Our Arctic expedition leaders, David “Woody” Wood and Annie Inglis, share their tips and hints for what to expect on an Arctic voyage.
Expect the unexpected! The landscape around Svalbard is varied - from enriched and well-vegetated tundra in the west to polar desert in the east. Abundant bird life flocks to the Arctic for breeding and plentiful feeding. The sea ice is a dynamic part of the equation which can dictate aspects of the itinerary, adding to the excitement and also giving opportunities for spotting and viewing the polar bear. Walrus are another iconic arctic species that we are always seeking.
What we do
The program in the Arctic is quite varied. The ship is a wonderful viewing and spotting platform for the wildlife, but we take to the Zodiacs (our durable and stable inflatable boats ) whenever we can to cruise or land and get the most from our time in the remote areas. We may visit a small community and sites of historical or cultural importance. We regularly take walks in smaller groups and explore the landscape.
What to pack
• For exploring in the Zodiacs you will need waterproof over-trousers and a waterproof jacket. Waterproof warm gloves and a warm hat as well. We provide the waterproof rubber boots (bring a peg or clip to remember which are yours!)
• Sunscreen and sunglasses because the sun’s reflection from snow and water can quickly lead to sunburn. Temperatures may vary from day to day so prepare for layering of warm clothes to match the day and excursion conditions. Don't forget daypack to bring ashore and a waterproof drybag to protect your camera
• On board the ship it is comfortable enough to wear light trousers (even shorts) and a light shirt. Of course when you venture onto the decks you will need to add some layers. Shoes around the ship should have a good non-slip sole and toe protection (“Teva” or “Keen” style work well). Flip flops or thongs are not appropriate
• Binoculars will ensure you can enjoy all the birdlife and are great for spectacular viewing when we are close to other wildlife
• Notebook or diary – good to capture your thoughts, impressions or just to record where you took pictures or enjoyed certain activities
• Don’t forget the charger for your camera battery, and the manual, and bring plenty of memory cards!
• Some people find preparing adhesive address labels for attaching to postcards for sending to their friends and family useful and time-saving
• A power adaptor is required – the ship runs on the same voltage as in Australia but requires a European-style 2 round pin plug with a rounded end to fit into the recessed outlets
The weather can range a great deal. It can be mild, up to about 5 degrees Celsius and without a breeze which can be very pleasant. It can also be -3 and windy which can chill you to the core if you are not prepared. It is most important to be prepared with layers for the range of weather that may present itself. Approach each day with a sense of adventure, be flexible and the expedition team will ensure we get the most out of a voyage.
What goes on during down time - eg the lectures
We have an educational program which will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the destinations. If there are days of sea passage in the voyage, this is where we would program our presentations. In Svalbard there are often no full sea days so the challenge is for us to fit in our presentations from our experts when we can. We make sure that we get the talks in without missing anything outside.
The food is very good with four international chefs on board. We have plenty of fresh food and a good choice so that everybody can find something they like. Our dinners usually have four courses with three options for the main meal. Desserts are delicious and it is hard not to go home with “excess baggage”! No one should ever feel hungry with plenty of good food and an afternoon snack each day. If anyone has any special dietary needs these should be disclosed at booking so the ship is prepared for your needs.
Sleeping on the ship
The ship's sleeping arrangements are very comfortable. Cabin stewards make up the beds each day. There is something very soothing about being at sea and people find that they sleep soundly - particularly with our active program.
Cures for sea sickness
The Arctic seas are generally calm and people should not be concerned. Our Svalbard trips involve no open ocean crossing as we sail around the islands and inside protected fjords as we explore. It is unusual for there to be much movement and the ship is remarkably stable. If people are concerned, it is strongly recommended that they see their doctor prior to departure. Prevention is better than the cure and much more pleasant!
Inspired to see this magnificent destination for yourself? Take a look through all our Arctic trips. Until the end of September, get 10% off the booked cabin price on all* Arctic 2012 voyages. But you MUST BOOK by 30 September 2011. So start planning your next adventure today!