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The great shows of nature



"Ladies and gentlemen, good morning."

A voice liltingly boomed into my lovely room — first in English, then German, Russian, and Chinese. After telling me the outside temperature (never far from zero degrees centigrade), the voice announced the exciting plans for the day — Zodiak tours of icebergs or glaciers, kayaking adventures, and varying levels of hikes.

Every morning, when I looked out the window of my floating hotel (a polar veteran named the M/V Sea Spirit), my visual wake-up call was something different and spectacular — the forces of volcanic eruptions and glaciers grinding. This expedition cruise, billed as "Arctic Sights and Northern Lights," was for those who want their nature remote and raw, but their comforts warm and wonderful.

Our itinerary included five days in East Greenland to explore what some consider to be the largest and deepest fjord system in the world, Scoresby Sound.

This expedition travel was bookended with port calls in the memorable fishing villages of Iceland and Reykjavik, the country's lively capital. For hundreds of kilometres along the Greenland coast, there was only one village to visit — unforgettable, even if I could not remember how to pronounce it: Ittoqqortoormiit.

Greenland is sparsely populated but continually offered nature's awe outside, and the ship always provided amenities inside.

When we were not off the ship exploring, we waited to hear, "Ladies and Gentlemen" to remind us of the tasty international meals on the schedule and to alert us to the savoury experiences that were not on any itinerary. Twice, the announcements alerted us to polar bear sightings — something unexpected for this part of the Arctic in mid-September.

Another time, "Ladies and Gentlemen" let us know that the captain on the bridge had spotted a phenomenon known as a "fog bow," a.k.a. a white rainbow, off the port side. Then there was the time grazing musk oxen, wonderful shambly herbivores about half the size of bison, could be seen to starboard.

By the time the "Ladies and Gentlemen" came on to alert passengers of spouting humpback whales, my Pavlovian response was to grab my camera and head outside, while donning the red Polar Expedition jacket given to us for the voyage.

At night, I went to bed hoping to be awoken by "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Northern Lights..." That electromagnetic magic happened three times on our 11-day voyage, when the sky was clear enough and the seas calm enough to spur the rushing of people with cameras from cabins to decks.

The third night after the sky's ghosts seemed to have disappeared, four of us still could not abandon the hope of another curtain or tail of coloured lights. We stood watch on deck — a wonderful English-speaking Indian couple on their honeymoon, a great female Chinese photographer, and me. And our persistence was rewarded! Although we could not converse in Chinese, we all communicated with glee and finger-pointing, both when we saw the overhead show and when the photographer showed us her vibrant photos — picking up colours our eyes couldn't see.

During the day while onboard, I listened for the Ladies and Gentlemen to avoid any FOMO ("Fear of Missing Out"). Yes, to the Polar Plunge challenge. Yes to films and lectures by esteemed expedition leaders — specialists including a "bio-geographer" marine mammals experts, and a glaciologist. Yes, to lunch being held outside al fresco on the jacuzzi deck because the weather was so good and scenery so stunning.

Other times, I welcomed being away from the "Ladies and Gentlemen" — nestled in the kayak to hear instead icebergs crackle, ducks take off, and the percussive paddling through frazzle (surface ice.) Away from tourist destinations, we were in realms without roads or airports, where paddling and walking are traditional ways to be in nature. There was time to commune with the water's reflections of magnificent icebergs and our own reflections grand and humble.

The Sea Spirit follows spring and summer so will be in the south polar regions starting Oct. 20 exploring the White Continent of Antarctica, Georgia Island, and the Falklands before returning North for Expedition cruises to Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard. She can graciously hold up to 114 passengers and a crew of 90.

I smile thinking of how many "Ladies and Gentlemen" there will be, in multiple languages, to announce penguins, or calving glaciers, or an aurora sky display — all part of the great shows of nature.

For more Polar routes and adventures, the Poseidon Expeditions U.S. & Canada Phone is +1 347 801-2610. poseidonexpeditions.com

For more travel blogs and upcoming videos about the Arctic trip: luxurytravelmagic.com, lisasonne.com and @exploretraveler