Across the Arctic Circle: Scotland, Norway & Spitsbergen Cruise

Al Bakker
Puffins hang out on the rocks.
Lesley Gordon
Mousa Broch on the Shetland Islands.
Al Bakker
Kayaking in Scotland.
Chrissie Goldrick
Travelers walking across the beaches of Spitsbergen.
Chrissie Goldrick
Walruses playing around on the beach.
Polar Pioneer's dining room.
Polar Pioneer's bar and lounge.
Follow the Vikings’ way from northeast Scotland to the land of the midnight sun. Enthusiastic historians and expert naturalists reveal the Orkney and Shetland islands, from Stone Age villages and Viking relics, to world class distilleries and spectacular birdlife, including cheeky puffins. Follow migrating whales along Norway’s dramatic coast, visit picturesque fishing villages, and toast your Arctic Circle crossing. In Spitsbergen, enter a polar wonderland, where delicate wildflowers adorn tundra and the summer sun never sets. This spectacular wilderness is the breeding ground of walrus, reindeer, millions of birds, and polar bear.

Day 1

Aberdeen, West Scotland

Board Polar Pioneer around mid-afternoon in Aberdee. After settling in set sail for the Orkney Islands, where Stone Age villages like Skara Brae, relics of Viking occupation, and the wild sea stack Old Man of Hoy vie for your attention.

Days 2-3

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Orkney Islands

Among Orkney’s archipelago of 70 windswept islands, lying 6 miles north of the Scottish mainland, a rich tapestry of archaeology, history and wildlife awaits. Follow the passage of time – from 5000 year old World Heritage neolithic sites, past relics from wandering Vikings and reminders of World War II occupation, to present day crofting communities. Imposing sea cliffs teem with seabirds and cliff top paths and bleak moors beckon the keen hikers aboard, while kayakers use paddle-power to explore sections of Orkney’s fascinating coastline.

Mid-way between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle houses a major European ornithological research station, and is also famous for knitwear and historic shipwrecks. About 3 miles by 2 miles, it is surrounded by impressive cliffs. The 70 or so islanders mostly live in traditional crofts on the more fertile low-lying southern part of the island.

A bird watchers’ paradise, Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major flight-paths from Scandinavia, Iceland and Faroe. It attracts common species and also eastern rarities such as the lanceolated warbler. In summer, the cliffs teem with breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags and puffins, and it is an excellent place to view seabirds at close range, especially puffins. The island also has over 250 species of flowering plants, including wetland flowers, rare orchids, alpine species and common wildflowers. Be welcomed by the hospitable villagers and take a hike or visit the museum.

Day 4

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Shetland Islands

Britain’s most northerly islands lie almost 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland, at a similar latitude to the southern tip of Greenland, or Bergen in Norway. Kept relatively warm by the Gulf Stream, Shetland’s 100 islands experience almost 24 hours of daylight in summer. They abound with nature reserves and archaeological sites, and offer a taste of traditional island life.

Plan to visit some of Shetland's best-preserved and most complex archaeological sites - brochs, or fortified Iron Age towers.

Day 5

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

At Sea

While sailing towards the Norwegian coastline, the warmth of the bridge or the outer decks offer an excellent vantage point for birdwatching. Historians and naturalists will delight you with their informative talks.

Days 6-9

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Norwegian Coastline

The ship captain aims to spend three days exploring the superb Norwegian coastline, cruising the intricate maze of seldom-visited inlets and outer islands. The cod-fishing island of Sor Glaeslingan greets visitors with its delightful wooden houses and cheerful inhabitants, who search for nesting kittiwakes and reclusive sea otters. Hunt for fabled trolls as you pass by Torgatten, meaning mountain with a hole, said to be caused by a troll arrow.

Crossing the Arctic Circle, make your way to the Lofoten Islands, meaning puma’s foot. This is a land scoured by ice and legend, with towering crags containing sharp edges, standing in silent protection of the villages below. As the ship continues to travel north, the days are noticeably longer. Search for sperm whales, orcas, minke whales, pilot whales and dolphins in the deep squid rich ocean trenches off Andenes.

Days 10-13

  • Ship
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Cross the Barents Sea, past often fog-shrouded Bear Island, a favorite nesting ground for fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and gulls. Beyond Spitspbergen’s South Cape, explore South Spitsbergen National Park, a sanctuary for barnacle geese and eider ducks, before entering the icebergladen waters of Hornsund. Surrounded by polar desert on a grand scale, search for reindeer, ringed and bearded seals and the mighty polar bear. Learn of human history dating back 400 years and if lucky, encounter the elusive beluga whale.

Day 14

  • Breakfast

Longyearbyen, Svalbard

On arrival in Longyearbyen, disembark and bid farewell to new found friends.
Please note that all of Polar Pioneer itineraries are at the mercy of weather conditions and not all landings are guaranteed. These itineraries are flexible and will change voyage to voyage, allowing the best chance to make the most of surprising wildlife displays and unexpected opportunities.

- Rates are quoted in U.S. dollars and represent costs per person, double or triple occupancy. Request the Twin or Triple Share Program where you are matched with a cabin mate of the same gender. Even if a cabin mate is not found for you, no single supplement will be charged.

- Single costs are 1.7 times the twin rate

Cruise fare includes:
- All entry fees to historic landings and historic sites.
- Ship's accommodation. All public areas are open to all passengers.
- All meals on board ship.
- Use of gumboots during the voyage.
- Daily cabin service.
- All shore excursions from the ship including Zodiacs.
- Lectures, videos, slide and film shows and guide services.
- Medical services. There is a resident doctor and well-equipped clinic on board.
- Port taxes and port charges imposed by government authorities.
- Pre-departure information and briefing.

Not included in cruise fare:
- Air transport to and from the ship.
- Visa, passport and vaccination charges and airport departure taxes.
- Hotels and meals not included in voyage itinerary.
- Optional excursions not included in the voyage itinerary.
- Laundry, postage, personal clothing, medical expenses, personal travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as bar charges and phone calls.
- Emergency evacuation charges.
- Kayaking surcharge, which covers use of kayaks and related equipment, and the services of an experienced kayak guide.
Asia, Arctic, North America, Europe, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, Orkney Islands, Aberdeen, Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Shetland Islands, United Kingdom & Ireland
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