Traveling to the Arctic is a once in a lifetime adventure for some, while others have made it a semi-annual or even annual tradition, exploring different areas or returning to favorite regions with each visit. Whether it's your first trip to the Arctic Circle or your tenth, is it better to travel alone or accompanied by an Arctic tour group? There are a number of factors to consider, but it really all comes down to the experience you seek. Here are some considerations as you decide:
Safety & Comfort
Travel and tourism to Arctic regions – from the Svalbard archipelago to Greenland's eastern coast, right to the North Pole – has increased substantially over the last several decades. Even so, the polar regions remain the most expansive, naturally remote areas on earth. Exploring them solo is adventurous, though it's generally a good idea to travel with a group at least initially, until you fully understand the geography, climate and wildlife.
Our two Arctic ships, Sea Spirit and Sea Explorer, are a comfortable, mobile home base for travelers. After a rewarding day of Zodiac cruising, Arctic wildlife photography or kayaking, is there anything better than sharing stories and laughs over drinks after a delicious meal served in a formal dining room? Returning to ship each day eases the burden of carrying luggage from place to place and gives guests a home away home feel quite different from that of moving from hotel to hotel over a period of weeks. Of course, many find comfort in the company of others. Single travelers tend to meet people throughout their trip, at each stop along the way. Participating in an Arctic tour allows groups of people – families, old friends, or special interest groups like the Chinese Arctic Youth Group – to participate in activities of their choice during the day, then come together in the library or the all-inclusive bar in the evening. You might be surprised to learn that the Arctic climate in summer, while certainly not tropical, can be quite balmy. Tour guests enjoy an on-board hot tub on the Sea Explorer's wraparound sun deck, while many cabins have private verandahs. Of course, our ships meet or exceed rigorous safety standards and two experienced physicians are on board to ensure the safety and comfort of every passenger.
Traveling alone tends to offer more freedom, as you can change your plans at the drop of a hat, if you choose. However, some find that they miss out on part of the experience. Those with less than expert knowledge of Arctic flora and fauna may crave the expertise of an experienced Arctic tour guide.
Our expedition team members are seasoned Arctic travel veterans like Norm Lasca, Professor Emeritus of Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Norm has worked extensively in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions for over 50 years and is an expert in Earth-surface processes, especially pertaining to glaciers. Alaska native Shelli Ogilvy has been a wilderness guide for over a decade and has worked with several research groups studying humpback and gray whales. Shelli finds her peace and joy through sharing her vast knowledge of Arctic ecosystems and wildlife with passengers.
These are just two of the many incredible professionals who help make the Arctic group tour experience a fantastic one for Quark passengers. With the lowest staff to passenger ratio in the industry, you'll have plenty of face time with these knowledgeable, passionate Arctic tour experts – you’ll even get to break bread with them. Access to Remote Areas Traveling with an organized cruise gives passengers access to some of the most beautiful and remote places on the planet. Trekking alone to the North Pole would be a harrowing experience (just ask Børge Ousland or Yasunaga Ogita) and is a feat most could never accomplish. Hiring charter flights, renting boats or traveling with local guides can get you into some pretty remote areas, yet they can be cost-prohibitive, as well.
However, it's not impossible – passengers aboard 50 Years to Victory, the world's most powerful nuclear icebreaker, not only journeys all the way to the geographic North Pole, but gets you there in style. Decked out with a gym, lap pool, two saunas, a dining room and bar, a library and even a helicopter for shore excursions, this magnificent ship can cut through ice over 9 feet thick as it propels passengers to the one place on earth where every direction is South. The decision to travel the Arctic alone or as part of a group is a personal one that deserves careful thought and consideration. We welcome any questions you have about Arctic travel – call one of our Polar Travel Advisers today at (888) 892.0073 or share your comment below!