The real charm of the cruise ship Lyuba Orlova was that she made you so anxious to go on the daily expeditions just to get away from the ship.
Okay, I’m kidding …
… just a little.
We celebrated the 33rd birthday of the Lyubov Orlova while we were on board (July 19). I don’t know a lot about ships, but people who seemed to know a lot more about it than I did were of the opinion that she was an ancient cruise vessel. She and several sister cruise ships (all named after famous Russian actresses) were commissioned to serve the vacationing needs in the Russian far east. Their home base was Vladivostok. For years this ship went from Russia down to Viet Nam and Cambodia. After the war the Lyubov Orlova was used to evacuate orphaned children refugees from Cambodia to Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union the ship was sold to a private Russian holding company that now rents it out to Quark Expeditions in the Antarctic Summer and Cruise North Expeditions in the Arctic Summer. Every spring it dry docks in Tenerife on its way back up north for any necessary repairs or upgrades.
1 Our cabin.
Having never been on a ship before, I have nothing to compare it with. Maybe all ships are hot and stuffy, but I doubt it. This one certainly was. We were very fortunate in that we had a window that opened up to the outside. Some cabin windows opened up into a “semi-outside” hallway and cabins on the lowest deck had sealed windows that didn’t open at all. Given how hot and stuffy the dining room and forward lounge were, I can only imagine how “tropical” the lower deck must have been. It appeared that some people slept in the lounge because their rooms were so hot.
3 The Dining Room.
4 A cropped close-up of the previous picture. The woman facing us is Bitta, a Dane. Since I’m 7/8 Dane we had a common bond and became good friends. The people in the picture, from left to right, are one of the Russian crew, Cliff, a gentleman from London, Jenna (with her back to us) one of the Inuit guides, Bitta, George Sirk (with his back to us), a Canadian, and professor at the Univ. of Vancouver. We also had French, German, Quebecois (they are rather distinct from Canadians), and Americans.
In spite of its age, and given that one drawback, the ship was a nice place to call home for a week.
There was good news and bad news about the safety drill. The good news is that it appeared the crew had never actually been on a sinking ship, because there seemed to be confusion about what ought to happen next. The bad news was there seemed to be confusion about what ought to happen next. But in the end we all figured out how to put on our life vests, and we all found our life boats. As the Cruise North staff emphasized, there’s no need to panic. It takes a very long time for a ship to sink – so long they can make a movie while it’s happening.
5 Jim found his life boat. Brenda took a picture for him so he wouldn’t forget.
There was a crane on the front of the ship which they used to put the Zodiacs in the water. There were 8 zodiacs and it took the crew about 45 minutes to get them all in the water. Every morning the starboard pontoon of the eighth zodiac was nearly flat. On a 2 1/2 hour zodiac cruise around Walrus Island we heard the following message over the radio: “Does anyone have an air pump?” We were pretty sure we knew from which zodiac that message originated.
We all hoped we wouldn’t be stuck on zodiac #8.
6 Fabricio was always the first into the water.
7 Mae, who is in school to become a ship navigator, gets zodiac #8 into the water. Notice the pontoon is pumped up.
8 Everyone lined up to get on the zodiacs.
9 Fabricio, the Argentinian staff member, drives the zodiac gaucho style.
I suppose the hard-core environmentalists (of which there were certainly a few on board) considered the black smoke belching from the smokestack another drawback to our ship. But most diesel engines don’t burn cleanly, and this one was no exception. And, if we ever put out a mayday, I figure we’d be easy to find.
10 An idylic scene: calm ocean, murres flying past the ship (see the black dots?), smoke fouling the pristine arctice air.
The ship even had a swimming pool. They filled it for cookout night. It was a balmy evening (in the mid 50s I’m guessing), so everyone bundled up and ate outside. A half dozen people even went into the pool.
11 No doubt somebody will ask, so I will say that the flag is from the Cook Islands, where the ship is registered.
Would I ever cruise on the Lyubov Orlova again? The expedition staff was truly wonderful, but in order to get the expedition staff, you have to take the ship along with them. (Hopefully they’ll have the leak on zodiac #8 fixed by next year.) On the evaluation I said that if we ever went on another expedition cruise, it was 50/50 that we would go with Cruise North because the ship was so hot and the front lounge so stuffy. Besides, the polar bears are no danger, being so far away, so the ship herself adds that little sense of danger that is no doubt a must on any adventure cruise.