Updated: Jun 12
As I walked down the pier in the port town of Dún Laoghaire, I was in awe of the expedition ship on which I was embarking. The Greg Mortimer, built in 2019, was designed for polar travel. Its unique X-bow is a 21st century innovation that reduces pitch and bow impacts in high seas. To me, the shape is similar to the head of many marine mammals. This image exaggerates the shape, but it does show that the bow curves outward and not inward, as most ship bows are designed.
Dún Laoghaire is a small town just outside of Dublin, named after Laoghaire Mac Neill, a 5th century High King of Ireland who used this site to initiate raids on Gaul and Britain. During the next 12 or so days, I would hear much more about Ireland’s High Kings and its history of fights, troubles, saints, and myths.
An expedition ship’s purpose is to take people to hard-to-get-to places and get people off the ship to explore the environs. It’s not a party ship. On this voyage there wasn’t any entertainment other than a few lectures about the history, geology, and marine life related to Ireland. There were no docks at any of our stops that would accommodate the ship. We would anchor and shuttle by Zodiac to shore.
Like most expedition ships, this one could carry up to 130 passengers. Because this voyage was the first of the season, and Covid still a concern, only 24 passengers embarked. From a financial standpoint, this cruise would be a loss for Aurora Expeditions, the owner of the ship. But from the standpoint of working out reasonable Covid protocols and getting both ship’s crew and expedition staff up and running, the small number of passengers would help the company start the expedition season.
Unlike older ships, cabins face outward. All cabins, except those on deck 3, have a balcony. My cabin was one of the more spacious, with both a bedroom and a living room. I especially appreciated the walk in closet and ample space to store clothes. On other small ships, the space is so tight that one has to be very organized to locate anything. Organized is not something I want to be when on vacation.
The entire ship was spacious, not just my cabin. The lecture hall, restaurant, and bridge could accommodate 130 passengers, should the ship ever be that full. In addition, there was a panorama lounge on the top deck, a large fitness center, a library, a wellness center, and outdoor lounge areas that included a barbecue and two jacuzzis. Normally this ship would have an open bridge policy, but Covid kept the bridge closed because the captain and his officers did not want to risk getting sick.
The first thing that happens after embarking on any ship is a safety briefing and drill. During the drill, we assembled on the top deck next to the life boats that we would jump into should we need to evacuate. The crew claimed each boat would fit more than 100 people. After experiencing the spacious interior of the ship, most of us were questioning how exactly we would fit in those boats. Certainly it would be cramped, but the life boat would save our life.
This specific Ireland itinerary, as far as I know, was a special one-off. Later in the season the ship would be doing what it does best—visiting the poles. In the meantime, I was quite happy to be on the Greg Mortimer and see my ancestral home.
For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Greg Mortimer is one of the first Australians to scale Mt. Everest. His passion for Adventure prompted him to start Aurora Expeditions. After 30 years of traveling to the polar regions, he commissioned a ship, which he named after himself. A second sister ship, the Sylvia Earle (named after the American marine biologist) launched recently.