Location: Spitsbergen (Arctic Norway)
Destination: Spitsbergen Cruises
Starting at: $0
This cruise aboard the Akademik Vavilov gives you plenty of time to explore and enjoy the Arctic environs of the Spitsbergen—the Jewel of the Arctic! Polar bears, whales, seals, reindeer, glaciers, fjords and more.Contact us about this trip Share
We embark the expedition cruise vessel, Akademik Sergey Vavilov, in Longyearbyen and sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden during the early evening. On board, we will meet for an introductory briefing and then adjourn to our dining room for our first meal aboard.
The shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and species. We will anchor off one small harbour and cruise the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. As we cruise these waters we will also keep alert for bearded and ringed seals, known to frequent this fjord.
Lilliehook Glacier, at the head of Krossfjorden, is a sight to behold. Whether by zodiac or onboard ship, we will make time to experience this incredible view. Later in the day as we sail out of Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden, we may be fortunate enough to see the airship anchor pylon near the scientific community of Ny Ålesund. Notable pioneer aviators such as Zeppelin, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Byrd and Nobile all used Ny Ålesund as a jumping off point for their Arctic exploits.
Smeerenburgfjorden has a four hundred year history of whaling and is a favorite spot as we round the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen. A wander along the beach looking at the blubber cookers, or an hour behind a tripod shooting landscapes, might be on the schedule all the while looking for wildlife that can appear anywhere in Svalbard.
We continue north and east up into the ice, hoping to cross the 80 parallel North. As we approach the ice edge the ship slows down and all hands get up to the bridge or out on deck as we start scanning for wildlife. Bearded seals, ringed seals and walrus may be found hauled out on the ice. Harp seals swim in herds of 10 to 20 through the open water leads in the ice. A buttery colored lump miles away on the ice metamorphoses into a polar bear as we slowly work our way through the ice toward it. Our ship is perfectly designed for near silent approach to the wildlife on the ice and our captain takes great pride in bringing us in close enough to experience the wildlife without disturbing it.
At 81 degrees north latitude, Phippsoya, one of the Seven Islands, is only 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. Because of its proximity to the pack ice, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewing. Be sure to get up to the bridge and take a picture of the GPS showing your latitude or, better yet, take your own handheld GPS with you and mark in the waypoint.
From the ice edge we head south into the strait separating Svalbard's two main islands: Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. In Hinlopen Strait the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet are home to more than a hundred thousand breeding Brünnich's guillemots, as well as thousands of kittiwakes and black guillemots. A spectacular site to behold and a challenging one for our zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or cruise as we navigate the waterways between the islands. Short hikes will take us on to high points with great views, while keeping our eyes open for Arctic wildlife.
As we sail into Leifdefjorden and towards Monaco Glacier, we will keep a look out for beluga whales along the coast. The adults are pure white and the younger animals a mottled grey. They are the only whales that can articulate their heads to nod and turn sideways. It is estimated that there are approximately five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard population. The beluga has no dorsal fin, a diagnostic feature of other whale species that live in the high Arctic such as the narwhal and bowhead. Since a dorsal fin could be damaged when the animal surfaces in areas with ice, it has been postulated that the lack of dorsal fin is an adaptation to living in waters that are frequently covered by ice.
Monaco Glacier provides a fabulous backdrop for a zodiac cruise. Miles of ice face broken up by the odd ice cave or tumbling serac with perhaps a thousand black-legged kittiwakes feeding on the upwelling of nutrients found near the sub-glacial outflow.
A morning of cruising in the ice is best followed by a hike on the tundra. Red phalaropes, purple sandpipers and vibrant tundra provide plenty of viewing and photography opportunities. As we walk, the remains of fox traps and sun bleached seal bones speak of both human interaction and wildlife predation.
Alkehornet, at the mouth of Isfjord, offers stunning views and an incredible tundra walk as we wrap up our adventure in Svalbard. Arctic fox can often be seen here, as well as reindeer. Rearing up above the landing site is a horn-shaped mount covered in guillemots and kittiwakes. Only as we approach and stop to listen will we hear the chorus of thousands of birds, all talking at the same time.
As our last morning aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, we enjoy a hearty breakfast and prepare to disembark shortly thereafter.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the nature of expedition cruising, itineraries are subject to change due to weather, ice conditions, natural and cultural events, wildlife viewing opportunities and other logistical considerations. In general, a ship's crew will endeavor to complete the itinerary provided, but the ultimate decision lies with the ship's captain and expedition leaders.