Welcome aboard: exploring the Arctic by boat
During the summer months, several ship operators take their vessels north into the Arctic Circle – from the Norwegian fjords or the Scottish Hebrides, all the way up to the Svalbard archipelago, Greenland, Canada, Russia and Iceland, the land of fire and ice. There are multiple itineraries with several starting points, varying between around 8 to 21 days in length.
Here at cazenove+loyd, we look primarily for the quality of the voyage, by which we mean the experience and ethos of the staff and company, and secondarily, the comfort of the boat. In the past, visitors to the Arctic in summer had to make a choice: the first option was to rough it on an ex-Russian research vessel with shared bathrooms but spending time with a truly inspiring set of people who took you off the ship as often as possible to really get under the skin of the region. The second option was a super-comfortable but enormous, cruise-ship-style boat, where the hotel aspect was more important than actually seeing the destination.
But nowadays, you can have the best of both worlds. We use a handful of luxury ships for our Arctic adventures. The boats have large, ensuite cabins and the latest technology. Holding up to 120 passengers, they are comparatively small and deliver the service and feel of a real expedition. Cruises are sociable, shared experiences, with bars and communal dining rooms where you can get to know your fellow like-minded explorers.
Our aim is for our clients to disembark as many times as possible, usually two or three times a day, either to go Zodiac cruising (there are about 15 of these 14-man ribs per ship) alongside glaciers, bird-covered cliffs and walrus-filled beaches or to walk across tundra and mountains. On foot, you might visit a small Inuit community or spot some rare wildlife species, such as the Arctic fox or the musk ox. There are plenty of other activities to enjoy on your cruise, from kayaking and skiing to diving, but they are popular so we ensure we reserve early on your behalf.
Whatever your focus – bears, landscapes, photography, birdwatching, human interest or glaciology – we will create the perfect trip for you. The ships have a dedicated team of specialists onboard, from historians and archeologists to palaeontologists and wildlife experts, depending on the route. They are all on hand to share their substantial knowledge with you.
Arctic journeys by boat are all flexible in nature; they work around the wildlife, the weather and the ice, so they are for free spirits, happy to let go of control and enjoy whatever incredible spectacle is put before you.
cazenove+loyd’s two favourite boats
Launched in November 2018, this purpose-built polar vessel is modern, very comfortable and tastefully appointed. It has two separate bar and lounge areas, 360-degree viewing platforms, an oversized relaxation deck, a well-stocked library, a theatre-style presentation room, a gym and, unusually for expedition ships, a wellness centre featuring a Jacuzzi, steam room and saltwater pool. RCGS Resolute would suit all but it would be particularly good for spa lovers, couples (who might enjoy the wellness centre) and young families (there are onboard labs and scientists who can get the children involved with research and conservation projects).
Best route: The itinerary we put together for you will depend on your interest, timeframe and budget. However, one of the optimum all-rounders, in our opinion, is the 10-night voyage to Canada’s wild and remote Baffin Island and the western coast of Greenland, which takes in deep fjords, enormous icebergs and some interesting Arctic wildlife, such as birds, whales, seals and polar bears.
This brand-new boat, also a purpose-built expedition vessel, will launch for the first time on 31st October 2019. The ship is on the cutting edge of nautical technology and facilities: there is a lecture theatre for specialist talks, a gym and a library. Maximising the views are an important element of the Greg Mortimer, so four of the five stateroom categories have floor-to-ceiling windows. In addition, there are unique hydraulic viewing platforms, which are ideal for soaking up the scenery, as well as an observation lounge and a full open deck. There are 15 Zodiacs onboard, meaning that guests can enjoy as much time onshore as possible, with two to three landings daily. There are four sea-level Zodiac docks, allowing for quick departure as four ribs can set off at once. The 80 staterooms are all spacious ensuites, and interconnecting rooms make this boat suitable for families, although it would suit all ages.
Best route: Again, there are numerous routings on this boat, but our favourite first-time polar voyage would have to be the 11-day circumnavigation of Spitsbergen in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, which would give you a great taste of what this amazing destination has to offer.
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