Icebreaker Cruise – Kemi, Lapland, Finland
A Winter Adventure Amid the Nordic Ice Floes
The Sampo is one of the world’s few tourist icebreakers, offering a one-of-a-kind experience on the frozen Gulf of Bothnia, the northernmost tip of the Baltic Sea. The four-hour cruise departs from Kemi, just south of the Arctic Circle, and ventures out into Europe’s largest continuous ice field.
Once out at sea, passengers are invited to don bright-orange watertight survival suits and float among the j newly broken ice, sometimes 3 feet thick. They can alight from the Sampo onto the rock-hard sea for ice fishing or be whisked away by snowmobiles or husky-driven sleds.
Either way, it is an exhilarating ride through splendid solitude that is both heart stopping and surreal as the midwinter half-light reflects off the white solid surface of the sea. Finland holds claim to being the world’s number one builder of ice-breaking ships, so passengers are in good hands. The captain leads a fascinating tour of the ship from bridge to engine room.
Tours that include the icebreaker often include land activities in or around Kemi such as winter safaris (snowmobile or dogsled rides, reindeer mushing, and exploration of Sami/Lapp settlements). Created every winter since 1996, Kemi’s fantastic SnowCastle grows larger and more inventive every year.
The three-story-tall wintry stronghold is composed of a courtyard, ice-sculpture exhibitions, a chapel, café, and auditorium where performances are often staged. Guests can overnight at the “World’s Largest SnowCastle” – preferably in the Honeymoon Suite.