Cruises and tourism in both Svalbard and the arctic have become big business. Formerly these inhospitable areas were the domain of whale hunters, coal miners and explorers, but in their wake tourists have replaced them.
What is a Svalbard cruise like though? There are many answers to this, with no two ships, cruises, or indeed bunch of people being the same, but we can tell what a Svalbard cruise YPT style is like.
To read about Svalbard click here.
Svalbard Cruise Part 1 – Longyearbyen
If you want to do a Svalbard cruise then you will have to get to Svalbard and unless you have a chopper, or private boat this will mean flying into Longyearbyen the capital “city” of Svalbard.
Longyearbyen, which is named after a guy, rather than the long days (and nights) is serviced by Svalbard Airport (Norwegian: Svalbard lufthavn; IATA: LYR, ICAO: ENSB). There are daily flights by the cooly named, but in fact VERY budget SAS – Scandinavian Airlines, as well as a smattering of other flights. Generally you will get here via Tromso, or Oslo of Norway.
Assuming you get here in the summer you will be greeted by the sun, with there being a bus service to the hotels. There are top notch choices like the Raddison Blu Longyearbyen, or the more rustic Coal Miners Cabins, which is what YPT went for.
And of course then you need a night out! We will go into more details about partying in Longyearbyen when we write the city guide, but rule of thumb is that the imaginatively titled SvalBar is the place to be.
Visiting Pyramiden in 2022
We have given this its own article, but lost story short it is not easy in 2022. Why? Well the whole Russia and Ukraine thing has led to sanctions. This leaves a few options, such as cruising “near it”, or engaging the Russians and traveling for 3 hours on a Zodiac. If you do manage it though, you get to see the northern most Lenin in the world.
To read bout visiting Lontyearbyen in 2022 click here.
Which company should you use for a Svalbard cruise?
Which line you use for an artic cruise depends on you, what you want to do and what comfort level you need. We personally use Oceanside Expeditions as they lean more towards the adventure side of things. We have used their ships, the MV Hondius and the MV Ortelius in both Greenland and Antarctica also.
To read about the MV Ortelius click here
The Ortelius in particular we like as it is as former Soviet ice-breaker, which means you could to melt through ice like butter and generally get some adventure.
What animals do you get to see on a Svalbard cruise?
You get to see lots of animals, but I will word thing carefully here. This is not Disney, this is not fairground ride and what you see is to an extent luck. It is also not Antarctica, so you will not see penguins OK.
We personally saw 3 polar bears, lot of walruses, a whole heap of whales, reindeer and birds that I really cannot remember. You will though hike and do Zodiac cruises to keep yourselves amused and get your nature jollies.
What is there to do onboard your cruise ship?
You want entertainment? OK, so this is not a Carnival Cruise, so don’t expect this to have entertainment galore, but there are lectures and workshops and if you are really desperate a movie channel in your room.
In reality though the joy is the 24 hour sunlight and the views and pictures opportunities this brings, ideally with good company, something you certainly get when you join a trip to the Arctic with YPT.
Sailing through the ice sheets and visiting the North Pole
A firm trip highlight and one really helped by being in a literal ice-cutter is going through the ice-fields/sheets off of the coast of Svalbard. The beauty cannot be described, with me just hoping my pictures explain it at least a little bit.
And then there is visiting the North Pole!!!! Well while visiting the North Pole is cool and you can proudly be one of the most northernly people on earth, alas it is not quite how it is portrayed in movies. Does Santa live in the North Pole? If he does he will need a boat, a bloody big boat.
Visiting ghost towns in Svalbard
One of the main points of our cruise at least was seeing some ghost town action, alas sanctions largely put paid to this. We were though able to visit Colesbukta, which was pretty cool.
You can read about Colesbukta here.
What is the food like on Oceanwide Expeditions?
Again this is not P&O all you can eat buffet, but you get three very solid meals a day, two of which are actually buffet, with a set menu at dinner. And of course you can have wine and beer with dinner if that is your thing!
Overall you will not go hungry whilst cruising the arctic, at least not with YPT.
What are the cabins like when you tour Svalbard?
Quite simply what is your budget like! Cabins can be deluxe, to twins, to quads, with us having tried them all. All are spacious come with a TV, heating and a bathroom. Again this is another factor that will depend on who you go with and what kind of cruise you are looking for.
What is the nightlife like on a Svalbard Cruise?
If you need action on your artic cruise then who you go with will be a big thing. On Oceanwide they always have great bars and great staff with cheap prices. These are things we care about.
If you are lucky too you will also get an artic BBQ and disco on the helipad of the ship. It is amazing how the alcohol overcoat will keep people outside for longer. Our crew at least said the YPT group had been the youngest and most lively they’d had for a while.
And that is our take on causing around Svalbard – our next national voyage will be to Antarctica, which you can read about here.