Today is the day! Our long-awaited Arctic adventure is about to begin (a few years wait for some of us!). Our story begins in Akureyri, the second largest city of Iceland, where we board M/V Ortelius, the ship that will be our home for the next eight days. What will we see on our voyage? We can only guess at this stage, but the smiles on the faces of the guests as they arrive show the excitement everyone is feeling.
It is a beautiful day alongside the pier, whales have been seen in the fjord and at 4 pm guests arrive ready to board for our epic trip. The expedition staff waits on the pier to welcome us and guiding us to the reception for check-in. We now have a little time to settle in and get our bearings on board the vessel whilst the bridge team prepares for the ship to depart from the pier. With everyone onboard, we are called to the lecture room to attend the first of our mandatory briefings - a ship safety briefing from the chief officer Mickael and house rules from the assistant hotel manager Stephen. On completion of the briefings, we take part in an abandon ship drill and gather at our designated muster stations on the sounding of the alarm. Everyone puts on the life jackets; we follow Vladimir and Stephen to the assembly points close to the lifeboats. As we have accomplished the drill, we are ready for departure.
We wait for another cruise ship to leave before it is our turn to set sail and head out to our adventure. After Dinner Captain Per introduces himself and welcomes everybody. Our expedition leader Jan welcomes us onboard, and we get to know all the expedition guides and the kayak team. We all enjoy raising a glass of our chosen beverage in celebration of starting the voyage. A delicious dinner buffet awaits us with a variety of dishes prepared by head chef Heinz and his galley team, served by our friendly dining room staff. Then we have some free time to explore the ship and wandering the decks.
Some of us are enjoying for a little longer the fresh and very windy air on the outer decks, others have a cup of tea or drink in the bar, meeting our travel companions. The sun sets in beautiful colours from pink to orange and on the other side the moon starts to rise. It appears big and red tonight. Before most of us retreat to our cabins to rest we hear Jan’s voice through the speakers. We have northern lights – while crossing the Arctic circle! The lights dance magically on the evening sky. There still is some light on the horizon and we can’t stop looking. What an amazing timing and what a wonderful start of our cruise.