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11 Tromso to Arctic Cruise Reviews

This was our first Silversea cruise, although we have done many cruises on other lines, including an expedition cruise to Antarctica on Ponant. We had originally booked another Ponant cruise, however it was cancelled in December due to ... Read More
This was our first Silversea cruise, although we have done many cruises on other lines, including an expedition cruise to Antarctica on Ponant. We had originally booked another Ponant cruise, however it was cancelled in December due to chartering of the ship, so we booked this after getting a great deal that included business class airfares from Australia. As we had previously done an expedition cruise we compared to that rather than on the larger mainstream lines. Our flight from Oslo to Tromso was delayed, so we arrived at the ship at about 3:30, on a Silversea transfer with about 20 other people. On arrival, we couldn’t get in to the gate,as security was on the gate and they had to wait for a staff member to let us in, we waited for about 10 minutes in light rain, with no cover, not exactly an ideal reception. On entering the ship check in was efficient and we were escorted to our room, a vista suite, first impressions, the room looked old and in need of a refresh, the bathroom was small with very little storage, the shower was large. Our butler introduced himself within 5 minutes, he showed us the room, but didn’t really explain how we could best use his services. We I’d ask for alcohol (although this information wasn’t forthcoming), we didn’t really warm to him, and that seemed to be the consensus of many in our area (mainly Aussies in this part of th ship), our maid was lovely and kept the room clean. We found the food to be generally very good, however I couldn’t get a poached egg cooked correctly the whole time (they always came out too raw), despite me requesting that the white was to be cooked, finally on the second last day, the maître de, organised for them to be cooked perfectly, other than that there was a few dishes we didn’t care for, but that was just personal taste. I longed for a fresh sandwich at lunch and would hav loved the option to make a sandwich if possible, the little dinner rolls just made it to difficult. I dont eat seafood or red meat, but I found something to eat most days, it would hav been nice to have chicken on the menu more regularly. We found the wines average, I finally found a white that i liked ( i prefer an oak Chardonnay) and they just didn’t have anything similar, i found most of the whites quite tart but eventually ordered the Macon Bousseir (?sp) nearly every meal. The expedition staff were great and it was very organised, getting on and off the zodiacs was easy (although not as easy as Ponant), some of the older passengers struggled though. We were disappointed that we weren’t advised about wildlife as promised, there was a pod of orca whales one night that we weren’t aware of. Would i return? It will be based on itinerary and price, I don’t think we would ever be loyal to Silversea, I just dont think they stood out as the 5 star they suggest they are. Service was good not amazing, staff were friendly, the rooms and ship looked old and a little rundown Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
The Roald Amundsen is a beautiful ship, and I greatly enjoyed my cruise from Tromso to Longbyearen. That said, there were a few glitches that Hurtigruten needs to focus on. When I checked in, they had no record of me in the cabin I ... Read More
The Roald Amundsen is a beautiful ship, and I greatly enjoyed my cruise from Tromso to Longbyearen. That said, there were a few glitches that Hurtigruten needs to focus on. When I checked in, they had no record of me in the cabin I purchased ten months earlier. I booked a specific cabin (a suite) because I liked the location on the ship. In the last three months before the cruise, I had at least three conversations with Hurtigruten staff, who all acknowledged I was in the cabin I had chosen. The staff gave me a bigger room with a larger balcony, but that misses the point. What if that larger suite had not been available? Where would they have put me? When a guy books a specific cabin ten months in advance there should be no changes to that cabin without agreement in advance from the passenger. The Lindstrom dining room served great meals, but there was a problem here as well. Suite guests were supposed to be able to eat at Lindstrom every night. After I got checked in, I was told that they just figured out that they could not accommodate all the suite guests in a single, staggered sitting. This is a simple math problem – if you can’t figure out they you cannot accommodate all the suite passengers, then Hurtigruten should not be advertising meals in the Lindstrom dining room every night. So, we were only allowed to have dinner there every other night (half the nights of the cruise). That is a big drawback given the quality of the other dining choices. I felt a bit ripped off by not being able to eat there every night. We did eat breakfast there every morning and those meals and the alternate-day dinners in Lindstrom were all excellent. My compliments to Rona the head waitress, master-of-all. Hurtigruten also advertised that room service was available on the Amundsen from 0700 – 2300. On my first night I called down to get something to eat about 9:30 pm, as my body adjusted to all the time changes. The receptionist indicated that “room service was not available at this moment.” Okay, I said, what “moment” will it be available. I was then told it dining room service was only available during the hours that the restaurants are open. Again, this is at odds with what Hurtigruten was advertising aboard the Amundsen and that should never be the case. A second restaurant on board, also complimentary to suite guests, was the Fredheim. We ate here most nights that we could not eat in Lindstrom. They had a small selection (burgers, fish burgers, dumplings, quesadillas) but all was very good. The third restaurant, where we had a few lunches, was Aune. They had some great halibut one day, and I got a very decent daily salad there, but otherwise the fare left much to be desired. And this is really the only option for non-suite guests to eat, who all paid quite a bit for this cruise. If Hurtigruten wants to be in the luxury cruise business they need to do much better on the food they provide. They did have quite a bit of Asian fare, and all the Chinese aboard seemed satisfied. I have not been on all that many cruises but never in the past have I chosen to eat dinners from a lackluster buffet. Hurtigruten views their cruises as expeditionary cruises, and that is undoubtedly part of the reason they don’t worry about giving everyone a sit-down dinner every night. On my Arctic cruise, they had zodiacs they went out and some guests opted to go out in kayaks. This was all nice but a few bugs in the scheduling. I have been to Antarctica and Greenland on cruises so I am used to having internet outages. But on this cruise, even when we pulled in to Longbyearen on last day, we had to leave our cabins six hours before the buses would take us to our charter flight back and they did not have their internet working all this time that we were sitting around. Strangely, they did not have a working ship-intranet, so even though they told us to look at daily schedules on our TVs, they did not have the technology to provide the daily planners when they were outside of internet range (most of the whole trip). I would also have liked for the Captain to take us closer to glaciers and sea ice. This is a brand new ship built for expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica. We should have been able to pull closer. I have been on much larger ships in Antarctica and Greenland and those ships were able to navigate closer to glaciers. The cabin staff we had was excellent. The dining staff in Lindstrom and Fredheim was topnotch. And Ciselle, head of reception, came through when we needed her most. The Amundsen is a fantastic ship throughout. There is a great sauna with floor to ceiling window looking out at ocean. However, the gym was pretty sparse and should get a couple ellipticals to supplement the few treadmills. We took this cruise to see the rugged beauty of the Arctic and were not disappointed. Our upgraded room could not have been better. Dinners in Lindstrom were excellent, though they had the same menu each night. Hurtigruten needs to work out a few bugs, some major and some minor. I give the overall cruise a B+/A- ; had I not been in a great suite with at least limited access to the Lindstrom dining room this rating would be lower. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We managed to book our cruise/expedition at a very good price due to a late booking, our previous cruise with Scenic Eclipse was cancelled at very short notice. Which was disappointing at the time, but Silverseas have now gained a loyal ... Read More
We managed to book our cruise/expedition at a very good price due to a late booking, our previous cruise with Scenic Eclipse was cancelled at very short notice. Which was disappointing at the time, but Silverseas have now gained a loyal follower! I can't imagine travel on any other line after the great experience that we had. We were met at Oslo and Tromso by Silverseas agents and professionally looked after till we boarded the ship. We had managed to upgrade to a Silver suite on the Silver Cloud, which is, in effect 2 cabins together, so a separate bedroom/dressing room with two shower rooms/toilets. Our butler was efficient, polite and a real gentleman, "Arun" helped to make this trip memorable. With only about 230 passengers, the voyage is made all the more enjoyable as it is possible to meet more people, who are from all over the world, and we met some very lovely people. The food was of an exceptional standard, real fine dining, and the staff on all levels were polite, friendly and knowledgeable. How they manage to remember all our names is a mystery, but they do, The Zodiac trips were well organised with a priority on safety, which is encouraging given the choppy seas at times, and also the land excursions to see the wildlife were also expertly organised, with forward parties going on shore to check out safety i.e.meaning making sure there were no Polar bears loolking for an early meal! It is the first trip we have had in many years, that we were not wanting it to end. Full credit to Silverseas and the ace team that they have working on the Silver Cloud, they made the expedition into one our our most memorable trips.. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
Since my wife and I live 6 months a year on our trawler I am not a huge fan of cruise ships. Did one Royal Carib with family years ago (eh) and one 16 passenger to Galapagos which was superb. Chose Silver Cloud based on Silversea ... Read More
Since my wife and I live 6 months a year on our trawler I am not a huge fan of cruise ships. Did one Royal Carib with family years ago (eh) and one 16 passenger to Galapagos which was superb. Chose Silver Cloud based on Silversea reputation. The good: Cabin was a veranda on deck 7 and nicely appointed. The butler and cabin attendant were superb. There when you needed and nicely anticipated our needs. The food was very, very good. All the restaurants came thru although we did not eat on the grill deck due to cold temps. Overall the ship fit our needs and was in good shape except: The bad: Hot tub were both out of service for the trip. No excuse get them fixed. The really bad. Excursions were way to short and lacking ANY expedition type experience. Frankly they were quite lame. Not the guides, they were very good, but the actual excursions. Essentially in our mind the boat was too big, 240 people, although we had been told only 200 would be on the Arctic cruise. Not enough time to handle the people on and off the boat, not enough kayaks and just not enough excursions. A real disappointment. Will look into other lines for future expedition cruises. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
I had always wanted to go to Svalbard and hopefully see Polar bears, and this cruise did not disappoint!! We flew from Heathrow to Tromso via Oslo and embarked there. Everything went fairly smoothly despite a rushed change of plane. ... Read More
I had always wanted to go to Svalbard and hopefully see Polar bears, and this cruise did not disappoint!! We flew from Heathrow to Tromso via Oslo and embarked there. Everything went fairly smoothly despite a rushed change of plane. This is an expedition cruise and not to be confused with normal cruising. We set sail from Tromso in the evening and in the morning landed near North Cape and were taken up there by bus. From there we cruised the Barents Sea past Bear Island and on to Spitsbergen. We were actually able to circumnavigate Spitsbergen as the ice had pulled back sufficiently to do so. Apparently only a week before, we would not have been able to do this! The ship is really lovely and very luxurious. The ship crew were wonderful, and the expedition team excellent, they could not have been better. We had all our breakfasts and lunches on deck (warmly wrapped up) so that we did not miss anything. The hotel staff were so caring and would bring rugs to anyone who was cold. The food was superb, even managing to keep the Sunday lunches hot while we ate on deck. The dining room was lovely but we really only ate there at night, although even then we had to leave everything and dash up on deck to see whales that had most inconsiderately decided to come close at dinner time! Every evening we had a catch-up meeting in the lounge to go over our day and to explain what we hoped to do the next day. We also had many talks from interesting team members, covering everything from the flowers we would see and the geology of the area to the land animals, marine animals and birds. Yes we saw Polar bears! Many Walrus, a Blue whale and several fin whales. Arctic foxes and thousands of birds. We were off the ship twice a day, either on hikes or Zodiac cruising close to the land. We felt very safe all the time and were looked after really well, we were supplied with waterproof walking wellington boots and parkas, so we did not have to bring those with us. We only visited 2 inhabited towns, Ny Alesund which was very interesting and we heard about the various scientific studies by several countries going on there every summer, and about Roald Amundsen who flew the airship over the North Pole from there. The other town was Longyearbyen from where we disembarked. We had several hours there as our plane back was delayed, but we had a very nice lunch in the hotel and bought more souvenirs in the shops. We were also taken on a tour and visited the museum and the Church. Our return flight with Titan Air was very good and very comfortable. All in all, everything was excellent and I would not hesitate to recommend this ship and this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We have friends who work in the Cruise travel industry. Ponant was portrayed as a luxury cruise small ship company with an expedition theme. We should have had some idea when we first booked that the cruise would not be "smooth" ... Read More
We have friends who work in the Cruise travel industry. Ponant was portrayed as a luxury cruise small ship company with an expedition theme. We should have had some idea when we first booked that the cruise would not be "smooth" sailing because all questions were referred to head office in France and the Sydney staff could not assist us. Day 1 arrived at Orly Airport at 7.30 am - there was no company staffer nor sign assisting us to find the charter flight at Orly Airport despite being reassured by Sydney Office the flight would be listed on Departures Board - it wasn't. Finally when we found check in desk in the basement we stood for 80 minutes waiting to be processed (there were no seats anywhere to be found on this floor). Through no fault of Ponant's our charter flight was delayed but there were no Ponant staff to give us an update or any information such as would it be at the same gate! Orly airport have very few seats at the departure gates so many of us sat on the floor for several hours.The rest I will dot point but its downhill all the way until we arrived safely back in Paris. 1. Arriving in Bergen to meet the ship there was no assistance with luggage from carousel to charter bus, we were not offered water upon our arrival to the bus and couldn't purchase any as Bergen shops wanted the local currency. We were met by some young ladies outside the airport who told us the bus number and take luggage and put it into the luggage hold. Our guide on the bus was a lovely young woman she shared her local knowledge and in particular that is rains in Bergen 360 pus days of the year. Shame Ponant didn't know that! 2. Taken on city tour of Bergen - 3 three times around the town centre and an hour later we were taken to wharf. All 4 buses at the same time arrived at the wharf. 3. Promptly told we had to collect our luggage and take it along the wharf to the ship - at this point we were tired but did as we told without complaint. 4. At the gang plank we had a 45 minute wait in light rain whilst the Captain greeted each of the 220 something passengers. Whilst waiting we were exposed to fumes as the ship was being refuelled and the truck would've been about 5 metres from us. I hoped no one would light up! Still no offer of beverages nor umbrellas and no concern for those of us who were waiting patiently on the dock: dehydrated and nauseous from the fumes and standing in the queue we approached the officer who was controlling the number of passengers on the gang plank and got an apologetic shrug.We got to our cabin at 5.20 pm and told over the loud speaker that the english shore excursions talk would begin in 10 minutes - no rest for the wicked! There was bottled water in our cabin thank goodness! 5. During the entire cruise the onboard staff were rude and unwelcoming. No "Bonjour" greetings. "No! you can't have that wine tonight", "no we've run out of croissants". 6. The cruise was advertised as "Expeditionary " but the first part of the cruise from Bergen to Tromso was not and paid Shore Excursions were on offer but limited numbers. The information session held on the first evening at 5.30pm repeated the information that we had printed out from the website, we were all making notes but despite this the speakers were difficult to understand with their broad accents and we struggled to comprehend what was on offer, there was much confusion amongst the english speaking guests (50 of us) but we bonded really well over this confusion pooled our fragments of information and worked out what to book. The popular excursions were quickly booked out e.g. the kayaking in one of the fjords and you couldn't book all your excursions at once they only opened for bookings for one hour in the early evening about one or two days in advance. No pre cruise booking was available. 7. English Lectures were interesting but whilst out in the field one of the Expedition team described the birdlife in French when he had finished he refused my request to translate the information to English although he had lectured to us in English the day before. One of the french speaking passengers was kind enough to tell me what was said. We found two of the expedition leaders were generous with their information and time and passionate about their work,we became their shadow where possible. Shore Excursions this was part expedition and part shore excursions. 8. Food served a la carte in formal dining room always tepid never hot. Returned it one day but waited 1/2 hr before it arrived back whilst those dining with me had finished their desserts! Didn't do that again. However the Ice Cream served warm 9.. Observation Deck Bar: Don't ask for a beverage before 12.00 noon (it was 11.55 am unaware the bar opened at 12.00) because you will get an unopened can, no glass and thumped down on the coffee table. Except the day the "tip" envelopes were delivered to our cabin - then we were offered a smile and nuts and a cocktail! 10. Departure: again no staff member to supervise the charter flights at the airport in Longyearbyen - flight delayed 1 1/2 hrs or more and when we finally arrived at CDG we discovered that our luggage was mistakenly put on the other charter flight 2 hours behind ours and their luggage was on the carousel in CDG with us! Again no official Ponant staff to speak to, however, as luck would have it, one of the expedition leaders was on our flight, thank goodness, he rang the ship and told us our luggage was on the other charter flight. Needless to say we missed our train to Lille but Ponant did reimburse us the fare. Approx 60 Euros. 11. We wrote to the Sydney Office detailing our issues and disappointment and were offered a 10% discount on a Ponant cruise. Thanks but no thanks Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
A disastrous holiday from start to finish. Charter flight from Orly Aiport was exhausting. One would expect a staff representing Ponant to be at a designated Meeting Place but we were told the flight would be advertised on the Departure ... Read More
A disastrous holiday from start to finish. Charter flight from Orly Aiport was exhausting. One would expect a staff representing Ponant to be at a designated Meeting Place but we were told the flight would be advertised on the Departure Boards with check in details so need for signage or staff - there wasn't any information airport staff weren't sure. We finally found the charter flight check in ( in the basement) by accident. Flight delayed but no information at the gates as to expected time, no seating at the gates - sat on the floor. At our destination we were met by staff taken on a city tour with all 4 buses arriving at the wharf simultaneuosly. No assistnace with luggage, we queued in the rain for 45 minutes as the captain and his hotel manager stood at the top of the gang plank and welcomed each passenger. No regard for us getting wet, no beverages offered and no seating whilst we waited on wharf. Excursion staff and accessibilty to details: Poor Expedition Staff: Rude Waitstaff: Rude in both the dining room and Observation Deck Bar Food: Variety: reasonable Main Dining Room: Food served luke warm Alcohol: Wine of the day - if you preferred the wine served the previous day - "not available tonight" bad luck Organisation of Shore excursions: Chaotic Overall staff never greeted you on approach. They appeared to be disgruntled employees. We have traveeld on many cruise ship lines of various categoriesand have never been treated with such rudeness. Never again Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
If you want to experience the Artic, this cruise and cruising is the best way. We went on the 'Land of the Ice Bear' aboard the Serenissima with Noble Caledonia July 2016 The cruise was amazing. Great bunch of passengers and ... Read More
If you want to experience the Artic, this cruise and cruising is the best way. We went on the 'Land of the Ice Bear' aboard the Serenissima with Noble Caledonia July 2016 The cruise was amazing. Great bunch of passengers and the expedition team lead by Hannah Lawson were 1st class and a wonderful bunch. The crew, mainly Philippinos were equally as good. The service was second to none with nothing too much trouble. The actual itinerary worked well and apart from a couple of rough days at sea sailing to the ice cap, everything went according to plan. We were lucky that we saw a few Polar Bears ;equally the bird life and other wildlife was an amazing experience and the ship's crew always did their best to take us where there were sightings of wildlife. NC supply passengers with thick jackets and insulated boots, which you will need as it is still very cold outside the ship even in summer. I would not recommend this for young children or for people who are not interested in wildlife, however if you are, and enjoy learning about the wildlife, glaciers etc then this is for you. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We took an "Arctic Islands Expedition" trip on FRAM, sailing from Tromso, Norway on May 13, 2016 and finished at Reykyavik, Iceland on May 22nd. In between we had three Zodiac landings (Bear Island, Hornsund, and Jan Mayan) as ... Read More
We took an "Arctic Islands Expedition" trip on FRAM, sailing from Tromso, Norway on May 13, 2016 and finished at Reykyavik, Iceland on May 22nd. In between we had three Zodiac landings (Bear Island, Hornsund, and Jan Mayan) as well as three port dockings at Ny Alesund, Longyearbyen, and Isofordur, the first two were in Svalbard and the third was in Iceland. The scenery was excellent, this goes without saying. There were a bit more than 200 passengers, about 40% are Germans, 30% Norwegians, 25% British, and 10% Americans. Most passengers are quite experienced. In particular, in preparing for the tour I read numerous reviews on CruiseCritic, and noticed that several of them had rather harsh reviews on the ship. We are quite satisfied with the ship and with our cabin (cabin 346, category N, about 140 sq ft and fitted for handicapped access). In comparing with many other cruises we have taken on other cruise lines, we did not find anything close to excessive nickeling-and-diming. Water, coffee, and tea in the dining room are freely available, and good hot cocoa is available round the clock outside the dining room. The food is plentiful - it does become monotonous after a few days but nobody comes abroad for Norwegian cuisine anyhow. All services, from dining staff to expedition team members, are at least functional. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
The cover of the Silverseas brochure features a polar bear and when you book an Arctic cruise that's what you expect to find.Yes, we were privileged to sight a bear or two, but no we didn’t have crowds of bears queueing up on the ... Read More
The cover of the Silverseas brochure features a polar bear and when you book an Arctic cruise that's what you expect to find.Yes, we were privileged to sight a bear or two, but no we didn’t have crowds of bears queueing up on the deck all hours of the night and day. An Arctic cruise is more about the beauty of nature. The wildlife you meet on the way are a special treat. I would like to share a few precious Arctic memories which have enriched our lives. “The essence of our journey was encapsulated on Day Two. We were sitting in the zodiac surrounded by glaciers. “Let’s take a moment to listen to the silence” whispers Franz our guide. We put the present on pause, to exist in this special place in time where only glaciers can bear the brunt of history and gulls soaring overhead shriek with laughter at the funny humans in zodiacs below. Our Professor of Ornithology picks up a chunk of ice from the sea. “Have a taste of history”. We take turns to suck on the eons, zillions of years in a crystallized fossil, the water as fresh as the present, the ice as old as the stone age. That's what this cruise is all about. The privilege of experiencing a precious shrinking world like this with top expeditions leaders who understand and can share this rare beauty so generously with us. The Arctic Circle is defined by the tree line – a place where trees can no longer survive. It’s either snow, rock or tundra. We are cruising in Svalbard, an archipelago with the largest iceshelf in the Arctic. There are great tundra valleys in the centre and ice caps lie to the east. This morning we have a trek on the tundra which begins with a wet landing on the stones of a gravelly beach. We are well prepared thanks to the excellent packing list provided by SILVERSEAS online. Especially about the boots. A happy camper has comfy feet and our BOGS boots are a true blessing. They have perfect waterproof coats and the grip of a polar bear. We hike slowly up the hill, on tundra springy like new carpet. Luck has its way as we catch glimpses of the Arctic fox darting around playing cat and mouse with the deer. He’s the Arctic version of the zebra of the north, adapting his wardrobe according to the seasons - snowy white camouflage in winter, and two tone combination in summer to blend with rock and tundra. He’s difficult to photograph, not still for a moment, those black & white stripes flashing across the tundra, with long bushy tail sailing in the wind. He’s not called the long footed fox for nothing and mischievous like Brer Fox, teasing the poor reindeer trying to graze in peace in the valley. We laugh as swirling terns swoop down and outfox our fox; they circle his den and steal leftover crumbs. Then comes another beautiful sight on the ridge above. Two twisted antlers have slowly appeared as mother deer and daughter have raised their heads from morning tea in perfect pose for a picture. They’re been snacking their way along once icy ledges of slopes now covered in fresh moss of the season. They have an almost human stare with such large melting eyes; cleverly wide set for panoramic vision to allow them to watch out for unfriendly visitors. They’re incredibly bulky and cow-like with layers of fat to warm them for the winter. I’ve no idea how they put on weight with a diet of pure greens. On the downward climb we pass little gardens of arctic flowers in bloom in the shade of the rocks. A whole new world of geology is opened up to us crisscrossed with the crevasses of age. Smooth rocks worn down by centuries of glaciers in stunning patterns of orange and grey. The warm shades of the lichen on rock shine like precious stones, but they’re really algae symbiotic with fungi. When we reach the valley below we ford a tiny stream trickling between a carpet of jade moss. Nature has smiled upon us today with all the joys of spring. Sipping hot chocolate in the bar, we share the highlights of the day frozen in memory in I-Phones and cameras. I jot notes from fellow guests and friends to compare with “cruise critic”. Aren’t we all waiting to see that polar bear? True we all agree, but there’s so much more we didn’t expect to see. “We are truly privileged” says Anne, “to experience this pristine wilderness before it all disappears”. For me, it’s a sheer joy to breathe fresh air in deep and gaze out to a horizon that never seems to end. Our photos are better than we ever imagined. We share perfect images of “Kittiwakes” standing barefoot on ice. The light is magic here. Everything is so clearly defined, so even an amateur photographer like myself might churn out the pictures of a champ. Walruses are on the menu for Sunday afternoon. We zodiac ashore to see a gang of these Arctic relics who had swum to land for a spot of siesta. We smelt them as we approached the beach. A colony lay snoozing together in a heap on the sand like beached whales. They certainly cannot compete with George Clooney in the looks department. Each is rumpled portrait of buck teeth, whiskers, deep scars and blood shot eyes. And all sunbaking belly up! Who could imagine that these giant creatures are so sociable, all cuddled up on top of each other? The quiet is only broken by the occasional grunt when someone gives a good back scratch to the neighbour with a handy rear flipper. Back in the boat, Juan our Expeditions Leader, laughs ‘Many wrinkles allow for further girth expansion.’ That's kind of how we felt squeezing into our gear every day. Sampling the delights of the cuisine on board could possibly lead to a final version of a walrus within a few weeks! No cruise critique is complete without a word about the food. How can one possibly squeeze in three massive meals a day, when we’re so busy with outings twice daily in zodiac or on land. Only in the world of the midnight sun where time can be maximised in relentless hours of light. There can’t be anything more delightfully decadent than feasting on scones, jam and cream as the icebergs drift gently past your window. That was afternoon tea. Dinner.. well, not exactly “under the stars”. More like “under the sun.” But not Tuscan. And more light than sun. Silver Explorer offers a very cool “Hot Rock Barbeque” on the upper deck in frozen light. It’s Day Five and we’ve reached the Sea Ice. Perhaps not the warmest night to choose the ‘Hot Rocks but the best part is that we don’t have to dress for dinner. We huddle at the one surviving sheltered corner table in hooded parka and waterproof pants. The only ones to brave the cold tonight along with a hardy Swiss couple who seem oblivious to the biting wind roaring past our faces. The main challenge is to remove hands from warm gloves in order to cut the meat .The chunky slices are unable to decide whether to melt or freeze. It’s a bit like eating a melting ice-cream in reverse. Not a dining experience one would forget in a hurry. .. I pictured myself as a polar bear in this highly unpredictable environment. The word Arctic comes from the Greek word “Arcticus” which means Kingdom of the Bear. This iconic symbol of the north is embedded in our psyche as a symbol of cold. My mind is on him as I shiver over my supper. Day Six: We are 1,012 kms south of the North Pole and north of Spitsbergen. The strengthened hull of the Silver Explorer cuts through the ice with a grinding crunch and the view of the ice floes sailing past my cabin is brilliant. The entire team of eight Silverseas Expedition Leaders, marine biologists, glaciologists are on the bridge in top gear on the polar look out. We are in prime conditions. The pack ice has thickened enough for the polar bear to walk on, A lone seal appears ahead perched on an ice floe surveying his surroundings like the warm up band before the star of the show appears. The ice has formed the right kind of frozen platform for a bear to pounce on his prey. We are lined up on deck like an army of red and white soldiers in our arctic uniforms, binoculars fixated on the horizon, cameras ready in focus, listening out for an announcement by the captain when the star is to appear. “Quick! Focus your lens on two o'çlock” says Kit, our marine biologist excitedly. He’s out there, just to the right of that island. I freeze my fingers off in the struggle to master my new fancy binoculars. The minute I focus exactly on the bear, he moves. But he’s closer and adrenalin is racing. Now I see him! He clambers out of the water, rolls into an easy half somersault on the ice to shake excess water from his fur, and finally stands up to face his audience. His antics are hilarious. Black rimmed eyes stare straight at my lens. As if to say “what on earth are you doing here in my domain?”” I am in heaven. Then he moves. So in tune with his environment, nose in the air as he pads along the ice, one elbow in front of the other, on his way to the next victim of prey. Alone in his glacial world. The sheer ice carpet is the backdrop to his ever shrinking home. Then as suddenly as he faces us, he turns back and sinks behind the rock. But that’s only the first round of the show, ladies & gentlemen, until our appetiser is served. Just as we take the first spoonful from our steaming bowls of soup, the captain makes his second announcement. “The polar bear has stood up and is walking towards the ship!” There’s a stampede from the dining room, grabbing parkas, gloves & hats on the run. An eleven year old boy travelling with his grandparents lets out a hoot of sheer delight. Our bear is much closer now. When he finally stands up and moves from his lair, tears of joy spring to my eyes. Visible to the naked eye, we watch as he prowls carefully across the ice like a graceful ballerina, bulky yet steady, king of his Universe. He typically moves slowly, not wanting to heat up too much as it’s only minus 5 today. He’s been lying down on the ice to cool off and is now back on the hunt. In the presence of such majesty we are dwarfed as human beings. He stalks along with the dignified rump of a lord. Walks, sniffs and then waits with patience and stealth for seals to come up for breath. He needs 40 or 50 seals a year, and has all the time in the world to wait. And so have I as I watch how he moves. He’s top dog here and no one can challenge him. It’s a juggle between I-phone and camera, as he gets bigger and bigger. I just can’t get enough of him. And now he stares at me again, his black searching eyes right into my lens. The captain is careful for us not to overstay our welcome. To snatch a glimpse of this majestic animal on ice is to capture a unique moment in history, frozen in time. So most unfortunately are my fingers. Oh that I had fur growing on my paws like the bear! But it’s worth the ice and the wind, the frost and the fear, for one clear raw gaze of this magnificent creature. We are so privileged and fortunate to catch a glimpse of his world. Alas fast melting before our eyes. And now many months later I still feel that polar stare. Sea ice is dynamic and the next day the ice zone is too packed for us to sail back. But maybe we have gained more than just a sight of a polar bear. Maybe the thrill of such a privilege to view this starkly beautiful wilderness will help us refocus our lives to preserve one of the few remaining gifts of nature on this planet. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
It was much trepidation that we booked this Silverseas cruise in the Arctic. Marketing and brochures were fantastic. We arrived in Tromso. Tried boarding the ship, but first hurdle was a harbour security officer who overstepped the ... Read More
It was much trepidation that we booked this Silverseas cruise in the Arctic. Marketing and brochures were fantastic. We arrived in Tromso. Tried boarding the ship, but first hurdle was a harbour security officer who overstepped the boundaries by telling us to stand back. No Silverseas person in sight. Not the greatest start. We walked up the gangway. First impressions were terrible. It smelt terrible, felt like a car ferry, smelt of damp, very worn features. cables dangled on a wall, pen had to be found at check in. Yes - it is an old ship, BUT we paid an enormous amount. It was sold as a top end product, but it wasn't. We knew the ship is old, but this was bad ... we had no idea what we let ourselves in for. Arrived at our "view" cabin. Windows not just dirty, but filthy. Butler did not arrive for hours. Lots of apologies when she did arrive. Ship itself: POORLY maintained: sand in the Jacuzzi (in the Arctic?), lots of broken light bulbs, very blunt décor inside, lots of rust everywhere Food: Bland, uninspired. REALLY cheap products such as cold cuts. They were like dried up carpet glue. On another occasion Foie Gras was served. Well, it was green foie gras. We were in the Arctic, but NO glacier ice for cocktails until we asked. So it was available for one evening only. Very bad, not an experience of a life-time. Crew & Staff: Never saw the captain, except at the cocktail party. No social engagement with scientists at times other than the landings. Noticed head chef starting drinking at one of the bars from before noon on several occasions. Could hardly believe it. Landings: Too many birds, far too many birds. Also some purple sprouting grass. However, we had one excellent encounter with a polar bear. Luck. There was a "riot" on the ship, because we did not see a lot. The captain decided to go back into the ice. It was too late, especially since we arrived at the permanent ice at around 1 am in the morning. No announcements. Only the lucky one's who stayed up late saw it. Ambience: There wasn't any. Terrible public spaces. Best area was the smokers room. Table cloth were never straight or ironed. Just felt unloved. Disembarkation: DISASTER - we anchored in the bay, a German cruise ship was docked. Our luggage was winged over the side in a net into zodiacs. We disembarked in our travel cloth via Zodiac. Not classy or comfortable at all. Pros: Maitre d' was a star and so was head bar tender Cons: UTTERLY overpriced, very poorly maintained ship interior ... an unloved product that is not worth the money Silverseas is asking for. Raised our complaints with the hotel manager, but he did not have an answer. However, he promised us preferential seats on the Silverseas charter flight back to Oslo. At check in no one knew about. How bad is this? We like Seabourn, oh my god - it could not be further away from Seabourn despite the price tag. Top Tip: AVOID SILVERSEAS - Book somewhere else, it ain't worth it. Just terrible in every way. You were warned. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014

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