Adam Coulter
Cruise Critic UK Managing Editor
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

MS Spitsbergen Entertainment & Activities

Shore Excursions

There are too many shore excursions to list here, but a taster (during the winter) includes a night in the Snow Hotel, king crab fishing, husky sledding, snow shoeing, snowmobiling (at night and in the day), kayaking, Zodiac boat rides with experts, hiking and a dip into the sea above the Arctic Circle (not for the fainthearted!).

Summer excursions might include hiking, kayaking, small boat cruises, glacier hikes, bird-watching and polar bear spotting (from boats), depending where you are. In Iceland, there is a volcano excursion on offer.

There are also many other "softer" activities, such as cable car rides, city tours on foot and, one of the highlights, a midnight service in the Arctic Cathedral of Tromso.

Active excursions are, obviously, not suitable for wheelchair users, mobility impaired travelers or small children. The softer ones would suit all ages and abilities, especially as many of these involve literally walking off the ship and into town.

Wildlife Viewing

There is always plenty of wildlife to spot on a Hurtigruten cruise, and Spitsbergen is no exception. During the winter months, expect to see various whales, as they chase the mackerel up and down the coast, in particular orca, sometimes off the ship or even playing in the wake. Look out for birds, too, such as the white-tailed eagles, puffins, guillemots, auks, kittiwakes, cormorants and storm petrels, either flying around or nesting on sheer bird cliffs. If you're traveling on Spitsbergen during the summer months and you're headed to Svalbard, then you might spot polar bears and seals. There will always be an announcement if anything is spotted and the ship slows down to allow you to observe.

Take a pair of binoculars and a decent DSLR camera with a tripod. In the summer months, you may wish to take a GoPro or equivalent if you are an experienced diver.

Enrichment

In terms of enrichment, there is not a great deal on offer. Most of the lectures are about the ports, but they are fascinating, as all the talks weave in the history of the Norwegian coastline and the history of Hurtigruten, which celebrates 125 years in 2018.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

There is no day or evening entertainment onboard MS Spitsbergen, just a few books and board games in the upper part of the lounge.

MS Spitsbergen Bars and Lounges

Explorer Lounge & Bar (Decks 5 & 6): The Explorer Lounge is two levels, though the bar is only on Deck 5. Deck 5 is the general, all-purpose meeting place for lectures on shore excursions or just hanging out in the day or the evening. Upstairs is more of an observatory area, surrounded by windows and with views over the bow of the ship. It's a large space with a faux fire at one end and stairs down to the outside and the bow (which you can stand on for wildlife watching), and stairs up to Deck 6. The space has a lot of seating, with some comfy sofas and some not-so-comfy low chairs, but it's getting a refurb, which will see the removal of all the very low chairs and replacing them with more practical-height ones. It's a convivial spot to have a drink in the evening or a coffee or tea during the day.

MS Spitsbergen Outside Recreation

Spitsbergen has two hot tubs, right at the aft of the ship on Deck 7. Oddly the left hand one is not as hot as the right. There's nothing quite like making the dash from the sauna in the freezing cold to plunge into one of these. Note: Don't get your hair wet; otherwise, it will freeze.

There is a promenade on Deck 6.

MS Spitsbergen Services

You'll find all the services on Deck 5, including Reception, Shore Excursions and a gift shop, which sells essentials as well as T-shirts, tote bags and books about the northern lights. There is bow-to-stern Wi-Fi, which is fast and surprisingly cheap (50 NOK per day; 125 NOK for three days; 200 NOK for five days and 400 NOK for 11 days), or free on the Platinum package. There is a self-service launderette at the front of the ship on Deck 4, which is free during the winter months and for a nominal charge during the summer months.

MS Spitsbergen Spa & Fitness

Spitsbergen does not have a spa, but it does have a sauna on Deck 6, which is a godsend in the freezing winter months -- even if you have to access it from outside. It's pretty small but has a picture window so you can see how cold it is outside while you bake. It's a short walk to the two hot tubs.

There is a small fitness center with two treadmills, a bike, a rowing machine, a weights machine and free weights.

MS Spitsbergen For Kids

Spitsbergen does not have a kids' club nor any kids' programing either in or out of school holidays. There are quite a few connecting cabins and even some family rooms, but the ship is not designed for kids. There is no minimum age to sail (we had a baby on our sailing), but in terms of what's onboard and the shore excursions, we would recommend 8 years old and above. Having said that, the crew go out of their way to make families feel welcome and will always accommodate children in terms of food.

MS Spitsbergen Ship Stats

  • Crew: 50
  • Launched: 2009
  • Decks: 8
  • Passengers: 280
  • Registry: Norway

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