Tour begins: Grand Hotel Oslo or Hotel Bristol, 5:30 PM. A transfer is included upon arrival at Oslo Airport to Grand Hotel Oslo or Hotel Bristol. Meet your expedition companions at our welcome reception and dinner at Grand Hotel Oslo.
Fly to Spitsbergen & embark ship
Take Tauck's charter flight to Longyearbyen, the world's northernmost city, on the island of Spitsbergen, the largest in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. This is a tight-knit community unlike any other, where polar bears outnumber the 2,000 locals and you might spot docile Arctic reindeer at any time. Look for rows of colorful houses, but you won't see trees; it's too far north for them to grow. Embark your ship and enjoy dinner onboard this evening.
Cruising in the Arctic Ocean begins
For the next six days, you'll be able to join an expedition team leader for Zodiac excursions to a number of the Svalbard islands. Depending entirely on the weather and where the wildlife can be spotted, your itinerary will be flexible. Each new day aboard this Arctic cruise brings a new adventure. Land on rocky beaches and icy or snowy terrain, with an incline, for walking and hiking from 30 minutes to two hours at a time. All the while, keep your eyes peeled for walruses along the shore; you might hear their nasal, hornlike snoring even before you spot them. Look for Arctic terns flying in the air and whales in the water. At night, swap stories during cocktail hour and enjoy the company of your fellow explorers.
An abundance of wildlife
This dramatic glacier-carved landscape is home to the largest concentration of polar bears in the world - some 3,000. Keep your eyes peeled for them, along with bearded seals, minke whales, Arctic foxes, and Arctic moose as you explore this land of black mountains and fjords, where traces of centuries-old whaling outposts and mining camps remain - from Norwegian to American and Russian. Your expedition leader and naturalist guide will share insights with you.
Sailing in the ice floe
Weather permitting, you'll have an opportunity to sail through the Arctic ice floe - frozen masses of flat, free-moving saltwater ice floating on the surface of the sea, a restless jigsaw puzzle of pieces constantly colliding and fracturing from the force of wind and ocean currents. Look for birds, seals, and polar bears who make their home in this wide-open landscape of immense beauty.
Royal glaciers and fjords
By your fourth day cruising the Svalbard archipelago, you may have reached the spectacular fjords of Northern Spitsbergen and the huge, blue-tinted Monaco Glacier, named for oceanographer and explorer Prince Albert I of Monaco. Be on the lookout for calving chunks of ice sculpture, the arched back of the minke whale, and bearded seals, sunbathing on ice floes close to the glacier front. Monaco is the last glacier before reaching a latitude of 80° North.
International stations & polar expeditions
Conditions permitting, you may reach Ny-Ålesund, the northernmost community of international polar research stations and a starting point for many historic North Pole expeditions, including that of Roald Amundsen. You might see barnacle and pink-footed geese, common eiders, Arctic terns, and several species of wader. The local reindeer are smaller in this area than their relatives on the mainland. You may have a chance to cruise to the majestic Kongsbreen (King's Glacier) with its three nunataks or rocky "glacial islands" - they're named Nora, Dana and Svea after Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.
Seabirds, Arctic reindeer & Arctic foxes
With luck, by this time you'll have cruised to Alkhornet, large seabird cliffs on Spitsbergen where thousands of birds nest and breed. Below the cliff you might spot the Arctic foxes who den there, and look for reindeer grazing on the rich summer vegetation. You may also see Pyramiden, a former Russian coal mining settlement, now abandoned, a ghost town.
Disembark & fly to Oslo
Disembark your ship today in Longyearbyen for your flight back to Oslo. Enjoy exploring Oslo this evening as you please. Your hotel is located in the city center near a wide variety of restaurants; your Tauck Director will have suggestions for you.
Tour ends: Oslo. Fly home anytime. A transfer to Oslo Airport from Grand Hotel Oslo or Hotel Bristol is included. You should allow three hours for flight check-in.