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Svalbard

Spitsbergen and the Ice Edge

Bowhead Whales and Polar Bears along the edge of the Arctic sea ice

WildWings is able to offer many different options for exploring Spitsbergen (or to give it the correct name of Svalbard as only one of the islands is actually called Spitsbergen), however, this voyage is rather different from a “normal” cruise as the plan is to explore along the Arctic ice edge, potentially reaching 80N, with the objective being to visit an area where up to 100 Bowhead Whales have been seen on previous occasions.

With good chances for Polar Bear, Harp Seal, Hooded Seal, a great range of Arctic birds and possibly even Northern Bottlenose Whale, this trip offer a rare opportunity to see some special wildlife in Europe’s high Arctic.

Please note: WildWings acts as agents for many of the premier expedition ships visiting Svalbard so if you are interested in a different itinerary or travelling on different dates please contact the office to discuss your requirements. We do, however, only offer trips on the vessels we would travel on ourselves.

Tour Dates & Prices

Tue 10th June 2025

Tue 17th June 2025

  • Phone Us to Book

Tour Cost: 8 Days from £3575 * excluding flights

Deposit: £900 Single Supp: £3500* Group Size: 12
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* The price and deposit quoted above is per person for a berth in a quad cabin. The "single supplement" shown is the difference in cost between a single and twin in a twin porthole cabin. Please contact us for full price details if you would like a single.

What's Included?

  • WildWings/Limosa guide assuming sufficient bookings are made
  • Seven night voyage aboard the expedition ship Plancius
  • All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea
  • All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage
  • Use of rubber boots
  • Programme of lectures by naturalists and services of expedition staff
  • Transfers and baggage handling between the airport, hotels and ship for those booking the recommended group flights to and from Longyearbyen
  • All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the programme
  • AECO fees and governmental taxes
  • Comprehensive pre-departure material

Cost Excludes

Any airfare, any pre- and post-voyage arrangements (eg hotel in Longyearbyen), passport and visa expenses, arrival and departure taxes, meals ashore, travel insurance and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar and telecommunication charges, gratuities for stewards and other service personnel aboard

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Notes

CABINS OPTIONS AND PRICES 2025

Cabin grade

  • Quadruple Porthole £3,575
  • Triple Porthole £4,400
  • Twin Porthole £4,975
  • Single Porthole £8,475
  • Twin Window £5,350
  • Single Window £9,100
  • Twin Deluxe £5,725
  • Single Deluxe £9,750
  • Superior £6,450
  • Single Superior £10,975

The Tour Cost is the amount you will pay WildWings.

Despite the end of pandemic restrictions, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.

To keep the process as simple as possible, we are working very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.

Sacha is a highly experienced independent ATOL bonded travel agent, and his contact details are as follows: [email protected] and 01603 360099

He will be able to advise you which flights we are recommending for each holiday and will be able to book these for you.

This will also sometimes give you the option to travel from a regional airport if you prefer.

Please note that for all expedition cruises, WildWings is acting as agent for the ship operator and you will need to sign up to their terms and conditions.

Tour Highlights

  • explore along the Arctic Ice Edge at up to 80N looking for Bowhead Whales, Harp Seal and Hooded Seal
  • great chances for encounters with Polar Bears and Walrus
  • look for Little Auk and Brunnich's Guillemot whilst exploring the amazing Svalbard archipelago
  • zodiac cruise in fjords and see glaciers
  • accompanied by WildWings/Limosa tour leader Chris Collins

Outline Itinerary

  • Arrive Longyearbyen. Board vessel and sail

  • Spitsbergen

  • Explore the ice edge and open water looking for Bowhead Whales and both Hooded and Harp Seals

  • Spitsbergen

  • Disembark after breakfast. Fly home.

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Brunnich's Guillemot © Chris Collins
Brunnich's Guillemot © Chris Collins

WildWings is able to offer many different options for exploring Spitsbergen (or to give it the correct name Svalbard as only one of the islands is actually called Spitsbergen), however, this voyage is rather different from a “normal” cruise to this region, as the plan is to also explore along the Arctic ice edge to the north-west of this amazing Arctic archipelago. Assuming the ice conditions allow, this exciting expedition cruise could potentially reach 80N, with the objective being to visit an area where up to one hundred Bowhead Whales have been seen on previous occasions. There could also be Polar Bear here too, as well as both Harp and Hooded Seals which are unlikely on most standard Spitsbergen voyages.

In the deeper water to the south of the ice edge, there are chances for Northern Bottlenose Whale, however, the cruise will also spend three days exploring various sites on the western side of Spitsbergen with the potential landing options including a visit to a Walrus haul-out, as well as breeding colonies of Little Auk and Brunnich’s Guillemot. There are chances for the beautiful Ivory Gull and (if you are very lucky) Sabine’s Gull, plus colourful Grey Phalaropes and drake King Eiders, alongside breeding Purple Sandpipers, Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese and Snow Buntings.

For those keen on cetaceans, we may find Beluga close to Spitsbergen whilst out at sea, there are chances for the world’s second largest mammal, the mighty Fin Whale.

The voyage should appeal to anyone with a spirit of adventure and who loves wild and remote places and whilst the bird and mammal list may be small, it is certainly very special.

The voyage will be accompanied by WildWings/Limosa tour leader Chris Collins.

For more information about visiting the Arctic, please click here

Ivory Gull © Chris Collins
Ivory Gull © Chris Collins

Day 1: Arrive Longyearbyen, board ship and sail

Our expedition begin in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Spitsbergen (which is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago) and depending on arrival times of our flight, there should be an opportunity to explore around this former mining town.

Board M/V Plancius in the late afternoon and in the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where there are chances to spot the first Northern Minke Whales of the voyage.

Day 2: Smeerenburg and Fuglesangen

After sailing through straits and a fjord, we arrive at Smeerenburg in the late morning where there was an important whaling station in the 17th century. There is often a large Walrus haul-out and there may also be an opportunity to see Harbour Seals on rocky islets.

Later in the day, we hope to land at Fuglesangen, where it is possible to sit quietly next to a colony of hundreds of Little Auks.

In the evening, we plan to make a short landing in Birgerbukta, where Basque whalers had a station and then continue onwards towards Raudfjord.

Day 3: Raudfjorden

Raudfjord has some impressive glacier fronts and this is often a good place to look for Polar Bears and Bearded Seals on the sea ice in the fjord which may still not have fully broken up.

In Hamiltonbukta, we hope to visit a colony of Brünnichs’s Guiillemots before continuing on to Ytre Norskøya, a small island which was used for many years as a lookout point for Dutch whalers. There we can follow their path to the summit of the island. On the shore, there are the remains of 17th century blubber ovens and about 200 graves of whalers and others who perished here.

On the north side of the island, we may be able to look for Atlantic Puffin which can be relatively tricky to find in Svalbard, although we stand a decent chance here as they breed on this island along with a small colony of Kittiwakes.

In the late afternoon, we plan sail northwest for the edge of the pack-ice.

Days 4 – 6: Along the ice edge in search of Bowhead Whales, Seals & Polar Bears

We plan to explore along the outer fringes of the ice edge between approximately 76 N to 80 N where we hope to find Bowhead Whales, Harp Seals, Hooded Seals and Polar Bears. We may also find some migrating seabirds including Little Auks, Brünnich’s Guillemots and Kittiwakes. Although nothing can ever be guaranteed on previous voyages to this area, we have sometimes seen up to hundred Bowhead Whales.

On day six, we are likely to be in more open sea where there are chances for Northern Bottlenose Whales and the first Fin Whales of the season.

Day 7: Bellsund

Bellsund is a fjord system with two major branches (Van Mijenfjord, Van Keulenfjord) and a side bay (Recherchefjord). The geology is fascinating and has created amazing landscapes, such as the long, narrow island of Akseløya that blocks Van Mijenfjord almost completely.

The rich wildlife of the area has attracted hunters throughout the centuries, including English whalers, who also wintered here. We plan to walk in their footsteps and see the remains of their huts. We see often Polar Bears here and there are chances for Beluga. Like on most days of our expedition, however, what we will be able to do will be largely determined by the amount of ice, especially inside the fjords.

Day 8: Disembark in Longyearbyen

You disembark in Longyearbyen after breakfast and there may be time for some further exploring before we head to the airport for our flights home.

PLEASE NOTE: All itineraries are for guidance only. The programme may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. Landings are subject to site availabilities, permissions, and environmental concerns per AECO regulations. Official sailing plans and landing slots are scheduled with AECO prior to the start of the season, but the Expedition Leader determines the final plan. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises.

Bowhead Whale © Chris Collins
Bowhead Whale © Chris Collins

WHAT TO EXPECT

A seven night cruise on the comfortable expedition ship, M/V Plancius (2025), exploring the western side of Spitsbergen and visiting the ice-edge to the NW of the archipelago. The vessel is a comfortable expedition ship and has excellent cabins and passenger facilities.

At many places, we will use the ship’s zodiacs (rubber inflatables) to go ashore and getting in and out of these should not be a problem for anyone with reasonable mobility and there will be staff both on the ship and ashore to assist you.

You will receive a detailed briefing about the use of the zodiacs. If you have any concerns about this aspect of the holiday, please call the office as Chris Collins has spent many years working with zodiacs and can provide more information.

You will also be able to join the full programme of activities/excursions offered by the Expedition Team working on the ship which are all included in the price of the trip.

THE SHIP

M/V Plancius was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy. The ship sailed for the Dutch Navy until June 2004 when it was purchased by Oceanwide Expeditions.

It is Dutch flagged and was completely rebuilt and converted into a passenger vessel in 2009 and fully complies with the latest SOLAS (‘Safety of Life at Sea’) Regulations.

Plancius offers high-quality accommodation for 108 passengers in 50 cabins all with private toilets and showers. There are four quadruple porthole cabins, nine twin porthole cabins, 25 twin cabins with a window and 2 twin deluxe cabins. All cabins offer lower berths (one queen-size bed in the superior cabins and two single beds in the twin cabins), except for the four quadruple cabins (for 4 persons in 2x upper and lower beds).

Please be aware that a small number of cabins on these ships may have a partially obstructed view due to the size of the windows and the design of the ship and some windows, for example, may be partly obstructed in the lower half by a gangway.

The zodiac drivers will take you safely ashore, and also on more leisurely cruises as well, so you will gain an even more intimate and unique perspective of the seabirds and marine mammals in this stunning wilderness. In keeping with the spirit of expedition, dress on board is informal, so bring casual and comfortable clothing for all activities. Keep in mind that much of the scenery is best appreciated from the open decks, which can be slippery, so bring sturdy shoes with non-slip soles, and make sure your parka is never far away in case there is an announcement of “whales” over the PA system and you want to dash outside in a moment’s notice. We recommend opting for layers, as it is comfortably warm aboard the ship though often cold out on deck.

Your physical condition

You must be in good overall health and be able to walk several hours each day. The expedition is ship-based and physically not very demanding, but we spend as much time as possible on shore. You are, however, welcome to remain aboard the ship if you prefer.

To join most excursions you must be able to get up and down the steep gangway, from the ship to the water level, to board the zodiacs. The ship’s staff will assist you in and out of the boats, and boarding will become progressively easier with practice, but conditions on shore can be slippery and rocky.

Remember, you will be travelling in remote areas without access to sophisticated medical facilities, so you must not join this expedition if you have a life-threatening condition or need daily medical treatment.

Tour Gallery

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