February 6, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 1
The plan: Board the ship and set off for Antarctica.
The day of the cruise had finally come. I spent the morning in preparation. Craig, from Australia, and I were going to be sharing a room for the trip, so we figured we should board the ship together. Our plan was to check in our backpacks and make one last trip into town for some "provisions" to keep the cost of our journey down.
I was overwhelmed when I boarded the ship. At least ten people welcomed me aboard before I even got to my room. When I crossed the threshold of the ship, it was like stepping into another country. Everything was so nice, it was a bit of a shock. Our room was like a hotel room with a private bathroom, TV, and a large window; all luxuries I had lived without for the last few months. The best thing of all was that we didn't even pay for a room with a window. After briefly unpacking in our home for the next few weeks, we stepped back into reality one last time.
Craig and I walked to the supermarket on a mission to buy enough booze for a two-week cruise so we wouldn't have to pay $12 for a drink from the ship. The only problem was that the ship technically didn't allow people to carry on their own alcohol. We ended up filling my daypack with clanky glass bottles and carrying the rest on board in our pants. While I was walking toward the ship, I didn't think that story could possibly have a happy ending, but it did. Surprisingly, we didn't get caught, no bottles were broken in the process, the resulting bar made our room more aesthetically appealing, and our pre-planning will save us a lot of coin to boot.
Before the ship left, Craig and I took a walk around the ship. The Marco Polo seemed really big to me, but compared to the Queen Mary II, which had been in Ushuaia a few days earlier, it was small. The capacity of the ship is 826 passengers, but there were only 498 for this trip because of Antarctic regulations. The main areas for the passengers are the Polo Lounge, which usually has piano music, the Ambassador Lounge, the theater where shows and lectures about Antarctica would take place, The Charleston, a dance club, Raffles, a buffet restaurant that serves all meals, The Seven Seas, a sit-down restaurant that serves dinner, a library, a game room, a workout area, and several bars. There are also three hot tubs and a swimming pool, although the pool is empty due to us traveling through antarctic waters.
The ship didn't leave until 8:00 PM, so I didn't get the chance to do much on board today. Still, I met a bunch of the passengers, and I think it will be a good time. Normally, this cruise is filled with retired people, but I guess there must have been a lot of late cancellations because there are several dozen backpackers in the crowd. Tomorrow we'll be in the open sea all day on our way to Antarctica, but the ship has lectures and fun games scheduled for the entire day, so I don't think I'll get bored quite yet.
Facts about the Marco Polo:
Gross Tonnage -- 22,080
Overall Length -- 578 Feet
Beam -- 77 Feet
Draft -- 27 Feet
Cruise Speed -- 18.5 Knots
Guests -- 860 (Double Occupancy), but only 498 for this trip
Crew -- 360 (Most of the crew members are Filipino, and most of the officers are Swedish)
The photo album for this entry is here.