In my next stories will be a lot of information about North, Finland, Antarctica (live from trip in January 2017), Iceland, North cruises etc. But sure other destinations too.
When one day I decided to back to Finland at Winter time, I decided back also to North – catch Northern Light and.. get this awesome experience by catching only one available in the world icebreaker for tourists – Sampo. The greatest thing I’ve heard – is possibility to swim/ floating in icebreaker path in special costume. You will never forget this feeling.
Nothing there to be scared about: as you will be warm and safety in special costume provided. You will not be able to go down in water or under the ice, as also you will not get cold. Costumes are specially prepared for this. Just one rule: you need to be 145 cm or higher to fit it.
Arrival to icebreaker Sampo.
I spend new year Eve in Helsinki – capital of Finland and was excited about next day trip to North to meet While Walkers or at least some locals , white bears, owls and swim in Gulf of Bothnia between ice. Get the was pretty easy , flight, train or cheap bus from Onnibus. I arrived to Kemi and meet with local travelers from Couchsurfing who helped me next day to get to Icebreaker Sampo. I prepared to be there 30 minutes before. My choice from schedule was day tour which anyway ends in darkness.We were divided on groups, and each group had a guide. Our guide showed us most needed thing and left for some 30 minutes to look around before guided tour.Icebreaker is very warm and comfortable inside, you can find there a bar and bags storage if needed. Comfortable chairs and sofa, a lot of souvenirs and postcards.
Guided Tour and Free time.
First of all guide assigned you to the group ,will come to warm room and will tell history of icebreaker .Then you will go to all levels, will be provided to the rooms with special swimsuits, will hear all details about height and sizes and also you will visit the cabin crew. After that you will have free time to explore icebreaker, make photos and so on, until Sampo will not stop for best winter experience in Lapland. I should mention that during the tour some people were started to worry about swimming opportunity, it looked liked we can be cold, also afraid that we will die, something else… A few persons even decided do not go for swimming and wait for friends/ family with camera on board. But some of them changed their mind when see how others easy go into the water and feel as on the beach at summer time. If you see no ice from land and during trip – don’t worry.The same it looked on my experience, but captain is know what he is doing. After 1,5 hours it was not just iced Gulf, we definitely were able to see icebreaker job and path which looked like impossible to go into the water. To enjoy all these be prepared that outside is cold and windy. take warm closes and warm scarf, gloves etc. with you.
Swimming in icebreaker path.
This is the time. Icebreaker stopped and groups started their way to already shown cabins to prepare for ice swimming. During tour your guide will tell you nearly time to come to cabins and show them. You can come a bit earlier also, all this, is to prevent people from waiting. Also mostly everybody anyway stays outside to see how everything set and how first groups going to get into the water when -25 outside. First of all you need go by trap from ship and walk to icebreaker path by ice – but after you see people are not dying from that , everything is looks better.
So, be sure in costumes you cant handle with anything, you cant hold camera, you cant put it on you somehow. So as I did – just ask somebody who is not going to do such performance or who already did it to keep your camera and make a few photos. This person will be able to do it only from the icebreaker – don’t worry path for swimming is close – but better have good camera in other case you will have just general photos.
So from icebreaker back you need to go downstairs as other people, you will see cabin to change closes . Basically you will need to change only your outerwear and take off shoes. Don’t worry costume sizes are big enough, so different people can do this, in any cases you can ask questions about parameters you have via email given below, same with which you booking tickets. There at all maximum 3 sizes (S, M, L), so your swimsuit will be a bit big for you anyway. Smallest S is not same small as we usually think so. L is for biggest and tallest guys. When enter the dressing area you will be provided to to cabin where will be maybe another 1 or 2 people with you. Girls who working there will ask you about size or will recommend you one. Take of your outerwear, manage with hear, take something to fix them with you and wait for suitable costume. Leave all other things or in dressing room or at icebreaker room/ restaurant , else. When girl will bring your costume , she will help you to fit into it. Be prepared – take of shoes and put your feet into costume. Yes it is big, even smallest one, but everybody can manage. Other part is easy – you all will be covered by warm inside and waterproof outside costume, just eyes and nose will be shown, but you can regulate it.
After that, most difficult thing – go upstairs in it. Proceed to the trap and responsible securities will let you go. They will do it for one after one, so it will not be crowdy around. Together in path swimming will be groups with 6-8 people only. The most tricky – is go down form icebreaker by trap, but after 2 steps you understand that it is not so dengerous as it looks like. Going by ice is also easy. Now – you are a Star! People from icebreaker making photos all the time. Icebreaker crew will help you go into the water, it is not dangerous, not cold. you just floating on water on your back with no feeling that it is winter outside. Enjoy this moments – for each person it will be a few minutes. But! You will remember them,after movement you will feel warm inside. Better make sure that somebody on ship making photos of you or of all your group as crew should care about people. In our situation it were nice tourists from China who did for us all photos on board and in water, so we have what to remember.
After e few minutes you will be asked back and go on board, we felt so warm, even hot after this, that partly opened costumes – trust me no cold you will feel.
After swimming on board free welcomed lunch will wait for you in icebreaker restaurant. Tables will be booked according to groups. You can choose your lunch while ordering tickets or later, usually it is a few soups: reindeer’s with cheese or salmon’s traditional cream soup. Tea, coffee and bread are also included.After all get their portions you can get some extra soup for free, don’t be shy if you like it. If you wish, while booking you can order some vegetarian soup also free or some extra lunches by extra price.
This is it. Now you have free time to enjoy way back on icebreaker. Don’t forget to take you Diploma!
What to do on Icebreaker.
If you choose just icebreaker ticket without any other package with before and after experience, so you still will have same program as others on the board. You will be instructed about schedule and possibilities to do:
- You will have in general 4 hours’ tour including all activities
- First instruction and history of Icebreaker with tour included all levels, even crew cabin.
- Free time to until Icebreaker will get to place with enough thick ice
- Ice swimming in icebreaker path with special provided costumes
- Free lunch with local Lapland food
- Free time on way back
- Special certificate that you’ve been on icebreaker Sampo sign by Captain.
How to get to Icebreaker Sampo from Kemi.
Book tickets in advance and be there 30 minutes before departure. There are not always places available for Icebreaker Sampo cruise. Groups from all over the world come here to enjoy this unique experience.
Icebreaker is placed in Port of Kemi. Sampo is situated in Ajos harbor which is about 11 kilometers from the center of Kemi. There no public transport, so option you can use:
- Proposed transfer by icebreaker while buying ticket or later (35 euro both ways) – recommended, goes from center and a few central Hotels
- Taxi, approximate price can be a bit cheaper, but depends on season
- If you are traveler who use couchsurfing (locals always can help)
- If you choose some package to Kemi (with additional attraction) or from Rovaniemi (recommended as includes Ice castle), then transfer is included.
- You can sure walk 11 kilometers, but in Kemi usually cold and windy
- All possibilities are way and back. But, if you do not have booked option on way back and if you see that somebody leaving by car and there is a free place, ask for help, Finns are nice and usually don’t say – No.
How better and cheaper get to Kemi:
- Easiest way is to take a train from Oulu (closest city) or Rovaniemi.
- Cheap buses can be found from different destinations from Finalnd.
- Transfer provided if you decided to choose package from Rovaniemi (Home of Santa)
- Don’t be afraid to hitchhike (usually people do it from Gas station in Kemi)
- Very cheap bus-line Onnibus price can be started from 1 Euro, but even general Helsinki-Lapland from 15 euro.
- Car sharing service used in Finalnd Kimppa
- Also you can find good prices for flight to Rovaniemi / Oulu if will book it beforehand (mostly provided by Finnair)
Best time to take a cruise on icebreaker Sampo:
- From Middle of December till middle of April every year – check schedule
- Cruise started mostly 3 time per day:
- Morning at 8 am (remember, mornings are dark in Lapland at winter time)
- Day time (1 pm, but sometimes it is different) – recommended as combines day and evening time
- Evening at 6 pm (dark cruise, will be lucky if clear sky and Northern light will be possible to see)
How to buy or book ticket to icebreaker Sampo:
- Just write email to book a place and they will send all links and options as on site tickets are not always available places. Only 150 passengers can join in 1 trip – maximum.
- If you will choose just icebreaker ticket with free lunch , without any transfer or extra activities it will cost you 270 euro. – this is cheapest version
- But if you looking fore something more a lot of packages available when extra activities and transportation included, with more higher price
Enjoy this opportunity. In other stories I will tell more what to do in Lapland and Finlфnd so you will be able to combine all these adventures.