This was our first cruise with Holland America, selected for its incredible itinerary to Antarctica. Little emphasis was placed on ports of call, as our primary purpose for this journey was to be captivated by the scenic cruising of the Chilean Fiords, Glacier Alley and the White Continent. The picturesque Chilean fiords were spectacular with clear blue skies, still waters and surreal reflections. Glacial melt resulted in blue-green shades of water in the areas of the glaciers. Our crossing of the Drake Passage was interrupted at Cape Horn with gale force storm winds that delayed our crossing to Antarctica, but Captain Pieter Jan “PJ” Van Maurik made up for lost time with our second attempt at crossing the next day. We awoke to snow-covered decks, as when I peeked out of our stateroom window at 4AM there was literally a horizontal blizzard outside!
Our expedition team consisted of three retired gentlemen on board who were previously affiliated with, or retired from, the U.S. Antarctic Research Program and/or the National Science Foundation. David Bresnahan, our expedition team leader, presented his expertise in operations & logistics with lectures on U.S. Antarctic bases, facilities, shipping & supplies, ski planes, helicopters, ski-ways, camping, gear, intermodal surface transport with heavy equipment, snow/ice vehicles and ice road train. Guy Guthridge was a retired editor for the Antarctic Journal of the United States. He delivered lectures providing insight as to some of the technical aspects of the sciences, including topics on the ozone hole, geology, mapping of rivers and streams beneath the ice, environmental issues and the Antarctic Treaty. Scott Dreischman was our wildlife expedition team member and lectured on whales, seals, seabirds, penguins, and underwater sea life. The programming and power-point presentations delivered by these gentlemen was outstanding, informative and very educational providing depth and meaning to the Antarctic experience.
We first arrived in Antarctica in close proximity to the U.S. Palmer Base Station from which several experts greeted us by zodiac, came aboard the Zaandam, and related their experiences of spending extended periods of time on the White Continent. Much information was conveyed about research being done, the presence of extensive on-site laboratories for many of the sciences, and improvements occurring over time.
Our stateroom was 2551 on the Main Deck. It was well equipped with a very comfortable bed, full-length sofa, desk, chair and fine quality linens. Towels could have used a little fabric softener, but they were plentiful and in good condition. Stateroom steward was very attentive. Robes were a welcome addition to our experience on board Holland America, as were the lovely towel animals that greeted us each evening on our bed!