arctic ice pack Arctic Complete – (27th July – 18th August 2017)

Celia Hills enjoyed a Wildfoot Travel  trip to the Arctic recently. Responding to our call for ‘Traveller’s Tales’, Celia sent in this summary of her trip along with some excellent photos.
Now that we’ve set the scene, we’ll hand you over to Celia……..

The trip began with everyone meeting at Longyearbyen airport in Svalbard and going on a coach tour of the town before boarding the Polar Pioneer for the start of the adventure into the Arctic.

Arctic Exploration Cruise Vessel The Polar Pioneer
The Polar Pioneer, a Finnish-built expedition cruise ship operated by the Australian cruise company Aurora Expeditions

The first exciting thing was to be briefed on safety & to do a lifeboat drill as we were leaving harbour. Trying to get into one of two small lifeboats with all 53 passengers & some crew was a challenge with huge lifejackets & little space. As there is permanent daylight at these latitudes at this time of year there was much to see already.

Huge numbers of sea birds to be seen included Fulmars, Glaucous Gulls, Little Auks, Puffins, Black Guillemots, Brunnichs Guillemots, Kittiwakes Eider Ducks & Arctic terns. As the trip progressed the numbers of some of these verged on the staggering with huge seabird cliffs bulging with adults & chicks. Less often seen were the Arctic Skuas & Great Skuas. Geese were also abundant with Pink Footed geese & Barnacle Geese the most common.

Only two days into the trip & the first of 12 polar bears was sighted. This trip was outstanding for bears with the best left to last with a sighting of a mother & cub. One encounter with a male bear on a hunting mission was deemed to be worthy of a “Frozen Planet” sequence by the guides as it had the bear stalk & attack three bearded seals over a 3 hour period.

a polar bear hunting on the arctic shoreline
Only two days into our trip & the first of twelve polar bears was sighted.

Another highlight of this trip were the glaciers & icebergs for sheer beauty of colours, size & shapes & glaciers calving when viewed from a zodiac is amazing with the sound & then mini tsunami.

History is also a strong feature of this trip with various ancient camps, huts and burial grounds of the ancient explorers & trappers.

Walrus were also a highlight with some amazing sounds  & smells in the pushing & shoving of a group of young males, while an encounter from the zodiac of a group of females & young was enchanting.

Walrus were also a highlight with amazing sounds & smells.
Walrus were also a highlight with amazing sounds & smells.

Tiny Arctic Foxes were a delight & some almost tame in their tolerance of close humans. One catching an unfortunate Kittiwake chick that was pushed from its nest showed nature in the raw.

A pod of over 20 Beluga whales was another  of many highlights with them cruising around the zodiacs.

Crossing the Greenland Sea from Svalbard to Greenland was mostly uneventful with birds & fog being the order of the days.

Greenland has certainly got the wow factor with glorious scenery & magnificent rock formations & colours. Scoresbysund being the most amazing place. The addition of Musk Ox in Greenland added to the wildlife total.

Apart from Longyearbyen in Svalbard the only other occupied area visited on this trip was Ittoqqortoormiit, one of the only inhabited area of east Greenland & home to 350 people.

For me one of the best experiences was on the last landing in Greenland where there were a pair of Gyr Falcons, a bird I had never seen.

To summarise this trip is difficult because there were so many highs – Polar Bear, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Musk Ox & the thousands of birds – but what made I was the staff & crew of the Polar Pioneer being so friendly & knowledgeable.

Celia Hills.

See more of Celia’s photos in this photo gallery

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”15″ gal_title=”Celia Hills Arctic Cruise Gallery”]

Check out all our Arctic cruises here

Join us on a Spitsbergen polar bear safari. Find out more here

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Polar Cruise Vessel The Spirit Of Enderby Jewel of the Russian Far East
Mike Unwin, travel and nature writer based in Brighton UK. Voted UK Travel Writer of the Year by the British Guild of Travel Writers. 
Mike Unwin, travel and nature writer

Mike Unwin is a freelance travel and nature writer based in Brighton UK. He writes regularly for the Telegraph, Independent, BBC Wildlife and numerous other publications, and is the author of more than 30 books for both adults and children. In 2013 Mike was voted UK Travel Writer of the Year by the British Guild of Travel Writers.  

Here Mike gives us a brief account of his experience on an expedition cruise aboard the Spirit Of Enderby with Wildfoot Travel.

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Planning your Arctic trip with WILDFOOT

WILDFOOT is a world-class provider of Arctic cruises. We have a comprehensive range of itineraries to fantastic Arctic holiday destinations and we’re proud of our reputation for providing unique and adventurous wildlife experiences. As a company with more than twenty-five years of experience, our dedicated team of specialists supply the knowledge and passion that will help you create a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime trip to your choice of iconic Arctic holiday destinations to explore in the most exciting and fulfilling way possible.

Polar Bear Photo taken by Brian Clasper
Polar Bear Photo: Brian Clasper

It’s important to remember that this spectacular part of the world is like nowhere else on the planet you’ll ever have seen before. The wildlife, landscape and people are both unique and fascinating, and for those who take the time to learn a little more about the region before heading off on an adventure, it will be all the more rewarding. 

Taking time to prepare for your trip is crucial if your experience is to be a success, and there’s probably more to think about than most other places – but the payoff is well worth it! Our team of experts at Wildfoot have come together and collated some of the most valuable advice we can offer if you’re thinking of heading to this extraordinary part of the world with us. 

The Best Time to Travel

Of course, everyone is different – not just in terms of their physical abilities but also when it comes to their favourite season for travelling. But, broadly speaking, unless you are looking for a particularly tough challenge, it’s probably best to head to Arctic holiday destinations between the months of June and September. 

The temperatures at this time are milder (between about 3–7 degrees Celsius) and the wildlife tends to be more active. (If you travel outside this part of the year, the weather can be extreme and visibility tends to be limited.)  During the “high summer” period, the days are long and the weather is comfortable enough for your experience to be memorable for the right reasons.

During the summer months, temperatures are usually above freezing – indeed, even double-figure temperatures are not out of the question. However, there is a wind chill factor that you’ll need to cater for especially if you join the zodiac landing excursions. Most of the vessels provide each passenger with their own polar parka jacket along with rubber boots for the beach landings. You’ll be wading through a few inches of water and there’s often some sea spray or snow flurries that make it a good idea to pack waterproof trousers.

Another important aspect is that the ships are able to travel further north during these months, enabling you to visit other Arctic holiday destinations – like the incredible Spitsbergen region, or perhaps even up to the North Pole. 

Spotlight on the Spitsbergen Region

As the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago in Norway (and laying claim to the world’s northernmost permanent human population), Spitsbergen is home to an intriguing craggy landscape of mountains, fjords, glaciers and frozen tundra. With over half of its land under ice all year round, it may at first glance look inhospitable, but the 37,673 square kilometres is home to around 2,500 people (mostly in the administrative settlement Longyearbyen, and various other settlements around the coastline), and an array of wildlife. During winter the Northern Lights are frequently visible, while in contrast, in the summer there are 24 hours of sunlight – aka the “midnight sun”.

The Wildlife of Spitsbergen

Along with the iconic polar bears, which are seen all over Spitsbergen (including sometimes close to human settlements), you’ll also have the chance to see the three other terrestrial species of the island (Arctic foxes, the endemic Svalbard reindeer and southern vole), a host of marine mammals (including dolphins, walruses, seals and whales), and a plethora of bird life. 

The other animals you may encounter are dogs (usually huskies), which are used for one of the most fun and exciting activities on offer – dog-sledding. (Wildfoot even offers a dedicated dog-sledding expedition!)

The Landscape

With six National Parks, much of the island is classified protected – which means wonderful opportunities to view wildlife in its natural habitat. The dramatic terrain is nothing short of breathtaking, with rugged, towering snow-capped peaks, unique flora, other-worldly glaciers, huge ice-fields, and dramatic fjords dotted with massive icebergs. Spitsbergen is often referred to as one of the last great wilderness areas on the planet – and only when you experience it for yourself, will you truly understand why. 

The North Pole

How Do We Get You to the North Pole?

The North Pole is one of the ultimate Arctic holiday destinations, and to set foot on its frozen expanse is a bucket-list item for many intrepid adventurers. Only the privileged few ever get to see and experience this awe-inspiring place, and here at Wildfoot, we’re proud to be able to help you discover just how incredible it really is. There’s not a lot that can compare to the feeling of standing at the actual North Pole, in front of the legendary “90-degree” sign, surrounded by nothing but a frozen white landscape. It’s truly unforgettable.  

The Vessels

Your expedition to the northernmost point of the planet with Wildfoot will take place on special ice-breaker ships – including the magnificent Le Commandant Charcot, the world’s only luxury ice-breaker – that cut effortlessly through the ice floes on the way to the geographical point of the North Pole. Along the way, from the vessel you’ll be able to take in the abundance of terrestrial and marine wildlife and the vast, spectacular landscapes of the Arctic region. 

Le Commandant Charcot heralds a new class of polar vessels and is the world’s first hybrid-electric exploration ship powered by liquified natural gas. Aside from its mighty capabilities to safely traverse the ice floes in complete safety and with the least disruption to the environment, the luxury aboard this vessel is unprecedented. Complementing the 135 stunningly appointed suites and staterooms (with private balconies or terraces), other features include a swimming pool, spa, restaurant, bar, observation lounge and even a butler service and private Jacuzzi in premium rooms.    

Mike, one of our team members has put together this great webinar on this vessel so if you want to know more feel free to check it out.

The length of the journey itself will depend on conditions and can take up to a week – but one thing’s for certain, you won’t be bored!

The Experience

The North Pole consists of a collection of massive ice floes floating in the Arctic Ocean (up to three metres thick) – there’s no actual land mass. And beneath that ice is an ocean more than 4,000 metres deep… 

Unfortunately, due to the climate crisis, scientists predict that as soon as about 30 years there’ll be no sea ice in the Arctic during the summer months – as it is warming at two times the rate as the rest of the planet. This means rising sea levels and the potential for huge global climate ramifications.

In winter the North Pole is enveloped in 24 hours of darkness, while in summer it’s the opposite, with 24 hours of perpetual sunlight. In contrast to the rest of the Arctic region, there is no terrestrial fauna or flora here, although there’s an abundance of migratory birds to be spotted overhead and plenty of marine life that exists below the ice – but that’s not so easily seen!

Some of our Wildfoot expeditions include a helicopter sightseeing ride, a memorable experience that offers a true birds-eye view on this incredible location, and you’ll also have the opportunity to see the Franz Josef Land archipelago. 

Photography Holidays

You should consider investing in a good camera in order to get high-quality shots while exploring the Arctic. Carrying a spare battery with you is a very good idea and will help you to avoid being caught short when you’re most in the mood to start snapping away.

If you’re an avid photographer (or a novice looking to learn) you might like to go one step further and take up the opportunity to enlist in a dedicated photography workshop while on your trip with Wildfoot. Many of our expeditions offer this as an optional activity (usually at no extra cost) and anyone who’s keen to expand their skills is very much encouraged to join in. 

These workshops are an extremely worthwhile experience, as they are led by experienced professional photographers, who are also experts in wildlife and polar photography – an important factor, as the environment and conditions present some very unique challenges. 

Many of our expeditions offer these workshops, so if you’re interested make sure you speak with your Wildfoot consultant about it. 

Checklist of Essentials

There are some things that we believe are essential to ensuring you’re safe, comfortable and warm during your trip to any of our Arctic holiday destinations. Bear in mind these are all just recommendations, but because we know the region like the back of our hands, we do know what we’re talking about. 

In terms of baggage you should try to stick to one suitcase, hold-all or backpack plus a small daypack for excursions and activities

Clothing, Footwear, Toiletries

Layers are the best option so we recommend bringing a range of clothing that can be utilised on its own or as a layer. 

Along with pyjamas, undergarments and optional swimsuits, bring both long and short sleeved shirts, long pants and shorts (zip-off pants are highly practical), a rain jacket, sun hat, jacket, windbreaker and sweaters. Depending on the class of cruise you book you might also want to pack some smart casual attire for dinners. Multiple pairs of comfortable, breathable socks are essential, along with a couple of pairs of footwear, which should include closed-toe waterproof walking shoes and sports shoes, sandals or flip/flops (depending on the time of year). 

In terms of toiletries make sure that along with your regular requirements (and any prescription medicines) you add some sunscreen, anti-histamines, plasters, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and moist towelettes. 


You will definitely need some good quality sunglasses due to the sheer brightness of this environment, with high-factor sun cream an absolute must on account of the UV light and clear air. Binoculars (for better wildlife spotting) and pen knives can prove to be worth their weight in gold, too. You should also consider bringing a small umbrella, notebook and pens, playing cards or games, purification tablets, water filter and small gifts for guides or local children.

Leave at Home

We highly recommend you leave any valuables and jewellery at home. You won’t have any need for them!

Of course, you’re welcome to get in touch with our expert team at any point if you have any queries about what to take and how to stay comfortable during your adventure. We are more than happy to use our knowledge and experience to benefit you, and are passionate about helping you make your trip a success.

If you want more advice on preparing your luggage have a look at our video:

Ready to Go? Let’s Go!

Talk to us today if you’re keen to secure a booking and prepare yourself for a trip quite unlike any that you will have embarked on before – or will ever embark on again. We can’t wait to take you on your adventure of a lifetime to our range of Arctic holiday destinations where you will discover the unique wildlife and truly extraordinary landscapes for yourself. 

Pick up the phone or send us an email whenever you’re ready and we’ll be waiting to help you plan every last detail of your trip.

Some of Our Favourite Trips

There’s so much to see, do and explore in the Arctic and below are some of our favourite itineraries – all designed by people who’ve been there themselves! That’s the Wildfoot difference.  

Alaska’s Northern Passages and Glacier Bay

This fantastic cruise takes you on an 8-day trip that’s packed to the brim with adventure and has a focus on magnificent glaciers. Aboard the Safari Explorer or Safari Endeavour, the journey delivers a huge array of highlights including a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Glacier Bay National Park, the Grand Pacific and Margerie glaciers, hiking through Tongass National Forest, and sailing around Chichagof Island, Sergius Narrows and Baranof Island.

With a range of excursions and activities available, you’ll be kept busy with kayaking, hiking, paddleboarding and skiffing, and you’ll see wildlife including whales, bears, otters, seals, porpoises and so much more!

Greenland Odyssey

Be dazzled and awed by the vast, icy beauty of Greenland (the world’s largest island) on this fabulous 17-day odyssey. Before boarding the vessel Sylvia Earle in Iceland for your adventure, you’ll explore the highlights of Reykjavik then head off for the adventure of a lifetime, discovering the wildlife and majestic scenery of Greenland’s east, south and west coasts. 

As well as taking in the scenery of the fjords and mountains, including the stunning beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ilulissat Icefjord, you’ll visit Viking ruins and local communities, encounter wildlife like reindeer, Musk Ox and Arctic fox, and cruise icy waterways in a Zodiac. 

Spitsbergen Snowmobile Safari

Wilderness snowmobiling, spectacular scenery, remote lodge accommodation and as much fun as you can handle! This 5-day safari takes you into the frozen wilderness and allows you to enjoy the unique experience of exploring the landscape up close and personal in a way most people never target to see it. 

Staying in the wonderful Spitsbergen Expedition Lodge, as your base, the location puts you between the valleys of Adventdalen and Eskerdalen, delivering views towards Skolten, the highest mountain on Nordenskiöld Land, and Drønnbre-massif. You may also explore the mountain massif between the Adventfjorden and Sassenfjorden fjords, or other routes north to Pyramiden, Fredheim, around the east coast of Spitsbergen or to the glaciers of Tuna and Von Postbreen. What an adventure!

Guided Iceland Winter Tour

Discover the fire and ice of inimitable Iceland in winter on this 8-day small group tour that takes in the majesty and intrigue of the country with an experienced local guide. Travelling in a comfortable, specially-modified 4WD off-road vehicle you’ll explore the extraordinary landscape and geological wonders at a relaxed pace, and stay in quality tourist class hotels.
On this fabulous itinerary you’ll discover the diversity of Iceland through its waterfalls, beaches, hot springs, glaciers and national parks. You’ll visit Vatnajökull National Park to see the Glacier Lagoon, travel deep into incredible blue ice caves to marvel at their icy beauty, and enjoy multiple opportunities to go on the hunt for the famous Northern Lights.

Follow in impressive footsteps on our Arctic excursions

The polar regions will always be irrevocably associated with many of civilisation’s greatest explorers, and while we by no means expect you to repeat their feats on your own excursions in the Arctic here at WILDFOOT, your visit will nonetheless almost certainly give you a taste for the spirit of exploration that inspired these greats. For evidence of that, one only needs to look to the vast range of exciting Arctic activities that we make possible.

Even the most conservative of our itineraries will take you to places that you have never before experienced, but some of our travellers wish to especially capitalise on that, through one of our more adventurous packages. With our sailings offering an average of three shore landings per day while in the Arctic and not ‘at sea’, there is opportunity to indulge in all manner of optional activities. Even those who remain on board can be thrilled by our comprehensive education programme, delivered by our leading Arctic experts.

But let’s imagine that you would rather hop off the ship every now and then – in which case, your excursions in the Arctic really will be like none other that you have ever experienced. It’s enthralling enough to witness the compelling polar wildlife at close quarters, from walrus and polar bears to whales and seals. But what about indulging your physical side by going hiking, skiing, climbing or dogsledding in the remarkable Spitsbergen, or discovering the Arctic’s magical underwater world, scuba diving and snorkelling with one of our seasoned Arctic Dive Masters by your side?

If you would like a more intimate experience of Arctic waters but fear that donning the snorkel and flippers may be a little too extreme for you, never fear – on some of our expedition voyages, you also have the option of kayaking. Just imagine drifting through majestic, isolated icebergs or just stopping in the middle of the water, miles from land, revelling in the solitude of one of the most remote spots on Earth. Many others choose shore excursions in the Arctic that give them an entirely different, but no less spectacular view of the region’s icescapes, land and wildlife.

There really is no experience quite like one of our famed excursions in the Arctic, and whether you take advantage of every possible excursion before you or instead concentrate on just the one or two that most excite you, with the intimate assistance of our guides, you can rest assured of a trip to be remembered for a lifetime.

Explore the Arctic your way with our cruise ships

If you are looking to explore the spectacular surroundings of the Arctic Circle, cruise ships offer the best way to take in the sights – and we have a variety of excellent vessels waiting to welcome you onboard! A cruise is truly the best way to uncover the untouched beauty that this remote region has to offer, and whether you are planning a luxury excursion or want to make sure that your trip is packed full of adventure, it is easy to find the right cruise operator for you. 

Not all vessels are the same, and you’ll want to choose one that ticks all your boxes from budget to passenger size and atmosphere. To help you find the type of Arctic Circle cruise that will offer you the experience you are looking for we’ve put together an overview of each group and examples of their ships.

Mid Range

Unlike a traditional cruise vessel, these mid range ships offer enough space to prevent cabin fever and accommodate sufficient passengers to make them more economical. They aren’t so massive, however, that your opportunities for landings are limited by having to take turns with the other passengers. 

MV Plancius

It is often the case that our Arctic Circle cruise ships lived a former life as a research centre before taking curious travellers around the world. That’s the case with Plancius, which originally functioned as a Dutch oceanographic research boat. This means that it’s well-equipped for the harsh weather that you might encounter in this frozen world. The stent and bow are ice-strengthened and, alongside the usual facilities such as a lounger, bar, dining room, and library, there’s also a lecture theatre. 

Despite being able to carry more passengers, the guests are still limited to 116, which means it will never be overcrowded. You and your fellow passengers will be looked after by 45 wonderful staff and crewmembers.

MV Ortelius

The Ortelius was also a research ship with roots in Russia, and it too has been ice-strengthened making it ideal for polar explorations. Since her time as a scientific hub, she’s been entirely refurbished to offer a selection of quality suites and cabins. You will have the option of private or shared rooms, depending on availability. The guest count on board is set at 106 passengers, and the Ortelius offers two dining rooms and plenty of open deck space for whale watching. But the real treat is the helicopter land pad which is perfect if you’re looking to add a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter excursion over the Arctic circle. Cruise ships have never been so well equipped!

First Class

Just because you’re looking for real adventure doesn’t mean you have to compromise on comfort. These First Class expedition vessels emphasise high-level service and onboard facilities. If passenger numbers mean that it’s only possible to offer 1 daily landing per passenger then these vessels will have other invigorating activities available such as sea ice kayaking.

Sea Spirit

The Sea Spirit can accommodate up to 114 passengers, and every cabin boasts windows with incredible sea views, its own en-suite and even satellite phone access. If you’re lucky, you may even get yourself a room with a private balcony – just imagine sipping your morning coffee and spotting a whale in the freezing waters!

This larger vessel allows for more facilities such as a spacious dining room, gym and even a hot tub. Again, there is plenty of deck space for you to stretch your legs and admire the view, and this ship offers an open bridge policy. Although it is larger and heavier, the Sea Spirit is much faster than the mid-range vessels mentioned above, reaching a cruising speed of 15.5 knots.


When it comes to redefining the Arctic Circle cruise holiday, the Ultramarine leads the way. This brand new boat is changing what’s possible on a polar expedition, and if you ever thought heated flooring would be quite nice while exploring the Arctic, then the Ultramarine is the ship for you. 

You shouldn’t worry, though, that luxury compromises on authenticity because it really doesn’t. As a passenger on the Ultramarine you are guaranteed to enjoy just as many close encounters with wildlife and scenery as you would expect on any of the smaller vessels.

Before we get to the accommodation, there’s so much on offer to excite the intrepid explorer in you. This vessel boasts more outdoor wildlife viewing platforms than most, providing incredible opportunities for unique sightings and photo opportunities. Furthermore, with two helicopters the activities on offer are out of this world. From aerial flightseeing to camping on ice, kayaking to cross-country skiing – whatever gets your adrenaline pumping, the Ultramarine has got it.

Besides the thrill-seeking opportunities, the facilities are out of this world. You will have seven different cabin styles to choose from, but all include private bathrooms (with those coveted heated floors), premium beds, windows and flat-screen TVs.


When it comes to the ultimate Arctic Circle cruise, these purpose-built expedition vessels offer top-of-the-range onboard facilities and high-end service levels that are hard to beat.

Greg Mortimer

Something to take into consideration when planning your Arctic Circle cruise is the environmental impact. There’s a reason why this remote part of the world remains relatively untouched and that’s thanks to innovations such as those integrated into the Greg Mortimer. This new purpose-built expedition ship has been built to withstand the strongest winds and waves, using the ULSTEIN X-BOW, a novel nautical technology that reduces vibrations and motion at sea, which not only reduces the journey’s environmental impact but also makes the journey safer and more comfortable for passengers.

This cutting-edge technology reduces the ship’s carbon emissions by reducing the amount of fuel required to power it. Every aspect of the Greg Mortimer’s design has been crafted with the strict environmental standards of the Polar Code in mind. The custom-made viewing and Zodiac platforms minimise the intrusion of human presence, whether you’re looking for wildlife on deck or on the water. Plus, the facilities are top-notch too! Luxury cabins, a large dining room, a library and Wellness Centre complete with a sauna and spa mean that there’s a perfect balance between expedition and relaxation.

M/V Hondius

The Hondius is unique in that it is the first civilian ship on the planet to receive a Polar Class 6 notation, which means it complies with (and exceeds) the obligatory requirements of the Polar Code. Although it provides more than comfortable accommodation for 174 guests, the well-being of the surrounding environment has also been taken into careful consideration. Its sheltered Zodiac boarding zone means that any land-based activities can be carried out quickly, easily, and with the least impact on the natural habitat.

But your comfort is not forgotten! The M/V Hondius offers some of the very best accommodation in polar exploration, with a variety of suites to choose from. Some include suites with four portholes while others have their own private balcony. If you’re interested in the research being carried out in this part of the world, there is a whole deck dedicated to lectures and presentations, which will take your Arctic Circle cruise to the next level.

Adventure Vessel

Although smaller, these intimate ships and yachts foster a sense of camaraderie and adventure whilst still being luxuriously furnished.

Wilderness Legacy

The Wilderness Legacy may be smaller, offering room for just 86 guests, but she is mighty. This beautiful ship is perfect for travellers who enjoy comfort but want to put adventure first when it comes to their Arctic Circle cruise. With four decks to enjoy, she is perfect for exploring the remotest regions of the frozen world in a more intimate setting. As well as two hot tubs on the largest deck, visitors can enjoy an open bridge, a spacious indoor lounge, a games room and a welcoming bar. Each cabin features a view window, a private bathroom and very comfortable beds – a warm welcome after a day of adventure.

Safari Quest

Safari Quest is the smallest vessel we’ve introduced yet! In fact, with room for only 22 guests, she’s more of a yacht but she’s incredibly well-equipped for a cosy, Arctic exploration. Each of the eleven cabins, boasting either a viewing window or a balcony, has been thoughtfully furnished to maximise the sense of space whilst still remaining comfy. Despite being small, Safari Quest still has room to offer facilities such as a hot tub, fitness equipment and a lounge and bar.

Sailing Vessel

Sailing vessels are for the true thrill-seekers looking for a hands-on sailing experience. While the accommodation is low-key, the adventure is the opposite! Perfect for intimate small groups.

SV Noorderlicht

Compared to the previous boats, this is something of a grandfather having been built in 1910. But the two-masted schooner is prepared for the at-times challenging conditions of the Arctic Circle. Cruise boats like this have true character and are fitted with ten basic cabins complete with twin bunks and shared bathrooms. You will feel like a real explorer, and the sense of camaraderie on these smaller launches is like nothing else. Nonetheless, there is still room for a bar and dining lounge.

SV Rembrandt Van Rijn

She may be a bit younger than SV Noorderlicht but the SV Rembrandt Van Rijn is still something of an antique, having first launched in 1922. However, with age comes experience (and a few updates as well) and this three-masted schooner offers passengers a true taste of being at sea on an expedition. There is room for 34 guests in twin cabins as well as a dining room, lecture space and even a separate bar. With a large deck space, there are also plenty of opportunities to try your hand as a crew member and help out with the sailing duties.

Our Team Picks

One of the benefits our customers enjoy is our team’s first-hand experience. We’ll share our opinions and recommendations with you to craft that perfect trip. So it naturally follows that we each have our favourites when it comes to vessels that cruise the Arctic.

Sylvia Earle

One of our highlights for many reasons, the Sylvia Earle is unlike any other boat we’ve come across. Aside from her beauty and incredible facilities, the ship honouring accomplished marine biologist Sylvia Earle has one of the lowest polluting engines in the world and utilises cutting-edge technology designed to protect the natural environment. She has been designed to not only look after the surrounding habitats but also to ensure that every passenger is safe and sound and the journey is smooth, thanks again to the ULSTEIN X-BOW.

When it comes to comfort onboard, the Sylvia Earle features a beautiful Glass Atrium Lounge which offers incredible panoramic views. If that wasn’t enough, there’s even a swimming pool, gym, sauna and plenty of bars and lounges to relax in after a long, adventure packed day. 

Ocean Albatros

We love the Albatros for its innovation and green credentials. Another spanking new boat, she is built to the highest standards of the Polar Code and is ideal for polar cruising thanks to its X-Bow-Infinity class, providing the most stable of journeys even in awful weather. She is a low-energy yacht and has more than a 50% lower carbon footprint when compared to traditional expedition ships.

As well as the thoughtful design features, the Ocean Albatros is stylishly furnished and offers 95 rooms and suites, offering 9 different styles to choose from. There are even a few cabins dedicated to the solo traveller.

Ocean Victory

The Ocean Victory wins a place in our hearts for similar reasons to the Albatros; both are part of the Green Initiative Program and are low-energy which means they use electronic control to optimise fuel consumption and speed. As well as offering some of the most modern features you’ll find in polar exploration, the Victory has 93 comfortably furnished rooms and suites, all offering unobstructed sea views and nearly everyone will have a balcony. 

There are also several communal areas to mingle with your fellow passengers, including restaurants, an open-air swimming pool, a Nordic Bar, a barbeque deck and more!

Le Commandant Charcot

We had to mention our love of the Commandant Charcot because there simply is no other ship like her. This vessel takes luxury and eco-travelling on an Arctic Circle cruise to the highest level. Not only is it designed for high specs but it is the very first hybrid-electric polar exploration ship powered by liquefied natural gas.

However, it’s the facilities on offer that win Commandant Charcot a place in our hearts. She offers travellers a stunning indoor swimming pool, spa, panoramic restaurant, lounge bar, observation lounge and plenty more! The 135 luxury cabins are generous with space and each has been designed to evoke the sense of cruising on a private yacht. What’s not to love?

Some of Our Most Popular Arctic Experiences

If these vessel descriptions have whet your appetite to explore the White Continent you should now consider some of the activities you can experience on these adventures.

Zodiac Excursions

A zodiac trip gives you the chance to fully immerse yourself in the surrounding environment during an Arctic Circle cruise – and might even get you close up and personal with some of the incredible wildlife. You and a group of up to 16 people will be able to zoom around frozen bays or glide quietly past floating hunks of ice that creak as you pass them. This is fun for everyone!

Polar Bear Watching

Polar bears are emblematic of the White Continent, so spotting your first one will be an unforgettable moment and is often at the top of passengers’ wishlists during an Arctic Circle cruise. There are a number of itineraries that offer polar bear watching as an activity and your guides will know exactly when and where you need to be to see them.

Northern Lights

A photograph will never do this mystical spectacle justice and for many travellers, witnessing these magical lights is a moving moment. While there are a few locations around the world to watch the Northern Lights, there’s nothing quite like breathing in the cold Arctic air and looking up at the night sky filled with colour. We can help put together a trip that will give you the best chance of a sighting of this incredible natural phenomenon.

Landscape Photography

Whether you are a pro or an amateur, the frozen world of white is a photographer’s paradise. With vast landscapes, fantastic wildlife, and plenty of otherworldly scenes, Arctic Circle photography during an Arctic Circle cruise is an activity that everyone can try out.

Fascinating Sights to Enjoy on Arctic Cruises to the Svalbard Archipelago

Thanks to our experienced and knowledgeable team here at Wildfoot Travel we can offer our customers the very best bespoke Arctic adventures. Every one of us has travelled extensively to the regions offered in our packages. Planning an adventurous holiday for your next getaway or looking for a wildlife bonanza in the Alaskan wilderness? Our expert guides who are on board the vessel know where all the best spots are to see a polar bear or when’s the best time to explore the ice on a sea kayak. 

a polar bear hunting on the arctic shoreline

It’s fair to say that the remote nature of many parts of the Arctic is key to their appeal and, in our experience, it doesn’t get more remote than the archipelago of Svalbard. Holidays to this region, and in particular, the island of Spitsbergen, are guaranteed to make memories that will last your lifetime. The world’s most northern permanently inhabited area bar a few military bases, this particular part of Norway has plenty to recommend it, even for veteran travellers of the Arctic.

What draws visitors to the Arctic?

Why should you personally mull over joining one of the Arctic cruises to this remote destination on offer from WILDFOOT? In our opinion it’s the chance to catch sight of striking aspects of Arctic nature, including a good variety of native plants and animals, that should be a major draw.

The Svalbard holidays put together by our experienced team offer opportunities to see the kind of glaciers and mountains that give the Arctic region its iconic character. After all, the name Spitsbergen from the original German, means ‘pointed mountains’. However, look more carefully and you should soon also be able to spot polar bears, which are one of the island’s biggest tourist attractions, and other local animals like foxes, seals, walruses and reindeer.

Landscape and Wildlife


Svalbard holidays aren’t really complete if you don’t experience a hike on one of the islands in the archipelago. From the choice on offer, Forlandet is one of the most breathtaking. This small island is the westernmost piece of land that you can reach in this region – the next stop after this is Greenland! The landscape is defined by spectacular alpine mountains that surround the vast coastal plains below. It’s quite a harsh-looking vista, which makes for incredible photo opportunities and even better hiking routes.

While the flora is relatively scarce due to the tough conditions out here, you’ll still have the chance for some animal spotting. Many walrus make their home on the coast of Forlandet so keep your eyes peeled for a sighting.


This lesser-known fjord is something of a known secret, due to its limited accessibility. However, we can arrange for you to travel on a cruise ship with a flexible itinerary so that you will have a good chance of witnessing this breathtaking world of ice, often described as one of the most spectacular corners of the west coast. Parts of the fjord are almost entirely surrounded by glaciers, making it feel as if you’ve been transported to another planet. Adding to this effect is the imposing peaks of mountains and the huge Sophiakammen rock wall. 

As well as the scenery you can catch sight of polar bears. Hornsund is only a few kilometres from the popular polar bear hangout, Hamburgbukta. As well as seeing the giant white bears in the summer months, there are also many seabirds for the twitchers among you.


Located on the north coast, Raudfjorden boasts beautifully varied landscapes distinguished by an orange-red soil and boasts a particularly rich array of plant and animal life. Unlike Hornsund, the climate here is much more favourable, which means flora and fauna have a better chance of survival. The clay-coloured soil provides a viable home for plants such as the Purple saxifrage and another you’re probably familiar with: the Spider Plant.

If you’re a bird lover, we’ll make sure that we include a visit here.  Breeding Arctic terns, Common Eider and even a King Eider can be seen in fairly large numbers. Just be sure to respect the habitat of the birds during this season and keep your distance so as not to disturb them.

Glacier highlights

It might surprise you that around 5,000 years ago temperatures were warmer in this part of the world, about 4 degrees to be exact. Thanks to the colder climate in the last few millennia, conditions for glaciers and permafrost have been perfect. This means the glaciers that you’ll see on here are a lot younger than you might expect but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. Today, roughly 60% of the area’s landmass is covered by glaciers, a key feature that you cannot miss.

14th of July Glacier

Spitsbergen is glacier central, which means you have lots of fantastic opportunities to explore them. However, our team unanimously agrees that this glacier is particularly spectacular. Named after Bastille Day in France, the 14th of July Glacier is located in north-western Spitsbergen and surrounded by dark mountains, adding to the dramatic effect of the landscape. Whenever we find ourselves on an expedition to this area we are especially moved by the contrast of the white ice against the background. It’s simply breathtaking. During your visit, be sure to keep an eye out for the breeding puffins that make their home nearby.

Zodiac cruises along the edge of the Monaco Glacier

From our experience, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in this unique world than by taking to the water. Monacobreen (or Monaco Glacier) is the perfect destination for a zodiac cruise. There is simply nothing like the sound of creaking ice breaking the eerie silence as you move smoothly through the icebergs that float in the cold water. The scenery is stark, if you imagine Svalbard holidays to be full of vistas of vast ice walls and floating icebergs then this is the place you’d be imagining. We love to organise itineraries that include this once-in-a-lifetime experience, so if you’re interested, be sure to let us know.

History and Culture

Given that the population of about 2,600 is so small and so much of the nature remains untouched, you could be excused for reckoning that there can’t be much historical sightseeing to enjoy on any of WILDFOOT’s Arctic cruises. You would actually be wrong to reckon so!

Longyearbyen, with its population of roughly only 2,000, is tiny for what is a ‘capital city’. However, it is home to two museums, Svalbard Museum and the Spitsbergen Airship Museum, where you can check out exhibits related to significant Arctic expeditions. Outside Longyearbyen, you can even see two Lenin statues, a legacy of Soviet Union influence in the area.

Longyearbyen: A unique Arctic town

Situated in the valley between the shores of Adventfjorden, this unique settlement is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Despite being the ‘metropolis’ of the area, there are only 40 kilometres of roads, which connect the town centre with different parts of the town. It might be small but it’s an important part of the archipelago offering a gateway to nearly all nature-based activities for most Svalbard holidays – and the wilderness of the Arctic can be found right in the centre of town.

As well as a friendly, international community, you’ll find all kinds of animals roaming the streets of Longyearbyen, so keep your wits about you. It might be wild reindeer but it’s not uncommon for polar bears to venture into the town, drawn in by the prospect of food.

As well as the beauty and unique atmosphere of Longyearbyen, here are some interesting things that we thought you’d like to know before you visit:

  • There’s only one grocery store
  • Everyone takes their shoes off before entering hotels or restaurants (a tradition that goes back to the old mining days)
  • Whale watching from your window is a normal pastime
  • The streets are numbered instead of named

Ny-Ålesund: A scientific village

If you’re interested in explorers, then you’ll know Ny-Ålesund as the starting point for the Arctic exhibitions led by Roald Amundsen – you can still see the mooring that was used for the “Norge” airship. There’s lots to interest you in the world’s northernmost settlement, which only has about 40 residents throughout the year.

While its history is rooted in coal mining, today the village is used as a hub for scientists studying the surrounding landscape. It’s also the location of The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s geodetic station, which means the use of wifi and Bluetooth is prohibited. No Netflix here, we’re sorry to say. But it’s this radio silence that adds to the quirkiness of the village. Plus, it boasts the world’s most northern post office!


This small island in the northwest corner of Spitsbergen is a popular destination on our Svalbard holidays for history lovers. Danskoya, meaning ‘Danish Island’, is world-renowned as the site where Salomon August Andree made two attempts to launch his hot air balloon (The Eagle) in 1896 and 1897. Tragically, he and two of his team were found dead in 1930 in Kvitoya. But the failed attempts didn’t do much to repel others from trying the same. In 1906, 1907 and 1909, American journalist Walter Wellman tried to reach the north pole in an airship that was to follow the same path as Andree; he failed on all attempts. However, both explorers left several artefacts which draw many tourists every year. We think it’s a truly incredible destination.

We wish we had the space to mention even more than this…

These are just a few tips for enhancing your experience after booking one of our Arctic cruises. There are so many other reasons to be excited about your trip but WILDFOOT can assist in making your journey one to remember.

Other Destinations to Combine with Our Svalbard Holidays

Many of our itineraries can be combined with other destinations. Here are a few of our personal favourites which we think would be a wonderful addition to your Arctic itinerary.


A perfect destination to include on an Arctic Circle tour. We’ll sail you through the narrow channels and fjords of the coast on Zodiac excursions that give you access to the rich wildlife and fauna. In addition, Greenland’s iconic towns and villages nestled beneath the soaring peaks of the dramatic mountainscape, are bursting with Norse history and culture.

The members of our team who accompany you on these trips are as experienced in helping you spot the orcas, whales and eagles as they are in sharing the historical background that will enrich your visits to the local settlements.


We often recommend that you start a holiday to the region from Reykjavik. Our team never tires of a chance to experience the vibrant capital city of Iceland and would be delighted to share its highlights with you. We also send many of our customers on the Golden Circle tour – an amazing way to kick off the adventure of a lifetime with a visit to Thingvellir National Park, its geysers and Gullfoss Falls. We’re certain that you’ll end up loving Iceland as much as we do.

Jan Mayen 

This mystical island has a long history and is characterised by the cloak of mist that rarely clears. It was first occupied in the 17th century by Dutch and English whalers, but today it’s used as the site of a meteorological station and a destination we love to add to the itineraries of our Svalbard holidays. Without a doubt, the scenery is the main draw to Jan Mayen. Its landscape is defined by a volcanic presence, which is never far away thanks to the active volcano, Beerenburg, in the north half of the island. In the southern part, you’ll find evidence of former eruptions, as the land is marked by huge lava flows, cinder cones and striped hillsides. If you’re looking for some unique photo opportunities, we’d highly recommend visiting this destination.

We can’t wait to help you find the perfect option from our range of Arctic holidays. Contact us with your wishlist and we’ll be sure to help you plan your dream adventure.

We recommend…

Nothing compares to the adventure and thrill of one of WILDFOOT’s inspirational Arctic packages. Our talented team use their experience and passion to ensure that every trip is personalised and bespoke, meaning that you’re guaranteed the adventure of a lifetime.

Svalbard Adventure

Including the very best that our Svalbard holidays have to offer. This voyage takes you through unique landscapes full of local wildlife. You can expect dramatic scenes of mountain-scapes and ice formations, plus plenty of opportunities for spotting creatures like the Arctic fox and the iconic Polar Bear.

Scotland to Svalbard

This adventure includes all the highlights mentioned in this blog, such as the lush Shetland isles, the picturesque Faroe Islands and the remote Jan Mayen Island. This itinerary showcases the best that this isolated part of the world has to offer and is truly unforgettable.

Springtime in Svalbard

This unique voyage allows passengers to witness the changing of the seasons, as the winter landscapes transform into springtime, which is the perfect time to spot wildlife. You can expect to see reindeer, seals, walruses, Arctic foxes and even the magnificent polar bear, as well as plenty of birdlife.

West & North Svalbard in Luxury

If you want to travel with all the home comforts, this is the trip for you. Aboard a luxury vessel, you’ll discover the wonders of this beautiful part of the world. Sailing past ice floes and exploring in the Zodiac, there’s just as much as an adventure with a little more luxury.

Dog Sledding on Wheels in the high Arctic

Dog Sledding in Svalbard/Spitsbergen Norway

Contrary to what you may think there is little or no snow in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen in the summer time. Snow will gradually slow from May and start again in October so during the summer months of 24/7 sunlight the sled is swapped for wheels. I honestly think this is one of the best adventure experiences you could experience either pre or post your Arctic expedition.

The dog sleighing lasts for a morning or afternoon and start at one of the local dog compounds of which there are many. The dogs are a cross between the Greenland Husky with a local breed which originates in Alaska and are known as Alaska Huskeys. They are very well looked after and loved by the dedicated dog handlers at these compounds. They are well exercised and then well rested, fed, watered and tended to. If you are dog lover and know dogs you can see that they get very excited about the possibility of going out for a run and could be out on three runs per day for one week then completely rested for the following week. They also breed dogs very selectively and at any time they will have puppies in the compounds being looked after by their dedicated mothers in a separate pen. There were four puppies whilst we were there two of them with bright blue eyes you sometimes find in this amazing breed. They are outside dogs but do have their own hutch and feeding area but really flourish in the extreme cold of the winter months. Sometimes in the summer when the sun is shining and the temp reaches around 10 degrees they get hot easily and required a couple of water stops on each run.

Dog Sledding in the Arctic - The dogs are loved and very well looked after

If you are visiting Svalbard do not miss this adventure and an opportunity to spend time with real Arctic dogs. After the sled ride we had time to see the recent puppies and play with the dogs.

Find out more about Dog Sledding holidays in the high arctic



Brief history of Svalbard

Svalbard - By zodiac

Straight of Freemansundet

Around 10 am last night was an optimum time to see Polar bear as we passed through the straight of Freemansundet between Edgeoya and Barentsoya on the west side of Svalbard. We were not disappointed as we saw at least five bears high of the hills and clefts of the mountain side to our port side. But the surprise of the evening was a group of Belugas on the Starboard side extremely close to the edge of the side jumping and diving. The reason they spend time so far in is to avoid their main potential predictor Orca, that that you would expect to see common sightings of Orca in these parts buts it’s a learnt strategy according to a Russian research student who is studying Beluga and writing a current thesis on Beluga.

Today we are heading for Gustavo Adolfo Land which remained partly un explored and unchartered. Polar expedition vessels keep depths and chart information they have gathered over the years a secret unless shared in an emergency situation to come to the assistance of another vessel. The weather is certainly more Polar like with much more ice flow in this area and this morning we had a little snow for the first time. The wind is between 30 & 40 knots and sea conditions are too rough for landings. We planned to land to see walrus this morning after breakfast which we had to make do from the vessel and then sail on 2 hours to Alkefjellet (Mount Guilliemot). Which is where we are right now. The sea is still swelling and dangerous to cruise of Zodiacs but we have super views of the vast Brunich Guillemot colony and the dramatic towering cliffs with over 60,000 breading pairs.

As we were unable to land This morning two exceptional lectures we given. The first one by Frank Todd on The Polar Bear which was amazing from start to end. The second lecture was delivered by Paul Harris the historian on board on a brief history of Svalbard. Again, a riveting story right the way from 15 & 16 Century to the present day Svalbard and the Treaty of Svalbard.

Vikings supposedly recorded a fist sighting of Svalbard mean Edge if the Ice although it’s not confirmed this was in deed Svalbard however the Norwegians would like to think so to assist in their claim to soverenty.
It’s been the Russians who have tried in recent years to prove a claim to the archipelago by The Pomers, ancestors in 15 Century who were Russian trappers from Siberia who were funded by the Orthodox Church. This again is an unconfirmed claim and not proven 100%.

The first proven and definitive recorded sighting of the land was by a Dutch adventurer in 1596 called Willem Barents who first gave this land the name Spitsbergen meaning the land of spiking peaks. He died possibly of scurvy related illness in 1597 marooned on the Spitsbergen ice with some of his men however a few were rescued which lead to tales of rich pickings, furs, whale oil from blubber and walrus tusk.

In 1607 an English man named Henry Hudson who worked for Muscovy Trading Company started serious seasonal whale hunting and for the first time oil was created from the blubber of the whale and used for many everyday items such as oil lamps, make up, soap, lubricants. By this time the Dutch and British were the main players one nation taking the north and the other the south of the archipelago. Business and profits were good.

Did you know we nearly didn’t have an Horatio Nelson hero figure of the British Royal Navy as our history books record today? In 1773 Young Horatio served as an officer on HMS Carcass and spent time on and around Spitsbergen. Against orders the story goes he went ashore alone hoping to kill a Polar Bear to skin and take home to his father. Once ashore after finding a likely candidate he took aim with his rifle but to his utter shock his gun failed. He tried to escape the tricky situation and used the rifle but end to try to stave off the wild and possibly hungry creature and nearly came to his end until a marksman on board the ship took aim and killed the bear. So Nelson survived to fight another day! This period in Nelson’s naval carrier isn’t as well known as his Trafalgar days.

Find out about our arctic expedition cruises here

Check out trips to Svalbard here

doomed expedition to the north pole Who was the first man to reach the North Pole

So shrouded in mystery is the Arctic that even at the turn of the century the home of the Alaskan Inupiat and the Inuits of Greenland, was one of the last uncharted territories on Earth. Since 325BC, when Greek geographer Pytheas discovered the cusp of a frozen Northern sea, explorers have sought to tame the Arctic. Here are six who succeeded.

the franklin expedition The Search for Franklin

The fate of Sir John Franklin and his ships, whilst searching for the northwest passage in the middle of the 19th century has been an abiding mystery, and even obsession, in many Canadian and British maritime history circles. So, the news from the throne last year in the Governor-General’s speech, that an expedition to find the missing ships and finally reveal exactly what happened to the fated expedition, was not that surprising.