I chose Polar Pioneer for the round Svalbard trip because a smaller ship would have less environmental impact, would be friendlier and would feel more like an expedition. The Aurora team were completely fantastic - knowledgeable, experienced, careful about our safety, efficient getting us into and off the zodiacs, friendly and looked after us really well. They worked hard to avoid other ships also circling Svalbard and to find wildlife for us to watch. Utterly professional.
It took a couple days to settle down into the slower rhythm of shipboard life. The twice daily zodiac trips, usually landing for a shorter or longer walk, were fascinating - wildlife, flora, experiencing the tundra terrain, walrus/seal/whaling hunting history, glaciers and ice. And the two days we spent north of 80 latitude, drifting in the ice in the ship, were just wonderful. It was a privilege to be able go up to watch wildlife from the bridge, or to go out on the bow in the wind and closer to the sea and ice. I loved it all.
The twin cabin was snug with lots of storage for clothes and suitcases. Lots of hot water for showers, towels replaced as often as you required, and cleaned daily. Food was really excellent, fresh, varied and well cooked, with a vegetarian option, and hot drinks, fruit and biscuits were available 24/day.