Summary : As vast glaciers emerge from the icy waters, travel to the land of Vikings and the midnight sun. Reach northern latitudes that few imagine can be possible whilst you search for the King of the Arctic, enjoying spotting the multitude of animals and seabirds along the way. With the emblematic fjords and even an ice cathedral, this is truly the definition of spectacular.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Once all guests have embarked, a safety briefing will be conducted and you will depart. Meet the members of your Expedition Team in the Lecture Theatre and attend the first of many memorable dinners in one of the restaurants.
John O’Groats, often called “the end of the road”, is a fantastic, unspoilt location. The most northerly point in mainland Britain, the RSPB’s reserve of Dunnet Head has stunning sea cliffs, with some very diverse coastal heathland and grassland habitats. Special plants such as spring squill, thrift and roseroot thrive there.
The area around John O’Groats is recognized as one of the best places in the UK to see Atlantic Puffins during their breeding season. Other seabirds include guillemots, Northern Fulmars, oystercatchers, shags, Black-legged Kittiwakes and a variety of gulls.
Take a Zodiac cruise to view the nesting seabirds in the inlets, ledges and on the stacks.
Grey and common seals, dolphins and orcas can also be seen along the Caithness coast.
Charming sandstone buildings line the waterfront of this historic seaport. Lerwick is the northernmost town in Scotland and the capital of Shetland.
The morning excursion travels south, admiring the view of the magnificent Mousa Broch, the tallest and best preserved of all brochs in the world. You will continue down the west coast passing St Ninian’s Isle where the famous Pictish horde of silver dating from the 9th Century was found in 1958.
Continue south to visit the remarkable archaeological site of Jarlshof. The site was uncovered by a violent storm in the winter of 1896, revealing an extraordinary settlement site embracing at least 5,000 years of human history. The site contains a remarkable sequence of stone structures: late Neolithic houses, a Bronze-Age village, an Iron-Age broch and wheelhouses, several Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead, and the 16th-century laird’s house. Visit the remains of these village settlements with your guide.
You will then depart for the RSPB Reserve at Sumburgh Head where you will see Shetland’s first lighthouse, built in 1821 by Robert Stevenson. The cliffs around Sumburgh Head are on the southernmost tip of Mainland Shetland and attract thousands of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots, shags and fulmars. Gannets are regularly seen off shore too. The seas here are home to various animals and you may be lucky enough to see harbor porpoises (neesicks), white-beaked dolphins and whales – orca, minke and even humpback whales are sometimes seen. Common seals often haul themselves out onto the rocks.
Of Norway’s many fjords, Geirangerfjord is doubtless the most beautiful. Impressive mountains, numerous waterfalls as well as farms clinging to the steep hillsides give the fjord its unique character. Your excursion takes you uphill past the wooden, octagonal Geiranger Church, through the wild Flydal valley where a scenic overview stop is made, and continues around hairpin bends to Lake Djupvatn, and the summit of Mount Dalsnibba. From here, there is an amazing panorama of mountains, waterfalls and lakes.
Alternatively (and weather permitting) the more energetic can spend a few hours kayaking the quiet and spectacular Geirangerfjord with two-person kayaks. Geirangerfjord is one of nature’s masterpieces and on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Its description as “the world’s most beautiful fjord” is no exaggeration and it is amidst this dramatic mountain setting that we can experience some spectacular sea kayaking. Kayaks provide an amazing perspective from which to view the cascading waterfalls and steep mountain walls.
As you head north along Norway’s magnificent shore, Silver Cloud will cruise along mountainous islands, through steep-walled fjords and narrow channels. Be out on deck to discover these special places.
Lecturers will present interesting talks and seminars, but you can also relax at the pool and let the impressive landscape go past while enjoying a drink.
Have lunch al fresco and sample some of the exquisite cuisine prepared by the team of international chefs.
Although Leknes is a town on Vestvågøy in the Lofoten Islands, it is connected by bridges and tunnels to the mainland. Once ashore, there will be excursions for birders and those interested in the human history of the islands.
Various seabirds have found their home in Eggum, located on the western side of Vestvågøy Island. On your birding excursion keep an eye out for gannets, cormorants, Eider Ducks, shags, Great Skuas and Arctic Skuas, Black Guillemots, kittiwakes and Arctic Terns. En route, pass the Borgpollen Bay where you may observe Black-throated Divers, Red-throated Divers, Tufted Ducks and scaups. Further on, during a stop by Lake Storied you may see Black-tailed Godwits, Bluethroats, Slavonian Grebes and a variety of ducks.
Alternatively, choose to visit the remarkably well-preserved Nusfjord Fishing Village. The building complex with the wharf and 52 structures — including 34 rorbu (fishermen dwellings) — dates mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visit the Lofotr Viking Museum. Discovered in the 1980s when a farmer was plowing his land, excavations revealed the remains of the largest building ever to be found from the Viking realm. Tour the reconstructed long house and gain insight into the life of a Viking chieftain.
Because of many arctic expeditions having started in Tromsø the town is known as the “Gateway to the Arctic”. To see the different aspects of these expeditions and the town’s involvement in hunting, trapping, sealing, and whaling, visit the two museums dedicated to the Arctic: the Polar Museum and Polaria. You can also see the northernmost botanical garden with its surprising variety of plants growing this far north. Tromsø’s churches are quite interesting –the wooden Lutheran church in town or the “Ice Cathedral” on the mainland can easily be reached. A spectacular view of the town and the surrounding area can be had taking the cable car to the top of Storsteinen. You could also visit Norway’s northernmost brewery and taste its beer.
During the afternoon Silver Cloud will head out to sea and lecturers will take the opportunity to prepare you for your stay in Svalbard.
As you near the southern tip of this arctic island, now a nature reserve, see thousands of seabirds diving into and out of the island’s steep cliffs.
With the Zodiacs and favorable weather conditions, explore the rugged coastline. Steep cliffs are home to some of the largest bird colonies of the Northern Hemisphere. Common Guillemots, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, and Glaucous Gulls are all found along the cliff. Other species have been observed, including puffins and even gannets. Of the more than 120 species registered, slightly more than 30 actually breed on the island. The Expedition Team will provide insights into the environment, the terrain, and the wildlife that exist in these extreme conditions.
Leaving Bear Island, head out on deck and keep an eye for whales, white-beaked dolphins and minke whales.
Travel along the same routes as famous polar explorers such as Andrée, Nordenskjöld, Amundsen and Nobile. Visit walrus haul-outs, search for reindeer, and maybe even spot the Arctic fox or bearded seal. Northern Fulmars will be your constant companions. You might even encounter a few whales. Several species frequent the area, in particular Minke and beluga.
A flexible itinerary allows to take advantage of favorable ice and weather conditions. Whether cruising by Zodiac among ice floes and icebergs or heading ashore for a guided walk, your adventures will bring you up close to magical settings. Each day your Expedition Leader and Captain will determine the best course depending on changing weather, ice conditions and the wildlife encountered. Here are a few of the places you may visit:
This is the southernmost fjord on the rugged west coast of Spitsbergen Island. Jagged mountain peaks tower above glacier-filled bays. Amidst floating icebergs, watch for bearded seals, the beluga whale and the king of the Arctic – the polar bear. Sightings are fairly common as the polar bear’s favorite food, the ringed seal, breeds in the fjord. The surrounding bird cliffs are home to thousands of pairs of nesting Little Auks. You may visit the remains of whaling stations and trappers’ huts.
The 14th of July Bay is located at the entrance of Krossfjorden. Go ashore for a hike up to the 14th of July Glacier and conditions permitting, climb onto the glacier, or, alternatively walk to the Hanging Gardens, a beautiful plant oasis underneath a bird cliff.
With the Silver Cloud as the perfect platform to search for walrus and polar bears, devote at least one day to exploring the pack ice north of Spitsbergen. Conditions permitting, your Expedition Leader may choose to take you out in the Zodiacs for an even closer look.
At the entrance to Liefdefjorden are several small island groups. On the Andøyane (Duck Islands) you may encounter polar bears looking for bird’s eggs. Via Zodiacs you might circumnavigate several of the islands, always on the lookout for active birdlife. When Arctic Terns circle specific areas, it usually is a sign for polar bear presence on the islands.
Cruising past majestic red Devonian sandstone mountains, reach the end of Liefdefjorden for a Zodiac cruise along the front of two different glaciers: Monacobreen and Seligerbreen. Monacobreen has a long front and is a good place to look for seals, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Ivory Gulls.
Found on Spitsbergen’s northwest coast, Magdalenefjorden was seen by Willem Barents in 1596. Walrus was hunted here in later days and a whaling station was set up. The remains of blubber ovens and a cemetery can still be seen. Silver Cloud will enter this scenic fjord in Northwest Spitsbergen National Park and you might land at Graveneset for a short walk.
After breakfast, disembark Silver Cloud.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions – and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
Although travel insurance is not mandatory to participate in this voyage, ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Kayaking will be offered complimentary and will run on a first-come-first-serve sign up basis. Guests cannot pre book the kayak tours. It will be run by two professional kayak guides. Participation requires good physical condition and right of participation is reserved. The kayak guides will make the final determination if a guest is fit to participate. Kayaking will be weather dependent.
Ship accommodation; most onboard meals (Le Champagne Restaurant excluded); butler service; most wines, champagnes and spirits on the ship; tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water and soda; parka; onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Vista and Veranda Suites receive one hour of included internet access per guest/per day; Medallion, Silver, Royal, Grand, and Owner’s Suites receive unlimited internet access; Royal, Grand, and Owner’s Suites receive laundry service throughout the voyage as well as dinner for two in Le Champagne (one evening per voyage) and two hours of worldwide phone use from your suite, per voyage segment. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; meals on board at Le Champagne Restaurant unless mentioned above as included; some alcoholic premium beverages; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; internet use not mentioned as included; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry (unless mentioned as included) and spa options; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Elliott Neep (polar bear, gull, and 3 Zodiacs cruising), © Richard Sidey (flowers, single Zodiac), © Denis Elterman (arches), © Daniela Plaza (blue sky birds, reindeer)