An eye-opening expedition to the Arctic

Arctic zodiac view

Penny Worthy sets sail with AE Expeditions to explore the Arctic, a trip filled with unforgettable moments and ever-changing landscapes.

Arctic cruising is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows travellers to explore the stunning landscapes and unique wildlife of the polar region. With its icy fjords, towering glaciers, and abundant marine life, the Arctic offers a truly unforgettable adventure for those seeking to explore the world’s most remote and pristine wilderness. Located at the northernmost part of the globe, this vast region encompasses the Arctic Ocean and parts of the USA, Canada, Greenland, Russia, Norway and Finland. It is a place of incredible beauty and natural wonders. And I’m about to embark on my first expedition cruise, hoping to unleash the explorer in me.

All aboard

Before setting sail on our AE Expeditions ‘Follow The Adventure’ cruise, I had the opportunity to spend the day in Iceland, undertaking the popular Golden Circle tour. Visiting Thingvellir National Park situated on the tectonic plate crossing Europe and North America, Gullfloss a stunning waterfall, and Geysir which is one of only three places in the world with a spouting hot spring.

After the tour I headed straight to the ship and experienced a stress-free embarkation. A novel initiative by AE Expeditions is to take your photograph when boarding and then display this so everyone can get to know each other easily. My balcony stateroom featured a heated bathroom floor, double shower, the stateroom was spacious with a lovey sitting area and balcony.

Passengers on an Arctic cruise can expect to see an ever-changing landscape, with the shifting ice creating a dynamic and mesmerizing environment, my fellow guests and I were told we would be part of the decision-making process on where we go and why, we’d need to be flexible in order to see more and all of this would be based around the weather and sea ice conditions. 

First wildlife sightings

The extraordinarily talented expedition team onboard included geologists, historians and an expert on Greenland and ice! Our first day would be a full day at sea whilst we crossed the Arctic Circle. With mandatory briefings including zodiac and polar bear safety briefings, we also learned vitally important information about how to respect and treat your surroundings. At all times I felt in safe hands and well informed. I intended to visit the first afternoon lecture, however a tannoy announcement had the entire ship running to deck to view both orca and humpback whales! The ship turns and stops in order for us to get a good view, who said a sea day would be dull?

Food, so often a feature in ocean cruising is not overlooked, with a good selection for buffet breakfast and lunch, it’s silver service dinner with five choices for both starter and main and a couple of desert choices.

Ice, ice, everywhere

And as we push further to Kong Oscar Fjord due to favourable weather conditions, I see my first sighting of sea ice floating by outside my stateroom, it’s bizarrely exhilarating, against the backdrop of the early morning sky…well it’s spectacular.

My fellow guests and I attend a lecture on the impact of ice reduction in the Arctic and what we can do, and later that evening during a delicious dinner we hear the captain announce “Ladies and Gentlemen, I advise you to go to deck 8 as we have a polar bear”! Unbelievable. This magnificent animal swims and plays on the ice right by us. He is curious but not remotely bothered by us. An incredible sight and one I will remember forever.

With a dip in the hot tub to end the day, I reflect on what I have experienced already on this trip… it’s only day two of the cruise and I’ve not even stepped off of the ship yet!

From ship to shore

Our first landing the following day is at DØdemandsbugten (Dead Man’s Bay), and we are plunged in to stunning scenery. Our first hike offers a choice from short, medium, or longer, with our guides making it very clear it is not a competition; it is about enjoyment and safety. Our hikes take us from mountains, rocks formations, and tundra, to streams and stunning beaches. Beautiful flowers including the striking moss campion along with rocks that are over a billion years old, my photos cannot capture just how incredible this is.

We spot polar bear, muskox, arctic hare and arctic fox prints in the sand. To see ice in the water by a beautiful beach was really unexpected and quite strange under intense blue skies.

The next day we venture to Sabine Island – this is to be the furthest north we will reach. We embark upon a zodiac cruise in the morning – exploring the glaciers and wildlife on the south side of the island. The colours of the icebergs are something special, some a mixture of white and bright blue. We spot eider duckling, seals, arctic terns and sandpipers on our afternoon hike.

Special moments captured

One of the highlights of an Arctic cruise is the opportunity to witness the midnight sun. During the summer months, the sun never sets in the Arctic Circle, providing 24 hours of daylight. With the at times moody lighting this place is a photographer’s dream.

There are so many highlights of the trip; however, I didn’t think I plunging my body into the Arctic Ocean waters at 2 degrees Celsius would be one! It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, the anticipation, waiting for my turn, was petrifying! Watching my fellow plungers take steps along the platform over the ocean, my nerves were off the scale. This was a ‘what on earth am doing’ moment. My turn came… ironically playing ‘ice, ice baby’ at the time! To shouts of encouragement from all of the guests and a little hesitation on my part, I took off! Greeted with cheers and applause, along with a towel and a welcome shot of vodka to warm up, I was elated and now part of the polar plunger’s alumni.

Every moment spent in the Arctic is a truly unforgettable experience. Whether it’s witnessing a polar bear in its natural habitat or marvelling at the midnight sun, taking a zodiac cruise to the Waltershausen Glacier some 40 meters high, being greeted by seals, watching sea terns under take their migration from the Arctic to Antarctica, hiking under pink skies, visiting the most isolated town of Ittoqqortoormiit, home to just 320 people where the supermarket is re-stocked twice a year, or having a polar BBQ and disco, a surreal experience, this area has to be seen to be believed.

It was a privilege, our small ship became a family with shared memories to last a lifetime. This really was a life changing trip for which I have AE Expeditions to thank.

Next steps

To find out more about AE Expeditions visit AE Expeditions and to plan and book an Arctic cruise speak to our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678.

94533

Share Article:

Silver Travel Advisor

Leave a comment

*

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Ambassador offers unique ways to focus on health and wellness while enjoying the beauty of the sea….
Who can resist an invitation to a birthday party in Paris? Gillian Thornton celebrates 40 years of Riviera Travel, the…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.