Besides cruising up the coast of Norway, one of the most picturesque countries in the world, we also were drawn to the idea of seeing the Arctic Circle and the Polar Ice Cap. After leaving Honningsvag on Norway’s mainland, we cruised for a day at sea before reaching Longyearbyen, a small town on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Longyearbyen is the world’s northern most town with a population just over 2,000 and has a couple of little shops along with a visitors center. Still a mining town, it is used as a staging area for arctic exploration and research. There isn’t much to do if you’re only there for a day as we were, but it was a beautiful place.
After leaving Longyearbyen, we went into Magdalenafjord, a fjord that lies on the west coast of Spitsbergen, Cruising all of the way in the 8km long fjord, we were rewarded with sights of walruses lying on the beach and a couple playing in the water (both very far away) and a beautiful glacier.
We then spent the day cruising north towards Santa Claus and the North Pole. While we weren’t fortunate enough to see Saint Nick, we did see the Polar Ice Cap and got as close as 584 miles to the North Pole. For all of you GPS geeks, we were 80 degrees 18 minutes north of the equator and it was fantastic. Looking out past the ice, everything just seemed to blend together and disappear into the horizon. One of the coolest parts was listening to the ice move about in the water. There was this certain sense of calm that took over the entire area and made you forget about the other 798 people with you.
After seeing the Polar Ice Cap, we headed back south, spending another day at sea until we reached the International research community of Ny Alesund, which is also on Spitsbergen but not considered a town even though they have a post office. This port was one that we wondered why they let cruise ships come into (other than the money of course). There was a little dirt road that wound through the village and that was the path that everyone had to stay on. Nobody was allowed to venture off the path due to the research going on and the chance someone were to try to get a “selfie” with one of the resident polar bears. Despite that, it was a very pretty place with that “Arctic Calm” that surrounded it. We didn’t see any polar bears, but there was one lone reindeer walking around off in the distance. There were also a few glaciers inside the bay that showed their faces as we were leaving.
Seeing Longyearbyen, Ny Alesund and the polar ice cap were definite highlights for us, for the simple fact that we were able to see such remote places that are absolutely beautiful and have such purity to them. Next post, we’ll take you south for the final leg of our Norway cruise.