I had a wonderful time (apart from the outward flight with BA - but I won't go into that). To put it all in a nutshell :-
We arrived in Svaalbarden and spent one night in a hotel there - which was very nice. We had a good look around Longyearbyen (the town) before boarding ship. The ship was an old Russian ice-breaker with 193 passengers and 72 crew. Small but comfortable. There was no lift, so I climbed many. many stairs each day, 86 - one way - one journey.
To leave the ship we did it by zodiac - which are rubber boats with outboard motors - 10 people per boat and all were "wet" landings i.e you had to jump out of the boat and wade ashore.
Each day we had either a landing or a zodiac trip around a fjord. We were so lucky to see seals, walrus, reindeer, arctic foxes. we sawy a few bods of the beautiful Beluga whales, they are so white. Also one day the expedition leader called us up on deck to be lucky enough to see a Bowhead whale - almost bought to extinction by the whaling industry and only now starting to make a come back. We also saw on a small island a mother polar bear with two small cubs, but they were very thin and the expert on boards did not think they would make it through the winter. If there were bears about we were not allowed to land as they are extremely aggressive.
The highlight of the trip was the day we went north into the icepack. It was a misty day and we wondered why there was much activity on the bow when we were called on deck. Slowly coming out of the mist was huge bear eating a ring seal. All you could see at first was a red smudge, but as we inched closer he materialised out of the murk. The highlight of the trip. We spent 3 1/2 hrs watching him, with birds all around hopping in and stealing pieces of seal to eat. He was very unconcerned. He finished eating and then had a roll around in the snow and then pushed his face into the snow to clean it. He sat and observed the ship for a while, meandered off, then came back to his kill and ate a bit more. Eventually he wandered off again and disappeared into the greyness. The time had just flown by and none of us could believe how long we had been watching.
On another zodiac trip we saw a bear with another seal kill but as the boat came into view he disappeared. Some of our landing were at historic sites, an old coal mine, an old marble mine, various trappers huts, we had to follow very carefully on trails and not step off them as the mosses and lichens growing sometimes take years to grow, there were also some really tiny little flowers of various kinds, pink, white, purple. No grass whatsoever, no trees, no bushes.
The bird life was really incredible, millions of guillemots nesting on cliff faces, Arctic terns, eider ducks and the fairly rare King Eider duck. We also saw a purple sandpiper. lots of different kinds of gulls. I don't know much about birds but the keen birders on board had a real field day.
Sadly it all came to an end and we returned to the UK. One night's rest then off to Wiltshire for my daughter's wedding with a NIGHTMARE drive down the M25 - a trip that should have been 3 hrs was 4 1/2 hrs. Anyway we made it and it was a really lovely wedding and she is so happy. All of my daughters were there with my three grandchildren and my great-granddaughter so I had a wonderful time.
Now I am back and I think i have bronchitis again so am fighting it with various medication.
I can't put up any pics here as I can't load them to this page directly from my computer and the free page I used to load them onto, no longer seems to work. However I did put some on my FB page for those of you who use FB.