MS Nordstjernen

FAQ: The Spitsbergen Adventurer

Everything you need to know about your trip to Spitsbergen, Svalbard and life on board MS Nordstjernen

Know before you go

Just like the weather, we can’t control what wildlife you get to see on your voyage with us. A lot depends on the season, migration patterns, and pure luck.

You might glimpse a polar bear swimming from one ice floe to another, or witness an acrobatic display from a humpback whale – but nothing is guaranteed. Nature and wildlife in Svalbard are unpredictable, but really, that’s what makes the surprise encounters all the more special. 

Though we always do our utmost to stick to our sailing schedule, the weather in Svalbard often has other plans. 

When the water is too choppy or the sea ice is too thick, your safety comes first, every time. That’s the case even if it means we have to change our itinerary or cancel shore landings at the last minute.

In Svalbard

Your voyage includes one or two nights in Longyearbyen and we’ve carefully chosen a selection of hotels for you. Even though you’re on the Arctic frontier in Svalbard, you’ll find each of these to be comfortable and with all the modern conveniences.

Boasting a central location in Longyearbyen, the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel is the world's northernmost full-service hotel. All rooms come well equipped with a private bathroom, TV, slippers, and a kettle, and offer wonderful views to Hiorthfjellet and the Advent Fjord. During your stay, you can enjoy a Nordic-inspired menu at Nansen Restaurant or head to the Barentz Gastropub for an ice-cold beer and a slice of what is claimed to Svalbard’s best pizza.

The Coal Miners’ Cabins were originally barracks used by coal miners while Longyearbyen was rebuilt after World War II – but standards have improved dramatically since then! The hotel’s buildings are in Nybyen, Longyearbyen’s ‘satellite town’, but within walking distance of the town centre. Standard rooms are simple with practical furnishings, shared bathrooms, and views across the wild Arctic landscape. All buildings have internet access, kitchens, sitting rooms, and laundry facilities.

In both hotels, your overnight stay includes breakfast, unless your booking says otherwise.

Longyearbyen is an almost cash-free society and there is no ATM in town, but in some cases and with certain debit cards, it is possible to withdraw cash at the local store. Most cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc) are accepted, so we would recommend using these.

The local currency is Norwegian Kroner (NOK).

Information about life on board MS Nordstjernen

We clean your cabin upon request rather than daily, but fresh towels are always available. There is no laundry service on board, so please pack enough changes of clothes! 

During check-in, we provide you with a cruise card. This is linked to your cabin and can be used for purchases in the shop and for drinks in the bar during dinner. Shortly before the end of your voyage, your account will be totalled and settled by credit or debit card. 

We use Norwegian Kroner (NOK) for all transactions on board MS Nordstjernen. When using your debit/credit card on the ship, the exchange rate is stipulated by your bank/credit-card company.

If you have any allergies or dietary requirements, please let us know no later than eight weeks before your departure, and contact the Restaurant Manager when you embark. Our chefs will do their very best to meet your needs but, unfortunately, we can’t guarantee they will be able to do so. 

The use of passenger-operated drones is not permitted during your voyage. Drones can hinder the user’s safety, disturb vulnerable wildlife, and affect other guests’ personal security.

The sockets used on board are the 220v AC, two-pin Continental type. Please bring your own adapters with you if needed. 

Every day of your voyage, your onboard Expedition Team distributes a daily programme with a list of port calls, landings, lectures, meals, and activities on the ship. As we note above, nature runs the show, so all published plans are subject to change.

As well as being experts at handling any last-minute adjustments, the Expedition Team know everything there is to know about Spitsbergen and the Svalbard archipelago. They are here to answer your questions and, during onshore landings, they will regale you with talks on topics such as nature, wildlife, history, and geology.

Your voyage includes three meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style, and dinner varies between buffets and set meals – your daily programme when on board will tell you what to expect.

Regular coffee and tea are complimentary throughout your voyage. Other beverages are not included in your voyage, but you can buy them in the restaurant during lunch and dinner and the bar at other times. You can safely drink the tap water in your cabin, too. 

Only beverages sold and/or provided in the restaurant and bar can be consumed on board. Any alcoholic beverages purchased in ports of call need to be stored separately on board by our crew. Your purchases will be delivered to your cabin on the last day of sailing.

Prepare for a total digital detox during your voyage. There is no internet connection or mobile signal on board MS Nordstjernen, though you will be able to connect while in Longyearbyen.

Our stable tender boats are ready to take you on onshore landings. You need to be fairly mobile to board these, but the crew will show you how to do so safely. Make sure you wear sturdy footwear with good grip for landings. Special lifejackets are provided, along with a mandatory safety briefing. 

Please note that landings are dependent on sea and/or ice conditions and may be cancelled at short notice. 

We have English, German, and Norwegian-speaking staff on board, as well as French-speaking staff on some sailings. Announcements are given in English, and onboard lectures are held in different languages.

There is no doctor or nurse on board. There are basic medical supplies such as bandages, disinfectants, etc, but any medical issues will need to be treated on land. There is an emergency hospital in Longyearbyen.

All guests must have personal travel/health insurance. If you depend on medication, please remember to bring sufficient supplies to last through any unforeseen delays. Such delays, while rare, can and do happen. We also recommend that you keep your medication in your hand luggage, properly labelled, and with clear instructions for its use.

Our beautiful MS Nordstjernen was built in 1956. Although this splendid old Atlantic ship has been modernised, unfortunately it is not suitable for wheelchair users and has no accessible cabins or lifts. Longyearbyen is also not suitable for wheelchair embarkation or disembarkation. 

MS Nordstjernen complies with international safety requirements and was designed to sail in icy waters.  

When you arrive on board, expect a mandatory passenger safety drill before departure. A welcome meeting will give you security and practical information about the voyage, and an opportunity to meet some of the Officers, Crew and Expedition Team members. Please also take the time to read the Safety Notice on the inside of your cabin door carefully. 

Take care when walking on board while at sea, especially when venturing out on deck, which can be wet and slippery. Watch out for wind too – the doors toward the outer deck are potentially dangerous in windy conditions. Please adhere to the signs and announcements when it is not advised to go outside. While walking inside, hold on to railings but not to door frames, to avoid injury. 

As you would expect, your safety is always our top priority and the ship’s Captain will decide the final itinerary during the sailing. Each voyage is wonderfully unique, so please treat the published route as a guide rather than a given. 

You can buy seasickness pills in reception. However, if you know you are prone to seasickness, it’s wise to bring pills that you are familiar with. 

Smoking, including e-cigarettes and vaping, is only permitted in designated areas on the outside decks. However, all forms of smoking are strictly forbidden even in designated areas when the ship is in port and refuelling. The crew will advise guests when this is the case.  

A cleaning fee of approximately NOK 1500 will be charged for smoking in the cabin. This is to cover the cost of washing bedding and curtains to bring the cabin back to a non-smoking standard.

We’re an informal crowd so our onboard dress code is to dress comfortably. What that means for you on your voyage mostly depends on the weather. Temperatures can vary a lot during the day, so we recommend wearing several layers and bringing a hat, scarf, gloves, and woollen underlayers – we are in the Arctic, after all! For most shore excursions and landings, it is also important to wear sturdy shoes. 

If you want to spend a lot of time on deck, ask about our thermal suits. We have a limited number available on board for you to borrow.