The next frontier in polar expedition cruising is the High Arctic known as Franz Josef Land. Few have ventured here in recent decades. In fact, because of the ice, access by ship is possible only a few weeks each summer.
Poseidon Expeditions (http://poseidonexpeditions.com/) offers dedicated cruises from Longyearbyen, Svalbard to this archipelago of 191 uninhabited, volcanic, mostly glaciated islands that since 2012 are part of the Russian Arctic National Park. The seal industry drove the first explorers here in the mid-1800s. They were followed by others searching for the North Pole.
A limited number of travellers can now explore these islands aboard two different Poseidon vessels, the Sea Spirit and the 50 Years of Victory. And, depending on the ship chosen, guest can extend their discovery further, through the use of kayaks or helicopters, to venture where the ships themselves cannot. Franz Josef Land is an archipelago in transition, both vibrant and dynamic while clearly positioned on the frontline of global climate change.
Depending on seasonal sea ice conditions, scheduled visits in Franz Josef Land may include Alexandra Land, Northbrook Island, Hooker Island, Rudolf Island, Champ Island and other historic or wildlife-significant areas of the uninhabited polar archipelago. These islands are blessed with more than 140 days of midnight sun each summer, leaving plenty of hours in the day for passengers to experience the scenery and wildlife while ashore or from the deck. While winds here are too intense for most shrubs and all trees to root, the Arctic poppy and assorted mosses thrive, along with polar bear and birdlife. Because of a rich biodiversity, the region is a marine mammal sanctuary with walrus, varieties of seals and whales commonly found here.
Aboard the Sea Spirit, limited space remains on July 7-20 and July 30-Aug. 12, 2016 departures, with rates starting at $7,295 per person for the 14-day program. Guests embark and disembark in Longyearbyen, Svalbard and can expect up to seven days of intensive discovery of Franz Josef Land, including historic sites where early explorers made their marks or met their fates. For the August 14-29, 2017 departure, Poseidon is offering an early booking discount up to 15% off the regular rates for the Aug. 14-29, 2017, “Arctic for Explorers” departure. Discounted rates start at $8,096 per person. http://poseidonexpeditions.com/arctic/franz-josef-land-arctic-for-explorers/2017-08-14/
Guests may opt for a $595 per person membership in Poseidon’s Sea Kayak Club in advance of their Sea Spirit cruise that offers interpretive kayak expeditions to a maximum of eight participants utilizing ultra-stable sea kayaks, led by one or more qualified sea kayak guides. A dedicated safety Zodiac accompanies the group who receive a comprehensive Sea Kayak Club orientation before the first paddle and safety briefings throughout the voyage. On any given outing participants may paddle for up to three hours, covering six nautical (10 kilometer) miles. Levels of fitness and prior experience are required for membership.
For the 2016 summer season, 50 Years of Victory is offering a 10 percent discount off regular rates for 14-day cruises, July 10-23 and August 1-14, 2016, with discounted rates starting at $24,995 per person. Approximately three days are spent in the archipelago, but the program also include a visit to the geographic North Pole, 90º north latitude and sightseeing tours by helicopter. Rates for the two 2017 summer departures – July 14-27 and June 25-July 8 – begin at $27,995 per person. Departures are round trip from Murmansk, an Arctic city celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016. http://poseidonexpeditions.com/northpole/north-pole-icebreaker-cruise/
For more information on 2016 and 2017 cruises inclusive of Franz Josef Land, please see:
Sea Spirit 2016 Season: http://poseidonexpeditions.com/arctic/franz-josef-land-arctic-for-explorers/2016-07-07/
Sea Spirit 2017 Season: http://poseidonexpeditions.com/arctic/franz-josef-land-arctic-for-explorers/2017-08-14/
50 Years of Victory 2016 Season: http://poseidonexpeditions.com/northpole/north-pole-icebreaker-cruise/