Why take just one polar voyage when you can combine two into an activity-filled, wildlife-focused adventure? We’ve joined our East Spitsbergen cruise (emphasizing polar bears and pack ice) with our North Spitsbergen Basecamp cruise (multiple free activities) to make one epic tour of an incredible Arctic island.
Background on Basecamp cruises
Our Basecamp voyages focus on land and near-shore activities with minimal disturbance to local wildlife. If time and conditions permit, the expedition team will also look for wildlife opportunities whenever possible.
By definition, a basecamp is a temporary camp from which expeditions or other outdoor activities can be carried out. During our designated Basecamp cruises, the ship navigates to carefully chosen areas around North Spitsbergen, staying in fewer locations than during our regular trips so that it can serve as a comfortable hub for multiple outdoor activities.
Hikers (H) can embark on vigorous walks in the backcountry, photographers (P) can capture the dramatic surroundings in pictures, and kayakers (K) can explore waterways through which the ship cannot always sail. Passengers who do not wish to engage in these activities can enjoy Zodiac excursions and easy-to-moderate shoreline walks that focus on wildlife.
All activities are free of charge.
Cleaning the shores of Spitsbergen
Interested in doing something good for the enviroment?
We welcome you to participate in our ongoing effort to remove plastic waste and other rubbish from the shores of Spitsbergen.
Garbage from the ocean, such as fishing gear and plastic litter, piles up on these shores. This litter is hazardous to the animals, which get entangled in fish nets and sometimes ingest micro-plastics that can lead to starvation and suffocation.
Supported by AECO and the governor of Spitsbergen, we enjoy cleaning the beaches of Svalbard with our passengers. All participants will be assisted by our guides and provided with collection bags. About 50 passengers will clean in the morning while the other 50 have their excursion in another area. Then in the afternoon, the groups switch roles. And if we cannot clean a certain area because of roaming bears or other concerns, we will find an alternate area.
You touch down in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Enjoy strolling around this former mining town, whose parish church and Svalbard Museum make for fascinating attractions. Though the countryside appears stark, more than a hundred species of plant have been recorded in it. In the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where you might spot the first minke whale of your voyage.
On the first day of our activity program, we will slowly ease into things. Blomstrandhalvøya is located on the northern side of the fjord, which will offer shelter and room to change plan in case the weather changes. In the afternoon, you visit Ny Ålesund, one of the northernmost settlements on Earth. Once a mining village served by the world’s most northerly railway – you can still see its tracks – Ny Ålesund is now a research center.
Close to the community is a breeding ground for barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, and Arctic terns. And if you’re interested in the history of Arctic exploration, visit the anchoring mast used by polar explorers Amundsen and Nobile in their airships, Norge (1926) and Italia (1928). In the evening, we head north along the west coast and spend the night in the sheltered surroundings of Krossfjorden.
Next to our activities, we will next head toward Amsterdamoya, where you have the chance to hike past the remains of a 17th-century whaling station. You can also enjoy the beautiful panorama of Smeerenburgsleta. In the afternoon, we make for the islands around Fair Haven.
At Raudfjorden, on the north coast of Spitsbergen, you can take in an expansive fjord spilling with glaciers – and maybe even visited by ringed and bearded seals. The cliffs and shoreline of this fjord also support thriving seabird colonies, rich vegetation, and the possibility of polar bears. Here we will find the right balance between safe activities and wildlilfe watching.
Depending on the weather, you could sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 5-kilometer-long (3.1 miles) face of Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, we may use an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen. Near the area of Texas Bar and Hornbaekpollen, there are also some great hikes.
This is our reserve day for activities around North Spitsbergen. Weather and wildlife permitting, we will choose the right location for another day of splendid outdoor adventures.
Forlandsundet, between the main island of Spitsbergen and the narrow Prins Karls Forland, is a place of great beauty and fascinating wildlife. Walruses sometimes haul out here, and seabirds can be found around Fuglehuken. You may also see walrus populations around Sarstangen and Poolepynten. Alternatively, we might sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden, landing at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on these cliffs, Arctic foxes search below for fallen eggs and chicks, and reindeer graze the sparse vegetation. We will arrive in Longyearbyen later that night.
Today we arrive in Longyearbyen, typically the endpoint for our Svalbard voyages. But while some passengers will be disembarking, others will have just arrived to join the expedition. Expect to see many new and enthusiastic faces on board.
We start the day by quietly cruising the side fjords of the spectacular Hornsund area in southern Spitsbergen, enjoying the scenery of towering mountain peaks. The mountain of Hornsundtind rises to 1,431 meters (4,695 feet), while the peak of Bautaen testifies to why early Dutch explorers gave this island the name Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains.”
There are 14 magnificent glaciers in the area, and we have a fair chance of encountering seals and polar bears. The nearby cliffs of Sofiakammen are also home to thousands of pairs of nesting kittiwakes and little auks, and in the evening, we might see thousands of harp seals rutting on ice floes at Sørkapp.
We arrive at the southeastern end of Bear Island, a great place for viewing large seabird colonies. The nearby nesting cliffs are part of an extensive nature reserve where large ships are not allowed to bring passengers on shore. Afterward we’ll sail northeast into Sorhamna, where we can get closer to the seabird cliffs. Chiefly Brünnichs guillemots, kittiwakes, and fulmars nest here.
Just north of this, in Kvalrossbukta, we will land and see the remains of a whaling station from early in the previous century. We might also make a landing in a shallow valley, such as Rendalen, and look for (at a safe distance) great skuas, large seabirds known to be fiercely territorial. As we continue north along the east side of Bear Island, we may still encounter dazzling shoals of drift ice.
On the way to Hopen, we may encounter sea ice with rutting harp seals. We land at the southern end of Hopen Island, at Koefoetodden, where you can see the remains of 17th-century whaling sites. Through nearby Bekkeskaret is an easy route to Kvasstoppen (190 meters, 620 feet) and the remains of a plane from World War II. Hopen Radio station is the most remote manned weather station in all of Svalbard.
Sailing along the western side of the Tusenöyane (where we’re not allowed to land in summer), you may see polar bears and walruses as we approach Risetreppen. This beautiful canyon features an accessible kittiwake colony. During our walk, we may encounter reindeer on the lush tundra.
At Ardalstangen, we go on shore in an area with lakes and different species of waterfowl. Nearby in Habenichtbukta, we can look from some distance to a wintering site of 18th-century Pomor trappers, who often stayed for years in the same place. Later in the afternoon, we land at the south side of Russebukta, near a tundra with reindeer and great walking opportunities.
Today we aim to land at the mountain of Stellingfjellet, near the largest colony of Brünnich’s guillemots in Spitsbergen. Later in the day, we will make landings at the rarely visited coast of south Spitsbergen, at the bay of Isbukta.
We continue our voyage in Bell Sund, one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard. The ocean currents make this area slightly warmer than other areas in the archipelago, which shows in the relatively lush vegetation. Here there are excellent opportunities to enjoy both history and wildlife.
One possibility is Ahlstrandhalvøya, at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden, where piles of beluga skeletons can be found. These remains of 19th-century whale slaughter are a haunting reminder of the consequences of rampant exploitation. Fortunately, belugas were not hunted into extinction, and you might even see one here. Alternately, we may land at Millarodden at north side of Bell Sund. Here we can see a walrus haul-out site and possibly make an excursion on the tundra of Ingeborgfjellet, with its thousands of little auks.
Our adventure comes to an end exactly where it started. Today you disembark in Longyearbyen, taking away memories that will accompany you wherever your next journey lies.
All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs 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. The average cruising speed of our vessel is 10.5 knots.
|Ship name||Cabin Name||Price||Sale Price||Departs on||Returns on|
|m/v Ortelius||Quadruple Porthole||$6,900||NA||Jun 25th, 2024||Jul 10th, 2024|
|m/v Ortelius||Triple Porthole||$8,250||NA||Jun 25th, 2024||Jul 10th, 2024|
|m/v Ortelius||Twin Porthole||$9,600||NA||Jun 25th, 2024||Jul 10th, 2024|
|m/v Ortelius||Twin Window||$10,350||NA||Jun 25th, 2024||Jul 10th, 2024|
|m/v Ortelius||Twin Deluxe||$10,950||NA||Jun 25th, 2024||Jul 10th, 2024|
|m/v Ortelius||Superior||$12,500||NA||Jun 25th, 2024||Jul 10th, 2024|