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Svalbard 2023 Retrospective

We have had a year of incredible Arctic adventures and as our charter vessels, RV Kinfish and MS Polarfront both return home for the winter, our Polar Product Manager Katie takes the opportunity to reflect on our Arctic season in Svalbard.

First, the figures! In 2023 we successfully launched ten of our Polar Bear Explorer safaris from the port at Longyearbyen. Onboard we were delighted to welcome five of our specialist leaders including Benjamin Hardman, Andy Mann, Graeme Purdy, Drew Doggett and Andrew James who ran workshops and offered photography tutoring to our guests. We also ran a Founders Recce to Svalbard with Will, NWS CEO, which saw our guests having discussions and debates on how tourism can play it’s part in protecting this fragile region.

Over the season, we encountered over 50 polar bears, saw pods of belugas over 70-strong as well as humpbacks, minke and blue whales, saw arctic foxes in their blue morph phase, and walrus too numerous to mention!

Sl Svalbard Kinfish May Credit Chase Teron

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In amongst our wildlife encounters, we paddleboarded amongst the icebergs, polar plunged in the icy waters, hiked to old mining locations, visited Ny Alesund a mining town turned scientific community, visited Texas Bar a little hut located in the north of the archipelago which is fully stocked with alcohol and named by a Norwegian trapper who loved Texas!, fished for Arctic cod, drank blueberry soup (a Swedish speciality), enjoyed BBQs out on the deck and savoured warming hot chocolates in deckchairs. And celebrated the 4th of July for our American friends on board, decorating the ship with bunting and flags. All of this is only possible because of our incredible Expedition Leaders and fantastic crews on board RV Kinfish and MS Polarfront.

Behind the scenes, we went through the observation process and compliance required to meet the standards to become a full member of AECO, the Association of Expedition Cruise Operators. AECO is dedicated to managing responsible, environmentally friendly and safe tourism in the Arctic and strive to set the highest possible operating standards. We are one of only two small operators to be granted full membership, so we are very proud of our polar team in earning this seal of approval for the quality of our operation.

From whales to walrus, from vast calving glaciers to tiny flowers sprouting on windswept tundra, Svalbard is about so much more than polar bears. We’ve selected some of our favourite images from the past season, shot by our clients and specialist leaders. Alongside these images we have included some of our favourite client quotes taken from the stream of incredible feedback we have received over the past few months.

Client Reviews from Svalbard 2023

It was a perfect trip! From start to the end, the expedition guides have been amazing, food was excellent, lovely staff on Kinfish, loved the small group size! Can’t think of anything that should have been different. - Sandrine M

Fabulous adventure - we will talk about it forever - thank you! What a great little ship and crew who worked together to make stuff happen - still not sure how to describe it except that we ticked things off our bucket list that we didn't know were on it! So impressed that our wildlife sightings were made without affecting the animals' behaviour. Mobile phone pictures do the scenery pictures well, big camera lenses mean you can record the animals as if they're close at hand. Bob and Lisa were superb guides and Barbara in town was great, too. Jennifer P.

The guides Hadleigh and Marcelo were excellent, very knowledgeable, very approachable, very dependable. We felt safe at all times. It was great to have Katie and Tor from NWS with us. They were very helpful with information about the ship, the trip, anything we weren’t sure about they helped explain. They were also great go-betweens for crew, guides and clients. The whole trip was amazing. We enjoyed the fantastic scenery, bird cliffs, ice cliffs, polar bears and all the landings. The boat was completely appropriate for this particular trip and the captain and crew were excellent . We felt welcomed on the bridge at all times.Gavin T

The enitre crew of Kinfish and our expedition leaders Alex and Hadleigh provided exceptional service. Small group experience. Knowledgeable guides. Outstanding guest service. Found the app very helpful. - Marion W