It is late afternoon on what turned out to be a lovely blue-sky day in Ushuaia when the first passengers ar-rive to board the Ortelius. Our new family, from the young to the young at heart, walked down the pier with clear excitement and anticipation. The expedition staff greeted each guest as they climbed the gangway for the first time and directed them to the reception to check in.
The hotel manager Sigi and his assistant Melanie quickly had all passengers assigned and shown to their cabins where they will spend the next 11 days. Once onboard, an announcement was made to meet in the lecture room for the mandatory safety briefing, followed by an abandon ship drill— practicing how to mus-ter and put on the lifejackets just to be sure everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. Af-ter following our muster captains up on deck to get familiar with the life boat locations, the drill was fin-ished and after a small break the group met again in the bar to toast the journey with Captain Mika.
Then, as he headed back to the bridge to begin departure preparations, Sigi gave an introduction to the ship and how life will work onboard. Our expedition leader Michael continued on, as the ship blasted its horn and the Ortelius pulled away from the dock, with a brief introduction to the voyage and a reminder about how the weather will guide all of our actions—thus we have a Plan A… but also Plan B, C, D… we got the picture—we need to be flexible! Then the rest of the expedition team introduced themselves quickly including our Doctor Lauren who reminded us to always keep one hand for the ship and to pay attention to hygiene so we can all stay as healthy as possible.
Finally, after promises of more briefings to come, dinner was announced and everyone got out on deck to take a few photos of the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia in the distance before retiring below to enjoy a fine dinner by Chef Heinz and the incredible kitchen and din-ing room team, much to the delight of all those new aboard and setting the standard for the rest of the cruise. After dinner, with no more briefings or meetings to be had, many couldn’t resist getting back out on deck to watch the evening. Gazing out over the railings, the first motion of the ship was felt—a faint swell—reminding us that the open ocean was not too far off, you could even glimpse it on the forward horizon.
It was difficult to head inside but the need for sleep, or perhaps a last nightcap at the bar, eventu-ally wins out over all. Some folks focused on getting comfortable in their cabins, others gathered in the bar—chatting about all the exciting things to come during the voyage and bonding over a few drinks while Rolando provided wonderful service and witty banter. The doctor also made herself available to discuss with those concerned how to manage sea sickness over the next few days on the infamous Drake Passage. The staff informed the passengers that during the night we would be leaving the shelter of the Beagle Channel and enter open water so to prepare for the “motion of the ocean”. Properly prepared, we drifted off, cosy in bed, dreaming of the adventures in store.