(Saturday, 7:30 p.m.) -- Hurtigruten, whose Fram as we reported earlier had a collision last night with an iceberg near Antarctica, will head back to Ushuaia. For all intents, the Antarctic portion of the cruise is over for passengers onboard, who had experienced the first of five planned days of Antarctic landings.
The cruise is also over before it even started for passengers planning to sail on Fram's January 2 departure, which has been canceled. Company spokesman Elliot Gillies tells Cruise Critic that Hurtigruten staffers will work late into the evening to alert travel agents and passengers about the change -- and to rebook them on one of Fram’s five remaining 2008 Antarctic cruises (the line also operates Nordnorge, the ship that actually rescued passengers from the ill-fated G.A.P. Adventures' Explorer, which sunk in December).
Last night, the ship's engine had malfunctioned, causing the 2007-built Fram, one of the newest expedition vessels afloat, to drift into an iceberg. The engine was successfully restarted after some 30 minutes, and the ship made its way to King George Island for an inspection. It turns out, however, that the real damage wasn't to the engine, which Gillies believes was successfully repaired. It's the smashed lifeboat that's the problem; Fram cannot sail without it.
As a result, Fram, minus the damaged lifeboat, is continuing on to Ushuaia in time for existing passengers to make their January 2 flight schedules. But because the ship can't comply with maritime regulations without that lifeboat, the MV Academia, another expedition vessel, is sailing alongside as a precautionary measure.
Compensation for both the passengers of this week's interrupted cruise as well as those whose entire trip has been canceled, will be discussed on Sunday at a Hurtigruten meeting. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief