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Monday, 4 April 2016

Finland Part 6: Cruise Of A Lifetime On Sampo Ice Breaker, Kemi


I have been on a number of cruises but never have I experienced one as unique as the cruise on Sampo in Kemi. 
For a start a little knowledge and history about this ship would be most enlightening.
Apparently, Finland is the only country in the world where all the ports freeze during winter. As maritime trade is important to the country, ice breaking is vital to keep its ports open during the winter months. Sampo was constructed in 1960 solely for ice breaking purposes. After serving its time with the Finnish government (1961 to 1987), it was bought over by Juhani Leino, a rich man who wanted to make Sampo a tourist attraction. The idea turned out brilliant and it was the brainchild of this man that Sampo is Kemi's No 1 tourist attraction today.
Sampo Cruises operates only 4 months a year from the Port of Ajos, 11 km south of  Kemi. It operates a few cruises a day. Ours was the afternoon cruise which starts at 2pm. This icebreaker navigates the Gulf of Bothnia and crushes the ice on the Bothnian Sea as it cruises along.
The port of Ajos where we board our cruise was covered with snow and the surrounding sea, completely frozen. Passengers are allowed to board half and hour before departure but have to be on board 10 minutes before departing time.
 
We took off at 2 o'clock sharp. A simple but special itinerary is arranged for passengers on board.

Meet Our Guide And Lunch
We met with a guide who was specially assigned to our group. He is a young Finnish man with a very cute curvy moustache. "How did you do that?", I asked him. "Oh, I waxed it " was his reply. We were ushered to have our lunch and told where to meet after the meal.
There are 2 restaurants, one on the 1st deck and one on the 2nd deck. The passenger capacity on board is 150.
The afternoon cruise costs Euro 300/pax. For this rate passengers will only be given a soup and bread lunch. To get a 3 course meal like the one we had (as in the picture above) an extra 28 Euro has to be paid. The meal was satisfactory. Only water and coffee or tea are included in the package. Any other beverage has to be purchased over the counter.

The Tour
The good thing about cruising on Sampo is we had the chance to tour places that are deemed out of bound on other ships. Our guide took us to the control room, the engine room and even the captain's bridge.
With the seaman at the captain's bridge.
The Captain of Sampo

Free Time
We were given a lot of free time to explore the ship on our own. For that we could freely move around the three decks to see the icebreaker at work. 
It is extremely cold out on the open deck and passengers are advised to be properly attired. The thundering sound of the 3500 tonnes vessel crushing the ice below may not be appealing to the ear but the breathtaking and spectacular panorama of the frozen Artic sea more than made up for it.
Ice being crushed as the ship cruised along.
Touring every corner of the ship
The lounge on the second deck.
Portraits of previous captains of Sampo
Bitterly cold winds on the open deck.
With a friend and a Sampo crew
These stairs on the third deck lead to the Captain's bridge.
The cruise duration is about 4 hours. Before turning back to the port, the ship stopped in the middle of the sea for passengers to either swim or walk around. This huge metal bridge is lowered across the cracked surface of the frozen sea for passengers who wish to alight.

Swimming In The Ice Water
The fun part of the cruise is swimming on the frozen sea in this survival suit. This suit protects the wearer from hypothermia in cold water and allows the wearer to automatically float. It has built-on boots, built-on-gloves and a hood. A person does not have to fully undress to slip into this suit. Only the outer jacket and boots need to be taken off. This suit is watertight and keeps the wearer and the clothes on them dry even when he/she is fully immersed in the water.
The dressing room is on the level below the first deck. There are small lockers with keys to keep our valuables. A staff helped us get into the suits.
"Tada! We are ready". At any one time only sixteen are allowed to swim. This is probably for security reasons...or maybe Sampo doesn't have enough survival suits to go around.
We alighted the bridge and made our way to the section of the sea where the ice has been crushed. A few crews were stationed near the water to help us in. 
This activity is optional but I would have missed the most fun thing in life if I had not participated. It was indeed a peculiar experience.
It is totally safe with this suit on. You won't sink even if you want to. 
We frolicked about in the Bothnian Sea with chunks of ice floating around us. Once you've had enough, you'll need to raise your hand to indicate you are getting out. A crew will then pull you out of the water.
After the swim we even had time to walk around the frozen part of the sea (the major part that has not been crushed). The ice is so thick there it can even hold the weight of big tanks moving around.
We walked, posed, jumped and played till we were satisfied. 
After all this is an experience of a lifetime. 
At the end of the cruise each passenger gets a certificate, without the name inscribed.
After the swim Sampo cruised back to the port. This was one educational, fun and out of the world cruise that will forever be etched in my mind.

Finland Part 4: Aurora Restaurant @ Kakslauttanen Artic Resort
Finland Part 5: Husky Safari @ Kakslauttanen
Finland Part 6: Cruise Of A Lifetime On Sampo Icebreaker, Kemi
Finland Part 7: Cumulus Kemi, My Hotel in Kemi
Finland Part 8: Scenery Of The Artics On A Bus Journey From Kemi To Rovaniemi
Finland Part 9: Ranua Wildlife Park
Finland Part 10: A Visit To Artikum, Rovaniemi
Finland Part 11: Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi
Finland Part 12: Artic Circle Reindeer Farm @ Konttaniemi
Finland Part 13: Getting To Know Rovaniemi
Finland Part 14: Rantasipi Pohjanhovi Hotel, Rovaniemi
Finland Part 15: Traveling On VR Night Train From Rovaniemi To Helsinki
Finland Part 16: My First Day In Helsinki
Finland Part 17: A Walking Tour Of Helsinki
Finland Part 18: Beautiful Helsinki
Finland Part 19: Brief Review Of The Original Sokos Hotel Presidentti, Helsinki

3 comments :

  1. I'm so captivated by your vacation in Finland!!!! How exciting! Can I know which tour you took? Must be costly but I think it's so worth it! Once in a lifetime experience. You're very lucky!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pls write to lilyronnie@yahoo.com
      I'll reply via email

      Delete
  2. Nice article, What are the finest cruise dreams made of? Think state-of-the-art suites, finest wine and dine choices, service that will spoil you silly, activities to fire up your schedule, shopping expedition at sea, bespoke excursions and (much) more.

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