Locations > Spitsbergen Cruises

Most Spitsbergen cruises, and Svalbard in general, begin and end in the archipelago’s largest town, Longyearbyen, an approximately four hour flight from Oslo, Norway. Travelers from the United States, and for that matter, most areas other than northern Europe, should plan on an overnight stay at either end of their cruise in Oslo.

Upon arriving at Longyearbyen’s airport, you’ll be transfered to the city’s main port dock, about a mile away. After checking aboard your ship, typically you will have a few hours to explore the nearby town. There’s a good bit to see and do in town, so whether you’re chance to explore is at the beginning of your trip or after the cruise, plan to spend as much time as you can.

Longyearbyen, a town of about 1,500 year-round inhabitants, is nestled at the end of a long, deep bay and surrounded by rugged snow-capped peaks. Reindeer and waterfowl, such as barnacle geese, roam right up to the town’s edge. In town, you’ll find an abundance of quality shops, some great restaurants and comfortable hotels. A grocery store and attached liquor store provides an opportunity to pick up last minute items before your cruise (bring your passport if you’re going to buy liquor or wine).

An excellent museum is located on the hillside about a quarter of a mile walk from town and is well worth the time & hike. it covers the town’s formation, era of polar exploration, Nazi occupation during World War II some of the natural history as well.

Types of Cruises

A number of companies offer Spitsbergen cruises, and they all vary on the focus or theme of the trip. Some cruises are for the more general traveler who are curious about this fascinating corner of the Arctic, and others are more active trips offering photography, birding, whale watching and even scuba diving.

Boat size varies also. Small, sturdy sailing ships are used on some cruises and larger ships holding several hundred passengers are also common.  For those most interested in the natural world of Spitsbergen, small group size and a ship with an ice-strengthened hull to go where other ships can’t, choose one of the mid-sized Russian research vessels built in Finland over the last couple of decades.

Green_Norway_NOsv0271 300pxThese small icebreakers hold up to around 50 travelers plus crew and their smaller group size allows for flexibility in itinerary to take advantage of changing opportunities.

For an example of such cruises, visit International Wildlife Adventures’ Spitsbergen cruises.

Also note the itinerary. Some cruises’ itineraries only cover part of the archipelago, such as North Spitsbergen, but others circumnavigate the main island. The length of the trip will affect the itinerary, obviously, and cost as well. Most stand excellent chances of encountering polar bears. Later in the summer, bears will be seen on land or occasionally swimming, but in June and early July, before the sea ice breaks up, you’ll frequently encounter them walking on the ice or swimming among the ice floes.

Find out more about Spitsbergen