The day we all waited for – the official start of our cruise! We woke up early, had a quick breakfast at 6 AM at the hotel provided by Hurtigruten, got on our bus arranged by the cruise company to the airport, and boarded their chartered flight from Buenos Aires EZE Airport to Ushuaia – nicknamed “End of the World” (it’s the southernmost populated city).
The 9:40 AM charter flight operated by Aerolineas Argentinas:
Our 2nd breakfast replacing lunch; it was not filling 🙁
Luckily, we had a smooth flight to Ushuaia. We “claimed” our bags so the crew could transport them directly to the ship while we boarded the bus with our carry-ons. As soon as we walked out of the terminal, the wind was blowing hard and the temperature was freezingly cold; what a vast difference from Buenos Aires! We checked in with our tour guide, and a crew member who came to check our passports, took our photos on his tablet, and handed us our room keys and details for tonight’s dinner.
Ushuaia is surrounded by the snowcapped Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel.
It was less than a 15-minute drive from the airport to the city center. A bright-colored church:
The bus parked near the visitor center and we had an hour to check out the city center. We got tips from our tour guide that we can get our passports stamped for free at the visitor’s center. That was the first thing we did to get our passports stamped. They have a lot of different penguin and Antarctica designs to choose from and you stamp them yourself!
Next, we walked to the post office to buy the stamps for Jason’s collection. They have penguin ones but note that those are Argentinan stamps.
The city center was compact, one long street filled with souvenir shops, clothing shops, banks, a post office, bars, and restaurants. The odd thing is that most of the shops were closed when we were there at around 3 PM. We found a souvenir shop that was open and bought more stamps at a higher price since the post office no longer sell those.
We noticed many restaurants have king crab on their menu; we found out that it’s one of the specialties in this region!
We headed back to the bus parking lot and checked out the handcraft shops next to the parking lot:
There are cute booths like this that sell activities and boat cruise tickets.
A colorful sign of Ushuaia….the lady who helped us to take the photo with our phone cutting off the top -.-
Here’s the whole sign and right next to it was our cruise ship in the far distance (the huge cruise ship that’s black and red)!
We went back to the bus and there were two passengers who were left behind from the other bus so we gave them a ride to the ship. Yes, the bus will depart without you so make sure you return early! It was a few minutes ride where we dropped off directly in front of our ship – MS Fridtjof Nansen. Since we got our room key already, we boarded the ship with the card. There was no long queue, no check-in process, no more paperwork, it was fast!
We headed to our room on the 5th floor – cabin #542, outside cabin category (the lowest), located in the middle (less motion to help with seasickness). Peter, Judy, and Jeffrey’s cabin was #717 located on the 7th floor and the difference was theirs had a balcony and a sofa bed to accommodate the 3rd person. Our keys didn’t work so we walked to the reception desk on the 6th floor to reprogram our keys.
Finally, we got to our cabin! It was spacious, the furniture and design were natural wood tone, and looked brand new (MS Fridtjof Nansen was delivered in 2019 just when the pandemic hit and the first cruise wasn’t until early 2022!). Once entering the room, the closet was next to the door where there were life jackets that you are required to wear for each landing. We also picked up our complimentary Hurtigruten red windbreaker jacket. Those really kept the winds away and surprisingly insulated that we didn’t need our winter jacket (we didn’t bring one anyways knowing this). This jacket was designed for the cruise with a clear sleeve pocket to store the room card to make it convenient for leaving and entering the ship (it is required to scan the card each time).
Next to the closet was a table with one chair and a phone. I found out that the PA system actually came out of that phone and I need to activate it in order to hear general announcements inside the room.
Right beside that was the minibar (not included in the room rate), sanitizers, masks, and complimentary aluminum water bottles to refill water. Water refill stations are at every level of the ship.
Looking back at the entrance; the closet was big enough to fit our luggage.
The chair next to the bed was surprisingly comfy! The bed’s mattress was comfortable too. The window size was large to view outside and we had to close the shade to sleep as Antarctica, at that time of the year, was almost 24 hours of daylight! The TV has many channels to watch including live streams of “lectures” or information sessions in the comfort of your room and also their entertainment system was loaded with movies to keep us entertained during the 4 days at sea to and back Antarctica.
The bathroom was clean, and well-designed, and did not feel cramped at all.
The water pressure and temperature were great. They provided Arctica Pure toiletries, I actually love their shampoo.
The laundry service price is expensive so pack effectively! Layers are the keys! I packed thermal/thick leggings, 2 snow/ski pants, thermal tees, fleece jackets/hoodies, wool socks, a hat that covered my ears, a scarf, a pair of ski gloves, and a pair of fleece gloves that I can use my phone and camera. Sunglasses are a big help and sunscreen is a must! We didn’t even pack hiking boots as there are special rules on those (rubber boots only) and the cruise provides those free to rent for the duration of the cruise!
Rubber slippers were provided, I like that they gave two sizes and those were comfortable. I saw a lot of people even walking on those throughout the ship!
After we settled down, it was time to head to the info session on deck 6. All the information, activities, and booking dinner reservations can be found via their Hurtigruten app once you boarded the ship and connected to their wifi. Surprisingly, their free wifi was fast enough to check emails, connect with friends and families, share photos, and check websites and news! We had some occasion dropouts but mostly connected throughout the cruise while in Antarctica!!! WOW technology these days!!!
They projected the weather forecast for the Drake Passage for the next two days…..urg…according to the color coding: more red means rough sea while green means calm sea. They predicted 5 meters (~16 feet) wave and to them, that was a “moderate” rough sea. I took my prescribed pill for seasickness and so glad to report back that it worked!
After the info session, I was starving so we located one of the restaurants – Restaurant Fredheim to have a quick bite. The menu:
Unlike previous cruises that I took where their restaurants catered to thousands of passengers, the maximum capacity of this ship was 500 so the restaurants actually looked more like a restaurant instead of a buffet.
The restaurant maybe could fit max 50 guests at once I am guessing. At peak lunchtime, there was a wait as there are only 3 restaurants on the ship and one of those is for suite guests only.
We ordered a strawberry and a blueberry milkshake; we were so addicted to their blueberry milkshake that we had one each day 😛 There’s also a “cloudberry” milkshake on the menu but they never have that during our cruise – they ran out of cloudberry or not in season? I never had cloudberry before, anyone had it? It was my first time even hearing that have such a berry, apparently, it’s from the Nordics.
We ordered scallop sticks and wow the scallops were big and not overcooked! That was the best scallop we had on that trip; their quality was very inconsistent!
The king crab roll, the chef who made this was very cheap on the crab meat! We had the roll later on and was much better filled with crab meat!
The view outside from the restaurant:
Lastly, a safety drill that all passengers must attend at one of the restaurants, they took attendance and the ship can’t set sail until everyone attended. Then, we headed up to deck 10 to take photos of Ushuaia as the ship started the voyage to Antarctica!
Our assigned dinner time was at 7:45 PM at Restaurant Aune. The first night was assigned to manage the flow and the rest of the days were pretty much first come first served. They said reservation is recommended but we never have an issue finding an open table. Also, there were 280 passengers on board only versus the full capacity of 500 🙂 Restaurant Aune opens for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while Restaurant Fredheim opens for some early breakfast, some lunch days, and some dinner days. The other restaurant, Restaurant Lindstrøm, is for suite guests only during breakfast and lunch while dinner is open for other guests at a supplement cost of 25 Euros per person.
The first-night welcome dinner was buffet style at buffet quality and after that went downhill…
Near the Science Center were board games that you can borrow:
The Science Center:
A model of the ship:
There’s a huge TV that spans from deck 4 to deck 10!! The glass elevators have the front views of the huge TV:
At deck 10 is the Explorer lounge & bar and where the captain’s welcome drink was held.
The captain and the crew:
The sun was setting as we set sail out the Beagle Channel:
We got back to our room to have a good night’s sleep.