Peaceful areas where nature reigns supreme… Fabulous fauna… Places of legend… Travelers who know them are often of the opinion that the most memorable trips are those that take us to the ends of the world. In my case it is so; Among my simply unforgettable trips are three to Antarctica, the White Continent, with its whales, penguins, science stations, and icebergs as big as apartment buildings; and two expeditions to the Arctic.
The Arctic is a rarely traveled region of the world with incredible landscapes of fjords and glaciers, and a fauna of a movie: from beautiful puffins that look like hand-painted toys, to towering walruses and polar bears. And it is a part of the planet that is rich, in turn, in legend – from Viking myths and Norse traditions to fantasies of Santa Claus, his elves and his flying reindeer.
Expeditions to these regions of the world are super-memorable trips, with their opportunities to explore with expert naturalists by means of motorized rafts, and in these times in which we are living, they are gaining even more popularity because they are calm and educational explorations, in boats of expedition with space for fewer passengers – usually around 200-300 – which is much less than the large mega-cruise ships that frequently carry around 4,000 – and because they go to pristine areas and less crowded areas of the world.
Now there is a new option for expeditions to the Arctic, just announced this fall to begin their voyages in 2023: expeditions from Disney’s guided travel company, Adventures By Disney, that I have had the pleasure of taking on programs to Costa Rica. with my husband, and with our entire family to Paris and London through the years.
These new Adventures By Disney expeditions to the Arctic will be aboard a ship of the Ponant line, a leading company in this type of tourist exploration trips. The 10-day program combines the Arctic with Oslo, the capital of Norway, and Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost picturesque settlement in Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago with some 2,300 residents.
The adventure begins and ends in Oslo, the capital of Norway, with stays at the Grand Hotel Oslo and time to independently visit points of interest in the city including the Royal Palace, the official residence of King Harald V, on the main street, Karl Johansgate. The palace dates from the 19th century and is surrounded by a park with lagoons, statues and majestic trees. Other points of interest include Parliament, a legislative body since 1866, at Karl Johansgate 22; the beautiful and futuristic Opera House, which a local guide told us “its style has been compared to a glacier in the Oslo fjord”; the Vigeland Park with more than 200 sculptures; and Akershus Castle, a medieval fort dating from the 13th century in the port of Oslo.
Upon arrival in Oslo, travelers can enjoy a private tour and dinner with local specialties at the Fram Museum, a museum dedicated to displays on polar exploration. This is a special event included in the program that also includes most meals and excursions.
Other events will include, on select voyages, special Disney guests including Imagination Engineer Joe Rohde, who created many company projects such as Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii.
On each expedition, participants will be able to enjoy motorized raft rides to get closer to the landscapes including fjords and glaciers in the Svalbard Archipelago of Norway and the fauna of the region and will have guides and expert naturalists at their disposal on board and on guided walks on land during the expedition.
On our expedition to the Arctic several years ago, during excursions on motorized rafts, my husband and I had the joy of seeing a colony of walruses up close and, at a respectable distance, polar bears. And on walks through the Svalbard Archipelago, we saw cute puffins and reindeer hopping so high over bushes in settlement gardens that they seemed to fly. An unforgettable sight that reminded us of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer!
In addition to expeditions to the Arctic, Adventures By Disney offers others including ones to Antarctica with the option of spending a few days in Buenos Aires before the trip, and programs to the Galapagos of Ecuador. The company also offers guided tours in the United States, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.