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Europe Has A Frozen Sea. And Turns Out, You Can Float And Cruise Through It


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Duration: 1 Day

Would you have ever dreamt of cruising a frozen sea?? Me neither!

Photos of Kemi, Finland 1/1 by Deepa Subramanian

I was absolutely unaware of the idea of cruising a frozen sea by an icebreaker cruise until I started researching for my upcoming vacation to Finland by reading numerous blogs and travel stories. The moment I stumbled upon an article related to the Sampo icebreaker cruise, I decided to go for it!

Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 1/1 by Deepa Subramanian

After browsing through the prices for the icebreaker cruise, I was little skeptical if this was going to be worth the price. I will not deny at all about the cruise being on the pricier side. I am sure even you guys will encounter a similar situation about whether to go for this experience or should you skip this.

So people here I am to influence, urge and guide you through this!

Let me start by giving you a brief introduction about the icebreaker vessel called Sampo.

Sampo is a massive icebreaker vessel built in Finland in the year 1960 to keep the lanes free for shipping in the northern part of Gulf of Bothnia in extreme Arctic conditions. It was used for almost 30 years until the town of Kemi in Finland bought the vessel in 1987. Now the vessel is used for tourist cruises which enable us to experience the unique cruise amidst the Arctic sea scenery.

Photos of Kemi, Finland 1/1 by Deepa Subramanian

The Sampo vessel is stationed at the Ajos harbour right outside the city centre of Kemi town. They offer to and fro transfers from various pickup points in Kemi to the harbour which takes about 20 minutes one way. Once you board the ship, you will be assigned a small group with a guide who will give you an interesting and informative guided tour of the ship and will also have the opportunity to visit the Captain's room and the engine room of the ship. You will have ample amount of time to stroll by yourself and explore the nooks and corner of the vessel and numerous photo opportunities which go without saying.

Photos of Icebreaker Restaurant Sampo Ky, Sampotie, Kemi, Finland 1/3 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Icebreaker Restaurant Sampo Ky, Sampotie, Kemi, Finland 2/3 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Icebreaker Restaurant Sampo Ky, Sampotie, Kemi, Finland 3/3 by Deepa Subramanian

There is no ice breaking in the initial 30 minutes of the cruise since most of the ice near the harbour is already broken due to the paths already made by the icebreaker Sampo. The route of the cruise has to change on an everyday basis to make it as real and as memorable for the tourists onboard.

Photos of Lapland, Finland 1/1 by Deepa Subramanian

Once done with the guided tour of the vessel, you can head to the deck to watch and hear the icebreaker starting to break and crush the thick layer of sea ice to make its path along the Gulf of Bothnia. The sound of the ice breaking and the breaking of the ice in different shapes and sizes absolutely leaves you spell bounded.

Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 1/5 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 2/5 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 3/5 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 4/5 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 5/5 by Deepa Subramanian

You can watch the ice-breaking for hours and not get tired of it but since the temperature outside is freezing, you would want to head inside for your pre selected three-course set lunch or for your complimentary hot scrumptious soup. You can enjoy complimentary soup and some bread inside their restaurant. They have a vegetarian option as well on their soup menu and also the three-course menu for lunch and dinner.

Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 1/6 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 2/6 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 3/6 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 4/6 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 5/6 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 6/6 by Deepa Subramanian

Now comes the most fun and exciting part of the cruise which is to float on the frozen sea. Post lunch, you will be guided to the changing rooms and will be handed over a waterproof floating suit according to your height and weight. The guides present are kind enough to help you get into the survival suit. Please do remember that it is not mandatory and it depends completely on you if you would want to do this activity. As much as it sounds little frightening to float between blocks of ice in a frozen sea, it is absolutely thrilling and fun once you get into the water. I would highly recommend doing this activity.

Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 1/2 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 2/2 by Deepa Subramanian

Once you're geared up in your survival suit, you will head down as per your scheduled time from the vessel on to the frozen sea where the guides will help you get into the water and float. For safety reasons, they allow only 10-15 people float at a time. Once you are in the water, the feeling is incredible. The staff keeps an eye on you always so just go ahead and have a great time. The best way to enjoy this activity is to float and admire the gorgeous blue sky and be at peace!

The floating activity is absolutely safe and you do not need to know how to swim since the survival suit makes you float without any difficulty. Since the staff are busy helping people in and out of the water, make sure you hand over your camera to someone who is in the next slot to get into the water to capture amazing pictures. Once you are ready to head out, the staff will pull you out of the water and you can head back to the changing room and get back to your warm clothes.

Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 1/3 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 2/3 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Gulf of Bothnia 3/3 by Deepa Subramanian

You can head down again to have a short and tranquil hike on the frozen Gulf of Bothnia. You will feel amazing standing on the frozen sea next to such a huge ship. It also offers kick-ass photo opportunities. The thickness of the ice is just beyond your imagination which the Sampo breaks with such an ease.

Photos of Baltic Sea 1/3 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Baltic Sea 2/3 by Deepa Subramanian
Photos of Baltic Sea 3/3 by Deepa Subramanian

Once you're back onboard, you can either chill and relax in the lounge or head outside to catch the spectacular sunset with gorgeous hues on the horizon. It is an absolute delight to be onboard an icebreaker cruise and head back towards the shore with an absolutely stunning scenery to bid you adieu.

Now, on how to book this cruise!

You can log on to their official website: Kemi Icebreaker Sampo and book the tour at your convenient date and time or you can also send an email to sales@visitkemi.fi

The Sampo Icebreaker makes three tours per day, each offering a unique ambience of the surroundings. The duration of all the cruise is 4 hours.

* The morning cruise(8.00 am to 12.00 pm) enables you to enjoy the Arctic Sunrise with delicious breakfast onboard. You will have to pay an additional charge for a luxury breakfast.

* The afternoon cruise(1.00 pm to 5.00 pm) which is referred to as the blue moment cruise is the one I decided to take since I was landing in Kemi only around 10.00 am in the morning. The afternoon cruise lets you enjoy a unique combination of light hours on the frozen sea or a twilight atmosphere only in the month of December. This cruise includes a soup lunch and a bread basket. You will have to pay an additional charge for a three-course lunch.

* The evening cruise(6.00 pm to 10.00 pm) is referred to as the Aurora cruise wherein you'll get to see the northern lights if you're lucky. But I wouldn't recommend this cruise since you will not enjoy watching the ice break in the dark. All you can do is only hear the breaking of the ice and wait for the Aurora to show up. There is no guarantee of Aurora showing up each and every night of the year. This cruise includes a soup dinner and a bread basket. You will have to pay an additional charge for a three-course dinner.

Prices for the Cruise

* The Sampo Icebreaker cruise costs €376 per person. This includes breakfast/ soup lunch or soup dinner according to the timing of the cruise selected, polar plunge experience and return journey on the cruise ship.

* The additional charge is €30 per person for the three-course food menu.

* You can combine the blue moment cruise with snowmobile safari too for an additional charge where you'll get an opportunity to ride a snowmobile on the frozen sea.

Here are a few tips

* Be sure to book this activity as soon as possible since the cruise tickets get sold months in advance.

* Dress in warm layers for cruising so as to enjoy the experience because the Arctic air can get very very chilly.

* Make sure you white balance your camera.

* They offer free return transfers to the Kemi railway station and also the Snow Castle Hotel in Kemi

* Kemi is a 2-3 hours train journey from Rovaniemi. You can easily do a day trip to Kemi for this cruise or stay overnight in Kemi and visit the Snow Castle the following day.

Photos of Kemi, Finland 1/1 by Deepa Subramanian

So what are you waiting for???????

Get onboard Sampo and have a time of your life!

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