Having never been on an expedition cruise to Antarctica before, I was excited and curious to see how the daily logistics really worked. How do they ensure no one missed breakfast or knows to be at a certain place on the ship in time for their excursion?
The first morning on the cruise, we sailed into the Drake Passage for our first crossing. The Hebridean Sky is equipped with a ship-wide PA system that allows the captain and the expedition team to communicate with the passengers when needed. These messages are always preceded by a pleasant set of bell tones ringing “Bing bong, bing bong” to alert you to attention. This series of bells became our lifeline to know when to eat our three meals for the day, when to wake up every morning and when an event was happening in the lounge or a citizen science survey was taking place on Deck 5, and especially when we needed to be fully geared up and ready to launch into a zodiac boat for our excursions to shore.
The bells became a pleasant part of our day, allowing for very little ambiguity about what we should be doing and ensuring that no secure or activity was missed if you did want to participate in it. The announcements were made in English typically by our expedition leader and smooth talker, Pablo. Every morning, his voice would come on the intercom following the bells encouraging everyone of us to walk up and enjoy another incredible day aboard the Hebridean Sky while in ANTARCTICA! This was always followed by a mandarin translator, then typically ended by the ship historian trying his own hand at Mandarin as well before the end bell chimed. We became so used to this system over the 15 days on the ship that by the time we disembarked in Ushuaia, we were well trained to a fault. The day of disembarkation, the ship fed us one last breakfast feast before releasing us back into the world- my colleague and I actually forgot to eat lunch and almost missed dinner that day because we were waiting for the friendly tone of “bing bong” to announce to us that lunch was now prepared. It sounds silly but I kid you not. I’m back to my normal self now, but that tonal training is hard to shake. When the flight attendant call button came on on our flight home, my first instinct was to look for food and afternoon tea. Whether you lean into the bell tone scheduling or not, I will tell you, the Hebridean Sky kept us well fed with breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and cookies, appetizers and a full 4-course dinner with flowing wine, beer, water and anything else you can imagine. You will always be full and will always be tired and I can guarantee you will never be happier than you are in those moments.