We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

In cooperation with: Visit Norway
Washington DC...
Level Contributor
7 posts
3 reviews
Save Topic
Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

We just paid a lot of money to see polar bears and guess what....we only saw 9 and from quite a distance (more than 500 meters). We went on the Expedition with Gap Adventures. Little did we know that a ship of theirs sunk in Antarctica, thus they sail away from ice where bears tend to be. All other operators circumvented and passed through the SE side of Svalbard where 90% of the polar bears are and we didn't!!! When we got back to LYR we heard all the other ships talking about how they got close to polar bears eating a dead whale, polar bears fighting, polar bears eating/hunting seals, swimming etc. We saw mainly lichens, rocks, and very few mammals from a long distance. My advice would pay a little extra money to go with a small ship and it will be well worth it. If you don't care about seeing polar bears then m/s expedition would be a good ship to just relax and get away from work etc.

33 replies to this topic
Harstad, Norway
Destination Expert
for Bergen, Norway
Level Contributor
25,134 posts
37 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

Hello and thank you for your report and sorry you are disappointed. As a regular on the Norway forum I kindly ask to clarify some points as there is very little info on these cruises/expeditions on TA.

I found this trip report from last year and they seem quite happy with the outcome and the quality of the ship and the sightings.

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g503714-i11700-k…

I found the web site relating to your cruise, their ship listed "M/S Expedition" has a passenger capacity of 124. That is a rather small ship, considering.

gapadventures.com/trips/…

Are they using a different and bigger ship this year, or a different route from the other ships or simply taking more precautions ?

Do you know the name of the smaller ships you mention or the name of the companies operating them ?

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
7 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

The ship's capacity was 120. Maybe people on this ship ran into some luck later in the season when they could circumvent all of Svalbard. It's my understanding that 3000 polar bears live in that region, but 90% are in the SE islands. We didn't even go close to the East or even South East side of Svalbard because of ice even though smaller ships did!!. We stayed away from the ice and back-tracked up and down the west coast just to get back to LYR. If you really want to go and see polar bears. Call the ECCO shoe store in LYR. The woman that works there is from Holland and her friend works off a small ship that starts with the letter "P" I can't find it online. When we were looking for this trip we didn't find any either.....but they are out there! Trust me our ship was so concerned as to not see any other ships and to only go to certain locations when we were scheduled so we didn't upset the Norway park rangers who patrol the area. There were some Brits on our boat that said the same thing. They couldn't afford the small ships that went into the bays, so they have to be out there. I wish I could help more. Best of Luck. Other ships that went at the same time we did saw 38 to 44 polar bears....a lot closer than we did!!

Dreieich
Level Contributor
7 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

thank you for your report. We are planning to go to Spitsbergen next year and the M/S Expedition was on our short list of preferred vessels.

Can you let me know your travel dates? Thanks.

Oslo
Level Contributor
13,433 posts
92 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

I am not an expert on this, but I guess part of the reason can be coincidence (bad luck), perhaps most polar bears happened to be in another part of Svalbard?

Toronto, Canada
1 post
Save Reply
5. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

Hi travelfamilyforlife,

Sorry to read your experiences were not what you expected while travelling with us. By-way-of-introduction, my name is Lyndon and I am in the Customer Service team here with Gap Adventures.

Thanks again for writing, and giving us the chance to make this right. It will allow us to get better at what we do and that is positive energy that is created by something like this. As a company we really appreciate the opportunity. Our lead with service culture will be all over this, and there will be a lot of people in our organization who will learn because you gave us the opportunity, and that excites me. We pride ourselves on having the best possible customer experience and this was not for you and your fellow travelers, and we apologize.

To help us review your concerns in detail, investigate and make this right, I invite you to send me an e-mail to 'customerservice@gap.ca'. I, or one of the team here, will review and get a full reply to you.

The MS Expedition has received wonderful reviews of both the Antarctic and Arctic programs this year. So, we are keen to correct any departure from this high standard, and I appreciate you being a part of any positive change.

Tromso, Norway
Level Contributor
4,961 posts
14 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

Excuse me, but this is to silly to read!!

Svalbard is not a ZOO, and there is already to much tourists up there, so I hope they soon begin all the new rules they are planned to do, for protect the wildlife.

About how close you are going or not... to many ships are give a huge F in the rules, and go to close, and another natural thing around Svalbard this summer, they have un-normal big trouble with the ice... LYR was for example closed for a 14 days period because of to much ice.

So, please visit a ZOO next time, if you like to be very very close to some animal you don`t see in your garden!!

London, United...
Level Contributor
553 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

Has anyone else been on this trip and have anything to report? I'm a little concerned as I've just found this the day after booking for the same trip on the same boat in July...

Salisbury, United...
Level Contributor
7,777 posts
136 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

What are your expectations? There is no guarantee you will see anything. Last year we went on Hurtigruten's Fram and were lucky enough to circumvent the island but if there is too much ice this is not possible. We saw polar bears on one day. Again it's the luck of the draw what you see. They were feeding off a whale carcas, a mother and 2 cubs. However don't expect to see them as you do on TV, they use very long lenses. Polar bears also tend to be pretty lazy and we saw several curled up asleep, all through binoculars! They looked like big rocks.

On shore we had at least 12 armed guards and could only roam in a certain area. We also had to return to the ship when a sea mist came down as polar bears were known to be in the area.

This holiday was absolutely fantastic and we had a marvellous time. The weather wasn't good but wouldn't have missed the trip. It was very cold, so do take plenty of clothes.

Have a great trip and don't worry about the OP as I feel it was rather unjustified as another poster said a trip to a zoo might have been better for them. Do your research, have realistic expectation and you will have a great trip.

London, United...
Level Contributor
553 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

I'm expecting amazing scenery, meeting interesting people and getting lots of photos of ice and birds and anything else I can. I was more just concerned that I'd booked with someone when another ship in exactly the same position would have a higher percentage chance of seeing something due to a different company policy.

How many days were you cruising with the Fram? Is there any other advice you have?

I can't say I wouldn't be disappointed if I didn't see bears in the wild, but I'm by no means expecting to see anything closer than through my 400mm lens! A full circumnavigation would be nice but isn't really a deciding factor in enjoyment but would just mean seeing slightly different things every day.

I've been on safari in Tanzania so I know how hit and miss these things are but I've got fingers crossed.

Salisbury, United...
Level Contributor
7,777 posts
136 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!

We were on board for a week, spent one night in Longyearbyen and return flights from Oslo. We had 2 landings a day or a trip in the polar circle boats. Although they have a rough schedule this changes day to day as the weather conditions dictate where our landings would be. Fram is ice strengthen so we had hoped to get up to the pack ice but the ice had retreated so far towards the pole we couldn't make it.

The ship was great, the right size for us, not crowded but enough people to make it entertaining. The crew and expedition staff were very good. We hope to go again as we did have a lot of sea fog and didn't see a lot of the great views.

The only thing I will say is that it can be very cold, thermals are a real necessity as well as wind proof outer layer, I took wind/waterproof ski trousers and I needed every layer I took. It can be very cold on the polar circle boats/zodiacs. We were able to hire very good warm waterproof boots so didn't need to take walking boots. It's difficult to take photos of the bears from the boats.

Like you a tiny bit of me would have been disappointed if we didn't see any polar bears but it wasn't the be all or end all of going. It is so difficult to explain how wonderful this trip was. To sit at the front of the ship at 1 in the morning and think there is no one between me and the north pole, was quite a moment.

Edited: 18 April 2012, 19:47
Reply to: Bad---Do not go on The Realm of the Polar bears!
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted