Dawn Jordan is Cruise Director at Bath Travel and was chosen
to join Hurtigruten on
a short trip to The
Svalbard on the southern fringe of the Arctic Ocean. She sailed
MS Nordstjernen, one of Hurtigruten's smaller ships, ideal for
exploring the snow trimmed, islands half way between Norway and the
As we flew into Longyearbyen, the "capital " of Svalbard, there
was a layer of low hanging clouds but they did not detract from the
fantastic view of the wonderful snow capped mountains and glaciers
below. Although Longyearbyen is the largest settlement in the
islands, it is very small, full of colourful houses and shops and
you can walk from one end to the other in around 15 minutes.
When outside the towns people carry flares and weapons for
protection against polar bears and our expedition leaders onboard
carry them on all zodiac landings. You are safe from polar bears
inside the town and people visiting from outside of the town's
confines have to leave their weapons with the shopkeepers before
entering any of the stores!!
We stayed overnight in the Spitsbergen Hotel and even though we
had black out curtains, you can still see some of the light shining
through - it was the middle of June, so it was the time of the
Midnight Sun where you can enjoy 24 hours of daylight.
The next day we boarded our ship, settled in our cabins and
sailed away whilst eating a very delicious lunch. In fact all of
the meals were wonderful and an added bonus of sailing in those
waters is that the ship is duty free so the cost of a drink is
affordable! All of the staff on board were really friendly
and knowledgeable and couldn't do enough to make the experience as
good as possible.
Birdlife is in abundance in Svalbard and you can see Arctic
Terns, Fulmars, Guillemots, Kittywakes, Puffins and Eider Ducks to
name but a few. On our second day the Captain spotted a polar bear
on an island, so everyone deserted their lunch in order to watch it
and to take as many photo's as possible! We saw loads of Minky
Whales one of which put on a great show as he thrashed the water
with his tail. We sailed all the way to Moffen Island (80degrees
north) which is a National Park and saw dozens of Walruses some of
which were frolicking in the water not far from the ship.
We also visited Barentsburg, a Russian mining town and Ny
Alesund where the most northerly post office is found. Every day we
saw huge Glaciers and icebergs that were floating only feet away
for our ship. At two in the morning we sailed into the
Magdelenefjorden, one of the most beautiful in
Svalbard. Every day we made Zodiac landings accompanied
by the expedition leaders who talked about the surroundings,
wildlife and ecology.
By taking this voyage on the MS Nordstjernen we had a
better opportunity to get closer to the wildlife, have more
landings than usual and get to know our fellow travellers
better than we would have done had we travelled on a bigger
I have such wonderful memories and photos and even though I was
only on the ship for three nights it felt much longer as I
experienced so much and most importantly saw a Polar Bear! - a
dream come true.
A Spitsbergen Explorer Voyage around the West Coast costs from
£2494pp in summer 2013 including nine days full board on the
0844 448 7601 www.hurtigruten.co.uk