Greenland ... the next Alaska?
Norwegian Coastal Voyage, which operates a fleet of small ships carrying both cruisers and cargo along the coast of Norway (and into the Arctic and Antarctic), introduced its Expedition Cruises program in Greenland just last month -- and is already upping the ante by dedicating its next new-build to the world's largest island.
The 12,700-ton, 328-berth MS Fram is currently under construction at Italy's Fincantieri, and is on track for an April 2007 launch; it is being purpose-built for sailing in Greenland from May through September. The ship gets its name from a polar ship used by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen in the late 1800's on a three-year expedition around Greenland -- but we doubt the original Fram featured a bistro and a wellness center with saunas, a workout room and two glass-screened heated outdoor whirlpools.
With Fram and its ships already servicing Greenland (Disco II and Polar Star), NCV is tapping into a niche previously limited to even smaller, privately owned tour companies. Greenland's glacial countryside is abundant in water, packed ice, mountains and polar wildlife. There are designated seasons -- winter and summer -- but summertime temperatures are no day at the beach: The west coast is warmer than the east, with temperatures slightly above 40 degrees. Like the northern reaches of Alaska, the sun shines 24 hours a day in the summer and hides in the winter.
Fram's first season of Greenland cruises begins May 2007 with a 12-day sailing from Iceland's Reykjavik to the eastern and southern Greenland coasts (with a reverse itinerary at the end of the season), followed by eight-day cruises in the Disko Bay region. The ship will also sail 15-day itineraries to both the Disko Bay region and Thule -- where the U.S. Armed Forces' northernmost installation is located.
Depending upon which 2007 itinerary you choose, NCV has built a few special shore excursions into your cruise package. Want to learn more about Greenland's culture, flora and fauna? Onboard lectures will be available at the port of Qeqertarsuaq. How about a demonstration on Thule's official "drum dance"? And there's nothing quite like experiencing a true polar opposite: Taking a dip in a Uunartoq hot spring surrounded by icebergs, or enjoying a glacier-side barbecue dinner in Eqip Sermia.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Greenland is nearly all ice ... and Iceland is quite green?
Fun Fact: The official modern language of Greenland is called "Greenlandic."
Photo courtesy of Greenland's Official Tourism Board.