Ever wanted to visit the vast, endless cold of the North Pole, but don’t feel like hiking through freezing wilderness, potentially getting severe frostbite, and, uh, dying? Well, there will soon be a much more comfortable and less life-threatening alternative. The world’s first icebreaker cruise ship is set to sail to the Arctic Circle this summer.
The ship is called Le Commandant Charcot and is operated by the French cruise line Ponant. Running on a special hybrid engine that uses liquefied natural gas and apparently has minimal impact on the environment, the Charcot has the capacity to take up to 270 guests across the ice to the North Pole.
The Charcot is not only the first icebreaker cruise of its kind: it is also a really very luxurious liner. On board are chic designer suites, several lounges, an observation deck, a theatre, shops, a spa, a pool deck (with indoor and outdoor pools) and two restaurants, one of which is run by Alain Ducasse – a chef best known for winning 21 Michelin stars.
If all that wasn’t enough, Le Charcot also offers plenty of off-boat experiences, from snow hiking and kayaking to exploring by dog sled and helicopter. The crew apparently includes one naturalist guide for every ten passengers, all to help guests navigate fjords and icebergs – and maybe even spot the odd polar bear. Here are some additional shots of the ship.
In addition to offering the possibility of visiting the far north, the Charcot also has a research wing with two on-board laboratories. In collaboration with the Polar Citizen Science Collective, Charcot’s team provides feedback on the Arctic environment and helps supply research centers.
As for whether icebreakers are bad for the environment…well, ice melts faster when broken. Thus, if used on a large scale, icebreaker ships could pose a serious problem by accelerating the melting of the ice caps. The Charcot, as a single ship, is unlikely to make much of a difference. But let’s hope the idea doesn’t pass also popular.
The cheapest cruise starts at £11,600 ($14,800) for a ten-night voyage, but more luxurious packages cost over £30,000 ($38,000). Cruises depart from either Reykjavik, Iceland, or Longyearbyen, Norway, with the price of the latter often including a flight from Paris to the frozen island of Svalbard.
Avid explorers, here is your chance to join the handful of people who have visited the North Pole. And if polar bears aren’t your thing, fear not. Later this year, the Charcot will also make trips to Antarctica.
Do you have five minutes to spare? Want to tell us what life is like in your city? Take the Time Out Index survey here.