First Quarterly Update for 2021

“Penguins and Polar Bears” was released in March 2020, certainly not the best time for a book about the cruise industry, which shut down that month due to the global pandemic. While a full scale return to operations will take time, there are encouraging signs of life. Some expedition operators were able to find niche markets, although as with Ponant’s planned New Zealand cruises, one intransigent government department managed to scuttle the whole programme, despite the company having done everything correctly with regard to governmental approvals.

As in previous updates, page numbers that link back to information in Penguins and Polar Bears are provided, where appropriate.

General Comments

Several expedition companies are proposing an Antarctic season over the 2021/22 Southern Summer, but it is unclear whether they will be able to sail with full complements, or will still be limited in numbers, despite requiring evidence of full vaccination. Availability of Ushuaia for Antarctic cruises is also debatable, as Argentina has not yet reopened its ports; however Chile has, so there are options available.

Access to proposed home ports will be a major problem, and some cruises may end up having to be cancelled if pandemic restrictions are not relaxed. For example, Ponant has fully sold out cruises for Le Commanadant Charcot to the North Pole turning around in Longyearbyen starting this summer. So far Norway has not announced any relaxation on Svalbard access. Also, the follow up Northwest Passage may have to be turned into a North East Passage due to Canada’s reluctance to do anything other than say no to cruise line access.

Vaccination for both crew and passengers will also likely be the big issue as airlines, host countries (like Iceland) and the cruise operators may require such evidence. Finding crew with valid vaccination certificates will also be a problem, and one major ship manager has taken matters into its own hands, by arranging for the crews they deploy to be vaccinated privately. Lack of cooperation by ports typically used for crew changes is also a problem, as is lack of air travel options, forcing the use of charters for crew deployments. Given the current level of vaccination in the US and UK, and, as most country priorities have been for older citizens, who are a major component of expedition cruise travelers, it should be possible to meet basic travel criteria later this year with a relatively large cohort of potential cruise passengers.

Ships and Companies

There have been a number of ship deliveries, and company announcements during the last couple of months. Recent research has uncovered cruises to the West coast of Greenland by Dr. Frederick Cook in 1893 and 1894. A short paper has been posted, and as the 1894 cruise resulted in three casualties, these have been added to the Errata section. 

Crystal Expedition Cruises (pp 88)

Crystal Endeavour has been delivered by MV Werften, over a year behind schedule, and the ship will undertake a series of five ten-night maiden voyages from Reykjavík, Iceland commencing 17 July. The ship reportedly achieved 20.5kts on trials against a contractual speed of 19.7kts. In addition to two helicopters and two small submarines, the ship will also deploy an ROV and drones to provided guests with close up imagery of the region through which the ship is sailing; there is no news about the two sister ships that were reportedly on order (see pp175).

Photograph of Crystal Endeavour from

Hurtigruten (pp89)

The company now has two components: Hurtigruten Expeditions, which will operate its expedition cruise ships, and Hurtigruten Norway, which will continue to operate coastal ferry and passenger services. The company has come to an agreement with Norway to extend their coastal services until June to cover for the continuing delays to the new-builds being constructed by Havila. Although information is on line for the first ship: Havila Capella, only representations, no actual photographs are available, which suggests a further extension may be needed.

Hurtigruten has also announced that the Finnmarken is to be converted to full expedition format at Kleven shipyard. The conversion will include a hybrid propulsion system with battery packs, and she will be renamed Otto Sverdrup.


Brodosplit floated out the Janssonius, sister ship to Hondius. Planned inaugural voyages are to Antarctica over the 2021/22 season

Quark Expeditions(pp93).

Brodosplit has delivered Ultramarine to Quark Expeditions. The ship will carry two twin-engine helicopters as well as 22 zodiacs of a new design by EYOS. These are high speed craft built to work within the low overhead restrictions of the onboard garage. The plan for an initial Spitsbergen season may need to be adapted as the Norwegian Government has not yet updated the restricted access rules announced on 27 January. Their plan to sail on Greenland voyages out of Reykjavik may not be workable either, as Greenland has yet to update quarantine regulations that would prevent passengers disembarking there. Iceland will permit entry by passengers from the UK and USA that have been fully vaccinated.

Photograph of Ultramarine from [email protected]


Seabourn Cruise Lines (pp94)

Seabourn Venture was transferred from Trieste, where the hull and machinery outfit was undertaken, to Mariotti in Genoa for final outfit. The inaugural cruise programme is to be coastal Norway this winter followed by repositioning via the Caribbean to Antarctica for the 2022/23season. There is no information about the sister ship, due 2022 (see pp176).

Photograph of Seabourn Venture from [email protected]

Swan Hellenic

Information about the interiors by Tillberg Design for SH Minerva has been released, see although photographs of her and her sister ship SH Vega under construction have not been made available. The vessels will employ a 4.6-megawatt diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system, together with a 3.0-megawatt battery package. Similarly to Crystal Endeavour, the ship will employ drones and an ROV to enhance the passenger experience. The Swan Hellenic web site indicates that their Antarctica Solar Eclipse[1] cruise is sold out.

Representation of SH Minerva stateroom from [email protected]

These ships were originally ordered by Vodohod (see pp96), and posted updates have provided details as to their branding under Swan Hellenic.

Sunstone (pp95)

Photograph of Sylvia Earle from [email protected]


The Sylvia Earle (for Aurora Expeditions), Ocean Victory (split season charter to Albatros Travel and Victory Cruise Lines) and Ocean Explorer (charter to Vantage Travel) have all been delivered. Sunstone also announced the laying down of the first keel block for Ocean Odyssey (charter to Vantage Travel).


The company will have three ships in the Antarctic this season, with Silver Explorer sailing out of Puerto Williams Chile, supported by charter flights from Santiago. Silver Cloud and Silver Wind will be turning around at Punta Arenas, Ushuaia and Buenos Aires, depending on the Antarctic Cruise. However, see earlier comments regarding Argentina.


Although not involving any polar regions, NYK Line has been working with the Chiba Institute of Technology over the past year to retrieve water samples to analyse the presence of micro plastics. There have been small-scale programmes in polar regions in the past, but this is the first large scale ocean survey.

Map from Maritime Executive attributed to Chiba Institute of Technology website


There is growing concern regarding the stability of the Antarctic ice shelves. The ice shelves act as a barrier to the glaciers, which feed them, but once the ice shelf collapses, the glaciers feed directly into the ocean, as they do in Greenland. The following imagery of the Larsen B Ice Shelf shows what happened over a short period of time.

It is believed that a combination of persistently warm weather and a background of ongoing atmospheric warming, which drove unusually high melt rates, caused the collapse of Larsen B. After its collapse, the glaciers that previously fed Larsen B sped up, spilling more ice into the ocean than before. Currently, the Antarctic Peninsula (see pp14 for a map), an area that has seen more than half its ice shelves lose mass, is responsible for around 25% of all ice loss from Antarctica. It holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by around 24cm.

Photograph sequence from Maritime Executive

Modeling shows that there are four ice shelves at risk, of which two are in the Antarctic Peninsula. How much is lost depends on our ability to minimize global warming, and if temperature increases can be maintained at less than 2oC, which is the current target, then sea level rise can be minimized. See this short YouTube video for more details

The Polarstern research vessel took advantage of a channel between the Brunt Ice Shelf and iceberg A74, which calved from it in February, to successfully investigate life that exists under the ice shelves.

Satellite radar imaging of Polarstern’s transit from Maritime Executive attributed to DLR / Alfred Wegener Institute


Under UN Continental Shelf Commission (UNCLOS) rules, Russia has claimed approximately 70% of the Arctic seabed. Whether these will be upheld is another matter though, as the claim extends to Greenland and Canada’s EEZ. The Polar map shows preliminary mapping/data from @ibrudurham on the Russian submission. Bright yellow is the Russian EEZ; pale yellow is the new Russian submission, pale blue is other Arctic Ocean beyond 200nm from land. It is interesting to note that they have not claimed areas adjacent to the US EEZ off Alaska.

Map from Maritime Magazine

Heavy Fuel in the Arctic

The Clean Arctic Alliance is, once again, pushing the IMO to ban Heavy Fuels in the Arctic. However, what was a relatively easy action for the Antarctic is definitely not so for the North Polar Region. There is no industrial activity in the Antarctic, but there is substantial resource extraction in the north, which cannot be readily served by ships burning only distillate fuels. The supporting narrative for action is also suspect, and in particular a recent paper by PAME claiming a 44% increase in NWP traffic between 2013 and 2019. Numbers of unique ships were given as 112 in 2013 and 160 in 2019; these numbers are not believable. The actual count of ships transiting the NWP in 2013 was 19, of which 14 were adventurers. In 2019 there were the same number of adventurers, but 25 total transits. A protest has been made to PAME, but no answer has been received.

[1] This takes place on 05 December 2021. See pp 31,32 for cruises to the Fjords,around the 1896 solar eclipse