A hot shower, hair dryer and plush bathrobe kept us warm as we waited patiently for our luggage to make the choppy ride too.
It was at that point that I thought all the layers of clothing, thermals, and waterproofs I'd packed were certainly going to be used on this voyage, but just as magical as this destination is, the rest of the expedition rewarded us with bright sunshine and 11 degrees of warmth each day, which meant that I'd actually packed too many jumpers and layers!
Not all polar expeditions are sold with a set itinerary, because expedition cruising is always dependent upon weather and wildlife spotting. Our Arctic voyage turned into a search for the majestic creature that is the polar bear. Our unchartered course armed the expedition team with the freedom to take us 80 degrees North to the Arctic Ice Edge of the North Pole, with the hope to spot this elusive mammal. Although we weren't successful at that point, the ice edge was quite literal and completely surreal.
Silver Cloud isn't an icebreaker, but she navigated her way gingerly through the broken pack ice to deploy a zodiac cruise 560 nautical miles from the North Pole and provide us with an unforgettable experience at the top of the world.
The bays, fjords, and inlets we visited, from Smeerenburg, Monacobreen and Texas Bar, to 14 Julibukta, Ny-London, Bamsebu and Fagerbukta, were beautiful in every way. Pristine, untouched, stunning landscapes, dotted with clumps of purple saxifrage and mountain aven, edged by 50 shades of blue glaciers and topped with rugged, snowcapped peaks of the mountainous backdrop provided a feast for the eyes and ears. The Tremolos chorus from the song 'Silence is Golden' kept springing to mind throughout.
Our amazing expedition leader, Fridrik encouraged us to soak up this Arctic silence, whilst waiting for a glacier to calve, a reindeer to walk by, a walrus, seal or whale to pop-up or an Arctic fox to scurry along; all of which we saw, along with 15 species of sea and island birds, including the rare ptarmigan and the extremely cute snow buntings.
The walks to mining sites, whaling stations and marble quarries, hikes to glaciers and mountain summits and kayaks to coves, icebergs and bays can be relaxing or challenging, but are all rewarding, included in the cost of a Silversea expedition and are completely optional. You choose how you wish to experience this archipelago and you decide what you want to get out of such an incredible life trip.
Pictures do not do this region justice and whilst we had many, there was one we still didn't have and that was of the star of the show, a polar bear. Over 3,000 polar bears roam along the coast of Svalbard and whilst my colleague saw nine on her expedition in May, I was still yet to see one!
Our final landing on the last day of the voyage took us to Fagerbukta to walk closer to the Recherchebreen glacier. As we ambled across the moraine, we suddenly saw the group ahead of us turn around and start jogging towards us. A polar bear had been spotted by two expedition crew around the other side of the bay and all zodiacs were deployed to take every guest in convoy to see this magnificent mammal.
This lone young polar bear was sat on top of the island and made everyone mouth "WOW" at first sight! He wandered down to the beach where we were all bobbing up and down in our zodiacs, sat in awe, admiring this fluffy yet powerful predator in its natural habitat. To say this sighting was worth the wait is an understatement, try trip made!
The Arctic captures your mind, satisfies your senses, and reminds you just how precious our planet is. For me, this trip enhanced the importance to preserve and sustain our world to ensure places like this, its ecosystems, and wildlife all remain.
You have to visit the Arctic and an expedition cruise is the best way to do it. Silver Cloud is the perfect ship to bridge the gap for those of you who enjoy the comforts and onboard experience of a classic cruise, but now seek a more adventurous offshore experience of an expedition cruise that's not too full on.
Silver Cloud has 4 dining venues onboard, 3 lounges, a large pool deck with hot tubs, outdoor viewing areas, spacious suites with butler service from entry level, a sumptuous spa with steam room and sauna, over 20 zodiacs, an all-inclusive expedition programme and accommodates just 200 lucky guests.
This expedition included the charter flight between Oslo and Longyearbyen, as well as a one-night pre- and post-cruise hotel stay at the very lovely Radisson Blu hotel at Oslo airport; which is a two-minute walk from the terminal and just a 20-minute express train journey into the city centre.
If it's not already, you need to add the Arctic to your bucket list, it's easily accessible, closer to the UK than Antarctica and is a must see part of our wonderful world.