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Book Review: Of Penguins and Polar Bears by Christopher Wright


The following book review was carried in Cybercruises, Monday 29 June 2020

Few places stir the imagination like the icy tundra of the North or the stunning glacial seascapes of Antarctica. Truly the polar regions are the final frontier in cruise destinations, evoking the adventurer in all of us. For those interested in polar cruising, either as a tourist, tour operator, cruise marketer, seafarer, historian or even armchair traveller, this book is a must-read.


This book presents not only an incredibly detailed and comprehensive history of polar cruising, but also provides an excellent overview of the geography, wildlife, history and contemporary aspects of cruising to each region.


The book first provides an examination of the history of polar cruising, noting the first voyages to Antarctica, the Arctic, the North Pole, the Northern Sea Route and more. Details about voyage dates, ships, itineraries and photos provide incredible information not found elsewhere. The book then presents an overview of each cruise region, looking at Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, Nordkapp, and extending to the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Antarctica and the South Shetlands. Each region is carefully discussed and provides a fascinating account and description. The statistical record this book provides is truly comprehensive, and provides an in-depth look at exactly which ships visited, when, how many passengers and overall how many visitors per year (where the data exists).


The book delivers a detailed examination of both the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, again providing rare information not easily found. The book also presents a comprehensive list of tour operators and detailed descriptions of all the vessels used in the various polar regions for cruising, providing itinerary information by expedition company and photos where possible. Details on historical voyages are given, including cruise costs (with conversion to what it would cost today), stunning photos, cabin and class information to give the reader an inside look at this fascinating history.


The book not only offers a historical overview, but significantly, also examines contemporary cruising by examining the trend for increases in passenger numbers, recent tourist facility developments, challenges for tour operators and cruise lines, and navigating through the complex regulations. The latest developments are discussed, including the IMO Polar Code and move to greener shipping and how these may affect polar cruising.


There are several maps and stunning photos throughout to guide the reader. The book also provides a remarkable and detailed account of safety incidents in all polar regions, noting both historical and more recent events.


Finally, this also provides a unique account of how the “Land of the Midnight Sun” was given this name, and several quirky historical footnotes to make it a very interesting and enjoyable read.


Dr. Jennifer Holland

Cruise & Tourism Researcher - Industry Consultant

Secretary, Geographies of Leisure & Tourism Research Group (RGS)

Research Fellow, Royal Geographical Society

Editorial Board, Tourism & Hospitality Research

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