Meet Flavio and Anna Maria from Italy who visited Svalbard for the first time on an Expedition Micro Cruise with Secret Atlas.
Anna Maria: “It was one of my dreams to visit the Arctic and my husband and I had talked about it for years. It is a fascinating land of snow and white and you feel like you are living in a dream. At first, we were not considering a cruise until we came across the Secret Atlas cruise and it was a great opportunity to see more than one place in Svalbard. So happy we did, it was a fantastic choice.”
Flavio: “I’ve visited a lot of other countries, like the Himalayas and the Dolomites in Italy and I love ice and glaciers, but I’ve never experienced an environment such as Svalbard. The stillness of the place becomes part of your soul and remains a part of you.
It can be so crowded in many places in the world, but in Svalbard, you can experience real silence, a taste of the place and the true environment. It’s something you feel in your heart. You are able to spend time admiring nature, the huge space and the ice.
It was a terrific feeling of infinite space to be at 80 degrees north, I’ve never seen anything like it. From the ice edge in Svalbard, you can see nothing in front of you except endless wilderness, with the North Pole just 800 miles away. It is a very different feeling than being on a mountain where there is always something in front of you.”
Anna Maria: “My husband Favio and I have different interests but this was a chance to share an experience together. There were other couples and singles aboard and everyone travelled well together, always sharing our experiences together.”
Flavio: “The highlights for me were the spectacular environment, animals and the expedition leaders. The expedition leaders make the trip. We saw polar bear, whales, foxes, walruses and the Svalbard reindeer and a number of birds. We were close enough to see the different types of whales. The other thing I’ll remember is silence.
I travelled to Nepal in 1987, which was a very different Nepal from today’s standards. That, to me, had been the best travelling memory until July 2019 when I landed in Svalbard. The trip has been a rollercoaster of emotions and I want to go back. I want more. I had great expectations and the reality was way better than that. It is hard to find the words to describe it, you just need to go there and experience it first hand.
I would recommend the trip and I would like to come back to Svalbard. It has been a really touching experience and I can highly recommend it. It is a unique place to visit. You get a ton of experience, the sea ice, endless landscapes. It is expensive but it is also a once in a lifetime trip.
I am a mountaineer and in the mountains, you have schedules and a goal to reach. On our cruise, there was no set schedule. Every day was different and each day had surprises. Experiencing 24 hours of daylight was very powerful. These are things we are not used to during our normal lives.
The micro cruise concept adds value to the Svalbard experience. There is barely anyone around you, so if you want to sit down and just listen to the sound of the wind you are assured no one is there in the background chatting or ruining the experience. If you want to take your time to snap some pictures, there is no one rushing you. There is no one else around and you are alone.
It is a journey inwards. Fabulous experience, we were very happy to have this unique experience of our lifetime.”
Anna Maria: “The experience was totally great. The organisation, the crew caring for us, the expedition leaders were all a top team. I don’t think we could find a better team. The room was spacious with a bathroom ensuite, it was really luxury travel for us. We loved everything about the trip, the shore landing with the small boats going inland, the hiking. Everything was really top.
We were able to see walruses, many animals, impressive glaciers and wild landscapes of ice on the islands’ edge. It was a dream for us. I woke up in the middle of the night to see the landscapes around me in 24 hours of daylight. Everything was outstanding.
We went to tour the ice edge with the landing craft, the first ice going all the way to the North Pole, and saw bear tracks. I was looking at the horizon and it was so beautiful. It is a once in a lifetime experience and a must-see place to visit.
You must go there once in your life. It is a landscape that is so totally different from what you’ve seen before. I have travelled a lot in South America, Africa and Europe, but this is an experience for everybody. Quiet, peaceful and silent. It is a gift and an experience you have to do.
It is so different from everything I see around me. You can really focus on yourself and your feelings and you feel well. You live well there. Nature for me is my life and people should be able to experience nature how it is. I think it is difficult to find a similar situation in other parts of the world or to experience that sense of loneliness. You cannot ask for more.
Both of the expedition leaders were very friendly and professional and their explanation of the glaciers was very good.
The safety was great and everyone was really experienced. I never felt in danger. The expedition leaders were very careful, especially with good polar bear protection. You feel you can walk without danger and you have to stay with the guides when ashore.”
Flavio: “The M/V Togo was a really safe expedition vessel, is well kept with first-class service and the cabin was spacious. We were not missing any comfort and had everything we needed.
I had never been on a cruise before and found M/V Togo to be just the right size for a small number of people. When you have a small group you are able to have a good relationship with everyone and share your common experiences with people of the same interests. Everyone respects each other keeping the noise down. A small boat like Togo is the best way to see Svalbard and the Arctic.
Anna Maria: “The Captain and crew were the best and we felt they all had so much experience. They knew where to take the boat during the night to be away from the waves and they really cared about our wellbeing while on the boat.”
All the people on the crew and expedition team were really top. The Captain was great and Jarron, the first mate, was really funny. The atmosphere is very relaxed and they made us laugh a lot. I would recommend the boat, that team, that destination, for me it was a once in a lifetime trip.”
All the images on this page are supplied courtesy of Flavio and Anna Maria