Imagine this: A ship so impressive, it can call itself the most powerful nuclear icebreaker in the world. Gary and Patricia travelled aboard the 50 Years of Victory to explore the High Arctic and shared their unforgettable travel experience with us.  

The trip was, in a word, extraordinary. Too start with, just being on the 50 Years of Victory alone was a trip in itself, and even more special than we hoped. Leaving Murmansk, passing the Russian fleet and then a nuclear sub on our way out to open ocean was quite something. We loved the Russian designs and how everything on board was quite different to what we are used to in the west. The food was really good, every night we had a huge buffet to choose from, as well as an a la carte menu if we wished. Friendly, fun staff looked after us in the dining room, nationalities a mixture of Western and Russian. Cabins were large, functional, and ticked every box. There was plenty of space for all of our camera equipment and outdoor layers, and the beds were really comfy.

The days spent smashing through the sea ice were both surreal and fascinating. Our first night under the midnight sun we were woken by the crew numerous times for polar bear sightings. Being on the bow at 04:00 AM watching a polar bear wandering across the ice just meters from the massive hull of the ship when five minutes ago we were fast asleep in our cabins was bizarre, and thrilling.

© G. Peart

On our way out through Franz Josef Land the weather was against us and prevented a landing, but on the way back we had one of the most memorable days of the trip. As we approached the islands through jagged sea ice we encountered at least a dozen polar bears, five on a seal kill. We saw walrus and even four narwhals from a distance. Surrounded by glaciers, sea ice and wildlife, it was really quite breathtaking. We did some bonus helicopter rides here under blue skies.

Surrounded by glaciers, sea ice and wildlife, it was really quite breathtaking 

The day at the North Pole was much better than I had anticipated. We had fabulous weather, and spent the whole day out on the ice. The kind of day where you pinch yourself every so often, trying to take a step back to take it all in. There was an opportunity to take a Polar Plunge (which we did), go up in a tethered hot air balloon, and plenty of time to take photos. The crew put on a hearty barbecue on the ice and the whole day was just superb. We were all sad when the ship had to start heading South again.

We used the gym on the ship, the bar, the mini pool and saunas. And in fact between this, being out on deck watching wildlife (or just watching the ship carving its way through the ice) and attending lectures and presentations, time flew by.

© G. Peart

The real icing on the cake was the Arctic Summit Team. We basically spent the trip hanging out with Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier, Alan Chambers, James Raffan and a bunch of really interesting passengers from all around the world. They really galvanized the trip and kept the focus on climate change and the vulnerability of the Arctic even though we felt so far from the rest of the world.

The WATERPROOF expedition team were absolutely first class, a mix of enthusiastic, knowledgeable and professional people.

It’s difficult to summarize such a mind-blowing trip, it really was an experience of a lifetime.

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