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Newsletter Dated April 21, 2014
Dear Vacations To Go Customer,
Alan Fox checks in from Longyearbyen this week, on his way to
the North Pole. The second of three trip reports is below and
there is a link to a slideshow at the end of his report.
If you missed his first report about conditions at the North Pole and
the floating base camp, Barneo, you can read it by
For this week's cruise specials, please scroll
Getting to the North Pole
Houston—London—Oslo—Longyearbyen—Barneo (camp on polar ice
When I booked my trip to the North Pole, I must admit I looked at the
tiny town of Longyearbyen, on the Norwegian island of
Spitsbergen, as merely a required stopover en route to the main
I knew that adventure travelers and nature lovers visit the island from
June to September to look for polar bears and whales and to climb the
snowcapped mountains and kayak the deep-blue fjords. Vacations To Go
offers Arctic cruises and tours with the island as the main
But at this time of year, so far above the Arctic Circle, I expected to
find the world's northernmost town would be a frozen outpost hunkered
down against the cold. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Not that it isn't cold -- temperatures have ranged from 20 to -11 F
during our visit -- it just doesn't seem to matter to anyone. The wide,
pedestrian street of shops, restaurants and bars is open for business,
and the best restaurants are booked to capacity every night. Tourists
bound for cross-country skiing, camping and snowmobiling vacations fill
the few arriving flights each day.
We landed two days ago in a snowstorm, swooping down on the runway with
steep mountains on one side and a fjord on the other. We were met by
Rick Sweitzer of Polar Explorers and taken to the Radisson Blu
Polar Hotel, a comfortable property with an excellent restaurant and
a lively bar scene.
We explored the village on foot, finding colorfully painted homes and
businesses a pleasing contrast to the white roads, sky, mountains and
Of course, there are a few aspects of Longyearbyen that remind you
you're not in Kansas anymore.
There are majestic mountains in every direction. The locals mostly use
snowmobiles instead of cars for transportation. The sun is up 22 hours a
day (at this time of year) with two hours of twilight. And residents are
required by law to carry a rifle whenever they leave town, for their own
protection from polar bears. Residents pack rifles on their snowmobiles,
carry them down the streets and even into restaurants and bars.
Our first night in town, we were upside-down from the time change and
had no problem closing down the Radisson bar at 2am. The storm had
cleared out and the sun had just set but there was plenty of light
outside. We decided to climb one of the nearby mountains, known to
locals as the mountain of Mine 2b, which we completed (sort of) at 5am,
an hour after sunrise.
That climb delayed our acclimation to the local time zone a bit but
bonded us to the place in a way a good night's sleep could not have.
After a few hours of sleep, we headed into the wilderness on a guided
snowmobile tour that took us to spectacular mountain vistas and past
reindeer digging in the snow for a bit of grass or moss.
Tonight, we received a briefing on conditions at Barneo, the floating
ice camp 50 miles from the North Pole, our next stop. Barneo exists for
less than three weeks every April, just after the sun rises at the pole
and before the polar ice cap splinters into pieces, as it does by the
end of the month.
There is a new crack in the ice between the tents and the runway, but
there is no plan to relocate the camp unless it gets bigger.
Cracks have destroyed the ice runway numerous times in prior years and
once forced the emergency relocation of the camp. The weather has turned
considerably colder at the pole, and the forecast for our arrival is -50
F. Hopefully the colder weather will delay the breakup of the ice
Tomorrow we will board a Ukrainian-made Antonov 74, piloted by a Russian
crew, for the flight to Barneo. One year the plane shattered the ice
runway as it touched down, but the pilots managed to take off again and
return to Spitsbergen instead of sinking into the Arctic Ocean. I'm sure
the adrenaline will be flowing when we hit that sheet of ice about 5-6
If all goes according to plan, I'll be there and back in time to
report on my trip to the pole in next week's newsletter. Of course,
on this trip, plans are only as stable as the ice.
To see photos or a slideshow of Spitsbergen,
To see Spitsbergen's position relative to the North Pole on a map, or to
look for cruises that visit Spitsbergen,
To see tours that visit Spitsbergen in the summer,
This week, we've negotiated the following money-saving offers with
Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess and Cunard. Among the deals
are free shipboard credits, which can be used toward onboard purchases
not covered in the cruise fare, like shore excursions, spa treatments
and boutique purchases.
Royal Caribbean is offering our customers exclusive shipboard
credits of up to $300 per cabin on a variety of cruises and cruise tours
in 2014, including select last-minute Caribbean cruises this May and
for dates and prices.
Norwegian is offering Vacations To Go customers fantastic
discounts -- save up to 85% -- plus receive exclusive shipboard credits
of up to $170 per cabin on many departures. Book by April 27.Click here
for dates and prices.
Princess is offering our customers reduced rates and exclusive
shipboard credits of up to $300 per cabin on voyages in the Caribbean,
Alaska, Japan and Europe. Past guests may see better rates on select
sailings. Book by April 30.Click here
for dates and prices.
Cunard is offering Vacations To Go customers special rates and
exclusive shipboard credits of up to $800 per cabin. In addition, select
sailings qualify for free upgrades and free gratuities. Past passengers
may see additional savings on certain departures. Book by April
for dates and prices.
Here are the best cruise deals in the next 90 days, organized by port of
Click below for best cruise deals departing US and Canada
Here are today's Top 10 Cruises,
brand new specials from the world's best cruise lines.
Click the FastDeal # for details.
1) Caribbean, 7 nights on Carnival, departs San Juan May 4, starting at $369, save 78%, FastDeal # 10323
2) Bermuda, 7 nights on Norwegian, departs New York May 4, starting at $449, save 80%, FastDeal # 20579
3) Caribbean, 7 nights on Royal Caribbean, departs Port Canaveral May 4, starting at $449, FastDeal # 10229 (Royal Caribbean does not provide brochure rates for this cruise, so we are unable to show a savings percentage.)
4) Alaska, 7 nights on Oceania Cruises, departs Seattle Jul 24, starting at $1,599, save 70%, FastDeal # 22373
5) Caribbean, 7 nights on Princess, departs Fort Lauderdale May 31, starting at $618, save 38%, FastDeal # 37475
6) Bahamas, 8 nights on Carnival, departs New York May 12, starting at $449, save 77%, FastDeal # 11335
7) Baltic, 11 nights on Royal Caribbean, departs Copenhagen Jun 18, starting at $859, FastDeal # 34973 (Royal Caribbean does not provide brochure rates for this cruise, so we are unable to show a savings percentage.)
8) Hawaii, 7 nights on Norwegian, departs Honolulu May 17, starting at $899, save 78%, FastDeal # 18023
9) Alaska, 7 nights on Regent, departs Vancouver Jun 11, suite starting at $4,399, save 58%, FastDeal # 29274
10) Mediterranean, 11 nights on Silversea, departs Rome May 5, suite starting at $4,850, FastDeal # 10241 (Silversea does not provide brochure rates for this cruise, so we are unable to show a savings percentage.)
For the best last-minute cruise specials in the next 90 days, please
visit our world-famous
To search for discounts of up to 82% on cruises departing more than 90
days from now,
To save up to 40% with escorted and independent tours,
For river cruises up to 50% off,
For discounts of up to 50% at hotels and all-inclusive resorts,
For the lowest rates on Africa safaris from budget to luxury in quality,
Once you've found a FASTDEAL, call us toll free at 800-338-4962 (US and
Canada) and a cruise counselor will attend to your needs. Customers
from the UK, please call toll free 0-800-098-8546. All other
international customers, please email or call us at +1-713-974-2121.