Arctic Cruise - Spitsbergen, Greenland & Iceland

This is an exploratory voyage, which offers wonderful opportunities for hiking in the mountains, visiting remote Inuit settlements, photographing dramatic fjords, huge icebergs and Arctic wildlife. It is exciting new terrain for all. Spitsbergen, the jewel of the high Arctic, is a large island situated between the north coast of Norway and the North Pole. You will also sail on a southeasterly course to the East Greenland pack ice belt and, with any luck, head into spectacular Scoresby Sound, the world�s largest fjord. This voyage offers plenty of opportunities to walk onshore as well as sea kayaking.

Itinerary

Day 1: Embark Longyearbyen

Today you will be met at Longyearbyen airport and whisked away on a half-day tour that includes a historical trapper's station, friendly huskies and the chance to stretch your legs in the beautiful Advent River Valley. Excitement mounts as you board Polar Pioneer in the late afternoon and sail down magnificent Isfjiorden, rich with bird cliffs, vast glaciers and jagged mountains.

Days 2-3: Northwest Coast of Spitsbergen

The exploration of Spitsbergen's northwest coast features calving icebergs, mountain and tundra hikes, historic whaling stations and trappers' camps. Hopefully you will see puffins, Brunnich's guillemots, little auks and kittiwakes in their thousands. Board Zodiacs for close views of ice cliffs, walrus haulouts and possibly even polar bears. Reindeer roam the tundra and you will too, photographing wildflowers like saxifrage, moss campion, bell-heather and hairy lousewort.

Days 4-5: Crossing the Greenland Sea

Crossing the Greenland Sea, sail through the Polar Basin's nutrient- rich waters, searching for fin whales and beluga whales, encroaching pack ice, and maybe a narwhal or two. Expert naturalists and historians entertain with fascinating, illustrated talks on High Arctic plants and animals, and epic tales of such early explorers as Nansen, Andrée and Scoresby. These are relaxed days, wonderful for getting to know fellow expeditioners and preparing for a landing, if conditions permit, in the world's largest national park – Greenland's northeast coast. The region is home to polar bear, walrus, Arctic hare and musk ox. From Zodiacs you'll watch for ringed, bearded, harp and hooded seals.

Days 6-10: Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord and Scoresby Sound

Cosy trappers' huts beckon from across the tundra, where musk oxen, Arctic fox and eider ducks roam, just some of the treats in Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord. Lively cascades at Kap Humboldt provide a microclimate for spectacular hanging gardens. In Scoresby Sound, the world's biggest fjord, the vast Greenland icecap sweeps down in massive glaciers that give birth, explosively, to giant icebergs. Near Sydkap, the Zodiacs weave through a maze of grounded icebergs, some more than 30-meters high, sculpted with deep green tunnels enclosing aquamarine lakes. You will be warmly welcomed in Ittoqqortoormiit, an Inuit community whose people are happy to share their culture and explain the challenges of Arctic life. Kayakers will find ideal paddling conditions, wending through interconnected waterways, on the lookout for polar bears and narwhals.

Days 11-12: Sailing South

Sailing south along Knud Rasmussen Land, search for harp seals on ice floes and marvel at the mountain scenery that dominates the skyline. If ice permits, head for Nansen Fjord, where the Christian IV Glacier tumbles down from the icecap and you will earn stunning views of Gunnbjørns Fjeld, Greenland's highest mountain at 3,700 meters and the highest peak north of the Arctic Circle.

Day 13: Across Denmark Strait

As you sail across Denmark Strait towards Iceland, take time to reflect on all you have seen, enjoy the flight show of northern fulmars and black- backed gulls, and spot dolphins and orcas in their feeding grounds.

Day 14: Keflavik, Iceland

Approaching Keflavik, Iceland, watch for the now famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. In port, say farewell to Polar Pioneer and her crew, then transfer to the airport or a hotel in Reykjavik.

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