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Spitsbergen Cruise

MS Nordstjernen, Page 5
Continued from page 4

photo LEFT: Our multilingual guides came from Norway, Germany, Switzerland, and Croatia.

Crew and guides

The MS Nordstjernen's crew is mostly (or perhaps entirely) Norwegian, from the captain to the waitresses who clean cabins outside of restaurant hours. The male and female deck crew also run the PolarCirkel boats and supervise the gangway during shore landings.

Most of your contact will be with the guides from Spitsbergen Travel, which is a subsidiary of Hurtigruten. On our cruise, the guides included (clockwise from upper left in photo):

Heiko, from Germany. The author of Trekking mit Hund (Trekking with a Dog) hiked more than 2,000 km with his companion Hondo before writing his how-to guide. See his 1998 photo gallery of a Norwegian trek.

Tor Jarle, a.k.a. "TJ," is a Norwegian psychologist who works with the mentally challenged in Oslo when he isn't introducing cruise passengers to the Arctic environment and wildlife.

Stephane, from Geneva, Switzerland, was the guide for French-speaking passengers on our cruise, and he also led an informative walking tour of Ny ålesund.

Martin, a Croatian, studies Arctic geology at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). He was a big, mellow, articulate fellow with a nice sense of humor, but he wasn't afraid to wield his authority when he had to (such as the time a small group of passengers tried to wander off in defiance of instructions and risked being eaten by polar bears).

Ingrid is Superwoman disguised as the Norwegian girl next door: The previous winter, she'd toured 200 km on skis through the Spitsbergen wilderness with only a dog and a sled for company.

Denise, from German-speaking Switzerland, was in her first season as a guide, but she already spoke Norwegian with a Tromsø accent. (You can see her posing with a rifle on the next page of this cruise review.)

Tipping

This is as good a place as any to bring up the subject of gratuities. At the end of our voyage, passengers had an opportunity to leave tips in two jars: one at the bar for the server-stewardesses, and another at reception for the guides. Tipping wasn't required (indeed, at least one Norwegian passenger bristled at idea), but many passengers dropped NOK 50 to NOK 100 into each of the jars as a gesture of thanks to the hardworking service staff and guides.

Next page: Landings and port visits




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