PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 2.5: How I Chose Hurtigruten Expeditions

I thought it might be nice to explain a bit of why we chose to take a cruise with Hurtigruten Expeditions.

Priorities for me, and I believe I also speak for Janel, a fellow pastor and my traveling companion, were:

  • Sustainability and eco-friendliness.
  • Size of cruise.
  • Ability to do landings on the continent.
  • Cost.
  • Reputation.
  • Ability to learn about climate change and the ecosystem of the Antarctic.

As most people know, my hobby is planning travel, and I pride myself in being a travel ninja. I often hear from people who wonder about the ability to afford travel, as I am far from affluent. But my reality is that is where I spend the lion’s share of my discretionary income because that is a huge a priority in my life, and I have a unique ability of being able to make things affordable.

In my research, I discovered Memorial Day weekend is a prime time to book cruises to Antarctica, unless one is willing to do it at the very last minute, which doesn’t work for neither Janel nor myself.

After doing further digging, I discovered that Hurtigruten, a Norwegian company, is really the gold standard in sustainability. The ship we are on was built in 2020. It is hybrid and carbon neutral. Beyond that, with the exception of some communication snafus, I am completely impressed with everything that has happened since we boarded the ship. The professionalism is astounding, all of the scientists are highly educated and the expedition leaders very trained. They are doing active scientific research on board.

Besides that, we were able to score an unbelievable deal. In hearing several people talk, it is clear that the cost of this trip for the two of us — which we got on  a two-for-one deal less 10 percent for the most moderately priced cabin — is far less than the vast majority are paying for one person. And with the exception of our flight to Buenos Aires, which was purchased with frequent flyer points, everything is covered, except for a few excursions or spa treatments. And Norwegians don’t allow tipping because they pay fair and just wages, which also factored in to my leaning toward Hurtigruten.

We could never afford a trip on with a company like National Geographic or Lindstrom, in a 200 or less boat, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not 100 percent sure I would want to cross the drain passage in one of those smaller boats, either. Our ship has less than 400 people, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

The nice thing about all of those qualifications is that the people on board are all quite lovely, or at least the ones that I have encountered. They are certainly people who have paid dearly for this, but it has a very Scandinavian sensibility and not a feeling of entitlement. And the two languages used on board are English and German, so I’ve been able to speak to a few people and brush up on my language skill. By the end of the trip, I suspect I will be back to sounding like a developmentally challenged 5-year-old when I speak — able to communicate clearly with some grammatical glitches.

Hurtigruten checked all of the boxes and I am so pleased with the decision. And to top it off, krumkake is served at every meal, but no lutefisk that I’ve seen (or smelled). So winner, winner, krumkake for dinner!

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