It's been very interesting being on a Russian ship, especially in terms of communication. Since the beginning of the cruise, all of the non-Russian-speaking people have had to manage with an unfamiliar language and alphabet. Some of the crew speaks very good English. The expedition cooking staff (who are amazing and friendly) generally do not, so sometimes we end up with food on our plates that we didn't necessarily want. Everyday at 11:30 am, an announcement is made from the bridge, first in Russian and then in English. For some reason the Russian version is almost always 50% longer than the English one. Other times, announcements are made, but there is no English follow-up.

    There are also signs everywhere - on most doors, hanging in the labs, in the gym - but sometimes they are a bit confusing. There is a German washing machine with printed Russian instructions - I don't think I've done my laundry the same way twice - and it was only a week ago that I saw the English instructions, which had always been hidden by drying laundry. Oops. So, as I wrap up the expedition, I wanted to take the time to point out a few of interesting signs on the ship.

    Menus are always printed for meals, and more recently, they have been translated - sometimes better than others. I like to play "Russian Food Roulette" and read the Russian menu and try to guess what's being served. I'm rarely correct.

    Russian Menu
    The weekly Russian Menu. I should have learned how to recognize the Russian words for Beef Tongue.

    Navigating my way around the ship has also presented its challenges. As we first boarded and were trying to make our way to our cabins, we noticed that all the stairwells had arrows going up. It took us a few days to realize the arrows were not for stairway direction but to show the evacuation route to the helicopter deck. Similarly, almost every door from the outside has an "Authorized Personnel Only" sticker. Several of us walked around to see if there were other doors. We finally realized that wider doors lead to common areas, narrower doors do not.

    Ship Directions
    Every stairway has "up" arrows, and every outer door says "Do Not Enter."

    Not all the signs are Russian. Before we left Kirkenes, I posted some pictures in a Facebook album. One of them got several comments. As an update to the Freezer sign (see below), and for all those concerned with my safety, I wanted to also post the inside of the freezer, so that everyone feels more at ease.

    Walk-in Cooler
    The "warning" sign on the walk-in cooler, and the inside escape latch - it worked!

    Finally, there are signs that have made me smile. I have found them at various times during the trip. A few of my favorites: cat sketch over the mystery dials, the marauding wolves, sticker, "no dogs or rollerblades" allowed in the sauna, and the Pizza Mafia sticker (would they have delivered to the ship?!?). Enjoy.

    Ship Signs
    Random signs that I found entertaining.

    Barents Sea
    Weather Summary
    Overcast - open water; high waves
    2.3 C
    Wind Speed
    24.51 m/s


    Erika West

    I enjoyed your game of Russian Roulette with the menus. Funny. Beef tongue? You are eating different foods, and lucky for you that you have a diverse palette! The sign collection was interesting and levity is always a welcome addition to any day!! The walk in cooler hand written safety signs would not pass OSHA rules, lol, but thankfully someone put them there. I think that would be terrifying to be stuck in one of those. I bet you are learning more Russian vocabulary then you think! What a life changing excursion on many levels. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences with all of us!

    Jonathan Pazol

    Thanks so much for following along. The whole expedition has been an incredible experience.

    Erika West

    You can make my comments public. When I saved them, the message said will be shared privately. That was not my intention. Feel free to change the setting and repost.

    Pamela Davies

    OMG Pazol. that cartoon of the Russian Bania? I'm dying over here :D

    Thanks for helping me start work with a smile!!!!