This is no ordinary cruise, so don’t miss the boat!
Spitsbergen means ‘pointed mountains’, and is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, which straddles the 80th parallel, just 600 miles from the North Pole. This is a remote and wild wonderland of rugged snow-clad peaks, dramatic fiords sculpted by mighty glaciers, and tundra, which in the perpetual daylight of midsummer, is carpeted with wild flowers. The highly specialised wildlife offers a wealth of unforgettable experiences. With almost a quarter of the world’s Polar Bears living here, you have the very real chance of encountering this ‘king of the Arctic’ as well as other high Arctic specialities like Minke and Blue Whales, Walrus, Bearded and Ringed Seals, Arctic Fox, King Eider, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Sabine’s and Ivory Gulls, Grey Phalarope in resplendent red breeding plumage and some spectacularly huge seabird colonies, with Little Auks alone numbering around 15 million!
We have chosen an itinerary, offered by Oceanwide Expeditions, which aims to sail to the very north of this wonderful archipelago at a time when the brief Arctic summer is in full swing and the pack ice is breaking up to allow such an exciting expedition in perpetual daylight. You sail aboard the m/v Ortelius, a modern vessel built with an ice-strengthened hull, ideal for these polar seas, and manned by a highly experienced and professional crew. The ship has large open deck viewing areas allowing excellent opportunities for enjoying the passing scenery and wildlife, a dining room serving excellent cuisine, a lecture room, a spacious observation lounge and bar with large windows, and comfortable en-suite cabins with portholes. You could be one of no more than 108 privileged explorers, able to enjoy this extraordinary cruise with regular landings by sturdy Zodiacs to some fabulous areas which would otherwise be totally inaccessible.
The following expedition itinerary is provisional and must remain flexible at the Captain’s discretion, according to the weather and pack ice conditions at the time.
Day 1 You have a mid-morning flight with KLM from Birmingham to Oslo, arriving late afternoon, for an overnight stopover at a hotel in the airport complex.
Day 2 You have a morning flight with SAS from Oslo to Longyearbyen, arriving early afternoon, and so before embarking on the cruise, there will be time to explore the town of Longyearbyen where the Polar Museum and parish church are well worth visiting. One can also look out for Eider, King Eider, Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Grey Phalarope and Snow Buntings, all in smart breeding plumage. Once aboard the ship, you will be welcomed by the Expedition Leader and briefed about safety procedures for the cruise and landings, before sailing west out of Isfjorden, where you may encounter your first Minke or Blue Whale. Here you can also look out for blue phase Fulmars, which only tend to be found at such northern latitudes.
Day 3 Heading north along the dramatic west coast of Spitsbergen, you sail to beautiful Krossfjord, dominated by spectacular glaciers and a favoured haunt of Ringed and Bearded Seals, which therefore attract the attentions of Polar Bears! The cliffs and shoreline support thriving seabird colonies with thousands of Kittiwakes, Glaucous Gulls, Puffins, Black and Brünnich’s Guillemots and Little Auks, attracting opportunistic Arctic Foxes in search of a fallen fledgling. While here you enjoy a Zodiac ride along the blue-white face of the 14th July Glacier. This afternoon, you sail to Ny Ålesund, the most northerly settlement on Earth! Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese and Long-tailed Duck breed here, as well as Arctic Foxes, and there is also a memorial here to the 1920’s polar explorer Roald Amundsen.
Day 4 Depending on the weather and ice conditions, the ship may sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise along the impressive face of the Monaco Glacier which stretches for more than three miles! The outflow from the glacier attracts thousands of Kittiwakes, Glaucous Gulls, Arctic Terns and Black Guillemots, while Polar Bears may be seen along the glacier providing wonderful photo-opportunities.
Day 5 The ship reaches the northernmost point of the cruise in the Seven Islands at 81 degrees north and just 540 miles short of the geographic North Pole, with more opportunities for spotting Polar Bears and Ivory Gulls amongst the pack ice.
Day 6 Sailing to beautiful Sorgfjord, there is a chance to find a herd of huge Walruses, and hopefully Ptarmigan.
Day 7 As you enter the Hinlopen Strait there is the possibility of seeing a Blue Whale! The ice floes at the entrance to the strait are a good place to see Bearded and Ringed Seals, which attract Polar Bears, and pure white Ivory Gulls which scavenge the bears’ leftovers. Deeper into the strait you take a Zodiac ride through the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya to Alkefjellet, where a colony of up to 50,000 Brünnich’s Guillemots nesting on basalt cliffs rising thousands of feet to an overhanging ice cap with spilling waterfalls, makes an awe-inspiring sight. Sailing on to Torrellneset on the eastern side of the strait, you land on Nordaustlandet, with a polar desert dominated by the third largest ice cap on Earth, where Reindeer and Pink-footed Geese graze the sparse vegetation of this largely ice-clad island. There is also a colony of Ivory Gulls and another possibility of seeing resting Walruses.
Day 8 Today there will be landings in Freemansundet, Polar Bears permitting! Potential stops include an old trapper’s hut at Sundneset, a Kittiwake colony at Kapp Waldburg and a walk on the tundra at Rindedalen on the look out for Arctic Skuas.
Day 9 The spire-like peaks around Spitsbergen’s Hornsund, rising to over 4500 feet, show why the Dutch called this island “Pointed Mountains”. The many glaciers here offer opportunities for seeing seals, pearly-white Beluga Whales and Polar Bears.
Day 10 Now in Bell Sund, one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard, Reindeer graze the relatively lush vegetation, Little Auks breed in the rocky slopes and pods of Beluga Whales can be seen just offshore. By ‘nightfall’ you will be back in Longyearbyen, after a cruise packed with fabulous experiences.
Day 11 You disembark the ship this morning for an afternoon flight to Oslo, with an overnight stopover at a hotel in the airport complex.
Day 12 You have a late morning flight with KLM from Oslo to Birmingham, arriving at 16.50.
Cost £5965 with flights etc, sharing a twin porthole cabin, or £4950 cruise only, sharing a twin porthole cabin.
As spaces are limited and highly sought after, we recommend booking as early as possible to secure your place(s).
What the full price includes:
Return flights with KLM from Birmingham to Oslo, return flights with SAS from Oslo to Longyearbyen, nine day full board cruise around Spitsbergen in an en-suite twin porthole cabin, two nights’ room only in a hotel at Oslo airport, all transport in Norway, all excursions and lectures during the cruise, free use of rubber boots and snow shoes and the services of your cruise guides.
Single supplement: £3585 or £3505, cruise only.
Landings from the sturdy Zodiacs are supervised by skilled Oceanwide Expeditions crews and are not difficult. Walks will typically be short and there are no biting insects.
With 24 hours of daylight, average daily temperatures in July range from 3 – 7°C and some light rain is possible, although we have experienced very little rain on our previous three cruises here. Winds are generally light giving good sea conditions.
Special booking conditions apply to this tour:
If world fuel prices reach or exceed 120 US Dollars per barrel 90 days prior to departure, Oceanwide Expeditions reserves the right to levy a fuel surcharge of £15 per person per night.
It is essential to be adequately insured. All participants are required to be insured for cancellation, loss of personal possessions, emergency evacuation (cover of at least 50,000 Euros) and return travel.
Any cancellation must be notified in writing and will take effect from the day that it is received. The following set of charges will be levied: Up to 90 days before departure – 20% of tour price, 60 – 89 days before departure – 50% of tour price, 1 – 59 days before departure – 100% of tour price