As ships are moored or anchored you will be, depending on conditions,
tendered by Zodiacs to the shore(line).
The Norwegian name for this archipelago including Bear Island and Jan Mayen is Svalbard. However, it is usually known as Spitsbergen. Covering an area almost as big as the Republic of Ireland, Spitsbergen with its population of 3,500 in five settlements is still today virtually unspoiled wilderness.
With its rugged mountains, sweeping tundra, ice caps and glaciers, it is a true High Arctic archipelago and only 600 miles from the North Pole.
Its abundant wildlife was once a huge draw for whalers and trappers but now discerning visitors are discovering the attractions of huge Arctic seabird colonies and the chance to enjoy and photograph species like Walrus, Reindeer, Arctic Fox and of course, Polar Bear.
In most of Svalbard's buildings, including some hotels and shops, you are expected to take off your shoes before entering. In public buildings this will be obvious as a shoe rack covered in dirty walking boots will be prominent at the entrance.
The currency is the Norwegian krone (NOK), even in the Russian settlements.
The official language is Norwegian, although Russian is spoken in Barentsburg. Practically everybody in the tourist industry speaks English.
Internet connection in Svalbard is top class, courtesy of NASA renting bulk capacity on undersea fiber optic cables running at seabed to mainland Norway for its experiments in Svalbard.
Norwegian and Russian public holidays apply in their respective settlements, but there are a few local festivals of interest:
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