The Arctic is synonymous with inaccessibility. Distances are vast. People, towns and cities are few. No roads to speak of. But the wildlife is abundant and the viewing opportunities are unmatched. That is, if you can get there!
Perhaps the best choice for any nature and wildlife enthusiast to go deep into this vast region is to take an Arctic cruise. Ships offer the ultimate in convenience: first off, you are never very far from your hotel. The food is great, so no worries about losing weight. Your fellow passengers are interested in the same things you are (or you wouldn’t be on the boat together!), and you will likely end up best friends with a few of them before the cruise is over.
When choosing a ship for your Arctic cruise, look for one that holds 50 to 100 passengers and is around 75 to 100 meters (250 to 300 feet) in length, and has an ice-strengthened hull. Choose a company that has a reputation for its excellent guides, because not only is your safety in their hands but a good guide can mean all the difference between having lots of shore excursions and chances for great wildlife sightings. In the evening, you can relax with fellow passengers over drinks and listen to fascinating lectures by the ship’s lecture staff.
Avoid if possible larger vessels because such ships will have trouble getting into some coves and must anchor further offshore in deeper water, meaning your ship-to-shore distance will be greater. Also, larger vessels mean more passengers to offload and to contend with when you are ashore.
One excellent expedition-grade vessel for an Arctic cruise is the M/V Plancius, which holds approximately 114 passengers plus crew. The Plancius operates several itineraries in Spitsbergen and Iceland/Greenland during the northern summer and in Antarctica during the southern summer. Spitsbergen is especially known for its large population of polar bears, as well as huge seabird colonies. International Wildlife Adventures offers both Spitsbergen cruises and Greenland cruises aboard the Plancius.
Below is a stunning high-definition video of the Plancius’ Antarctic cruises (Part I) and Arctic cruise (Part II) program. Be sure to click on the full-screen option in the lower right corner of the YouTube video, and check to make sure the resolution is at its highest (720p)!