MV Polar Pioneer

Former name: Akademik Schuleykin

MV Polar Pioneer current position

MV Polar Pioneer current location is at South America East Coast (coordinates -34.89910 S / -56.20798 W) cruising en route to MVD BERTH MUELLE B. The AIS position was reported 8 minutes ago.

Current Position

Specifications of MV Polar Pioneer

Year of build1982  /  Age: 42
Flag state Cyprus
BuilderOy Laivateollisuus AB (Turku, Finland)
Class1A Super
Speed14 kn / 26 km/h / 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 Alca Maritime AB
OperatorPolar Pioneer Management AS

MV Polar Pioneer Review

Review of MV Polar Pioneer

The 1982-built Polar Pioneer cruise ship is among the most traditional-looking Arctic and Antarctica-based passenger ships. The boat was designed and constructed with an ice-strengthened hull (classification "1A Super") and launched as a research ship (named "Akademik Schuleykin") in Turku Finland.

The vessel (IMO number 8010324) is currently Cyprus-flagged (MMSI 210189000) and registered in Limassol. Its previous/original flag-state was Russia (MMSI 273454860).

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 (fleet).

MV Polar Pioneer cruise ship (Aurora Expeditions)

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

Polar Pioneer's draft (4,5 m / 15 ft) allows easy and safe close-to-shore navigation. Carrying just 54 passengers, the boat currently cruises in Antarctica, South Georgia Island (UK's British Antarctica) and also in Northern Europe and the Arctic, visiting ports in Svalbard Norway (including Spitsbergen Island), Iceland and Greenland, UK (Scotland).

MV Polar Pioneer cruise ship (Aurora Expeditions)

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 the Amazon River. In 2014 it began cruising in Alaska's Inside Passage and launching land, river and sea Ecuador expeditions.

In 2015, the company finished its first African expedition with a luxury safari cruise along the Chobe River in Botswana.

Decks and 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 attracted to both polar regions. A fleet of inflatable Zodiacs (motorized RIBs with outboard motors) allows cruising near the coast and on inland waterways.

Optional adventure activities (like kayaking and camping) are offered on many Polar Pioneer voyages.

The enthusiasm of the Russian captain and crew, who are among the world's most experienced ice navigators, is legendary. Traditionally for a Russian ship, Polar Pioneer has a Sauna Room and a spacious Saloon/Bar Lounge.

Note: In the case of poor AIS coverage, tracking the vessel's current location will be impossible. You can see 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.

Polar cruise itineraries

Following the Coronavirus crisis and a major drydock refurbishment, Polar Pioneer restarted passenger shipping operations in 2022.


For 2024, the ship had scheduled a 12-day "Antarctica Cruise" (January 1), followed by a 12-day "Wildlife and Photography Small Group Expedition", a 15-day "South Georgia Explorer" (February 24) and a 15-day "South Georgia Photo Tour Small Group Size". Fares started from USD 10995 per person (with triple occupancy on the Antarctica Cruise/Jan 1-12, 2024) and from USD 13995 pp (on the South Georgia Explorer/Feb 24 - Mar 9, 2024).

Departing on December 31, 2024, from Ushuaia Argentina, in 2025 Polar Pioneer was also chartered for Antarctic voyages.

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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.