After a long-awaited departure (a few years for some of us) we finally land in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement in the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard. The pull of the Arctic; its varied landscapes, history, the fascination of ice, flora and fauna plagued by a harsh climate, the anticipation of encountering wildlife and birds only seen in the Arctic draws visitors from all corners of our planet. Our ship for the next 9 days, the M/V Ortelius, brings us together to explore the pristine environment of the high Arctic. Embarkation day is always an exciting time. The day was a little overcast, but the cooler weather mostly stayed away as Ortelius lay alongside the pier at the Longyearbyen awaiting her next guests. As 4pm came closer, guests started turning up to the pier ready to board until we had all arrived ready for our epic adventure. The expedition staff waited on the peer to welcome us aboard before guiding us to reception to collect our keys and check in. There was much excitement in the air as everyone prepared for the journey ahead and settled onto the vessel. We were encouraged to explore the vessel while the last of the luggage was loaded and the ship prepared to leave. Once all aboard, we were called down to the lecture room to attend the first of several mandatory briefings. The first included a safety briefing from the chief officer and house rules from the hotel manager. The chief officer instructed everyone on what to do in an emergency and how the recognise the various alarms. This included the instructions on what to do in the case of an abandon ship alarm. On completion of the briefings, we were instructed that there would be a practice abandon ship drill and that we were to muster at our assigned muster stations on the sounding of the alarm. Ten minutes later the muster alarm sounded and the we all sprung into action, all arriving at our correct muster stations with our lifejackets in tow. We were then instructed on how to put them on and prepared for the case of an abandon ship. The abandon ship alarm was then sounded and we made our way up to the life boats. The drill went smoothly and after a few photos we were allowed to return to their cabins and back to exploring the various areas of the ship. Half an hour later it was time for the second briefing of the day. This time located in the ships bar where champagne and orange juice were handed out to the guests ready to toast. During the briefing the captain was presented to the guests and made his introduction finishing with a toast to the success of the voyage. Then the guests were handed over to the expedition staff who would be our guides in the wilderness when we leave the ship for excursions. Expedition Leader Pippa introduced herself and then went on to introduce her team which was conducted with much wonderful applause. A multicultural team with a wealth of experience and delightful anecdotes made their introductions. Finally, it was time for dinner, we made our way down to the restaurant for the first time. For the first meal a dinner buffet was prepared with a variety of delicious dishes all designed to delight by the wonderful kitchen staff hiding in the oceanwide kitchen. In the dining room we had an opportunity to meet our new ship mates for the first time and bond over travel stories to Longyearbyen and hopes for what we might see during the voyage. After all were well fed and watered, we were called to one final meeting in the lecture room to collect our boots and landing lifejackets. Essential items for our upcoming zodiac cruises and landings planned for the next week. Groups were called by decks to try on boots and find the best size for all the adventures ahead of us. Finally, with everyone fed, suited and booted, the itinerary ended for the day allowing the us to spend some free time wandering the decks or head to our cabins to recover from the weariness of travel.