The Polar Bears of Churchill Program Summary

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The Polar Bears of Churchill Program Summary

  1. 1. Program Summary The Polar Bears of Churchill October 2011 General information Climate: Historical Fall temperatures in Churchill range from the upper 20° F to below 0o F; it can be quite windy, especially in October and November during the polar bear season. Churchill is a subarctic climate with long very cold winters, and short, cool to mild summers. When the shallow Hudson Bay freezes, any maritime moderation is eliminated. Prevailing northerly winds come across the frozen bay. Bring a good windbreaker to layer over all of your cold weather garments. Currency: The local currency is the Canadian dollar ($ CAD.) Major credit cards are widely accepted but some shops and restaurants require a minimum purchase when using them; you may want some local currency to pay for small incidentals. For the best available exchange rate, you will find ATM (automatic teller machine) cards indispensable. You may want to inform your bank or credit card company prior to departure that you will be using your card(s) in another country. Daylight: In October, the sun rises at approximately 8:00 am. The sun sets at approximately 6:00 pm. Churchill is one of the best places on the planet to view the Northern Lights. Though some months are better, Churchill receives spectacular Northern Lights shows throughout much of the year. If the skies are clear, remember to take a look. Excursions: All excursions in the itinerary are included in the program price and feature hiking, kayaking, and cruising in motorized skiffs. Activities are generally not very strenuous, as walks are at a fairly slow pace (so that you can see and learn about as much as possible about the region). Much of the exploration is done in the skiffs, which are easily entered/exited by the full-beam, two- step boarding stair on the stern. Guests will have multiple opportunities to kayak during this program. Kayaking is a wonderful way to experience the incredible shorelines of southeastern Alaska. Both the single and double kayaks are very stable crafts and easily paddled by those with no previous experience. In general, morning excursions take place after breakfast and return to the ship prior to lunch; afternoon excursions go out after lunch and return prior to dinner. However, depending upon weather and the day's itinerary, you may have opportunities to kayak, cruise, or even take a dip into the water at other times of the day as well. Insects: Mosquitoes and black flies are typically not a problem in the cooler months. Suggested reading: We have put together a suggested reading list, along with other links that might be of interest, on our website at (coming soon!)
  2. 2. Travel insurance: We recommend that all travelers purchase travel insurance. It is an economical means of recouping at least some of your expenses if you have to cancel a trip at the last minute or cut it short due to health or other reasons. If your alumni association does not offer insurance through their travel program, you may speak to Viking Travel about Travel Guard insurance at 888.772.4503, or go to www.travelguard.com for detailed information about various coverage options. Packing Clothing: The dress code on board is casual at all times. Jeans and fleece are the norm, even for the farewell dinner. Because of the temperature variables, you will want to dress in layers for this expedition. A water and windproof jacket, hat and gloves, a pullover or zip-up heavy fleece, and a fleece or light down vest are all recommended. The ship has umbrellas, rain slickers, rain pants, and rubber boots available for your use, so you needn't pack those. Bring a bathing suit for the hot tub and sauna, and exercise clothing if you plan to utilize the fitness equipment or participate in morning yoga. Footwear: Bring lightweight hiking boots (preferably waterproof) for shore hikes, and comfortable sneakers or closed-toe walking shoes for on board ship. Please bring boots/shoes that are already comfortable and broken in. Rubber boots (mid-calf height) are provided for use on board or on excursions. You do not need to bring special "deck shoes" for the ship; however, we ask that you do not wear high heels or hard-soled shoes, as these will damage the deck and make for very unsteady footing. Accessories and sundries: Bring a pair and a spare of sunglasses and prescription glasses, extra contact lenses and solution (if applicable), a daypack for hikes and shore excursions, and a wet bag to protect cameras and non-waterproof binoculars. Please bring sufficient prescription medication to last throughout the entire trip without needing a refill; once the ship leaves Juneau, there is no easy access to drugstores or pharmacies. Also, we highly recommend packing at least a portion of your prescriptions in your carry on bag, in the event that your checked baggage should get delayed. You should also bring sunscreen, body lotion, insect repellent (insect repellent will be available on board ship, but if you have a brand that you know works for you, please consider bringing it to avoid a potential allergic reaction to an unfamiliar brand), toothpaste, toothbrush, razors, hair elastics/barrettes, combs or brushes, and other personal hygiene and comfort products. Binoculars: Although binoculars are provided on board the Safari Explorer, we recommend that each traveler consider bringing his or her own pair. A good pair of binoculars can make a world of difference for distant wildlife observations. Selecting a versatile binocular is important. Stay away from the very small compact binoculars, as they typically have a very narrow field of view, which makes it difficult to locate objects. Smaller binoculars also do not allow for much light gathering, and have very limited use in low light conditions. A binocular in the 7X or 8X power range is adequate, and an exit ocular at 35 or 40 is
  3. 3. good – thus, look for a pair labeled 7X35 or 8X40. Also, binoculars come in a wide price range, from $25 to $1,500. The casual wildlife observer does not need something in the highest price range, but do not go with the lowest price range either. A pair of binoculars in the $100 to $250 range will last you a long time with just basic care; in this range you can also get waterproof optics, which are very nice to have in marine environments (but certainly not essential). If your optics are not waterproof, it is important to carry a waterproof bag to protect against rain or a splash of seawater over the side of a skiff. Even a Ziploc-type bag can provide adequate water resistance for cameras and binoculars. Inclement weather gear: The ship provides umbrellas, rain slickers, rain pants, and rubber boots for use during the cruise. If you have special sizing requirements for any of these items, be sure to bring them from home. Luggage: Although the cabins are spacious, storage space is limited. For your comfort, please limit luggage to two large bags per cabin. Ship Information Bathrooms: Each cabin has private bathroom facilities, stocked with two bathrobes, slippers, a hair dryer and sundries such as shampoo, conditioner, and soap (sundries are replenished during the daily housekeeping service). Bedding: Every cabin is equipped with Tempur-Pedic TM beds. Binoculars: West Marine 7×50 binoculars are available for each guest to use during the cruise. Climate control: There is climate control throughout the ship; each guest cabin has its own thermostat, and every bathroom has radiant heat tile floors. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are all accepted for the payment of miscellaneous charges and gratuities. Electricity: The ship and all cabins are fitted with standard North American electrical sockets. Elevators: There are no elevators on the Safari Explorer. Passengers must be physically able to go up and down stairs in order to reach their cabins, outside deck, lounge, and public areas. First aid/medical facilities: The Safari Explorer does not have a physician on staff; crew- members are trained in first aid, CPR, and the use of the on-board AED (automated external defibrillator). The ship carries fully stocked first aid kits with pain relievers (aspirin and non-aspirin) and Dramamine (see note about motion sickness drugs below under "Inclement weather"). Fishing: Fishing rods are available and licenses may be purchased for fishing in Alaska. Fishing excursions can be arranged at an additional charge. Guests can fish from the stern at night while at anchor, or go out in the kayaks or skiff with one of the crew (weather permitting). Any fish that you catch can be prepared for dinner; unfortunately, there are no processing or storage facilities on board the ship, so you won't be able to take your catch home.
  4. 4. Gratuities: The suggested gratuity to ship staff, crew, and guides is 5-10% of your program price. Gratuities may be charged to your credit card at the end of the cruise. Inclement weather: This program operates primarily in the inside of the Inside Passage, which is generally sheltered from the worst effects of any inclement weather that might occur. In the event that unfavorable weather is expected, the crew will provide plenty of notice so that you may take whatever motion sickness remedy works best for you. A note about motion sickness patches: it has been our experience that some people are more sensitive to the patch than to rough seas, and can end up quite ill from the effects of scopolamine. Please determine your sensitivity and reaction to motion sickness drugs prior to leaving home. Laundry service: Laundry service is not available on board the ship. If you wish to hand-wash small items, we suggest bringing a bar of Castile soap, which is an inexpensive, lightweight, and non-liquid multipurpose cleaning agent. Meals: Meals on the Safari Explorer are fresh and plentiful,. A light, early-riser breakfast (pastries/rolls, hot and cold cereal selection, juices, fruit, toast/bagels) is available at around 6:30 am, followed by a full breakfast at 8:00 am. Lunch may be sit-down in the dining room, or a topside barbecue. Appetizers are presented an hour before dinner; dinner includes a choice of seafood, meat, or vegetarian entrees, as well as breads and desserts that are freshly baked on board every day. Wine, beer, and premium spirits are included (although certain fine wines and exotic liquors may incur an additional charge). The chef will make every attempt to accommodate special dietary needs - low sodium, lactose intolerant, gluten-free, etc., subject to local availability and sufficient advance notice (please advise at least 60 days prior to departure of any special dietary needs, allergies, or restrictions). All meals are open seating. Media: Each cabin is equipped with a TV/DVD and iPod docking station. Television channels are usually unavailable due to the remote areas visited on this program; however, the ship carries an extensive movie collection. The crew tries to pick up newspapers whenever they are available in port. The ship also has an educational library highlighting information on Alaska, as well as an assortment of fiction and non-fiction titles. Miscellaneous/additional charges: All miscellaneous or additional charges accrued on the ship, including gratuities, satellite phone use, exotic liquors or fine wines, and special arrangements or excursions not included in the itinerary may be put on the cabin tab for final payment at the end of the program (unless otherwise noted). Phone/email: A satellite phone is available on the bridge for guest use at $5.00 per minute; the minutes will be billed to your cabin for payment at the end of the cruise. The ship does have communication devices to conduct ship's business and for emergency purposes, but does not have
  5. 5. email capabilities for public use. There are usually pay phones on or near the places where the ship docks in port. The crew can also tell you where the nearest email access is in most ports of call. Cell phones only work near the more populated ports. The crew will try to advise guests when the ship is within cellular range. Safe deposit boxes: Each cabin is equipped with a safe deposit box. Smoking: Smoking is prohibited anywhere inside the ship, including the individual cabins. Guests are welcome to smoke on the outer decks where ashtrays are provided. Water: The water on board is treated and filtered. Reusable water bottles are provided for each guest and may be filled from the taps or from a water station at the bar. Wellness: All guests may elect to receive a 45-minute complimentary massage from the Wellness Director/Licensed Massage Therapist during the cruise (sign-up begins after embarkation). In addition to two elliptical machines and two recumbent bicycles available for guest use, early morning yoga is offered on deck. There is a large hot tub on the top deck and a small sauna with outside windows.
  6. 6. Final payment Final payment for this program is due no later than 90 days prior to departure. Checks should be made payable to Orbridge LLC, and sent to the following address: Orbridge P.O. Box 10339 Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 Questions and further information If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Guest Services, toll free, at 866.639.0079, or by email at help@orbridge.com.
  7. 7. Final payment Final payment for this program is due no later than 90 days prior to departure. Checks should be made payable to Orbridge LLC, and sent to the following address: Orbridge P.O. Box 10339 Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 Questions and further information If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Guest Services, toll free, at 866.639.0079, or by email at help@orbridge.com.

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