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14 Arctic Family Cruise Reviews

This was a totally amazing experience. Sea Endurance is a comfortable ship taking 52 passengers and 22 staff plus 5 guides and a medical doctor. Both staff och guests came from many countries. The cabins are small but nice, the dining ... Read More
This was a totally amazing experience. Sea Endurance is a comfortable ship taking 52 passengers and 22 staff plus 5 guides and a medical doctor. Both staff och guests came from many countries. The cabins are small but nice, the dining room serves buffet breakfast and lunch and á la carte for dinner. Food was good and generous and the service friendly and outstanding. We spent the evenings in the panorama lounge admiring the beauty of the land scape. The sun never sets at this time of the year. The route was not set as it depends on the weather and ice situation. The expedition leader decided on a daily basis. We sailed the equivalence of 1820 kilometer in one week and covered all of the west coast, the northern part searching for the ice edge getting close to Vitöya before we met the ice. That is where the balloon expedition led by André ended their journey and lives. There was an announcement board where the program for next day was announced and the expedition leader woke us up every morning over the loudspeaker system with the latest information. We went on one or two zodiac cruises every day and we also went ashore for short walks and always with guides with armed weapons first and last. Security was very important. We came across walrus, polar bears, seals and thousand of birds. The highlight was the polar bear mother with 2 newborn kids that we watched for nearly 2 hours playing on the ice edge. The guides have deep knowledge of biology, arctics, nature, zoologi, birds, ecology and they held lectures in their fields. Elke, the expedition leader is an impressive leader and together with Hadleigh, Manda, Eirik and Zet they made sure that the trip became an unforgettable experience for all of us. For the really brave ones the trip ended with a polar plunge in the minus 2 degrees icy water:) Humble and in deep gratitude we all went home with new friends and a lot of memories. I give Polar Quest the highest ratings for the quality, the extremely knowledgable guides, the service on board, the documentation and communication beforehand. Go if you can...the beauty and scenery is unforgettable and you will learn a lot about the Arctic and the beauty of Mother Earth. Mariann Klint Sweden May 2018 Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
All the services on board, very good ship, cabin ok, dining ok, but impossible because the weather to go to the North Cape. we have known an other way of life with sea and the cold and fishing. People quiet and very clean. All the services ... Read More
All the services on board, very good ship, cabin ok, dining ok, but impossible because the weather to go to the North Cape. we have known an other way of life with sea and the cold and fishing. People quiet and very clean. All the services at the hour, all excursion very well organized. Very good travel, Hurtigruten is a wonderful company. We don't know if you come again in spring or summer but we hope to make it. we find sometime, the time in the harbour is very short to discover the city and take a drink in a "café" to meet people of the country. But we know the boat is also a cargo and a "bus" for the norvegian people. Last thing we think, we find that there is nor enough french announces, some time it is difficult to ear all the informations. But we have seen some "aurores boréales" it is a very great moment. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
As someone who wanted the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, and could only go in school holidays, it was by chance that we were away over Christmas. The ship was beautifully decorated, and the staff led a Christmas service before we ... Read More
As someone who wanted the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, and could only go in school holidays, it was by chance that we were away over Christmas. The ship was beautifully decorated, and the staff led a Christmas service before we left Bergen. We went with my 9 and 12 year old son (and 77 year old Grandma) We've done long distance train travel before so I wasn't worried about activities specifically aimed at the children. They loved the cabin bunks and the jacuzzi was a hit. The food was much more varied than I'd thought. Yes, lots fish-based, but presented in different ways and I like that fact that the boys ate the same as us. We booked an off-shore excusion everyday (apart from Dec 25th when nothing ran, but we walked and explored instead). It was good to explore the towns by foot and to get off the boat for a while. Our excursions were: Trondheim city, Viking evening, Sami adventure, North Cape and husky sledging (at the Snow Hotel where we also stayed one night). My only criticism is that there was quite a lot of driving in the middle 3 activities. This was good as we saw more of the Norwegian towns, but the Viking evening in particular felt a little rushed at the end. We were lucky enough to see the Lights several times and it was quite fun waking the boys up in the middle of the night after a call that the lights were there! Both my eldest and I have said that we would like to see the Fjords in summer. It was amazing to experience the Polar Night and see everything in icy majesty, but we did miss seeing what the fjords are really like. The Hurtigruten staff were like our Norwegian family, our youngest in particular was greeted by name by some members of staff. We didn't get a chance to explore Bergen before departure as we missed one transfer bus and the next broke down before it got to us. However this did mean that we got straight on board. At Kirkenes it was a little complicated which bus we needed to take, but I am really glad that we didn't fly straight home. At the Snowhotel the boys could sledge and play in the snow, something they hadn't previously been able to do. Norway in winter is a magical place. The only other boats we saw were fishermen or once a day the Hurtigruten coming south. I would thoroughly recommend this trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
What an amazing journey! So different from a 'big ship' experience - you get really up-close-and-personal to the Norwegian coast with Hurtigruten, visiting so many ports of call, and expertly navigating the myriad of islands and ... Read More
What an amazing journey! So different from a 'big ship' experience - you get really up-close-and-personal to the Norwegian coast with Hurtigruten, visiting so many ports of call, and expertly navigating the myriad of islands and fjords of the coast - amazingly close, almost reaching out to touch some of the cliffs or to shake the hands of locals. Could not fault the food, service and staff on board - so refreshing to see Norwegian staff, as the talk about their home country with such pride. Enjoyed learning about the Northern Lights - and Hurtigruten have their Northern Lights Promise of a free voyage if the Lights do not appear (some small print does apply) - but we were treated to an spine-tingling event on several nights. Asking the Expedition team how they rated the Lights we saw, they said "about a 6 or 7 out of 10" - so I can't wait to go back and see what a 10/10 experience would be!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This is the worst cruise in my cruising life. Paid for a suite and get as the prisoner meal, eat it or go to deck 7 paid for your favorite meal.that was not people who paid for expensive room and get the hopeless meal. Don't ... Read More
This is the worst cruise in my cruising life. Paid for a suite and get as the prisoner meal, eat it or go to deck 7 paid for your favorite meal.that was not people who paid for expensive room and get the hopeless meal. Don't expect live entertainment in other luxury cruise. You will get bore after 3 days. Tour desk officer are very rude, junior promise multi excursion get discount, she can overwrite it and said no discount. Ports and shore excursions, it is a delivery ship or just like ferry cruising.you will pay for expensive and not worth while excursion.norwegian monopoly these sector for northern light and yet, you won't get the best northern light photo.reason: cruise is moving and tilting, even you have tripod, your northern light pictures is not as sharp as land tour for northern lights. We have joined land tour in jan 2017 in tromso as what we have compare the image.if you want good northern light, fly to tromso and join the northern light chase from the side lane of radisson blu hotel. Stay away don't get regret like us. WE JOINED WE LOOSE You listen to my advice you win. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We have traveled with other adventure cruise companies but have yet to find one that compares with Adventure Canada. My entire family booked passage with them from Arctic Canada to Greenland - it was the trip of a lifetime. As an artist, ... Read More
We have traveled with other adventure cruise companies but have yet to find one that compares with Adventure Canada. My entire family booked passage with them from Arctic Canada to Greenland - it was the trip of a lifetime. As an artist, the voyage provided an incredible amount of inspirational reference material for future artwork. Beyond this though, we were treated to comfortable cabins, great food, and Adventure Canada’s wonderful staff - it was almost as if we were royalty. It is Adventure Canada’s people and the connections between them and their guests, that truly sets them apart from other similar adventure tour companies. Their leadership team is where AC stands out - all are so knowledgeable and passionate with respect to their field of expertise and it shows. On other adventure cruises (with other companies), after the lectures and presentations were over, some presenters became somewhat ‘invisible’ or unapproachable - their attitudes came across as indifferent and ‘just doing their job’. Adventure Canada is so different - the leaders go out of their way to associate with the ship’s passengers, even sitting down with them at mealtimes. The meals were very good - so much food - I have never eaten so well. For activities, lectures and presentations were interesting and informative and the shore excursions were thrilling. Entertainment, in the evenings, was handled by a very talented musician, who put on quite the show. The onboard staff, from the Dining Room to Housekeeping, were fabulous - they were professional yet friendly. This hospitality doesn’t just stay onboard the ship though - it also extends to the amazing communities that are visited along the way. The camaraderie lead to the major takeaway for me from the trip. I fully expected to be moved by the spectacular scenery of the Arctic - what I didn’t expect though, was how much meeting the people of the north would affect me. Having the chance to interact with communities in Greenland and especially the Canadian Arctic (as facilitated by the Adventure Canada leaders) has changed my life forever …it touched my soul. I highly recommend Adventure Canada. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Enjoyed the ports of call as there was great weather and scenery. We had minor rain only on one June day. Traveling above the arctic circle with having no sunset was expected, but still strange. You have to travel in winter to see the ... Read More
Enjoyed the ports of call as there was great weather and scenery. We had minor rain only on one June day. Traveling above the arctic circle with having no sunset was expected, but still strange. You have to travel in winter to see the northern lights. The two most northern stops were smaller and more desolate, but the southern ports were quaint to larger cities with deep fjords and greenery abounding. -5 stars Food and food service was excellent and would rate as good as or better than Princess with whom we have cruised 4 times before. Shopping seemed bland and specials not really special - 2 stars Shows were good, but most were way too loud. - 5 stars but you really have to pick you seats if you don't want to be blasted. Onboard activities- rather slow and for an experienced cruiser, rather dull - 2 stars Dancing- 2 stars, since the centrum is really not a place to dance and the dancing lounge was empty Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Best cruise of my life! Forget the stiff cruises with dinner jackets - this is a true Exploration cruise. We went by Zodiacs to the Glaciers, hiking along some of the most beautiful and vulnerable destinations (dont worry there are ... Read More
Best cruise of my life! Forget the stiff cruises with dinner jackets - this is a true Exploration cruise. We went by Zodiacs to the Glaciers, hiking along some of the most beautiful and vulnerable destinations (dont worry there are different levels of hikes easy to advanced) and even some of us were bading in the Arctic (Hurtigruten staff kindly provided towels and warm drinks). Guides were fabulous and the ship is a true classic with cosy wooden interiors, space for 200 guests, makes it very intimate and friendly. In addition to enjoying the nature, I particularly liked visiting Barentsburg, a remote Russian mining town in the Arctic with continuous mining activities and Ny Alesund a small scientist community to get a better idea of how life is in the Arctic. It is not your typical cruise, but a true once in a lifetime experience being so close to nature. There is so much to see and experience outdoors and with the guides, spotting polar bears or whales. In short, is a truly unique experience! Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
We booked this Hurtigruten cruise with the sole purpose of seeing the Northern lights in winter. WE were on the Bergen - Tromso segment which we booked directly through their UK website. Communication was good and easy. No other cruise ... Read More
We booked this Hurtigruten cruise with the sole purpose of seeing the Northern lights in winter. WE were on the Bergen - Tromso segment which we booked directly through their UK website. Communication was good and easy. No other cruise line sails the Norwegian cruise during this time. We knew that it was a working ship / ferry service and expected as much. We also knew that Norway would be very expensive but we come from Singapore which was voted to most expensive city to live in and thought we would be prepared for the prices but it was still staggering for the value we got. The embarkation process was pretty standard. We arrived at the terminal in a taxi from Bergen airport and we were the first there at 1030 am. Check in had not started yet and although the lady was sitting at the desk, refused to do anything and so we just sat and waited. Then the Hurtigruten bus arrived and 30 passengers came off with their bags and filled the queue lines and embarkation started. We joined the end of the queue and everything was smooth after that. After leaving our bags, we walked off to explore Bergen. Sailing was only at 1030 pm. This was plenty of time to see most of what Bergen had to offer (skip fish market and visit picturesque Bryggen Old Town and take the funicular up to Mt Floyen for the views). There is a safety video shown in the terminal building and even for seaasoned cruisers like us, there was plenty to learn that was new to us, like how to put on an Arctic suit and how to survive if overboard in freezing water. So I would advise you to watch it carefully. The ship, MS Finnmarken, was a much nicer than we expected, of the same standard as mass market cruise lines like Royal Carribean and better than Star Cruises. We had an inside cabin and it was small and had convertible bunk beds which could not be pushed together and the standard tiny bathroom. More importantly it did have a safe in the room which was very handy and a small (empty) bar fridge so that was all we needed in the room. The rooms were made up nicely every day and very clean. There was none of the usual entertainment but the tour director had daily briefings or videos about the Arctic or the Northern lights and during the short daylight hours, we could just sit in the lounge and watch the view outside. Surprisingly, both lounges had nice, fairly large wooden dance floors ( larger than those on cruise lines like Celebrity which claims to have dancing but have tiny useless floors). There was no organised dancing but the piped music was danceable and we brought our own iphone attached to a small speaker which served us nicely for a few unobstructed spins around the floor. There was also a small heated pool and Jacuzzi which were not in high demand given that it was winter in the Arctic. Pool towels and bathrobes had to be rented at a high price for the hardy ones. The gym was small but not much used. We only had breakfast included in the price of our cruise. The was a lot of Norwegian cold preserved fish, cold cuts and cheese and quite a lot of good breads and cereals, toppings and spread and fruit and selection of hot drinks. The hot food selection was small with 1 type of fried or scrambled egg and one sausage and one other dish that would change every day. It kept us full enough to not need lunch. There was a cafe with rather unfriendly staff and expensive pastries which we did not want to try. We did not eat in the main dining as there was no choice of menu for my picky son and instead we went for the a la carte restaurant. It was more like a casual restauant than the fine dining experience we thought we were paying for. It cost about US$100 per person, service was not very friendly as though the waiter was surprised people actually wanted to eat there. The food was mediocre for a cruise ship although fairly nicely plated. for the next 2 nights, we ended up eating on land and once even preferring cup noodles ( the only time in all my extensive travel that I have packed cup noodles, since I had read about the food and was prepared!) There was not much else to do except visiting the picturesque ports on that leg but because of the very short daylight hours we did not see much of the views and there were no stops in the fjords. We were also blessed with an uncommonly mild winter so it was not too cold. We saw the Northern Lights on our third and last night. The tour director made the announcement and then switched off all the lights so that we had a good view of the sky. They were beautiful and worthwhile. We disembarked in Tromso, carrying our bags off on our own along with other passengers that were just off for the day. There were no checkout procedures at all. We then spent the night with Arctic Adventure Tours just out of Tromso where we drove our own husky sleds and saw spectacular Northern lights and stayed overnight in a Saami tent. IF I were to do this again with the purpose of seeing the Northern Lights, then I would actually book the Tromso to Kirkennes segment and spend an extra night or 2 in Tromso before embarkation. This is because the first 2 nights of the segment are in subArctic latitudes where the chances of seeing the Lights are not high and in the dark, we did not get to see the Fjords. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
12 night cruise to Iceland/Scotland. Embarkation was quite quick. We did not have any of our passports or bags checked, there were 4 of us. Our cases came quickly except one. But not too bad. Not many of the staff spoke much English, ... Read More
12 night cruise to Iceland/Scotland. Embarkation was quite quick. We did not have any of our passports or bags checked, there were 4 of us. Our cases came quickly except one. But not too bad. Not many of the staff spoke much English, but you could get a long way with a smile. Most staff were friendly and helpful. Cabin staff were lovely, and cabin was always cleaned well. However,trips could be absolutely chaotic. On one trip we had to climb up two steps, then we had to try and put our foot onto two black tyres that were attached to the dock side. We were then hauled on to the dock side. Not a very dignified way to arrive! The lady in front of me was elderly and was obviously in pain as her arms were pulled so she could start her trip! On another trip they called about 300 passengers to fill up 5 coaches all at once. My mother and I went down in the lift, unfortunately we couldn't get out as the way was blocked by hundreds of other passengers! Some people waited on the stairs for 20 mins. The entertainment company were enthusiastic, not much more to say! Food was much the same on most days. It was however, tasty and hot. Trying to get a table in the Bistro was horrendous. Many people just sat there reading/doing crosswords and refused to move, meaning people trying to eat were forced outside. Which when in Iceland, was a bit cold! After a few mouthfuls we didn't bother. The Kensington restaurant food was barely warm, and the portions were so small, we just fell about laughing. We didn't use it again. The tables by the pool were acceptable for maybe a drink, but they weren't far off plastic garden furniture. They were dirty,scruffy and uncomfortable if you were forced to eat there. They were unsuitable for an extension of the Bistro restaurant, for which they were often used. It was also the place for all the smokers on board! The cabin that I was In was so hot. I did ask for it to be sorted out, but it was never resolved. The air conditioning unit was on the ceiling, which at 5ft 2in was impossible for me to reach. My husband who is 6ft 2in did try but it made no difference. I feel that the negative points were too many to overlook, I would therefore, not use this company again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
We loved every bit of the Climate cruise on the Fram...we chose a balcony suite which was great lots of room and even on cold days we could sit outside with a drink and watch the ice slide past! We were blessed with really good weather ... Read More
We loved every bit of the Climate cruise on the Fram...we chose a balcony suite which was great lots of room and even on cold days we could sit outside with a drink and watch the ice slide past! We were blessed with really good weather so were able to see and do loads of expeditions including Jan Mayan volcano and kayaking past Glaciers... We also saw Polar bears,Reindeer ,Walrus,Seals,and Whales. The on board talks were on the whole pretty good. There is no real entertainment ..apart from one night of mini cabaret by the crew and an on deck BBQ but that was fine with us as we just wanted to soak up the peace,quiet and beauty of the area. We had the best of times and will remember this trip for a very long time Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Embarkation at Copenhagen's Ocean Quay was fast and simple, we arrived at 10.50 and were enjoying our first drink at 11.30. The ship was, as expected, in great condition. The range of dining options is similar to other RCL ships and ... Read More
Embarkation at Copenhagen's Ocean Quay was fast and simple, we arrived at 10.50 and were enjoying our first drink at 11.30. The ship was, as expected, in great condition. The range of dining options is similar to other RCL ships and the food was good but not exceptional; there has been a deterioration in choice in recent years. This was our 21st cruise and will not be our last with Royal Caribbean. We ate in Chops and Giovanni's Table and had fantastic evenings. We never found time for Izumi, but our daughter and son-in-law (on their honeymoon) did twice and loved every moment. We did not eat at Rita's Cantina as the range of food did not suit our tastes. The Windjammer was always packed with guests who assumed they could live there if they wanted for the whole time it was open, regardless of anyone else. Some tables were occupied by people for hours, reading books and keeping chairs for 'friends' and not being challenged by staff - we think because of language differences. The same thing happened in the Vortex some times. We accept this as part of the cruise experience and as always work around the differences in culture and language to assure we do not adversely affect other people's cruises. We actually made several new friends whose first language is not English. As for the Vortex - we spent most of our relaxing time there. The views from there during the four days of constant daylight were amazing and the service was excellent. With only one exception the officers and crew were attentive, professional, helpful, caring and offered outstanding service. This one person, was in my view, very unprofessional, rude and ignorant and only after I finally confronted them on the last night, did they actually become polite (they were not an officer, wait staff, cleaner, bar staff, medical , engineering, security or our cabin attendant). We are diamond plus members and enjoyed all of the benefits offered, except one, where we were treated as second class passengers, rather than loyal RCL cruisers. The diamond lounge manager was helpful, informative, professional and dealt with our questions quickly and in a friendly way. We spent much of our time in the diamond lounge rather than the concierge lounge. My Time dining was very good mainly because we were part of a group who had arranged a table of ten and table of six, which we rotated through our group over the cruise. The waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter and dining room manager delivered a great experience. We had a few issues, all of which were resolved immediately on raising them with the correct person. One benefit we get is the help of the Concierge for bookings and queries but he seemed happier to direct us to either guest services or shore excursions for dealing with our questions and issues. The ports were as expected, fabulous Norwegian Fjords, towns and over four days of endless daylight - and experience not to be missed. We use RCL for one excursion, after having it changed twice and being overcharged we enjoyed a fabulous visit to two fishing villages in Honningsvag. We skipped the North Cape as neither of us wanted the long coach trip. We saw it from the ship twice anyway, as we sailed by. Probably the most impressive change since our last visit was the use of the Sea Walk in Geiranger - thank you RCL for ensuring Serenade used it. We are too tired and fed up to use tendering if we can avoid it. On arrival back. In Copenhagen we chose an RCL city tour and airport drop-off, a three hour tour which was, after a confusing start, was great. One thing o watch out for though is that RCL assume everyone needs three hours to checkin at the airport. As we flew at 2.10pm they tried to get us to change our transfer. but for the UK and our airline we only needed two hours. This meant that tickets stating "suitable for flights after 3pm" were ok for us. This took some pursuading on my part though. We only went to two shows in the theatre, both very good, the rest were as we usually find, mediocre attempts at entertainment - that is of course a personal view - we just don't enjoy the shows. We did take advantage of the spa services and instead of going ashore in Tromso, we enjoyed a couples massage - at a very enriched price.... but a real treat for my wife's birthday. Overall an excellent adventure that actually helped us celebrate a wedding, a birthday and ten years of friendship with over 40 friends on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
WRANGEL ISLAND, Russia – The announcement came over the ship’s PA system at 3:35am: “There’s a polar bear dead ahead of us.” Within minutes passengers appeared up on deck, some still in their PJs, looking at the polar bear ... Read More
WRANGEL ISLAND, Russia – The announcement came over the ship’s PA system at 3:35am: “There’s a polar bear dead ahead of us.” Within minutes passengers appeared up on deck, some still in their PJs, looking at the polar bear swimming near the ship just off Wrangel Island, in the eastern Russian Arctic. It was a bright, sunny day (the sun had risen at 1:44am), and this was our first polar bear sighting of several to come. We were 500km north of the Arctic Circle and the ocean was unusually calm; we could see the bear’s head reflected in the water as he turned to look at us. What an experience – and only one of so many during this 16-day cruise on board Hapag-Lloyd’s Hanseatic, the first non-Russian ship to be allowed to visit Wrangel Island. Indeed, we saw no other tourists during the entire trip. This was truly an expedition adventure once we had donned parkas and rubber boots and left the ship in the rubber Zodiacs. Guided by a team of specialists, we were off to navigate through the sea ice on a sightseeing excursion, or to go ashore to discover abundant flowers and wildlife in the bleak landscape. But back on board the 180-passenger “world’s only five-star expedition cruise ship” (according to Berlitz, the global education company of language training fame) we lived in luxury, in comfortable staterooms with gourmet meals served on Rosenthal china – including 27 varieties of bread and rolls baked freshly every day for breakfast Antarctica receives much of the travel publicity these days. But while the Arctic has no penguins, it certainly has a wealth of other life as we discovered – from the 48 bird varieties (some in flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands) and 18 land and sea mammals to the Eskimos and other Russians. It was fascinating enough to explore the Arctic tundra most of us had hitherto only read about in school. But we could add to that the experience of being with the people who live far north of Siberia, with their Russian/post-Soviet or Eskimo heritage. So please come along to sample some of the highlights on what turned out to be a most unusual and interesting cruise adventure. TUESDAY: After a Miami Air charter flight from Vancouver we joined the ship in the remote Alaskan town of Nome, a port during its brief ice-free summer. While most of the passengers were from German-speaking countries, this was considered an international cruise so all communication was bilingual. WEDNESDAY: We paused offshore in the Bering Sea to look at a deserted settlement site on King Island, where Inupiat Eskimos had lived for thousands of years. The last villagers moved to Nome in 1970, leaving behind houses built on stilts on impossibly steep slopes The abandoned wooden structures were now collapsing, and stared eerily back at us with eye sockets where windows used to be. FRIDAY: We lost Thursday as we crossed the dateline. Provideniya, a former Soviet military port and our first contact with Russia, lay ahead. We’d heard Russia was angry with Europe, North America and Australia over international sanctions, and could have cancelled its permission for us – a German ship – to travel in Russian waters. But all went well and we were allowed ashore to explore this bleak outpost. Many of the buildings had been abandoned, some had been painted in bright colours but the town still had a dreary appearance. “We get about three days of sunshine a year,” said one resident. With mists hanging low over the town, this wasn’t one of them. We saw a folklore show - Russian dancers in traditional costumes gliding on to the stage or kick-dancing with arms crossed, and also Eskimo story-telling dances. Then we cruised 8km to Bukhta Slawyanka (Plover Cove) for our first exploration of the tundra. This was also the first of many wet landings, so we were wearing the boots and parkas lent to all passengers as the Zodiacs ran up on the beach and we jumped out at the water’s edge. This time the mists wreathing the hills and sitting low over the ocean, the patches of blue (but poisonous) monkshood flowers on land, the abandoned boats and buildings – all created a scene of wonder and beauty. SATURDAY: We visited Lorino where traditionally costumed local Eskimo dancers sang and danced the stories of their Chukchi ancestors for us. We sampled local food: a delicious fish soup made from Arctic char, gray whale and walrus muktuk (blubber and skin), reindeer meat. The temperature was an unusually warm 20 degrees, the ocean completely flat. SUNDAY: The small village of Neshkan welcomed us with another folklore show; dogs tore at the remains of a recently slaughtered gray whale on the beach. “The village was created by the Soviet government in the 1950s as a collective farm, to bring together the reindeer herders of the area,” Sylvia Stevens, one of our expert guides and lecturers, told us. The village of 700 still had six reindeer herds and supplemented its economy with fishing. It was so remote only pensioners were paid in cash, while others used barter or coupons. The district centre of Lavrentiya was a weekly 250km flight away, or four to five days of off-road travel. MONDAY: Today brought a birder’s delight as we cruised along the cliffs of Kolyuchin Island, home to hundreds of thousands of guillemots, kittiwakes, cormorants and puffins. “The guillemots lay a single egg on the narrow ledges,” said Stevens. “At two weeks, the chick has to jump down to the sea where its father takes care of it until it can fly, often paddling as much as 40km in a day until it is independent.” TUESDAY-FRIDAY: Wrangel Island came into view and thankfully the sea ice had broken up enough for us to pick up the two rangers and a biologist who would stay with us during our visit to one of Russia’s most restricted nature reserves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. And what a surprisingly fascinating place it was – given its location astride longitude 180 degrees in such a remote and inhospitable part of the planet. “Wrangel and nearby Herald Islands were untouched by glaciers of the last ice age,” Stevens said, “so they look much as they did in the Pleistocene era when wolly mammoths roamed the land until they became extinct around 2000 BC. Wrangel is best known today as having the greatest concentration of polar bear dens in the world.” Wrangel was also the home of 417 plant species - at least 23 of which grew nowhere else. Considering that the summer temperature hovered just above zero, we were amazed to see so many plants and flowers like the forget-me-nots when we went ashore on Komsomol Beach. On the other hand, as one of the largest walrus “haul out” sites in the world, Cape Blossom had far more walrus bones than blossoms. A couple of teenage boys decided it was time for a quick dip – a very quick dip as they rushed and staggered back out of the zero-degree ocean far more quickly than they had gone in. But the little brown woolly bear caterpillar which Stevens spotted didn’t mind the cold. These creatures live for 14 years (normal caterpillar life is three weeks), completely freezing every winter and thawing out every short summer until they spin a cocoon and turn into Isabella tiger moths. Arctic ground squirrels were busily collecting food for the long winter, pausing every so often to sit up in a meerkat-like pose. Now it was polar bear time. We spotted them swimming and walking on ice floes, including a mother with cub – but were glad not to see them when we went ashore, guarded by one of the guides armed with a rifle. SATURDAY-WEDNESDAY (including two Tuesdays as we crossed the dateline again): Winds whipped up five-metre waves in the Chukchi Sea, our only patch of stormy weather. Later, we watched seven orca (killer) whales following an injured gray whale in Bering Strait. Then we spotted about 100 walrus males hauled out on the beach of Big Diomede Island and swimming nearby, and went out in the Zodiacs for a closer look at these tusked creatures which can weigh up to 2,000kg. On Yittigran Island we walked in the long grass of Whalebone Alley, named for its carefully arranged whale skulls and other bones, especially ribs, and stones. And so back to Nome we sailed, grateful for the mostly good weather and lack of mosquitoes, treasuring our memories of the eastern Russian Arctic tundra in summer with its amazingly varied wildlife and vegetation, its inhabitants and their history. And that 3:35am wakeup call: “There’s a polar bear dead ahead of us.” Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We travelled as a family of 5 on the Explorer for a 10 day cruise , from Tromso and ended on Svalbard. Our time in Tromso was independent of Silversea, its a small northern city. Small arctic museum which makes for a nice morning to ... Read More
We travelled as a family of 5 on the Explorer for a 10 day cruise , from Tromso and ended on Svalbard. Our time in Tromso was independent of Silversea, its a small northern city. Small arctic museum which makes for a nice morning to get acquainted with the arctic whilst waiting to board. There are two harbours at Tromso, and on our voyage the Silver Explorer was moored at the smaller , in twon harbour and not the main one that lies about 10 minutes out of town. This was no obvious from our reservation details and it was really by chance that we saw the ship as we walked around town earlier in the day. So do check that little detail, if you are leaving from Tromso. Boarding was very easy with minimal of fuss, it was like getting onto a friends boat. Registration formalities aside, we got into life on the Explorer. It is a small ship, 6000 tonnes, so those of you who have only done larger cruise ships, will need to get used to the cosy space. Having said that with a maximum of 100 odd guest, one never felt crowded onboard. Common areas are very nicely appointed, the suites were functional rather than luxurious, but then again this ship is built for exploring and safety. Service and maintenance of the cabins were as you would expect from Silversea. A nice touch was afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones in the cabin or in the lounge after a day onshore. Food was very good, and on a 11 day voyage with so few guests, we even were asked if we would like to order anything off menu, which was very efficiently done with 24 hours notice. The were 2 semi formal ( no jackets or ties needed) evenings when the captain hosted dinner, but otherwise it was a very very relaxing affair. There is just one restaurant, for all three meals, service was exceptional, all guests were addressed by name, wines were good and if you wanted something a bit more specials, the list was available at a small premium. The real highlight was the quality of lectures, nature related activities, the detail and safety of the on shore expeditions. Do note this is polar bear territory and so there are always bear guards around, and scout boats ahead of us before we are allowed on shore. We travel extensively as a family on expeditions ( Africa, Asia) and understand two things- first what a top team can do in terms of making one comfortable in remote distant locations, with limited access to new provision, supplies. This team on the Explorer really was on top from the hotel services, the cruise ship management, the food, the challenge of keeping 100 guests satisfied for 10 days in a remote ( and dangerous) location. Secondly, nature is nature- stuff happens, ice, wildlife danger, weather. That cannot be planned for and most important we felt safe travelling with this team. We are so happy we are going back with them too the Antarctic at the end of this year. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014

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