During my time spent in the travel industry, I have been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to visit some amazing and very remote destinations. One of the best experiences would be travelling aboard the Akademik Ioffe for 16 days, cruising through the famous Northwest Passage.
I would recommend an expedition cruise experience to anyone who is interested in culture, wildlife and meeting some fantastic people.
Itinerary & wildlife:
We flew into Kangerlussuaq, Greenland and boarded the vessel in Sondre Stromfjord. Waters were quite calm as we sailed north up the coast to Ilulissat to enjoy the picturesque Disko Bay and its many icebergs. We then sailed across the Davis Strait to Baffin Bay, where we spent several days enjoying the variety of wildlife in the area; starting with hundreds of birds, such as the Northern Fulmar, Iceland Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake and Arctic Tern, among many others. For mammals, our sightings included Harp Seals, Walrus, Polar Bears, Caribou, along with Minke, Humpback and Beluga Whales.
We then arrived into Canada, starting off with a visit to Pond Inlet to enjoy a throat singing performance. The voyage also included visiting some of the islands from the Franklin Expedition, such as Beechey Island, Fort Ross, and Victory Point.
A typical day would include a morning, cheerful wake-up call, followed by a hot breakfast. Then off to the gangway to put on your many layers, including jackets, waterproof pants and rubber boots. Most layers were needed during the zodiac rides, but once on shore we could leave extra clothing in the boats.
Shore excursions could include anything from short walks to longer hikes, photography, bird watching, or even exploring a small area and learning about the geography and history of the area. Kayaking was an option on certain days.
We would then return to the vessel for a delicious lunch, followed by an afternoon of wildlife viewing from the deck, a photography class, relaxing time spent in the library or possibly a second shore excursion.
Before dinner, there would be a small gathering in the bar for a pre-dinner beverage and to chat about everything you experienced that day.
Highlights for me:
- Visiting the quaint community of Sisimiut, Greenland. The colourful houses and amazing views over the water made this a very memorable place for me.
- Conningham Bay –Larsen Sound, spent the afternoon on zodiacs enjoying the many belugas in the area, along with a few polar bears on shore in the distance.
- An evening zodiac excursion after dinner, as the expedition staff in the bridge had spotted several polar bears on shore very close by.
- Afternoon yoga on the deck, while enjoying the many sprays from the whales’ blowholes off in the distance.
What to bring:
Cannot stress it enough, dress in layers. Thermals, with wind/waterproof outer layers, wool socks, toque, 2 pairs of gloves (one thicker pair for zodiac rides, and one thinner or fingerless pair to use with your camera). Sun glasses and sunscreen. Camera with extra batteries, and charger. Small backpack, water bottle and/or thermos is nice to have as well. Ginger Gravol, if you tend to get sea sick, works well!