Embark on this 10-day voyage around Spitsbergen, where you have chances to see the King of the Arctic, walrus, reindeer, various bird species, and surprisingly beautiful flora. Aboard the Ortelius, explore the Arctic shores on this polar expedition cruise. Take in the history of the region with visits to museums, research centers, and former whaling sites. Wildlife watch as your journey takes you through icy waters past glaciers, beaches, and tundra.
Discover the unspoiled wilderness of Spitsbergen
Spot iconic wildlife like polar bear, arctic fox, reindeer, seals and more
Explore the varied landscapes from beaches to tundra and glaciers
You touch down in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Enjoy strolling around this former mining town, whose parish church and Svalbard Museum make for fascinating attractions. Though the countryside appears stark, more than a hundred species of plant have been recorded in it. In the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where you might spot the first minke whale of your voyage.
Heading north along the west coast, arrive by morning in Krossfjorden, where you take to the Zodiacs for an exhilarating cruise along the sculpted front of the 14th of July Glacier. On the surprisingly green slopes near the glacier, a colorful variety of flowers bloom, while large numbers of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the nearby cliffs. There is also a good chance of spotting opportunistic arctic foxes, who patrol the base of the cliffs in case a hapless chick falls from its nest, and bearded seals, who cruise this scenic fjord.
In the afternoon sail to Ny Ålesund, the world’s most northerly settlement. Once a mining village - served by the world’s most northerly railway, which can still be seen - Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the village is a breeding ground for barnacle geese, pink-footed geese and arctic terns. Visitors interested in the history of arctic exploration can walk to the anchoring mast used by Amundsen and Nobile in the airship Norge in 1926 and Nobile in the airship Italia in 1928 before their flights to the North Pole.
Depending on the weather, you could sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 5-kilometer-long (3.1 miles) face of the precipitous Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen can be implemented.
The northernmost point of your voyage may be north of Nordaustlandet, in the Seven Islands. Here you reach 80° north, just 870 km (540 miles) from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, so the ship may park for several hours among the pack ice before wheeling around west again.
When the edge of this sea ice is tens of miles north of the Seven Islands (mostly in August), you can spend a second day in this area. Alternatively (mostly in July) you may turn to Sorgfjord, where you have the chance to find a herd of walruses not far from the graves of 17th-century whalers. A nature walk here can bring you close to families of ptarmigans, and the opposite side of the fjord is also a beautiful area for an excursion.
Today you sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded and ringed seals as well as polar bears. At the entrance, there is even the possibility to spot blue whales. As with Liefdefjorden, you can take an alternate west Spitsbergen route if ice prevents entry into Hinlopen. After cruising among the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs, you then view the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with their thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, you may attempt a landing where reindeer, pink-footed geese, and walruses are likely sights. Near Torrelneset you can also visit the polar desert of Nordaustlandet, next to the world’s third-largest ice cap. Here you may encounter walruses during a coastline hike over the area’s raised beaches.
The plan is to make landings in Freemansundet, though polar bears sometimes make this impossible. Potential stops on Barentsøya include Sundneset (for an old trapper’s hut), Kapp Waldburg (for its kittiwake colony), and Rindedalen (for a walk across the tundra). You might also cruise south to Diskobukta, though Kapp Lee is more likely your destination. On Kapp Lee is a walrus haul-out, Pomor ruins, and the chance for hikes along Edgeøya.
Start the day quietly cruising the side fjords of the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, enjoying the scenery of towering mountain peaks. Hornsundtind rises to 1,431m while Bautaen shows why early Dutch explorers gave the name ‘Spitsbergen’ - pointed mountains - to the island. There are also 14 magnificent glaciers in the area and very good chances of encounters with seals and polar bears.
Today you find yourself in Bell Sund, one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard. The ocean currents make this area slightly warmer than other areas in the archipelago, which shows in the relatively lush vegetation. Here there are excellent opportunities to enjoy both history and wildlife. A possibility is Ahlstrandhalvøya, at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden, where piles of beluga skeletons can be found. These remains of 19th-century whale slaughter are a haunting reminder of the consequences of rampant exploitation. Fortunately, belugas were not hunted into extinction, and you have a good chance of coming across a pod. Alternately, while cruising the side fjords of Bellsund, you can explore tundra where reindeer like to feed as well as rock slopes where little auks are breeding.
Day 10: Longyearbyen | Disembark
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Longyearbyen, taking home memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
1 suite with 2 windows (minimum), 1 double bed, 1 single (sofa) bed, Private shower & toilet, Desk & chair, Flatscreen TV, Telephone & WiFi (supplemented), Refrigerator, Coffee & tea maker, Hairdryer, ample storage space.
The ice conditions will determine the sailing plan, either the North or around Spitsbergen itinerary.
All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on local ice and weather conditions and in order to take advantage of opportunities to see wildlife. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises.
Voyage aboard the indicated vessel as indicated in the itinerary
All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea.
All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac.
Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff.
Free use of rubber boots and snowshoes.
Transfers and baggage handling between the airport, hotels and ship only for those passengers on the group flights to and from Longyearbyen.
All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the programme.
AECO fees and governmental taxes.
Comprehensive pre-departure material.
Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights
Pre- and post- land arrangements.
Transfers to / from the vessel outside Spitsbergen.
Passport and visa expenses.
Government arrival and departure taxes.
Baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is mandatory).
Excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunication charges.
The customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard (guidelines will be provided).
PLEASE NOTE: N.B. The chances that completing a full Spitsbergen circumnavigation (based on our experiences from 1992 – 2018) are about 30% in the first half of July, 70% in the second half, 90% in the first half of August, and 95% in the second half. In case the full circumnavigation cannot be completed, the expedition staff may devise a program in northeast or southeast Spitsbergen. All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. The onboard expedition leader determines the final itinerary. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. The average cruising speed for m/v Ortelius is 10.5 knots.
Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!