Natalie & Michael Whitehouse

United Kingdom



Customer Rating On return from their adventure we ask customers: “On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend or colleague?”

Natalie & Michael Whitehouse's Trip Date:

15th Jul - 27th Jul 2018

Natalie & Michael Whitehouse's Ship:

Polar Pioneer

Overall, how was your trip?

Highlight was seeing our first live polar bear, and beluga whales on the same day! Lucky with the amount of wild life we saw, with some spectacular scenery, and beautiful weather throughout. Grandchildren (who live in Australia) couldn't believe the photo of the midnight sun on board the ship, taken at midnight!! Ship was a nice mix of ages and nationalities, although the Australians did dominate and sometimes assumed a "herd" mentality! All the same language though!

In one sentence, what did you think of the Arctic? Did it live up to your expectations?

Cold, spectacularly beautiful, plenty of polar bears (lucky us!), but always felt intimidated by the need for protection which inhibited our roaming!

Would you visit again?


How was the service that Swoop provided?

Service was good overall, although there were problems with the computer system, which didn't run as smoothly as it should...mix up with final documents/air ticket in another name/niggles with the "chat" service. But overall, Swoop recommended a great voyage, although the ship was showing its age. Knowledgeable staff on the differences in the ships and the voyages. Loved the small numbers on Polar Pioneer. Cabin small but liveable, but unhappy with the fact that although our windows looked forward and side, we were overlooked by anyone going forward to the front to look out, and all the trip queues, and the boot brushing/cleaning stations were right outside our cabin the blinds were down most of the time! Realise the ship will finish soon, but have learned the lesson to look at a plan before committing to a cabin, to find out if there is a walkway outside the room. Swoop's service was excellent, apart from the occasional IT problems and one staff member who went back home early on in our planing (Spoken to Alex about this)

How likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

10 out of 10

How were your experiences on the guided excursions?

Took some time to appreciate this was a different trip from the Antarctic! Not only different animals (obviously!), but different rules on landings. No 5 metre rule...but lots more use of binoculars, no individual roaming, but corralled, although free to move within limits. Eventually got over the Brit aversion to guns, understood it was for our own safety, but still slightly wary. Animals not here in the numbers we expected...apart from the birds, who were amazing. We were VERY fortunate in that we saw 17 bears, 3 times because were due for a hike, a bear was spotted on the guide's reconnoitre, and we used the zodiacs to track them from the sea. One bear walked right up to and through a school(?) of walrus (est.150) sunbathing, turned round and walked back again! The guides were amazed! The icebergs were spectacular..we actually were near one when it rolled...lots of cameras then! The staff were all very knowledgeable, approachable and happy to share their experiences/knowledge

​How would you describe {vessel.title} if talking to somebody potentially interested in going to the Arctic, and what tips would you pass​ on?

Polar Pioneer is an old ship, due for an update/refurb. We loved the small numbers, but were slightly put out by the meals being eaten in 2 separate rooms, and the bar was so small, there was nowhere really to go at night if you didn't want to drink! The lecture room downstairs was also small and stuffy! The food, however, was excellent, and the waiting staff delightful. If I'm being honest, the toilet facilities and having to remember not to flush toilet paper but deposit it in a bin, were so last century!! That aside, we would recommend any friends to look at ships passenger numbers and go small. Make sure they understand the differences between an expedition and a cruise! I have to admit we are probably spoilt by Joffe and Vavilov, the latter we loved on our last extended trip to the Antarctic.

If Swoop arranged some of your travel before/after your voyage/group trip. How did we do?

All travel arrangements were made by Swoop and worked well. We can't blame them for the complete farce BA made on our return trip from Oslo to LHR. (Camped overnight at Oslo airport!) FYI we were offered a 40 minute transfer from the SAS Svalbard to Oslo flight, and a SAS connecting flight to London. We turned it down noting it would have been a very short window if anything had gone wrong, delays etc, and opted for a 5 hour layover to catch the 21.30 BA flight. In point of fact, those passengers who had opted for that transfer were met by SAS staff and escorted to their gate, with minimum hassle, and as far as we know their luggage arrived too! We on the other hand, having elected to change from SAS to BA had to clear customs/passport control, pick up our bag, wait a couple of hours to check in again for the next flight "as there are no connecting tie-ups between the 2 carriers!" so our bags could not automatically be transferred to the BA plane. Very annoying, and perhaps something to be pointed out to future LHR bound guests? The accommodation on our Oslo lay-over ,courtesy of Aurora, was good, clean and central, and near the train station. I'm very glad we didn't take the "time in Svalbard" option...which I think was covered quite adequately in the 2 hour bus excursion on arrival. The paperwork required by Aurora was excessive, including the medical. A slew of stuff arrived to be printed for the trip, most of which was never required. Personally we would steer clear of this company in the future...One Ocean takes a lot of beating!

Do you have any tips or advice for other people planning a trip to the Arctic?

I think I've probably covered this during my written wanderings! Plan ahead to get the cabin you want...lots of passengers disappointed they had to share a bathroom! Make sure you take enough layers, and 2 of everything to dry one lot in between! Pack light and if with a companion divide clothes equally between the cases. (Just spent 4 days without my bag! Fine! except I had the toilet bag..and guess who's bag was lost?!) Just realise that this is an expedition, not a cruise/drive by!

Anything else? Tell us anything you’d like to share that we forgot to ask! It’s ok to leave this empty too :-)

Get back to me if anything I have written doesn't make sense or needs further explanation!

13 people found this review helpful

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