There’s no more bucket list-worthy entry than a voyage to the North Pole…and Poseidon Expeditions has been offering this voyage to the North Pole for almost 20 years. Sailing from Murmansk, Russia, the sailing takes place on what is considered to be the world’s most powerful icebreaker, the nuclear-powered 50 Years of Victory.
Already underway is Poseidon Expeditions’ sold-out 2019 season, but the line plans to operate three trips to 90º north latitude at the height of the 2020 summer season: July 12, July 23 and Aug. 3. The 13-day program includes a full day of activities on the ice at the North Pole, plus Zodiac landings on Franz Josef Land, an infrequently visited region of 192 islands rich in polar wildlife and stark landscapes in the Russian High Arctic. Rates for the 2020 season, including the early booking savings that are in effect through Oct. 31, 2019, range from $29,445 per person for Standard Stateroom to $42,840 for the 355-sq.-ft. Arktika Suite.
So what does a trip to the North Pole aboard a nuclear-powered icebreaker look like and who’s the best client for this type of sailing? We asked Steve Wellmeier, managing director, Poseidon Expeditions USA.
Paloma Villaverde de Rico (PVR): Why the North Pole—is this a destination that cruisers are yearning to visit?
Steve Wellmeier (SW): Demand for this destination—the top of the world, 90º north latitude—is complex, as the cultural trappings and creature comforts that many travelers seek out for holiday aren’t the main motivation. Some want to check it off their “bucket list” of geographic locations, like going to the South Pole or straddling the equator. Others are intrigued by the opportunity to travel aboard and get a closer look at a massive Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker, the most powerful in the world. There’s also interest in the Heroic Era stories and legends about attempts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to be the first to attain this spot. The trip is not without its geological and wildlife highlights—polar bears, seals, amazing sea bird cliffs in Franz Josef Land—as well as Citizen Science readings that are taken by our expedition team along the way—e.g. ice cover, cloud cover, ice melt on the surface of the frozen Arctic Ocean—plus numerous enriching presentations, briefings and recaps provided by our expedition staff along the route.
PVR: What can a travel advisor’s client expect from a cruise to the North Pole?
SW: Included in the sailing are several chances to see the 50 Years of Victory plow through Arctic ice during a helicopter excursion. Viewing wildlife along the routing and in Franz Josef Land, an archipelago of 192 islands in the Russian High Arctic that was off limits to tourism until just 25 years ago—polar bears, walrus, seals, possibly whales, and towering bird cliffs with tens of thousands of nesting seabirds. A chance to explore the Soviet-era polar weather station of Bukhta Tikhaya, with its dozens of weathered wooden buildings, now being restored as part of Russian Arctic Park System. A full day parked at the North Pole, with activities on the ice: hiking, polar plunging (a cold dip in the water!), festive barbecue, and our traditional circle dance of all the nationalities aboard, walking “around the world” with joined hands. The opportunity to share a region of the earth not owned or claimed by any nationality with other travelers from all over the world.
The comfortable vessel can accommodate 128 guests. This is not a deluxe passenger vessel with high-tech or the latest amenities, but a working vessel that guides and rescues commercial ships in the Arctic when it’s not transporting tourists in midsummer.
The chance to be one of very few others to stand at the exact geographic North Pole, and informative, engaging and enriching presentations by our team of marine biologists, geologists, ornithologists, artists, historians and others. There’s also delicious cuisine prepared by our Swiss catering team, as well as the opportunity to tour the engine room.
PVR: What is it like on board the 50 Years of Victory?
SW: It’s a massive, but comfortable vessel with a large presentation lounge, friendly bar and lounge area, library and 24/7 tea & coffee bar, small interior swimming pool and sauna, masseuse, and social dining room that seats all guests at one time.
PVR: Who should travel advisors focus on when recommending a cruise to the North Pole?
SW: Well-traveled clients looking for a unique adventure that few have experienced, but in comfortable and safe surroundings, as well as those curious about the opportunity to travel aboard a totally unique vessel, unlike any other passenger-carrying ship on earth. Those who love the polar regions and the amazing wildlife experiences that are part of them. Others are curious about the chance to visit the Franz Josef Land Archipelago, a fascinating polar destination that few have visited, one of the “new frontiers” of polar cruising.
Mostly empty-nesters, those with a sense of exploration in their heart and thirst for adventure, but not quite ready to rough-it; travelers from all over the world: the U.S., Northern Europe, India, China, Taiwan, Australia—just about everywhere.
PVR: Why do you think expedition cruising has become such a popular form of cruising?
SW: A good segment of travelers are societally conscious, environmentally conscious, and curious about the polar world. They want to experience first-hand these regions and develop a better understanding of climate and sea ice changes, wildlife conservation and polar history. Expedition ships provide a comfortable means to go to places that are not otherwise conveniently accessible. Vessels of this size foster a sense of camaraderie, a desire to learn and engage with the destination in an enjoyable way, and to meet similar-minded people from all over the world.
For more information, visit poseidonexpeditions.com.