The BEST 15-Day Svalbard Cruise with Oceanwide Expeditions


Considering a Svalbard cruise to explore the Arctic? This is the only guide you’ll need to plan the perfect expedition!

Svalbard, also commonly known as Spitsbergen, has so much to offer, from diverse landscapes to unique wildlife that can only be found in the Arctic region.

There are many Svalbard cruises to choose from, but this particular itinerary focuses on the 15-Day North and East Spitsbergen Arctic Expedition. This is the exact cruise I joined with Oceanwide Expeditions onboard the MV Plancius.

Read on to discover all the details you need to know before booking an unforgettable Arctic adventure.

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Before diving into the day-to-day itinerary for this cruise to Svalbard, here is a brief overview of Svalbard’s location, what’s included, rooms and facilities onboard, and more.


Svalbard is located in the Arctic Ocean and is part of Norway, north of mainland Europe.

Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, known for its rugged terrain, glaciers, and iconic polar bears. It’s a fabulous destination for experiencing remote and extreme Arctic environments.

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Cruises to Svalbard begin in Longyearbyen, the largest town on the island, and there are plenty of accommodation options where visitors can stay before and after their Arctic cruise.

Longyearbyen Svalbard Airport (LYR) is the main airport for entering Svalbard, located just 10 minutes drive from the town.


I booked my Svalbard cruise with Oceanwide Expeditions and I couldn’t recommend this company enough.

Oceanwide Expeditions was one of the first companies to operate cruises in Spitsbergen and everything is organized seamlessly, from the pre-departure until the last minute of the voyage.

The service from the entire team and personnel is most commendable. The staff onboard are professional and friendly, and the expedition leaders are highly experienced.

Oceanwide Expeditions also organizes many exciting activities and shore excursions during their Svalbard cruises like hiking, snowshoeing, and Zodiac journeys, to name a few.

In addition to the 15-Day Extended North & East Spitsbergen cruise, they offer countless other cruise expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctica that you may like to check out.

Special Offer: Oceanwide Expeditions extends a 10% discount on their Arctic Expeditions to all my readers when you include the code MELONOEX during your booking inquiry.

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Expedition cruises in Svalbard with Oceanwide Expeditions include the following;

  • Accommodation in your selected cabin throughout the entire voyage
  • All meals including snacks, coffee, and tea
  • All shore excursions by Zodiac including guided hiking tours
  • Lectures and leadership by the experienced expedition staff
  • Free use of rubber boots and snowshoes
  • Transfers and baggage handling between the airport, hotels, and the ship in Longyearbyen
  • All port charges, AECO fees, and governmental taxes


  • Any airfares
  • Pre and post land arrangements
  • Passport and visa expenses
  • Government arrival and departure taxes
  • Baggage, cancellation, and personal insurance 
  • Excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges, and telecommunication charges
  • Gratuities at the end of the voyages for stewards and other service personnel aboard
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Room types onboard the MV Plancius come in various sizes and comfort levels to cater to different preferences and budgets. All rooms feature a private shower and toilet, a desk and chair, a flatscreen TV, and ample storage space.

On decks 2 – 5, options range from quad cabins and triple cabins with portholes, which are great for families or those on a tighter budget, to twin cabins with a porthole or window, offering a balance of comfort and value.

For those seeking more space and luxury, superior cabins are available on deck 6, featuring double beds, a sofa, a private bathroom, a work desk, a mini fridge, tea and coffee facilities, and a clothes cupboard for a homey touch.

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Aboard the MV Plancius, there is a main lounge open 24/7 with comfortable seating, a tea and coffee station, and large windows with spectacular views of the outside environment. This is the meeting point for all passengers for the daily meetings, lectures, and recaps of the day.

You can also sit in the onboard library located in the main lounge with plenty of books to read as well as a small souvenir shop.

The external areas of the ship offer open-air viewing decks at the bow and on the top deck behind the bridge.

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The food and drinks onboard the MV Plancius are excellent, with a wide variety of cuisines throughout the voyage.

There is a buffet in the dining room for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as the occasional 3-course plated dinner with dessert. One evening we had a BBQ dinner outside on the deck which was a lot of fun!

During dinner, or at the bar in the open lounge, a wide selection of alcoholic drinks are available including beer, wine, spirits, and cocktails.

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Now that you have a better idea about Svalbard and what’s included, let’s dive into a day-by-day recap of my own experience and what you can expect on this particular cruise with Oceanwide Expeditions.

This itinerary is divided into 2 parts – North Spitsbergen and East Spitsbergen, which cover a total of 15 days around the island.

See the map below of the expedition route.

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Part 1 of this expedition focuses on the northern areas of Spitsbergen and the locations we visited were Smeerenburgjorden, Hamiltonbukta, Liefdefjorden, Hinlopen Strait, The Seven Islands, the Pack Ice, the Continental Shelf, and Alkhornet.

The ship then heads back to Longyearbyen for a change-over day before embarking to the south and east of Spitsbergen for part 2 of the expedition.

One thing to note is that every expedition is unique and sometimes the plan and the route may differ from the original itinerary due to unforeseen weather conditions. But don’t worry; the captain and the expedition leaders always have a plan B!

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Your Arctic adventure kicks off as soon as you arrive in Longyearbyen, the main hub of Spitsbergen in Svalbard.

If you have time before boarding the ship, wander around the town and check out some attractions such as the Svalbard Museum, Svalbard Church, and the North Pole Expedition Museum, to name a few.

Ship embarkation begins in the afternoon at Longyearbyen Harbour between 4 pm and 5 pm where you’ll be welcomed onboard and escorted to your cabin.

Once everyone is onboard, a meeting will be held in the main lounge where you’ll be introduced to all the expedition leaders and the captain, as well as a mandatory safety briefing before ending with a champagne toast and canapes!

The ship casts off around 6 pm, followed by a buffet dinner in the dining room at 7 pm with the opportunity to meet fellow travelers over a delicious meal.

After dinner, we headed to the boot room to collect our lifejackets for the Zodiac and rubber boots to prepare us for all the shore excursions during the voyage.

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After some smooth sailing through the night, we arrived on the northwest coast of Spitsbergen. The landscape here was dramatic with jagged peaks and massive glaciers tumbling into the sea, a stunning introduction to our expedition.

This area is not just about the landscape; it’s a vital habitat for wildlife, and before breakfast, we spotted a polar bear walking along the shore of a nearby mountain that we observed for an hour or so.

Continuing into Smeerenburgfjord, we were surrounded by glaciers, bays, and mountains. On deck, we enjoyed capturing the scenery and spotted another polar bear on a moraine.

After breakfast, we cruised through Smeerenburgfjord, witnessing wildlife like walruses and King Eiders. We had our cameras and binoculars ready as the cliffs and shores were bustling with seabird colonies.

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Image: Susan
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Post-lunch, we anchored at Hamiltonbukta in Raudfjord and took our first Zodiac cruise of the expedition, seeing glaciers, and cliffs home to numerous birds, and we even spotted an Arctic fox.

In the late afternoon, we embarked on a ship’s cruise in southern Raudfjord. The landscape around Raudfjord Glacier was stunning.

We had a delicious buffet dinner in the dining room followed by a recap meeting and plans for the following day.

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On day three, the plans were to visit the Texas Bar, followed by a zodiac cruise along Monaco Glacier (also called Monacobreen), both of which are located in Liefdefjorden.

Once we landed on the shore, we could choose from different hiking levels including sportive, medium, and leisurely hikes for photography enthusiasts.

We set off on foot for a couple of hours to explore the rugged area which offered sightings of breeding Arctic Skuas and beautiful flora like Arctic Willows.

At the end of the hike, we checked out the Texas Bar, a small wooden hut built in 1927 by two Norwegian trappers. It is now a collection point for liquor bottles left by visitors over the years.

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We had lunch back on board the ship and prepared for an afternoon Zodiac cruise at Monacobreen, a 5-kilometer-long glacier named by Prince Albert of Monaco.

During the cruise, we observed the impressive glacier front and saw Arctic Terns, Kittiwakes, Arctic Skuas, Glaucous Gulls, and Bearded Seals.

If ice blocks the way early in the season, your captain might steer along the coast, offering more spectacular views and wildlife viewing.

As we set sail towards tomorrow’s destination, we saw around 200 Beluga whales surrounding the ship. An incredible sight to say the least and a great way to end day three of the expedition.

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Our fourth day on the Svalbard cruise brought us to Hinlopen Strait on the northeast side of Spitsbergen, home to the impressive Alkefjellet cliffs which are known for their large Guillemot population.

We embarked on a Zodiac cruise along the cliffs of Alkefjellet, marveling at the giant basalt columns and thousands of Guillemots, along with Glaucous Gulls and Kittiwakes.

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After lunch, we headed to Torellneset on the eastern side of Hinlopen Strait. The weather was perfect for exploring the polar desert landscape.

The zodiacs were launched into the water and landed on the beach where we split into different walking groups to explore the barren terrain which felt otherworldly!

We saw a Walrus colony hauling out along the shoreline and each group had around 20 minutes each to observe these majestic creatures and take plenty of nice photos.

Back on the ship, we indulged in another delicious dinner, followed by a recap of the day and informative talks about Walruses by the expedition leaders.

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After a good night’s sleep, on day five, we headed further north to reach the pack ice, and to make a possible landing at The Seven Islands (Sjuøyane).

This group of islands is located above Nordaustlandet and reaches up to 80° North latitude, bringing us just 870 km (540 miles) from the North Pole.

This region is a hotspot for polar bears, and the best chance to see them in their natural habitat. As it happened, a female polar bear with her cub was spotted in the open pack ice near The Seven Islands.

We rushed to the decks with binoculars and cameras to watch them resting. It was the most exciting start to the day!

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Unfortunately, as we neared The Seven Islands, a thick fog developed, making a zodiac landing impossible.

However, if you can make a landing during your Svalbard cruise, you’ll likely see Guillemots, Gulls, Puffins, Arctic Foxes, and Walruses. This is one of the most unique points you’ll visit on the expedition.

But as always with a plan B, we turned north to find the pack ice edge. Along the way, the guides provided a lecture on polar bear research techniques and shared a video of a female bear’s incredible journey from Svalbard to Siberia and back.

The afternoon remained calm as the ship slowly navigated through floating ice sculptures, which was an otherworldly atmosphere in itself and we kept a close eye for more wildlife.

In the evening, we enjoyed a BBQ dinner and drinks outside on the deck, while being surrounded by stunning ice floes. A fantastic way to end day five of this Spitsbergen cruise.

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Our expedition headed westward on day six, with the captain steering the ship along the edge of the continental shelf, approximately 40 nautical miles west of Svalbard.

This area is filled with marine life, especially during the summer when Fin Whales and other species gather to feed in the water, which is rich in nutrients for them.

The waters here mix cold, deep sea water with warmer surface water, with high chances of spotting elusive wildlife.

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast and gathered in the main lounge to watch a fascinating documentary on spy cameras observing polar bears.

In the afternoon, we spotted various birds, including Little Auks and a Puffin. We then started sailing south and encountered White Beaked Dolphins and Fin Whales, with a Blue Whale as the grand finale. This was absolutely one of the highlights of my cruise to Spitsbergen!

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Image: Elmar Weiss


On the final day of the North Spitsbergen leg of the trip, we planned to land at Poolepynten, but strong and high waves made it unsafe to launch the Zodiacs so we adapted and set course for Alkhornet.

After lunch, we arrived at Alkhornet and took the Zodiacs to shore where we split into groups to explore the towering cliffs which are home to thousands of Guillemots and Kittiwakes.

We walked across the tundra for a few hours spotting Reindeer and a family of Arctic Foxes playing amongst a rocky outcrop.

The day concluded with a farewell dinner and drinks back onboard the ship and the expedition leaders prepared a slideshow showcasing the highlights of the week.

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Image: Elmar Weiss
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The first part of this Arctic cruise concludes on day eight, arriving back in Longyearbyen in the early morning.

This is a changeover day and passengers who only booked a 1 week Spitsbergen cruise will disembark after breakfast at 9 am. In the afternoon, new passengers will board the ship to join the second leg of the expedition to East Spitsbergen.

Passengers who booked the full 2-week Svalbard cruise had the option to disembark the ship for the day to explore Longyearbyen, or stay on the ship.

Most took the opportunity to stretch their legs and wander around town, grab lunch, and visit some of the attractions in Longyearbyen. Embarkation begins again between 4 pm and 5 pm for all passengers before setting sail on the second part of the expedition.

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Part 2 of this Arctic cruise expedition focuses on the south and east areas of Spitsbergen and the locations we visited were Hornfjord, the Pack Ice, Russebukta, Habenichbukta, Freemansundet, Hornsund, and Bellsund.


It was smooth sailing through the night and our East Spitsbergen adventure started at Hornsund.

The landscape here featured impressive mountains that were topped with snow and lenticular clouds, a beautiful sight to the day.

While you might find the landscapes on this Arctic cruise to be similar at each stop, Hornfjord is a place where mountains soar and glaciers dominate the landscape. I found it to be surprisingly different from other stops in the northern part of Spitsbergen.

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After a buffet breakfast, we made a Zodiac landing at Treskelen, a headland of hard rock with moraines from the retreating glacier and interesting geological features.

We split into different hiking groups to explore the rocky peninsula, observed hardy flowers, and walked on sedimentary rocks representing Svalbard’s geological history.

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The afternoon offered a Zodiac cruise in Burgerbukta’s eastern fjord, viewing the calving glacier Mühlbacherbreen. We saw Guillemots, Fulmars, and a dramatic attack on a Kittiwake by an Arctic Skua.

Back onboard the ship, we enjoyed a buffet dinner followed by a recap and plans for day 10 of the expedition.

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Image: Elmar Weiss


Day 10 brought us perfect sunny blue skies as we entered the pack ice on the east side of Spitsbergen for a day of sailing.

We cruised through the ice for the entire day keeping a close eye on wildlife and we spotted a Bearded Seal and Walruses resting on the ice floes.

The weather was so great that we spent the majority of the time outside on the decks of the ship enjoying the sunshine while navigating through this icy wonderland.

At the end of the day, we gathered in the lounge to hear about the plans for tomorrow, as well as listened to lectures about the Walrus and the Arc of Meridian expeditions.

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The day started with quite a lot of fog, so the original plans to visit Edgeoya were changed and our expedition leader decided to head south to Russebukta for much better visibility.

Upon arrival, the zodiacs were launched and we were chauffeured to the shore at Russebukta, a vast area with beautiful lagoons and a mountainous backdrop.

Splitting up into our hiking groups we set off on foot across the tundra spotting lots of birds, Pink Footed Geese and King Eiders to name a few, as well as Reindeer and an Arctic Fox.

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In the afternoon, we enjoyed a 2-hour Zodiac cruise around Habenichtbukta which boasts high cliffs and basalt columns.

During the cruise, various birds and reindeer were spotted, making this adventure very enjoyable.

We returned to the ship for a BBQ dinner on deck surrounded by the most beautiful Arctic landscape. A great end to yet another great day on this cruise in Svalbard.

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On day 12, we reached Freemansundet, but unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side, with thick fog and thick ice surrounding us, making it impossible to get through and make a landing. After all, it’s Mother Nature and the Arctic climate can be challenging.

Usually with good visibility and better conditions in Freemansund, you’ll be able to see Walruses at Kapp Lee and Polar Bears along Edgeøya.

Despite not getting off the ship, we enjoyed an easy, informative day onboard with presentations on Svalbard Reindeer, Plants, and Arctic Foxes.

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On the second last day of our cruise to Svalbard, we re-entered Hornsund with much better weather than the previous day.

After breakfast, we made a landing at Gåshamna, a wide bay with remains of a 17th-century English whaling station and foundations of Pomor houses (Russian hunters).

Splitting off into different groups for hikes, we visited the Pomor houses and explored the rocky peninsula by the coast.

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The second landing of the day was Gnålodden, a beautiful spot with lush vegetation, a huge cliff where seabirds were nesting, and an old trapper’s hut. The cabin was used by the first female trapper of Svalbard, Wanny Wolstad in the 1930s.

We enjoyed plenty of free time to roam around, marveling at the bird colonies on the cliff, and spotted two Arctic Foxes up close.

The day ended with a Polar Plunge, with a few of us diving into the 4°C water. An invigorating experience to say the least!

Once again, we had a delicious dinner in the dining room and afterward gathered in the main lounge for information outlining the next day’s plan.

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For the final day of the expedition, we made the most of the good weather with a packed schedule in Bellsund.

In the morning, we landed at Bamsebu, known for its historic beluga whale hunting site. Piles of bones are a stark reminder of the whalers’ activities. 

Hiking groups varied in intensity, with some trekking from Bamsebu to Recherchefjorden, others exploring near Aldegondaberget, and some heading northwest along the coast to Pitnerodden, where we found an old rowing boat and a polar bear carcass.

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After returning to the ship for lunch, we sailed to Recherchefjorden for another landing where Walruses were spotted hauling out on the beach.

By zodiac, we made our way to shore to observe around 20 walruses resting in the sand with a mountainous backdrop. It was a peaceful and awe-inspiring experience.

Returning to the ship, we enjoyed a dinner, farewell cocktails, and a slideshow capturing the trip’s memorable moments. It was a perfect end to the most incredible expedition.

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Sadly, it was time to disembark the ship, and after breakfast, we said our goodbyes to all the Oceanwide Expedition crew and fellow passengers.

Transfers and baggage handling were organized for all guests to the airport or the center of town for those spending more time in Longyearbyen.

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Now that you know what to expect from this Svalbard cruise, let’s answer some frequently asked questions from first-time visitors.


To get to Longyearbyen from mainland Norway, you will need to fly into Oslo or Tromsø, and then take a connecting flight to Longyearbyen International Airport.

Despite its remote location, this Arctic town is surprisingly reachable with regularly scheduled flights from SAS and Norwegian Airlines.


Spitsbergen and Svalbard are often mentioned together, but there are differences in the cruises.

Spitsbergen is the largest island within the Svalbard archipelago and is the main focus of many Arctic cruises, known for its stunning glaciers and abundant wildlife, including polar bears.

Cruises that specifically mention Spitsbergen usually concentrate on exploring Spitsbergen intensively.

In contrast, Svalbard cruises offer a broader exploration of the entire archipelago, including its smaller islands, isolated inlets, and even Greenland.

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Cruises to Spitsbergen are perfect for anyone who gets excited about seeing unique wildlife and nature up close.

You’ll have a front-row seat to see Polar Bears, Seals, Walrus, Whales, Arctic Foxes, and lots of birds in their natural habitat in the Arctic.

Needless to say, you’ll find something special on these cruises, no matter your age, and you can enjoy hiking and other activities which makes the whole trip more fun!

Of course, if you like taking photos, the 24-hour daylight in the summer months gives you plenty of chances to snap the perfect picture of the icy scenery and the animals calling the Arctic home.

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The cost of Spitsbergen cruises varies greatly depending on the type of cruise and the level of luxury you opt for.

Visit the Oceanwide Expeditions website to view all available Arctic cruises, prices, and dates of departure.

Special Offer: Oceanwide Expeditions extends a 10% discount on their Arctic Expeditions to all my readers when you include the code MELONOEX during your booking inquiry.

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The best time to join an Arctic cruise is during the Arctic summer, from May to August. During these months, the ice recedes enough to allow ships to navigate the waters, and the region enjoys 24 hours of daylight, known as the Midnight Sun.

This period offers the warmest weather, accessible wildlife viewing, and the opportunity for different activities like hiking.

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Longyearbyen has countless hotels on offer so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay during your visit.

Below you’ll find properties suitable for luxury travelers, budget backpackers, and everyone in between.


Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen


Svalbard Hotell | The Vault


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I hope you enjoyed reading this article about this cruise to Svalbard, and if you have any questions, please drop me a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

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