Around Spitsbergen: In the Realm of Polar Bear & Ice - Ortelius
Circle as much of the Spitsbergen Archipelago as the ice allows on this adventure-seeking research vessel and see polar bears!
The Arctic: Drink It In
Welcome Aboard the
Take a cruise around Spitsbergen and explore the icy waters of the North Atlantic. This special expedition offers you the chance to catch site of whales, reindeer, Arctic foxes, walruses, seals, and the star attraction, the polar bear. Travel on a legendary Russian research vessel and take in as much of the awe-inspiring scenery, abundant bird life and Arctic fauna as you can imagine. Arrive at 80° north, just 870 km (540 miles) from the geographic North Pole and return home having experiences one of the most epic voyages of your life!
- • Do as much of a circumnavigation of Svalbard as the sea ice will allow.
• 10 days is ample time for searching out polar bears and other wildlife.
• This operator has a reputation for offering consistently great, active trips on more basic ships.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
Save up to $3,100 per person on select dates!
From $4,050 per person
Policies and protocols provided before you book.
July 15-24, 2023
July 23-Aug 1, 2023
July 24-Aug 2, 2023
July 31-Aug 9, 2023
Aug 1-10, 2023
Aug 11-20, 2023
June 24-July 3, 2024
July 3-12, 2024
Some dates on similar ships, same itinerary.
Ask us for later dates.
July & August 2023, 2024
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Trip Sustainability Awards
Fantastic advances in minimizing carbon footprints at locations.
On the East African Energy Renewal Board
Runs local educational facilities for children.
Day 1: Largest Town, Biggest Island
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.
Day 2: Cruising Krossfjorden
Heading north along the west coast, you arrive by morning in Krossfjorden. Here you might board the Zodiacs for a cruise near the towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier. On the green slopes near the glacier, colorful flowers bloom while flocks of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the cliffs. You have a good chance of spotting an Arctic fox scouting for fallen chicks, or a bearded seal paddling through the fjord.
In the afternoon you sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth. Once a mining village served by the world’s most northerly railway – you can still see its tracks – Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the community is a breeding ground for barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, and Arctic terns. And if you’re interested in the history of Arctic exploration, visit the anchoring mast used by polar explorers Amundsen and Nobile in their airships, Norge (1926) and Italia (1928).
Day 3: The Massive Monaco Glacier
Depending on the weather, you could 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.
Days 4–5: Stop at the Seven Islands
The northernmost point of your voyage may be north of Nordaustlandet, in the Seven Islands. Here you 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.
When the edge of this sea ice is tens of miles north of the Seven Islands (mostly in August), you can spend a second day in this area. Alternatively (mostly in July) you may turn to Sorgfjord, where you have the chance to find a herd of walruses not far from the graves of 17th-century whalers. A nature walk here can bring you close to families of ptarmigans, and the opposite side of the fjord is also a beautiful area for an excursion.
Day 6: Highlights of Hinlopen
Today you sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded and ringed seals as well as polar bears. At the entrance there is even the possibility to spot blue whales. As with Liefdefjorden, you can take an alternate west Spitsbergen route if ice prevents entry into Hinlopen. After cruising among the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs, you then view the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with their thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, you may attempt a landing where reindeer, pink-footed geese, and walruses are likely sights. Near Torrelneset you can also visit the polar desert of Nordaustlandet, next to the world’s third-largest ice cap. Here you may encounter walruses during a coastline hike over the area’s raised beaches.
Day 7: Barentsøya’s Many Bounties
The plan is to make landings in Freemansundet, though polar bears sometimes make this impossible. Potential stops on Barentsøya include Sundneset (for an old trapper’s hut), Kapp Waldburg (for its kittiwake colony), and Rindedalen (for a walk across the tundra). You might also cruise south to Diskobukta, though Kapp Lee is more likely your destination. On Kapp Lee is a walrus haul-out, Pomor ruins, and the chance for hikes along Edgeøya.
Day 8: Land of the Pointed Mountains
You start the day by cruising the side fjords of the Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, taking in the spire-like peaks: Hornsundtind rises 1,431 meters (4,695 feet), and Bautaen is a perfect illustration of why early Dutch explorers named this island Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains.” There are 14 sizable glaciers in this area as well as opportunities for spotting seals, beluga whales, and polar bears.
Day 9: Bell Sund’s Flora, Fauna and Haunting History
Today you find yourself in Bell Sund, one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard. The ocean currents make this area slightly warmer than other areas in the archipelago, which shows in the relatively lush vegetation. Here there are excellent opportunities to enjoy both history and wildlife. A possibility is Ahlstrandhalvøya, at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden, where piles of beluga skeletons can be found. These remains of 19th-century whale slaughter are a haunting reminder of the consequences of rampant exploitation. Fortunately, belugas were not hunted into extinction, and you have a good chance of coming across a pod. Alternately, while cruising the side fjords of Bellsund, you can explore tundra where reindeer like to feed as well as rock slopes where little auks are breeding.
Day 10: There and Back Again
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. You disembark in Longyearbyen, taking home memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
Please Note: The chances that we can complete a full Spitsbergen circumnavigation (based on our experiences from 1992 – 2022) are about 30% in the first half of July, 70% in the second half, 90% in the first half of August, and 95% in the second half. In case we cannot complete a full circumnavigation, we may devise a program in northeast or southeast Spitsbergen. All itineraries are for guidance only.
Programs may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. Landings are subject to site availabilities, permissions, and environmental concerns per AECO regulations. Official sailing plans and landing slots are scheduled with AECO prior to the start of the season, but the expedition leader determines the final plan. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. The average cruising speed of our vessel is 10.5 knots.
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.
Perfect for any expedition, the vessel has the highest ice-class notation (UL1, equivalent to 1A) and is therefore 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 22 highly experienced nautical crew members, 19 hotel staff, eight expedition specialists (one expedition leader, one assistant, and six lecturer-guides), and one doctor.
Capacity: 108 Guests
Specialists: Seasoned Expedition Leader, Highly Experienced Naturalists, Expert Crew
2021 World’s Best Expedition Cruise Line 2021, World Cruise Awards
2019 World’s Leading Polar Expedition Operator, World Travel Awards
2013 AECO Puffin Award (Conservation organization in the Arctic)
"The Ortelius is a simple Russian ship with basic accommodations like a college dorm. She attracts a highly energetic group of travelers and often offers extra activities like Antarctic camping, mountaineering and polar diving on various itineraries. Her award-winning expedition team is enthusiastic and highly professional. If you have an adventurous spirit and don't mind narrow berths and limited cabin space, the Ortelius will offer you a fantastic experience of the polar regions."
Life On Board
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If you’re looking for an active, adventurous exploration of Svalbard that puts you right in the path of polar bears, this 10 day exploration on the basic yet adequately comfortable Ortelius is it!
Joy Martinello, Founder
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