Welcome explorer! If you’re interested in visiting Svalbard then you have come to the right place. Svalbard is one of our favourite places in the Arctic to explore because of its breathtaking scenery, 24-hour sunlight and diverse wildlife.
We have compiled this page with lots of firsthand knowledge to help you plan your cruise to Svalbard. If you have any questions or need any advice please get in touch. We are more than happy to help.
Frozen Svalbard Cruise
8 days – April 2021, 2022
This cruise takes us on a journey to witness the polar wilderness of Svalbard as it awakens from the winter and is transformed by spring. Early in the season, the snowy landscapes have yet to thaw. The shorelines are often still covered in snow. Sea ice from the long winters can still be seen in some of the fjords. Our route weaves along the north-west coast of Spitsbergen taking in this magical frozen wonderland from the safety, warmth and comfort of expedition vessel Togo. It’s perfect for photography and for those looking to witness Svalbard at its most beautiful.
Natural Wonders of Svalbard Expedition Micro Cruise
9 days – May, June, July, August 2021, 2022
A cruise to the north coast to witness Svalbard’s natural wonders and wildlife. As the 24-hour daylight arrives the sea ice to the north of Svalbard recedes, opening up places that a short time ago were inaccessible. The focus of this cruise is on exploring nature and we will encounter glaciers, visit wildlife colonies and cruise coasts where polar bears are known to roam. Our expedition vessel is equipped with Zodiac landing craft and shore landings to do short wilderness hikes and visit places of historical interest are all part of the adventure.
Svalbard Pioneer Expedition Micro Cruise – A Circumnavigation of Spitsbergen
14 days – July 2021, 2022
In the height of the summer months, the sea ice opens up further making it possible to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, Svalbard’s largest island. This 14-day cruise allows us enough time to do a thorough exploration of the Svalbard archipelago. We will get off the map and visit some of the less explored places with our expedition leader. We will do shore landings on a regular basis to visit areas of natural and historical interest. Due to its length, this trip offers the best chances of encountering polar bears and other wildlife. This cruise is ideal for people looking to see as much of Svalbard as possible.
Bear Island and Svalbard Explorer
10 days – April 2021, 2022
Join us on an exciting and adventurous voyage to explore the remote and seldom visited Bear Island. Situated between mainland Norway and Svalbard, Bear Island is the most southerly island in the Svalbard archipelago famed for its sheer bird cliffs and unusual human history. Departing from Tromso, mainland Norway, we will cross the Barents sea and spend 3 days exploring Bear Island where very few have stepped ashore. We then sail to Svalbard and spend a further 3 days exploring the southern coast before arriving in Longyearbyen.
Svalbard Photography Cruises
We offer a range of photography cruises to Svalbard that follow similar routes to our expedition cruises. Our photography cruises allow more time in the schedule to focus on photography and are led by a world-class photographer with experience in Svalbard. There are optional workshops and feedback sessions on board to help photographers learn new skills and improve their technique during the cruise.
Whilst the trip is focussed on searching for photography opportunities, non-photographers are more than welcome to join. Alongside the photography leader, there is an expedition guide on board so the group can be split.
Highlights of a Cruise to Svalbard
We get asked a lot what are the top reasons to visit Svalbard? Here is our favourite 3.
1. Glaciers and Ice
Svalbard is home to over 2,000 glaciers. If you are interested in glaciers Svalbard is one of the best places on earth to witness their raw beauty. As the earth’s atmosphere warms, the majority of Svalbard’s glaciers are in retreat. Watching as huge pieces of ice crack and fall off glaciers faces is an awe-inspiring experience, and also a stark reminder to the warming of the Arctic. Small expedition vessels offer the perfect opportunity to get up close to glaciers. If conditions allow, a cruise in a zodiac landing craft is the perfect opportunity to get close to the ice and take some brilliant photos.
2. Abundant Wildlife and Nature
Most people visit Svalbard to experience the beauty of Svalbard’s nature firsthand. From stunning landscapes to an abundance of wildlife, Svalbard has a lot to offer the keen explorer looking to get close to nature. On our expedition micro cruises, we regularly encounter a variety of wildlife, both in the water and on the land including polar bears. Small group sizes ensure we cause minimal disturbance when exploring the shore. Smaller vessels create less disturbance in the water than their larger cruise ship counterparts making them ideal for getting close to nature.
3. Human History and Settlements
Svalbard is scattered with the remains of human history and a part of every expedition micro cruise is exploring its past. From the world’s most northerly scientific settlement at Ny-Ålesund to the abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden, Svalbard is full of interesting human history. On our Expedition Micro Cruises, we visit a handful of different sites with our onboard expert guide.
Top 3 Animals to Spot on a Wildlife Cruise to Svalbard
1. Polar Bear
3,000 plus polar bears call Svalbard their home and it is one of the world’s top destinations for seeing the apex predator of the Arctic. Polar bears are dangerous to encounter on land and the safest way to view them is from a small expedition vessel. During the summer months, polar bears are commonly sighted on the north-west coast of Spitsbergen, Svalbard’s largest island, and hunting on the sea ice to the north. Small expedition vessels regularly encounter polar bears although sightings can never be guaranteed.
An estimated 4,000 walruses live in Svalbard with several hauls out sites that can be visited on a micro expedition cruise. During the shore landings, Walruses can be observed on the beaches from a safe distance. Walruses are also seen from expedition vessels lying on ice flows and swimming in the waters around Svalbard.
3. Svalbard Reindeer
Svalbard has its own subspecies of reindeer found nowhere else on the planet. Svalbard Reindeer have adapted to survive the harsh winters and are smaller than reindeer found elsewhere. The reindeer have lived on Svalbard for over 5000 years. They can be spotted all over the archipelago and inhabit the non-glaciated areas. Overhunting during the 19th and 20th century decimated to the population to the point of near extinction. Today they are easily spotted along the coast.
Svalbard Expedition Cruise Video
Ask A Question
Svalbard Cruise Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time of year to take a cruise to Svalbard?
The cruising season in Svalbard starts in late April and finishes in late September / early October. Before April the sea ice restricts the coastline and many places are inaccessible and after September the light hours reduce as the winter approaches.
Each month of the cruising season offers something different and depending on when you visit can be a totally different experience.
In April and early May the landscapes and shores of Svalbard are still covered in snow making it a scenic paradise and ideal for photography. During these months cruises are shorter as access to the north coast can still be restricted due to the sea ice. Please see our Frozen Svalbard Cruise to find out more.
As the 24-hour daylight arrives, the coast to the north of Svalbard opens up making longer cruises possible. Cruises from mid-May through to the end of June can explore the northern shores which are a great place to spot polar bears. With constant daylight cruises during this period are ideal for wildlife watching. Please see our Wildlife and Natural Wonders of Svalbard Cruise for more information.
In July and August the summer has finally arrived. The sea ice has retreated further north and in most years it is possible to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Our Svalbard Pioneer Cruise is ideal for getting off the beaten track and seeing the wilder side of Svalbard.
September is a good month for photography as the light becomes lower in the sky.
What wildlife will I see on my cruise to Svalbard?
Svalbard is an untamed Arctic wilderness and on every cruise we do we encounter different wildlife. Svalbard in our opinion is the best place in the High Arctic to see wildlife including polar bears as there are high concentrations surrounding the islands. The chances of encountering wildlife are very high and on all previous trips, we have seen walruses, whales, Svalbard Reindeer and a variety of birdlife. Whilst we can’t make any guarantees, we have encountered polar bears on the majority of our trips and we cruise areas where they are known to hunt. If seeing a polar bear is one of your main attractions we would recommend Svalbard Pioneer of the Wildlife and Natural Wonders of Svalbard cruises. On these trips, we visit areas where Walruses are known to haul out and also regularly see Arctic foxes, puffins and Beluga whales.
What places will I visit on a cruise to Svalbard?
A part of the adventure of an expedition cruise is to spend time exploring the wilderness which means every trip is different. Our route is decided on the day of boarding and is chosen by the expedition leader and the captain in line with the prevailing weather and ice conditions. Their aim is to ensure that you see the very best that Svalbard has to offer. On a typical cruise, you can expect daily shore landings to visit sites of historical and natural interest and to undertake short wilderness hikes. Svalbard has over 2000 glaciers and we aim to visit at least 1 calving glacier face which is an incredible sight. On some cruises, if conditions allow we will attempt to visit the edge of the sea ice. We will also visit known wildlife sites including beaches where walruses haul out and areas where polar bears are frequently sighted.
Will it be cold on my cruise to Svalbard?
Due to the influence of the gulf stream on Svalbard’s climate, it is warmer during the summer than most people would imagine. A summer’s day rarely feels colder than the temperatures experienced in Northern Europe during the winter. It is not uncommon to be out hiking with only a base layer on when the sun is shining.
The temperature varies depending on the month you travel with the months of July and August offering the warmest temperatures.
May -3 °C
Where do your cruises to Svalbard depart from?
With the exception of 1 voyage, all our cruises depart from Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard. Longyearbyen is easily reached by daily flights from Oslo in Norway making it one of the easiest destinations to reach in the High Arctic. To find out more about how to get to Longyearbyen please visit our guide.
We offer 1 cruise per year which sails from Tromso on mainland Norway to Svalbard via Bear Island.
What is an Expedition Micro Cruise?
Expedition micro cruise is a term we use to describe an expedition cruise with no more than 12 guests in total. Our cruises take place on custom built expedition vessels built for safe travel in the polar regions. All our vessels offer good comfort levels, private cabins and great food with the huge added bonus that you will be experiencing Svalbard with just a handful of guests.
The focus on our trips is exploring and we will aim to make daily landings by Zodiac landing craft to explore the shore. You will be accompanied by a knowledgeable expert guide who will tell you about the areas you visit. When you have been apart of a small group experience we guarantee you will never want to go back to cruising on larger vessels.
We offer 1 cruise per year which sails from Tromso on mainland Norway to Svalbard via Bear Island.
Why is an Expedition Micro Cruise the best way to explore Svalbard?
Unlike larger vessels with higher passenger capacities, our voyages are personal and unique in their approach. Travelling with a small group of guests means more time and flexibility exploring and less time waiting to go ashore.
Our small expedition vessels will get you closer to nature and landscapes that you came than larger ships can due to their smaller size, offering you a great deal more intimacy.
Expedition Micro Cruises give you the opportunity to experience the Arctic first hand on a real adventure without the crowds of people on larger ships. Our goal is to make you part of the adventure.
How does an expedition micro cruise to Svalbard compare to other cruises?
Non-expedition cruises on regular cruise ships don’t offer shore landings and often only visit Longyearbyen which means they miss out on lots of the adventure. The average size of a cruise ship doing non-expedition cruises takes 2000 passengers.
A number of companies offer expedition cruises in Svalbard with landings on larger vessels. The average number of passengers these ships take is over 200. In our opinion that is too many people to be landing at sensitive places in the Arctic.
Many companies advertise small ship cruises to Svalbard but their definition of a ‘small ship’ varies and can range from anything from 250 passengers down to 12 passengers. The experience between travelling with 250 passengers and 12 passengers is huge. We use the term micro expedition cruise to describe an adventure cruise with just 12 guests, no more. These are small ship cruises to Svalbard the way they should be, intimate and low impact.
Is an Expedition Micro Cruise Suitable for me?
Our cruises are suitable for the vast majority of people and we aim to make them as accessible as possible. We ask that our guests have a good level of mobility as it is a requirement that you can safely step down from the vessel into the landing craft and then exit the landing craft on the beach. Due to the remote areas we visit and the distance from medical assistance, we advise that you have a reasonable level of fitness and are in good health. During the shore landings, we have 2 guides which enable us to split the group if we have some keen hikers and some other guests with more limited range.
What is an Expedition Micro Cruise?
Expedition Micro Cruise is a term we use to describe an expedition cruise with no more than 12 guests in total. Our cruises take place on custom-built expedition vessels built for safe travel in the polar regions. All our vessels offer good comfort levels, private cabins and great food with the huge added bonus that you will be experiencing Svalbard with just a handful of guests.
Who joins your cruises?
We don’t have any age restrictions on our trips and we pride ourselves on having diverse guests from all over the world with a passion for exploring. In the past we have had young professionals eager to explore, middle-aged solo travellers, looking for their next adventure, through to retirees looking to see Svalbard in a more in-depth way. Our trips are friendly and inclusive for all our guests.
Can I join your cruise as a solo traveller?
Yes, you can and every year we welcome solo travellers onboard where you will find a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
We offer accommodation options for single cabins or sharing a cabin with travellers of the same gender.
How do you ensure your cruises don’t have a negative effect on the environment?
That’s a great question and one we want to answer honestly.
The vessels we work with don’t burn heavy fuels which are particularly detrimental to the environment and run on standard marine diesel. As a part of our commitment to the environment, we climate compensate all of our emissions by planting trees with our sustainability partner in Greenland. The cost of this is covered within the fares our guests pay and we don’t charge an additional fee for this.
Secret Atlas don’t sell flights but we are aware our guests have to fly to our destinations to board our cruises. As a part of our climate commitment, we will match the offset costs for any guests who would like to offset their flights with us. This is offered at the time of booking.
During our cruises, we follow very strict guidelines as set out by AECO (Association Of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) to ensure minimal impact on the wildlife and places we visit. This includes following strict rules about not disturbing wildlife in its natural habitat. We employ highly experienced expedition leaders to run our expeditions in accordance with the rules and safety code laid out by AECO. The principal rules are:
- Leave no lasting signs of your visit
- Do not pick flowers
- Do not take anything with you
- Do not disturb animals and birds
- Leave cultural remains alone Cultural remains are protected by law and a zone of 100 meters around the remains is also considered a protected zone. Watch where you are walking and standing. Walk around and not in between obj
- Take the polar bear danger seriously
- Respect local culture and local people
- Be safe
Our expedition leaders are highly trained in safety and following these rules and brief guests at the beginning of each departure. They ensure the safety of the guests throughout the cruise and that the AECO rules are followed.