Join us on an unforgettable five-star Arctic expedition cruise to the Land of the Polar Bear with the Polar specialists, Ponant. Sailing on a luxurious Polar cruise yacht with cutting-edge technology and eco-credentials, we shall experience, up close, the Arctic at its most exuberant: ice-choked fjords, soaring icebergs, tundra flowers in bloom, and wildlife in its natural habitat: Beluga whales, orcas, walruses, Arctic fox—and the king of the Arctic, Polar bears, hunting on the ice pack in the midnight sun.
Polar bears and walruses will be on the ice edge, birds will be returning to breed and the Arctic will be teeming with wildlife on shore and in the sea and sky. We shall experience some of Nature’s most wondrous wildlife encounters. And history awaits in every facet of our journey: we shall follow in the wake of men who struggled to survive in these icy wastes: adventurers, explorers, whalers, colourful characters whose lives have left their mark on this vast continent, still visible today.
If ever you have thought of seeing the Arctic for yourself, rather than second-hand on TV, now is the time.
We shall explore the Planet’s most beautiful and unspoilt region in a style that is beyond the ordinary, experiencing luxurious comfort, refinement, fine wine and French cuisine aboard the gracious Le Lyrial luxury expedition yacht, designed and reinforced to handle the Polar ice, especially quiet so as not to disturb the wildlife, and refitted in 2021 at a cost of millions of pounds. Her diminutive size allows her to go where other cruise ships cannot pass, and lets her passengers go ashore at exceptional places. Using Zodiac inflatables, headed by experienced and passionate Arctic expedition guides, we shall be escorted as close as possible to Nature at its most thrilling and awe-inspiring. This is an Arctic expedition as if on a private vessel—and of course our Members enjoy exclusive preferential rates.
We chose Ponant for our Arctic exploration because of their extensive knowledge of the Polar region and their environmental credentials, as well as the luxury, comfort and culture of life aboard their all-but-private cruise yachts. This is the cruise company also chosen by experienced travel specialists such as Abercrombie & Kent, for example.
Now part of the haute couture luxury Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) group, Ponant was founded by mariners from the French Merchant Navy, and as such their focus is on maritime exploration and endeavour. Captains, navigators and naturalists have a lifetime of specialist knowledge of this remote region. On board our cruise ship, on our Zodiac inflatables and on our hikes, we shall be at one with our surroundings, silently exploring the dramatic mountain scenery and tidewater glaciers, with some of the Arctic’s finest wildlife viewing opportunities and, in every step, a history of Man’s search and discovery in this pristine yet hostile environment. This will be the cruise of a lifetime, perfection in which to behold these strongholds of precarious beauty and endangered Arctic wildlife.
On this voyage, like the Polar adventurers of old, we shall venture to the edge of the North Polar ice cap. Here, at the dynamic boundary between implacable ice and bountiful sea, we shall have a rare opportunity to dream about the Polar explorers while experiencing raw Nature and events which, even now, are seldom experienced in real life.
Our destination, Spitsbergen, is the ultimate for incredible sights of Arctic animals and scenery. From Polar bears to blue whales, Spitsbergen boasts wildlife not found in other parts of the Arctic. Snowcapped mountains and blue glaciers provide a dramatic backdrop for portraits of charismatic Arctic wildlife. With a full itinerary, and at this time of year, with daylight around the clock, your opportunities for wondrous sights are limitless. And the islands and fjords of Spitsbergen—one of the High Arctic’s most pristine and protected environments, the last islands before the Pole—guard some of the world’s most magical, unique opportunities for Zodiac expeditions.
Within its thick, bright ice armour, Time seems to stand still in Spitsbergen—and Le Lyrial will glide quietly through the icy scene to reveal a Nature coloured by Polar hues. Icebergs, icecaps, ice floes—a fascinating universe where more than half the landmass is covered in glaciers, ice carpets which collapse into the sea in jagged heaps. At the icy edge, Polar bears hunt in the midnight sun. Svalbard boasts one of the Arctic’s highest concentrations of Polar bears, the world’s largest land carnivores and a symbol of the Arctic wilderness. This is one of the best places in the world to view Polar bears hunting in their preferred habitat: the pack ice.
Our itinerary starts on June 25, 2024, at Longyearbyen, following our flight from Paris. After which come the following ports of call: 26 June Hornsund; 27 June, Bellsund; 28 June, sailing towards the ice floes; 29 June, Måkeøyane; 29 June, Monaco Glacier; 30 June, Raudfjorden; 30 June, Smeerenburg; 1 July, Ny-Aledund; 1 July, Kongsfjorden (King Bay); 2 July Longyearbyen.
Our departure port, Longyearbyen—Long Year Town—is capital of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago and the northernmost capital on the planet. The landscapes of this former mining town are breathtaking. With winter temperatures dropping to below 40°C, the landscapes of this mining town are simply astonishing. The glaciers, the mountains stretching as far as the eye can see and the
untouched nature, make us feel as if we are in completely unexplored territory.
Nestling between millennial glaciers and carved mountains, and considered to be ‘the crown of Arctic Norway’, Spitsbergen is a place that never sees the night. Our ship will weigh anchor, taking us closer to this fascinating archipelago and, more particularly, the Hornsund fjord. Considered Svalbard’s southernmost fjord, it is also its most stunning: at the end of its vast bay, eight great glaciers slowly make their way down to the sea before giving way to the many icebergs elegantly drifting along its cold and mysterious waters.
Next day we shall head to the Bellsund fjord to follow in the footsteps of the first explorers who came from the Norwegian coast,
and those of the many fur traders. Boasting an astonishingly rich wildlife, the arms of the fjord separate to form two lush valleys. Give free rein to your imagination in the heart of this majestic natural environment where time seems to stand still.
On the following morning our captain will sail right up to the limit of the ice, to the edge of the ice floe. Weather conditions and state of the ice allowing, we shall be able to go out in a zodiac dinghy for a unique experience in the middle of these floating slabs of ice. In addition to this grandiose journey through the middle of these floes with their cut and blue-tinged edges, sometimes more than 2 metres thick, it is also often an opportunity to see a particular kind of fauna, totally dependent on the ice floe: birds, seals and polar bears.
Next day we reach Måkeøyane, a small archipelago in the heart of the Woodfjorden, whose name is a reference to the quantities of driftwood washing up on the beaches. It is at the intersection between the Bockfjorden and the Liefdefjorden which leads to the Monaco Glacier, one of the most beautiful in Spitsbergen. As you sail around these little islands, you will be able to observe Arctic terns whose eggs sometimes attract polar bears, while looking out for Monaco.
The Monaco Glacier is one of Spitsbergen’s most beautiful and majestic. Named in honour of Prince Albert of Monaco, it stands as an impenetrable, blue-tinged jagged wall, the last glacier before reaching a latitude of 80° North. Imagine the ice cracking as it breaks free and crashes into the transparent water. And to make the landscape even more magical, we might spot bears and whales, which have a special fondness for this area of the Arctic.
On the last day of June we shall arrive at Raudfjorden, which means ‘red fjord’, from the colour of the sandstone of the surrounding mountains. Along the west coast of this 20km fjord, dissected by many shallow bays, we will be able to admire some of Spitsbergen’s most spectacular ice formations. At the extremity of the fjord, two offshoots lead to the magnificent glaciers of Chauveaubreen and Raudfjordbreen which is 3km wide. To the east, Alicehamna Beach in Bruceneset Bay has seen trappers, fishermen and explorers arrive for centuries, as evidenced by the ‘Raudfjordhytta’—the cabin of a Swedish trapper built in 1927.
Located at the far north-west of the Svalbard archipelago, at the intersection of oceanic and Arctic influences, Smeerenburg is a former Dutch whaling colony on the southern part of Amsterdam Island. In a landscape of hills with steep slopes, plateaux, lakes and lagoons, we anchor at a sandy beach. Dotted with driftwood and the remains of ovens used to melt the whale blubber, this is one of Spitsbergen’s most important archaeological sites. At the height of whaling activity, 200 men worked here and several are buried here.
We shall sail past mountain slopes carpeted by flowers, amid 14 Alpine glaciers plunging into the sea. In this setting of wild beauty, we’ll set off to discover one of the most beautiful fjords in Svalbard: Kongsfjorden (the fjord of the King), a gateway to grandiose landscapes.
The Fjord of the King is home to Ny-Ålesund, formerly an important mining town and fishery station, transformed into a scientific base which is now the focus of an international research community, currently populated by 14 independently operated research stations led by 10 nations (UK, Norway, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, India, China, The Netherlands and Italy).
Founded in 1916, now with a museum as well as its famous post office—reputedly the northernmost in the world—this small town was the departure point for many Arctic expeditions, including those of the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who was first to reach the South Pole, the first to make a ship voyage through the Northwest Passage, and one of the first to cross the Arctic by air. He was one of the greatest figures in Polar exploration.
He died here, while taking part in a rescue operation for two more explorers with the seaplane Latham, but crashed somewhere into the Atlantic Ocean on his way north to Svalbard. Amundsen and the plane were never found.
Tragedy and beauty are never far apart in the Arctic. We shall see breathtaking images of snow-capped mountains reflected in the water where superb icebergs try to outdo each other in their beauty, a delight for photographers. Bearded seals, reindeer, barnacle geese and black guillemots frequent these places, with their unique atmosphere. We shall sail to the end of the fjord and admire the Kongsbreen (glacier of the King) and its three characteristic rocky points, which take their names from three Scandinavian countries: Svea (Sweden), Dana (Denmark) and Nora (Norway).
There is good reason to see the Arctic now, and to fully understand its precious eco-system for ourselves. One of the most threatened of Arctic species because of the shrinking Polar ice-cap, the Polar bear, may well make another appearance in these parts as we sail on to our home port of Longyearbyen, where our extraordinary cruise will end.
Here, on the shores of the idyllic Adventfjord, amid breathtaking landscapes of glaciers and mountains stretching as far as the eye can see, we shall disembark, ready for our transfers and return flights. During this unforgettable expedition, our ship will have sailed to latitudes of 80° north—and you will have discovered that unique feeling of having truly reached the top of the world.
CountryClubuk Members receive exclusive advantageous rates on this *and all other Ponant Cruise sailings). Return flights from Paris to Longyearbyen are included; transfers from London to Paris are excluded but can easily be arranged according to requirements.
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