Globetrotting

Local doctor takes care of patients on Antarctica cruise

Allan Reishus had a white Christmas.

But it wasn't because of the Colorado snow he's accustomed to. This holiday, Reishus was surrounded by icebergs and a seemingly endless expanse of ocean.

Reishus, an emergency-room physician at The Memorial Hospital, went to Antarctica in December as a doctor on two 10-day cruises.

He's seen Antarctica before while on one of the many cruises he's taken as a ship's physician. But seeing Antarctica wasn't enough.

"I really wanted to step foot on the continent," Reishus said.

So he went on the trip with Quark Expeditions, an American company with Russian ships and international staff. The boat carried 45 passengers and 30 staff members.

Typically, Reishus works as an on-board doctor with Holland America Cruises, which carry as many as 3,000 passengers at a time. He's been working on the cruises for 10 years and makes about two trips a year.

He's worked on cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and the Panama Canal.

"It's a lot of hard work," Reishus said. "A lot of people think it's drinking champagne every night. Well, it's a little bit of that."

On a smaller ship, Reishus said, he did not have the support staff he is used to on larger boats.

"I was the doctor. I was the nurse," he said. "Sometimes, I cleaned up vomit off the floor when someone was seasick."

This trip, Reishus said he spent most of his time assisting patients with seasickness.

"The passage from South America to Antarctica is about 600 miles of the roughest waters in the world," he said.

And with passengers from all over the world, communication was a challenge.

But Reishus enjoyed the international feel of the cruise. Swedish chefs prepared Christmas dinner, and other staffers from the Falkland Islands, France and Scotland helped decorate the ship's plastic tree.

Reishus said he didn't mind spending the holiday in Antarctica one bit, particularly with 32-degree weather.

"It was warmer than Craig," he said. "And, we had, by the point on the trip, become acquainted with each other. In sort of a weird way, it was a family event."

On the trip, Reishus also got a close-up view of whales, seals, birds and six species of penguins.

He said being with a small group enhanced the cruise experience. With bigger ships, the crew made sure everyone stuck to a strict schedule. But the trip to Antarctica was more relaxed.

"We'd just stop the ship in the middle of the bay and whale watch for a couple of hours," he said.

He returned with more than 900 photos from the cruise and daily treks on both sides of the Antarctic Peninsula. Those are his only souvenirs because nothing can be removed from the continent.

And he said that's all he needs to remember his journey there.

"It was just spectacular with the mountains and the glaciers and the ice," Reishus said.

His next trip is scheduled for March 20 and will last a month. He will work on a Holland America ship that departs from Florida, will pass through the Panama Canal and end in Alaska.

He ultimately would like to work a cruise headed for Europe.

And although Reishus enjoys touring the globe, when he's gone, he misses his hometown.

"I like the variety and being able to see the world," Reishus said. "But I really like coming back to Craig. This is my home base."

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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