Arrive in Tromso. Embark the Ocean Nova in the afternoon. Settle into your cabin and familiarize yourself with the ship and her crew.
Hammerfest is known as the center of Sami culture, the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. It’s also the oldest town in Norway, though it was almost completely destroyed in WWII. You are invited here to join the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society, which is neither royal nor ancient (founded in 1963) but membership does include a hat and a pin.
Porsangerfjorden is Norway’s fourth longest fjord at 76mi (123km) and an amazing example of the legendary Norwegian fjords. Visit one of the small settlements for a taste of small-town Norway. As we head out to sea, pass by Nordkapp, with its 1,000ft (307m) high cliff face.
Today you have a full lecture schedule in advance of our landing at Bear Island, the southernmost island in the Svalbard Archipelago. It is poorly named as you rarely find polar bears here, but rather hundreds of thousands of sea birds. It has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by Bird Life International on account of the great numbers of northern fulmars, black-legged kittiwakes, little auks and thick-billed guillemots. Find, too, the remnants of a whaling station in Walrus Bay and a coal mining station in the north. Due to the cold and dry climate, the ruins are remarkably-well preserved.
Sail around this magical island on a constant search for wildlife. Your expedition covers western Spitsbergen as well as some stunning fjords and outlying islands to the north. From polar flora to immense glaciers, the natural landscape here is just as varied as the wildlife.
Each expedition presents new opportunities and different weather and ice, so there is no fixed itinerary, however we do have some favorite destinations, including the 14th of July Glacier, Smeerenburg, Monaco Galacier and Gashamna. The destinations visited on your voyage are selected for optimum wildlife viewing and appreciation of the history and geology of Spitsbergen. Polar bear viewing is almost guaranteed, with Hornsund being one of their preferred hunting areas.
Poolepynton is great for walrus viewing and photography. Coming across a walrus haul-out is a moment you won’t forget. These lumbering giants of the Arctic create quite a noisy scene, as each walrus vies for a choice spot of coastline.
If you’re itching for a more personal and intimate view of the Arctic scenery, consider booking the optional kayaking excursions which gives you several occasions to paddle during your voyage to some of the more isolated pockets of Spitsbergen. Smeerenburg is a great place for a snowshoeing excursion, if conditions permit. You can visit a memorial erected in 1906. This historical site remembers the whalers who lost their lives in the 17th and 18th centuries while working in extreme Arctic conditions.
There is no shortage of natural beauty in Spitsbergen. The tundra can be surprisingly colorful in summer, with wildflowers bursting for a taste of sunshine. Each day see something new, whether it is a rare bird species, a polar bear on the hunt, or a century-old abandoned hut.
Your adventure ends in the frontier-style settlement of Longyearbyen. From here transfer directly to the airport for your flight home.