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Franz Josef Land and Svalbard

Arctic Cruise Information

Summary : Discover the Franz Josef Land archipelago, a group of remote Arctic islands home to the majestic polar bear, fascinating geological formations, and artifacts from historic expeditions. Depart from Longyearbyen, Norway and enjoy the sight of Svalbard's beautiful glaciers and labyrinthine expanses of sea ice. Journey across the Barents Sea to the Russian High Arctic and walk in the footsteps of famous polar explorers at well-preserved historical sites. Watch for whales, reindeer, Arctic fox, walrus, and several bird species. Along the way, participate in an included photography program, attend informative lectures, or opt to kayak along rugged coastlines in remote waters.

Activities : Birding, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins


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Day 1
Longyearbyen, Norway

Welcome to Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Svalbard and starting point of your Arctic expedition! At the Longyearbyen airport, you will be greeted by staff and transferred to your included hotel. You are then free to explore the charming, walkable town center.

Day 2
Longyearbyen / Embark

After breakfast at your hotel, the morning is yours to enjoy in Longyearbyen. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to the pier and warmly welcomed aboard the vessel. Settle into your suite and explore the ship that will be your home during the extraordinary adventure to come. After getting underway, a full schedule of events kicks off with informative briefings and introductions from your expedition staff. After dinner, step out onto the open decks to admire the gorgeous scenery in 24-hour daylight as the ship passes through the wildlife-rich waters of Isfjorden.

Day 3 – 4
Barents Sea

From Isfjorden, sail south along the beautiful western coast of Spitsbergen before rounding Sørkapp to enter the wild Barents Sea. During this northeastward crossing to Franz Josef Land, you may encounter large swaths of sea ice—and the opportunity for finding harp seals and polar bears. These cold, nutrient-rich waters are also home to numerous whale species, including humpback whales, fin whales, and endangered bowhead whales. Your veteran wildlife guides are on duty around the clock to point the way to marine mammals and Arctic seabirds in this vast frontier of ice and water. Sometime during the second day of sailing, expect to see the massive ice dome of Alexandra Land come into view through the icy mists—your first sighting of the enigmatic Franz Josef Land archipelago.

Day 5 – 10
Franz Josef Land

Upon reaching Russian waters, head directly to the extremely remote military base at Nagurskoye for immigration clearance into the Russian Federation. During this process, the ship will be anchored in Cambridge Bay, one of the best places in Franz Josef Land for spotting marine mammals.

For the rest of the time in Franz Josef Land, you'll explore the many islands of this dramatic High Arctic wilderness in whatever way best suits the conditions encountered. As with any true polar expedition, the schedule and route will be shaped by weather and ice. At this time of year, expect to find sea ice almost everywhere. This will afford plenty of chances to enjoy the incredible sight of polar bears and walrus on ice. With the advantage of 24-hour daylight, the captain and crew will make the most of every opportunity for exploration and wildlife viewing.

The entirety of Franz Josef Land belongs to the Russian Arctic National Park, one of the most remote and inaccessible nature sanctuaries on the planet. Ubiquitous glaciers and ice caps create a scene of otherworldly beauty. Polar bears and Arctic foxes are especially abundant in the stark and primeval icescapes of this virgin wilderness. Icy channels and fjords are home to ice-dependent seals, including harp seals, bearded seals, and a large population of walrus. Keen observers are also likely to spot Arctic whales such as bowheads, belugas or even narwhal. Mountainsides and sea cliffs throughout the islands host enormous nesting colonies of migratory seabirds such as guillemots, little auks, northern fulmars, ivory gulls, and many more. Arctic flora is particularly abundant now at the peak of the blooming season.

Since its discovery in 1873, Franz Josef Land has been a stage for incredible events in the history of polar exploration. The heroic struggles of Fridtjof Nansen and other famous explorers feel unexpectedly poignant at well-preserved historical sites such as Cape Norway and Cape Flora. Memorials, monuments, crosses, and the remains of dwellings are testimony to incredible events that are further illuminated by your polar historians.

Additional highlights on the itinerary include Tikhaya Bukhta, a Russian Arctic National Park ranger station occupying Soviet-era research buildings. Here you can talk to station personnel and buy unique souvenirs at the gift shop. You might also explore some fascinating geological features, such as the mysterious stone spheres on Champ Island and the amazing basaltic columns at the Rubini Rock seabird colony. Collectors of geographical extremes may also take note that Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island is the northernmost point of land in Eurasia and the Eastern Hemisphere.

Day 11 – 12
At Sea

After an amazing time in Franz Josef Land, head back across the icy Barents Sea toward Svalbard. Seabird viewing and whale sightings can be enjoyed from panoramic open decks and from the windows or balcony of your suite. Presentations and a range of onboard recreation facilities also ensure that these sea days are not idly spent.

As the ship heads back toward Longyearbyen, it will round the southern tip of Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. If time and conditions permit, you may have the opportunity to visit the magnificent South Spitsbergen National Park, a pristine polar wilderness abounding with Arctic animals. The centerpiece of this park is Hornsund, a picture-perfect fjord system where countless mighty glaciers cascade from soaring mountaintops into icy inlets. This is a prime location to possibly spot polar bears and other marine wildlife from the ship.

You'll also have a chance to explore North Isforden National Park. This outstanding protected area is characterized by lush and beautiful landscapes, striking geological features, and excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities. Along these virgin coastlines, it is possible to observe endemic Svalbard reindeer and playful Arctic fox romping in flowering tundra meadows. The area also hosts huge flocks of migratory seabirds, including Brünnich’s guillemots, little auks, and Atlantic puffins.

Day 13
Longyearbyen, Norway / Disembark

After breakfast, bid farewell in Longyearbyen. A transfer to the airport or town center will be provided. As you look back on your wonderful experience in Franz Josef Land, you may already be planning your next polar expedition!


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. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Bilingual Departure:

Mandatory Travel Insurance:
All guests are required to carry adequate travel insurance that must contain medical, evacuation and repatriation coverage. Passengers must ensure that their purchased insurance includes cruise travel in the polar regions, and has evacuation and repatriation coverage of no less than $200,000 per person. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.

Pre-booking required; space is limited. Weather permitting, experience the thrill and tranquility of sea kayaking in the polar regions as part of a guided paddling group. Participants must be at least 16 years old at the time of their voyage, in good health with appropriate physical fitness, and have previous kayaking experience. Children who are 16 to 18 years of age at the time of their voyage are allowed to participate if they are accompanied and supervised at all times by a parent or guardian.

Photography Program: Included
Learn and practice your photography skills alongside an experienced professional. An expert photographer will be available to answer your questions and give advice, both in the form of onboard lectures and workshops on shore. Explore the key elements of photography in a fun and relaxed setting with plenty of opportunities for questions and feedback. Learn how to see light in a new way and experiment with the techniques of composition and framing.

One night pre-voyage hotel in Longyearbyen; group transfer airport/hotel on day prior to embarkation; group transfer to the ship on embarkation day; group transfer to airport or central location upon disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; welcome and farewell cocktails on board ship; leadership throughout the voyage by experienced Expedition Leader and Expedition Team; scheduled landings/excursions (subject to weather and ice conditions); Wi-Fi on board ship; digital voyage log; photography program; gear to keep (wind- and water-resistant parka); gear on loan (rubber boots); all meals onboard the ship; 24-hour coffee/tea station on board ship; all port fees. Inclusions subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Airfare; transfers to/from hotel if arriving prior to Day 1 of the program; visa and passport fees; emergency evacuation insurance to a minimum benefit of $200,000 (required); luggage and trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended); excess baggage charges; soft drinks and alcoholic beverages other than those mentioned as included; kayaking; personal expenses such as laundry and telecommunications charges; gratuities; pre- or post-cruise travel expenses; fuel surcharge may apply.

PHOTOS: © Poseidon Expeditions

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