The midsummer sun was pleasantly warm as I arrived in Oslo, the first stop on my journey to the top of the world. From there, I made my way north to Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, which was far chillier. Before exploring the town I put on clothes and gear typically reserved for wintertime, and my excitement to embark on a summertime polar expedition grew with each layer.
The next day we boarded the Ocean Adventurer, our home for the next nine days while we explored the depths of the Arctic. From the moment we stepped aboard the ship, the staff and crew were incredibly friendly and helpful. This set the tone for the trip, and their enthusiasm and passion never ceased throughout our voyage.
We sailed alongside snowy mountain peaks in perfect weather, past immense glaciers, and through chunks of ice. Despite seeing my breath, the sunshine warmed my face, which was the perfect contrast to the crisp, clean air. I took full advantage of the climate and was even guilty of napping in the sunshine on deck after an adventurous excursion or two!
Each excursion was wonderfully organized and allowed us to experience the region in a unique way. Participating in the paddling program was one of the highlights of my trip—it was an incredible way to actively connect with nature and get intimately acquainted with the landscape.
Another way to get up close and personal with the environment is to take the polar plunge—jumping into the frigid Arctic waters was as cold as it sounds but also ridiculously fun! Other excursions took us onshore to visit the remains of former whaling stations, spot reindeer on the hillsides, and take short hikes with breathtaking views as our reward.
In our Zodiacs, we cruised among glacial ice formations and beside ginormous walruses. The way they lazily sunbathed on ice uncannily resembled large russet potatoes!
During our expedition, we also witnessed five polar bears in the wild—one on the ice even came right up to our ship to say hello! Seeing these majestic animals in their natural environment was breathtaking and absolutely unforgettable.
Both onshore and aboard the ship, we learned about our beautiful surroundings thanks to our expert guides and naturalists. Whether we wanted to know complex details about climate change and its effect on glaciers or something simpler, such as the lifespan of walruses (40 years!), there was always someone to answer questions and educate us about this raw and untouched part of the planet.
From a surprise visit by a pod of elusive beluga whales to meeting like-minded travelers to a delicious BBQ on the upper deck, the Ocean Adventurer was the perfect platform to experience the magic that is the Arctic.
From beginning to end, my expedition to the far reaches of the north was amazing in every possible way.