Small Ship Cruises to Svalbard: An Introduction

Secret Atlas offers small ship cruises to Svalbard with just 12 guests. Svalbard is a remote archipelago of islands situated in the high Arctic between mainland Norway and the North Pole. It is home to some of the most outstanding natural beauty in the Arctic.

What better way to experience it than to join one of our Small Ship Cruises to Svalbard on an expedition vessel with 12 guests.

Our Svalbard Small Ship Cruises

Svalbard: An Overview

Svalbard is an archipelago of pristine islands located just 800 miles from the North Pole. This pristine Arctic wonderland consists of more than 2,000 glaciers, steep-sided fjords and is home to an abundance of wildlife including polar bears.

If you haven’t visited the Artic before, Svalbard is a great place to start.  If you are looking for small ship cruises to Svalbard consider a expedition micro cruise as they offer the perfect way to see it.

Micro expedition cruises are the ideal way to experience a fragile environment of the Arctic. Travelling on a small expedition vessel with a total of 12 passengers minimises the impact on the environment that larger cruise ships have.

Svalbard Highlights


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. As the earth’s atmosphere warms, the majority of Svalbard’s glaciers are in retreat. Watching as huge pieces of ice crack and fall off glaciers faces is an awe-inspiring experience, and also a stark reminder to the warming of the Arctic. Small expedition vessels offer the perfect opportunity to get up close to glaciers. If conditions allow, a cruise in a zodiac landing craft is the perfect opportunity to get close to the ice and take some brilliant photos.

Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife

Most people visit Svalbard to experience the beauty of Svalbard’s nature firsthand. From stunning landscapes to an abundance of wildlife, Svalbard has a lot to offer the keen explorer looking to get close to nature. On our expedition micro cruises, we regularly encounter a variety of wildlife, both in the water and on the land. Small group sizes ensure we cause minimal disturbance when exploring the shore. Smaller vessels create less disturbance in the water than their larger cruise ship counterparts making them ideal for getting close to nature.

Human History and Settlements

Svalbard is scattered with the remains of human history and a part of every expedition micro cruise is exploring its past. From the world’s most northerly scientific settlement at Ny-Ålesund to the abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden, Svalbard is full of interesting human history. On our micro expedition cruises, we visit a handful of different sites with our onboard expert guide.

Wildlife | Top 3 to spot on an expedition micro cruise to Svalbard

Polar Bear

3,000 plus polar bears call Svalbard their home and it is one of the world’s top destinations for seeing the apex predator of the Arctic. Polar bears are dangerous to encounter on land and the safest way to view them is from a small expedition vessel. During the summer months, polar bears are commonly sighted on the north-west coast of Spitsbergen, Svalbard’s largest island, and hunting on the sea ice to the north. Small expedition vessels regularly encounter polar bears although sightings can never be guaranteed.


An estimated 4,000 walruses live in Svalbard with several haul out sites that can be visited on a micro expedition cruise. During the shore landings, Walruses can be observed on the beaches from a safe distance. Walruses are also seen from expedition vessels lying on ice flows and swimming in the waters around Svalbard.

Svalbard Reindeer

Svalbard has its own subspecies of reindeer found nowhere else on the planet. Svalbard reindeer have adapted to survive the harsh winters and are smaller than reindeer found elsewhere. The reindeer have lived on Svalbard for over 5000 years. They can be spotted all over the archipelago and inhabit the non-glaciated areas. Overhunting during the 19th and 20th century decimated to the population to the point of near extinction. Today they are easily spotted along the coast.

What is an expedition micro cruise?

A micro expedition cruise is a term we use to describe a cruise on a small expedition vessel with no more than 12 guests in total. Our expedition fleet includes motor vessels, expedition sailing vessels and tall ships. 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 the best way to experience 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 the nature and landscapes that you came than larger ships can due to their smaller size, offering you a great deal more intimacy.

Micro expedition cruises 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.

What’s the difference between an expedition micro cruise to Svalbard and small ship cruises to Svalbard?

Many companies advertise small ship cruises to Svalbard but their definition of a ‘small ship’ varies and can range from anything from 250 passengers down to 12 passengers. The experience between travelling with 250 passengers and 12 passengers is huge. We use the term micro expedition cruise to describe an adventure cruise with just 12 guests, no more. These are small ship cruises to Svalbard the way they should be, intimate and low impact.

Svalbard Expedition Micro Cruise Gallery

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