Recommendation for Svalbard Arctic Cruise

Hi everyone!

My soon-to-be-wife and I are looking to take a trip this July to Svalbard for arctic mammals.

my targets would be:

#1 – Polar Bear of course!!
2. Walrus
3. Narwhal
4. Beluga
5. Arctic Fox
6. Reindeer
7. Any cetaceans we would come across that I haven’t seen


Does anyone know of a good company/cruise line/wildlife tour which would cater to this?

I’d be very disappointed if we would come back not seeing polar bears..

My fiancé’s terms: Hot-water showers (obviously) , good food and clean, comfortable rooms.

Thanks in advance!! 🙂



  • John Wright

    Hi Tomer,
    I went to Svalbard in July 2019 – check out my trip report it has details about what I did and the company I went with. So that’s one option for you anyway. Note: the report does have my old defunct email address in it. I’d say you will have a fair chance of Beluga, slim chance for Narwhal but all the other mammals on your list you should see easy enough.

  • Lars Michael

    Hi Tomer

    I’m not sure who can guide you on land, but i’m quite sure that at least arctic fox can be seen quite easily around Longyearbyn and perhaps Reindeer as well.

    I can recomend Oceanwide Expeditions cruises and Polar bear an Walrus are alomst 100% on their cruises as well as other ceateans.


    All the best
    Lars Michael

  • Ellen

    You may look at what Oryx/Rockjumper offers. In my experience they always have a+ guides.

  • Charles Hood

    My wife and I went with Birdquest aboard the schooner the Noorderlicht, and got all the expected birds and mammals plus a very good selection of seals. Boat is superb — I saw it again the other night in the background of the new Nat Geo series on whale culture.

    Oh, after I wrote that, I checked Birdquest’s website, and found out about this new trip. From their site:

    “We have a wonderful new Svalbard & Franz Josef Land expedition cruise in August 2022. Even higher densities of Polar Bears, Walruses and Ivory Gulls in the latter, which is also the nearest point in Eurasia to the North Pole! We will also have two days at the ‘ice front’ north of Svalbard and Franz Josef Land looking for Polar Bears and Ross’s Gulls! Great chances for Bowhead (or Greenland) Whale and even a chance for Narwhal!”

    “For a limited time only, attractively discounted prices are available for new bookings. Roughly 15% off the usual rates. This is a one-off promotion to celebrate the end of the pandemic in Europe (we hope!). Do not delay!”

  • tomeslice

    Thank you everyone for the inputs!

    I will look at all of them..
    Yes – I see Norway is currently closed by I’m hoping that by July or August 2021 it will be open…
    If not – I will book it for next year 🙁


  • Mattia from Italy

    Hi Tomer,

    I went to Svalbard in 2008 for a 10-day long cruise in June. Good choice because sea ice was still plenty, with Polar bears (saw 12 of them) much more beautiful, pure white, and relaxed in a wonderful arctic landscape. Cruises were much cheaper than today and ships smaller (40-50 people and not the 100+ people of today). Booked with Oceanwide Expeditions.

    I spent a full day near Longyearbyen for birds like King Eiders and Red Phalarope, and saw a few Reindeer. Arctic Fox easy during the cruise when you visit the research village of Ny Alesund.

    Regarding your other targets: Beluga 50-50, Narwhal very rare, Bowheads today more possible than in 2008 because sea ice melts earlier. Have a good trip!

  • Jan Kelchtermans

    I (with wife and daughter) used Polar Quest already back ik 2006…quite luxuary but a once in a life time experience…Svalbard is like The Pantanal, the Tiger parks in India, the Tibetan Plateau. The next level. In those days Bowhead was not realistic ; nowadays more chances for those. Narhwal is always difficult. Others all ok.

  • Mattia from Italy

    I’m sorry Tomer, but all the Svalbard trips are postponed until September. Better to wait the 2022 season…

  • Lennartv

    Hi Tomer,

    It is certainly the easiest way to see mammals I’ve ever experienced, basically you are watching the Polar Bears from a floating hotel. A form of nature expecially catered to the needs of people with artificial hips or indeed people travelling with demanding fiancées :).

    I went in 2016, my trip report is on the website, it was actually my first mammal trip ever. I had a really good trip with about 25 Polar Bears and all your other targets as well except Narwhal. Bowhead was a very nice bonus, but I understood this was an extremely rare sighting right at the archipelago (Bowhead in one view with a Polar Bear, it doesn’t get better than that). I know Bowheads get seen quite regularly on the trip from Ocean Wide Expeditions from the Netherlands to Svalbard, but not so much at Svalbard itself.

    I can definitely recommend Ocean Wide. I would however recommend to always be near the bridge as these companies are cautious to announce things they think might get away quickly in orde to avoid a stampede which might result in broken artificial hips and an end to your trip. For cetaceans this strategy can cost you a good mammal, so I would recommend to be near the bridge and be on the lookout yourself.

    I think your chances for Narwhal are very slim near Svalbard, I would take it as a huge bonus if you saw it. I heard they are more commonly seen near Greenland. Good luck anyway!

    • Lars Michael

      Maby the Svalbard to NE Greenland with Oceanwide could provide Narwhal.

      • Mattia from Italy

        Not so much. As far as I know, Narwhals are reliable only in northern Canadian islands (see the trip report of Jon).

        Regarding Franz Josef Land, the trip sounds wonderful, but be aware that the tour company uses a big ship (170 people). You spend A LOT of money (the price of these cruises has reached an intolerable level), are in a very remote place… squeezed in a crowded ship full of other homo sapiens. Not the best wildlife experience, in my opinion.

Leave a Reply