Arrive in Longyearbyen - before embarking there is an opportunity to stroll around this former mining town, whose parish church and Polar Museum are well worth visiting. In the early evening the ship will sail out of Isfjorden.
Heading north along the west coast, you arrive by morning in Krossfjorden. Here you might board the Zodiacs for a cruise near the towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier. On the green slopes near the glacier, colorful flowers bloom while flocks of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the cliffs. You also have a good chance of spotting an Arctic fox scouting for fallen chicks, or a bearded seal paddling through the fjord. In the afternoon you sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth. Once a mining village served by the planet’s most northerly railway – you can still see its tracks – Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the community is a breeding ground for barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, and Arctic terns. And if you’re interested in the history of Arctic exploration, visit the anchoring mast used by polar explorers Amundsen and Nobile in their airships, Norge (1926) and Italia (1928).
You sail through Beverleysundet, formerly navigated by the Swedish-Russian Arc-of-Meridian Expedition in 1898. The northernmost point of your voyage may be north of Nordaustlandet, in the Seven Islands. Here you reach 80° north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, so the ship may park for several hours among the pack ice to watch for them.
Pushing east to Nordaustlandet, you reach the area where the Italian captain Sora tried to rescue the Nobile Expedition in 1928. A possible climb up Soraberget (205 meters, 673 feet) affords a fantastic view of the icecap. Alternatively you can land at Storøya, where you might encounter a group of walruses.
Close to the Russian territory, we hope to get to the rarely visited Kvitøya. The island is dominated by an icecap, which leaves a small area bare of ice and snow. We will land at the western tip at Andréneset. We will also try to get to Kraemerpynten in the east, where an enormous group of Walrus resides.
South of Nordaustlandet you may land on Isisøya, formerly a Nunatak area surrounded by glaciers – now an island surrounded by the sea. You then may pass by Bråswellbreen, part of the largest ice cap in Europe and famed for its meltwater waterfalls.
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.
You start the day by cruising the side fjords of the Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, taking in the spire-like peaks: Hornsundtind rises 1,431 meters (4,695 feet), and Bautaen is a perfect illustration of why early Dutch explorers named this island Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains.” There are 14 sizable glaciers in this area as well as opportunities for spotting seals, beluga whales, and polar bears.
Today you land on Ahlstrandhalvøya, at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden. Here piles of beluga skeletons, the 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. Cruising into Bellsund during the afternoon, you can also explore tundra at the head of the fjord, where reindeer feed.
Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for the transfer to the airport and the flight to Oslo and home.