|Points to consider
|Are you given a detailed itinerary?
||Do not trust and seriously question any itinerary that guarantees
any particular landing. All Arctic trips are entirely at the mercy of
weather and ice conditions. While you might get a list of planned or
hoped for spots, everything is subject to change at a moment's notice
and the captain has complete discretion to cancel or cut any activity
short due to weather concerns.
|What's the average passenger like?
||Highly subjective and highly variable - but what are the normal ship
demographics? Is there an average age
and nationality of passengers? Generally speaking the more expensive and
luxury ships trend older, more spartan, younger and/or focussed on a
particular aim ie lots of photographers. Suites and ships with double beds will be less suited to
the solo traveller. If the operating company is based or has booking
offices in a certain location then expect more people of this
|Your personal fitness
||Hard one to answer but worth thinking about. The Arctic is,
generally speaking, pretty low energy. You need some level of fitness to
get on and off zodiacs, but once you're on shore there will always be a
variety of options for levels of activity. However, if you cannot cope with stairs,
this may not be the destination for you. If you have a medical condition
that has the potential to need access to a fully equipped medic, think
twice before booking. Every ship will have a doctor, but they're usually
volunteering time and are planning for seasickness, sprains and possibly
broken bones. Getting to either a clinic or a fully equipped hospital
will take several days and involve diverting the entire ship and
cancelling all landings and activities for the rest of the passengers.
There's a small hospital in Longyearbyen, but full medical facilities
will require evacuation to the mainland of Norway.
|What are you expecting?
||You're on this site which is good, you're doing research! Read trip
reports - are you expecting a cruise where you get up at your leisure,
eat in one of the many restaurants and play in the casino before going
to see the polar bear that will be sitting nicely on an ice floe under
your balcony? If
you're planning for 7am wake up calls every morning, breakfast, landing,
lecture, lunch, lecture, zodiac cruise, snack, recap, dinner, then
you're probably more on course to have expectations met. Get whoever you book
with to explain a typical day so you understand what your ship will
||Very subjective, but does everyone have a relevant qualification, how many years experience, good lecturing skills? Staff to passenger ratio?
How much do they interact and how available are they for guests. Mix of
nationalities or mostly from one country? Other languages spoken?
||Very subjective, but well regarded efficient service? Staff to passenger ratio.
Level of cabin service? Can range from 24hr butler, to a nice girl who
leaves you origami towel animals once a day.
||Very subjective but are the crew experienced? Do they have a qualified ice pilot?
What's the ship and company's safety record like?
||Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators - Have they signed up to agree to preserve
the Arctic and if not, why
||Are there any large groups of a single nationality/interest on your departure - ie 35 Estonian bird watching photographers may change the dynamic of the ship and how landings operate.
Groups almost always have cabins and berths reserved well in advance so
you should be able to find out on booking if this is important to you.
||Are children welcomed on board or do you want an adult only ship? If
you're travelling with your family are there special activities/meals
for your children? Is any gear offered in smaller sizes?
||How do you settle your bill? what currencies are accepted? What are the plugs?
Is there a safe in
the room and door locks? How do cabin charges work? What's expected in
terms of gratuities? Is there a
medic and what do they charge?
||Do you get a post voyage DVD/USB stick with a slideshow, trip notes, copies of
photographs? Are they included or is there an extra cost?
|Pre and post departure
||Are hotels included and airport transfers? When is the latest you should
arrive and earliest flight you should book home? What are
luggage weight limits and how does the ship cope with lost or delayed
bags? Do they or you provide evacuation insurance?