With all the factors an expedition cruise has to consider, flexibility is key to enjoying your experience. When narrowing down cruise options early on in our search, we all tend to scour through itineraries looking for the best possible experience. But, what I learned on this trip is that the reality of improvisation is at the core of all expedition cruising. On this trip, we were visiting some of the most remote, delicate and volatile regions on earth and the environment can have a huge impact on the day to day line up.
Due to rapidly cooling temperatures and changing sea conditions that we were experiencing in the first few days of our voyage, rather than stopping along the coastline of the Peninsula as we headed south to start our shore excursions, the captain and our expedition team made the call to change our plan and push as far south as we could get in hopes of succeeding in our mission to cross the Antarctic Circle before unfavorable conditions made this impossible. Our expedition leader called a ship-wide meeting to let us know that we were now moving on from our regularly scheduled programming to Plan C.2.5. He also let us know that if anything adjusted again, he would be sure to keep us updated.
These changes could happen at any point in your trip. We experienced this phenomenon almost daily. Some days, storms would roll in creating weather the ship needed to avoid. Other days, we cruised into harbors the team wanted to explore to find them completely frozen and inaccessible. In these instances, the expedition leader works closely with the captain to alter the plans for the day to find an amazing alternative spot to land ashore or magically arrange an impromptu site visit at an Argentinean Research Base that was not on your itinerary. One day, we were hindered from getting ashore because there were too many penguins at the landing site and literally zero space was available to park a zodiac! We made up for this by taking a zodiac cruise along the coastline observing all the gentoo penguins who were crowding along the shore observing these funny looking creatures in red jackets and rubber boots floating in rubber boats (us). Up close like this, we could see all the adolescent penguins huddled together- in the middle of the delicate process of moulting their baby feathers and growing adult waterproof ones.
Regardless of the changes that were announced on our trip, Pablo (or expedition team leader) and the rest of the team never failed to impress and entertain the guests with a new and better spot to explore or a well crafted new plan! By the end of our trip, we could safely say that we were on Plan Z.6 or 7, but I can honestly say that regardless of what plan it was, it was still the experience of a lifetime.