Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer - M/S Freya Bridge

5 Reasons Why Having an Open Bridge Policy is a Must

Hannah Champion

Hannah Champion

01 Aug 2016

5 reasons why I believe having an open bridge policy is a must!

The bridge of a ship is where the magic happens. It is the captain's deck where the weather and charts are studied, and plans for the journey decided. Not all ships have an open bridge policy but having been on an Arctic expedition aboard the M/S Freya, I personally feel it is something you should take advantage of! 

Here's a few of my top reasons why...


When you arrive on board your expedition ship in the height of the Arctic summer, the midnight sun can take a little getting used to, to say the least! Although Longyearbyen is just a few hours' plane ride from London, it almost feels as if you have jet lag when trying to get used to the 24 hour days. When you're suffering this kind of sleep pattern it is useful, and often much more interesting, to find yourself chatting to the captain and crew in the bridge rather than just sitting in your room or out on deck. The bridge is, of course, manned 24 hours a day so there is always someone there to have a chat to. Many of the crew have been working Arctic expeditions for years so have plenty of tales to keep you entertained!

Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer - M/S Freya


The bridge is really warm! When looking for wildlife it is often preferable to be up on deck so you have all angles covered for sightings. However, it can get pretty chilly up there when the Arctic wind is blowing. Therefore, having the door to the bridge open whenever you need it can be an absolute godsend, even if just to warm up your cold fingers from too much photography!


If you fancy getting your wildlife spotting head on, the bridge is the place to be. They have plenty of pairs of binoculars for you to borrow and with windows on all sides you are free to scour the landscape for glimpses of polar bears, seals, bird life and more. There are also a number of informative books on Svalbard’s wildlife and environment so you can learn about locations before you arrive.

Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer - M/S Freya


Oftentimes, the bridge is the first place wildlife is spotted. Therefore, if you're spending time in the bridge you have the most likely chance of seeing a fleeting glimmer of a whale spouting next to the ship or a rare bird flutter past the window. It is also great to have an expert on hand to tell you what exactly it is you have spotted when you're not 100% sure! On our particular expedition, our first polar bear sighting was spotted from the bridge by Mark, one of the guests on the ship. 

Being up on the bridge also gives you the chance to find out which wildlife sighting is coming up so you can prepare you camera gear in plenty of time before arriving at your destination. On day 7 of our journey, we arrived into Love Fjord and John and I happened to be in the bridge when Oskar grabbed our attention and pointed out the window. A small chunk of the beautiful iceberg in front of the ship had just broken off and fallen into the water. What happened next is something I am probably unlikely to ever witness again. The whole iceberg started to move, thanks to the changing balance, and flipped entirely until the stunning blue ice that had been under the water was now in full view. It was a spectacular, natural world occurrence that I was lucky to be in the right place to experience.


It’s not only the guests that benefit from an open bridge policy, the Captain and the crew do too! By travelling on a small ship you get to know everyone really well and time spent on the bridge is as much an opportunity for the Captain to get to know you as it is for you to know them. As with any open bridge policy, it is at the discretion of the Captain as to whether they want to allow guests onto the bridge, however the majority of the time they are extremely welcoming and love hearing your travel stories. The only times a Captain may want the bridge to be devoid of guests is if they are navigating a particularly difficult route. Once they are back on course, the doors will be open and conversations can continue!

Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer - M/S Freya
Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer - M/S Freya
No matter what size ship you are on, make sure you take advantage of the open bridge policy to enhance your Arctic Safari experience and get to know the crew that are helping you achieve your intimate wildlife sightings!

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