Sarah Louise Scales is our Queensland Area Sales Manager, and recently conquered the Introduction to Spitsbergen voyage.
I've been lucky enough to visit many of Peregrine’s fantastic destinations. But seeing the Arctic and following in the footsteps of adventurers such as Amundsen and Nansen has always been my dream.
So when my boss announced that I was one of the the lucky people chosen to experience the Introduction to Spitsbergen voyage I couldn’t stop grinning.
From Oslo it’s a short plane trip to Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard which is an archipelago north of Norway in the Arctic Circle.
My home for the week
"Home" for the next seven nights was the Akademik Vavilov, a specially designed Russian scientific research vessel’ (or spy ship!) and one of the best expedition ships in the poles.
The cabins are comfortable, with a big picture window providing the ultimate "room with an ever-changing view".
Next stop was the Mud Room to get our boots and groovy yellow parkas (which you get to keep) and a safety briefing. Finally a lifeboat drill and then we were off on our adventure.
The first few days
The first morning we awoke to some of the most amazing scenery: cruising through fjords with pristine views of azure blue water, towering, snow-capped mountains and ice floes gliding by.
The nature spotting was incredible, and the wildlife was seemingly out in force to entertain us. By the second day we had seen polar bears stalking prey, seals frolicking in the water, a variety of birdlife and rare sightings of Beluga whales.
Zodiacs (inflatable boats) took us into beautiful coves, past lone trappers’ huts, among icebergs and glaciers and allowed us to get up close and personal with seals and birdlife.
We landed at Amsterdoya, a once thriving Dutch whaling station. Being the first cruise of the season meant we were the first to step foot on this snow. The only signs of life were animal prints, and I felt like an Arctic explorer myself (except that I had a nice warm ship to scurry back to).
I like the nightlife
Ship life in the evenings provides plenty of entertainment. The bar is the place to be and Fernando’s cocktails provide a great accompaniment to hat parties, Woody’s amusing bar chats and the Vavilov quiz night.
The midnight sun phenomenon is quite disconcerting, because it is still daylight at midnight. It’s even harder to go to bed when, at 3am, the bar is still open and the sun is still up. I blame that (and not Fernando’s cocktails) for my lack of sleep.
14th of July Glacier
Day six was my favourite day, as we were in Krossfjorden, home of the 14th of July Glacier. Basalt columns are home to thousands of birds of every species, providing an ornithologist’s dream. I finally got up close and personal with the beloved puffins of my childhood books. They are such uncoordinated and bizarre looking birds - I was strangely more excited about them than the polar bears!
Once we landed, the more adventurous among us got to climb to the top of the glacier. Then we were off to Ny Alesund, the northernmost non-military community, to send our 'bragging rights’ postcards from the most northerly post office in the world.
To top off the day we had a barbecue on deck, sailing past the glaciers in Lilliehookfjord. The water here was so calm that the reflections of the mountains were almost a mirror image. The food onboard is amazing and very plentiful. By this stage I was happy it was not a bikini holiday - although a very brave few did get down to bathers for an Arctic plunge. Madness!
On Thursday 28 July we will be joined by a special guest for our Arctic Q&A session: Coxy from "Coxy's Big Break" and "Guide to the Good Life".
He will be joined by our Polar expert, Alex Burridge. Simply "Like" us on Facebook and jump online on Thursday 28 July from 2-4pm to take part.
Been dreaming of an Arctic experience? Get 10% off the booked cabin price on all* Arctic 2012 voyages when you book by 30 September 2011. View all our Arctic voyages and start planning your next adventure today!