SHIPS AND ICE- A BAD COMBINATION?

Summertime Alaska is surprisingly lush and colourful

Summertime Alaska is surprisingly lush and colourful

The idea of cruising in regions full of ice is anathema to some people. I get it. And I do share some of your sense of unease.

Personally, the only ice I like to see on a cruise is usually in my lunchtime margarita, and then not too much of that, thank you. Cold weather and cruising is at first glance a bit like Simon Cowell and One Direction; a cold, tasteless combination, and guaranteed to break up at any moment.

Yep, You caught me out. I’m very much a warm weather baby; a product of years spent living on the north east coast of the United Kingdom, where the winter winds rush straight down from the Arctic itself. God, I’m getting cold just thinking about it.

Then there was the Titanic, of course, and the horrific fallout from that. The loss of life. The whitewash inquires. The Celine Dion single. God knows, we never want to experience any of those ever again.

But, in all seriousness, some of those icy stretches of water actually provide for some of the most scintillating, exhilarating cruise and voyaging experiences on the planet. And I’m not just talking about Alaska, either.

Greenland blooms for a few months in the summer, and a fantastic, patchwork quilt of colour floods the landscape as giant, blue tinted icebergs- the true ‘great whites’ of the Atlantic- proceed ponderously down through the pearly, perennial summer twilight that hangs over Disko Bay. It’s a gaunt, jagged flotilla, as beautiful and pristine as a Caravaggio painting, and as potentially deadly as a wolf pack. But it’s a sight you’ll never forget, for sure.

You can make some of the same observations for Antarctica; imagine sitting in a hot tub at midnight in the permanent daylight of the Austral summer, and nursing a hot whisky as killer whales flit and frolic in the rose tinted ice floes that stretch to infinity. There’s a good chance that you’ll forget the cold here altogether.

As for Alaska…. have you ever actually seen an iceberg calve? It’s a thrilling, thunderous experience as a wall of vast, steely gray ice cleaves itself free from it’s parent, only to impact on a still, glacial sea with an ear splitting roar that throws up salt water and spray in an icy sheet that disappears as fast as it comes. And the silence that follows is so deep, real and wondrous that you’ll wonder if you might actually have dreamed it.

No one needs to see ice this close up, of course

No one needs to see ice this close up, of course

Or go north into the summertime Arctic, and see a still pristine wonderland where the air is as sharp and clear as a knife blade. You could watch polar bears balancing precariously on ice floes, bobbing on a wine dark swell as they make clumsy lunges at fish swimming by.

Specially chartered expedition ships boast ice strengthened hulls, and can even take you through the icy fastness of the north west passage, from one world to another. Though these ships lack the frills of the luxury vessels, their robust construction means that you can usually get much more up close and personal with both the environment and the wildlife. These voyages are not cheap, but the true value of such an adventure is in the very real experiences and memories that you take home from it.

So, that’s hopefully some food for thought. And the ice is definitely breaking around my previous anathema to such jaunts. Dear Lord, I do believe a thaw is setting in.

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