In 1896, a year before Hurtigruten began ship service along Norway’s west coast, Fridtjof Nansen’s polar exploration ship, Fram, began her “triumphal journey” home to Norway after a three-year stint in the Arctic’s polar ice, a point further north than any human had ever been.  In celebration of this historic achievement, Hurtigruten’s modern deluxe expedition ship, also named MS Fram (honoring the original), will sail a near identical route – taking in the majesty of the northern reaches of Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago known for its stunning fjords and glaciers and abundant wildlife, and the west coast of Norway, beginning at the world’s northernmost town of Honningsvåg and ending in the Hanseatic port city of Bergen.  Guest booking the Sept. 7, 2011 departure of “Polar Bears, Islands and Fjords” by Dec. 31, 2010 save 10% -- $4,639 to $6,149; fares after Dec. 31 are $5,154 to $6,832 per person, double.

Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, home to upwards of 2,000 polar bears, and is the starting point for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  After a night in Longyearbyen, the 318-passenger MS Fram heads out, taking in some of the many spectacular highlights of the region: the remote Russian community of Barentsburg; magical Magdalenefjord set in the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park; crossing latitude 80° to visit the populous walrus colony on Moffen Island; exploring the former mining town of NY Ålesund, population 35; and finally heading to Bjørnøya (Bear Island), well known for its seabird colonies.  Sailing across to the Norwegian mainland, guests are treated to what has been described as “the world’s most beautiful voyage” by Lonely Planet.  Highlights include Tromsø -the Capital of the Arctic, the Trollfjord, Lofoten Islands, the beautiful coast of Helgeland and UNESCO-listed Vegaøyan, the western fjords with Geiranger, Nordfjord and Olden, with a grand ending in Norway’s cultural center, Bergen.

The original Fram is the only wooden ship to venture out on explorations of both the North and South Poles.  It modern version has done the same – sailing in the remote waters of Antarctica, Greenland and Spitsbergen – albeit with luxuries not found on other expedition ships.  Its size offers easier access to ports and up close views of wildlife, and its deluxe status provides more of a yacht environment versus the more common mega ship experience.  The ship boasts excellent conference and meeting facilities, a large glass-enclosed observation salon offering panoramic views of the outside scenery, restaurant with ocean views, wellness center with saunas, work-out room and two glass-screened heated outdoor whirlpools, a bistro, a guest bridge for viewing selected data from the ship’s bridge and a ship’s library.  Its specially equipped tender lobby makes expeditions to shore in PolarCirkel boats both safe and comfortable.

Fare includes the voyage in the cabin grade of your choice; transfers as applicable; flights between Longyearbyen and Oslo, including all taxes and fees; one night in Longyearbyen prior to the voyage, inclusive of breakfast and city sightseeing; all meals on board; and a wind and water proof jacket.  Suites include a selection of drinks with meals on board.  International flights and optional excursions are additional.