Review: MS Fram
Cruise - Ocean Cruise
26 people found this review helpful
2011 marks the centenary of Roald Amundsen’s trek to the South Pole and you may wonder about what exactly has changed in polar exploration and indeed what has stayed the same today? In fact there are plenty of ways to follow in their footsteps today. You can take part in adventure cruising and actually walk where these men walked or sip a gin and tonic from the observation lounge as the icebergs and snow capped mountains slip slowly by. Like the old explorers you will have to cross the Drake Passage, the unpredictable stretch of water from Tierra del Fuego to the White Continent and like them you can marvel at the albatrosses as they soar around the ship with majestic ease. Amundsen was Norwegian and I went to Antarctica with Norwegian polar cruising specialists Hurtigruten. The company’s polar cruise ship holding around 200 people on an average trip is named the Fram, the same as the original ship that was used by Amundsen. The decor on board includes original artwork and superbly appointed interiors that have been inspired by the polar with a main reception area, a glass-enclosed observation salon and excellent leisure facilities, including gym, sauna and heated Jacuzzis. Items of the original Fram are also displayed throughout the vessel, linking the present MS Fram with the rich history of its illustrious past. Two spacious lifts can carry up and down between decks and the ship holds a fleet of lightweight polar circkle boats that hold eight people at time to enable you to land at certain islands or on the mainland. Landing is much easier than you think as the polar circklboats have hand rails and there are small disembarking steps unlike the zodiacs used by other companies where you have to clamber around. There are no organised Broadway shows or films as you would expect on the larger cruise lines but you do get an excellent series of lectures on a variety of polar subjects from penguins to the history of the region’s exploration. The lectures are planned so that the next day you can actually visit the places discussed and see the wildlife and on some islands huts where the early explorers and scientists lived and worked. One of these is the British base at Port Lockroy which is now run by The Antarctic Heritage Trust which operates as a museum here. It also has an excellent souvenir shop and post office with loads of goodies from bags to ties and sweat shirts etc. All the profits go to preserving historical huts in Antarctica.
It quickly became an unwritten law that if someone had started one of the many jigsaws on board and when passing you saw where a piece fitted then you were duty bound to pick it up a put in its place. Many card and board games were up and running with people who did not share a common language but did a sense of fun and laughter. These activities took place in the large lounge which included free coffee, tea, hot chocolate and assorted pastries and cakes 24 hours a day. This lounge also holds the information centre where you can follow the ships progress with charts and get the latest information on activities and excursions. Adjoining it are the two lecture theatres and the Internet suite with six computers available, you can buy half, one and six hour sessions from reception.
The Antarctic holds even more poignant and atmospheric memories as you walk inside the huts the early explorers built. On places such as Snow Hill manned by Swedish geologists in 1902 their cutlery lies on the sink where they left it whilst at the British Base of Port Lockroy tins of Birds Custard Powder and Fray Bentos Beef still sit on the shelves. On Paulet Island are the remains of Larsen’s hut which he and his men built to overwinter after dragging their lifeboats across 14 miles of pack ice when their ship was crushed.
Some companies nowadays take you for a hike on Antarctica and you can camp overnight should you so wish. You won’t need the three man sleeping bag made of seal and reindeer skin as you have modern materials and are given wind and waterproof jackets as well as Wellingtons. All trips to Antarctica are strictly controlled and Wellingtons are worn and disinfected both before you leave and return to your ship in order not to introduce diseases to this pristine wilderness.
The trips to the islands and a walk upon the Antarctic mainland itself and the wildlife do you leave you spellbound. All of the pictures and films you see on the TV simply do not do this magnificent place justice, it is just awe inspiring. Do go, you will never, ever forget it.
So is there one thing above all other that binds us to the early explorers? Well two actually, firstly the unpredictably the weather of this place. Be prepared for your visit to change dramatically. We for example were forced to leave the Weddell Sea very quickly as the ice and gale force winds were closing in on us and our itinerary had to be changed completely. Two days later another cruise ship ran a ground in the same area. Secondly the penguins, tens of thousands of them on single islands. You can just simply marvel at them and unlike the early explorers if things go wrong, you won’t have to eat them. You can find out more at the Hurtigruten website www.hurtigruten.co.uk.
26 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.
Silver Travel Advisor Recommended Partner: Hurtigruten