Day 1: Departure from Edinburgh, Leith (D)
The expedition begins near Scotland's incomparable capital city. The royal capital of Scotland since the 11th century, Edinburgh, is home to an extraordinary range of architectural contrast. From dark, medieval 16th century block towers to classical Georgian and Victorian masterpieces. A World Heritage Site, Edinburgh is home to over 16,000 buildings that are listed as being historically or architecturally important. We board the expedition ship this afternoon in the suburb Port of Leith, to embark on our voyage to the Arctic. The MS Expedition departs in the evening through a lock which takes us down to sea level.
Day 2: Kirkwall (B,L,D)
There are few places in the world that offer as much as the Orkneys. Only six miles off the coast of Scotland, the islands are famous for their abundant marine bird life and dramatic coastal scenery. Our excursions for today will focus not only on this but also on many of the mystical historical sites of the area. These excursions will include coach visits to the Ring of Brodgar, standing stones of Stennes and the 4500 year old village of Skara Brae. You will also see a famous Italian chapel and St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.
Day 3: Lerwick (B,L,D)
We continue northwards to the remote Shetland Islands. The islands were under Norse rule until 1469, when they were given to Scotland as part of a Danish princesses dowry. The Shetlands are an engaging mix of Scotland and Scandinavia, with spectacular coastlines, varied and abundant bird life and a number of archaeological sites that date back thousands of years.
Day 4: Nordfjorden (B,L,D)
We cross the famous Northsea - Through one of the largest off shore oil fields in the world. Depending on time, we may stop in Olden for a short bus ride to the Birksdal area and a walk to a glacier. There is a trolly-like car available for people who are unable to walk the full distance.
Day 5: Geiranger (B,L,D)
Sail deep into one of Norway's most beautiful fjords, into the mainland. The fjord is one of Norway's most visited tourist sites and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 6: Monks Island & Austratt (B,L,D)
Today you will sail towards Monks Island which is just off the shore of Trondheim. The Benedictine monks built a monastery in the 11th century, but today it is a recreational area. Later we visit Austratt, which has been a residence for many nobles who played a significant role in Norway's development.
Day 7: Torghatten & Alstahaug (B,L,D)
The rugged coastline of central Norway features some of the world’s most beautiful nature. The mountain scenery and coastline offer breathtaking scenery and our Captain will negotiate with local Norwegian pilots to determine our best Zodiac shore landing options. Our goal is to visit Torghatten one of the most bizarre rock formations in Norway and a significant local landmark. We will also try to move towards the Treana archipelago that is comprised of over a thousand islands.
Day 8: Svartisen & Vikingen (B,L,D)
Svartisen has a beautiful walk to a glacier with the chance of an easy walk along a road. It also has a more demanding walk all the way around a lake below the glacier. Vikingen marks the start of the Arctic Circle.
Day 9: Lofoten Islands, Svolvaer & Trollfjord (B,L,D)
The Lofoten Archipelago is an enchanting area of picturesque villages by the sea backed with jagged peaks. Today we go ashore, via coach, the island of Aa, where cod fishing is still a major part of the economy. In the evening, be sure to be on deck as we cruise into one of the most famous fjords in Norway, the short yet dramatic Trollfjord, and search the cliffs for Norway's mythical beings: Trolls.
Day 10: Tromsø (B,L,D)
Explore this northern haven and be sure to visit the Arctic Cathedral, whose unique architecture is evocative of snow and icebergs. Its stained glass windows are among the largest in Europe. Tromsø, the capital of northern Norway, is known as the "Gateway to the Arctic", since so many Arctic expeditions originated from here. We will spend the whole day learning about the history of past expeditions and exploring Norway's largest northern city.
Day 11: At Sea (B,L,D)
Sail past and explore mist-shrouded Bjørnøya, Bear Island - a birdwatcher's paradise featuring spectacular views, thousands of fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and gulls.
Days 12 – 13: Hornsund & Bellsund (2B,2L,2D)
Svalbard is an archipelago of deep fjords, high mountains and massive glaciers. Our focus during our time here is to search for walruses, seals, reindeer, arctic foxes and, of course, the polar bear. Our flexible itinerary and experience here allow us to take the best advantage of ice and weather conditions. Each season we attempt to discover new landing sites to explore to enhance your expedition experience. Shore walks and Zodiac adventures bring us up close to mystical landscapes, icebergs, and wildlife.
Day 14: Isfjord - Festningen & Alkhornet (B,L,D)
The highlight of Festningen (the fortress) is an impressive dike of rock that runs along the top of a small cliff where fossilized footprints of dinosaurs have been found.
Alkhornet features a towering horn of rock which is the nesting site for thousands of Guillemots and Kittiwakes, while foxes and reindeer take advantage of the lush tundra vegetation below the cliffs .
Day 15: Departure from Longyearbyen (B)
Disembarkation will take place after breakfast. A transfer will take you into the centre of the town, where you are free to enjoy a walk around town. Longyearbyen boasts an outstanding Arctic museum, an art gallery and a number of other cultural attractions for you to enjoy.
For your holidays to Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia or Ukraine, you will not need a visa if you have a valid passport from any EU country, Australia, Canada, USA, Japan (there are more, so check with us to make sure). Please note that your passport should be valid for at least six months after the date of your return.
However, if you plan to travel to Russia, you will need a visa, which we can help organise for you.
Travel insurance is required and also advisable. If you do not have a valid policy, please check our Insurance link on the bottom of our homepage or http://www.baltictravelcompany.com/insurance. We can offer quotes for all nationalities.
Our recommended partner is FS Ball who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
You will be able to communicate quite well with the locals, as most people in the service industry are quite adept at speaking English. If English doesn't work, then try Russian (if you can), or German. The further you go from the major cities, the less English you will hear. However, do not let the language barrier keep you from exploring the beauty of the country side. We can always arrange English speaking guides to accompany you wherever you wish to go.
The Estonian language is similar to Finnish and is unrelated to Latvian, Lithuanian or Russian. Latvian and Lithuanian are two of the oldest languages, with roots traceable to Sanskrit. This makes them quite challenging to learn, but attempting a few words will put a smile on the local faces. Russians use the Cyrillic alphabet, so reading street signs and tube maps will be a challenge in St Petersburg .
You can get local currency from ATMs at the airport where you land or in the major cities. Be aware that your bank will charge you a service fee and exchange rate fee for the transaction, but this is likely to be less than exchanging money in the UK before you depart. Please note that in Russia exchange bureau's and banks will not except Scottish bank notes.
We suggest choosing the right credit card for spending abroad. Most credit cards will have an additional cost (about 3%) to the bank exchange rates. You can avoid it by obtaining a specialist overseas card that does not add this % and will give you good exchange rates that are better than money exchange bureau rates.
Credit cards charge you interest rates, but some debit cards (bank account cards) could have fees that could add up to £ 1.50 every time you spend.
We recommend checking with your bank what fees/interest rates will be applied to your card when using it abroad in order to make an educated decision on what card to use.
Most restaurants and shops will take credit/debit cards like Visa and Mastercard, however, many places will not accept AMEX.
Traveller's cheques are difficult to cash, so we recommend not to use them.
Airport or ferry terminals in most cases will have the worst money exchange rates, so if you must get it from the airport, pre-order money for pick-up to get a better rate.
The local currencies are (alphabetic order):
Denmark - Danish Kroner
Estonia - Euro
Finland - Euro
Greenland - Danish Kroner
Iceland - Icelandic Kroner
Latvia - Euro
Lithuania - Euro
Norway - Norwegian Kroner
Poland - Polish Zloty
Russia - Russian Ruble
Sweden - Swedish Kroner
Ukraine - Hryvnia
Dining opportunities are plenty, from ethnic to exotic. We would suggest you to try some national dishes and get a real taste of the region. Note that most traditional dishes contain meat and are fairly heavy, but very tasty.
Reservations in advance are recommended for up-market restaurants, especially for Friday and Saturday evenings.
Tipping - many of the up-market establishments will let you know how good their service is by including it on the bill. Rounding up the bill is usually sufficient, unless you feel your server deserves an extra bit of recognition.
There are several mobile operators in each Baltic country, the Nordics ( Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland incl. Iceland and Greenland as well as Poland, Ukraine and Russia. If you have an international connection, there shouldn't be any problems with your incoming and outgoing calls.
In case your phone doesn't work, please check in the local mobilephone shops and you can buy Calling cards etc. or ask in your hotel, they should be able to advise you too.
Internet access is available at Internet Cafés, which mostly are located in the central part of the city. Most hotels have internet access.
Stamps are available in the post offices and in most newspaper kiosks. Approximate price for a stamp to European Union countries will vary but between appx. £ 0.30 to £ 0.70. You'll see post boxes on the streets or you can ask hotel representative to send your post card, they'll gladly help you.
Emergency telephone number for the police, ambulance services or fire department in Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine and Poland - 112.
Greenland uses 911 and for mobile phones only 112.