Yachting News & Events

The Chill Factor | FRANK Magazine

Julia Zaltzman | June 8, 2021

When it comes to explorative itineraries, embracing the chill factor has never been cooler.  

Hazardous environments and unpredictable weather conditions do little to deter the adventurous of spirit from traveling to colder climates by superyacht.

Picture a superyacht in your mind’s eye and scenes of golden sunshine will usually follow. But what if it’s icebergs, glaciers and cold water therapy that piques your interest? If it is, you’re not alone. A growing number of superyachts are choosing to travel to cooler climates taking in destinations that include Antarctica, Iceland, Norway and even the farthest tip of Scotland. Diamond-glinting ice floes, waddling penguins, fjords, frozen waterfalls and creaking tundras await those who dare.

“There is no doubt that yachting is changing, with a new belief in using yachts as a platform for delivering incredible experiences in locations that you couldn’t have otherwise,” says Ben Lyons, CEO of travel specialists EYOS Expeditions. “Experiential travel and the concept of really partaking in and experiencing a destination is so powerful and it helps us to connect with our place in the world.”

Going to the polar regions is a great example, says Lyons, as these are areas that are pristine and totally removed from day-to-day life. And for those who have made the journey to colder waters, it’s an experience of wonder that stays with them forever.

“Cruising polar destinations and areas that are not your atypical yachting itinerary are really the essence of what yachting and exploration is about,” says the captain of a private 148-foot yacht that cruised over 20,000 nautical miles from Svalbard to Russia in summer 2019. “Visiting destinations like Svalbard and witnessing polar bears in their natural habitat, ice fields that connect with the horizon, and glaciers that bring absolute humble silence to your days is only just a small taste of what is out there.”

Norway is one of the most popular cooler destinations, as it is relatively easy to reach and cruise. And there’s plenty to keep visitors occupied. “The west coast of Norway is blessed with majestic fjords, steep mountains, breathtaking glaciers and waterfalls and there is probably no better way to get closer with nature, landscape and local Norwegian traditions than exploring the fjords by a superyacht,” says Ingrid Enge of Norway-based agency, Superyacht Services. “The northern parts of Norway offer a great variety of cruising along an endless coastline where the nature is still dominated by towering mountains and fjords. You will find old, remote fishing villages and sandy beaches with crystal clear water, though swimming in this cold water is not for the fainthearted!”

For the owners of FOREVER ONE, Norway has endless appeal: “Norway has so many highlights, but particularly the uncongested waters and the amazing scenery,” says FOREVER ONE’s captain, Kostis Sklavounos. “Our guests really enjoyed learning about the region and its history and traveling in and out of the fjords.”

Cruising on to Svalbard from Norway delivers inconceivable experiences, says Captain Christoph Schaefer, who led several trips to the polar regions on board 180-foot KAMALAYA. “When I suggested that we push north to Svalbard, a mere 500 miles north of Norway, the owner enthusiastically agreed,” he says. “The prospect of seeing polar bears in the wild was simply too tempting to pass up.”

Svalbard is unexpectedly abundant in wildlife and is undoubtedly the destination’s showstopper appeal, says Jason Roberts of PolarX, where encounters with polar bears, walrus, seals, reindeer, arctic foxes and a variety of bird species is almost guaranteed. “The second drawcard is the landscape, with glacier and sea ice,” he adds. “It’s like seeing the Alps sticking out of the ocean.”

Alongside polar bear spotting, photographing the aurora borealis, or northern lights, from the deck of a superyacht is another must-do activity. Viewing the natural polar light display usually requires yachts to be out of season in many destinations, but vessels travelling to Greenland in September are often in for an exceptional treat.

If adrenaline-fueled activities that leave your heart in your mouth hit the mark, then the opportunity to heli-ski from a yacht in Greenland could be the end-goal. “For a remote and undeveloped region like Greenland, a yacht is the ideal base for heli-skiing,” says James Orr of James Orr Heliski. “Greenland is a spectacular place to ski – the remoteness means that it’s possible to drop from your yacht onto unclimbed mountains and make first descents.”

Guests on board KAMALAYA took advantage of this experience during their visit to Greenland. “Our main objective during that first trip was heliskiing,” says Captain Schaefer. “We could pick up and drop off guests directly from the boat and fly to take them up into the pristine slopes – it’s a spectacular way to see and experience Greenland.”

Although there’s no doubt that parts of the cooler regions do require specially equipped explorer-style or ice-class yachts, most yachts are in fact able to experience many parts of these destinations with careful planning and support from regional specialists and agents.

“Many of the boats that we’ve had in the polar regions are not explorer boats,” says Roberts. That said, the type of yacht will dictate the end experience, says Lyons. “Any yacht undertaking a visit to the polar regions should not underestimate the complexities. A yacht that has an ice-class hull and is certified to the Polar Code will be able to offer a very different experience than a yacht that is not built for the Poles.”

Being properly equipped also includes carrying the right gear, such as watercraft that can take you right on shore, says the captain of the 148-footer. “A really strong tender goes a long way, as does some great woolen clothing, especially socks!”

The Cool Route

The Cool Route Beginning in Cork in South Ireland, the lesser-known Cool Route is gaining traction among the yachting crowd. It takes yachts up to the top of Northern Ireland and on to western Scotland, progressing to the Faroe Islands and ending in Norway. A twitcher’s paradise and a rambler’s heaven, scenic cruising, dramatic cliffs and historic caves invite explorers by tender or kayak.

“This whole route offers something highly different for a superyacht to experience,” says Ben Lyons, CEO of EYOS Expeditions. “The British Isles are one of the under-discovered destinations and yet there is so much to see in northern UK where it’s beautiful, wild, remote and rugged.”

Moving up to the craggy Faroe Islands, there is a sense of true remoteness buoyed by a strong history and culture. The Faroe Islands’ first international hotel brand, Hilton Garden Inn, opened its doors in October 2020 – equipped with a wellness center, outdoor hot tub and sauna, while the new hotly-anticipated Bond film No Time to Die was partly filmed on the island of Kalsoy, known for its twisting roads, deep valleys and cliff-top Kallur Lighthouse.

The Eysturoy Tunnel – the second longest subsea tunnel for vehicles in the world – opened in January 2021 connecting three locations on Streymoy and Eysturoy, while the soon-to-open Faer Isles Distillery will be one of the most northerly whisky and gin distilleries in the world.

The Cool Route itinerary finishes up in Norway, a country that delivers an unending coastline, majestic fjords and picturesque towns that dot the passageway.