The Norwegian territory of Svalbard and the islands that make up the archipelago offer a tremendous wildlife and birdlife experience, as well as a fascinating lesson in glaciology. The islands were first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th Centuries and are now celebrated as a breeding ground for many seabirds, along with lots of marine mammals.

Start your North Spitsbergen cruise in historic Longyearbyen, then join our expedition to the north of the island to take in the fantastically beautiful landscapes, the thousands of seabirds, and of course the star of the show, the Polar Bear. Nothing can prepare you for your first sighting of a wild Polar Bear, the undisputed king of the Arctic.

The Svalbard archipelago is one of the most dramatic places on earth. Just 600 miles south of the North Pole, warmed by the most northerly waters of the Gulf Stream, this is a spectacular land of rugged mountains, extensive Arctic pack-ice drifting offshore, and the blue ice of ancient, awe-inspiring glaciers. Experience the majesty of these North Atlantic islands as we explore one of the last great wildernesses on earth.

Our voyage focuses on the western coast and pack ice edge west of Spitsbergen, and as far north as the permanent pack ice. This area has the highest concentration of wildlife and places of historic and scenic interest in the archipelago.

  • "Stunning scenery. Great guides. Excellent tour. Superior food. Comfortable room. The frozen north, particularly the pack ice, was mesmerizing." — Robert Cessaro, 2023 Traveler
  • "Absolutely fabulous! I loved being in the pack ice, the contrast between the sparkling blue sky, blue water, and the ice. The organized daily activities were fun and interesting. The crew and staff on the Plancius were friendly and helpful. Each expedition leader shared their expertise both on the field trips and in shipboard lectures. We learned so much about sea ice and whales, to name a few." — Christa Russell, 2023 Traveler

Tour Highlights

  • Take advantage of long daylight hours, coinciding with the height of the breeding season for most birds
  • Watch for Purple Sandpiper, Red-throated Diver, Ptarmigan, Great and Arctic Skua, Long-tailed Duck, and Common Eider
  • Witness wild Polar Bear hunting to sustain themselves through the long winter
  • Watch for the rare and beautiful Ivory Gull and endearing Dovekie
  • Learn the natural history of this fabled archipelago
  • Visit fascinating historic locations of early industry and exploration

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Tues., June 18 : Longyearbyen

Welcome to Svalbard!* You touch down in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Enjoy strolling around this former mining town, whose parish church and Svalbard Museum make for fascinating attractions. Though the countryside appears stark, more than a hundred species of plant have been recorded in it. In the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where you might spot the first Minke Whale of your voyage.
*It is important to arrive a day early on June 17 so you don’t miss the boat.

Wed., June 19 : Route to Raudfjorden

Raudfjord, with glacier fronts, is a good area for meeting Polar Bear and Bearded and Ringed Seals on fjord ice, which is still unbroken. In Hamiltonbukta is an impressive colony of Brünnichs’s Guiillemot. Later we visit Ytre Norskøya, a small island that was used for many years as a lookout point for Dutch whalers. There we can still follow their tracks to the summit of the island. On shore the remains of 17th Century blubber ovens can be found near about 200 graves. The north side of the island offers the rare opportunity to see Puffin near their breeding places. There is also a small colony of Kittiwake. From there we sail northwest to the edge of the pack-ice. (B,L,D)

Thurs., June 20 : The Massive Monaco Glacier

Depending on the weather, we hope to sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 5-kilometer-long (3.1 miles) face of the precipitous Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular Polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen can be implemented. (B,L,D)

Fri., June 21 : Highlights of Hinlopen

Today we sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to Bearded and Ringed Seals, and Polar Bears. At the entrance there is even the possibility to spot Blue Whale. After cruising among the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs, we can view the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with their thousands of Brünnich’s Guillemot (Thick-billed Murre). On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, we hope to attempt a landing on Nordaustlandet. Here Reindeer, Pink-footed Goose, and Walrus are likely sights. We take an alternate route if ice prevents entry into Hinlopen. (B,L,D)

Sat., June 22 : Stop at the Seven Islands

The northernmost point of our voyage may be north of Nordaustlandet, in the Seven Islands. Here we reach 80° north, just 870 km (540 miles) from the geographic North Pole. Polar Bears inhabit this region, so the ship may park for several hours among the pack ice before wheeling around west again. (B,L,D)

Sun., June 23 : Sailing the Continental Shelf

While retracing our route west, we keep watch for polar bears and elusive Greenland (bowhead) Whales. About 40 nautical miles west of Spitsbergen, we sail the edge of the continental shelf. Here Fin Whales forage during the summer in the upwelling zones (where cold, nutrient-rich water wells up from below the sea’s surface) that run along the Spitsbergen banks. At the mouth of Kongsfjorden, we have a good chance of sighting Minke Whales. (B,L,D)

Mon., June 24 : Reindeer, Foxes & So Many Seabirds

Walrus sometimes haul out in Forlandsundet, our next stop. Alternatively, we might sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden, landing at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on these cliffs, Arctic Fox search below for fallen eggs and chicks, and Reindeer graze the sparse vegetation. You arrive in Longyearbyen later at night. (B,L,D)

Tues., June 25 : There & Back Again

Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Longyearbyen, taking home memories that accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.

  • Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Birding Cruise, Svalbard Nature Cruise, Naturalist Journeys
  • Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Birding Cruise, Svalbard Nature Cruise, Naturalist Journeys
  • Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Birding Cruise, Svalbard Nature Cruise, Naturalist Journeys
  • Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Birding Cruise, Svalbard Nature Cruise, Naturalist Journeys
  • Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Birding Cruise, Svalbard Nature Cruise, Naturalist Journeys
  • Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Birding Cruise, Svalbard Nature Cruise, Naturalist Journeys
  • Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Birding Cruise, Svalbard Nature Cruise, Naturalist Journeys
  • Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Birding Cruise, Svalbard Nature Cruise, Naturalist Journeys

Cost of the Journey

Pricing is by cabin, per person, based on double occupancy. Many cabin levels sell quickly. Superior: $7300 | Twin Window: $6050 | Twin Porthole: $5600 | Quadruple Porthole: $4000. There are also Triples and Twin Deluxe rooms on the ship. Please ask about cost and availability. Tour price includes: Voyage aboard the indicated vessel as indicated in the itinerary; All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea; All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; Free use of rubber boots and snowshoes; Luggage transfer from pick-up point to the vessel on the day of embarkation, in Longyearbyen; Pre-scheduled group transfer from the vessel to the airport in Longyearbyen (directly after disembarkation); All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; Comprehensive pre-departure material. Tour price does not include: Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights; Pre- and post- land arrangements; Passport and visa expenses; Government arrival and departure taxes; Meals ashore; Baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is strongly recommended); Excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges and telecommunication charges; The customary gratuity at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard (guidelines will be provided).

Please note: Cruise payments are subject to the terms and conditions of the cruise company, Oceanwide Expeditions, we contract with and may be fully non-refundable. These terms and conditions are primary over those of Naturalist Journeys.

Naturalist Journeys’ Added Value: Why cruise with Naturalist Journeys? First and foremost, it doesn’t cost you more to cruise with us. You pay the same rate you would if you booked directly through the operator. That’s where the perks come in! When you book with Naturalist Journeys, you’re part of a group. We send a leader with you who adds excellent hosting and interpretation skills, and facilitates group interaction. We also send you a species list and trip report once the trip is over. So really, you get the benefit of a small-group guide without the added cost!

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival and Departure Airport: Svalbard Airport (LYR) in Longyearbyen

Arrival Details: Plan flights to arrive June 17, 2024 at your leisure.

Departure Details: Plan flights to depart on June 25, 2024 after 12:00 PM.

There is a transfer provided from the ship to the airport in time for the Scandinavian Airlines flight 4425 at 2:30 PM to Oslo on June 25. 

Travel Tips: We highly recommend arriving June 17 to avoid any flight delays or cancellations that would cause you to miss the ship on June 18. There are a handful of lodging options in Longyearbyen and we have some recommendations below. There are also several fun things to do if you want to explore the town. The Svalbard Museum is a fascinating place to spend some time and learn about the unique natural and cultural history of Svalbard. If you enjoy beer and want to visit the world’s northernmost craft brewery, then stop by Svalbard Bryggeri and enjoy a tasting or a pint. There is also good birding right in town and along the waterfront if you want to get a head start on your Arctic bird list.

Hotel Recommendations:

Svalbard Hotell Polfareren

Svalbard Hotell The Vault

A tourist visa is not required of US citizens for stays of this length. Requirements requiring visitors from more than 60 visa-free countries (including the U.S.) to get a travel authorization when entering Europe for brief stays have been delayed until 2025. Learn more at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website.

Items of Note

Ortelius was originally the Marina Svetaeva. Built in Gdynia, Poland in 1989, it served as a special-purpose vessel for the Russian Academy of Science. Later it was re-flagged and renamed after the Dutch/Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius (1527 – 1598), who in 1570 published the first modern world atlas: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or Theater of the World. At that time his atlas was the most expensive book ever printed. Ortelius is classed by Lloyd’s Register in London and flies the Dutch flag.

The vessel has the highest ice-class notation (UL1, equivalent to 1A) and is therefor suitable to navigate in solid one-year sea ice as well as loose multi-year pack ice. Ortelius can accommodate up to 108 passengers and has an abundance of open-deck spaces. It is manned by 24 highly experienced nautical crew members, 20 hotel staff, eight expedition specialists (one expedition leader, one assistant, and six lecturer-guides), and one doctor.

Please be aware that a small number of cabins may have a partially obstructed view due to the size of the windows and the design requirements of the ship. For example, some windows may be partly obstructed in the lower half by a gangway. The best view is always on the outer deck or the bridge. Though our voyages are primarily meant to offer our passengers an exploratory wildlife program with as much time ashore as possible, Ortelius offers all the comforts of a standard hotel ? along with a bar and lecture room. Flexibility assures maximum wildlife opportunities. As such, Ortelius carries 10 Zodiacs with 60hp Yamaha engines.

Superior | $7300
Max: 2 Persons | 2 Windows
• 1 double bed
• Sofa
• Private shower & toilet
• Desk & chair
• Flatscreen TV
• Telephone & WiFi (supplemented)
• Refrigerator
• Coffee & tea maker
• Bathrobe
• Hair dryer

Twin Window | $6050
Max: 2 Persons | 1 Window
• 2 single beds
• Small sofa
• Private shower & toilet
• Desk & chair
• Flatscreen TV
• Telephone & WiFi (supplemented)
• Hair dryer

Twin Porthole | $5600
Max: 2 Persons | 2 Portholes
• 2 single beds
• Small sofa
• Private shower & toilet
• Desk & chair
• Flatscreen TV
• Telephone & WiFi (supplemented)
• Hair dryer

Quadruple Porthole | $4000
Max: 4 Persons | 2 Portholes
• 2 upper & lower berths
• Small sofa
• Private shower & toilet
• Desk & chair
• Telephone & WiFi (supplemented)
• Hair dryer
• Suitable for families

Passengers: 108 passengers in 50 cabins
Staff & crew: Crew 44 | Guides 8 | Doctor 1
Length: 90.95 meters
Breadth: 17.20 meters
Draft: 5.4 meters
Ice class: UL1 (Equivalent to 1A)
Displacement: 4090 tonnes
Propulsion: 6 ZL 40/48 SULZER
Speed: 10.5 knots average cruising speed

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.

Finland & Norway


  • John Carlson

    John Carlson
    John’s first polar adventure was in 1994 when he worked as a general laborer at Palmer Station Antarctica. He has spent the last 29 years figuring out ways to continue to visit high latitudes. This has included stints researching Adelie Penguins, conducting biological inventories on the Antarctic Peninsula, participating in bird research efforts in the Bering Sea and northern Baffin Bay, and as a guide/naturalist on many expeditions to the Antarctic continent, as well as to South Georgia and the Falklands and Hudson Bay in the north. John obtained his BA in Zoology from the University of Montana and MS in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming. He was born and raised in northeastern Montana and has had a strong interest in wildlife in general and birds specifically for as long as he can remember. When he isn’t visiting the ends of the world, he is the Regional Grassland Conservation Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service Prairie and Mountain Region based in Billings, MT. He was formerly the Branch Chief for Resources and Sage-Grouse Implementation Lead for Montana/Dakotas Bureau of Land Management in Billings. Other relevant positions he has had include Wildlife Biologist with the BLM in Glasgow, MT and the Zoology Program Manager at the Montana Natural Heritage Program in Helena, MT. Additional irrelevant positions include bread store worker, fence builder, and snow shoveler at an Antarctic base. His life in Billings intersects with two teenage boys Benton and Crean and his long-suffering wife Laura. Two Flat-Coated Retrievers in the house, Sage and Quill, keep them all entertained and provide John endless hours of enjoyment each fall chopping cockleburs from their fur.

    Other trips with John Carlson

Map for North Spitsbergen: In the Realm of Polar Bear & Ice

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of Your Tour

  • Make sure your passport will be valid at least six months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. 
  • A tourist visa is not required of US citizens for stays of this length. Expected changes to entrance requirements in Europe have been delayed until 2025. More information is available at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) websiteSee "Passport, Visa & Documentation" section below.
  • Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Norway and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
  • Medical Evacuation Insurance is required by Oceanwide Expeditions for the cruise.  Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance
  • Plan your flight reservations arriving into and departing from Svalbard Airport (LYR). Please discuss flight details with Naturalist Journeys before you confirm your flight booking. Once confirmed, send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Arrival into Longyearbyen, Svalbard (LYR)

Please note. If you are delayed in travel, please FIRST call the number of our Svalbard operator. As a backup, contact our office (both numbers are on your emergency contact list).

The arrival airport for this tour is the Svalbard Airport (LYR) in Longyearbyen. Please plan your flights to arrive at your convenience the day before the start of the tour. While you may arrive on the cruise embarkation date, we feel it is risky. Arrive at least a night early (not included) at your leisure to explore and rest up for this big adventure!  We highly recommend that you arrive early to  Longyearbyen to lessen the chance of a flight delay that could make you miss the cruise. For all arrivals, there are local taxis to get into town from the airport. It is a small, arctic town. There is some nice birding in town, museums, a local brewery.

Please check the Travel Details tab of this tour for additional information and updates.

Departures from Longyearbyen, Svalbard (LYR)

The departure airport for this tour is the Svalbard Airport (LYR) in Longyearbyen.  Flights out after NOON are recommended (9AM typical disembark time)

Travel Tip: Most flights route through Oslo and depending on connections you may need to overnight there at an airport hotel, or plan on several days and go in to enjoy this delightful city. There are a number of hotels in town but all are in close proximity so we suggest you compare prices and select one. There are also Air B and B's for rent that some of our clients have used. You can easily fill a day, or two, birding and checking out the local scene - Snow Buntings are often the most common bird!

Please check the Travel Details tab of this tour for additional information and updates.

Passports, Visas & Documents

Guidelines and regulations can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s documentation requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at:

If you are from another country, please contact the tour destination’s embassy website for guidelines.

Passport: You must have a passport that is in good condition and is valid for six months AFTER your scheduled return to the U.S. You should have at least one blank page per stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted.

Visa: At the time of writing, the Norwegian authorities do not require a visa for entry to Svalbard. However, if you have a visa requirement to enter Norway/the Schengen area, you must have a visa if you travel via Norway/the Schengen Area on your way to or from Svalbard. It's important to ensure that you get a double-entry visa so you can return to the Schengen area (mainland Norway) after your stay in Svalbard.

Expected changes to entrance requirements in Europe have been delayed until 2025. More information is available at European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) website.

As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.

General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!

Health requirements for entry to any country can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s health requirements and recommendations 60-90 days ahead of traveling. A helpful website for planning is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for Norway or by phone (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.

We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. 

Vaccinations: At the time of writing there were no required vaccinations to enter Svalbard. The CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. 

Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage.  Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. 

Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s).  If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.

Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, motion sickness, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.

Weather & Climate

Svalbard sits less than 700 miles from the North Pole, therefore it has a very cold climate. The eastern side of the main island, Spitsbergen, sits in a polar region where temperatures remain around freezing even in the summer. In winter, the polar ice typically reaches the north and east coasts of the islands. Meanwhile, the west side, which harbors the towns of Longyearbyen and other former whaling settlements, typically do not get locked by polar ice and temperatures will rise a few degrees above freezing in the summer, ranging from the mid 30°Fs to mid 40°Fs. Wind can be expected along with occasional offshore fog. While precipitation is not common, it is always good to be prepared with a rain jacket that can double as a wind breaker, as weather conditions can change quickly.

Aside from seasonal variation in weather, Svalbard can have very varied degrees of daylight. As this region sits above the Arctic Circle, the seasonal differences in daylight hours are extreme. In the peak winter months, daylight is limited to a few hours. In contrast, from approximately mid-May to August the sun does not completely dip below the horizon—a polar phenomenon known as the midnight sun.

Food & Drinks

Meals will be buffet or served, and the dining room has open seating. Beverages will be charged to your room. Dietary restrictions due to religion or allergies can be accommodated.

Bottled water will be available for field trips and drinking water is provided for you to refill a bottle. One of the many ways we strive to do our part for the environment is by trying to reduce our consumption of plastics; if convenient we appreciate if you can bring reusable water bottles. Your guide will let you know when bottled water is preferable.

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is cold – the best way to stay comfortable is to dress in layers, and be prepared with warm layers.

Please, pack as lightly as possible. Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down please! And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!

From our operator’s website:

In keeping with the spirit of expedition, dress on board is informal. Bring casual and comfortable clothing for all activities, and keep in mind that much of the scenery can be appreciated from deck ? which can be slippery. Bring sturdy shoes with no-slip soles, and make sure your parka is never far away in case one of our crew shouts “Whales!” over the loudspeaker and you have to dash outside in a moment’s notice. Opt for layers, as it is comfortably warm aboard the ship, though often cold on deck.

TRAVEL TIPs: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please DO NOT pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!

Spending Money

The official currency in Svalbard is the Norwegian krone, and aboard the ship the European Euro is used, along with the dollar occasionally. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. For the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like, or your bank. U.S. dollars in good condition (no rips or tears) are taken as a form of payment but shopping for smaller handicrafts may necessitate using local currency. If you plan to exchange cash in country, bring large U.S. bills ($50 or $100) that will give you the better rate when exchanging to local currency.

We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.

Aboard the ship, purchases of refreshments and souvenirs will be charged to your cabin. The day before departure you can settle your bill with the hotel manager, paying by credit card (Visa or MasterCard) or cash (euro, or in some cases dollar). The ship is unable to accept checks. Though the prices and standard currency on board is in the euro, other currencies may be accepted at the discretion of the hotel manager, at prevailing rates.

Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.


Tipping is optional and completely at your discretion. If you would like to show our appreciation to your guides, ship and hotel staff or anyone associated with this tour, it is entirely appropriate. Know that they appreciate anything you care to give and of course you can do more if you wish!

From our operator’s website:

The customary gratuity to the ship’s service personnel is made as a blanket contribution at the end of the voyage and is divided among the crew. Tipping is a personal matter, and the amount you wish to give is at your sole discretion. As a generally accepted guideline, we suggest 8 ? 10 euros per passenger per day. It is better for the crew if you give cash.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

Your guide is well connected and can help if any urgent communication need arises. However, it is highly recommended that you travel with a cell phone, if only as a precaution for the unfortunate occurrence of a medical emergency during an outing and needing swift accessibility to critical personal or medical contacts. 

Please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Options include activating international roaming, purchasing a local SIM card at the airport (newer phones may not accept SIM cards), or simply turning off cellular service and relying on Wi-Fi to make calls and access the internet. If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free.

The ship is equipped with internet and phone facilities (also subject to satellite connection and coverage). Wi-Fi access is available throughout the ship. There are two computer stations available for public use, and you can purchase either full internet access in various numerations or a ship email account for the duration of the voyage. Subject to VSAT connection, the ship runs an onboard cellular network allowing you to use your mobile phone. Passengers can use the VSAT cellular service by turning on roaming; prices are subject to the carrier.

Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well.

To avoid disrupting other guests, please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls when in close proximity to other passengers either in vehicles or during excersions, unless it is an emergency. Plan on personal cell phone call use on your own time.


The standard for both Svalbard and aboard the ship is 220 volts AC (60 Hz), so you will need an adapter to operate appliances from the US. Plugs are set up in the Standard European C and F styles. More information can be found at


Svalbard is on Central European Standard Time with observations to daylight savings time. Check before leaving home for your conversion.

Smoking Aboard Ship

Smoking is not permitted aboard the ship, or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.

Transportation To Shore

When taking voyages from the ship, you will be going aboard smaller vessels called Zodiacs. Please follow crew instructions and suggestions aboard these vessels.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at or telephone us toll free at (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!


Pace & Protocols +

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of Read more

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role

Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.


Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.


As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Travel Insurance

You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global RescueWorld Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.


Packing List +

Please pack light! Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid Read more

Please pack light!

Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage.  Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle.  It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds.  Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.

In general, the weather during your stay should be cold to cool (30-50°F) during the day, and nights and mornings can cool down into the low 30°Fs. Wind can be expected along with occasional offshore fog.

Advice from our operator:

We require you to bring a waterproof jacket and pants (minimum 15,000mm rating) for Zodiac cruises to shore. 

Apart from that, our advice is to take warm, windproof, waterproof clothes that you can easily add or remove in layers. Multiple layers of medium-warmth clothing provide more insulation than single heavier articles. This is due to warm air getting trapped between the layers and acting as further insulation. Look for clothing made of wool, silk, and new synthetic fibers, all of which retain heat better than other materials.

Layers give you the flexibility to control your temperature. The most important layer is the outer waterproof and windproof shell. More information about this can be found in our expedition manual, which you will receive at time of booking.

Dress is comfortable and informal throughout the trip. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Fabrics like fleece, as well as rain gear, will protect you from wind and keep you warm.

Clothing & Gear

  • Long pants, 2-3 pair. One of these should be rain pants you wear over long underwear or tights for comfort.
  • Long sleeve shirts/turtlenecks, 3-4 – think layering
  • T-shirts or equivalent, 1 (optional) for layering
  • Personal underclothing and pajamas
  • Long underwear, 1 pair lightweight (silk or polypro is nice) or substitute tights or pantyhose to keep you warm underneath on boats or stormy days while adding little weight.
  • Raincoat and pants – these double as wind break
  • Medium to heavy outer jacket for warmth and wind protection, can layer with your raingear
  • Warm sweater or fleece shirt
  • Fleece or down vest (windproof, if possible, this is a great clothing item for this climate).
  • Rain gear – these double as windbreaks. A two-piece suit is preferred. It is important that this be both waterproof and breathable, you will most likely be wearing it for active activities (walking, birding), as well as large enough to fit over other layers for sedentary activities (boat trips) as an additional layer.
  • Warm jacket (windproof) can be same as your rain gear if you layer adequately.
  • Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes, think of what feels good at day’s end)
  • Hat with broad brim for sun
  • Scarf or neck gaiter, warm, water-repellent gloves and mittens, warm hat
  • Socks – several warm pairs, and several pairs of a lightweight, easy to wash and dry material
  • Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes) with good tread for on the ship
  • The ship will provide rubber boots that are comfortable enough for hiking. For those who may be participating in longer hikes, you may be more comfortable using your own hiking boots (optional).
  • Comfortable shoes for evenings, travel days

Equipment & Miscellaneous

  • E-ticket verification
  • Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
  • A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
  • As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup.
  • Small daypack to carry field gear during excursions
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Binoculars
  • Camera and charger/extra batteries, memory cards/film, lens cleaning supplies and instruction manual (optional)
  • Spotting scope and tripod (optional – guide will have them)
  • Tablet/laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB stick, USB cord and charger (optional). If bringing a laptop or tablet, bring a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
  • Adapters for three prong electronic equipment
  • Umbrella (compact and not brightly colored)
  • Walking sticks (optional)
  • Small flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Alarm clock (If you use your phone, important to turn off data roaming)
  • Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
  • Sunglasses with neck strap
  • Toiletry articles
  • Sleeping mask or equivalent to cover your eyes if you are light sensitive
  • Water bottle (or plan to reuse a store-bought water bottle upon arrival if preferred)
  • Waterproof bags for keeping things dry, preferably reusable
  • Laundry soap for hand washing, travel sewing kit
  • Notebook and pen or journal (optional)
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Phrase book (optional)


WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!

Medical & First Aid Items

  • Personal medications (and copy of vital prescriptions)
  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on ship
  • Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments
  • Copy of eyeglass prescription, and any medical alerts
  • Health insurance & vaccination information
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
  • Band-aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
  • Antibacterial gel


Suggested Reading List +

There are many titles of interest for Svalbard; the following are a few that we Read more

There are many titles of interest for Svalbard; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.

Top Picks

Collins Bird Guide, The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe

Svalbard: Spitsbergen

General Reading


Field Guides

Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East

A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Norway

The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North

Natural History

Rocks and Ice Landscapes of the North: A Geographical Traveling Accompaniment for Spitsbergen and East Greenland

The Making of a Land: Geology of Norway

Arctic Plants of Svalbard: What We Learn From the Green in the Treeless White World

History & Culture

Shipwrecked on the Top of the World: Four Against the Arctic

Into the Ice: The History of Norway and the Polar Regions

Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault

Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North

Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.


Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more



Svalbard Archipelago – Encyclopedic Overview

About Svalbard

Spitsbergen Island

Spitsbergen: A Complete Guide to the Arctic Wilderness of Svalbard

Longyearbyen: The Northernmost Town

Longyearbyen – Encyclopedic Overview


Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Svalbard Checklist - iNaturalist

Species of Svalbard

Wildlife of Norway

Bowhead Whale

Polar Bear


Bearded Seal

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

The Nordic Board for Wildlife Research (NKV)

“Wildlife Conservation in Norway” – Article, The Daily Scandinavian

Conservation in Svalbard – Linking Tourism & Conservation (

List of protected areas in Svalbard

Polar Bears of the Barents Sea – Multiple articles by Circle Magazine, posted by

Geology & Geography

Geology of Svalbard

Geography of Svalbard

Glaciers of Svalbard – Svalbard Museum

History & Culture

A Brief History of Norway

Norwegian Arts & Culture

Origins of Svalbard – – A very interesting history of Svalbard

Whaling History of Svalbard

Norwegian Polar Institute: History and Culture of Svalbard

Helpful Travel Websites

Svalbard Airport (LYR)

National Passport Information Center

U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - Norway

Homeland Security Real ID Act

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

ATM Locator

Foreign Exchange Rates

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Norway

Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Norway

Travel Health Pro (UK) - Norway

Electricity and Plugs - Norway

Date, Time, and Holidays - Norway

Photo credits: Banner: Bearded Seal by Erwin Vermeulen courtesy of Oceanwide Expeditions; Arctic Fox by Erwin Vermeulen; Zodiac Cruise by Erwin Vermeulen; Purple Saxifrage on Spitsbergen by Rinie van Meurs courtesy of Oceanwide Expeditions; Polar Bear by Erwin Vermeulen; Little Auk couple by Rinie van Meurs; Ivory Gulls by Rinie van Meurs; Fuglesangen by Rinie van Meurs; Humpback Whales by Erwin Vermeulen; Lounging Walrus by Erwin Vermeulen; Arctic Tern by Erwin Vermeulen; Swimming Polar Bear by Erwin Vermeulen; Perfect day for an zodiac cruise by Erwin Vermeulen; Blue iceberg by Leica Akademie; King Eider Duck taking off by Erwin Vermeulen; Zodiac cruising among the icebergs by Leica Akademie courtesy of Oceanwide Expeditions; Returning to the vessel by Rinie van Meurs; Minke Whale by Rinie van Meurs; Bog Saxifrage by Erwin Vermeulen; Polar bear interaction by Erwin Vermeulen; Arctic Fox with Pink-footed Goose by Rinie van Meurs; Group of Walrus by Erwin Vermeulen; A so called 'wet' landing at Diskobukta, Edgeøya, Sptisbergen by Arjen Drost courtesy of Oceanwide Expeditions.


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