Day or night, Mother Nature takes center stage, no matter if you're watching icebergs or whales from the ship or hiking onshore. For landings on Antarctica, passengers are briefed beforehand about the area's history and what to expect; stepping onshore, they are immediately given suggestions as to which path to take to see, for instance, a seal resting on a beach, or where to get the fabulous view of icebergs. But after that, passengers are mostly left to wander as they see fit. For instance, four days spent along the Antarctic Peninsula offered a single guided hike, which was a physically demanding trek of about three miles that included steep, snowy slopes.
But on nearly every shore visit to other Fram destinations, including longer Antarctic trips that call on the Falklands and South Shetland Islands, there typically is a guided (or more likely self-guided using the map that's supplied) walk through town and free entrance to museums. Optional excursions in Greenland include a small boat trip to see enormous icebergs up close, sea kayaking or a spectacular helicopter flight over the polar icecap.
The prime extra option on Antarctic voyages is the chance to spend the night onshore, sleeping in two-person tents. Fram is limited to putting only 10 passengers and one expedition-crew escort on shore overnight, so passengers willing to pay the extra fee to sleep on the continent put their names into a drawing. On other itineraries, guests are given the chance to sleep out on the deck of the ship in a warm sleeping bag, often under the midnight sun.
During cruising time, expedition crewmembers give outstanding lectures based on their academic specialties: local flora, fauna, history and culture. (On Antarctic trips, there is no native culture to discuss, so a topic such as "who owns Antarctica?" is substituted.) Lectures are given in English and at least one other language, but in separate rooms, so that passengers don't have to sit through endless translations. P.A. announcements are also made in English, followed by a European language version. Beyond the lectures, the only entertainment is likely to be a kitschy talent show by the crew and an auction of ship items particular to your cruise, such as an ensign signed by all expedition crewmembers. On some itineraries, a musician is on staff to play in the observation lounge in the evenings.
Once dinner is finished, passengers head up to the Deck 7 observation lounge, which has the ship's only bar, for cocktails and conversation, or sit at the four-seat tables on Deck 4 to work jigsaw puzzles, play board games and cards, or linger over a cup of coffee or tea. Some return to their cabins to read or watch TV, which loops a few theatrical films (in English and other languages) and American sitcoms, and also streams a selection of satellite channels such as the BBC, the Discovery Channel and some Norwegian networks. Because landings may start as early as 8 a.m., some passengers go to bed shortly after dinner.