Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A day aboard the ms Fram during its epic Arctic to Antarctic cruise

Yesterday I was able to spend a few hours aboard the ms Fram, the newest ship in the Hurtigruten (formerly Norwegian Coastal Voyage) line, while it
docked for the day in New York City.

The Fram is in the midst of a pioneering voyage -- the first-ever
north-south Arctic to Antarctic world cruise, a fantastic 67-day
voyage that departed Reykjavik, Iceland, in late September and is now making its way down the east coast of the U.S. enroute to Central America, the Panama Canal, South America, and ultimately Antarctica.

The ship had previously sailed through the British Isles and crossed the Atlantic to visit several ports in the Canadian Maritimes. This is the first-ever appearance for a Hurtigruten ship in U.S. waters.

I was part of a group of press and travel professionals aboard. We got to tour the comfortable expedition-style ship -- inaugurated in May 2007 and based in Greenland during the summer -- with a chance to speak with captain, crew, and Hurtigruten executives about the Fram and its innovative itinerary. We also enjoyed a tasty lunch of salmon, reindeer, and other dishes typical of Norway, served in the passenger dining room.

Cabins include some roomy balcony suites, but even if you book an inside cabin, you'll have plenty of chances to gaze at the scenery from the decks or the lounge outfitted with panoramic windows. The Fram has two outdoor heated Jacuzzis, a sauna, a fitness room and a library, and features a variety of onboard lectures by naturalists and other experts. The ship is small enough to provide lots of flexibility in landings. Expect plenty of soft-adventure expeditions in Antarctica, which are included in the price.

While you might not be one of the lucky 300 passengers embarking for Antarctica on this voyage, you can join one of the Fram's shorter Antarctic expeditions this winter -- or book passage on next year's similar Arctic to Antarctic world cruise, which will embark from Reykjavik next September 23 and ends in Ushuaia, Argentina, November 26, 2008.

Not surprisingly, a more than two month cruise doesn't come cheap -- 2008 prices start at around $14,000 for the entire journey in an inside cabin. But you can also just book a segment of the cruise if you'd like, on a space available basis. And if we hear about any discounts popping up, we'll let you know ASAP.

To learn more about Hurtigruten, which has been running voyages along the spectacular Norwegian coast for more than a century, go to its website or call 800-323-7436.

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