For those who love adventure – think ice, icebergs, ice sheets, glaciers, and some of the most incredible scenery north and south of the Arctic Circle – consider a Poseidon Expeditionary Cruise to West Greenland. Expect to see the Midnight Sun north of the Arctic Circle, Inuit villages and culture, whales and fluking tails, as well as eerie ghost towns harking to an abandoned past life.
Located between the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean with a population barely pushing 56,000, Greenland is the least densely populated country in the world but boasts a barren land mass about ten times the size of Minnesota. It’s the largest island in the world with the largest ice mass in the Northern Hemisphere. (Don’t even think of mentioning Australia as a contender because it’s considered to be a continent whereas Greenland is considered part of the North American continent.)
But if you plan on visiting Greenland, be prepared to decouple from social media during your journey. Wi Fi connections are rare and when you do have them, they are notoriously slow and costly. Best to do without and go completely off the grid. However, that doesn’t mean there’s a need to sacrifice sybaritic creature comforts while becoming an intrepid arctic explorer. Poseidon expeditionary cruises has you covered in a most luxurious way.
My 9-day expeditionary cruise on Poseidon was a bucket-list adventure of a lifetime – one I eagerly welcomed because it was a combination of adventure with luxury.
Since icebergs in all their shapes and sizes are one of the major highlights of the cruise, remember this: Like snowflakes, no two icebergs are alike. Look for the creative ice sculptures formed by wind and sun, then let your imagination wander.
Founded in 1999, Poseidon Expeditions is one of the leading providers of polar expeditions in the cruise industry. The Sea Spirit is a luxury vessel retrofitted for polar exploration. With an ice-strengthened hull, a fleet of Zodiacs for exploring frigid waters, and a set of retractable fin stabilizers for smoother sailing, the ship is ideal for polar operations.
Since I was booked on the Sea Spirit’s maiden voyage in May of 2017, I was one of the first to experience the $2.5 million guest suite refurbishment that had begun two years earlier in dry dock at Vigo, Spain. As our expedition leader Anja Erdman aptly shared with our group during welcome orientation, “You are the first to sleep in newly decorated rooms and brand-new beds and bedding that cost millions of dollars. Be sure to enjoy the luxury.”
The star of Poseidon Expeditions’ polar cruising fleet, the all-suite, 114-passenger Sea Spirit boasts spacious rooms, even by small ship standards. I was booked in a Superior Suite on the Club Deck, where cabins average 215 square feet.
The room can be configured with either a king-size bed or two twin beds. Other cabin features include ensuite facilities and a walk-in closet or wardrobe. Each suite features completely new bath modules with new tile throughout, stone vanity top with integrated fixtures, and a glass divider panel that separates the shower from the sink unit. A one-way window lets you see the walkway on the outside but lets no one see on the inside. All cabins have flat-screen TVs, DVD players, an in-room safe, refrigerator, individual temperature control, and hair dryers.
The Food & Beverage
The Restaurant on board offers open-seating dining, which means there are no assigned tables. Mix it up at meal time and make new friends. The food is best described as contemporary, international cuisine and includes options with each meal. Dinner is a four-course event. Since many of our guests were from Taiwan and several from India, Chinese and vegetarian options were presented at each meal. Considering how small the ship is, that redefines service to a new level when it comes to meal choices.
A full-service bar features daily drink specials and premium brands. And for the early birds and night owls, there is coffee and tea available around the clock.
The Public Spaces
Common areas are spacious and include a well-stocked library with a large collection of polar books and DVDs, a presentation lounge with all the latest technology to support expeditionary briefings and enrichment lectures, a gym, as well as an infirmary with a licensed medical doctor. An elevator provides access to all passenger decks while a zodiac landing platform permits rapid deployment of landing craft.
Activities are largely defined by the weather and cruising conditions, with adaptability and safety the operative words. Optional excursions include Zodiac trips, hiking, kayaking, birding and wildlife viewing. Special events include the Polar Plunge, which invites those who are hardy enough to take the dip, and a special baptism ceremony conducted by King Neptune. Since this cruise crossed the Arctic Circle – not once, but several times – we all received an honorary certificate acknowledging the special feat. Though I am a seasoned traveler, from a geographic perspective, this was a momentous ceremony for me.
Kangerlussuaq – This is where most civilian international flights to Greenland are welcomed. The local area has muskox, reindeer and easy access to the inland Ice Cap. We dined at the Greenlandic buffet offered at nearby Restaurant Roklubben. On our return, our group was treated to a barbecue of muskox burgers and reindeer sausage.
Nuuk – The capital of Greenland and the largest city, Nuuk is the cultural center and economic center. We had time to visit the Greenland National Museum and were then treated to a local choir onboard dressed in native Inuit clothing.
Qornoq (Bear Island) – This was an exciting foray into an uninhabited village with sculpted blue icebergs, including one that looked like a sea dragon, grounded on the beach or shallow inlet waters.
Sisimiut – Inhabited for the last 4,500 years, today it is Greenland’s second largest town and the northernmost town in Greenland – just above the Arctic Circle. After getting selfies at the whale arch, we visited the older part of town with a photogenic church and nicely-curated museum. Afterwards, we shopped local arts and crafts.
Aqisseq (Ptarmigan) Rock – This was a remote landing with rocky outcroppings, barren hills with interesting flora and geology, and a smattering of ptarmigans and eagles.
Sermetsoq Glacier – Our Zodiacs cruised along the face of a tidewater glacier. Breathtaking views.
Kangamiut – We walked around town and experienced local culture, traditional dancing, singing, and drumming. One elder demonstrated how they skin a seal.
Itilleq –This was one of my favorite excursions where we had coffee and pastry at the modest home of Pauline Dahl. At one point, Pauline proudly displayed a photo of her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. I then asked her to hold the photo, so I could capture three generations of Greenlanders in one photo. Our group played a fun game of soccer with the local villagers and admired an old church from Thule. One of my favorite photos was of a purple house reflecting in a shallow pool of snowmelt.
Sarqardlit – Our Zodiacs took us to a flat, abandoned bank for helicopter evacuation to Kangerlussuaq International Airport as our way back through Disko Bay was blocked by extensive sea ice. The entire operation was effected with a military precision thanks to the extensive planning and execution by Poseidon and Air Greenland.
Microcosm of the World
Passengers onboard my expeditionary cruise came from 19 countries and included Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, USA, Taiwan, India and Denmark. Shipboard interpreters translated messages, briefings, and enrichment lectures into German and Chinese with English as the default language. Plus, meal offerings included Chinese, Indian and vegetarian options.
Sélim Benayat, a 20-something MIT graduate from Basel, Switzerland, was one of the youngest travelers onboard during my polar cruise. He came with his mother Monika. “Besides getting to know the culture and customs of the Inuit, climbing the hills and mountains of nameless Fjords, chasing whales on small zodiacs and jumping into the freezing cold ocean of the Arctic, it was the people that made that trip one to remember. Even though I might have been the youngest guest by a stretch, I still enjoyed talking to everyone.”
Whether a Baby Boomer, Millennial, or Generation Z in tow, Poseidon Expeditions offers incredible opportunities to become arctic explorers in the refinements of civilization. Just be prepared to give up the internet and go off the grid in the process.
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