Patricia Palafox

Region: Arctic

Destinations: Svalbard

Ship: m/v Plancius

This trip was advertised as "The best opportunity to spot the King of the Arctic." It was called North Spitsbergen, Polar Bear Special. We only saw one polar bear. A friend of mine was on a cruise with Hertigruten cruise line at exactly the same time and saw 7 polar bears. She left Longyearben on June 15, 2018 just as I did and travelled the same area. The passengers I spoke to were all disappointed. Had the cruise been called "Arctic Adventure," I think our expectations would have been different as it was indeed a lovely Arctic adventure. However, since Oceanside placed such great emphasis on the polar bears, we all had high expectations. Many of us chose this cruise specifically because of Oceanwide's advertisements and material. Now I wish I had chosen another cruise line. We did not spend much time looking for polar bears but rather did more landings where staff was making sure there were no polar bears because of safety. I loved the landings but again, my priority was polar bears.

Oceanwide Expeditions

Comment from Oceanwide Expeditions

Dear Patricia,

Thank you for your feedback. We are happy to read that your trip was a great experience, only compromised by the expectation to see more than just one polar bear. We would like to explain a little further.

On all our North Spitsbergen - Polar Bear Specials our captains and expedition teams are determined to deliver the experience of looking out for polar bears and get as close as possible to them when we see them. At the same time, these voyages are also focused on other experiences, such as shore landings and Zodiac cruises. In summary, your voyage (the PLA06-18) has been adapted to the best we could do bearing in mind very unusual ice conditions.

As explained during briefings, the ice situation this June was very different compared to previous years, due to a rather unusual warm winter. As you will understand, we can't predict this in advance. Based on our experience (over 25 years of operating expedition cruises in this area) June is a great time and the best month to get close to the polar bears, but of course it's always 'Mother Nature' who dictates. Our day by day itineraries clearly mention that changes can occur due to prevailing conditions and that wildlife is unpredictable.

The ice, which we normally find along the Northern coastline of Spitsbergen in early June, has retreated considerably to the far Northeast of Spitsbergen this year affecting to some extent the bearing of our voyages. Your voyage onboard Plancius from 15 – 22 June to North Spitsbergen may not have been a huge quantity of polar bears but was indeed a great success if looking at the quality of the bear sighting. The bear that was spotted during your trip ended up investigating the ship in the pack ice at very close range, over an hour. An hour is a long time when a bear is on the move. Something not many get to experience.

Experiencing the pack ice up close and personal has also always generated excellent feedback from our guests. It is an environment second to none. So much so that it is a priority for us to do what we can to deliver this experience. Even though the ice conditions in 2018 are the worst we have ever experienced, yet our vessel Plancius (due to high ice class) still managed to deliver the experience of pack ice navigation north of 82 degrees North where the one bear was also spotted - in its true habitat. Is that not something? Did the other ship you mentioned also travel this far North?

Bears are illusive creatures and can move relatively fast, making even very recent information from other ships fruitless. Our vessels are constantly working from a network of information to optimize the bear sightings during any one of our trips. This does not guarantee that we can find bears though. But it is not due to a lack of trying. Our expedition team put a lot of effort and time in planning and sifting through information from others as well as physically searching the areas we visit – be it near shore or in the ice.

We hope this explains it a bit. Feel free to contact us again if there are any other questions.

Best wishes from the team of Oceanwide Expeditions

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