destination specialist tom brown has just returned from a trip to arctic canada
This was my first trip to the Arctic and the first thing that I remember once aboard the M/S Quest was thinking “this is really small!” I have travelled on the M/S Expedition and the M/S Explorer and have been on board various other expedition ships and although it is a mid-size vessel, the M/S Quest is significantly smaller than these ships. It is a former passenger ferry that used travel Greenland’s west coast and was completely refurbished as an expedition ship in 2005. Once aboard I had a wander around the ship to get myself familiarised. I’ll be honest, it didn’t take long. But as it turned out, this was the beauty of it.
I spy with my little eye
There are four decks that are used by the passengers. On Deck 5, the highest deck, there is an observation lounge. This is the place where most of the passengers, including me, spent most of their time during the trip. It is a great place to watch the dramatic scenery unfold as you are cruising from one landing site to another. With many eyes peering out into the distance, someone nearly always spotted something. We saw seals, whales, hundreds of sea birds and even the mighty polar bear from the lounge. Through some doors towards the bow there is an observation deck which is fantastic for photography but it is really important to wrap up warm.
The observation lounge is also the place where all lectures, briefings and debriefings are held. All briefings are done in English and Swedish and the lectures are often separately in both languages. There were probably a total of 5 educational lectures and they were extremely informative. Topics included the history of Svalbard and polar bears amongst others and if I was to be critical of one thing then I felt that there weren’t enough of these sessions. I raised this with the crew and they informed me that they used to do more but found it meant the programme was a little too busy. As the observation lounge is the only real place to sit and relax I can understand that some passengers might not want to have to listen to lectures the whole time. It is obviously a difficult balance.