom of our zodiac. All of this was coupled with sightings of swimming Adelie and Chinstrap penguins around our zodiac, and a wonderful view of an Argentine research base on the rocky hills.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Cierva Cove in a zodiac. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Penguin Island

We arrived at Penguin Island, at the perfect time of year (early December) to see the cutest grey fluffy Adelie penguin chicks.  We sat and watched as they were being fed and cared for by the adults. Other passengers hiked to see the volcanic cone of Deacon Peak.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Baby Adeiie penguins just two days old. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Portal Point

It began to snow quite heavily as we landed at Portal Point. The snow was very deep as we used our poles to steady ourselves on our climb to the top of the point. I sunk almost waist-deep in the snow several times and was assisted to my feet by other passengers to continue the climb. After we explored the area, the real fun started as about 30 passengers and staff stripped down into their bathing suits and walked or jumped into the icy waters for the Polar Plunge while the rest of us cheered them on. They all definitely earned their bragging rights! Even the penguins watched in disbelief from the wet rocks as the chilled plungers emerged and ran for their dry towels and blankets!

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Polar Plunge. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Port Lockroy

One of my highlights was visiting the quirky little “Penguin Post Office” and museum at Port Lockroy — the first British permanent base to be established in the Antarctic Peninsula. (There’s also a colony of adorable Gentoo penguins on the island that acted as “welcoming committee” upon our arrival.)  As a result of the rugged rocky terrain, we had to climb up about eight very steep makeshift steps to get from the Zodiac up to the museum…but it was well worth it.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Judi at Port Lockroy (Penguin Post Office). * Photo: Lawrence Cohen

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Port Lockroy Penguins. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Our Expert Guides

From our expedition leader to the glaciologists, ornithologists, Antarctic historians, and naturalists, the One Ocean Staff along with the special experts aboard created an open, comfortable atmosphere to be curious and to ask questions about the unique experiences in Antarctica.

One interesting question was about how to handle going to the bathroom while on an excursion. The simple answer was that you can not leave anything on the land that is not naturally present. Needless to say we were all reminded regularly about “managing our ballasts” — i.e. do not eat or drink too much before leaving the ship! For the overnight camping, a bucket and curtain was set up by the excursion team. In the morning it was packed up with all of its “contents” and brought back to the ship.  For day excursions, people had to just hold it!

There were also many questions about the roles of the male and female penguins in protecting their eggs, and about the care and feeding of their chicks.

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Chinstrap Penguins. * Photo: One Ocean Expeditions.

Whether it was an informal conversation in the lounge, a formal presentation, or during excursions, the experts were prepared and eager to engage in conversation and teach us about our surroundings.

My room was next to Dr. Joan Louwrens, who was one of the physicians on our sailing. She attended to the passengers, while a Russian doctor looked after the Russian crew. We got to know Joan quite well since she administered seasickness meds to virtually all of us! She has been an adventure medic for transcontinental cycling trips, and has worked on research and expedition vessels for many years.

Now I am not a birder, nor have I ever expressed an interest in learning about them, however, being in Antarctica surrounded by birds of all kinds and most notably the penguins, I devoted lots of time listening to our Ornithologist, Simon Boyes, speak to us in his thick UK accent about our many feathered friends. It was fascinating to walk with him through hundreds of penguins on their nests, busily transferring rocks and protecting their eggs from the large skuas that swooped down to steal them.

I had the privilege of sketching with our Artist-in-Residence, Falcon Scott, during one of our landings. Falcon is the grandson of Robert Scott, the famous polar explorer and British Royal Navy officer, who led the British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition (1910-1913).

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Falcon Scott, Artist in Residence. * Photo: Judi Cohen

 

An Adventure of a Lifetime

My time on the Vavilov was enriching on every level. And it was a much-needed opportunity to disconnect from the buzz of social media and reconnect with my adventurous spirit. From the colossal tabular icebergs and the mind-boggling scenery to the wildlife sightings and pungent scent wafting for miles around penguin rookeries, visiting Antarctica was certainly a thrill of a lifetime! So, when you set out to plan your next travel experience make sure Antarctica is high on the list!

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Judi and Lawrence in matching hats!

Antarctica Tips
  • If your trip provides a waterproof coat, pants and boots, (ours did) pack light! Take only a couple of layers of merino wool tops and pants, and a light down puffy jacket.
  • Pack a couple of pairs of gloves, including a light pair that will allow you to use your camera. Your gloves tend to get wet on the zodiac rides. I used small heating inserts in my gloves that worked like a charm.
  • Take a warm hat with ear flaps that can be tied as well as a close fitting knitted hat you can wear over a baseball cap
  • Bring a high-resolution camera, and learn how to use all the nifty settings before you start your trip! Don’t forget extra flash memory and battery backups — you will want to capture every second of the wildlife, natural beauty, the panoramic views, and the icebergs from the moment you arrive! (Oh yeah, NEVER take your camera strap off from around your neck in the zodiac or kayak. A gust of wind or splash of the waves could send your camera to the bottom of the icy sea!)  Wrap your camera in plastic to protect against sea-water damaging it, or keep it inside the dry-sack that is provided to you for the duration of the expedition.
  • Polarized sunglasses and sunscreen are musts. During the summer sailing season, from November to February, there is sunlight for almost 24 hours!
  • Remember that in the Antarctic the only thing that is certain is change. Embrace it! Your itinerary will likely be just a suggestion… Safety is the top priority for your captain and expedition leader who will assess the forecasts and adjust your course. Our expedition leader reminded us that while we ‘city folk’ like to think we can control everything all the time — from the Drake Passage to needing to wait out severe weather — in Antarctica Mother Nature is in charge!
  • For more info on One Ocean Expeditions Antarctica adventures, read the QuirkyCruise company profile.

 

Russian Research Vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov

This Baby Elephant Seal gives new meaning to adorable. * Photo: Judi Cohen

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© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.