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Cruise Day 9, disembark, then Longyearbyen - Oslo - home

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

Having totally crashed out last night, and not even stirred in the night, I wake up at 06:58 (two minutes before the alarm goes off) in a mad panic thinking I can't breathe and that I am drowning in mucus, followed by more panic as I can't sit up in bed (because of the upper bunk above me).

Following my morning ablutions, and getting dressed and made up, I feel some better. I take some cold and flu medicine and sit outside the overly hot cabin, but don't feel like surfacing for breakfast, partly because I am not hungry, and partly because I do not want to subject my fellow passengers to my sniffling, coughing, and nose-blowing this morning. I am never at my best first thing anyway, and having a cold does nothing to improve my early morning grumpiness.

Leiv comes by, and after asking me why I am not at breakfast, he apologises for giving me his cold and soon comes back with a hot drink containing lemon and honey. I return to bed for the rest of the morning, missing Vide's presentation on Svalbard.



After lunch (a very nice chilli), I return yet again to the cabin, for more sleep, and later, after the crew has retrieved our bags for us, we do some packing.

Today is our last full day on the ship, and no landings or zodiac excursions are planned. I hate hanging around. We arrive back in Longyearbyen and dock mid-afternoon. I would be quite happy to leave the ship right now and book into a hotel on land, but the accommodation here on the ship is paid for, and hotels on Svalbard are horrendously expensive. So we stay for the last night. Vide has gone back to his wife for the evening, as he is off on another ten-night trip tomorrow. As he says: “King-sized bed or small bunk? Hard choice!”

Longyearbyen Harbour

Last Supper

Our last dinner on the ship consists of a herring salad on dark bread to start. Many, many years ago, I was very sick after eating herring, and haven't touched it since, so I am feeling a little nervous about this, but eat it all the same. It tastes better than I remember.


The main course is roast pork with mushroom sauce, and (hopefully) my last boiled potatoes for a while.


For dessert, we are served a panacotta topped with cloudberries. I love cloudberries!


The captain comes in to say thanks to the crew and passengers, and in return, I give thanks to the Captain, crew, and guides on behalf of the passengers.

I believe most of the passengers are staying up for a 'leaving party', while David and I go to bed nursing our miserable head colds.

Disembarkation Day

I wake up at 06:15, having had a wretched night coughing, and spending a lot of time sitting on my little foldable stool in the cabin with the door wide open as the small enclosed space was unbearably hot.

We finish the packing, and Gunnar very kindly helps us up the steep steps with our luggage; as well as going off to the quayside to get a trolley. This morning it all feels like a sad anticlimax, with passengers and guides just milling about waiting to disembark. There is no formal goodbye, although Jeanette cries as she waves us off from the deck of the ship.

There is a huge cruise ship docked nearby, and we are very grateful that ours was a tiny ship, despite the obvious discomfort (bunk beds being the main drawback).


Radisson Blu Polar Hotel

As all the taxis here in Longyearbyen seem to be extra large people carriers, we are able to share a cab with Deepak and José, who are both staying in the same hotel as us.

We are able to check into our room as soon as we arrive (for a fee, of course), where we dump our bags, open the window fully (after fiddling with the window lock), and collapse into a wonderfully comfortable bed with no upper berth. Heaven.

The afternoon is spent repacking, showering, buying gifts, enjoying a can of cider in the room, and checking in online.

Baggage tags

The hotel (as well as two other places in town) has a machine where you can check your bags in and get your luggage tags printed, saving time at the airport. What a great idea!


Nansen Restaurant

This evening we are treating ourselves to a meal in Longyearbyen's best restaurant (according to a local poll). The restaurant is part of the Radisson Blu hotel, and as with so many other establishments in town, is owned by Hurtigruten (a famous Norwegian shipping line).


I start with the lobster tail, which is served with a shellfish sauce with flavours of lemongrass, chilli and galangal. The meat is quite hard to get out of the shell, even with a dedicated lobster fork, but it is very tasty once I manage to liberate it, and the sauce has a slight spicy kick to it.


David chooses the Svalbard cod, which is baked with leek ash, vichyssoise foam and fried leek.


We both select the same main course: reindeer tenderloin, smoked cream cheese, sunchoke, mushrooms and a red wine sauce. The meat is very tender, and the portion is thankfully not too big.


For dessert, David has the chocolate parfait with coffee cream and whisky caramel. It is tasty but very dense.


I, on the other hand, opt for the pavlova, a meringue with fennel white chocolate cream and sea buckthorn. A lovely combination of tart and sweet, but the dish is a little on the cold side for my liking (presumably straight out of the fridge – I don't really like any food very cold, I even put ice cream in the microwave at home)


As we are getting up very early tomorrow morning, we go to bed almost immediately after dinner. On our way through reception, we notice a sign stating that the water in all of Longyearbyen is not drinkable at the moment. Thankfully we have a couple of bottles that we already filled on the ship, so that will do us for overnight.

Sunday 6th August

I have been awake from 01:30, so am seriously sleep-deprived. It is probably a combination of eating too late (or rather trying to sleep too early), a full tummy after the lovely meal last night, and maybe the 'excitement' of going home the next day. Who knows.

Last night we booked a packed breakfast, as we are leaving before they start serving in the hotel this morning. I am sad to miss the all-you-can-eat smoked salmon at the buffet, and a triple-decker sandwich of ham, cheese and salad does not in any way make up for it.

A young German girl at the hotel asks if she can share our taxi to the airport, and tells us that the airline also didn't deliver her luggage in the three days she has been here. Shame on you, SAS.

Longyearbyen Airport

We are a little too early for the check-in desks to be open this morning, so hang around chatting to Deepak, Jeanette and Svein, who are all travelling on the same flight as us. When the check-in counters open, everything is still self-service here: we put the luggage on the scales ourselves, and use a scanner to read the baggage tags we printed off yesterday. That's it.

Stuffed polar bears are everywhere in Longyearbyen, even at the airport

I am really suffering from pain in my sacroiliac joint this morning, and even struggle to lift my legs onto the footrests of the wheelchair.

The crew arrive at the gate but are unable to open the door onto the tarmac. Eventually, someone with a key arrives and lets them out, but they have the same problem trying to get onto the plane too.

The water fountains still have signs on them apropos the non-potable drinking water at the moment. In addition, there is an announcement in the waiting area: “I would just like to inform you people that we won't be serving any food on this flight, so if you are already starving, I suggest you go and buy something”. Great. We have paid for SAS Plus seats, which include in-flight meals. We buy a bottle of water, but neither of us is at all hungry, so we don't bother buying any snacks.

When it is finally time to board, my wheelchair pusher is nowhere to be seen. As the plane is just outside the glass doors, I don't bother to wait for him, but make my own way to the aircraft.

As we taxi across the runway, every bump and pothole on the surface sends shooting pains through my back, despite a triple dose of painkillers. Not only that, but my cold has gone to my sinuses, which feel like they are about to explode as soon as we take off. This is turning out to be one of my worst flights for a very long time.

I am so glad that I did not take any notice of the earlier announcement, as passengers in the SAS Plus section are given a free choice from the snacks menu: muffins, crispbread, cashew nuts or chocolate bars, or a combination of any or all of them. The captain explains that they have recently changed catering suppliers, and are having a few teething problems.

The pressure in my sinuses eases a little once we have become airborne, so I am able to catch up on some sleep. The pain starts up again as soon as we begin our descent, however.

Oslo Gardemoen Airport

As we arrive at the domestic terminal and our onward flight is from the international terminal, the air stewardess tells me there is a private car waiting to take me across. When she says “private car”, it is just that: there is a non-marked Mercedes at the bottom of the steps, and we are driven around the apron to the correct area, then taken up what looks like goods lifts with automatic doors, and through security and X-ray.

Coming through this way confuses the police at immigration (while Norway is part of the Schengen Area, Svalbard is not, which means anyone travelling to these Norwegian islands is treated as international passengers). He asks how long we are staying, and I reply: “Oh, about three hours”, which confuses him even more. The porter then explains the situation, and that we are just transitting through Gardemoen. Shortly afterwards, we go through the same procedure to get out of Norway again.

At the Gate


The onward plane is late arriving, and the crew are trying for a quick turnaround. Everyone is ushered to leave the holding area, and then one by one they are checked back in again against their passport and boarding cards. Everyone except me, David and a couple of other Special Assistance passengers, that is. Just like at Longyearbyen, the crew arrive before the doors are opened so that they too have to queue to board the plane.

As well as arriving late, the flight has an unusual amount of passengers requiring wheelchair assistance, and while there had been some good planning in place, with a number of wheelchairs stacked at the end of the ramp, there is a shortage of porters to push, so it is very slow progress to get all the passengers off.

As soon as the doors are opened, 'my' porter wheels me down to the plane and is promptly told off as the crew are not ready to receive passengers yet.

This flight is uneventful, and thankfully they are well stocked with food – we receive the same meal as on the way over, which suits me down to the ground, as it is delicious!

Great views of London as we come in to land at Heathrow



I have never seen Heathrow this quiet, in all the years I have been coming through here (at least 200 times). Where there would normally be a long line snaking around roped-off areas at immigration, there is not one person queuing, just a handful of people at the counters waiting to be let into the country. The official who we see is extremely friendly and chatty, with a great sense of humour, which is also very unusual. I guess the fact that it is so quiet takes any pressure off what must be a very stressful job so they can have time to joke with passengers.

There are a few more people at the luggage carousel, but it is certainly not crowded. The luggage seems to be very slow to arrive, but I guess we were through immigration quicker than normal.

The luggage carousel

At customs, a very sexy black guy with long dreadlocks is just putting on plastic gloves as he starts his shift. My comment “Ooh, those gloves look scary” brings out a gorgeous smile and a belly laugh. If only travelling through Heathrow would be this easy every time.

I spoke too soon. There is a huge crowd waiting for the lifts to the car park. Not every one of the eight lifts opens its doors when they arrive at our floor, nor can many people fit into them when they do. Walking up the stairs with four large items of luggage and four pieces of hand luggage (not to mention me in a wheelchair), is not an option. After nearly ten minutes, we are still not even at the front of the queue, so the lovely young porter (female) who is pushing my wheelchair suggests we go to the other side of the lifts (the car park side, as opposed to the terminal side). Sure enough, the doors open here every time the lift stops, and we have no problem getting in. How ridiculous.

This signals the end of our adventure in Svalbard, and at this point I would just like to share the map displayed on the notice board on the ship, showing the route we took, what sightings we had, and where. If you are at all tempted by a wildlife trip to Svalbard, I cannot recommend Arctic Wildlife Tours enough.


Also, David has made an excellent 5-minute video of the highlights of the trip, which you see here:

If the video fails, you can copy and paste this URL into your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrARgxLfRug

If that doesn't work either, the link is here.

Footnote: The cold I have been suffering from for the last few days, turns out to be Covis-19. Thankfully it causes no great drama beyond the symptoms of a head cold.

See you next time. x

Posted by Grete Howard 16:39 Archived in Svalbard Tagged oslo london home airport cruise packing norway bears cruise_ship polar svalbard longyearbyen heathrow immigration arctic cider wheelchair adventure_travel spitsbergen heathrow_airport last_supper radisson head_cold packed_breakfast gardemoen coronavirus covid19 covid special_assistance disembarkation radisson_blu radisson_blu_polar origo adventure_cruise ms_origo spitzbergen arctic_wildlife_tours nansen_restaurant baggage_tags lobster_tail longyearbyen_airport sinus_infection sacroliliac oslo_airport car_park

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A shame the final hours of your trip were so uncomfortable, and the flight home too, but it's been wonderful 'accompanying' you on this adventure :D Hope you're feeling better now?

by ToonSarah

Thank you, Sarah x I am back to normal now, thanks, or as normal as I'll ever be. Glad you enjoyed the journey ♥

by Grete Howard

What a read! Loved every minute of it!

by Ils1976

Thank you for following along with my trip and commenting, Ils, it is very much appreciated. ♥

by Grete Howard

it was my pleasure! I have been busy quite some time but I like your pictures and blog very much! I am sure going to read some more. You definitely made sure I got interested in these destinations! :)

by Ils1976

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