Our Svalbard Cruises: An Introduction

Welcome to our Svalbard cruises page.

If you’re interested in visiting Svalbard then you have come to the right place. Secret Atlas offers the smallest group sizes in Svalbard with a choice between 12 or 48 guests.

Svalbard is one of our favourite places in the Arctic to explore because of its breathtaking scenery, 24-hour sunlight and diverse wildlife.

We offer a  richer way to experience the raw nature and wildlife of Svalbard on a small ship experience free from the crowds of larger vessels.

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Our Svalbard Cruises

Explorer Small Ship

with 48 Guests

Days

10 Days

Months

July

Svalbard Explorer

Small Ship Expedition Cruise with 48 Guests

Explore Svalbard on a small ship expedition cruise with just 48 guests in total. This expedition takes place on the newly refitted Polar Pioneer, one of the smallest and most rugged expedition cruise ships visiting Svalbard, perfect for visiting the ice edge. On this expedition, we will venture to the northern wilderness to explore the beautiful landscapes, wildlife, and glaciers of northwest Spitsbergen, home to an abundance of polar wildlife.

See the Voyage E-mail me Brochure

Natural Wonders of Svalbard

Expedition Micro Cruise with 12 Guests

Join an authentic expedition to explore North of Svalbard on an ice-strengthened former research vessel with just 12 guests. Led by our experienced expedition team our focus is on exploring and spending time in nature. We will encounter glaciers, visit wildlife colonies and cruise coasts where polar bears are known to roam. Our expedition vessel is equipped with Zodiac landing craft for shore landings to do short wilderness hikes.

See the Voyage E-mail me Brochure

Expedition Micro Cruise

with 12 Guests

Days

10

Months

May, June, July, August

Expedition Micro Cruise

with 12 Guests

Days

15 Days

Months

August 2023

Svalbard Pioneer

Expedition Micro Cruise with 12 Guests

In the height of the summer months, the sea ice opens up further making it possible to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, Svalbard’s largest island. This 15-day cruise allows us enough time to do a thorough exploration of the Svalbard archipelago. We will get off the map and visit some of the less explored places with our expedition leader. We will do shore landings on a regular basis to visit areas of natural and historical interest. Due to its length, this trip offers the best chances of encountering polar bears and other wildlife.  This cruise is ideal for people looking to see as much of Svalbard as possible.

See the Voyage E-mail me Brochure

Svalbard Photography Cruises

Photography Expedition with 12 Guests

We offer a range of photography cruises to Svalbard that follow similar routes to our expedition cruises. Our photography cruises allow more time in the schedule to focus on photography and are led by a world-class photographer with experience in Svalbard. There are optional workshops and feedback sessions on board to help photographers learn new skills and improve their technique during the cruise.

Whilst the trip is focussed on searching for photography opportunities, non-photographers are more than welcome to join.

See the Voyage E-mail me Brochure

Expedition Micro Cruise

with 12 Guests

Days

9

Months

April & May

Compare Svalbard Cruise Experiences

Secret Atlas

  • Smallest Group sizes available in Svalbard and Greenland
  • Room for all our guests in Zodiacs
  • All our guests can explore ashore at the same time
  • Minimal waiting time to go ashore
  • 1 guide for every 6 guests
  • Visit places larger ships can’t reach
  • Longer ashore in an unhurried way
  • Maximum flexibility to explore
  • Authentic expedition style
See Our Micro Cruises

Secret Atlas

See Our Small Ship Cruises

Other Operators

  • Larger group sizes in all polar destinations
  • Guests wait in a groups for Zodiacs
  • Guests go ashore in groups. Some sites have restricted numbers
  • Up to an hour wait time to go ashore
  • Average 1 guide for every 10 guests
  • Can’t access all sites 
  • Shore landings are regimented 
  • Set itinerary
  • Luxury rather than expedition

What Can I See on a Svalbard Cruise?

polar bear photo tour in svalbard

Wildlife

Svalbard is home to a fantastic abundance of wildlife. On our expeditions we regularly see polar bears, walruses, whales, seals, Arctic foxes, reindeer and an array of birds.

glaciers in Svalbard in Norway

Glaciers

Svalbard is home to over 2,000 glaciers. If you are interested in glaciers Svalbard is one of the best places on earth to witness their raw beauty.

zodiac-cruise-in-svalbard

Sea Ice

The sea ice to the north of Svalbard extends all the way to the North Pole. In calm conditions, it is possible to explore it by Zodiac landing craft.

spitzbergen in norway

HUMAN HISTORY AND SETTLEMENTS

Svalbard is full of interesting human history from the world’s most northerly scientific settlement to the remains of early expeditions to the North Pole.

Plan Your Svalbard Cruise

The Secret Atlas blog has a wide variety of articles to help you plan your Svalbard cruise.

When Is the best time to visit Svalbard on a Cruise? Which Expedition Cruise is right for me? 5 Myths About Visiting the Arctic on a Small Ship 9 reasons to visit Svalbard on a small ship cruise 10 places in Svalbard you can visit on a cruise

Svalbard Cruise Information

Departure Port

Longyearbyen

Airport

Longyearbyen (LYR) with daily flights to Oslo, Norway

Time Zone

UTC+01:00 (CET)

Time Of Year

April – September

Onboard Languages

English & German

‘The luxury of being alone in nature and getting close to animals is worth it.  This trip is also great for slowing down and reconnecting with the wild.  Smaller groups meant no waiting to go ashore. We anchored and the landing craft was ready to go. It is a much more adventurous feeling on a small ship and you are really immersed in nature.’

Julia, Secret Atlas Guest

Svalbard Cruises FAQ

Plan Your Svalbard Cruise

When is the best time of year to take a cruise to Svalbard?

The cruising season in Svalbard starts in late April and finishes in late September / early October. Before April the sea ice restricts the coastline and many places are inaccessible and after September the light hours reduce as the winter approaches.

Each month of the cruising season offers something different and depending on when you visit can be a totally different experience.

In April and early May the landscapes and shores of Svalbard are still covered in snow making it a scenic paradise and ideal for photography. During these months cruises are shorter as access to the north coast can still be restricted due to the sea ice. Please see our Frozen Svalbard Cruise to find out more.

As the 24-hour daylight arrives, the coast to the north of Svalbard opens up making longer cruises possible. Cruises from mid-May through to the end of June can explore the northern shores which are a great place to spot polar bears. With constant daylight cruises during this period are ideal for wildlife watching. Please see our Wildlife and Natural Wonders of Svalbard Cruise for more information.

In July and August the summer has finally arrived. The sea ice has retreated further north and in most years it is possible to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Our Svalbard Pioneer Cruise is ideal for getting off the beaten track and seeing the wilder side of Svalbard.

September is a good month for photography as the light becomes lower in the sky.  

Where do your cruises to Svalbard depart from?

All our expedition cruises depart from Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard. Longyearbyen is easily reached by daily flights from Oslo in Norway making it one of the easiest destinations to reach in the High Arctic. To find out more about how to get to Longyearbyen please visit our guide. 

What is an Expedition Micro Cruise?

Expedition micro cruise is a term we use to describe an expedition cruise with no more than 12 guests in total. Our cruises take place on custom built expedition vessels built for safe travel in the polar regions. All our vessels offer good comfort levels, private cabins and great food with the huge added bonus that you will be experiencing Svalbard with just a handful of guests.

The focus on our trips is exploring and we will aim to make daily landings by Zodiac landing craft to explore the shore. You will be accompanied by a knowledgeable expert guide who will tell you about the areas you visit. When you have been apart of a small group experience we guarantee you will never want to go back to cruising on larger vessels.

Why is an Expedition Micro Cruise or Small Ship Cruise the best way to explore Svalbard?

Unlike larger vessels with higher passenger capacities, our voyages are personal and unique in their approach. Travelling with a small group of guests means more time and flexibility exploring and less time waiting to go ashore.

Our small expedition vessels will get you closer to nature and landscapes that you came than larger ships can due to their smaller size, offering you a great deal more intimacy.

Our Expedition Micro Cruises and Small Ship Adventures give you the opportunity to experience the Arctic first hand on a real adventure without the crowds of people on larger ships. Our goal is to make you part of the adventure.

How does a small ship experience in Svalbard compare to other cruises?

Non-expedition cruises on regular cruise ships don’t offer shore landings and often only visit Longyearbyen which means they miss out on lots of the adventure. The average size of a cruise ship doing non-expedition cruises takes 2000 passengers.

A number of companies offer expedition cruises in Svalbard with landings on larger vessels. The average number of passengers these ships take is over 200. In our opinion that is too many people to be landing at sensitive places in the Arctic.

Many companies advertise small ship cruises to Svalbard but their definition of a ‘small ship’ varies and can range from anything from 250 guests down to 12 guests. The experience between travelling with 250 guests and 48 or 12 guests is huge. Our Expedition Micro Cruises and Small Ship Cruises to Svalbard are the way they should be, intimate and low impact.

During Your Svalbard Cruise

What wildlife will I see on my cruise to Svalbard?

Svalbard is an untamed Arctic wilderness and on every cruise we do we encounter different wildlife. Svalbard in our opinion is the best place in the High Arctic to see wildlife including polar bears as there are high concentrations surrounding the islands.

The chances of encountering wildlife are very high and on all previous trips, we have seen walruses, whales, Svalbard Reindeer and a variety of birdlife. Whilst we can’t make any guarantees, we have encountered polar bears on the majority of our trips and we cruise areas where they are known to hunt.

If seeing a polar bear is one of your main attractions we would recommend Svalbard Pioneer of the Wildlife and Natural Wonders of Svalbard cruises. On these trips, we visit areas where Walruses are known to haul out and also regularly see Arctic foxes, puffins and Beluga whales.

What places will I visit on a cruise to Svalbard?

A part of the adventure of an expedition cruise is to spend time exploring the wilderness which means every trip is different. Our route is decided on the day of boarding and is chosen by the expedition leader and the captain in line with the prevailing weather and ice conditions. Their aim is to ensure that you see the very best that Svalbard has to offer.

On a typical cruise, you can expect daily shore landings to visit sites of historical and natural interest and to undertake short wilderness hikes. Svalbard has over 2000 glaciers and we aim to visit at least 1 calving glacier face which is an incredible sight. On some cruises, if conditions allow we will attempt to visit the edge of the sea ice.

We will also visit known wildlife sites including beaches where walruses haul out and areas where polar bears are frequently sighted.

Will it be cold on my cruise to Svalbard?

Due to the influence of the gulf stream on Svalbard’s climate, it is warmer during the summer than most people would imagine. A summer’s day rarely feels colder than the temperatures experienced in Northern Europe during the winter. It is not uncommon to be out hiking with only a base layer on when the sun is shining.

The temperature varies depending on the month you travel with the months of July and August offering the warmest temperatures.

Average High:

April -9°C,

May -3 °C

June +3°C

July +7°C

August +6°C

September +1°C

Know More

Is an Expedition Micro Cruise or Small Ship Suitable for me?

Our cruises are suitable for the vast majority of people and we aim to make them as accessible as possible. We ask that our guests have a good level of mobility as it is a requirement that you can safely step down from the vessel into the landing craft and then exit the landing craft on the beach. Due to the remote areas we visit and the distance from medical assistance, we advise that you have a reasonable level of fitness and are in good health. During the shore landings, we have 2 guides which enable us to split the group if we have some keen hikers and some other guests with more limited range.

Who joins your Svalbard cruises?

We don’t have any age restrictions on our trips and we pride ourselves on having diverse guests from all over the world with a passion for exploring. In the past we have had young professionals eager to explore, middle-aged solo travellers, looking for their next adventure, through to retirees looking to see Svalbard in a more in-depth way. Our trips are friendly and inclusive for all our guests.

Can I join your cruise as a solo traveller?

Yes, you can and every year we welcome solo travellers onboard where you will find a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

We offer accommodation options for single cabins or sharing a cabin with travellers of the same gender.

Sustainability

How do you ensure your cruises don’t have a negative effect on the environment?

That’s a great question and one we want to answer honestly.

The vessels we work with don’t burn heavy fuels which are particularly detrimental to the environment and run on standard marine diesel. As a part of our commitment to the environment, we climate compensate all of our emissions by planting trees with our sustainability partner in Greenland. The cost of this is covered within the fares our guests pay and we don’t charge an additional fee for this.

Secret Atlas don’t sell flights but we are aware our guests have to fly to our destinations to board our cruises. As a part of our climate commitment, we will match the offset costs for any guests who would like to offset their flights with us. This is offered at the time of booking.

During our cruises, we follow very strict guidelines as set out by AECO (Association Of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) to ensure minimal impact on the wildlife and places we visit. This includes following strict rules about not disturbing wildlife in its natural habitat. We employ highly experienced expedition leaders to run our expeditions in accordance with the rules and safety code laid out by AECO. The principal rules are:

  1. Leave no lasting signs of your visit
  2. Do not pick flowers
  3. Do not take anything with you
  4. Do not disturb animals and birds
  5. Leave cultural remains alone Cultural remains are protected by law and a zone of 100 meters around the remains is also considered a protected zone. Watch where you are walking and standing. Walk around and not in between obj
  6. Take the polar bear danger seriously
  7. Respect local culture and local people
  8. Be safe

Our expedition leaders are highly trained in safety and following these rules and brief guests at the beginning of each departure. They ensure the safety of the guests throughout the cruise and that the AECO rules are followed.

As a member of AECO we take great efforts to ensure our trips don’t have any negative impact on the wildlife or environment. You can find out more here.