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  • A slow boat, uncaring crew - not worth the money
Paul B

Region: Arctic

Destinations: Svalbard

Ship: s/v Noorderlicht

The Noorderlicht is a small vessel with tiny cabins, tight quarters and mediocre staff. I was provided with one towel that was to last the week, each passenger was expected to clean the bathroom/shower after use (a squeegee was provided) and we had to wash our dishes. I did not expect a luxury cruise, but for $1000 a night I did expect more. The tables were barely cleaned and the ship was dirty. The staff did not care about the passengers at all. The Noorderlicht is marketed as a small sailboat which has the advantage of being able to navigate smaller waterways. In truth the boat's size is a significant disadvantage. The average cruising speed for the Noorderlicht is 6 knots compared a modern cruise ship which is roughly 20 knots (3X faster). Going slow is an extreme disadvantage. On our trip the polar bears were north and we did not travel to see them as the boat was too slow. The boat almost never sails (only 1 sail works), so you do not get to experience sailing but are under engine power. Svalbard is beautiful. Definitely worth the trip, just take a different boat.

Oceanwide Expeditions

Comment from Oceanwide Expeditions

Dear Mr. Berger,

Thank you for your open feedback after your Spitsbergen cruise onboard our sailing schooner SV Noorderlicht.

We are very sorry to hear that your expectations were not met and that some onboard impressions left a sour taste. We try to understand why your travel experience has been compromised. Let us comment on the main points you raised:

Noorderlicht is by far not a luxury vessel but a small sailing schooner with historic charm offering a cozy and rather intimate atmosphere for expedition minded passengers. Standards are fairly basic onboard , for instance cabins without shower and toilet (sharing facilities are located on corridor outside cabins). This is a well-known fact.

Operation and hotel service is quite different if you compare with the services provided onboard our motor vessels which are managed by hotel managers, cabin cleaners, stewards, full kitchen team and several expedition guides. All of them service minded to deliver the best for our guests. Noorderlicht is minimalistic in this respect with only one kitchen staff, one guide and nautical crew. There are limitations. On occasion it might be the case that guests are being asked to give support to the team onboard, for instance helping with cleaning up dinner tables, or giving a helping hand with small daily job tasks. Still, our guests are treated as valued customers and no one is obliged to assist in any part of the expedition, although giving a helping hand is always appreciated.

Living and sharing space in proximity to our crew and guide is what the majority of passengers look for when they book an adventure onboard Noorderlicht. Price is another reason. The vessel has been operated under Oceanwide Expedition's management for over 25 years with very dedicated and experienced captains looking after safety and wellbeing of our guests.

All promoted itineraries are for general guidance. Programs may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises. Landings are subject to site availabilities and environmental concerns per AECO regulations. Official sailing plans and landing slots are scheduled with AECO prior to the start of the season, but the expedition leader determines the final plan.

The boat is equipped with sails to be used in good conditions (based on open sea, water depth, wind, and time). This is not guaranteed. The captain decides whether to use the sails or the engine. There is no claim to one or the other propulsion method. If sails are used, the crew operates them. During your cruise, the expedition leader (in consultation with the Captain) has decided to operate the vessel in the inner reaches of the Isfjorden system in order to avoid the heavy weather forecasted for the southerly part of Spitsbergen.

In several other reports (see this one and this one) we read that passengers have enjoyed highlights such as blue skies every day, Northern Lights, different hikes, polar plunge, sailing through beautiful arctic landscapes between glaciers, rugged mountain scenery and fresh snow powdered valleys, landings by zodiac and exploration of remote shore lines on foot, good food, and experienced leadership.

Again, we are very sorry to read that your personal travel experience was not what you have hoped for. We always wish that our guests step out as happy customers from their once in a lifetime trip.

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