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Today was the day! Our long-awaited Arctic adventure was about to begin (a few years wait for some of us!) our story begins in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement in the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard, where it was time to board M/V Ortelius, the ship that would be our home for the next nine days. What would we see on our travels? We could only guess at this stage, but the smiles on the faces of guests as they arrived showed the excitement everyone was feeling. It was a little bit of a cloudy day alongside the pier in Longyearbyen and at 16:00pm guests arrived ready to board for our epic trip. The expedition staff waited on the pier to welcome us aboard and assist with our luggage before guiding us to reception to check in. We had a little time to settle in and get our bearings on board the vessel whilst the bridge team made preparations for the ship to depart from the pier. With everyone aboard, we were called to the lecture room to attend the first of our mandatory briefings; a ship safety briefing from the chief officer and house rules from the assistant hotel manager. The chief officer instructed everyone on what to do in an emergency and how to recognise the various alarms. This included the instructions on what to do in the case of an abandon ship alarm including how to put on our emergency life jackets. On completion of the briefings, we took part in an abandon ship drill and gathered at our assigned muster stations on the sounding of the alarm. Then it was time for the Captain’s welcome and our second briefing of the evening. We all enjoyed raising a glass of our chosen beverage in celebration of starting the voyage whilst Captain Ernesto Barria introduced himself and welcomed everybody. It was then time for dinner so we made our way to the restaurant on deck four for the first time. A delicious dinner buffet awaited us with a variety of dishes prepared by Head Chef Heinz and his galley team, served by our friendly dining room staff. After dinner we had some free time to explore the ship and wander the decks where we spotted our first wildlife. This included a couple of Minke Whales, four Fin Whales lunge-feeding and even our very first Polar Bear!!! What a start!!!! Now it was time to head to our cabins to get a good night of rest before our first full day of the trip tomorrow.