Our voyages to Svalbard are among the most longstanding and popular in our entire Arctic program, at least partially due to the probability of seeing polar bears along the way.
Especially favored is our Around Spitsbergen, In the realm of polar bear and ice cruise, booked as much for its wildlife possibilities as for the many astounding landscapes we visit and exhilarating activities you can enjoy in them.
Little surprise, then, that we were eager to talk to a colleague who recently embarked on this exploratory Arctic trip. Iris van Zalinge, a native of the Dutch province of Zeeland where our headquarters is based, took the nine-night voyage on Plancius in July. And fortunately for us, she had much to say about this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As this was your first Arctic cruise, did you have any expectations before setting out?
I expected to see a beautiful environment with a special piece of wildlife. I was especially curious about the operations on board and the people who work there. I communicate with these people as part of my job, but I wanted to meet the people behind the names.
This was my first time seeing how these trips go, and it was really fantastic. It’s very special that you can make such a trip for your work. It gives you a good idea of what it’s like on the vessel and makes your work in the office a lot easier. It’s also nice to see all the passengers in person and experience the atmosphere on board.
It sounds like your trip met these expectations. Any surprises along the way?
What a magical environment! Words cannot describe how special it is to be there. The silence you experience, the breathtaking surroundings, the wildlife… So special. One present after another.
You’ve just been kayaking in a beautiful environment between the ice, and then all of a sudden an Arctic fox walks by. Then the next day, the sun is shining and you go for a beautiful hike with a breathtaking view at the top. Then the next moment, you see a polar bear walking or belugas swimming. So special to be a part of this.
What did you do before joining Oceanwide Expeditions?
I have a background in tourism and human resources. After working abroad as a tour guide for several seasons, I decided to come back to the Netherlands. Oceanwide has always fascinated me because of the product they offer in these special areas.
Currently, I work in the office and am responsible for the recruitment and planning of all expedition guides and doctors on board. This is the perfect combination of both my backgrounds.
Has your experience on the cruise changed the way you’ll approach your job?
It makes my daily work much easier. It’s like a puzzle where all the pieces are now falling into place. I have a much better idea of what the guides are doing, which makes it a lot easier for me to schedule and support them where necessary.
My contact with staff is much more personal and easier now that I know the people behind the names. That’s something I find very important.
Sounds excellent. Any highlights you want to mention?
The kayaking was fantastic. You’re so close to the water, which makes the experience even better. If you are open to what is happening around you and stop to take it all in, it is absolutely wonderful.
But actually, the whole trip was fantastic. I really enjoyed getting to know the people on board and seeing how their work is done. Everyone is so passionate about the work, and it’s nice to see that their enormous knowledge is passed on with great enthusiasm. This makes our passengers just as enthusiastic as we are.