Life on Board
A Day on Board an Arctic Cruise
Ever wondered what it would be like to cruise around the Arctic?
Below you will find information on what a typical day involves, weather conditions, facilities to expect on board, dining arrangements and lectures.
A ‘Typical’ Day On Board
On the smaller Arctic cruise ships you begin the day with a friendly wake-up call and breakfast. You will have been briefed the evening before about the activities for the day ahead. Your first activity may be an entertaining presentation by a world-renowned expert, or a chance to watch as the ship navigates through the polar landscape. Next, prepare for the first shore landing of the day.
A fleet of sturdy Zodiacs transfer you, your fellow travellers, and the expedition staff quickly and safely to otherwise inaccessible shores where you encounter wildlife or visit historical sites. In Greenland, you may visit remote Inuit settlements and see how native culture is interacting with the modern world.
You may stay ashore – usually two to four hours depending on the day’s itinerary – or you may choose to return to the ship sooner.
You have the chance to refresh before lunch, while the ship positions to the next spectacular site. Your afternoon activities might be another shore landing, or a Zodiac cruise through a beautiful icescape, past seals sleeping on ice floes or among whales. You may even see a polar bear walking by the shore or on the ice. By evening the talk is lively as you and your fellow passengers share the day’s experiences.
Evenings are for relaxing: curl up with a good book, spend time chatting in the bar, or watch a movie. However, with 24 hour daylight, you may choose to participate in another shore landing or Zodiac cruise or just enjoy time on deck.
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Facilities to Expect On Board
The research ships tend to offer more active programmes and attract an adventurous but ageless clientele. These ships were originally built for polar research and all have ice strengthened hulls. When the former Soviet Union collapsed, many ships were chartered by adventure tour companies to bring travellers to the polar regions. The accommodation on these vessels is simple – comfortable, but not luxurious. These trips often feel more like a private expedition than a conventional cruise.
Facilities generally include a dining room serving international cuisine, lounge with bar, and infirmary. There is an enthusiastic and extremely experienced Russian crew. Each ship has a large navigation-bridge and open-deck viewing areas and a fleet of Zodiac crafts, affording spontaneous wildlife viewing opportunities in otherwise inaccessible areas. The small number of passengers allows speedy and hassle-free landings. The Akademik Sergey Vavilov even has a small sauna and outdoor plunge pool. A small number of ships are actual icebreakers constructed to cope with challenging polar sea conditions, and characterised by massive horse-power and huge hulls.
Like the research ships, expedition-style Arctic cruise ships have ice-strengthened hulls, but offer passengers more comfort and a greater range of on-board facilities. Amenities include a restaurant, bar, lounge, library, lecture hall and maybe even a small gym or sauna.
‘Luxury’ Expedition Ships
These larger, spacious Arctic cruise vessels are much more akin to traditional cruise ships – albeit less formal – but they still offer the full expedition experience. Because of their size, they offer a smoother ride than the smaller, more intimate and informal craft. The Silver Explorer has two heated outdoor Jacuzzi’s and a smoking lounge This ship maintains the high standards of service and cuisine of its owners, Silversea.
WILDFOOT Travel are also proud to work with close partners Ponant Cruises who offer brand new luxury expeditions vessels including La Boreal, L’Austral, La Soleal, Le Lyrial with two more vessels being built in the next few years. These are, nevertheless, expedition ships with all the facilities for access to remote areas.
There is currently one true sailing ship, the SV Noorderlicht offering unique adventure itineraries in the Arctic. It is a two-masted schooner with just ten twin cabins which sails around Spitsbergen in the summer and the Lofoten islands in the late autumn to see the Aurora Borealis in perfect conditions.
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Dining on board will vary from ship to ship, but even on the smaller research vessels, top-class chefs provide a choice of international menus including seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes, accompanied by an excellent variety of beverages and wines. The luxury expedition ships are more likely to have silver service options as well as buffet format.
There is not much by way of entertainment on board the smaller ships, as you are there for the experience. To enhance this experience there is a series of specialist lectures given by experts in their field, or video presentations about this land of the midnight sun and the Northern Lights and its resident wildlife. Whether your own particular interest is in zoology, polar history, geology, ornithology or ocean sciences, there will be experienced staff on board able to further your knowledge.
Tipping and Gratuities
Tipping or gratuities policy varies dependent on the cruise ship you choose. Several cruise lines include on board gratuities in the cost of your Arctic cruise, whereas others add it to your on board account to be paid at the end of your trip. This is generally a recommended US$10/€10 per person per day.
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WILDFOOT are proud to be members of ATTA. The ATTA community put effort towards nurturing, protecting and professionalizing the sustainable development of the adventure travel industry.