Lying about half way between Norway and the North Pole, Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago which was ceded to Norway by international treaty in 1920. Justin, our MD, took some friends and went dog sledding for four days while both Sue and Sarah have cruised the waters in a variety of different vessels.
Why we like Spitsbergen
For its variable landscape and wildlife. Walrus, polar bear, reindeer, whales and a plethora of birds are common sitings on a holiday to Spitsbergen. Due to its close proximity to the UK, your adventure starts from the day you arrive.
What to expect on your Spitsbergen holiday
The answer slightly depends on whether you visit in the summer or winter. In summer when the sun never drops below the horizon, polar bears, which outnumber the local population, emerge from hibernation onto the ice flows and walrus can be seen basking in the warmer air. Small boats provide the best opportunity for polar bear spotting being able to sail into smaller bays. In winter and spring it is the time for a dog sledding holiday or watching the flashing curtain of the Aurora Borealis, the sun will never lift above the horizon but bathes the land in an eerie pre-dawn light for a few hours each day.
Our Arctic expeditions offer a good choice of Spitsbergen cruises throughout the summer months (end of June to early September); from an 8 day Abridged voyage; a great introduction to the High Arctic, to a 14 day in-depth voyage for those who really want to maximise their Arctic wildlife sightings. It’s also possible to combine Spitsbergen with Greenland and Iceland. Our in-depth knowledge of all of the Arctic boats, the wildlife and the seasonal nuances of travel in Spitsbergen is invaluable when planning the perfect Arctic holiday. Under the perpetual midnight sun, explore Spitsbergen's dramatic scenery, ice-choked fjords and wildlife aboard a small expeditionary ship. Our Spitsbergen Polar Bear cruise holidays provide a perfect introduction to the wildlife, history and stunning geography of this magical Arctic wilderness. Daily guided excursions by zodiac cruising along glacier fronts searching for polar bear, walrus and beautiful photographic opportunities. Landings allow you to walk on the Arctic tundra and visit the many historical sites. Combined with its relatively easy access to Longyearbyen via Oslo, the wonders of Spitsbergen couldn't be more appealing to the intrepid traveller.
Some ideas for a Spitsbergen cruise and holiday
- Arctic cruise: spend a between 8-14 days on an expeditionary ship looking for both marine and land mammals along with the prolific birdlife
- Spitsbergen offers unrivalled chances to see the ‘King of the Arctic’, the polar bear
- Try the exhilarating thrill of dog sledding for a few days travelling between remote, but surprisingly comfortable, accommodation.
- Watch the skies dance with the Aurora Borealis, Spitsbergen is located within the auroral zone and has virtually no light pollution.
- For the active there is summer trekking.
Beyond the ordinary
- In March 2015 the total solar eclipse will happen in the skies above Svalbard and may offer the double of an Aurora Borealis show
- Dog sled out to a ship stuck fast in the sea ice of Templefjorden
What clothing should I take to the Arctic?
It is always best to pack plenty of thin thermal layers rather than one thick layer. For voyages wellington boots, water proof over trousers & a waterproof jacket are essential. Most ships provide wellingtons & we will confirm the inclusions on your itinerary. Some ships also provide water proof outer gear of have this available to hire. You will also need to keep your hands, head, ears and feet warm. The Arctic tends to be quite monochrome so bright coloured clothing tend to stand out in photographs. Don’t forget your swimming costume if you want to take on a polar plunge.Aside from clothing a high factor sun cream and sunglasses are considered essential as the glare of snow and water will magnify the effects, insect repellent recommended at some times of the year.
Do I have to be very fit?
This is an active cruise involving daily walking excursions across the arctic tundra and to be able to get the most out of it you should be in good general health. In order to join the excursions, you must be able to easily get up and down the steep gangway from the ship to the water level and to be able to get in and out of the awaiting zodiacs, which can be awkward, particularly in choppy seas. Staff will be on hand to assist all passengers, so don’t worry about this, it’s just something to be aware of.
What are the daylight hours for Spitsbergen?
Owing to its location far north of the Arctic Circle, Svalbard experiences extreme contrasts in daylight hours between winter and summer. Svalbard is in polar night from October 28th to February 14th, with peak darkness from November 14th to January 29th. This is an ideal time to view the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, if conditions are right. In contrast, Svalbard is in polar day from April 19th to August 23rd, during which time the sun does not dip below the horizon—a polar phenomenon known as the “midnight sun”.
What is the food like onboard the cruise ships?
Generally very good, not haute cuisine but good pub grub.
Breakfast & Dinner are normally a buffet service while a served meal is
offered in the evenings. This allows the most flexibility for excursions; the
expedition leader will delay dinner rather than take you away from a polar bear
Can they cater for Special meals?
Yes within reason, most diets can be catered for but do
give us plenty of warning and mention it on your booking form.
Do I need to take a cocktail dress?
Certainly not, these voyages are all about experiencing
the destination and there is no dressing for dinner or any formalities. You may
want to take a smarter shirt for the Captains dinner but this is still very