When we first traveled to Lapland I had never heard of this activity. But once I knew about the existence of the Sampo Icebreaker Cruise, it immediately went to the top of our wish list. Just keep reading and I’m sure once you finished this blog, you will want to do the Icebreaker Sampo Cruise experience as well.

History of Sampo

 Sampo Icebreaker 2

Sampo is an icebreaker that actually operated as such during the years 1961-1987. After retiring from it’s official duties as icebreaker it ended up in its current role as a touristic icebreaker ship.

Sampo was built in 1960 at the Wärtsilä shipyard in Helsinki. In the 60s, Sampo belonged to the so-called new generation of icebreakers. The technical feature of which was two bow thrusters, which guaranteed an even stronger flow in the bow, which reduced the resistance in breaking ice.

Sampo Icebreaker drone 7

Finland is the only country in the world where all ports freeze in winter. In normal winters, the mercury can even drop below -30°C during the coldest periods. Due to its geographical location, Finland’s import and export industry is largely dependent on sea transport, so keeping the winter ports open is essential in terms of international competitiveness. After being retired from its official duties, Sampo ended up in Kemi, being used for tourism.

Getting there

The Sampo Icebreaker cruises leave from the port of Kemi. Only travelers who have registered for cruises can access the port during the cruise.

They offer shuttle bus transportation from Kemi, Rovaniemi, Haparanda and Tornio. Pick up times depend on where you travel from and if you have the morning or afternoon cruise.

Sampo Icebreaker Cruise

Sampo Icebreaker drone 1

It is clear that these cruises are not available all year round. The icebreaker season starts a little before Christmas and lasts about four months. Sampo is one of Finland’s most famous international tourism products.

We travelled to Kemi from Rovaniemi and had the afternoon cruise. Pick up from Rovaniemi city center is at 9AM. Around 10.30AM you arrive at the Kemi SnowCastle area where the check in for the Sampo Icebreaker cruise is located. Departure to the Sampo Icebreaker is around 12.30PM. In between check in and departure to the port, you have plenty of time to explore the SnowCastle area and have lunch, which is included. Lunch is a wonderful buffet with plenty of choices.

Upon check in for the cruise you get your timings for the guided tour of the ship and for your ice floating experience.

Sampo Icebreaker 4

Once you board the Icebreaker you’re welcomed by the crew and offered a welcome drink. And of course that can't be anything other than hot berry juice.

When everyone has boarded the ship, it sets sail for the frozen sea.

Sampo Icebreaker 1

The first part of the cruise is all about getting around on the ship. Have a look outside and see for yourself how Sampo breaks the ice.

This is also the time when the guided tours take place. Your time will be announced so that you do not miss the time slot.

Pulling Sampo Icebreaker

Once the Icebreaker comes to a stop and you have arrived at the destination, you’re free to leave the ship. You can now walk the frozen sea, which is truly something special. 

Ice floating sampo cruise

Make sure you report on time for the ice floating experience, it is truly one of the best things to do when traveling to Lapland.

Sampo Icebreaker drone 4

Please pay attention when the return journey begins. A treasure hunt will then be organized where you have to look for a foldable cup. If you find one, you can keep it and win a hot drink.

Upon leaving the ship you will receive a diploma for this special experience

Sampo Guided Tour

Sampo Icebreaker tour 2

The Sampo Guided Tour is the first activity you will do once you have departed the port of Kemi. Upon check in for the Sampo you received your time slot for the guided tour. So make sure not to miss out.

Sampo Icebreaker tour 1

The tour shows you all the vital parts of the icebreaker.

You also get to see where you need to be to get into the ice floating suits later that afternoon. During the tour you also get the meet the crew on board. Feel free to ask them any questions you may have.

A little tip from us: the treasure hunt cups are already ready during these tours, so pay close attention so that you know exactly where to go later.

Walking on Ice

Sampo Icebreaker Walk on ice 1

Once Sampo comes to a stop and you can leave the ship, it’s kind of crazy to think that you’re actually walking on a frozen sea. There is plenty of time to take photos and enjoy being out on the sea.

Sampo Icebreaker Walk on ice 2

Don’t forget to walk to the front of the ship as there you’ll find the very best photo opportunity.

Sampo Icebreaker 3

And while you walk the frozen sea, also take a look next to you. It’s crazy to see that ship there while walking or standing right next to it.

Ice Floating Experience

Ice floating Ice floating sampo cruise 1

A bucket list experience I never knew I wanted to, until I did it. Honestly, this was next level. Floating in a survival suite next to the icebreaker in the icy sea water is absolutely a once in a lifetime experience.

You literally float between the blocks of ice. It’s hard to describe this experience. But if you ever get to try it, do it!

Sampo Icebreaker Review

Sampo Icebreaker drone 2

Sampo Icebreaker is an amazing experience. It’s totally different from many of the other bucket list worthy activities you can do in Lapland. The overall experience for me is absolutely perfect. The crew on board is very professional and are always ready to answer your questions or help you with whatever you need.

Sampo Icebreaker drone 3

Walking the ice and floating the sea right next to the ship is something different. This is one of the coolest things we ever did.

Ice Floating lapland

If you have a trip to Finnish Lapland planned, to any of the places Sampo offers shuttle services, then make sure you add a Sampo Icebreaker Cruise to your list of things to do. It’s a once in a lifetime experience which you will never forget.

Sampo Icebreaker drone 5

This blog was written by travel writer and Traveltomtom team member Ashley. She went on the Sampo Icebreaker Experience, and wrote this review blog about her experiences on behalf of Traveltomtom.

Enjoy your trip to Finnish Lapland!