First Quarterly Update for 2020


I finished the final edits for Of Penguins and Polar Bears at the end of February, although the text had essentially been frozen earlier in the month, but I did try to ensure that the book was up to date as of going to print. However, in the short time since then, there have been quite a number of developments, over and above the impact of Covid 19 on the cruise industry.

I plan to post quarterly updates about polar cruising, and would welcome any additional information readers may be able to contribute. April 2020 is the first update, and they will follow in July, October and January. While I hope to post updates at the beginning of each month, ongoing consulting deadlines may force me to post towards the end of the month. As appropriate, the updates will include a page reference to the book and be organized as:

  • General Comments

  • Ships and Companies

  • Regions


April 2020

General Comments

A general comment I would like to make is that there seems to be a tendency by both regulatory authorities and the media to see the cruise industry as monolithic, and consider every ship the same, from the giant 5,000 passenger floating apartment buildings to the ship shape expedition ship of 200 or fewer passengers. It is the mass-market cruise ships, where the aim is to keep people on board as much as possible and spending discretionary funds on shipside attractions, that Covid 19 – not to forget norovirus and other ailments – have predominated. The expedition cruise industry, on the other had, is outward looking with the intent of getting passengers off the ship as much as possible to explore the destination. These ships have reported very few Covid 19 cases, apart from the unique situation on Aurora Expedition’s Greg Mortimer, where almost all the cases found on board were asymptomatic.

Most cruise companies will effectively lose much of the North Polar 2020 season. Canada has banned cruise ships from all ports until at least after 01 July, with more stringent rules for Arctic Canada. See the Regional section below for these rules. However, reports suggest 2021 bookings are strong, so the companies that can survive the loss of the season will rebound.

Although of a general nature, a recent paper has suggested a remarkable contribution to the health of the oceans, and carbon capture, by whales. Apparently whales play a crucial role in helping fertilize the phytoplankton that absorbs 40% of the world’s CO2. They also capture vast amounts of carbon in their bodies before sinking to the bottom of the ocean when they die and lock it away, sometimes for centuries. It is estimated that each great whale sequesters 33 tonnes of CO2 on average; the full article (3 pages) can be seen here:


  • Ships and Companies

In addition to quarterly bulletins, I hope to also update ship and company information as they are delivered, or as changes may be reported.

Several of the ships scheduled for delivery in 2020 have been delayed to 2021, probably because of difficulties in the shipyards due to the pandemic. As information comes to hand, I will also update the table entries on pp170-174 that lists Polar Expedition ships with new names and any changes, such as date of the last refit, changes to number of passengers, staterooms etc. As appropriate, the quarterly update will provide information on ships withdrawn, or sold. The following ships have definitely been delivered:

  • Lindblad: National Geographic Endurance (pp90)

  • Ponant: Le Bellot (pp92, 93)

  • Quark: Ultramarine (pp 93)

  • Sunstone: Ocean Victory (pp94, 95)

The following ships appear to have been delayed until 2021 from an original 2020 delivery date:

  • Crystal Yacht Expeditions: Crystal Endeavour 1 ((pp88)
  • Hapag-Lloyd: HANSEATIC Spirit (pp88, 89)

  • Mystic Cruises: World Voyager (pp 91)

  • Ponant: Le Jacques Cartier (pp92, 93)

  • REV Ocean Megayacht ((pp93)

Ponant (p72)

Ponant’s new PC2 expedition ship Le Commanadant Charcot has arrived in Norway for final outfitting. The ship is expected to make its first cruises in 2021



Photograph from:

Sunstone (p95)

The company’s second Infinity class new-build, the 186 passenger Ocean Victory has been launched in China. The ship will operate for Albatros Expeditions during the Austal summer and for Victory Cruise Lines in Alaska during the northern summer. The Infinity class all use Ulstein’s X-Bow for better sea keeping.




Vodohod (p96)

When the book went to print, very little had been released about Vodohod’s new Vega class PC5 (or is it PC6?) Expedition vessels. They are reportedly Yard Numbers NB 516 & 517 at the Helsinki ship yard. Apparently they will have a passenger capacity of 157, 113m LOA, 20.2m beam and 5.7m draft. The only information about them seems to be from the online resource cruiseindustrynewswire, which carried the image below. The shipyard web site, despite extensive coverage of its arctic projects, does not mention them. Neither the Russian nor English versions of the Vodohod web site mention them.


Hapag-Lloyd (p75-6):

As part of a press release about Royal Caribbean Line now having a 50% share in Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, through its association with TUI, there was brief mention that a fourth Hanseatic ship had been ordered, to replace the Bremen when it leaves the fleet for Scylla. However, it would appear that the old Hanseatic may now be back with Hapag-Lloyd. It was the owners (Bunny’s), not OneOcean, that bailed the ship out prior to admiralty auction in Montevideo. So far there is no supporting information on VARD’s web site.

An interesting situation developed after the RCGS Resolute (ex Hanseatic) left Montevideo. The ship was slow-steaming north with no apparent destination in mind when the company decided to idle the ship for a couple of days off Isla de Totuga, but in international waters, for engine maintenance. She was approached by GC-23 Naiguata ,of the Venezuelan navy, that demanded they proceed to Puerto Moreno, Isla de Margarita. The captain, quite understandably, wanted to discuss this with head office, but the navy ship proceeded to try and push the ship – presumably into Venezeulan waters – and managed to impale itself on the ice class bulbous bow. Thin patrol ship steel was no match for an ice class bow, and the navy ship sank, producing an outraged response from the Venezuelan government. The Resolute is now safely in Willemstadt, Curacao. See Mia Bennett’s excellent article at:

Hurtigruten (p139-140)

All Hurtigruten cruises have been suspended through 12 May, although the first scheduled Norwegian coast cruises will not start until 21 May from Bergen. Because of the Canadian ban on all cruise calls until at least 01 July, their Alaska programme is in abeyance until further notice.

Amundsen Cruises

A new company – Amundsen Cruises – that intends to focus on the Chinese market, has commissioned Wartsila to design a class of six 200-passenger expedition vessels. Little information is available.


Picture from:

Hamburg (p76)

Plantours is taking advantage of the world-wide pause in cruise activity by putting the Hamburg, (ex cColumbus), through a $20m refit that will give 42 cabins new windows, as well as upgrading the public spaces on the ship.

Crystal Endeavour (representation p88)

The launch has been delayed because of the temporary closure of the shipyard due to restrictions imposed by Germany to combat the pandemic.

Shirshov Institute (p81)

The institute owns the Akademik Ioffe and the Akademic Sergey Vavilov, which have been a mainstay of polar cruising since 1994 and 1993 respectively. A recent announcement states that the ships will be refitted for research work and will no longer be available for cruise charters.

They were also an important part of OneOcean’s polar programme, and when the Institute suddenly withdrew them in May 2019, purportedly at the behest of the Russian Government, it caused the collapse of OneOcean.

Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris (p95)

Viking Ocean’s new expedition ships are large, at 30,150 grt and will apparently have a special 26m long slipway that will enable the ship’s RIB’s to be launched and retrieved with passengers aboard. The deck plan suggests that this will be in an area called The Hanger, which extends through Decks A&1. The Hanger will also hold the two submarines, which will presumably deploy through side doors. A deck plan can be found at:



Cruise and Maritime Voyages (p61-2.

CMV are recreating an historic cruise itinerary out of Tilbury in the UK with a 38-day cruise to Iceland, Greenland and Spitsbergen with the 1,400 passenger Amy Johnson (built as Regal Princess in 1991).

Kapitan Khlebnikov (photograph p146)

Piotr Golikov, the icebreaker’s long time master died recently in Toronto. In addition to many Antarctic trips, he undertook six Northwest Passages, including the first back-to- back sailing in a single season in 1994. Since 2004 he had been Vice President Ship Operations for Quark, and based in Toronto.

  • Regions

Chapter 2 contained destination profiles, while Appendix 2 carried cruise ship and passenger activity for the major polar destinations. When we had to freeze the content of the book for publication, some destinations had not been able to assemble their 2019 data, or only had preliminary figures. Regrettably, the pandemic has created additional problems in finalizing information, although some destinations have now been able to provide 2019 cruise calls and passenger numbers. This is provided below:

Antarctic (p101)

A recent paper reports that microplastics from 14 different polymers were found in an ice core retrieved from the East Antarctic Ice Shelf in 2009.

Cruise Activity

Final information on the 2019/20season is still awaited

Canadian Arctic (p115)

All cruise activity in the Canadian Arctic was banned until 31 October. The wording very specifically ruled out all cruise activity, including NWP transits that would not call at a community. Thus there is no possibility of a 2020 season.

Cruise Activity (pp 177-178)

I posted an earlier update to 2019 cruise activity in the Canadian Arctic, but with a combination of information provided by J.P.Lehnert (see Canada Arctic Cruise page), and deducting probable staff numbers (see the table in Errata), I have now come up with what I hope is a more accurate estimate of passengers in the Canadian Arctic in 2019. I am working through all the annual cruise itineraries provided by Mr. Lehnert, and will post updated ship, cruise and passenger estimates in the Errata as soon as possible. I also now have access to NORDREG data for Greenland activity as well as a record of Greenland ship calls1 from 2014-2019.

The major change to 2019 related to the RCGS Resolute, and fortuitously, I was able to download a copy of OneOcean’s 2019/20 Cruise Brochure. Working woth the reported cruise itineraries, I believe they still undertook five cruises, although not exactly as outlined, and about a week behind schedule. Also, one “cruise” by a different ship has been deleted because it was only a two-day transit through Canadian waters, and no landings were made. Following is a better estimate of numbers of ships, cruises undertaken, and passengers carried.

Summary Data for Cruise Ships in the Canadian Arctic in 2019.













The five Northwest Passage transits by cruise ships are included in the cruise total, and of the other visitors, 12 Adventurers and two Megayachts made a NWP.

Appendix 4 (pp190-191)

Cruise ships that have undertaken a Northwest Passage

2019 was a record year for NWP transits, with five ships: Bremen, l’Austral, Le Boreal, Roald Amundsen, The World. The Amundsen was on its maiden transit, while all the other ships had undertaken transits in prior years.

Iceland Cruise Activity (pp183)

Iceland Cruise Calls and Passenger Numbers


Reykjavik Cruise Calls

Passenger Numbers

Passenger Ships Embarking Passengers

Passengers Arriving by Air

Akureyri Cruise Calls

Akureyri Passenger Numbers














The growth in embarkations at Reykjavik is probably as a consequence of the number of Iceland circumnavigations by expedition cruise ships. Note that passenger numbers are not additive as many ships that called Reykjavik also called Akureyri.

Nordkapp Cruise Calls and Passengers 2019 (pp 184)

Ship Calls 99

Passengers 143,717

Svalbard Cruise Activity (pp 185)

I commented in the book about the problem of deciding which data set to use regarding cruise activity for Svalbard, Numbers provided by the port of Longyearbyen were somewhat different from those provided by the Governor’s Office. I elected to use those from the Governor’s Office, and interpreted them as best I could. Cruise Northern Norway and Svalbard kindly provided the update for Nordkapp, and the spreadsheet also contained numbers for Longyearbyen. Following are comparative data for the two sources for 2018, and Longyearbyen numbers for 2019. I am hoping to receive an update compatible with the figures in the book

Svalbard Cruise Activity

Year Passengers Direct Calls Number of



by air for


Numbers of

Local Cruise

Passengers on



20182 45,900 15   59 21,000
2018 45,927 27      
2019 39.282 23      

I believe the difference in ship numbers may relate to ships engaged in local cruises

Severnaya Zemlya

The remote arctic archipelago in the Kara Sea, off the Tamyr Peninsula, was only discovered in 1913, and not charted until 1930-32. Quark Expeditions undertook a reconnaissance voyage recently and are planning to take passengers there in the near future.

North Pole Cruises (p136)

According to Dmitry Lubusov, the long time master of the nuclear powered icebreaker 50 Years of Victory (29 North Pole trips since 2009), ice conditions en route to the North Pole in 2019 were the worst he can recall for 15 years.

As an author comment, this shows the extreme variability of ice conditions, despite an overall reduction in ice cover and thickness due to climate change. 2019 in the Canadian Arctic, by comparison, was a very easy ice year, with a record number of five NWP transits by commercial vessels, and 14 private craft, of which two were megayachts, i.e. over 30m in length. By comparison 2018 was a heavy ice year, and only two adventurers managed to sneak through the ice, although a tug did manage to make the run from Tuktoyaktuk to Newfoundland.

North East Passage (Northern Sea Route) (pp144-145)

Quite a number of operators, particularly those with new PC6 and PC5 class expedition ships are planning transits in 2021 and beyond.

Because there has been so little cruise ship traffic, the available data was included in the text. According to NSR traffic data for 2018 there were no cruise ship transits. In 2019, the Silver Explorer with 144 passengers undertook a transit escorted by the Russian icebreaker Novorossiysk. However, the official 2019 transit data is not yet available, so there may be additional information when this comes out.

1 I had reviewed the 2019 Greenland list earlier, but found and reported a number of errors. These have not yet been corrected. For example, the list includes the Hanseatic, which was operated by OneOcean as RCGS Resolute in 2019.

2 This is the data from pp 185 in the book