In terms of cruise destinations, Greenland is the new Iceland, as Greenland is becoming the hottest destination in Arctic cruising. This owes to its remoteness, beauty and peculiarities. Earth’s biggest ice sheet (outside of the South Pole) occupies most of the huge island, leaving just the green fringes for villages and towns, none connected by road or rail. The ice and snow are spectacular year-round, the mountains steep, the glaciers vast, the wildlife (whales, polar bears, musk oxen, reindeer) wide-ranging. Most citizens are Inuit, native migrants from nearby Canada, and many still lead a traditional life, pitted against the extreme elements of the Arctic Circle. The capital, Nuuk, is home to about 18,000 of Greenland’s 56,000 residents.
For travelers by sea, Greenland ranks among Earth’s most remote and dazzling polar destinations, and expedition cruise lines, with their small, ice-resistant ships, serve it well. Here the French cruise ship operator Ponant will inaugurate its revolutionary hybrid electric polar expedition vessel, the 270-passenger Le Commandant Charcot, on a May 31–June 14 voyage exploring the “world’s largest fjord” (Scoresby Sound) as well as remote Ittoqqortoormiit, one of the coldest permanently inhabited places on Earth.
Hurtigruten, a company known for its coastal ferry services in Norway, will make three Greenland sailings as well this summer from Reykjavík, Iceland, to the west coast of Greenland on the 530-passenger MS Fridtjof Nansen. Each cruise calls on Nuuk, home to the National Museum and its four 15th-century Greenlandic mummies.
Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic Cruises scheduled an 18-day Reykjavík roundtrip to Greenland’s stunning Disko Bay, where a maze of icebergs crams the 25-mile-long Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer is particularly well-staffed for Greenland sailing, with an expedition leader, eight naturalists and a National Geographic photographer on board.
Quark Expeditions, the first cruise line to serve the North Pole and circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean, offers a new icebreaker for Greenland passengers: the 199-passenger Ultramarine, a vessel with 20 Zodiacs and two of its own helicopters. The helicopters come in handy for September cruises from Iceland that wander the nearly unpopulated shores of northeastern Greenland in search of the northern lights. (The parka provided on these trips is yours to keep.)
Those who want to explore Greenland in full luxury can choose from three expedition-style options. Seabourn will launch a new expedition vessel, the 264-passenger Seabourn Venture, at the end of 2021 to complement a varied slate of Greenland voyages in the summer of 2022. Destinations range from Disko Bay to Scoresby Sound. The new ship carries double sea kayaks and 24 Zodiacs, sufficient to transfer all guests to shore in one swoop.
Silversea Cruises’ 254-passenger Silver Cloud “breaks the ice between expedition and luxury” with four fine restaurants, a swimming pool, a beauty salon, all-suite accommodations, butlers galore and all-inclusive fares — nearly everything one expects on a grand, non-expedition ocean cruise. Greenland destinations vary, from Disko Bay to Prince Christian Sound, a narrow, 66-mile waterway with snowclad mountains, fast-melting glaciers and waterfalls.
Crystal Cruises’ 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor offers a third deluxe option, an all-inclusive, all-suite vessel with a spa, salon, sauna, fitness center, two-story solarium, casino, six dining venues, two mud rooms, two helicopters and one seven-person submersible. Greenland destinations in 2022 include a variety of ports on the southeast and southwest coasts during prime viewing ( June–September) when the sun almost never sets.
From endless days to icebergs to musk oxen to mummies, Greenland proves one strange and wonderous island — and one increasingly on the bucket list of adventurous world travelers.
GREENLAND’S FIRSTS AND FOREMOSTS
SIZE: If size matters, Greenland is the largest (noncontinental) island on the globe.
And the world’s largest national park is Northeast Greenland National Park, larger than all but 29 countries.
POPULATION: Greenland, the least crowded human-occupied region on Earth, boasts a density of one person per 10 square miles. Nuuk, Greenland, is considered the world’s smallest capital city.
ICE: Greenland has more ice than Iceland, with the world’s largest ice sheet (outside of Antarctica). One to two miles deep, the ice sheet contains 100,000 years of climate history and enough frozen water, if melted, to raise global sea levels by 24 feet.
MUSK OXEN: Forty percent of the world’s musk oxen reside in Greenland.
STAR WARS: Nearly a thousand Americans live at Thule Air Force Base, site of a United States Space Force installation in remote northwest Greenland.
KAYAK: The word originated in Greenland, where this Inuit “rowboat” dates back thousands of years.
GOLF: This land of icebergs and glaciers features two public golf courses. The one in Nuuk offers the world’s only Arctic grass layout, and the other course hosts the annual World Ice Golf Championship.
TEMPERATURE: The lowest temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere was in Greenland in 1991, when the mercury caved to minus 93.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
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