Exploring the White Sea (Serenissima)

Exploring the White Sea (Serenissima)

From £5,995 GBP


For decades the White Sea was a forbidden area and today because of its geographic isolation it remains a region of great mystery. During this voyage we will have six days in the region where we will concentrate on Archangel and the Solovetsky Islands. It was on the Solovetsky Islands that Stalin built one of his infamous Gulags, the ‘Red Army’ established a vital submarine base and an important shipbuilding industry was founded.

The most fascinating aspect of the Solovetsky islands is the 16th century Solovetsky Monastery. This vast Medieval fortress with its fascinating and turbulent history is remarkably well preserved. It is believed that Vikings, both English and Norman came to the White Sea to fish and trade for furs up until the 13th century when global cooling made navigation difficult. In 1553 captain Richard Chancellor was shipwrecked in the White Sea whilst seeking a northern sea route to China. Never one to miss an opportunity, he negotiated trade privileges with Ivan the Terrible which opened diplomatic relations between England and Russia and resulted with a monk from the ancient Nikol-Karelski Monastery becoming the first Russian ambassador to England.

The region is awash with intriguing history, much of which both ancient and modern will be brought to life by our local guides and our guest speaker. Beginning our journey in Norway’s northern port of Tromso we also have the opportunity of exploring the region of the North Cape as well as Murmansk, the largest city north of the Arctic Circle in the world. Here we will visit the cemetery of the officers and soldiers of the Allied Forces who bravely manned the convoys during World War II. To add to your experience, you will be joined on board by an expert team including naturalists who through onboard briefings and lectures will add to your understanding of the geology, flora and fauna of the region.

Trip Name
Exploring the White Sea (Serenissima)
Vessel Type: Small Ship Length: 87 metres Passenger Capacity: 107 (from Dec 2018 - 95) Built / refurbished: 1960 / 2013 / 2018 We are delighted to have had the MS Serenissima on long term charter since 2013. There are so few ships of her generation still cruising and the fact that she is is a great testament to her owners who invest considerable sums to keep her in top form. In December 2018, the vessel will once again undergo a significant refurbishment after which she will accommodate a maximum of just 95 guests. MS Serenissima is a charming vessel and one of her best known and loved features of this vessel is its unique style. During a major refit the then owners commissioned Swedish interior designers to create a Gustavian style interior. This bright Swedish 18th century influenced, country house style works particularly well on a vessel of this vintage, providing intimacy and classic nautical sensibility often lacking in larger vessels. The vessel is equipped with a fleet of Zodiac landing craft allowing us to visit remote places where normal tender arrangements are not possible. The European Captain, Officers, Expedition Staff, and crew offer a first class service and have been selected for their professionalism and caring attitudes. The atmosphere on board is warm and welcoming and dedicated to discovery and relaxation. AIR-CONDITIONING The ship is air conditioned throughout. Please note that only the Serenissima Suites have individually controlled air-conditioning. DAILY PROGRAMME A Daily Programme, detailing the following day’s arrangements as well as any specific information about the day’s activities is produced onboard and delivered to your cabin each evening during the turn down service. DINING, DRINKING AND DIETARY REQUIREMENTS The Venice Restaurant onboard serves international cuisine and accommodates all guests at a single open seating. Tables seat 4 to 10 diners. In addition, there is an outside dining area for when the weather and itinerary permit. Breakfast and lunch are both buffet style, dinner is waiter service only. Complimentary (red and white) house wine, beer and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner. Bar drinks and other beverages with meals are not included; these may be purchased onboard and paid for at the end of your cruise. Complimentary tea and coffee are available between 07:00 hours and 23:00 hours at the tea and coffee station located in the Andrea lounge. Please advise of any special dietary requests in advance. DISABLED FACILITIES The ship can accommodate passengers with mobility restrictions and wheelchair dependent passengers in cabin 407, which has a wider door and no step into/out of the bathroom and shower area. There is a lift serving decks 3 to 6, but there is no stair lift. DOCTOR A medical doctor is available on board 24 hours a day. A fee is charged for any consultations and medication prescribed. Please ensure you carry adequate supplies of any regular medications you may require.  ELECTRICITY The electrical outlets in the cabins and public areas are 220V and take a two-round-pin plug (as in continental Europe). There is a 110/220V, 60Hz outlet for electric shavers in the bathroom. We recommend that you bring an international adaptor. GRATUITIES Gratuities to crew and whilst on excursions are included in the cost of your holiday. INTERNET The onboard library has a computer equipped for email/internet access and Wi-Fi access is available in public areas, although you will require your own laptop, tablet or smartphone, and charges apply – 100mb for €15 Euros, or 500mb for €25 Euros. Please note that connection is dependent on weather conditions and location. LANGUAGE All members of the crew speak English. MONEY The following payment methods are accepted for settlement of shipboard accounts: Cash (Euros or British Pounds), Credit Card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express), Debit Card (MasterCard and Visa). Please note that personal cheques and Travellers’ Cheques are not accepted. PUBLIC AREAS • Andrea Lounge (on Deck 5). The bar is open from 11.00 until 24.00. • Harald Jarl Lounge (on Deck 5). There is a small library here with books and games. There is also a computer for public use (charges apply for internet access) • Lido area (on Deck 5) with a Jacuzzi and fitness room with two running machines • Observation Deck (access from Deck 5 lido area) • Deck 5 and Deck 6 outside seating areas SNORKELLING Snorkelling equipment is kept onboard. Please note that there is no snorkelling from Zodiacs. All snorkelling stops will operate from a beach.  TELEVISION The ship is equipped with a satellite TV system which receives 15 channels. TV reception depends on the satellite dish and on occasion it may not be possible to receive a signal. There is one central video channel on which it is possible to listen to the lectures delivered in the Andrea Lounge. There is also a channel for the ship’s camera located in front of the ship. ZODIACS Some destinations may require the use of Zodiacs to go ashore. These are usually on expedition cruises though may sometimes be used on destination cruises.  PLEASE NOTE: Deck plan varies for 2019 cruises, no inside cabins.


Day 1 - Day 1 - Tromso, Norway.
Arrive this afternoon and transfer to the MS Serenissima, sail this evening.
Day 2 - Days 2 & 3 - North Cape.
We will spend a day and a half taking a close look at the magnificent landscape of the area known as Finnmark. This wilderness area is home to many thousands of Sami people and we will visit North Cape Hall with its panoramic views and exhibits of the history of the Cape. There will be the opportunity to explore the wildlife and scenery on foot and by Zodiac. The deeply carved fjords and unspoiled islands of this little-known area are just perfect for expedition cruising. We hope to use our Zodiacs to explore the magnificent bird cliffs at Gjesvaerstappen Island home to thousands of gannets, guillemots, puffins and razorbills. We will round the North Cape and see the monument erected on top of the 307 metre cliff of Mageroya Island and drive to the North Cape Plateau from the port of Skarsvag.
Day 3 - Day 4 - Murmansk, Russia.
Our first call in Russia will be at the historic city of Murmansk. Founded in 1916, the city of Murmansk today has a population of approximately half a million. Murmansk was the last city founded in the Russian Empire and during the Cold War was a centre of Soviet submarine activity. After clearing Russian customs we will have the afternoon to discover more of the city. See the impressive Palace of Culture and the Memorial Complex to the Defenders of the Polar region with the imposing statue of Alyosha facing out to sea. You can then choose to visit the Museum of the Northern Fleet detailing the formation of Russia’s first navy and the Murmansk convoys during the World War II or alternatively see the Museum of Regional Studies devoted to the history of the Pomor and Lappish people as well as the flora and fauna of the area. If time permits we also hope to visit the Lenin Icebreaker, launched in 1957 as the world’s first nuclear powered ship and now a museum.
Day 4 - Days 5 to 7 - White Sea.
We have three days exploring this remote and little visited area. Whilst we have a planned itinerary it will be subject to change based on weather conditions and local authorities however we hope to visit a number of the small communities and islands. Zodiacs will land us at Morzhovets Island where we can visit the lighthouse, see the abandoned military unit or join a walk to see the birdlife at the lakes. We may visit the Kanin Peninsula which divides the White and Barents Seas and hope to see owls, plovers and divers. Visit Shoina Village on the Kanin Peninsula, which was once the second largest port in the area after Murmansk but now has a population of just 300 as the town has been engulfed by sand being washed up from the sea and blown ashore. It has been described as the “northernmost desert” in the world. Meanwhile at Dvorovaya Bay we will use Zodiacs to view the cliffs that are home to thousands of kittiwakes and guillemots that nest here in summer.
Day 5 - Days 8 to 10 - Solovetsky Islands.
Sitting in the middle of the White Sea is the Solovetsky archipelago, a mythical, ethereal and timeless place. We will spend three days exploring this UNESCO site of outstanding natural beauty. It is on this isolated archipelago that we will find the Solovetsky Monastery. Within its extensive defensive walls are two 16th century cathedrals, housing some stunning icons and many other buildings including watchtowers and gates, icon-painting workshop, residential chambers and a number of workrooms which allowed this impressive monastery to exist in almost complete isolation. We will visit the botanical gardens, developed by the monks in the 19th century, where because of its microclimate all manner of vegetables and fruit are able to grow. The monastery was used by Stalin as a particularly harsh gulag, but in recent years a great effort has been made to restore the complex to some of its former glory. For the active there will be an opportunity to hike to Beluga Cape to view the Beluga whales that make this area home in the summer months or climb to the top of Sekirnaya Hill with wonderful panoramas over the island and White Sea. Making the most of the almost perpetual daylight we will call into some of the smaller islands. On Zayatsky Island we will see the 3rd century BC Neolithic structures, the fascinating labyrinths and the St Andrew wooden church ordered by Peter the Great in 1702. Meanwhile on Anzer we can take a scenic forest walk to the islands monastery.
Day 6 - Day 11 - Archangel.
Archangel lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea and is spread over 40 kilometres along the banks of the river and numerous islands of its delta. In the 18th century this city was the centre of Russian ship building. Today, it is a timber-logging and fishing area. On our guided walk through its streets we will learn of its intriguing history and the area’s occupation by ‘White Russians’ immediately after the 1918 Revolution. During World War II, Archangel was a major port for both receiving from the allies and as a base for the North Sea Fleet. Amazingly, the surrounding waters are blocked by ice for up to 190 days a year, but through the use of ice-breakers remain open for most of the year. A city excursion will include the old quarter with its wooden houses, Trotsky Prospect and the Orthodox Church. Also see the 17th century Merchant Yard, the site of Russia’s first shipyard and home to a museum devoted to the history of the city. This evening we enjoy a Russian folk show on board before we clear Russian customs and start our journey back to Norway.
Day 7 - Day 12 - At sea.
Spend the day at sea, enjoy the lecture programme or find a spot on deck.
Day 8 - Day 13 - Vardo, Norway.
After a morning at sea we return to Norway at the island of Vardo, the oldest town in northern Norway and the country’s easternmost community. Today it is a prosperous fishing town which has had an interesting past. Here we find the 18th century, star shaped Vardohus Fortress built as a defence against Russia and also the Steilneset Memorial which honours the victims of the 17th century Vardo Witch trials. At the Pomor Museum we can learn about the “pomor trade” between Russia and Norway which was based on the bartering of fish and corn up until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. We may also be able to see the nearby island of Hornoya which is home to around 80,000 nesting seabirds including puffin, guillemots and kittiwakes.
Day 9 - Day 14 - Hammerfest.
Spend the morning cruising before we arrive in the world’s most northernmost town during lunch. During World War II the city was the Germans main U-boat base in Finnmark and a supply centre for their vessels attacking Russia however during their retreat in 1945 the city was destroyed. This afternoon we can visit the Museum of Reconstruction which documents the rebuilding of the region and also the Polar Bear Society which showcases the town’s proud traditions of hunting and fishing in the Arctic. Also see the Meridian Column, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which commemorates the 19th century survey conducted by Russian scientist, Friedrich Struve, to determine the arc of the global meridian and calculate the size and shape of the earth. Alternatively enjoy a walk up to the Salen viewpoint offering views over the bay and islands.
Day 10 - Day 15 - Tromso.
Disembark this morning and transfer to the airport for your flight back home.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
03-07-201817-07-2018£6,395Standard Single
03-07-201817-07-2018£7,595Standard Stateroom Plus Sole
03-07-201817-07-2018£6,395Standard Stateroom
03-07-201817-07-2018£5,995Inside Cabin
03-07-201817-07-2018£6,595Standard Stateroom Plus
03-07-201817-07-2018£7,395Standard Stateroom Sole
03-07-201817-07-2018£8,495Executive Suite
03-07-201817-07-2018£7,695Junior Suite
03-07-201817-07-2018£8,495Owners Suite
03-07-201817-07-2018£5,995Inside Single
03-07-201817-07-2018£6,895Superior Stateroom
03-07-201817-07-2018£7,195Deluxe Stateroom


    • Enjoy a journey to the Northern Cape and beyond
    • Discover Russia’s White Sea
    • Sir Tony Brenton Onboard! Sir Tony Brenton is a distinguished British diplomat and commentator on public affairs issues. He is now also a regular commentator and contributor on international affairs on the BBC and in such publications as the Daily Telegraph.