Weather: cloudy and fresh
Tromsø, the home of the “Ice Cathedral”, was to be the starting point of our voyage north and into Norse territory. The Prince Albert II had sent off all guests of our previous Svalbard voyage during the morning and had to be moved to another pier, closer to the town center, as the Norwegian coast guard was going to occupy our berth.
We were now within walking-distance of the bridge across one of the two channels bordering the island of Tromsø. Some of my fellow lecturers took the opportunity of heading into town before we would be gone for a week without the possibility of being alongside.
Embarkation started at noon, and one by one the new guests arrived. The bunker pier was not the most inviting of sites, with containers, bricks, construction material on and smaller vessels next to the pier, but the view of the Prince Albert II and the prospect of seeing rarely visited places made up for it.
Shortly after 3 p.m. every guest was on board and for the first-timers it was a good time to get familiarized with the ship, while those who had been on her before, settled into their suites, starting to unpack.
After tea to the fine music of our on board musician Emilio, it was time to gather in The Theatre. We had to attend the mandatory lifeboat drill and a zodiac briefing, both given by Robin West, our Expedition Leader.
The instructions were imparted and there still was time to put on something a little warmer, before the Prince Albert II headed out into the fjords. Within 30 minutes of each other, the three ships that had been docked at the various piers of Tromsø left their positions. One was heading northeast towards North Cape, another southeast towards the Lofoten Islands, while we were heading north-northwest towards Bear Island. Glühwein, tea, and canapés were served on the outer decks and our voyage had definitely started.
Then it was time to get to know who the different members of the staff and of the Expedition Team were. Robin, the EL (short for “Expedition Leader”) introduced the Food & Beverage manager, Marcello the Maitre d’, Marius the head sommelier, Ana-Mari the chef, Rahul the head butler, Ariana our Brazilian shop-manager, Kim our Swedish Spa-manager, and Teri our English massage therapist. The Expedition Team had about as many nationalities as there were different positions: Robin, our EL, came from South Africa; Jarda, his assistant, came from Holland; Christian Everts, their assistant, came from Germany; Sue, who had formerly worked for the BBC producing Planet Earth, came originally from Wales; Colleen, our archaeologist and Viking specialist, came from Scotland; Robin Aiello (generally called Aiello to not confuse her with Robin, the EL) was our Bostonian marine biologist from Australia; Juan Carlos was our Colombian geologist; Hans-Peter our Austrian botanist; Kristine our Belgian photographer; our bear-guides were Karolina from Poland and Lasse from Norway; plus myself (from far away Easter Island).
Robin pointed out that there were going to be more meetings and lectures, but for today the only thing that remained was to enjoy our first dinner aboard.
Before we were allowed to go, he briefly called our Captain, Alexander Golubev, on stage. The Captain hinted at calm sailing within the fjord, but once we were going to leave the protected part, the Prince Albert II would be pitching a bit. Therefore, all guests prone to motion-sickness were advised to take some medication. It was not going to be rough but certainly noticeable!
The dilemma was now, should one refrain from eating or how would the medication interfere with dinner. Most bravely went to have their first dinner on board, to talk to fellow travelers, and certainly to enjoy the service and selection of food and wine(s).