From the Hebrides in the west, to inhospitable windswept specks of land like St Kilda and Foula, and to the Orkney and Shetland islands in the north, we’ll explore the intriguing diversity of Scotland’s wild islands. We plan to take in Neolithic sites scarcely changed in 5,000 years, and ponder the mystery of huge monoliths that marked seasonal change. We visit picturesque villages, haunted castles that once were stronghold of the Scottish clans; birders will delight in Europe’s largest sea bird colonies and the Orkney Islands will please whiskey amateurs with a wee dram of Scotland’s finest!
• Visit World-heritage-listed St Kilda
• Explore historic villages in the Orkney Islands
• Basking sharks, dolphins & seals in the Hebrides
• Kayak through sea caves and mirror-like lochs
• Fantastic puffin, guillemots, eagles and fulmars
• Visit an Iron Age broch with our historian
Our staff welcome you aboard Polar Pioneer in Oban.
Overnight we travel to Iona, birthplace of Christianity in Britain and burial ground of early Scottish kings. At Staffa, we visit Fingal’s Cave, set amidst spectacular basalt columns, and learn why it inspired Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture. In the Cuillin Hills, spiritual heart of Skye, we follow a lonely track to Rubh’an Dunain, an ancient passage grave with a nearby Iron Age fort and stonelined canal, possibly built by Vikings. If conditions allow, we may take longer walks into the hills. Canna offers golden and sea eagles, basking sharks, dolphins, grey seals and puffins.
Conditions permitting, we land on Hirta, in remote St Kilda, home to Europe’s most important seabird colony and Britain’s highest sea stacks. We learn of the incredible islanders, who survived here for nearly 5000 years, and their heroic courtship rituals. On Lewis we visit the Callanish Stones, sombre slabs placed upright nearly 3000 years ago to mark burial sites. A Zodiac cruise takes us to pure white beaches where the brave might swim and Bostadh’s reconstructed Iron Age house. We aim to visit Sula Sgeir and North Rona, tiny islands with dramatic coastlines, inhabited by breeding seals and seabirds.
Closer to Norway than Scotland, the Shetland Isles played a strategic role in Viking conquests. We visit the capital, Lerwick, and explore the complex Stone, Bronze and Iron Age settlement of Jarlshof. On Mousa, we walk to the world’s best-preserved Iron Age structure known as a broch and our historian recounts its importance. Foula’s five dramatic peaks dwarf its crofting hamlets and its cliffs are alive with kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars and skuas. Papa Stour’s coastline offers Zodiac exploration of dramatic caves.
Blessed with red, fertile soil, the Orkney archipelago has welcomed people since ancient times. From Kirkwall, we visit 5000- year old archaeological wonders like Skara Brae, excavated less than 100 years ago. We view relics of Viking occupation and World War II curiosities, include the exquisite Italian Chapel, built from scrap by Italian POWs. We sail past the giant sea stack Old Man of Hoy. On Papa Westray we see the Knap of Howar, the oldest standing dwelling in Europe and on to Fair Isle, a birdwatchers’ paradise, where the few inhabitants still live in traditional crofts and welcome us to admire and buy their exquisite knitwear.
In Aberdeen, we disembark and bid farewell to Polar Pioneer staff and crew and fellow passengers.
Please note that all of our itineraries are at the mercy of weather conditions and not all landings are guaranteed. Our itineraries are flexible and will change voyage to voyage, allowing the best chance to make the most of surprising wildlife displays and unexpected opportunities.
Cabin Numbers: 300, 301 Deck: Deck 3 Cabin Features: Two lower bunk beds and one upper bunk bed Outside porthole Wash basin Lounge and desk Cupboard with hanging space Air-conditioning control Shared bathroom facilities on same deck Outside deck accessed via Deck 4 Cabin Size: 10.2 m2
Cabin Numbers: 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313 Deck: Deck 3 Cabin Features: Two lower bunk beds Outside porthole Wash basin Lounge and desk Cupboard with hanging space Air-conditioning control Shared bathroom facilities on same deck Outside decks accessible via Deck 3 and 4 Cabin Size: 9.8 m2
Cabin Numbers: 402, 403
Deck: Deck 4
Upper and lower bunk and a couch
Desk and chair
Cupboard with hanging space
Outside deck access to main deck
Cabin Size: 12 m2 Bathroom Size: 1.9 m2
Cabin Numbers: 400, 401, 404, 405, 406, 408, 504, 505, 506, 507
Deck: Deck 4 & Deck 5
Two lower bunk beds (Note: #402 and #403 have an upper and lower bunk and a couch)
Desk and chair
Cupboard with hanging space
Outside deck access to main deck (Deck 4 cabins only)
Outside deck access to upper deck (Deck 5 cabins only)
Cabin Size: 12 m2 Bathroom Size: 1.9 m2
Cabin Numbers: 502, 503 Deck: Deck 5 Cabin Features Private en suite Double bed in separate room Side-facing windows Separate lounge area Desk and chair Cupboard with hanging space TV, DVD player and mini fridge Air-conditioning control Outside deck access from Deck 5 Cabin Size: 16.8 m2 Bathroom Size: 1.92 m2
Cabin Number: 501 Deck: Deck 5 Cabin Features Private en-suite Double bed in separate room Forward- and side-facing windows Separate lounge area Desk and table area TV, DVD player and mini fridge Air-conditioning control Outside deck access from Deck 5 Cabin Size: 22.5 m2 Bathroom Size: 1.92 m2
Vessel Type: Expedition
Length: 71 metres
Passenger Capacity: 50
Built / refurbished: 1985 / 2000
Polar Pioneer is one of the most popular style of vessels currently used in Antarctica and the Arctic. Originally built as an ice-strengthened research vessel in Finland in 1982, she was refurbished in 2000 and converted into a passenger ship for expeditions to the polar regions. Polar Pioneer’s excellent reputation for polar expedition cruising is due to her strength, maneuverability and size. She is small and nimble, which means she can sail up close to landing sites and venture where other, larger ships can’t. Carrying just 54 passengers, she allows us to offer you a far more personal and intimate experience of the destination we are visiting.
Our professional chefs present three healthy, delicious meals daily, with morning and afternoon tea available in the dining rooms in between. All of our produce is sourced locally, with fresh fruit and vegetables, and freshly baked bread and pastries, served wherever possible. We are able to cater for a range of special meal requests, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, lactose free and other allergy specific requirements – please ensure you list this on your personal details form.
Our spacious observation decks provide a congenial place to watch for wildlife or follow the ship’s progress on nautical charts. Rug up for unparalleled scenery from the outer decks or flying bridge, where our naturalists help you identify wildlife.
Learning and Lectures
At sea, join our polar specialists as they entertain and inform us with illustrated talks, and prepare us for making shore visits with mandatory safety and environmental briefings.
Captain and Crew
Our highly experienced Russian captain and crew are among the best ice navigators in the world. Our efficient stewardesses attend to rooms and serve our meals, whilst the crew work mainly behind-the-scenes to help our expedition leader get the ship to where we want to go.
Polar Pioneer boasts a fleet of Zodiacs that transport us ashore to penguin rookeries, scientific stations and historic sites, and provide us with a platform for photography. Our small excursion crafts take us beyond the reach of giant cruisers, and our philosophy of “getting out amongst it” is put to practice.
A basic medical clinic is managed by our English-speaking Ship’s Doctor, who is available at all times to assist with bouts of sea sickness and other unexpected emergencies.
From socialising in our fully-stocked lounge bar to enjoying Captain’s drinks, trivia nights and charity auctions, or escaping to the sauna for some R&R; our small ship offers some fun entertainment options for when we’re not out and about.
Technology and Connectivity
Polar Pioneer has communication services that are available for an additional fee. These include satellite telephone, email and fax. Please note that these services are basic and not suitable for continuous use. Internet access is available on board for an additional cost. Please note that due to the remote nature of our expeditions, connection cannot always be guaranteed.