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Longyearbyen - Boarding MS Origo

Time to get acquainted with Svalbard

View In the Realm of the Ice Bear - Svalbard 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Tuesday 25th July 2023

When I wake at 02:15, I pull the black-out curtains aside to see full daylight outside. This far north, the sun will not set until the 23rd August, although it is hiding behind a cloud at the moment. I take a couple of photos and go back to bed.



What an amazing spread! There are not just the usual cooked breakfast items, but a selection of various deli meals, smoked salmon, yogurts, cereals, fruits, and vegetables, and of course, the brown Norwegian cheese!


Gjetost on the right, the infamous Norwegian goat cheese that tastes more like fudge than cheese

Journal writing

For the last ten years or so, I have only typed up my blog after I returned home from the trip. Before that I would type it up, edit a few photos and publish an entry every evening, but found it was taking too much time away from enjoying our trip. I still make lots of detailed notes of everything that happens along the way, of course.

This time, because I still haven't finished the blog entries from the previous trip, and when we get back from Svalbard, we do not have a very long gap before the next one, I thought I'd bring the laptop with me and try to keep up to date with the journal. I am also thinking that there will be a fair amount of downtime on this cruise, and with such a small cabin, we are unlikely to go to the room and chill (which is what we often do on our trips), so I might as well utilise that time to get the blog entries typed up almost as and when they happened.

When I get my laptop out this morning, however, I discover that we have somehow forgotten to pack the charging lead. Oh, dear. The one time I decide to use the laptop, I am scuppered! The girl in reception suggests that the local Co-op may stock such supplies, and sure enough, they have a universal laptop charger that will fit many different brands. I am guessing we are far from the first people who have omitted packing a charger.



We return to Barentz Gastropub for lunch. Today the pub is quiet, with just a handful of patrons. We look around and try to guess if any of them are going to be on our ship. The two middle-aged Japanese men? The rather nerdy-looking chap carrying an SLR in his pocket? The lone woman we also saw in here last night? It's a fun game, we will know tomorrow evening if any of them are indeed with us on the cruise. The organisers recommended arriving at least 24 hours early in case of flight cancellations or luggage not arriving, so there is every possibility that our fellow passengers may be hanging around today, just like us.

Feeling on top of the world


David orders a Barents Burger with Cheddar, salad, caramelised onion, crispy onion, pickled cucumber, smoked aioli, and cheesy fries.


I am tempted by the cheeseburger with Cheddar, bacon mayonnaise, salad, mushroom, onion, and fries. It is the bacon mayonnaise that attracts me, although I struggle to make out its taste.


I manage to finish the burger itself, but the bun and the fries have me beaten. David, on the other hand, claims he "doesn't want to appear piggish," so he leaves three chips.

My leftovers

David did better than me

After lunch, I pop outside to take some photos of the hotel and check out how far away the shopping centre is for possible lunch tomorrow.

We make the most of the room facilities this afternoon, as tomorrow we will be homeless for the best part of the day after checking out in the morning and boarding the ship at 18:00.

Dinner at Funktionærmessen Restaurant

We order a taxi to take us to Funken Hotel to eat at their restaurant. It's another hotel and restaurant owned by Hurtigruten (a famous Norwegian Cruise company), and while it is fairly plain from the outside, as soon as we enter it looks rather posh. There are no signs of the restaurant, nor anyone around to ask, so we head for the lift. Again there is no indication on which floor the restaurant is, so we press 2 for Reception, where we approach the guy behind the counter. This is the correct floor, and he motions behind and says “Go right through”, It certainly isn't easy to find, as we end up walking through a couple of different rooms with seating areas, and a dining room with a RESERVED sign on the door before we reach the restaurant - which looks deserted.





A delightful young girl takes us to a super table by enormous panoramic windows looking out over Longyearbyen, handing us the menu and wine list We know it is going to be posh – and expensive - when we see that they have half a dozen different caviars on the menu, as well as over 200 different champagnes.


When we see the price of the wine, the cheapest bottle being £60, we also know we'll be sticking to water this evening.

While we wait to order: home made brioche with whipped brown butter and lingonberry powder

David decides on the three-course set menu, while I choose from the a la carte section:

David's starter: Hitra crab (a Norwegian crab, apparently), with green gazpacho and lobster oil crisp (that fancy red thing on top)


His main course: Rack of lamb, creamed aubergine with meat juices and herbs, olive crumbles, and grilled red pepper


My starter is King crab and lobster ravioli with lobster bisque, but somehow I manage to omit to take a photo. This is my favourite dish of the evening – as I tell the waitress: it is plate-lickingly good.

Turbot served with peas and spinach, chanterelle hollandaise sauce (yum), and crispy turbot skin.


We both have the same dessert: chocolate mousse, stratos*, and caramelised white chocolate ice cream.


  • *Stratos is a well-known Norwegian chocolate bar, and when David came to visit me in Norway in 1976, the first Norwegian phrase he learned was "en Stratos, takk".

We get a cab back to the hotel, and while David goes to bed a little earlier, I stay up to check out the midnight sun. Yet again it hides behind a cloud.

Wednesday 26th July 2023

We have managed to secure a late check-out from the room today, from 11:00 to 14:00. The plan is that we'll have a late (and big) breakfast, keep the room until 14:00, then go for lunch. That way the afternoon won't be so long until we board the ship at 18:00.


There are two different smoked salmon on the buffet this morning. I also grab some mango and melon yogurt with muesli, dried bananas, linseeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.




Longyearbyen is a small settlement of just over 2,400 inhabitants, from 53 different nations, the largest group being Russians. The lingua franca appears to be English. It's a small settlement, and we walk from one end to the other on the main pedestrian path this morning, stopping on the way back for a hot chocolate. I have to admit that I never expected to be sitting outside in a short-sleeved shirt while I was here.


Longyearbyen is home to the most northerly... well, pretty much everything, such as this taco truck.

Stuffed polar bears seem to be everywhere



Svalbard has only 25 miles of road

Kindergarten on the left. You are not allowed to give birth on Svalbard, a few weeks before the due date, pregnant women are sent to the mainland.



There are more snowmobiles in Longyearbyen than people

Lunch at Barentzpuben

After checking out and paying the bill at 14:00, we store the luggage in the dedicated store room and head for lunch. Svalbard is so crime-free that there is not a secure storage area like there is in most hotels, this is just a large room off the entrance, behind the cloakroom, As with most of northern Scandinavia, every hotel and restaurant has a large cloakroom for coats, and also encourage patrons to leave their outdoor shoes there and change into inside shoes.

Our bags in storage


We share a Thai pizza, which leaves us room for a dessert of crème brulee with raspberry ice cream (yummy).

Minced beef, mushrooms, onion, peanut, coriander, lime and coconut dressing


We linger for a while, then just as we are enjoying a cappuccino, we receive a message from Jeanette at Arctic Wildlife Tours (the company who arranged our cruise) that the captain wants to get away early, so could we be at the quay between 16:30 and 17:00 instead of the previously agreed 18:00, leaving us around ten minutes to get sorted. This suits us fine, as all we are doing is hanging around wasting time until we leave.


We rearrange the taxi for the earlier time, collect our luggage, and head for the harbour. There is quite a walk from where the taxi drops us off to the place the Origa is moored, along fairly narrow floating pontoons. I grab a long flat trolley for all our luggage, which proves to be unwieldy and difficult to manoeuvre. As soon as we arrive at the mooring, we are greeted warmly, and the crew takes over, ferrying our luggage to our cabin and returning the trolley to its original place in the car park.

The unruly trolley

MS Origo, our home for the next eleven days

Origo is a Swedish-built ship, and sailing under the Swedish flag. As they are sailing in the Norwegian waters, they are obliged to also display a Norwegian flag. I think the size difference between the two flags on this ship clearly shows the (usually) friendly rivalry between the two nations.


While the cabin is small, as expected, there is a surprising amount of storage space, with a closet, a chest of drawers, and two huge drawers under the bottom bunk.



The cabin even has our names outside

Just outside our cabin is a small seating area, with a beautiful inlaid table and a piano. Yes, a piano. We spend the remainder of the cruise trying to work out how they got that down the stairs (we think they must have lowered it by crane through a hatch that we see evidence of in the ceiling).

From our cabin, we have to climb a series of four steps, over a high ledge, up a further steep staircase, then across another high threshold.

The first steps

The second stairs

This, the steepest threshold leading out onto the desk, proved too much for my poorly knee

We empty the large bags and leave them outside for the crew to store for the duration of the voyage, and go off to explore the ship and take some photos. Eventually, everyone gathers in the mess, while we wait for the last person to arrive. Although Deepak arrived two days ago like we did, his luggage did not (and nor did the airline bother to send it on any of the four subsequent flights from Oslo to Longyearbyen), so he has been busy trying to replenish his wardrobe.

The dining/lounge area, known as the mess in ship-speak.

The bar area, which is also used for breakfast and lunch buffet

Once we were all present and correct, the captain sets sail, heading for the refuelling station, while the passengers get a briefing about the voyage.

Refuelling ship moored off the coast near Longyearbyen


Able seaman Felicia shows us how to put on the floatation suit in case of an emergency

We are a mixed bunch, with two friends from the UK travelling together (Jackie and Ian – both in our age bracket), a mother and her 21-year-old son from the Netherlands (Karen and Pieter), a father and daughter from Norway (Bjørn And Cecilie) who are with a friend (Gunnar), another Norwegian. José from Colombia (a young chap in his 30s), Sabrine from Germany, and Deepak from Canada make up the passengers.

As dinner approaches, we are thrown out of the mess so that they can lay the tables, so we do some more exploring.



Captain Johannes on the bridge


We share a table with Sabrine, who is very pleasant company. As expected, most passengers are very well travelled, and we all share stories from various parts of the world. We are served a delicious prawn salad on bread for starters, and the main course is a pork steak with a tasty sauce, and some cute, very salty potatoes.



After dinner, I head for the top deck where I sit and enjoy the sunshine. This evening we are travelling up the west coast of the archipelago, so the scenery consists of distant mountains, a few birds darting around, and sea. Lots of sea. We chat with Vide (one of the guides) for quite a while, and he promises to look after me for getting in and out of the Zodiacs – something that is of great concern to me.



After all the excitement today I feel quite tired, so retreat to bed early. The cabins are overly warm – the crew know about it, but claim that it takes time for it to cool off after they have turned the heat down. We leave the cabin door ajar as we go to bed. David, of course, has to climb up into the top bunk, which he managed after a couple of attempts. The gentle rolling of the ship, and the noise of the engine, soon send me to sleep.

Thank you to Arctic Wildlife Tours for arranging this amazing voyage.


Posted by Grete Howard 12:31 Archived in Svalbard Tagged harbour adventure cruise breakfast pizza svalbard longyearbyen burger arctic polar_bear midnight_sun turbot stratos breakfast_buffet smoked_salmon refuelling arctic_voyage arctic_adventure artctic_wildlife_tours radisson_blu_polar polar_region brown_cheese gjetost barentz_gastropub barentzpuben pub_lunch 24_hour_daylight funktionærmessen funken_hotel isbjørn hitra_crab luggage_storage ms_origi origo adventure_cruise

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I've been waiting to hear more about your ship for this trip! It looks simple but with all the facilities you need and the food sounds good :)

by ToonSarah

sounds like you guys are going to have a great time. I really have to go to Norway one day to get me some "stratos"

by Ils1976

Sarah, the ship was very comfortable, the food was great, and it was perfect for photography. The crew was fab too, and we all became like one big family.

by Grete Howard

very good

by Davidnig

Great tips for Longyearbyen...heading there in a week - can't wait! :)

by ToddP

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