Trip Reviews: North Spitsbergen & Beyond Arctic Wilderness Voyages

Words are pitifully insufficient to describe this amazing holiday but I will have a go! We hope to pop in your offices some time soon. We will still be buzzing!!!

This spectacular holiday exceeded all our expectations! After a very interesting stay in Longyearbyen in the delightful Trapper Base Camp, we boarded the Ortelius which was to be our home for a week. From the outset, superb planning and efficiency ensured that we were able to optimise every opportunity to observe wildlife and breathtaking scenery.

Indeed, we had barely left the dock before the call "Whales" was announced! All of the staff, without exception, were friendly, courteous and helpful and prioritised the safety and comfort of guests in all situations. We soon became one very big 'family'!

The flexibility of the captain, crew and staff meant that plans could be rearranged to accommodate passing Beluga whales and polar bears etc. There was always a plan A...B...C...D...! The entire ship was made accessible to guests which meant that viewing could be done from the bridge until venturing outside became irresistible! When the ship was making progress to a new area, excellent lectures were provided by members of the team who all had specialist subjects and skills. These were informative, humorous, entertaining and translated into other languages as necessary. The team members made it clear that they were happy to chat with guests at any time so were a constant source of information.

On the very exciting Zodiac excursions, passenger safety was evident and provision for young, old and less agile passengers was offered in a very sensitive manner.

The comfort and cleanliness of the ship was of an excellent standard in cabins and shared areas. As for the food provided...Wow!!!! A fabulous choice of superbly cooked dishes at every meal catered for all tastes and served by courteous waiting staff.

It is hard to choose a trip highlight as there were so many! I suppose the number of polar bears in close proximity to the ship has to be number one though. We never imagined we could view these magnificent animals so closely. Their welfare too was respected by the ship's captain and crew which is probably why the number and condition of the polar bears is steadily improving.

A barbecue on deck at closest point to the North Pole and a night surrounded by ice with engines turned off were other unforgettable moments! Superb value! Highly recommended! Thank you so much!

Dr J and Mrs J Tisdale

The trip was amazing, from start to finish, and we both had a fantastic time. We met quite a few other Aqua-Firma clients too... all of the other passengers aboard that we spoke to were all lovely.

In terms of the location it was just fantastic to be so far up North. We enjoyed Longyearbyen very much; the Midnight sun was a wonderful phenomenon to experience.

On the voyage - which was incredibly well organised with a superb crew and tour-guide team, we encountered Polar Bears up close - wow. The nearest was literally at the side of the ship and I have lost count of the number we came across altogether. We were also lucky enough to see a Blue Whale, the very rare Bowhead Whale, Minke and Beluga, as well as bearded and rings seals, walrus, the Arctic Fox (Several of them) and an amazing array of birdlife. I came back with 1,500 plus pictures and have spent the last two days sorting through them all! I'll send some photos through to you in the next day or two.

All that remains now is to try and figure out where to go next! Thanks for all your help!

Peter Butler

The North Spitsbergen Polar Bear Special Voyage was just that - "special". Keith and I saw 29 species of birds, blue whale (8), beluga whale (@10), Humpback whales, Bowhead whale (1) - very special that was too - good views, Minke whale, and Ringed seal, bearded seal, Harp seal, Harbour seal, and 30+ Walrus, reindeer, Arctic fox (when docking in Longyearbyen! Some saw it elsewhere as well).

Oh, and yes Polar Bear (4), two of which came right up to the ship. The photographs were excellent, and I will send some through just as soon as I have finished editing down 850+to a more manageable number!

The ship's crew and the expedition staff were excellent, efficient, helpful, and friendly...including the ship's doctor. Rinie knows everything about everything and was an excellent Expedition Leader. The Captain and bridge crew were very welcoming too. We slept in pack ice at 81 degrees, 23.943 minutes north.

All in all and excellent voyage

S Swan & K Miller

The trip was absolutely amazing from start to finish and delivered on the wildlife, the views and the Arctic experience!! We were so lucky with Blue, Fin, Minke and Humpback Whales - one night we were out on deck until 2am watching a humpback literally playing around the boat. We had polar bears and her cubs, walrus and the seals - the dive with them was fantastic!! The boat was really comfortable and the crew were outstanding - they really added to the trip and made it all the more special with their knowledge, expertise and dedication.

Fiona Widnall

We had an unforgettable trip on Ortelius. It was everything and more than expected. Lots of polar bears, some very close to the ship; walrus; blue whale; very, very rare sighting of bow head whale; beluga whale; minke whale; arctic fox; loads of birdlife; breathtaking scenery; excellent off ship trips. The ship was excellent with staff and crew to match.

I think you have got this one nailed!

James Woodburn

What a holiday! It exceeded our expectations in every way....

The travelling went so smoothly for us with no delays and all your personalised information helped us prepare so well for the voyage.
The ships company looked after us so well and kept us informed on what was going on. The Expedition team were excellent and never seemed tire of answering our questions or ensuring our needs were met. We were delighted to see the wildlife and had several good polar bear sightings. The bowhead whale was something special as were the belugas and the glaciers. All of it was awesome, amazing and beautiful.

I have been visiting Norway for 42 years ....and have visited many special places and had the pleasure of trying out new and exciting experiences but this holiday topped the lot!

We are still sorting out pictures and see we have hundreds of the ice floes but I have included two, one of my favourite polar bear pics off my phone and one of me and Clive enjoying ourselves just so you know what we look like. By the way we met so many new friends and already stories are flying between us on Facebook reliving the moments.

Thanks for helping make it happen.

Liz and Clive

We had a truly wonderful trip... The ship was very good with comfy cabins, excellent food and hospitality and almost complete access to the bridge where the ship's officers & crew entered into the spirit of the adventure. The exploration guides were superb and delightfully enthusiastic. We did the itinerary in reverse, going straight north into the pack ice for 3 days before going along the coast for the remaining 3 days. Our wildlife experience was absolutely beyond our expectations with 9 bears, 6 different species of whale, Arctic Fox, superb bird sightings including visits to a Brunnich's guillemot cliff (60,000 pairs) and a scree slope full of little auk... All in all, a fantastic experience which I would heartily recommend to any adventurous person with an interest in dramatic scenery and wildlife. Attached are a few of the several hundred photos we took We have hundreds of photos of polar bears!

Malcolm & Elise Ross

The trip was amazing. Had some amazing sightings of polar bears, especially the polar bear with a seal. It was also good to see the Walrus, Arctic fox, reindeer and Beluga whales. Pretty much everything I was hoping to see. Food was really good. I was expecting the basics but got good quality food. Staff were great and met some nice guests as well.

Chris Prestt

We had an amazing trip thank you! We saw 9 polar bears, blue whales, humpbacks, belugas and even a rare bowhead! We loved going and sitting in a Little Auk colony with the birds flying over our heads. We got to see a glacier calving and a couple of the bears came right up to the ship!

Thanks so much for all your help organising the trip for us, you were really great! We've attached some of our photos :)

Ash-Lynn and Philip Ryan

We had a fantastic time, thank you for arranging it. The highlight of the voyage was definitely when some Polar bears came to investigate the boat. Other fantastic moments were seeing an Arctic fox carrying dinner home and seeing Walrus lazing on the beach. We also saw whales (including Beluga), seals and plenty of birds. We now have hundreds of photos to sort through!

The kayaking trip was also excellent and we were very happy with the guide that took us out. Thanks again and I would happily recommend Aqua Firma to friends and family. Many thanks.

Sally White

We had an absolutely fantastic time and I was going to email you when I had a moment to sit down! We have thousands of photos and we will send you some when we have had time to download them and go through them. Antarctica next!! Thanks for all help and we'll be in touch.

J & A Murray

All safely home after a wonderful trip. We saw lots - several Polar bears (some pairs, some single, and a couple came right up to the ship), a Bowhead Whale, an Arctic Fox, a large clump of Walruses, 10 Beluga Whales, and lots of birds (Little Auks, Guillemots, Northern Fulmars, Glaucous and Ivory Gulls, Ptarmigan, a couple of Puffin). There was a Ringed Plover which had a long rest on the helicopter landing area of the ship. ...All in all a wonderful experience. Now all I have to do is sort though the 4000 photos I took... (I'll send you some when I've done them) Many thanks.

S Reap & B Parnaby

The trip was incredible. Mum and I had a wonderful time. The ship and crew were great. We saw in total 6 (yes, 6!) polar bears. A mum and two cubs and a breeding pair (very unusual we were told) and a lone male. Amazing!

We saw a couple of seals, a haul out of walrus, an ivory gull, a few thousand guillemots and 4 arctic foxes.


Susanna Alwen

Just to say what a super trip we had aboard the Ortelius last week. We saw everything we wanted and more. The guides/lectures were also good and the food was excellent too!! Many thanks

Allan Conlin

The most memorable part of the voyage was seeing polar bears, walruses and whales. Especially seeing a rare Bowhead whale whilst moving through the pack ice. Overall the holiday was excellent...some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend

Mr P Smart

I have had many a joyous holiday but my polar bear trip topped them all. For me, seeing the polar bear in the wild was a lifetime ambition and the holiday exceeded all expectations…we have a large picture gallery area in our house and soon it will have my favourite polar bear on canvas taking pride of place. Thank you for helping us have a most memorable holiday. The memories are priceless

Liz Watson, UK

"Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!...

Thank you so much for persuading me to join this polar bear trip. It was absolutely fantastic. We were lucky enough to see a polar bear kill a large seal...then another 2 bears in and out the sea onto the ice edge. The people onboard also made it such a good expedition - crew and fellow passengers alike!

Thank you so much again!

Megan Bower, West Yorkshire

Small Ship Voyages to Spitsbergen (Svalbard)

  • Walrus at Aroneset, Spitsbergen - Jen Squire
  • Ivory Gull in Spitsbergen - Chris Dobbs
  • Zodiac Cruising in Spitsbergen
  • Little Auk in Spitsbergen - Ralph Pannell
  • Cruising through Pack Ice - Bjoern Koth
  • Polar Bear in Spitsbergen - Stuart Ward
  • Polar Bear in Spitsbergen - Michelle Pink
  • Walrus in Spitsbergen - Jordi Plana
  • Svalbard Reindeer - David Slater
  • Humpback Whale in Spitsbergen - Sandra Petrowitz
  • Arctic Fox Family - Ingrid Morris
  • Polar Bear in Spitsbergen - Jim & Sarah Kier
  • Spitsbergen, Land of the Pointed Mountains - David Slater
  • Successful Polar Bear Hunt - Bjoern Koth
  • Ringed Seal in Spitsbergen - Paul Ashton
  • Arctic Photography - Ralph Pannell
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