This Travel Journal submitted by Murray Zichlinsky details his Arctic Small Ship Cruise with AdventureSmith Explorations on the Realm of the Polar Bear cruise. Read more about his time aboard Expedition.

Day 1 – Longyearbyen

After months of preparation we were finally here in the Arctic, Very excited and ready for our adventure thanks to Nick Mitchell at AdventureSmith who answered all our questions in a timely courteous and professional manner. He took care of all our booking concerns. The service he provided was better than I would have expected.

Reindeer seen from a small ship excursion in the Arctic.

In the morning we saw Reindeer near our guesthouse. What a surprise this was before our expedition even began. In the afternoon we boarded the ship and headed out toward sea. On Isfjorden when we reached the sea at the mouth of the fjord, the call came over the P.A. system that whale blows had been spotted in the distance. We made our way up to the decks and while we made our way up the ship got closer to the whales and when we got on deck, we looked and saw lots of spouts. Soon we saw the whales themselves, probably a Blue Whale and her calf, maybe also 1 or 2 Humpback Whales.

Day 2 – Magdelenefjord

The ship anchored in Magdelenefjord, said to be the prettiest fjord in Svalbard. We went upstairs to enjoy a scrumptious breakfast buffet with custom made omelets, not to mention the gorgeous view of snow-covered peaks and glaciers surrounding the fjord. Meanwhile the crew prepared the Zodiacs. After breakfast we boarded the Zodiacs and were taken ashore. There were Arctic Terns and Skuas nesting. If you got too close to a Tern’s nest, they let you know in no uncertain terms, dive-bombing you and pecking you on the head.

Arctic tern bird on rocks seen from a small ship excursion in the Arctic.
Scua bird on rocks seen from a small ship excursion in the Arctic.

The spit of land where we landed had been used by whalers to render the blubber, and there were signs of their having been there. You could see the hearths where they built their fires, and there was an old graveyard where some whalers were buried.

Day 3 – 80 Degrees North Latitude

We reached the edge of the polar ice, and in the morning an announcement was made that seals had been spotted, and where there are seals, there may be Polar Bears, and sure enough, after breakfast one was spotted, so the captain took the ship into the ice to where the bear was, and it had a seal that it had caught and was eating. We had a lot of time to watch it fairly close. And it wasn’t just sitting there, it was eating a dead seal it had caught, and you didn’t need an expensive lens to see it. It was so close. Eventually it swam away, so we maneuvered out of the ice, and when we got out of it, whale blows were spotted. They were of Blue Whales, and the captain maneuvered the ship alongside them as well.

Polar bear eating a seal on floating ice seen from a small ship in the Arctic.
Polar next to a dead seal on floating ice seen from a small ship in the Arctic.

You didn’t need an expensive lens to see the polar bear. It was so close.

That evening we settled down to a wonderful dinner as they all were. Every evening on board, we looked forward to see what culinary delights the chef would prepare for us.

Day 4 – “The time has come,” the walrus said, “to turn your gaze toward me.”

The crew wanted to send us out in the Zodiacs in the morning, but the sea proved to be too rough. So the captain moved the ship to a different location which turned out to be more hospitable. We went out in the Zodiacs and came upon a group of walruses swimming in the water. They were curious creatures and came over to inspect us. Not only could we see them up close, we could hear them talking to each other. They must have been discussing if we were safe and could we be trusted. A larger group was lazing on a small island nearby, really just a rock sticking up out of the water. Then we landed on a beach nearby, and there were a couple of small groups of walrus lying about there too.

Group of Walrus in the water seen from a small ship in the Arctic.

Day 5 – Another day another bear, Yeah!

80 Degrees North Latitude. All night long we sailed north, headed for the ice cap. Shortly after breakfast we reached the ice edge. We cruised along the edge for a while until someone spotted a polar bear out on the ice. At this point the captain maneuvered the ship into the ice.

Polar bear on floating ice in the Arctic looking up at the small ship cruise guests.

We approached the bear, and then the bear started coming toward us. It crossed closely in front of the bow from one side of the ship to the other, as if to make sure people on both sides of the ship got a good look. After a while it went away, so we left, too. We headed out of the ice back to open sea where there were seals to be seen.

Polar bear walking across floating ice patches in the Arctic seen from a small ship cruise.

Day 6 – Heading South

If you didn’t see the glacier calving, you couldn’t help but hear it.

The ship anchored in the morning in a fjord that had a big glacier at the end of it. From the ship, my wife and some other people saw the glacier calving icebergs into the water. After breakfast we went cruising around in the Zodiacs among chunks of ice from the glacier which were floating around everywhere in the water. There I saw a huge chunk of glacier fall off and into the water. If you didn’t see the glacier calving, you couldn’t help but hear it. It was like cannons going off. After that, we cruised south for 3 hours to the end of another fjord also with a glacier at its end. We rode the Zodiacs to a barren desolate beach, but with great views, especially if you hiked up a hill, which most of us did.

Small ship cruise guests up close to blue iceberg in the Arctic.

Shortly after we landed word came that 2 polar bears had been spotted about a mile north of some bird cliffs which we were going to be visiting next. So we came down the hill and got into the Zodiacs and cruised up to look at the 2 bears. Then we viewed the cliffs where the birds made their nests. 1 cliff housed a colony of Kittiwakes and another colony of black guillemots. Another great day!

Polar bears on land seen from a small ship cruise excursion in the Arctic.

Day 7 – Tundra

We did a beach landing, and then climbed up a little to a plateau that was covered with Arctic tundra. There were flowers growing in the tundra. Because it is the arctic, the flowers are tiny. There were also Kittiwake birds flying around and nesting in the cliffs. When we went back in the Zodiacs, we saw Puffins flying overhead. They were nesting in another cliff above the water. That evening we had another recap in the lounge, this one, being the last, included a slideshow that recapped the entire trip. It really summed up our adventure well. Everyone enjoyed it. The following morning, we were back in port and had to disembark. Everyone was so sad that we had to go.

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This Travel Journal submitted by Murray Zichlinsky details his Realm of the Polar Bear cruise with AdventureSmith Explorations. Read all small ship cruise reviews for more insights from our alumni travelers and experts, or contact one of our Adventure Specialists to learn more about these small ship cruises and wilderness adventures: 1-877-620-2875