For a hefty price, you might soon be able to circumnavigate the Arctic

A luxury cruise ship plans to sail from Nome to Tromsø next summer, and then on to Canada. Depending on how that voyage goes, the company is considering a complete circumnavigation option in 2020.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - July 9, 2018
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Tromsø, the largest town in Northern Norway, will be a port of call of an voyage beginning in Nome, Alaska and traveling along the Northern Sea Route. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

A luxury cruise ship will sail next summer from Nome, Alaska to Tromsø, Norway via the Northern Sea Route and then on to Newfoundland via Greenland. In 2020, the idea is to circumnavigate the entire Arctic.

“This is your chance to become the polar pioneer you have always dreamt of,” says the tempting promotion on Silversea Expeditions’ portal, listing famous explorers who have sailed part of the same route; Nansen, Nordenskiöld, DeLong and Amundsen.

The 25-day-long voyage on the Silver Explorer next August will sail as far north as the ice allows — “ice edge cruising” as Silversea calls it.

Starting in Nome, Alaska, the expedition sails across the Bering Strait to Chukotka and further towards remote Russian Arctic islands like Medvezhiy, Wrangel, Severnaya Zemlya, Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land. Nineteen stops are planned along the Northern Sea Route, depending on ice and weather. Back in Europe, the voyage will make port calls in Murmansk, Svalbard and at the bird-cliffs at Gjesverstappan before ending in Tromsø, Norway.

From Tromsø, a new 30-days voyage with the same ship sails via Iceland and Greenland to St John’s in Newfoundland, Canada.

If shopping both itineraries in one of the cheapest suites on board, you can enjoy the nearly circumpolar 2019 navigation for €50,000 (at bit less than $59,000 at the time of publication), butler service included. If choosing only one of the voyages, the Northern Sea Route option costs from €33,480, while the Tromsø to Canada tour has fares from €16,600. Should you have more to spend that’s no problem; larger cabins cost a few thousand euros more. The most expensive suites already have waiting lists.

The Silver Explorer can take 144 passengers and has a crew of 118.

The cruise in 2019 will not be the first time a foreign cruise liner has been allowed to sail along Russia’s Northern Sea Route. In 2016, the Hanseatic sailed the same route. This time, however, will be first when you can combine two voyages on the same ship starting in the U.S. Arctic and ending in Canada after visiting all five Arctic coastal nations.

Building on the 2019 experiences, Silversea will make a decision on a full circumpolar navigation for the 2020 season, including both the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage all way back to Alaska, managing director of the company, Mark Conroy, told Travel Weekly.

He said a challenge, though, is that a Northern Sea Route cruise can’t be commercially insured, meaning passengers won’t get full refunds if the cruise has to be aborted because of ice clogging the route. While sailing in ice-covered waters north of Siberia, the ship will be followed by a Russian icebreaker.