Best-known for arranging extraordinary superyacht expeditions to some of the most remote corners of the world, EYOS has raised the bar once again with what Ben Lyons, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, describes – with more than a little understatement – as “an exciting new product”.
Owned and operated by Nansen Polar Expeditions, the 12-guest MV Nansen Explorer is a “special purpose expedition vessel”, as the company phrases it, that plies the icy seas of the polar regions, visiting some of the world’s most extreme and remote destinations from Greenland to Antarctica.
Aiming to fill a gap in the luxury expedition industry, it lies somewhere between the practicality of a traditional expedition ship and the superfluous frills of a superyacht, resulting in a new kind of luxury hybrid experience that has been further elevated with a roster of immersive excursions managed by EYOS. “We have the ship and they have the product – the expedition management capabilities, so to speak,” says Martin Enckell, Nanen’s co-founder.
Lyons Adds: “As brands, we have such a kinship in our philosophies; we have a shared way of thinking and a sense of wanting to create a similar experience, so our partnership sort of came about naturally.”
To start with, the vessel is undeniably lovely aesthetically. Solidly utilitarian on the outside, she was built in Finland in the 1980s to the highest ice class specifications, and previously worked as a casino boat which sailed between Russia and Japan, before being acquired by Norway, where she served as a military vessel patrolling Svalbard.
Now, having just emerged from an extensive refit, her new Scandinavian-inspired interiors are the work of Norwegian Marine Interior (NMI) and interior architect, Åshild Von Lantz, who took their cues from pictures of the polar regions taken by a series of photographers including both Enckell and Audun Lie Dahl – one of Nansen’s other co-founders.
In the ship’s cosy lounge, the blue-grey hues of the sofa’s cushions are inspired by a photograph of a pair of penguins snapped by German expedition photographer Stefan Christmann, while the inviting glow of the fireplace is intensified by a striking image, taken by Lie Dahl, of a polar bear, radiant with the light of the rising sun.
Elsewhere, there is a focus on clean, simple lines, natural materials (such as light timbers and buttery soft leathers), carefully considered lighting, and calm, muted hues. The seven cabins – each of which have spacious bathrooms – are thoughtfully considered; some, like the Owner’s Suite, have newly modified floor-to-ceiling windows that let in copious amounts of light, while also framing gorgeous views. There is a fully-equipped gym and a dining room on Deck Two, while the lounge on Deck Three – which stretches to nearly a third of the length of the ship – is smartly configured for socialising in small or larger groups.
This all comes together to provide the ideal base for days spent being immersed in a programme of skilfully planned excursions that are as richly diverse as the destinations themselves. Over breakfasts of fresh pastries and à la carte dishes from eggs benedict to pancakes topped with blueberries, our guide briefs us on the day’s activities. On my particular itinerary, this meant a focus on Iceland’s extraordinary landscape, with mornings spent ambling amid a bright green sweep of otherworldly moss-covered lava fields; kayaking peacefully along magnificent sea stacks and basalt columns; swimming in eddy pools against the thundering roar of a magnificent waterfall; and embarking on various wildlife outings.
Nansen Explorer also comes equipped with two zodiacs, an adventure hangar – filled with expedition equipment from kayaks to SUPS – a helicopter pad with a refuelling station and, coming soon, a lecture hall. With the aim to offer the ship as a support vessel, she will also be available to charter as a whole and will be running fixed single cabin departures – such as photography and heli-ski-themed itineraries to Antarctica and Greenland – throughout the next year.
“We wanted to create a great expedition ship that has a strong atmosphere of warmth,” says Enckell. “A place where you feel comfortable and very much at home, and where you’ll always see familiar faces.”