Hurtigruten, Spitsbergen, and Polar Bears all combined for several itineraries during the 2010 season

Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, located above the Arctic Circle, is populated with more than 4,500 polar bears, making it one of the best places in the world for sightings, albeit without guarantees. And Hurtigruten is making every effort to accommodate that opportunity for its guests by offering itineraries that explore the far flung reaches of the islands where the King of the Arctic reigns supreme: the nine-day “Svalbard Explorer,” nine-day “Kingdom of the Polar Bear” and the groundbreaking 11-day climatology expedition “Climate Pilgrimage.” The departures are between May 29 and August 19, 2010, with prices ranging from $4,016 to $9,516 per person, double. Most sailings are aboard the relatively new deluxe expedition ship, MS Fram, built purposefully for the Arctic and Antarctic waters.

Spitsbergen’s stunning landscape of jagged peaks and arctic tundra and abundance of wildlife ranging from polar bears, Svalbard reindeer and arctic foxes to whales, walruses and ringed and harp seals makes for an ideal location to study climate change – the theme of a groundbreaking 11-day expedition cruise being offered May 29. And to make it even more enticing, Hurtigruten is offering a 25% discount and free air from NY for those booking suites by April 30 – other cabin grades enjoy a 15% savings offer (no air). Guests aboard the MS Fram will have the opportunity to visit research stations, track wildlife, participate in field studies and meet with some of the field’s top research scientists – getting the climate story from those who are best informed. Highlights include Norway’s Tromso; Honningsvag, Europe’s northernmost city; a visit to the North Cape; a stop in Gjesvaerstappen, a unique birding cliff where the Norwegian Polar Institute has studied a host of seabirds; exploration of Spitsbergen; and possibly crossing the 80th parallel. The focus of the research is on the effect of climate changes on wildlife – sea birds, polar bears, auks, Arctic foxes, walruses – as well as the phenomenon called surging glaciers. Fares range from $4,823 to $9,516 before the savings.

The “Svalbard Explorer” encompasses the entire west coast of Spitsbergen all the way up to the 80th Parallel. After spending a day in Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s largest settlement, the MS Fram takes its guests to a variety of stunning places: beautiful fjords such as Hornsund Fjord, Magdalenefjord and Krossfjord; Bear Island with its famous cliff Stappen, home to hundreds of thousands of Brunnich’s guillemots; landings on the Ahlstrands Peninsula or Calyposbyen; guided walks in Ny-Alesund, the world’s northernmost settlement; and spending time at the edge of the North Pole ice edge. Prices range from $4,016 to $7,403 for the nine-day adventure.

There are two nine-day “Kingdom of the Polar Bear” itineraries. Itinerary 1 explores the northern and eastern regions of Spitsbergen, always on the lookout for the king of the Arctic animals. Besides the day in Longyearbyen, guests take in Ny-Alesund; several fjords – Magdalenefjord, Smeerenburgfjord, Woodfjord, Wahlenbergfjord, Murchinsonfjord, Hornsund and Icefjord; Hinlopen Strait and the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet; with numerous Zodiac landings along the way. Itinerary 2 is a variation — adding a visit to Kvitoya, where the ice cap covers 98% of this easternmost island, and where the remains of the 1897 Andree Arctic balloon expedition were found in 1930. Fares range from $5,403 to $8,887.

Saving offers include a10 % “Repeater” discount – for passengers who sailed on any Hurtigruten ship in the past three years; “AARP” and “AAA” members receive a $50 shipboard credit; and guests booking a voyage within five weeks of their last sailing receive a 10% “Welcome Back” discount, combinable with the 10% “Repeater” discount.

All Spitsbergen itineraries include daily lectures from onboard naturalist guides, expedition leaders and Zodiac landings, all meals aboard and some on land, cabin category selected, shore excursions, transfers and port charges. Round-trip flights from New York via Oslo are available as are add-on airfares from dozens of other North American cities; optional excursions, gratuities, and fuel surcharges and taxes are additional. Itineraries are subject to change due to weather and ice conditions and may differ from one departure to another.

Source: Hurtigruten

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