MV Polar Pioneer

Former name: Akademik Schuleykin

MV Polar Pioneer current position

MV Polar Pioneer current location is at Baltic Sea (coordinates 56.97704 N / 24.09278 E) cruising en route to RIGA 1. The AIS position was reported 11 minutes ago.

Current Position

Specifications of MV Polar Pioneer

Year built1985  /  Age: 37
Flag state Russia
BuilderOy Laivateollisuus AB (Turku, Finland)
Classice-strengthened expedition ship
Speed14 kn / 26 kph / 16 mph
Length (LOA)71 m / 233 ft
Beam (width)13 m / 43 ft
Gross Tonnage1753 gt
Passengers-to-space ratio31
Decks with cabins3
Last Refurbishment2021
Sister-shipsProfessor Molchanov, Professor Multanovskiy, Professor Khromov (Spirit of Enderby)
Former namesAkademik Schuleykin
OwnerPolar Expedition
OperatorAurora Expeditions Australia

MV Polar Pioneer Review

Review of MV Polar Pioneer

The 1985-built MV Polar Pioneer cruise ship is among the most traditional-looking Arctic and Antarctica-based passenger ships. The vessel was designed and built an ice-strengthened research ship (named "Akademik Schuleykin") in Turku Finland.

In 2010, it was fully drydock refitted/converted into a passenger ship. Polar Pioneer's sistership (by design) Professor Khromov was also part of the chartered fleet of Aurora Expeditions (Australian company specializing in polar voyages).

MV Polar Pioneer cruise ship (Aurora Expeditions)

From the same Akademik Shuleykin-class are also the research ships (drydock-converted and now operated as cruise vessels) Professor Molchanov (1982), Professor Multanovskiy (1983) and Professor Khromov (1984, fka Spirit of Enderby).

The ship's small draft (4,5 m / 15 ft) allows it to easily navigate near landing sites. Carrying just 54 passengers, Polar Pioneer currently cruises in Antarctica, South Georgia Island (British Antarctica) and also in Northern Europe and the Arctic, visiting ports in Svalbard and Spitsbergen Island (Arctic Norway), Iceland, Greenland, UK (Scotland).

Polar Pioneer was is one of all 10x Akademik Shuleykin-class Russian ships built in the mid-1980s for the USSR-Soviet Union's oceanographic research purposes. Around half of these ended up as chartered for polar cruise tours ships.

Aurora Expeditions is among the true pioneers of expedition cruising and adventure travel in the Australian marketplace. The company has been one of the first to introduce passengers to a number of remote destinations over more than two decades. Established in 1991 by mountaineer Greg Mortimer and his partner Margaret Werner, in 2008 Aurora was sold and the new owners remained true to the original expedition spirit. Initially offering small group cruises to Antarctica, Aurora Expeditions has since operated expedition cruises in Norway's Svalbard Islands, Russia's Far East, East Greenland, Papua New Guinea and Amazon River. In 2014 it began cruising in Alaska's Inside Passage and launching land, river and sea Ecuador expeditions. In 2015 the line finished its first Africa expedition with a luxury safari cruise along Chobe River in Botswana. For polar operations, Aurora Expeditions uses the ice-strengthened MV Polar Pioneer.

MV Polar Pioneer cruise ship (Aurora Expeditions)

Decks, Cabins, Shipboard facilities

All Polar Pioneer staterooms (26 total) have outside portholes and ample storage space. The bridge is spacious and always open to passengers. There is a combined bar, lounge and library area stocked with good polar books collection. The chefs onboard are European, and the boat's dining room is served by Russian stewardesses. The meals are uncomplicated and wholesome.

The boat has 6 decks, of which 5 are passenger-accessible and 3 with cabins.

MV Polar Pioneer cruise ship (Aurora Expeditions)

MV Polar Pioneer is not a luxury ship but has been extremely popular among travel aficionados to Polar regions. A fleet of inflatable Zodiacs with outboard motors enable easy traveling from ship to shore. The enthusiasm of the Russian captain and crew, who are among the world's most experienced ice-navigators, is legendary. Optional adventure activities like kayaking and camping are offered on many of Polar Pioneer voyages.

Note: In the case of poor AIS coverage, tracking the vessel's current location will be impossible. You can see the CruiseMapper's list of all icebreakers and ice-breaking research ships in the "itinerary" section of our Icebreakers hub. All states and their fleets are listed there.

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The ship-charterer Aurora Expeditions contracted "CMI Leisure Management" (Miami-based company) for the Polar Pioneer ship management. The deal included staffing, hotel services, housekeeping, onboard food and beverages, purchasing supplies, logistics.  CMI Leisure is among the world's leading companies providing small-ship management services. The company was also contracted by Aurora Expeditions for managing the SunStone-owned ship MS Greg Mortimer (new-class expedition vessel).

In June 2018, Aurora Expeditions announced that this is Polar Pioneer's final season (2018-2019) as the boat will be replaced by the newbuild Greg Mortimer.

In August 2021, Scandinavian investors announced that following a drydock refurbishment, MV Polar Pioneer is scheduled to restart voyages in 2022. Due to structural changes, the vessel was laid up (in Port Riga Latvia) on September 21, 2019.

During drydock 2021 refurbishment were upgraded all staterooms, the Lounge Bar (deck 4), both Dining Rooms (deck 3), the ship's vacuum toilet system. Renovations were also done to all public areas.

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