After two Antarctica voyages in 2016 and 2018, and two Arctic voyages in 2019, I've always been looking forward to heading back to the polar areas. I still remember vividly the words from one of the expedition team members on my first Antarctica voyage. She warned us that everyone could have caught the 'polar bug'.
Due to COVID, the plan was put on hold for three years until last month. It was such an amazing experience heading to the North Pole on Ponant's new luxury expedition ice breaker Le Commandant Charcot.
Le Commandant Charcot is Ponant's first hybrid-electric polar exploration ship powered by LNG. It costs about 274 million Euros to build the luxury ship. It owns the highest possible ice class (PC2) among all passenger exploration ships. It can break multi-year ice up to 3 meters. All 135 cabins have balconies. The ship was officially delivered on July 29 2021, and it reached the geographic North Pole on Sep 6 2022.
I was totally stunned by the power of the ship when sailing across the ice-covered Arctic ocean. When standing at the bridge and looking down, I witnessed huge sheets of ice below just cracked and pushed aside. In the meantime, I didn't hear much noise beyond feeling some vibrations.
The observation lounge on Deck 9 is surrounded by ceiling to floor windows. It was such an enjoyable moment watching the sunlit ice pass by while sipping a cup of hot chocolate.
After an action packed day of exploration, I was fully relaxed after alternating between sauna and snow room . The late night session in the indoor swimming pool became my new favorite. I regret that I didn't jump into the cold water section of the blue lagoon on the aft deck. Maybe next time?
We reached the North Pole on Aug 26 2022. During the voyage, we encountered polar bears eleven times. One curious bear even approached the ship and wandered right next to the bow for a good 15 minutes before slowly walking away.
On the way back, we sailed along the east coast of Greenland. We did multiple landings along the Scoresby Sund, which was filled with huge icebergs of various shapes. For two consecutive nights, we were able to see Northern Lights dancing in the sky.
I'd like to recap the extraordinary 15 nights in the upcoming blogs and share my experience. I feel so blessed that we are able to travel again. If COVID has taught us anything, it is that you cannot really take anything for granted. Travel is a privilege.
That is for now until next time.
- Frank Y.