This time last year on a break from London, I found myself in Lapland.
Deep in the heart of Lapland’s capital, Rovaniemi, we found only one thing on the lips of every Chinese tourist we met – The Ice Breaker cruise.
I wasn’t sure what the popularity of these cruises was all about but at 300-400 Euros per head, I was curious to find out.
Apparently this is a bucket list experience. Once in a lifetime opportunity to have your ‘Jesus’ moment and walk on water (well frozen water) and experience ice in a very raw and unique way. Polar Explorer Icebreaker describes it as ‘The best adventure in Lapland’.
What’s this Ice breaker stuff all about?
An icebreaker is a special-purpose ship or boat designed to move and navigate through ice-covered waters especially in Polar regions and provide safe waterways for other boats and ships. The significant features that make the ice-breakers different from other vessels are its strengthened hull to resist ice waters, a specially designed ice-clearing shape to make a path forward and extreme power to navigate through sea ice.
So what happens on these cruises aboard vessels such as the Polar Explorer or Sampo (a Finnish icebreaker built in 1960 in Helsinki and now stationed in Kemi)?
With the advantage of weight, size, and power, the icebreakers can glide smoothly over even 3-meter thick ice and crush it. So whilst the huge vessels break the ice, you may admire the beauty of the vast open ice fields all around, take a tour of the vessel and if you want have a dip in the sea in special waterproof survival suits.
The most popular options seem to be the 3 hour crusie which gets you a 3-hour burst onto the frozen sea, and ice floating. A 4 hour cruise would be the more luxurious option and offers buffet lunch options on board for nearly 400 euros.
It all seems quite magical but here are a few DO’s and DON’Ts.
DO remember that travelling in Finland during the winter months can be notoriously difficult and expensive. Icebreaker Sampo departs from the Port of Ajos 10 kilometres south from Kemi city centre. There are no regular public transportation routes to the harbour however they do offer shuttle bus transportation for every cruise date. The Polar or Arctic Explorer which leaves from both Sweden and Finland seems more cost effective with the addition of films being shown on the vessel, audio commentary in 18 languages and hot snacks and buffet which still comes in at a better price than from Kemi. If you have your own transportation then you could be in for a better bargain. Most of the ships offer a discount of about 40% to children between the ages of 4 – 11.
DON’T forget the one pitfall in Lapland ~ TIME DIFFERENCE. Do watch out for the time differential between Sweden and Finland as you may find yourself crossing between the open borders freely and often and Finland is (+1) one hour ahead of Sweden. This can cause chaos when trying to decipher timetables as it is really easy to make a mistake and read a map or timetable in Sweden only to find that it is one hour ahead in Finnish time. Both countries do not normally print or highlight timetables to help tourists mind this trap. So, if you don’t want to miss your cruise, watch your clock.
Watch one of our recommended video highlights on some of the great features and experiences on offer on this type of cruise. Contact us if you need further information on planning this travel adventure and ticking this off your bucket list.