An Arctic Svalbard Adventure Aboard Silver Explorer

Silversea's Silver Explorer is the line's popular expedition vessel that doesn't compromise on quality. Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Silver Explorer is the first of three dedicated ultra-luxury expedition ships sailing for Silversea’s Silversea Expeditions brand. Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises

“He stood breathing, and the more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the details of the land. He was not empty. There was more than enough here to fill him. There would always be more than enough.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

At the northernmost reaches of this planet is an archipelago of islands collectively known as Svalbard. Located halfway between the northernmost coast of Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard is the Antarctica of the North; caked in ice and snow on a nearly year-round basis, with a temperature that barely manages to climb above 7°C, or 44.6°F, during the summer months.

Then there’s the matter of the sun. Back on April 19, it simply stopped setting in the evening, remaining fully up 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The famous “Midnight Sun” will bathe the entire archipelago in constant daylight until August 25, when it will dip below the horizon for all of 61 minutes.

The small hamlet of Ny-Alesund, in Arctic Svalbard. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

The small hamlet of Ny-Alesund, in Arctic Svalbard. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Svalbard has an entire population of a little over two thousand, nearly all of whom live in the capital city of Longyearbyen – the northernmost city in the world with a population greater than 1,000 inhabitants.

Svalbard is one of the most remote and inaccessible places in the world – and we’re headed there in July aboard ultra-luxury line Silversea’s rugged and adventurous Silver Explorer.

Silver Explorer Voyage 7514 will take me to the farthest reaches of Arctic Svalbard. Illustration courtesy of Silversea

Silver Explorer Voyage 7514 will take me to the farthest reaches of Arctic Svalbard. Illustration courtesy of Silversea

Departing July 2, 2015 from Tromsø, Norway aboard Silver Explorer’s Voyage 7514, this itinerary is the staple of Silver Explorer’s extensive Arctic expedition programme, with five voyages sailing between Tromsø and Longyearbyen, or reverse. To round out her summer season in the high arctic, Silver Explorer will chart a course for Iceland, Greenland, and Canada’s High Arctic, ending in St. John’s, Newfoundland in late-September.

Because flying directly to Tromsø from North America is a bit of an arduous task, I’ll begin my journey in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on July 1, with an overnight stay at Silversea’s Silver Shore Simply hotel, the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Oslo.

The next morning, it’s back to Oslo-Gardermoen Airport for a date with my SAS flight to Tromsø – and the Silver Explorer.

Silversea's Silver Explorer at anchor off Rathlin Island on the morning of Sunday, May 27, 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Silversea’s Silver Explorer at anchor off Rathlin Island on the morning of Sunday, May 27, 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

This is my second date with the beautiful Silver Explorer, a ship I last sailed on in 2012 when I made my very first expedition cruise on a repositioning sailing through the British Isles from Portsmouth, England to Greenock, Scotland. Silversea’s first luxury expedition ship, Silver Explorer was previously known as Prince Albert II until the line changed her name to bring her more in-line with naming conventions throughout the Silversea fleet. But regardless of what name she sailed under, Silver Explorer was an unabashed runaway success. Thought it may sound contradictory, the concept of a luxury adventure expedition appealed to a wide variety of travellers – including many who had never cruised on the line’s “classic” fleet of luxury vessels.

I experienced this firsthand onboard Silver Explorer at Silversea’s past-guest party, known as the Venetian Society. One couple had 100 days under their belt with the line – and in conversing with them, I learned they’d never set foot aboard one of Silversea’s other ships. All 100 days were earned aboard the Silver Explorer.

The Panorama Lounge and adjacent Connoisseur's Club are intimate, cozy and inviting - and finding a seat is never an issue. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Panorama Lounge and adjacent Connoisseur’s Club aboard Silver Explorer are intimate, cozy and inviting – and finding a seat is never an issue. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The attractive, wood-accented Restaurant aboard Silver Explorer, facing forward. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The attractive, wood-accented Restaurant aboard Silver Explorer, facing forward. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Think of Silver Explorer as a rugged, mini-version of Silversea’s flagship, Silver Spirit, and you’ll get the idea of what to expect: beautifully-designed suites with marble bathrooms and Bulgari toiletries. Cherry-wood panelling in the main restaurant, which features 180-degree views of the passing scenery and the same Relais & Chateaux-inspired cuisine that exists on the line’s “classic” luxury vessels. She also boasts a huge Library & Internet Center, an Observation Lounge, and a cozy Piano Bar known as the Panorama Lounge that serves as the de facto social hub of the ship by day and night.

All of Silversea's Expedition vessels are equipped with nimble Zodiac rafts. Here, one of the Zodiac rafts from onboard Silver Discoverer sets out on Australia's Hunter River. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

All of Silversea’s Expedition vessels are equipped with nimble Zodiac rafts. Here, one of the Zodiac rafts from onboard Silver Discoverer sets out on Australia’s Hunter River. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

But she’s also rugged and well-equipped, with a fleet of Zodiac rafts that zip guests to and from shore on expeditions and excursions. I guarantee you’ll be bobbing around in these boats at some ungodly hour of the morning, or some extremely late hour at night – and in every case, Silversea’s dedicated Expedition Team will have something incredible for you to see.

While I loved my Silver Explorer sailing – from our private luncheon in Dartmouth, England to being greeted by the town mayor in Lyme Regis to exploring the mansions of Ireland and the amazing Giant’s Causeway – it was my morning on the deserted island of Staffa, Scotland that turned me into an expedition cruising believer.

The Silver Explorer, blazing new trails on expedition voyages around the world. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Silver Explorer, at anchor on a beautiful morning off Staffa, Scotland. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

After being dragged out of bed at some unnatural hour (let’s call it 6:00 a.m.), I was in a zodiac raft a little over an hour later – and walking on the deserted island of Staffa two hours later. Three full years later, that morning that only amounted to a few hours out of my life is one of my most closely-held and cherished memories. Except for the few of us walking around the island on the most amazing morning I’m sure Scotland has ever seen (no clouds, high temperatures – in May), there was absolutely no one else there. Just us and the sounds of the ocean crashing far below.

Staffa, Scotland: a powerful experience. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Staffa, Scotland: a powerful experience. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

It’s amazing what fades away when you’re standing on an island with few people around. You don’t worry about emails, or appointments, or deadlines, or debt, taxes, bills, birthdays, anniversaries – nothing. You’re so focused on what’s happening right before your very eyes that almost all other thoughts are banished.

I wouldn’t be surprised to have a similar experience happen on this voyage to the Arctic. The perfect companion to my voyage to Antarctica earlier this year, the Arctic is an entirely different world. Vastly more barren and just as mountainous, Polar Bears are the penguins of the Arctic – and I hope to see plenty of them, albeit from a very safe distance.

In many ways, my upcoming voyage aboard Silversea's Silver Explorer to the Far Arctic is the perfect companion to my Antarctica adventure earlier this year. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

In many ways, my upcoming voyage aboard Silversea’s Silver Explorer to the Far Arctic is the perfect companion to my Antarctica adventure earlier this year. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Our itinerary takes us from Tromsø to Bear Island, a former whaling outpost halfway between Norway and Svalbard that was declared a nature reserve in 2002. After that, we set sail for seven straight days of cruising and exploring Arctic Svalbard. With no fixed itinerary, our Captain and Expedition Leader can determine our landing sites each day based on weather conditions and other factors, meaning no two voyages are exactly alike.

Silversea's Silver Discoverer is the line's new luxury expedition ship. She's seen here off Raft Point, The Kimberley, Australia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silversea’s Silver Discoverer is the line’s new luxury expedition ship. She’s seen here off Raft Point, The Kimberley, Australia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silversea's Silver Galapagos at anchor it the Galapagos Islands. The line has just introduced a new lineup of themed expedition cruises. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silversea’s Silver Galapagos at anchor off the Galapagos Islands. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The biggest draw of these expeditions for me? After a day of running yourself to the point of exhaustion exploring by land and sea, you return to the Silver Explorer for Silversea’s own inimitable brand of luxury cruising. It’s an amazingly alluring concept, so much so that Silversea has recently added two additional luxury expedition vessels: Silver Discoverer, which makes her home in the Pacific Ocean; and Silver Galapagos, which offers year-round sailings to the Western and North-Central Galapagos Islands.

Longyearbyen, Svalbard: the northernmost city in the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Longyearbyen, Svalbard: the northernmost city in the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Our Arctic adventure ends on July 12 in Longyearbyen, where I’ll say goodbye to the Silver Explorer – and hello to Europe. After my SAS charter flight to Oslo, I’ll hop a KLM plane for one of my favorite European cities – Amsterdam – for another Live Voyage Report: a 15-day journey down the Rhine and Danube Rivers from Amsterdam to Budapest.

So stay tuned – it’s a month of  adventure coming up here on From the Deck Chair!

Shore landings and up-close sightseeing is possible thanks to Silver Explorer's onboard Zodiac rafts. Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Shore landings and up-close sightseeing is possible thanks to Silver Explorer’s onboard Zodiac rafts. Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Silversea Expeditions’ Silver Explorer in the Far Arctic will begin on July 2, 2015 from Tromsø, Norway! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:


Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!