Join us on an unforgettable five-star Arctic expedition cruise with the Polar specialists, Ponant. Sailing on a luxury mega-yacht you will experience, up close, the Arctic at its most exuberant: ice-choked fjords, soaring icebergs, tundra flowers in bloom, and wildlife in its natural habitat: Beluga whales, walruses, Arctic fox—and the king of the Arctic, Polar bears, hunting in the midnight sun.
This will be the perfect time of year to visit the Arctic, when Polar bears and walruses will be on the ice edge, birds will be returning to breed and the Arctic will be teeming with wildlife on shore and in the sea and sky. You will experience some of Nature's most wondrous wildlife encounters. And history awaits you in every facet of your journey: you will follow in the footsteps of men who struggled to survive in these icy wastes: adventurers, explorers, whalers, colourful characters whose lives have left their mark on this vast continent, still visible today. If ever you have thought of seeing the Arctic for yourself, rather than second-hand on television, now is the time.
We shall explore the Planet’s most beautiful and unspoilt region
in a style that is beyond the ordinary, experiencing luxurious comfort, refinement, fine wine and French cuisine aboard the gracious Le Boréal luxury expedition yacht, designed and reinforced to handle the Polar ice, especially quiet so as not to disturb the wildlife, and refitted at a cost of millions of pounds. Her diminutive size allows her to go where other ships cannot pass, and lets her passengers go ashore at exceptional places. Using Zodiac inflatables, headed by experienced and passionate Arctic expedition guides, we shall be escorted as close as possible to Nature at its most thrilling and awe-inspiring.
This is an Arctic expedition as if on a private yacht, and these Polar cruises book up quickly—so, to make sure our Members do not miss out we have chosen the most sought-after Arctic itinerary, 'The Best of Spitsbergen', a seven-night, eight-day cruise. The dates are June 27 to July 4, 2020.
And of course our Members enjoy exclusive preferential rates, saving from £1,700 to £4,700 per person off the rates which others pay.
Join us on a five-star Arctic expedition cruise at the best time of the Polar year to fully experience its rich beauty, to glide among towering icebergs and encounter the iconic wildlife first-hand, including those emblems of the Arctic, Polar bears. We shall experience this unbelievably spectacular ice realm from a luxurious mega-yacht, purpose-built for Arctic expeditions, part of the Ponant fleet, which has 30 years' expertise in Polar exploration. Captains, navigators and naturalists have a lifetime of specialist knowledge of this remote region. This will be the cruise of a lifetime, perfection in which to behold these strongholds of precarious beauty and endangered Arctic wildlife.
We chose Ponant for our Arctic exploration because of their extensive knowledge of the Polar region and their environmental credentials, as well as the luxury, comfort and culture of life aboard their all-but-private yachts. This is the cruise company—and the exact ship—also chosen by experienced travel specialists such as Abercrombie & Kent, for example. Ponant was founded by mariners from the French Merchant Navy, and as such their focus is on maritime exploration and endeavour. On board our yacht, on our Zodiac inflatables and on our hikes, we shall be at one with our surroundings, silently exploring the dramatic mountain scenery and tidewater glaciers, with some of the Arctic’s finest wildlife viewing opportunities and, in every step, a history of Man's search and discovery in this pristine yet hostile environment.
On this voyage, like the Polar adventurers of old, we shall venture to the edge of the North Polar ice cap. Here, at the dynamic boundary between implacable ice and bountiful sea, we shall have a rare opportunity to dream about the Polar explorers while experiencing raw Nature and events which, even now, are seldom experienced in real life.
Our destination, Spitsbergen, is the ultimate for incredible sights of Arctic animals and scenery. From Polar bears to blue whales, Spitsbergen boasts wildlife not found in other parts of the Arctic. Snowcapped mountains and blue glaciers provide a dramatic background for portraits of charismatic Arctic wildlife. With a full itinerary of spellbinding destinations, and at this time of year, with daylight around the clock, your opportunities for wondrous sights are limitless. And the islands and fjords of Spitsbergen—one of the High Arctic’s most pristine and protected environments, the last islands before the Pole—guard some of the world’s most magical and unique opportunities for Zodiac expeditions.
Within its thick and bright ice armour, Time seems to stand still in Spitsbergen—and our yacht Le Boréal will glide quietly through the icy scene to reveal a Nature coloured by Polar hues. Icebergs, icecaps, ice floes—a fascinating universe where more than half the landmass is covered in glaciers, ice carpets which collapse into the sea in jagged heaps. At the icy edge, Polar bears hunt in the midnight sun. Svalbard boasts one of the Arctic’s highest concentrations of Polar bears, the world’s largest land carnivores and a symbol of the imperiled Arctic wilderness. This is one of the best places in the world to view Polar bears hunting in their preferred habitat: the pack ice.
Our departure port is Longyearbyen—Long Year Town—capital of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago and the northernmost capital on the planet. The landscapes of this former mining town are breathtaking. The glaciers, the mountains stretching as far as the eye can see and the untouched Nature, make you feel you’re in unexplored territory. We sail first to Cross Bay’s plutonic rocks and tundra, past mountain slopes carpeted by flowers, amid 14 Alpine glaciers plunging into the sea. In this setting of wild beauty, we'll set off to discover the magical Lilliehöök Glacier, almost a circle of ice, 7km across, surrounded by icebergs.
We sail on to the 14th July Glacier, named by Prince Albert I of Monaco after his expedition early in the 20th century. The glacier is a haven for birds—Tridactyl gulls, thick-billed murres, barnacle geese, common eiders, Atlantic puffin and more—as well as Arctic foxes and reindeer. Arrive in front of the glacier, admire the wall of ice and the reflection of its cliffs in the water—then see a section of ice come loose and crash into the sea!
In a spectacular landscape of snow-topped mountains, deep fjords, beaches and majestic glaciers, Magdalena Bay is one of Svalbard’s unmissable places. Here we expect to see whales, walruses, seals, Polar bears and Arctic foxes. Gravneset, in Magdalenafjorden, is home to what remains of a 17th century whaling station, as well as the graves of the many sailors, who until the late-18th century were buried here, never to return home. Whalers from British coastal towns would typically sail between Spitsbergen and Greenland in pursuit of whales. Their tiny boats were often crushed by the whales—sperm whales in particular—and their ships were regularly trapped in ice in the whaling hotspots of the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. In 1836 six ships were trapped in the ice. Ships, and men, froze—only three ships, the Grenville Bay of Newcastle, the Dee of Aberdeen, and the Advice of Dundee, eventually made it back to home port, but with few sailors left alive to tell the tale.
Welcome to a land of rich history and tragedy as well as beauty—Virgohamna, or Virgo Bay, north-west of Spitsbergen, was home to another 17th century whaling station. Above all, it is known as the staging area for many tragic attempts to reach the North Pole by balloon. In 1896, Swedish balloonist Salomon August Andrée set up camp here and lifted off a year later with two team members on a trip that cost them their lives. Their remains were found in 1930—it was a sensation that, after 33 years in the ice, their camera films could still be developed, so we have photos of the struggle during their desperate journey over the ice. A few years later, the American explorer Wellmann attempted this same adventure, without success. There are different opinions as to Wellman's legacy: a pioneer of Polar aviation or one of the greatest fools who has taken part in the race to the Pole. During your visit, you will see the legacies of these intrepid men in the debris which still lies around: planks, rusty cans, pipes, earthenware and all kinds of waste on the ground. Visitors are asked to respect these historic remnants, in homage to these heroic attempted conquerors of the Pole.
Your captain will sail right up to the limit of the ice, to the edge of the northern ice floe. Weather conditions and ice allowing, you can go out in a Zodiac inflatable for a unique experience in the middle of these floating slabs of ice. In addition to this grandiose journey through the middle of these floes, with their cut and blue-tinged edges sometimes more than 2 metres thick, it is also often an opportunity to see birds, seals—and Polar bears.
Texas Bar is an unusual place in the High Arctic, a former trapper’s hut used in the past by hunters of Arctic fox and Polar bears. The hut, still in place, shows the trappers' bunkbeds and kitchen utensils. Located at the entrance to Liefdefjorden (the 'fjord of love'), it stands peacefully in a landscape of hills covered with moss, lichen and flowers. The cliffs with their changing colours, frequented by birds, complete the beauty of the panorama. Take a hike up the slopes and admire the superb view over the Monaco Glacier farther south.
Located to the North-West of the Svalbard archipelago, the Monaco Glacier is one of Spitsbergen’s most beautiful and majestic. Also named in honour of Prince Albert, it stands as an impenetrable, blue-tinged jagged wall, the last glacier before reaching a latitude of 80° North. Imagine the ice cracking as it breaks free and crashes into the transparent water. And to make the landscape even more magical, you might spot bears and whales, which have a special fondness for this area of the Arctic.
We shall sail on to discover Ny-Ålesund, formerly an important mining town and fishery station, transformed into a scientific base which is now the focus of an international research community, currently populated by 14 independently operated research stations led by 10 nations (UK, Norway, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, India, China, The Netherlands and Italy). Founded in 1916, this small town was the departure point for many Arctic expeditions, including those of the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who was first to reach the South Pole, the first to make a ship voyage through the Northwest Passage, and one of the first to cross the Arctic by air. He was one of the greatest figures in Polar exploration. He died here, while taking part in a rescue operation for two more explorers with the seaplane Latham, but crashed somewhere into the Atlantic Ocean on his way north to Svalbard. Amundsen and the plane were never found. Now there is a poignant museum filled with memorabilia, and a famous post office, the world's most northerly.
At the northern entrance of Isfjorden lies a paradise for bird lovers: the Alkhornet Cliff. It is home to thousands of birds, a joyous tumult of gulls, guillemots, pink-footed geese, terns, gulls, puffins, Arctic skuas and more … and this is the scene of the famous 'bird jumping' by the Brunnich Guillemot chicks, which jump from nests along the cliff’s edge into the sea below. The Alkhornet Cliff, easily recognisable by its rhinoceros-horn shape, is 428 metres in height and has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because its cliffs support about 10,000 breeding pairs of seabirds. The moss tundra below the cliffs receives nutrients from the seabird colonies and is lush in places, providing grazing for reindeer, nesting places for geese and denning sites for Arctic foxes. With a little luck, you will see these regular visitors—and watch the chicks fall from the cliffs!
Pyramiden will make a different impression. Founded by Sweden early in the 20th century as a mining town, built in the form of a pyramid at the foot of a mountain, it was sold to the Soviet Union, which abandoned it in 1998, leaving it a ghost town. It remains a fossil town, all the buildings from its glory days conserved as if it was still in use. You can walk past a swimming pool, swings, a football pitch and cinema. Reindeer like to wander the deserted streets of this dead town, the only companions for the few men who still live there in summer. Soviet culture, architecture and politics permeate the town, from the block-style housing to the bust of Lenin—the world’s northernmost statue of the Communist leader—gazing down on Pyramiden’s main square. It was meant to be an ideal Soviet society. To truly appreciate the town, one needs to see it, and to read the strange history of its impressive rise and mystery-shrouded fall.
Sailing on, deep inside Isfjorden you will visit the Nordenskiöld Glacier—one of the most beautiful and stunning discoveries of your cruise. Clearly visible from Space, its front of ice, nearly 5 km wide, is one of the most spectacular in the Svalbard Archipelago. Soaring 30 metres into the sky, the glacier, like a gigantic frozen statue whose sections of ice sometimes come spectacularly loose, is wildly impressive. Its reduction in size is also a warning: climate change, whatever the reasons, is shrinking the Polar ice-cap. Between 2011 and 2014, Greenland lost around 1,000 billion tonnes of ice. There is good reason to see the Arctic now, and to fully understand its precious eco-system for ourselves.
One of the most threatened of Arctic species because of the shrinking Polar ice-cap, the Polar bear, may well make another appearance in these parts as we sail on to our home port of Longyearbyen, where our extraordinary cruise will end. Here, on the shores of the idyllic Adventfjord, amid breathtaking landscapes of glaciers and mountains stretching as far as the eye can see, we shall disembark, ready for our transfers and flights back to London. During this unforgettable expedition, our ship will have sailed to latitudes of 80° north—and you will have discovered that unique feeling of having truly reached the top of the world.
For the full 'Best of Spitsbergen' cruise of seven nights (eight days) from June 27 to July 4, 2020, including return economy flights from London, full board, wines, excursions, tax and port fees, the current rate starts at £7,191 per person. There are no deals available, other than for our Members. This is perhaps the most enjoyable and sought-after week-long Arctic itinerary—all similar 2019 sailings are already sold out.
The exclusive Club rate for a Prestige Suite on Deck Six is usually £17,091, but to Members it is £12,339, saving you about £4,700 per person.
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