I had always wanted to go to Svalbard and hopefully see Polar bears, and this cruise did not disappoint!! We flew from Heathrow to Tromso via Oslo and embarked there. Everything went fairly smoothly despite a rushed change of plane. This is an expedition cruise and not to be confused with normal cruising. We set sail from Tromso in the evening and in the morning landed near North Cape and were taken up there by bus. From there we cruised the Barents Sea past Bear Island and on to Spitsbergen. We were actually able to circumnavigate Spitsbergen as the ice had pulled back sufficiently to do so. Apparently only a week before, we would not have been able to do this!
The ship is really lovely and very luxurious. The ship crew were wonderful, and the expedition team excellent, they could not have been better.
We had all our breakfasts and lunches on deck (warmly wrapped up) so that we did not miss anything. The hotel staff were so caring and would bring rugs to anyone who was cold. The food was superb, even managing to keep the Sunday lunches hot while we ate on deck. The dining room was lovely but we really only ate there at night, although even then we had to leave everything and dash up on deck to see whales that had most inconsiderately decided to come close at dinner time!
Every evening we had a catch-up meeting in the lounge to go over our day and to explain what we hoped to do the next day. We also had many talks from interesting team members, covering everything from the flowers we would see and the geology of the area to the land animals, marine animals and birds. Yes we saw Polar bears! Many Walrus, a Blue whale and several fin whales. Arctic foxes and thousands of birds. We were off the ship twice a day, either on hikes or Zodiac cruising close to the land. We felt very safe all the time and were looked after really well, we were supplied with waterproof walking wellington boots and parkas, so we did not have to bring those with us. We only visited 2 inhabited towns, Ny Alesund which was very interesting and we heard about the various scientific studies by several countries going on there every summer, and about Roald Amundsen who flew the airship over the North Pole from there. The other town was Longyearbyen from where we disembarked. We had several hours there as our plane back was delayed, but we had a very nice lunch in the hotel and bought more souvenirs in the shops. We were also taken on a tour and visited the museum and the Church. Our return flight with Titan Air was very good and very comfortable. All in all, everything was excellent and I would not hesitate to recommend this ship and this cruise.
Excellent! Very spacious with twin beds (I was with my daughter) a large sofa, TV, dressing table, lots of wardrobe space. Lovely bathroom with a really good shower and nice toiletries, and really huge fluffy towels! Always loads of hot water!!