Trip Reviews - Around Spitsbergen Sailing Voyages

From start to finish our adventure in Svalbard during July, August 2019 was a wonderful experience. It was everything we had anticipated and more.

Thanks to the friendly, polite and knowledgeable Aqua-Firma team for their patience during our early conversations when booking (we usually do everything, including sailing a boat, ourselves and sometimes we find it tricky to rely on others) for being amazingly well organised and thorough in preparation and for giving helpful and accurate guidance about flight travel.  No detail was missed, the itinerary was logically presented and the whole trip went without a hitch. 

Aboard the vessel we reeled from one inspiring location to another. We couldn't circumnavigate Spitsbergen due to the ice not retreating far enough, but we didn't feel even slightly disappointed. We were too distracted by the whales, the walruses, the foxes; too busy lying in the sunshine watching little auks, climbing onto glaciers, witnessing huge chunks of ice plummet into the sea as the glacier calved; too engaged in observing the polar bears on three separate occasions, twice we watched a bear swimming and hauling out onto the shoreline to scavenge for bird eggs. And then there was the scenery, the geology, the long walks over tricky terrain, the history and a 'first' as we drank hot chocolate to mark our arrival at 80 degrees North.

Passengers and crew gelled well together, with a true sense of camaraderie, in some cases building what I'm sure will turn out to be lasting friendships. The crew prioritised safety and comfort, balancing professionalism and efficiency whilst being welcoming and friendly; nothing was a problem and they were clearly as excited as we were by the wildlife! The meals were excellent: plenty of good food; well presented and varied.

Our expedition leader, Phil, was second to none. So very knowledgable and informative about all things Arctic, he had an almost Doctor Doolittle approach when observing the animals. He knew where they were and knew exactly how we should behave in their presence to get the best of the experience and of course the memorable photos. Phil never tired of our questions and clearly loved his work.

If you're looking for a 5 star luxury cruise then this is probably not for you, but if it's a 5 star interactive wildlife experience I highly recommend it.

Gwynneth & Paul

Too many WOW! factors to mention - seeing a mother polar bear and her two cubs being pursued by a male and watching her outwit him by leaving the cubs on a snow patch, doubling back, retracing her steps to collect the cubs and then swimming near the boat with them. He tracked her every step but she did escape to safety! Seeing fin whales and, later on, a humpback whale (not often seen near Svalbard) who entertained us with about ten minutes of tail splashing! Totally unexpected. Watching guillemot chicks launch themselves from the cliffs and gliding to the sea - and the gulls and foxes waiting for the unfortunate ones who don't make it. Seeing fresh bear tracks! The last night dinner and celebration - what a surprise.

It far exceeded our expectations. All information provided re the holiday was clear and answers promptly given to any queries raised. There was something for everyone in this holiday. A mixed bunch of people who became friends by sharing our knowledge and experiences re sailing, photography, plants, birds, animals - we all learnt so much. Dan, our guide, knew the answers to all our questions (or had a book on him to refer to!), he gave us detailed insights to the history and geology of the area and lots more. The crew of the ship were helpful, friendly and totally competent with regard to the sailing of the ship and dealing with us. Anna, the cook, was excellent! Being vegetarian, I was amazed at the variety of delicious meals she produced for me - just how did she do it? We wanted to bring her home with us. Fantastic! Brilliant!

Julie Davis

What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Watching a polar bear unsuccessfully hunting a seal, and then watching the seal taunt the polar bear by swimming and splashing behind it.  Seeing blue whales was pretty amazing too.

How would you rate your holiday overall?
Absolutely superb.  I can't speak highly enough of all the crew, and particular mention for the leader who is an inspirational and knowledgeable guide. 

Trip rating: 5 out of 5

Dr Justin Watts, London

The boat and the crew were fantastic and we had a great time. We saw a lot of fabulous wildlife including spending a lot of time spotting glaciers, seals and walrus from land and the ship.

Samantha Ross

It was a magical adventure overall. Excellent food, brilliant crew & guide, Great companionship (after 2 weeks in such an enclosed space together you do build up a great camaraderie) and a wonderful location aboard a most glorious vessel.  It was 10/10 and I would recommend it to anyone.

Keith Brignell

It was a fantastic trip which we all enjoyed immensely - a great group, I think we all got on rather well!

Richard Escott

The area was truly another world.  The ship was fine and more or less what we expected having done a different sailing ship trip before.  The crew were excellent.

John Goodspeed

I think that everyday has been a memorable one! We saw such wonderful landscapes and animals. In particular I remember our 2 landings in the Recherchefjord. The night before it snowed and the scenery was just breathtaking. We walked for about 20 minutes to reach the glacier that was lying in front of us and behind some low hills we suddenly discovered a huge lagoon that was collecting some incredible pieces of ice from the glacier. And then our 4th (yes 4th) polar bear appeared. She lazily walked along the shore, looked at us and then elegantly went into the water to swim towards the glacier. An experience to recommend and to re-experience.

A. Cozza

Simply stunning. Quite the most inspiring holiday I have ever been on. I would recommend it to anyone. Finding a land without paths; experiencing the silence and utter beauty of Svalbard; seeing wildlife I had never dreamt of and meeting some very special people.

Jane Mackay

Arctic Sailing in Spitsbergen

  • Svalbard Reindeer - David Slater
  • Puffin in Spitsbergen - Jordi Plana
  • Sailing in Spitsbergen
  • Arctic Fox cubs in Spitsbergen - Jordi Plana
  • Red Throated Grebe in Spitsbergen - David Slater
  • Sailing in Spitsbergen with Aqua-Firma - Charlotte Caffrey
  • Walrus in Spitsbergen - Jordi Plana
  • Zodiac cruising in Spitsbergen - Sandra Petrowitz
  • Brunnichs Guillemots in Spitsbergen - Ralph Pannell
  • Polar Bear in Spitsbergen - Sally Attree
  • Spitsbergen - Land of the Pointed Mountains - Jim & Sarah Kier
  • Sailing in Spitsbergen with Aqua-Firma - David Slater
  • Walrus in Spitsbergen - Richard Escott
  • Spitsbergen in summer - Jordi Plana
  • Arctic Skua in Spitsbergen - David Slater
  • Seal in Spitsbergen - Jordi Plana
  • Fin Whale in Spitsbergen - Josh Harrison
  • Beluga Whales in Spitsbergen - David Slater
  • Sailing in Kongsfjorden, Spitsbergen - Jan Belgers
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