We joined the Hurtigruten tour in Buenos Aires with an overnight stay. The Hurtigruten staff were there to meet and assist all passengers. One American lady had actually had her handbag stolen and the staff excorted her to the Embassy where she was able to get a replacement passport.
We went by bus to the port and the booking in procedure for the FRAM was very efficient. All staff were very friendly and helpful - from the house staff through to the Captain.
We had 11 landings in all. Three landings in the Falklands where we encountered penguins in the thousands. Mainly Rock Hoppers. It was nesting season and it was fascinating to watch the love making and the gathering of stones etc for their nests. Living in harmony with the penguins were the albatross also nesting. Port Stanley was an interesting village to visit.
Our next three landings were in South Georgia. Incredible scenery which certainly lived up to everything that I had ever read about it. Once again there were thousands of penguins. Here we encountered the King Penguins accompanied by their furry brown chicks. It is quite incredible the way the Mums are able to recognize their young by their call. This was certainly worth the trip to our 7th continent.
We had five landings in Antarctica and saw five different types of penguins. The three other type not yet mentioned were the Chinstrap, this species has a white face. This is separated from the white belly by a thin dark line running under the lower part of the chin - therefore the name. The Gentoo are characterised by a white patch around and behind the eye that joins on the crown and the orange-red lower mandible is also a distinct feature, and the Adelie which is all black and white and is recognised by its white eye-ring.
We had been divided into seven groups and the landings were made using Polar Cirkel boats. The groups were rotated which meant that each group had their turn to be the first to land. This was so well organised and a real credit to the expedition team who worked tirelessly to ensure that we all had an unforgetable experience. Three of the landings were to research stations and we were able to speak with the local researchers and buy souvenirs.
We were amazed that we were able to have fresh fruit throughout the cruise. The food was delicious and we ate too much.
The cruise was excellent value and we would highly recommend the Hurtigruten company and the FRAM. It is certainly worth the extra money to be able to go by a smaller ship and do the landings. As the larger cruise ships are limited as to how close they can sail to the shoreline and the rookerys are usually located away from the shoreline the penguin sightings would be mainly by binoculars and could not possibly compare with being within a few metres of them.