Svalbard With Silversea

4 August 2022
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Arctic, Silversea, Svalbard

It’s been several years since I last travelled to the Arctic, mainly due to a certain pandemic which has stopped anyone travelling anywhere for the last couple of years! So, when a last-minute opportunity arose to join a select group of agents aboard the Silver Cloud for a 6-night expedition cruise around Svalbard, I jumped at it! 

I would like to say the Arctic welcomed me back like an old friend, but it was actually the opposite! We landed in Longyearbyen in 40-knot winds, which were so strong they blew the aircraft door open! It felt a bit like the Arctic was angry with us for staying away so long! As we arrived at the port our expedition leader greeted us; “we normally like to do the Silversea bit first, and then the expedition. But today it’s going to be the expedition bit first, and then Silversea!” It transpired the wind was too strong for the ship to come alongside, so we were going to have to board the ship via the Zodiacs. Within minutes I was reminded why I fell in love with expedition cruising to the polar regions in the first place – you’re exploring some of the most extreme landscapes in the world and sometimes the landscapes like to remind you of this!

I volunteered for the first Zodiac to the ship and our expert driver carefully bumped us across the bay towards the ship. The wind blew in our faces and the waves splashed over the side soaking us through to the skin. After 10-minutes we finally reached the ship to be welcomed in true Silversea style with hot towels, hot chocolate and the promise that a lovely hot shower was waiting for us in our suites – and that’s exactly what followed! After my shower, I relaxed in the lounge area of my suite in the bathrobe and slippers provided by Silversea – the welcome bottle of champagne also helped me settle in too! I was reunited with my baggage shortly after, and then the cruise really began!

Silver Cloud is billed as a luxury expedition ship and travelling with Silversea you’re treated to the whole package; superb service, fine dining and butlers to cater to your every whim. I was lucky enough to be staying in a Medallion Suite and the luxuries were certainly abundant – tasteful decor with quality fixtures, a superbly comfortable bed, lounge, dining area and an enormous walk-in wardrobe that easily swallowed my suitcase and expedition gear. I also poked my head into a Veranda Suite during my cruise which was also very nice. Prior to the cruise, I had wondered if it might all be a little stuffy, but as the first few hours passed by it became quickly apparent that the overall atmosphere is a relaxed one, and it made it very easy to feel right at home!

Across the next 6-nights, I made sure I experienced everything the ship had to offer – it’s a tough job but someone has to do it! But actually, it was quite tough fitting everything in! The big difference between the Silver Cloud and other expedition ships is that she was originally built as an ocean ship and then converted into an expedition vessel. This means she is larger than other ships in the market and offers more too! There are four restaurants on board – the main restaurant served a delicious array of food each evening and I enjoyed many great dishes including lobster, lamb, clam chowder and some spectacular deserts too! On a normal expedition ship, this would probably be more than enough, but there was also Silversea’s flagship Italian restaurant La TerrazaHot Rocks where you cook your own steak on a hot volcanic stone (they can also cook it for you if you prefer) and one evening we also went to La Dame, which is the only restaurant on board that attracts a cover charge, but boy was it worth it! There are three lounges to enjoy, the most popular being the Panorama Lounge which offers great drinks, a sociable and fun atmosphere in the evening and views of the Arctic 24 hours a day in the summer! There’s a spa, sauna and steam room along with a hair salon and gym – I will confess that I have no use for the hair salon and never made it to the gym, but I was reliably informed it was very sufficient! Every afternoon at 4 pm Silversea serves a delicious afternoon tea in La Terraza with all the bells and whistles you’d expect, including a pianist tinkling the ivories in the corner. There is a library of books if you can find some time and even a cigar lounge offering a selection of Cuba’s finest with a menu of Cognacs. Finally, there is a big auditorium which can comfortably seat the whole ship for expedition briefings and a series of lectures by the expedition team.

With all these facilities to enjoy you could be forgiven for forgetting about the reason, you came in the first place. However, don’t worry because Silversea takes the expedition side of things very seriously too. The ship had one of the largest expedition teams I have ever seen, a person for every conceivable area of expertise from historians, ornithologists, geologists, biologists, and naturalists to polar bear and kayaking experts. They were all headed up by our expedition leader, Fredrick Fredrickson, who had the aura of an Icelandic Viking but also really understood the market of passengers he was talking to. Their expertise shone through and each day they treated us to two landings/shore activities, each one designed to get us off the ship and close to the action. After our dramatic arrival, it turned out the Arctic was quick to forgive our hiatus, as the next 5-days offered us blue skies, sunshine and temperatures between 5 – 11°C. The expedition team took full advantage and we enjoyed Zodiac rides amongst the ice flows, numerous walks in the amazing landscape including one up and on to a glacier, sightings of reindeer, Arctic fox, innumerable species of birds, seals and walrus swimming in the sea and even the opportunity to kayak.

But the Arctic did hold something back, and that was a sighting of its king – the Polar Bear! There are estimated to be over 3,000 polar bears in the Svalbard Archipelago, but they roam in an area of over 60,000 km2, so there is some luck required to find them. Four and a half days went by with nothing and just as it looked like we may have come all this way not to see one, the Arctic finally gave us a young male casually sitting atop a small island. Our expedition leader wanted to make sure everyone had the opportunity to see him and a military-like operation was executed to unload everyone into the Zodiacs. We all quietly crept around the bay of the island to gain a superb vantage point that offered an excellent view, without disturbing the bear. We observed him have a sleep, a stretch, walk around a bit, unsuccessfully chase a bird, and have a swim in the shallows before walking off over the brow of the hill. The Arctic does make you work hard, but when you get moments as magical as this, it makes it all worthwhile!

If you would like to visit Svalbard on an Arctic expedition cruise with Silversea, get in touch with our polar specialists on 0203 196 1000 or enquire here.

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