Highlights of Svalbard 2023

Small Ship Arctic Expedition

Highlights of Svalbard

AUGUST 6th – 14th, 2023

An 8-night voyage right in the middle of Svalbard's high season giving us the best chance to experience all that this remote archipelago has to offer

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This Polar Tracks departure in 2023 is an expedition like no other – a truly unique opportunity to experience the incomparable beauty and remote wilderness of Svalbard while in an authentic expeditionary setting on board the newly-refurbished legendary vessel, the 53 passenger MV Polar Pioneer. 

A great opportunity for polar adventurers to make this bucket-list trip a reality...

…not just because of the place, but because of our small ship size and deeply knowledgable expedition team. We’ve designed this trip to give us the best chances to see everything that makes Svalbard so enchanting, by choosing the ideal ship with one of the highest ice classes, choosing the right length of trip, and at the optimal time of the boreal (or Northern hemisphere) summer. 

Our route is determined by ice, bears, and a spontaneity only afforded by complete flexibility and freedom that comes with a small ship – in the hands of those who know and revere this place, its history and its wildlife.

It’s also a place to connect and unwind hundreds of miles from “civilization”, and prepare yourself to come away a changed person.  

> CLICK PLAY TO SEE VIDEO FROM OUR 2022 SVALBARD EXPEDITION <

Play Video

“The Svalbard Archipelago in Europe’s far north is among my two favourite places on earth – like someone sliced off the Swiss Alps, dropped them in the Arctic ocean, and sprinkled polar bears on them.”


- Chris Morgan, conservationist and host of The WILD podcast

the Details

 

DATES: August 6th – 14th, 2023 (9 days, 8 nights on ship)

SHIP: MV Polar Pioneer

RATESEarly Booking Deal of 25% 

Triple Shared: 4900 USD (6125 USD)

Twin Shared: 6040 USD (7550 USD)

Twin Private: 7300 USD (9125 USD)

Mini Suite: 8500 USD (10625 USD)

Owner’s Suite: 9350 USD (11680 USD)

All rates are per passenger based on shared cabins. If you prefer a suite to yourself, the rate is 1.8x the cost quoted per person. See the explanation of cabin differences following the Deck Plan below.

PASSENGERS: 53 (plus 5 expedition guides)

LANGUAGES: English and Scandinavian

REVIEWS OF 'HIGHLIGHTS OF SVALBARD' FROM GUESTS

"Everyday exceeded expectations and my expectations grew everyday. Very professional, knowledgeable staff made sure we had a wonderful and safe experience. When you are dealing wth animals in the wild nothing is guaranteed but our experienced Staff and crew allowed us to see whales, seals, walruses, polar bears (11), arctic foxes playing on the beach, reindeer and a whole bunch of birds that seemed to fascinate the experienced birders. Other highlights included watching glaciers calving and doing a polar plunge in the Arctic circle. The crew shared their visible excitement for the wealth of history that surrounds the area and the people that attempted to reach the North Pole. If it is on your bucket list to see such an area, and it should be, then go with Polar Tracks."
Keith Evans and Carol Kennedy
July 2022
"The whole experience was out of this world. I wouldn’t trade one single second for anything. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Love you all!"
Michael Haluwana
July 2022
"I don’t think you could beat the professionalism of the team. Their knowledge of the Arctic is first class. From team leader to Captain to catering and cleaners they did their best to ensure you had the experience of a life time. The weather was kind too."
Peter Goodeve
July 2022

Your Expedition Ship

MV Polar Pioneer

Guests will travel on board the newly refurbished ship, the MV Polar Pioneer, an excellent polar vessel that offers big ship sophistication in a small ship package.

This wonderful small ship is purpose-retrofit for custom groups like history buffs, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers, having added a number of features to modernize the ship as well as ensuring she is the most versatile ship of her size in Svalbard.

Extras include:

  • a sauna
  • two large outer observation decks
  • a gym

Not to mention, the bridge is always open. 

The Polar Pioneer owners, captain and crew have multiple decades of combined experience in Svalbard and are committed to delivering a best-in-class experience, keeping safety and environmental protection in mind.

Why We Love This Ship

  • Her spacious outer decks – the lower deck for getting closer to wildlife on the ice and the upper deck for enjoying and photographing the 360° landscape
  • A modernized lounge/bar area on Deck 4 where you can enjoy lectures, review your photos from the day, or share stories with other expeditioners over a cold drink
  • A real luxury in a polar environment, the Polar Pioneer sauna means you can warm up when you come in from the cold 
  • Extra electrical outlets in the cabins and common areas for charging camera batteries and laptops
  • Extra hooks in each cabin so you have lots of space to hang your outer layers when you come in from the cold + can dry your gear faster
  • Her compact size means we can avoid the competing interest groups of the larger ships and just do what we really want to do!

MV POLAR pIONEER DECK PLAN

SUITES AND AMENITIES

1

TRIPLE PUBLIC CABIN with two lower and one upper berth, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private washbasin. Nearby shower and toilet facilities are shared with other Deck 3 cabins. This cabin has a porthole. 6125 USD per guest

2

TWIN PUBLIC CABIN with two lower and one upper berth, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private washbasin. Nearby shower and toilet facilities are shared with other Deck 3 cabins. This cabin is originally a triple but can be used as a TWIN. This cabin has a porthole. 7550 USD per guest

3

TWIN PUBLIC CABINS with two lower berths & sofa, writing desk, wardrobe, drawers, and private washbasin. Nearby shower & toilet facilities are shared with other Deck 3 cabins. These cabins have a porthole. 7550 USD per guest

4

TWIN PRIVATE CABINS with two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe & drawers. These cabins have a private bathroom and window. 9125 USD per guest

5

SINGLE PRIVATE CABINS (#402 and #403) with one upper and one lower bunk, writing desk, wardrobe & drawers. These cabins have a window, private bathroom, and a sofa. 16425 USD per guest

6

MINI SUITE with double bed and separate lounge area, writing desk, wardrobe & drawers, and a private bathroom. These cabins have a window. 10625 USD per guest

7

OWNER’S SUITE with double bed and separate lounge area, writing desk, wardrobe & drawers, and a private bathroom. Forward and port windows. 11680 USD per guest

typical suite layout

Twin Shared cabin

MORE REVIEWS FROM GUESTS

"Thank you so much for the most wonderful holiday, it exceeded all my expectations (and they were high!). The expedition team and all the crew on the Polar Pioneer were brilliant, helpful, lovely and so knowledgeable. Our cabin was comfortable and the ship just the right size. We certainly had an adventure, including lots of landings and zodiac cruises; we were treated to amazing wildlife sightings and even got to see Polar bears on the shore line as well as up on a glacier. Thank you Heather and her team!"
Lynn Pascoe and James Parker
July 2022
"Can I take the opportunity to thank you, and congratulate you, on the most superb trip. I have no idea why I left it as long as I did to visit the Arctic for the first time but I am now hooked on the polar thing! We will be back, North or South, and I hope we will be coming with your team."
Mark Philips
July 2022
"You delivered amazing experiences with professionalism, enthusiasm and impressive knowledge. Thank you. The people supporting the Expedition Leader and guides are equally professional and enthusiastic - you have a great team. Thanks again for an extraordinary trip!"
Susan Anderson
July 2022

Itinerary

Highlights of Svalbard

Augusy 6th - Embarkation Day

Board the Polar Pioneer between 4-5pm from the dock in Longyearbyen and enjoy a welcome cocktail with the captain.

August 7th through 13th – Expedition days

While there is a carefully planned daily schedule based on distances between points of interest and the location of the ice in any given season, our timetable in Svalbard by nature must be flexible.

We will likely begin by heading north to some key sites in the northwest before rounding the corner and heading east across the top of the archipelago where we have a number of options. We’ll be following a rough itinerary so that every day the conditions are maximized for visiting the places and landing sites that will allow us to get ashore and explore, while also offering the best wildlife watching opportunities, be they land or sea-based.

Every morning your Expedition Leader will work with the bridge officers to make decisions about the day, taking into account ice situation and the weather, looking at whether Plan A makes the most sense or if Plan B, C, or D will be better for us.  

Nothing is guaranteed, but we are heading up there prepared, and will wish for some good luck to achieve our objectives.

Our aim will always be to focus on all of the wonders that Svalbard offers us. If we come across something amazing – be it a polar bear, whales, or some other unexpected gem – we would never just cruise past it because we have something else “scheduled” for the afternoon. Flexibility, and trust in our extremely experienced expedition team are key facets of a successful expedition.

August 14th - Disembarkation Day

Disembark in Longyearbyen between 8-9am

 

SAMPLE ITINERARY

 

What to expect

Svalbard has a little bit of everything, including massive scenic fjords from which artfully sculpted glaciers emerge to meet the sea, up to the high snowcapped peaks, and all the way down to Arctic tundra covered in colourful vegetation such as mosses and lichens that the Svalbard reindeer love to feed on. It’s not uncommon to find seals or walruses resting on ice floes at the mouths of these fjords, and if we’re lucky, we’ll spot a whale or two as we sail up the west coast.

We’ll plan to stop in at the world’s northernmost civilian settlement, the research village of Ny Ålesund, which also boasts the world’s northernmost post office. At the height of the summer season, there are about 120 inhabitants working amongst the 15 permanent research stations.

It’s from here that Amundsen and Nobile initiated their courageous attempts to reach the North Pole by airship in 1925 – 28 years after Andrée – and there are a couple of monuments dedicated to their efforts that are worth visiting.

From there we’ll continue heading north, poking into other landing sites and fjords of interest, getting out into the two zodiacs to make landings where we’ll plan hikes to stretch our legs and optimize our chances for excellent wildlife opportunities.

Weather and ice-permitting we’ll make our way to the far Northeast corner of the archipelago to see what we can find whether that be wildlife or the incredible Austfonna glacier.

In between landings and zodiac cruises, we’ll be constantly scouting for the Ursus maritimus – the Latin name for polar bear  – and if we find them, get as close as we can without disturbing them or putting passengers at any risk. There are an estimated 3000-4000 animals in the region and the population is considered to be stable. This powerful animal is amazing to behold in the wild, with males weighing up to 700kg when they are at their healthiest. Again, getting out into the inflatable zodiacs is an excellent way to safely observe the wildlife from proximity.

Weather and ice conditions permitting, we’ll sail into Hinlopen Strait and plan to visit Alkefjellet (‘Bird Mountain’), a series of otherworldly basalt cliffs stretching a number of kilometres in length and in some places, up to 100 meters high (click on the underlined text to see a fantastic video!) on which we’ll find thousands of nesting birds and the occasional Arctic fox hunting nearby.

Nordauslandet, Storøya, Bråsvellbreen, Barentsøya, and Edgeøya are all locations that we may also explore, weather and ice permitting, and offer magnificent scenery with vast tundra which hold the prospect of continued incredible landscapes and wildlife sighting opportunities.

Things we may do AND see on expedition

Click on the images below to expand and scroll through

Other Information

Passport – Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of travel and you are responsible for any visa required to enter Norway/the Schengen Zone. If you are unsure whether you need a visa to travel to Svalbard, please consult this list of countries.

Health requirements – you must be in reasonable health and have a reasonable level of mobility in order to join the expedition. The voyage is on board a ship and at times, the sea may be rough. This requires a degree of balance and agility so that you may safely move around the vessel. Also keep in mind that at times, we may offer a hike on land (which will always be optional). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will have to adapt to the travel guidelines/restrictions closer to the time of departure.

Insurance Requirements – as the nature of our expedition involves visiting the remote wilderness, we require all passengers to take out appropriate trip interruption/cancellation and medical evacuation insurance as per our Terms & Conditions.

What to bring – Based on our combined years of experience braving the wilds of Svalbard, we’ve created a handy PDF packing list that you can download here. Please note that rubber boots and waterproof pants + jacket are all required to participate in landings in Svalbard.

Frequently Asked Questions

We certainly plan to! But as with all things in nature, these are wild animals that can travel very fast over both land and ice. Our expert expedition staff and bridge crew have decades of combined experience in this region and will use their expertise as well as regular communication with other vessels in the region to find out where polar bears have been sighted and will head to those areas. We’ll also have someone on polar bear watch at all hours of the day from the bridge. In other words, we will do everything we can to find bears and go to get a closer look. The benefits of sailing on one of the smaller expedition ships are two-fold: 1) we can maneuver closer to the animals without disturbing them and drop zodiacs on short notice – thus giving you the best opportunity to photograph them 2) the ship can change plans on a dime and head full speed towards something of interest.
A roomy, lightweight parka or winter jacket that’s wind and water-resistant is a must, and the brighter the colour, the better for safety reasons as you’ll be in a mostly monochromatic polar environment. Winter waterproof pants that are roomy enough for you to layer long underwear and hiking pants underneath are key.

Why waterproof? Sea spray is common onboard the Zodiacs and sometimes in bad weather you’ll get properly drenched. Keeping your hands warm and dry can be a challenge, so we always recommend thin liner gloves (merino is a great material) to wear under warm outer water-resistant gloves. This will make things easier when you need to remove your outer gloves to operate your camera but still keep your hands warm. We also suggest bringing more than one pair of gloves in case your main pair gets soaked and you need to trade them out for the afternoon.

A warm hat that covers your ears, and a scarf or neck cowl that can provide neck and face protection in the event of inclement weather.

A requirement for polar expeditions are high rubber boots, or Wellingtons, as you’ll be stepping into water up to 10” deep on wet landings around the peninsula. Be sure to check with us ahead of time as many ships provide complimentary boots. If you're required to provide your own, they must have non-skid rubber soles and come up to just below your knees. It’s also important that your boots are loose fitting so that you can wear 2-3 layers of socks in them for warmth on longer excursions.

For onboard the ship you need something comfortable, with grip, that you can slip in and out of. Any casual shoe should be fine. For zodiac excursions and landings you are required to wear rubber boots. This is because almost all landings are “wet landings” meaning you will be stepping into freezing cold water and rubber boots are the only safe option to keep you dry. For hiking, you can bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots or shoes to change into from your rubber boots.
The electrical outlets will be standard European style as pictured below. You may need to bring electrical converters with you in order to charge your equipment. The voltage on board is 220v. 
 
Payments to your onboard account for alcohol, soft drinks, and souvenirs can be made by credit card. Cash is also accepted (USD or EUROS) but credit card is preferred. However tipping of the crew is done by cash. If you feel you have received good service and wish to tip the crew at the end of the journey, please plan to have some hard currency with you. 

As we are travelling on a moving ship with steep staircases, and doing shore excursions where the land is often very uneven, it is critical that every guest be fully mobile and not dependent on any kind of walking aids.

We are operating in polar bear territory which means that if we are ashore and a polar bear is also spotted ashore, we need to be able to move quickly to evacuate the area, getting all guests back onto the zodiacs. Therefore this trip is not appropriate for guests who are not fully and independently mobile.

Should a guest book this trip and then be found upon embarkation to have mobility challenges deemed by the onboard Expedition Doctor as putting the guest at unacceptable risk on this type of ship or expedition, we reserve the right to deny the guest boarding and hold no liability for compensation of the trip fees nor any travel or incidental fees incurred.

How to Book and Terms & Conditions

To ask a question, inquire about availability, or book your spot on this expedition cruise please use our contact form or email contact {at} polartracksexpeditions.com and we will get back to you shortly.

GENERAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS

§ 1 Reservations and payment

1.1 Registration is completed and binding when Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc has received a signed Booking Form, which includes acceptance of these General Terms and Conditions, and the deposit amount of 2,000 USD per person.

1.2 The remaining portion of the travel price shall be paid in two instalments; 40% of the full travel price shall be paid no later than 150 days prior to the departure date and the remaining balance no later than 90 days prior to the departure date. Any partial or full fare not received within the deadlines outlined in this paragraph may result in the booking being cancelled by Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc, in which case all amounts paid shall be forfeited. 

1.3 If a booking is made three months or less before the departure date, the full price shall be paid in connection with the booking.

1.4  Payments must be made in USD by bank transfer as per the instructions on the Booking Form or by credit card if requested.

§ 2 Travel details

2.1 Voyage description and itinerary for each voyage, as well as other details for the travel and information as regards health requirements, insurance requirements, visa and other immigration issues and other, can be found on the trip page above. All information on this website is part of the agreement between Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc and the Traveler.

2.2 The Traveler is responsible for fulfilling all requirements, including having a valid passport and necessary visas and other documentation, and for being able to carry out the trip, as well as for all injuries that they may incur during the trip. The Traveler is required to have insurance covering cancellation or trip interruption costs as well as medical evacuation costs. Any failure by the Traveler to comply with this provision and/or to provide proof of compliance with this provision 14 days prior to the departure, shall result in the cancellation of the trip and forfeiture of all amounts paid by the Traveler to Polar Tracks as liquidated damages.

2.3 No alcoholic beverages may be brought on board by the Traveler. 

2.4 It is not allowed to fly any UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones) on ships operated by members of AECO or IAATO. 

2.5 Since the travel will take place out in the wilderness of nature, security is vital. The Traveler is aware of and accepts that adhering to safety routines and obeying the guides’ instructions is of critical importance. The Traveler acknowledges and accepts the inherent risks associated with arctic and remote expedition travel which may include bodily injury, risk of death and/or mental stress, anguish, and fatigue.

2.6 As we are travelling on a moving ship with steep staircases, and partaking in shore excursions where the land is often very uneven, it is critical that every Traveler be fully mobile and not dependent on any kind of walking aids.

We are operating in polar bear territory which means that if we are ashore and a polar bear is also spotted ashore, we need to be able to move quickly to evacuate the area, getting all guests back onto the zodiacs. Therefore this trip is not appropriate for Travelers who have mobility challenges.

Should a Traveler book this trip and then be found upon embarkation to have mobility challenges deemed of concern by the onboard Expedition Doctor, Polar Tracks Expeditions reserves the right to deny the guest boarding and hold no liability for compensation of the trip fees or any travel or incidental fees incurred.

2.7 The travel is construed as group travel, meaning that the price is based upon group participation. No refund will be made by Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc in the event a Traveler chooses not to participate in all parts of the program or if a Traveler withdraws from the trip prematurely, irrespective of the reason.

§ 3 Traveler’s cancellation

3.1 A Traveler must notify Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc in writing of any cancellation. In case a cancellation is made more than 250 days prior to the departure date, the traveller forfeits 500 USD. In case a cancellation is made less than 250 days prior to the departure date, the full fare due at the time of cancellation will be forfeited. All payments made by you are non-refundable in the case of your cancelling your participation.

3.2 In order to minimize loss in the event of trip cancellation or interruption, each Traveler is required to secure trip cancellation and interruption insurance as well as medical evacuation insurance for the period of travel in question as per Section 2.2.

§ 4 Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc’s cancellation or alteration

4.1 The travels arranged by Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc are carried out in remote parts of the world where weather and ice conditions are extreme and unpredictable, and where unforeseen events outside the control of Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc may occur, requiring Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc to quickly adapt to new circumstances. Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc thus reserves the right to cancel, or, as the case may be, change the conditions for the travel or change the itinerary either before or during the trip.

Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc always strive for making the voyage as best as possible for the travellers and a decision to cancel an initial plan or change the travel conditions (travel dates, travel route, etc) will always be made in the interests of the travellers and with safety in mind.

4.2 If the minimum number of Travelers is not met, Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc has the right to cancel the voyage. Such cancellation shall be notified to the Travelers no later than 90 days prior to the departure date. In case a cancellation is made according to this paragraph, Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc shall repay all payments made from Travelers but shall have no further obligations in relation to the Traveler.

4.3 Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc shall never be liable to pay any compensation (for airfares, visas, insurance or other) or damages because of a cancelled or changed travel if:

(a) the cancellation or change of travel is caused by the Traveler;

(b) reason for the cancellation is that the minimum number of registered Travelers is not met, and the cancellation has been notified in writing to the Traveler;

(c) the cancellation or change of the travel is due to a circumstance which was beyond the control of Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc and the occurrence of which were not possible to avoid or overcome, would create safety risks or are not economically reasonable to remedy; or

(d) the liability to pay damages cannot be considered reasonable.

§ 5 Price changes

5.1 Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc reserves the right to change the price for the trip due to fluctuations in currency or fuel costs or due to changes in taxes or fees which affect Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc’s costs for the travel. A potential increase in price should not exceed more than 10% of the trip cost per passenger, and if implemented, must legally be communicated to the passengers no later than 20 days before the voyage departure.

§ 6 Liability limitations

6.1 Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any loss or damage to any property or for any injury, illness or death to any person in the tour which results from any contact with or service provided by any agent, contractor, supplier or provider, nor for any such loss, damage, injury, illness or death if it occurs in transit to or from the tour.

§ 7 Complaints

7.1 If the Traveler considers Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc’s services to be deviating from what is agreed, the Traveler must notify Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc in writing thereof immediately after having noticed such deviation. If not notifying Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc within this time, or notifying Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc more than one month after finishing the trip, the Traveler may not invoke any deviations from the agreement in relation to Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc.

§ 8 Applicable law

8.1 Canadian law shall govern the agreement between Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc and the Traveler.

These General Terms and Conditions are applicable to all bookings of travels from:

Polar Tracks Expeditions Inc. 5031 Barron Cres NW Calgary, AB T2L 1T8 Canada