In premodern times, and especially during the latest wave of immigration from Canada to Greenland, the kayak and the larger umiaq were the most common and efficient means of transportation compared to arduous treks across the rugged Greenlandic mountain terrain.
Explorers, cartographers and adventurers looking to cross the ice cap or conquer the North Pole all came to Greenland from across the sea, and they met the locals and exchanged goods and experiences, while some even settled down and started a new life on the island.
“We saw a show on television from Compagnie du Ponant. We saw the ice and the nature, and we said that we have to do that!”
“I’ve dreamed of a cruise to Greenland for years! Greenland is far away, but with a cruise I don’t have to plan anything! I still see different places. It’s the perfect way to travel for me!”
PIONEERS AT SEA
Cruise guests in today’s Greenland might not plant the same explorer flag in their various destinations throughout Greenland, but the sense of being a pioneer in the wake of great adventurers who sailed these shores long ago still prevails. A cruise in Greenland is first and foremost a nature based experience, men on top of that it is an intimate meeting with our culture, society, and history which adds a dimension not often seen in other Polar cruises.
With the exception of the northernmost parts of Greenland, which are still hard to access because of sea ice, just about any inhabited place in Greenland can be reached in the peak season from June till October.
A VARIETY OF CRUISES FOR ALL TASTES
For a great all round experience of Greenland begin or end your cruise in Kangerlussuaq, at the bottom of a long, narrow fjord close to the Ice Cap which is an essential place to visit from Kangerlussuaq.
When you embark in Kangerlussuaq your cruise will almost certainly involve a trip north to the Disko Bay area, typically arriving in Ilulissat and cruising along the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Ilulissat Icefjord, before heading wither heading south to Kangerlussuaq or across the Davis Strait to Canada or back towards Iceland with further Greenlandic destinations on the itinerary.
You might also be arriving on a larger cruise on your way across the Atlantic and in that case you normally only have one or two stops in Greenland unless you’re traveling aboard a dedicated expedition cruise ship or a schooner, both of which usually travel through fjords and explore nature and wildlife off the beaten path on fairly open itineraries.
Regardless of the ship type and irrespectively of your choice of season, be it early in summer when whales are abundant or on the edge of autumn when the northern lights come out, a cruise in Greenland is the perfect way to experience the country.
“Three years ago I was in Scoresbysund with Oceanwide. We visited the icebergs with small boats, and we went around the icebergs. We saw animals, and we saw polar bears!”
FROM MIDNIGHT SUN TO NORTHERN LIGHTS
North of the Arctic Circle you can experience the midnight sun, roughly until the end of July in Ilulissat, while you will find nights with no darkness even after the sun dips below the horizon south of the Arctic Circle. Walk around the upper deck of the ship and breathe in the fresh Arctic air in the magical soft midnight light while you cruise through calm waters sheltered by bays and fjords. This is like a balm for the soul.
On journeys with daily arrivals in towns and settlements you will often have the option of going on local tours both in town and with smaller boats in the area. Or you might find that someone local has set up a kayak performance, a show with dancers in the national costume, or a talk with greenlanders who recall life in a land from when the kayak and the umiaq were essential and everyday means of transportion.
Most cruise ships visit Greenland from mid-July till mid-August
- Greenland’s coastline is more than 44,000 kilometers or longer than the 40,000 kilometers around the Equator
Most expedition cruises go to East Greenland while a number of actual Greenland cruises begin near the international airport in Kangerlussuaq on the west coast
Nanortalik and Qaqortoq in South Greenland, and at times also the capital Nuuk, are frequented by larger ships on transatlantic crossings
- Many Greenlandic stores, hotels, and restaurants accept VISA and MasterCard but it is advisable to always carry cash, as some places might not accept your preferred credit card, including Amex, UnionPay, and other less common forms of payment in Greenland.
HAVE A TASTE OF GREENLAND AND BRING HOME THE MEMORIES
Even with every meal included in your cruise it would be a shame to miss out on a taste Greenland. Larger towns all have restaurants or hotels with lunch menus, and often with a commanding view of the sea. And if you are in the presence of a guide with local knowledge you should consider buying fresh fish or meat from “Brættet”, the local Arctic fresh foods market, to bring back for the onboard chef to prepare.
Having your crew fishing little pieces of ice out of the sea before crushing them down to ice cubes for whiskey or other drinks is usually popular among seafarers looking for that bit of an extra feel good experience. Free floating pieces from ice cap are often more than 4,000 years old and it goes well with Martini and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.