We looked at expedition ships that would take us to the Arctic Circle. There are surprisingly, a lot of options, but very few of them meet my two basic requirements. The first is to see polar bears which has long been on my wish list. The second is to do so in the lap of luxury.
Please don’t tell me you were expecting anything else.
There were a couple of options, but only The Eclipse, an incredibly sleek looking expedition ship belonging to Scenic Cruises offered both a helicopter on board and a submarine. The good news is, that way exceeds any luxury I could think of. The bad news is that Scenic is an Australian Company. Dear readers, you are well aware of my thoughts concerning Australians. Could they possibly understand real luxury?
But, holding our collective breath, we booked a cruise with them.
It is a very expensive proposition. It is over $1000 a night PER PERSON for the least expensive cabin. Many people have paid a great deal more for bigger and better cabins. We did not. The least expensive cabins looked very luxurious indeed (and are, as I can now attest)
The ship holds 200 people, but there are just 140 of us for this trip
The cruise starts in Oslo where Scenic is putting us all up in a hotel. We are not told until just 5 days before we get to Oslo which hotel we are booked into. We assume this is because Scenic is scouring the town for the most opulent hotel. Whatever they were doing, it was not that.
We are in a Radisson Hotel, nobody’s idea of opulence. Not only that, we are in the Radisson’s “standard room”. I am not sure whose standard that is, but it is certainly not ours, and nor is it any of the other Scenic guests.
We assumed that Scenic had put those guests who had paid much more than us for a bigger and better cabin, into a bigger and better room in the Radisson. They had not.
We were not happy
Others were REALLY not happy.
The first couple we meet are Australian. That’s an unfortunate start. Like most Australians they dress down and speak up – very loudly indeed. They had booked the two bedroom suite on board the ship for this cruise and the next. They have, they inform me rather loudly so that the maximum number of people can hear, spent well over $200,000 for this trip. They have never stayed in a Radisson Hotel and have no intention of doing so now.
Scenic has other ideas.
They tell the Australians that Scenic can only be held responsible for the couple’s trip if they stay with the group.
The Australians stay.
But they pay out of their own pocket to be upgraded to the most expensive room. Paying for the most expensive room at the Radisson is like asking for extra mustard on a big mac. Maybe it tastes a little better but it is still a big mac.
From Oslo, Scenic are flying us on a chartered flight to Longyearbyen in Svalbard, a group of islands inside the arctic circle. This is where we will get our first sight of the Eclipse.
At this point Scenic has a bunch of rather unhappy customers.
If Scenic was looking for a way to make us all feel even more unhappy, they found it. They announce we all have to be in the lobby of the hotel at 5am to catch the Scenic buses to the airport. This means getting up at 4am. And to dig the knife in a little deeper we are responsible for getting our bags from our rooms to the bus.
Imagine, if you will, 140 pensioners dragging their oversized luggage down to the lobby and out on the street at 5am in the morning, while checking their health insurance policies. .
Then imagine the Australians .
They have found one of those hotel luggage carts you see in Hollywood movies with 4 wheels and fancy bronze garment rails. But they haven’t found a porter to go with it. They appear in the lobby red faced and seething, pushing said luggage cart piled high with at least a dozen cases across the lobby. He is tall and thin with a bald head and a little ring of grey hair just above the ears. He has a large sharp nose, beady little bloodshot eyes and thin lips. Gold bullion hangs around his neck, and clings to his fingers. He looks like a complete dick – and is behaving like one.
She is shorter and wider with a huge mess of hair. Her face is lined with fatigue. Her cheeks are red with exertion and anger as she pulls the cart, while he pushes. She would never be described as an attractive woman, but at 5am this morning she would scare the hell out of small children, animals and any Scenic employee within 100 miles.
The lobby is packed with Scenic travelers and their bags, but the Australians have reached maximum velocity and can’t or won’t stop, scattering their fellow travelers like skittles in a bowling alley and making very few friends, intent only on being first on the bus.
An Australian cruise ship with Australian passengers.
Could it get any worse……………………..