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What’s it Like to Explore Iceland on a Private Expedition Ship?

Bill Springer | June 20, 2022



The Nansen Explorer is an expedition ship with the soul of a superyacht.

When it comes to one-of-a-kind experiences, few are can be more meaningful than exploring some of the most remote places on Earth onboard a large private ship. Now, I know it may sound like I’m stating the obvious here, but stick with me.

Expedition ships like the Nansen Explorer can go where many other ships don’t.

I’m not talking about catching rays and hanging out by the pool onboard a superyacht that spends the summer in the Mediterranean and the winter in the Caribbean–and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with catching rays on a superyacht in the Med!

But what I am saying is that luxury yacht polar exploration is more special simply because there aren’t that many private yachts that are capable of being fully self-sufficient and operating in the harsh and often dangerous conditions of the polar regions for any length of time.

The view from the bridge of the Nansen Explorer is very very special.

Since even fewer private expedition yachts combine the strength and capabilities of a commercial-grade research vessel (that’s capable of punching through polar ice), with expert guides and five-star superyacht services (that will pamper 12 guests in seven large staterooms), the 236-foot-long Nansen Explorer is the ideal ship (it’s too rugged to be called a yacht!) to experience Iceland’s wildness and the midnight sun like only a lucky few can.

Iceland is the land of the midnight sun in the summer.

Thanks to a multi-million-dollar refit that has transformed the interior of this commercial-grade ship into a luxury yacht, the Nansen Explorer is built to wrap its guests in a warm blanket of luxury, too. Staterooms are modern and spacious with comfortable beds, spa-like bathrooms, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The main saloon is a comfortable spot for guests to gather and share stories (and selfies) of their daily adventures.

Heli-ops onboard Nansen Explorer.

The ship also boasts an expansive heli-deck, complete with onboard refueling capabilities that make it easy for guests to explore inland and heli-ski too. There is plenty of space for the numerous kayaks, SUPs, and expedition-grade Zodiacs that make it possible to have intimate encounters with whales and other wildlife that make polar exploration so special, too.

The view from the helicopter is spectacular.

But as anyone who has spent any time in the polar regions can attest, the brute strength of the ship is only part of the equation. And as I saw for myself on my recent trip to Iceland, it’s an expedition ship with the soul of a superyacht!

Private whale watching is part of the plan.

Guests were greeted with genuine warmth and a sincere welcome from the captain, crew, and local guides. And no one was disappointed. One evening, guests were quickly launched in the Zodiacs and treated to a close encounter with a playfully breeching humpback whale. Another evening, the crew surprised guests with a trip to a remote natural hot spring that was made even better with the champagne that they quickly pulled out of their backpacks. Meanwhile, talented chefs offered a steady stream of Michelin-star-level cuisine.

The dining is as exciting as the exploring.

But maybe the biggest surprise of all came on the last night, when the ship dropped anchor just outside Reykivik. Guests were just finishing a superb meal when one of our guides made a little “announcement”. This was not out of the ordinary, since the group quickly became accustomed to the guides providing insight, instructions, and information for the next day after dinner.

Kayak ops out on the water.

“We’ve arranged a little surprise for you,” he said with a smile. “We’ve arranged for a helicopter to pick you up and give you all an aerial tour of the area.”

Lava erupting out of an active volcano.

Needless to say, the guests were excited to head to the heli-deck and explore Iceland from the air. But they were more than just excited since the whole secret heli-ops plan the crew of the Nansen Explorer and EYOS Exploration pulled off was such a surprise. And as Nansen’s expert crew knows, little things like surprise helicopter rides over active volcanoes can make even the most jaded luxury traveler feel some of the joy and wonder we all felt as kids.

There is nothing better than that!

Inspired? One of our charter brokers can help you arrange an awesome adventure of your own!