For those who have ever wondered what it might have been like to sail aboard Endurance or Terra Nova (think Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott), along comes the Noorderlicht.
Built in Germany in 1910, this red-hulled, two-masted schooner rig is about as far removed from the typical cruising experience as one can get -- and that's just how the ship's legions of fans from around the world like it.
This is a real ship. It rolls. It has an exposed wheel at the stern where hearty sailors can navigate in good weather conditions. It has cabins with no windows, shared accommodations, a cozy saloon and plenty of open deck space for sailors to feel the wind in their hair and the mist on their face.
The ship is complemented by two Zodiacs and one guide for the 20 passengers onboard, who range in age and nationality. Drawn by the unique appeal of Noorderlicht, they come from around the world for the chance to sail to the far reaches of Norway and Arctic Svalbard on a ship that has proven its worth for more than a century.
Oceanwide Expeditions outlines it plainly on its website: "Willingness to compromise on comfort is a basic requirement on board of a historic traditional sailing vessel."
If that sounds wonderful, read on. If not, or if you are at all prone to seasickness, Noorderlicht is not for you.
Noorderlicht has a single cozy, wood-paneled dining saloon that also doubles as the ship's bar, lounge and all-around hang-out area. Because of this, passengers tend to take meals at the same time, together as a group.
Food is flavorful and filling, if uncomplicated. Expect a good dose of regional Norwegian and Scandinavian specialties.
Dietary restrictions can be accommodated with advance notice.
This is a small, classic sailing ship; perhaps unsurprisingly, cabins are all small.
All cabins are insides with upper and lower berths. For those not traveling with a friend or partner, all cabins are shared accommodations. Toilet and shower facilities (four total) are located outside the main cabins in the central corridor. A small wash basin with hot and cold water is located in each cabin.
All cabins have small ventilation hatches in the ceiling; they're opened when passengers are ashore to ventilate the entire deck. Cabin 6 has a small locked porthole inset into its ceiling but offers ventilation louvres in the cabin door.
Power outlets onboard are two-pronged 220V European-style outlets, so cruisers may need the appropriate adapters and converters for electrical appliances.
It's all about the sails aboard Noorderlicht and being out on the open decks as much as possible. The ship offers a good amount of open deck space, and hearty souls tend to venture outside even when conditions are less than ideal.
Going ashore is the primary entertainment aboard Noorderlicht. Aboard the ship, the camaraderie among fellow passengers serves as the primary entertainment, with informal talks given by the ship's small but dedicated crew, who know as much about the vessel as they do about its surroundings.
Noorderlicht primarily sails itineraries to Arctic Svalbard and the northern reaches of Norway.
Among polar expedition ships, Ortelius stands apart as a true explorer. Its ice-strengthened hull allows navigation in year-old ice, and that -- combined with heliport and garage space for three helicopters -- allows Ortelius to delve deeper into polar exploration.