Polar Explorer Icebreaker – Finland : An Unbelievable Cruise Experience in the Frozen Arctic Sea
Ice Breaker Cruising and swimming on the frozen Baltic sea are the most exciting activities in Finland during winter. So we decided to add this in our travel itinerary. Thinking the destiny of the Titanic ship’s maiden journey, apprehensions were there in our mind, how the ship going to crack the ice and sail setting aside the ice blocks. After going through a couple of reviews of the ice breaking cruises, we decided to book for this adventurous journey. There are two famous companies offering ice breaking cruise experience from Rovaniemi, they are “Sampo” and “Polar Explorer”. The later was chosen because they offered pick up from our Hotel at Rovaniemi and also the package was inclusive of lunch at the traditional village in Sweden.
Once we booked through their website, they sent us a confirmation mail with all the details including the pick up as well as the return time. The pick up time from our hotel was at 6.45am, and we were at the hotel lobby well on time waiting the bus. Then we observed the mercury level dipped to -17C in the thermometer installed outside the hotel. For warming up we resorted to a languid walk till seeing the LCD screen of the bus showing “Polar Explorer”.
A lady staff came out of the bus and verified our travel documents, then permitted for the ingress. There were three more couples from the hotel for the programme. The Bus started from Santa Claus hotel, later halted some other pickup points for collecting other tourists. Once all passengers boarded the bus, the guide started to explain about the journey, do’s and don’ts during the cruise travel etc. She distributed some color bands to let us know the timing for swimming. It took two hours travel to reach the port at Sweden. The journey to the ice breaker was an unforgettable experience, which tempted to admire the beauty of the vast open ice fields all around. The lady suggested to listen the audio explaining about the Polar Explorer ship in their App available in Play Store/ App Store.
After two hours road travel, we finally reached the harbour in Sweden, from where we need to board the Cruise. Sweden is 1 hour past of Finland time zone and have different currency also. Don’t forget to take some beautiful pictures of the Ship before boarding.
Ice breaker is often described as ship that drive their sloping bows on to the ice and break it under the weight of the ship. The ice pack which has a relatively low “flexural strength” is easily broken and submerged under the hull without a noticeable change in the ice breakers trim, while the vessel moves forward at a relatively high and constant speed. The Ice breakers offers the unique experience of negotiating through the adverse conditions of the arctic sea that no other ship can handle.
The ship is 78m long and 14m wide having seven decks. The ship also has a cafeteria for light refreshment. The schedule of swimming activities, according to the colored ribbon distributed earlier, were displayed in the board near the Cafeteria.
The staff of the ship were very helpful to us to get into the Main deck(the deck number 3). This is the biggest deck in this ship. The travelers were permitted to move allover the ship area. Later we moved to the main deck to have a nice look on, how the ship breaks the ice blocks while moving. The best view is not from the centre but from the either sides of the Icebreaker.
After one and half hour journey the cruise anchored at a point. Now the time nearing for swimming. Our schedule having the orange ribbon was 11 am. Since the time was only 10.30am we decided to have a walk over white icy carpet.
The crew members assured after careful and scrupulous inspection that the ice sheets were thick enough to walk over freely and safely. All the members were seen busy in taking snaps and selfies in the incredible ambiance of unending ice sheets extending up to the horizon.
We went to deck 3 preparing to do the swimming activity. The crew member gave us the survival suits and got ready for our turn . The depth of the sea is approximately 10 to 15 m. The experience was really amazing to swim at a temperature of -20C in a broken place of the ice blocks.
According to the crew, we can survive with this suit up to 8 hours in this cold weather. The time limit did not permit us to remain in cold water for a very long time. There is no age limit for participating the voyage in cruise but the swimming is allowed only to those who are more than seven years old and taller than 125 cm. After this activity the crew members served cookies with hot berry juice to warm up our bodies.
Later the ship started the return journey. While, we had a nice chat with the captain of the ship who was from France and he explained about the ship and its working. The captain gave the information that there was a custom to hoist the flag of particular country through which the ship passes, for that reason why flags of different countries were fluttering in the cruise.
The captain presented certificates for the successful completion of the voyage in the frozen sea as memorable gift. Our bus was waiting at the port to bring us to the Swedish village for lunch. The buffet lunch included green salad, Swedish meat balls with mushroom sauce, baked local salmon with roasted root vegetables, Swedish traditional yellow pea soup with carrots and beverages.
The restaurant is located near the river side, which is flowing through Finland and Sweden. The river is breaking Finland and Sweden, for approximately half of its length it contains the border between these two countries. We were provided with ample time for sightseeing. We decided to walk near the river where the tourists could carry out sledging. The fog descended into the valley, frozen lake and snow-capped houses made the scenery dreamlike, almost like a painting. The snow-covered birch trees created the frames of the photographs. We were most taken away with the glowing white beauty of the ice and snow, an idyllic winter scenery. All are busy with DSLRs to capture the picturesque location which we can’t but admire the spectacular view. We also tried ice fishing, one of the peculiar wintery pastime of Finns.
After the enthralling and fascinating trip we bid adieu to Sweden and boarded the bus to return to Finland. Polar Explorer offers icebreaker cruise experience during the months of December – April. You can book for it directly from their website. You can either book the entire package which includes pick up from Rovaniemi/Kemi or make your way to the port of departure.