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Combining the North Atlantic Ocean's wildest outposts. From Stone Age villages to Iron Age forts, the Orkney and Shetland Islands reveal a proud Scottish heritage, while Vikings, fjords and fishing folk feature along the sublime Norwegian coastline, which includes a visit to the famous Lofoten Islands. Crossing the Arctic Circle to Svalbard, discover a landscape of towering cliffs alive with breeding birds; a frozen wonderland of gleaming glaciers and where the mighty polar bear reigns supreme.
M/V Greg Mortimer
13 nights premium boat
1 nights premium hotel
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Aberdeen (ABZ) and transfer to your group hotel. Upon check-in, the reception staff will provide you with your expeditions cabin tags. Please fill out the luggage tags clearly, showing your name and cabin number so that your luggage is delivered to your cabin. Spend time at your own leisure before the briefing in the early evening, enjoy a welcome drink and meet fellow your expeditioners.
Hotel in Aberdeen to be confirmed
This morning, your luggage will be collected from the hotel and transferred directly to the port for sanitisation, clearance and delivered to your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. Please ensure that your luggage is fitted with cabin tags clearly labelled with your name and cabin number. Any valuables or personal items should be kept on you throughout the day.
After you have checked-out of your room, enjoy a city tour of Aberdeen followed by a transfer to the pier for embarkation in the late afternoon. Settle into your cabin before attending important safety briefings and enjoy the thrill of departure as we 'throw the lines\ and set sail. This evening, get to know your fellow expeditioners and our friendly Expedition Team and crew at the Captain's Welcome Dinner to celebrate the start of a thrilling adventure.
M/V Greg Mortimer
Among Orkney's archipelago of 70 windswept islands, nine kilometres north of the Scottish mainland, a rich tapestry of archaeology, history and wildlife awaits. We follow the passage of time - from 5,000-year-old World Heritage Neolithic sites, past relics from wandering Vikings and reminders of World War II occupation - to present-day crofting communities. Imposing sea cliffs teem with seabirds, and clifftop paths and bleak moors beckon the keen hikers among us, while our kayakers use paddle-power to explore sections of Orkney's fascinating coastline.
Midway between Orkney and Shetland is Fair Isle, home to quaint croft houses and famous for its knitwear and historical shipwrecks. The 70 or so islanders mostly live in traditional crofts on the more fertile low-lying southern part of the island.
A bird watcher's paradise and boasting a major European bird observatory, Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major bird flight paths from Scandinavia, Iceland and Faroe. It attracts common species and also eastern rarities such as the lanceolated warbler. In summer, the cliffs teem with breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags and puffins. Fair Isle is an excellent place to view seabirds at close range - especially puffins. The island also has more than 250 species of flowering plants, including rare orchids, alpine and wetland species and common wildflowers. We will be welcomed by the hospitable villagers, and may take a hike or visit the museum.
Britain's most northerly islands lie almost 160 kilometres north of the Scottish mainland, at a similar latitude to the southern tip of Greenland, or Bergen in Norway. Kept relatively warm by the Gulf Stream, Shetland's 100 islands, experience almost 24 hours of daylight in summer. They abound with nature reserves and archaeological sites, and offer a taste of traditional island life. We plan to visit some of Shetland's best preserved and most complex archaeological sites, brochs - fortified Iron Age towers.
As we sail towards the Norwegian coastline, the bridge or the outer decks offer an excellent and warm vantage point for birdwatching. Our historian and naturalists will delight us with their informative talks.
We spend three days exploring the superb Norwegian coastline, cruising the intricate maze of seldom-visited inlets and outer islands.
As we travel north, the days are noticeably longer and we search for blue whales, humpbacks, orca, minke whales, pilot whales and dolphins in the deep, squid-rich ocean trenches off Andenes.
The cod-fishing island of Sor Gjæslingan welcomes us with its delightful wooden houses and cheerful inhabitants. Here, we search for nesting kittiwakes and reclusive sea otters.
Delight in the hunt for fabled trolls, passing through Torghatten - meaning mountain with a hole - said to have been caused by a troll's arrow.
Crossing the Arctic Circle, we make our way to the stunning Lofoten - meaning puma's foot - Islands. This is a land scoured by ice and legend, the towering crags with their sharp edges, standing in silent protection of the villages below.
We approach Spitsbergen at its most southerly point, South Cape or Sorkapp, and explore the coastline, entering a different world - that of the polar desert. Enormous peaks and deeply gouged fjords make our visit to Hornsund a powerful experience. As Hornsund is the southernmost fjord in Svalbard, we keep a lookout for polar bears, and Zodiac-cruise along glacial fronts that are home to bearded and ring seals, kittiwakes and guillemots.
Here in Svalbard we continue our exploration into human history dating back 400 years, encompassing trapping and hunting, whaling and mining. If the skies are clear we may catch a glimpse of the dramatic Hornsundtind, peaking at 1,430 metres.
Dramatic folds characterise the geological landscape of Bellsund and here we will enjoy magnificent vistas, steep bird cliffs and lush vegetation, always an open invitation to arctic fox and polar bears. Little auks, guillemots, northern fulmar and pink-footed geese make this their breeding home. Reindeer graze the slopes peacefully and as the fjord branches, there are numerous places to explore.
Polar bears pass through the area on their way to the west coast, and if we are lucky, we may encounter the elusive and alluring white beluga whale. Landing sites will vary from trip to trip as in true expedition style, the landings and Zodiac cruises are determined on weather, sea and ice conditions and of course, wildlife sightings.
During the early morning, we cruise into the port of the remote village, Longyearbyen, the capital of Spitsbergen. After bidding farewell to the Expedition crews, you will be transferred into town, where there is time to explore and shop before transferring to the airport in the afternoon.
Seasonal Climate Despite the northern latitudes the climate in Norway is not extreme, due to the affects of the North Atlantic Drift. Between May and September is the best time to visit this region, with summer temperatures reaching the high teens and rain a regular feature year round along the coast. North of the Arctic Circle the sun does not set between the middle of May and the end of July, so you can expect to encounter the midnight sun during this period.
2 Pin Round
The UK has a temperate but very variable climate. In general the summers are warm with July and August being the warmest. The winters are cool and the lowest temperatures are recorded during January and February. Whatever the season it is advisable to be prepared for rain!
3 Pin Flat
Whilst landings are included in the cost of your trip as per the outline itinerary, some departures aboard the MV Greg Mortimer have additional optional excursions which can be pre-booked with the ship operator directly. These will be charged at an additional fee, depending on the excursion and we recommend booking these in advance to ensure availability. Please speak to a member of our Polar team who will advise you on the booking process.
Parkas A complimentary parka is provided for you on board the ship and is yours to keep after the voyage. It has a comfortable wind-resistant inner jacket, which is detachable from the waterproof outer shell, and is designed to be worn over your essential base layers. Gloves Keeping your hands warm and dry can be a challenge. Thin polypropylene gloves can be worn underneath warm outergloves. This allows you some protection from the cold when removing your gloves to operate your camera etc. We strongly recommend that you bring more than one pair of gloves, in case one gets wet (or lost). Hat/Cap Warm, woollen hat/cap to protect your ears, as well as a scarf, neck gaiter or other face protection, such as a balaclava. Trousers Water-resistant trousers of coated nylon or, even better, Gore-Tex® are essential for your comfort. They can be worn over your regular clothes to keep you warm and dry. We suggest that you purchase trousers a few sizes larger than you normally wear as you will be wearing them over other clothing. Gore-Tex® or similar fabrics are excellent for keeping out wind and water without trapping excess heat. Rain gear and Gore-Tex® products can be found in any outdoor sport clothing store. In addition to your waterproof trousers, warm ski pants are suggested if you have them. Warm trousers such as jeans, corduroys etc are also good. Socks Warm wool socks worn over a thin pair of silk, polypropylene socks should provide enough warmth and insulation for your feet. Bring several pairs of socks, since you will inevitably get your feet wet. Outer Clothing Woollen, knit or cotton sweaters/tops, polar fleece tops (medium weight), several cotton turtlenecks and T-shirts for layering on and off the ship. Underclothing Thermal underwear is highly recommended as it will keep you warm without adding bulk. Most polar travellers prefer a lightweight version.
Complimentary waterproof boots will be supplied on-board. However, if you have extra small or large feet, you are advised to bring your own. Also ensure you take good walking boots and trainers for relaxing.
One main piece of baggage and daypack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
Sunglasses and sun cream Insect repellant Personal toiletries A refilllable water bottle Books/reading material Camera and memory cards Seasickness remedy
M/V Greg Mortimer, Zodiac
The MV Greg Mortimer is a 104-metre ship, purpose-built in 2019 for expedition travel. Capable of negotiating the strongest winds and waves, the vessel is being built to world-class polar standards and has been designed in close consultation with expedition specialists. The MV Greg Mortimer is limited to just 132 passengers and guests can enjoy some added comforts such as spacious stateroom cabins, a large mud room with easy boarding access and a hydraulic viewing platform, offering unobstructed views of the wildlife. Other features include a library, Wellness Centre with a gym, sauna and spa and a multimedia room for keen photographers wishing to edit their photos after a day of exploration. As a modern and custom-designed ship, this vessel is at the cutting edge of nautical technology and will ensure a comfortable and safe passage through polar waters.
The lead-in prices on our website are based on triple outward facing, Stateroom cabins. All staterooms have private bathrooms, ample storage, with twin beds. Many of the stateroom categories, have floor to ceiling windows that offer prime observation opportunities around the clock. Additionally, there are private balconies in most of the staterooms, allowing you to watch the world float past and take in the salty air of the open ocean. A full layout of the deck plan can be found under the Polar Ships section on our website. Your confirmed cabin type will appear on your Booking Confirmation, which will be sent on receipt of your deposit payment.
Meals are served in the large, spacious dining room with an open seating arrangement, perfect for swapping stories with your extended expedition family. A range of courses is offered at each meal time and you can enjoy a variety of house wines, beers and soft drinks which are included with your evening meal. Complimentary coffee, tea and snacks are available throughout the day and any additional drinks can be purchased at the fully-stocked bar. On the last day of your trip, the team on the MV Greg Mortimer will provide a special farewell four-course
Here are the average costs of drinks, in USD, on board - please bear in mind, they are subject to change: Bottle of wine - from $12 Bottle of beer - from $3 Spirits (gin, whisky, vodka, port, rum) - from $5 Cocktails - from $5.50 Soft drinks (fizzy, fruit juice and water) - from $2.50 There is no internet access on board our ships, however you can pay to send and receive emails (no attachments). On the Polar Pioneer, the prices start from approximately 20 US cents per one kilobyte. Wi-fi access is available for laptops, with an email account set up for US$5, with the same downloadending fees.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Norway: Entry visas NOT required by UK, AUS, NZ, USA, CAN Citizens. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related issues with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at http://www.explore.co.uk/Travelhealth/ and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.