Posted May 31, 2012
The mist covering Norway's Magdalena Fjord is an ominous welcome to the most northerly point reached by Princess Cruises, but as soon as the sun peeks over the horizon, the fog disappears to reveal a breathtaking sight. Comprised of rugged, snow-capped mountains and glassy blue waters, the Magdalena Fjord is an arctic wonderland teeming with cold-weather flora and fauna. Passengers on a European cruise to Spitsbergen will want to wake up early and grab a hot cup of coffee before heading to the top deck to gaze at the stunning scenery.
Getting to know the Svalbard Archipelago
A series of islands situated north of Norway make up the Svalbard Archipelago. Spitsbergen is the largest, with about 15,000 square miles of rugged mountains and a unique history. Known for its former life as a whaling and coal mining community, the island has become a popular tourist destination for travelers and scientists striving to reach the top of the world. Over the years, the mining construction has not compromised the illustrious landscape nor has it deterred polar bears or migratory birds from calling Spitsbergen their summertime home.
With only 2,500 inhabitants - interestingly, equal to the number of polar bears - Spitsbergen is a sparsely populated island riddled with historical sites recalling the area's whaling and mining past.
Pack binoculars to catch a glimpse of rare beasts
During this European cruisetour, passengers should bring along a pair of binoculars or telephoto camera lenses to capture rare wildlife, including whales, polar bears and walruses. As one of the few places in the world with reindeer, Christmas happens year-round in this polar region that sees endless sunlight for six months. Often situated along the shores of the Magdalena Fjord, polar bears and walruses bask in the sunlight as soon as the mist disperses while reindeer are a little more difficult to spot. The unicorn-like narwhal travels in packs and Princess passengers might have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness these strange creatures make their annual migration to the northern region.
Arctic flora defy the odds
The spring is a time of new life in the polar region, and should European cruises get close enough to shore, travelers can fix their eyes on the beautiful flowers soaking up the sun for the first time in half a year. Unlike any other flora on the planet, Arctic plant life manages to emerge despite the freezing temperatures. The gorgeous and multicolored results are dotted along the valleys and mountain faces.