Discovering Svalbard on a Hurtigruten cruise

Discovering Svalbard on a Hurtigruten cruise

Sarah Bridge joins a Hurtigruten cruise on an old shipping route to Svalbard, Norway's arctic archipelago

Bouncing over the waves across the vast Isfjorden in the remote archipelago of Svalbard was an exhilarating – if gruelling – experience. The wind whistling in from the surrounding ring of jagged peaks was unrelenting, making me glad of my waterproof suit, gloves, goggles and the many layers I’d decided to wear, in spite of the warm Arctic sunshine. 

Having reached the other side of the fjord, we were now gliding noiselessly towards a vast, blue-white glacier. The only sounds we could hear were dull thuds as floating ice knocked against the boat, and the occasional crash of the glacier itself as great chunks of ice fell into the water or, unseen by us, into a hidden cave. Apart from that, there was pure awe-inspiring, majestic silence. 

With more polar bears than people and more than 2,000 glaciers, Svalbard is known for stunning scenery and unique wildlife, making it a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts, and I boarded Hurtigruten's Trollfjord ship to explore it all. 

Arctic Cruising
Norwegian line Hurtigruten – which recently celebrated its 130th birthday – has brought back one of Norway’s iconic shipping routes, the Svalbard Express, which operated from 1968 to 1982 between Bergen and Svalbard.

Passengers can choose to sail the round-trip route, or just the northbound or southbound leg. The ship, Trollfjord, stops at different ports in each direction. There are three or more excursions at each of the 11 stops, ranging from lengthy bus and walking tours to more active trips.

Hurtigruten excursions include e-biking, hiking, kayaking and fishing expeditions

Hurtigruten NorwayThe Norwegian fjordsWhat to See in Svalbard
I joined the newly refurbished Trollfjord for the southbound sailing. I flew into Longyearbyen – Svalbard’s largest town – and spent three days taking part in Hurtigruten excursions that explore this remote outpost.

These included quad-biking along the spectacular Advent Way, taking an epic rib boat ride and also sitting back for a more sedate trip on a hybrid-electric catamaran along the vast Billefjorden to see glaciers, whales and a group of walruses basking in the summer sun. Due to record-breaking temperatures, dog-sledding on wheels was cancelled as it was too warm for the huskies – not something I’d expected to hear in the Arctic – but there were plenty of alternative hikes and bike rides. 

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Between outdoor adventures, there were surprisingly good local restaurants on offer, considering Svalbard’s limited ability to grow produce. The fine-dining restaurant Huset offers a 14-course Nordic Tasting Menu including reindeer sausage, sea urchin soup and Svalbard seal, while Camp Barentz serves up stunning if eclectic food in a replica cabin of the one belonging to Dutch navigator Willem Barentz when he discovered these islands in the late 16th century. 

Hurtigruten sailing TromsøOn Board the Trollfjord
The Trollfjord sails the Svalbard Express route between June and September (it switches to the North Cape Express between Oslo and Honningsvag from October to April). Though I had loved my time on land, it was no hardship to board this swish 500‑capacity ship, which takes its food as seriously as the voyage itself.

Trollfjord’s three restaurants – fine‑dining Rost, Brasserie Árran (which offers hearty Sámi fare such as reindeer stew) and the main restaurant Flora (for Norwegian‑inspired buffet breakfast and lunch, then à la carte dinner) – were praised by every passenger I met. 

Alongside the almost continuous offering of food there’s a gym, library, well‑stocked bar, decent Wi‑Fi and a daily series of lectures on everything from Norway’s history to myths and legends, wildlife and natural history.

Passengers who choose not to do the additional excursions will not be short of things to do

Time Ashore
In between time on deck, soaking up the views of the fjords as we sailed through the patchwork of islands that makes the Norwegian coast one of the longest in the world, I headed ashore at every stop.

I spent an energetic few hours e‑biking around the beautiful island of Senja, caught fish on a traditional Norwegian fishing boat in the Lotofen Islands, boarded a rib boat to see Torghatten – a mountain with a hole in the middle – and sampled some excellent beers at microbrewery Molo in Ålesund, following a tour of the town’s historic architecture. 


But the unique joy of the Svalbard Express is the opportunity to visit one of the world’s last frontiers. Before making the 36‑hour crossing from Svalbard to mainland Norway, there was one more adventure in store: a stop at former coal mine Ny‑Ålesund, now a scientific research site measuring solar and cosmic radiation and climate change, as well as mapping the world via GPS. 

All Wi‑Fi and Bluetooth had to be turned off during our visit to ensure that our devices didn’t interfere with Ny‑Ålesund’s scientific instruments, and I spent a fascinating few hours visiting its museum and shop. We also walked – with an armed escort, in case of polar bears – to Amundsen’s Mast, where the legendary Norwegian explorer set off by airship to make the first flight over the North Pole in 1926. 

Back on board, we cruised past the vast Kongsvegen glacier. As the ship slowly turned to start the journey south, I watched my phone compass tick up to 79°00’17’’N – the farthest north I will probably ever go.

To partner with Hurtigruten, visit For more information, visit

4 Key Selling Points for Agents

Hurtigruten's James Howlett on the highlights to share with potential cruise customers

1. The midnight sun
During the summer months, when there is continuous daylight, the sun moves across the sky but never falls below the horizon, which is great for photographers.

2. Wildlife
Svalbard is a unique habitat for birdlife and mammals, including Arctic foxes, Svalbard reindeer, whales and polar bears.

3. Time in port
Half-days and full days in port are an opportunity to sell to a classic cruise customer.

4. Restaurants
Food is at the heart of the experience on Trollfjord, which offers multiple dining options. We have welcomed a host of new best-in-class suppliers, who bring exciting regional produce and personal histories to our kitchens.


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