Summary : This Arctic expedition is one of a kind! You will sail above 80º N, to take you to the ice edge of the Arctic Ocean while circumnavigating Svalbard. Enjoy excursions including hiking, kayaking and traversing a glacier. In the largest Arctic wilderness in Europe, there's a good chance to see polar bears. Starting in Longyearbyen, you will sail well above the 80th parallel and place you closer than 600 nautical miles from the Geographical North Pole. Explore the great national parks and some of the most spectacular highlights of the Arctic. One might expect it to be unbearably cold this far north. However, thanks to the Gulf Stream, the Svalbard archipelago boasts a surprisingly mild climate in summer. Among a large variety of plants and wildlife are seals, thousands of seabirds, the Arctic fox and reindeer and the top predator: the polar bear.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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This Grand Arctic Circumnavigation starts with an evening flight from Oslo. Norway's capital is often called 'The blue, the green and the city in between' because of its location between the fjord and the forest. Spend a Day checking out the museums, parks and cutting edge architecture or relax in a café or bar. The contrast will be significant when you arrive in Longyearbyen some hours later. Amazingly, this town on the edge of the harsh ice is a modern place, with first-class facilities, charming architecture, an internationally renowned museum and several bars and restaurants – all in the midst of the untouched Arctic wilderness.
After an included overnight stay in Longyearbyen, you can join an exciting excursion in the unique little town and the surrounding area, before boarding MS Spitsbergen. This Norwegian settlement lies in the shadow of the great arctic wilderness. Here, the arctic environment dominates, but the town maintains a surprisingly cosmopolitan character. Longyearbyen is often called an antidote to modern day life and today serves as a prime destination for adventure travelers.
The Northwest Corner is scattered with islands, fjords and beaches. The ocean here is full of drifting ice and the frozen landscape changes constantly. Due to strong winds and currents, the captain monitors conditions closely before deciding where you can land or sail. If you are able to land, this area is excellent for exploring Svalbard’s history. You will have the chance to see the remnants of ancient blubber ovens used to render whale oil. You might visit Kongsfjorden, considered one of the most beautiful fjord areas in Spitsbergen, with mighty glaciers calving icebergs into the sea, framed by stunning mountain formations. On the shore of Kongfjorden is the former mining settlement of Ny-Ålesund, now an international center for research, with a picturesque mix of old and new buildings. You might also visit Krossfjorden and Mitrahalvøya, where you can see ruins from the whaling period, beautiful alpine flora, bird cliffs and, quite often, Svalbard reindeer. If conditions allow, try crossing a glacier with the expedition team. Raudfjorden offers plenty of opportunities for great hikes. Hamiltonbukta is too shallow for your ship to navigate, but it’s perfect to explore by kayak. You might also get to see the enormous Monaco Glacier in Liefdefjord.
Eastern Svalbard boasts the highest population of polar bears on the archipelago – hopefully there will be a chance to see them on your expedition! Today, you aim to cruise in Sorgfjorden, which borders the Northeast Spitsbergen Nature Reserve, and was the location of a famous 17th-century battle between whalers. Enjoy the view on deck as you pass the spectacular bird cliff of Alkefjellet, one of the largest of its kind. Edgeøya is the third-largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. On its western shores, the landscape is largely unglaciated, unlike most other places on the east side of Spitsbergen. Kapp Lee is a wonderful site where you will find cultural heritage from all eras of human exploration of Svalbard. You will continue to the southern cape and the southernmost tip of Spitsbergen, where Hornsund has large variations in its landscape and geology within short distances. Ice being pushed into the fjord early in the season attracts polar bears that hunt on the ice, so if you are fortunate, you will spot some of these predators.
You will spend the day exploring the Isfjord, the most prominent fjord system on Svalbard. In the inner parts of Isfjorden, the landscape changes constantly. The immense U-shaped valleys, carved out of the mountains by the giant glaciers that covered the area some ten thousand years ago, are home to large populations of the Svalbard Reindeer. Later on, you'll might a scenic fjord arm and arrange a farewell barbecue in spectacular Arctic surroundings.
Every good explorer's voyage comes to an end. You will probably sense that time has passed faster than expected. Many report a subtle exhilaration due to having taken a journey to the very top of the globe, just a few hundred miles from the Geographical North Pole. The transfer vehicle takes you early in the morning to the airport for your flight back to Oslo.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Although travel insurance is not mandatory to participate in this voyage, ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Antarctic trips 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.
Multilingual Departures: English/Norwegian/German (All Departures)
Depending on weather conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for fishing during the voyage. Spend 2.5-3 hours fishing with an officer and members of the crew and preparing your catch. When you return to the ship, you will be invited to meet the chef, prepare your catch, and have it served for dinner. Included: Waterproof clothing and a fishing rod. Maximum participants: 3 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Depending on weather and land conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for hiking during the voyage. Included: Water bottle, snack bar, and lunch pack (if hike is during lunch time). Physical fitness is essential. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Kayaking: Pre-bookable, please inquire
Embark on a 2-4 hour kayaking excursion accompanied by expert guides in a stable double kayak. Included: head-to-toe kayaking gear, including a dry suit; snack and/or lunchbox as needed. Outings are subject to weather and prevailing ice conditions. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to pre-book kayaking.
Taught by two professional photography instructors, this pre-bookable photography school program covers basic image editing, wildlife and landscape photography, and DSLR video instruction. This program is designed for proficient beginners to experienced photographers. Included: photography booklet, designated work station with software provided, priority access to the Photo Optics test center equipment, and a Zeiss Lens cleaning kit. Min/max participants: 2-10 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Science Center: Included
'Hands-on' science program where guests can perform their own science experiments with the assistance of professional biologists and geologists. Featuring ten Leica DM500 biological microscopes and ten Leica EZ4 geological microscopes, groups of 2-3 guests per microscope will work with a trained biologist or geologist. Occasionally, scientists invite guests along to sample biomaterial for use in the science center. There is also a large screen connected to the scientist's microscope for viewing during every session.
Economy flights between Longyearbyen and Oslo; one hotel night in Longyearbyen before the voyage, including breakfast and lunch; transfers in Longyearbyen, including an excursion before the voyage; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; landings and activities onboard and ashore; professional English-speaking expedition team that gives lectures and accompanies landings and activities; onboard 'hands-on' science center; complimentary tea and coffee; and a wind- and water-resistant jacket. Arctic Superior Suites (P, U, QJ, YA) include an Arctic Pure amenity kit (bathroom). Expedition Suites (Q, MG, MX) include a soft drink package, a wine package, an Arctic Pure amenity kit (bathroom), a fleece blanket/throw, a cabin kit (bathrobe and slippers), an espresso maker, sweets/snacks and sparkling wine (on embarkation day), a separate check-in with sparkling wine, and a suite breakfast. Subject to change without notice.
International flights to/from the U.S.; travel insurance; luggage handling; optional excursions and gratuities; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Linda Drake