A Foray to see the M/S Freya!

Jessica Tiffin

13 Apr 2016

climbing aboard the m/s freya

I was very excited to finally visit the object of much anticipation in the NWS office. The newly refurbished M/S Freya, which we have chartered for our upcoming 2016 Svalbard trips, has been in dock in Gothenburg all winter, having a thorough make-over from a coast guard ship to a charming and very comfortable vessel for our clients to explore the Arctic waters in. 

The lovely owners Gunnel and Kenth proudly showed me around her spacious deck and mess area, explaining the work they’ve done and small touches yet to be added, such as finding enough space for the hundreds of amazing polar bear photos their trips have yielded! 

I could get used to this...

The inside has all been decorated with such care and attention by Gunnel, who has stitched all the curtains and cushions by hand. And the cabins are just delightful; all with 2-3 cupboards of storage space, as well as under bed drawers, a shelf of books to read, and so spacious that you would think you were on a larger boat rather than this more palatable 12 guest ship. And the beds are so comfortable that I found it hard to recommence my tour after testing them out. 

I now understand why a previous client requested to purchase 10 of the super soft fleecy blankets Gunnel has adorned the beds with!

cooking, coffee and chats

As Captain Kenth cooked up a feast for his crew, Gunnel and I drank coffee in the mess and talked about previous polar bear cruises, with tantalising smells wafting from the galley and tantalising photographs of bears, walrus and glaciers gazing down on us. We discussed how the polar bear population in Svalbard has maintained promisingly consistent numbers, and if anything is increasing! It is difficult to track the bears to a precise degree and they don’t tag them anymore, but the estimated number is between 3500 and 5000 bears! 

Obviously a passion of Captain Kenth, he would duck out of the galley intermittently to offer advice and stories. Early in the season is good for birds and fatter bears, but later in the season it is easier to find bears as they are limited to the smaller lumps of ice and you can access the wild east coast where high numbers of bears tend to hunt. It is also great for coming across strange sights as the ‘polar bear canteen’; an incident when Kenth came across 24 bears on one small island, feasting on a huge whale carcass together. Normally anti-social creatures this is a very peculiar sight indeed, and with the benefits of the small ship getting so close, they could hear the visceral sounds of munching and slurping bears, and watch the bloated sleeping bears, replete from their turn at the banquet!

left wanting more!

I left the Freya feeling somewhat hungry, not for the food being cooked, but for more Arctic adventures. Seeing Svalbard on a ship like the Freya, where you’re part of a small and passionate nature exploration team getting right into the depths of every wildlife nook and cranny, was such an exciting prospect that I was hugely envious not to be on board this summer!

If you want to board the M/S Freya for the adventure of a lifetime, get in touch with our Arctic destination specialists to find out more about the Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer safari!

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