From May to December, Compagnie du Ponant's 466-foot mega yacht, Le Boréal, will embark on 12 voyages encompassing Scandinavia, Iceland and, for the first time, Greenland and Canada’s Arctic. En route, passengers of the 264-guest vessel will have the chance to get a glimpse of the landscapes' fjords, glaciers, icebergs and volcanoes, as well as whales, belugas, puffins and polar bears. The shipping group's agent travel commissions range between 10 and 15 percent.
Following its inaugural season in Antarctica, Le Boréal will depart the Western Hemisphere on April 12, 2011, heading toward Marseille. Beginning its spring/summer season will be the three-night "Ocean Voyage" to Lisbon, featuring a gastronomic theme on April 27.
Starting in May, three eight-night Copenhagen-Stockholm itineraries (May 17, May 25 and June 2) will head to Tallinn, Riga, Helsinki and St. Petersburg, where passengers will have three days to see to wander the city's palaces.
On June 20, a seven-night cruise will take passengers up the coast of Norway to see six of the country's sites, including the Viking port, Hellesylt, known for its towering waterfalls; the UNESCO World Heritage site, Geiranger fjord, and Svartise, the site of one of Norway’s largest glaciers.
The following month, June 27, Le Boréal leaves Norway for a 13-night trip to Reykjavik, including the North Cape and three days for zodiac outings to see polar bears and seals along the coasts of Spitzbergen Island, the last land before you hit the North Pole. Along sites along the way include the Lofoten Islands, populated by millions of sea birds; Honninsvag, home to the reindeer-herding Sami, and Akureyri, considered Iceland's most beautiful town.
Next on offer: three seven-night Iceland itineraries (July 10, 17 and 24) that will feature six ports, including Grundarfjordur, distinguished by its ancient volcanoes; Grimsley Island on the Arctic Circle, and the Westman Islands, where the world's largest puffin colony lives.
For Greeland, two cruises will explore, July 31 and August 31. The first, 11-night voyage will travel from Reykjavik to Kangerlussuaq in Greeland, including the Eqi Glacier and Disko Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site at Ilulissat, called the “village of icebergs.” The August 31 will cruise up Greeland's west coast, making five stops in Greenland, including Savissivik, site of the Peary meteorites and the world's largest iceberg graveyard, frequented by narwal hunters traveling by kayak. Then, the ship will cross Baffin Bay to the Inuit territory of Canada's Nunavut, where it will make four stops and where orcas, whales and polar bears are regularly sighted.
The 12-night itinerary August 22 leaving Kangerlussuaq will visit 12 ports and Islands in Nunavut in Canada's Arctic Archipelago. On Baffin Island, at Qikiqtarjuaq, known to the locals as the "iceberg capital of the world," count on seeing harp seals, narwhals and three species of whales. At Akpatok, home to neo-Eskimo sites, you'll have another opportunity to see polar bears, before Cape Dorset, designated "capital of Inuit Art" and Kangiqsurjuaq, where you'll get to meet Inuit fisherman who will approach the yacht by canoe. Then, the ship will head up at the Hudson Bar toward Walrus Island, frequented only by the animal of its namesake, as well as belugas.
On September 4, Le Boréal will head out on a 12-night itinerary from Nunavut down the coast of Labrador through Atlantic Canada towards New England. Wrapping up the season, two 10-night cruises (Boston-Montreal on September 16 and the reverse itinerary on September 26) will take the yacht down the coast of South America to return to the White Continent.
Aside from Le Boréal's staff-to-guest ratio of 1:2, naturalists accompany passengers to the local marine life and area, aboard the yacht's zodiacs. The yacht has also been certified as a "clean ship," featuring advanced waste water treatment, reduced fuel consumption and lower exhaust emissions. The electric propulsion system is quiet and economic, and the diesel engines use marine gas oil, a lighter cleaner-burning bio fuel. The yacht's positions allows for no anchor, which could destroy sea beds, and its underwater detection system is designed to prevent collisions with whales and ice floes.
On board, passengers can attend the theatre for performances and lectures, check out the Main Lounge's dance floor and live music and visit the Panoramic Lounge for live entertainment and an area for Internet access, a Library, two open-air bars and two restaurants, La Licorne and La Bussole, both of which offer three meals a day. Alternately, guests can order room service, available 24 hours.
Among the yacht's 132 suites and state rooms, all except eight have verandas. The rooms measure between 484 to 200 square feet and come with king or twin beds, bathtubs or showers with L’Occitane amenities, flat screen satellite TV, DVD players, satellite direct-dial telephone service and Wi-Fi. As an alternative, 40 of the staterooms can be reconfigured into 20 suites, for a total of 24 suites and 88 staterooms. Around the yacht, try the Carita spa's choice of therapies and beauty treatments, including a hamman and hydrotherapy room. Then, unwind with the Fitness Center's treadmills, bicycles or kinesis equipment.
Prices for the spring and summer itineraries start at $2,704 per person, double occupancy in a Superior Stateroom for the seven-night Reykjavik to Reykjavik cruises and begin at $18,660 per person, double for the Owner’s Suite on the 13-night Bodo to Reykjavik voyage. Included are all wine, beer, mineral water, soft drinks and specialty coffees with meals.