Quark Expeditions is marketing, one suspects with tongue in cheek, its 20th Anniversary expedition to the North Pole as the perfect Christmas gift. The 15 day trip begins in Helsinki, Finland on June 23, 2011 and includes the charter flight roundtrip to Murmansk, Russia the cruise’s embarkation and disembarkation port.
Expedition members will sail on 50 Years of Victory, the pride of the Russian polar fleet. Able to cruise in open water at 21 knots per hour, the nuclear-powered icebreaker is capable of ripping through ice 10 feet thick. Only 128 lucky passengers will have the opportunity to experience the North Pole and landings in Franz Josef Land, a group of islands just 10 degrees south of the pole.
Helicopter sightseeing as the ship navigates through the polar ice will undoubtedly be a peak life experience for those who take the opportunity. Another highlight will be a polar champagne toast and barbecue on the ice. Amateur and professional photographers alike will be in their glory. Close encounters with walruses and polar bears in Franz Josef Land will just add to the magic.
The ship, 50 Years of Victory (sounds better, perhaps, in Russian), appears to be more upscale than one would suspect, considering that it spends its winters escorting merchant ships through the dangerous Northeast Passage in total darkness. Public spaces include two bars, a library, gym, saunas and a swimming pool. Prices for two begin at $48,760.
Now that I think about it, this really isn’t such a bad idea for a Christmas present. I have, after all, been very good this year.