Lapland Finland – Experience of the cruise in the icebreaker Sampo

Before making our recent trip to Finnish Lapland, we did not imagine that for tourists it would be possible to navigate an icebreaker through the icy waters of the Baltic Sea .

But I already told you that it is possible.

Icebreaker cruise Sampo in Finnish Lapland
Icebreaker cruise Sampo in Finnish Lapland


One of the things that surprised me most about my first trip to Rovaniemi in winter many years ago was discovering during the flight that the Baltic Seafreezes completely.

Cruise on the Sampo icebreaker in Finnish Lapland
Cruise on the Sampo icebreaker in Finnish Lapland


So much so that from the plane you could see how the trucks crossed the waters by very long roads on the ice

It was logical to think that the great ice- breaking ships carry out an important task during the winter in the Baltic to open certain sea routes.

You have to keep in mind that Finland is the only country in the world where the waters of all its seaports freeze during several months of winter.

Logical if we know that it is usual for temperatures to drop to -20 degrees Celsius, with the record set at -51 degrees.

But the truth is that I did not know that in Kemi , on the shores of the Baltic , you can sign up for a very exclusive activity , a cruise aboard the Sampo icebreaker .

In fact, this cruise has become the great tourist attraction of the city of Finnish Lapland , sharing the interest of visitors with the leisure complex of  SnowCastle .

Icebreaker story Sampo

The icebreaker Sampo was built in Helsinki in 1960 along with two other icebreaker boats, within the reconstruction plan of the Finnish icebreaker fleet.

The Sampo had an ancestor whose origins go back to 1898, which was operating for 50 years.

The current Sampo ended its activity as an icebreaker in 1987, and then it was acquired by the municipality of Kemi to give it a second life by initiating a new tourist activity .

This project was a sample of the creativity of the mayor who then managed this Finnish city.

Although initially this acquisition was rejected, the truth is that since then the Sampo became the great tourist attraction of Kemi , followed years later by the aforementioned  SnowCastle .

Arrival of tourists to the icebreaker Sampo in Lapland in Finland
Arrival of tourists to the icebreaker Sampo in Lapland in Finland

After the adaptation that took place on the ship for its new function, the Sampo tourist activity starts every year in December and lasts about four months, during which some 15,000 tourists sail on board the icebreaker.

Characteristics of Sampo

This icebreaker has a length of 75.7 meters and a beam of 17.4 meters, with a total weight of 3,541 tons

The icebreaker function is carried out thanks to the special weight and thickness of its plate, so its weight opens the route.

And another basic characteristic is its diesel engine that favors that, in case of finding an excessive thickness of ice, can quickly move back to resume the route.

Its four engines allow it to reach a speed of 16 knots to the open sea, and by the frozen sea it sails between 6 and 8 knots, with a cutting capacity of up to 1.20 meters deep of solid ice.

Stateroom in the Sampo icebreaker in Finland
Stateroom in the Sampo icebreaker in Finland

Icebreaker tourist cruiser

With a crew of nine people, plus guides and restaurant staff, during the winter months each day two and even three cruises are carried out in the Sampo , all lasting about four hours.

The first of the cruises, the Artic Sunrise , starts at 8 o’clock and lets you see the sunrise from the boat.

At 13:00 the main cruise ship of the Sampo, the Blue Moments , is carried out, so that you can see the sunset.

And the third, the Aurora Cruise , starts at 6 pm and is a night cruise that has the special attraction of seeing aurora borealis .

On our trip we had the opportunity to enjoy the day tour , for which you need to embark at least half an hour before.

Machine room of the Sampo icebreaker in Finland
Machine room of the Sampo icebreaker in Finland

At the boarding bridge you will receive a guide who will attend you in Spanish during the four-hour cruise.

In the same match with tourists from around the world, so that in our case we made the trip, for example, with Chinese and Uruguayan tourists.

At the beginning you will be given a presentation of the history and characteristics of the Sampo , to then make a guided tour  of its facilities.

So in this first contact with the ship you can go from the interior salons, where you can take refuge in case of bad weather, to the engine room, passing also by the bridge.

Soon it will be time for tourists who have signed up for the snowmobile tour to take them to a point of the frozen sea where they meet the Sampo .

Sampo Icebreaker Restaurant in Finnish Lapland
Sampo Icebreaker Restaurant in Finnish Lapland

With a schedule already established by turns, you will arrive at lunchtime in your comfortable restaurant, where you will taste the typical salmon soup .

During the cruise you will be able to move around the interior and the outer bridges of the ship, which for a time will leave the navigable route in the frozen sea to open a new route on the ice, so that you can check its effectiveness.

How is the bath in the Baltic Sea ice cream

Finally comes one of the peak moments, the possibility of bathing in the icy waters of the Baltic Sea with the protection of a striking and huge red neoprene suit.

According to what they tell us, with this suit you could stay in the water without problems for up to four hours, that is, avoiding water at all times.

Bathing in the Baltic Sea ice cream on the icebreaker cruise Sampo in Finland
Bathing in the Baltic Sea ice cream on the icebreaker cruise Sampo in Finland

After stopping at a certain point of the sea and down the ramp, the tourists got off to an orderly fashion, and with the help of the guides, go bathing in the Baltic ,.

As far as we could see, there is no one who is reluctant to do this experience, including the older tourists.

After completing this original experience, it is time to return to the port of Kemi .

I’ll tell you that the Sampo is the only possibility in Europe of cruising with these characteristics in a true icebreaker.

It seems that in Russia you can sign up for an icebreaker cruise , but with a duration of four days, and also make short cruises but in small tug boats, not in icebreakers.

Finally, here you have all the information about the cruise in the icebreaker Sampo in Finland .

Cutting ice on the icebreaker cruise Sampo
Cutting ice on the icebreaker cruise Sampo