Polar Bear Shot Dead

Polar Bear Shot Dead by Cruise Ship Polar Bear Guard in Svalbard

A recent unfortunate and sad incident of a polar being shot dead by a cruise ship’s polar bear guard reminds us of the fine line between pursuing adventure travel to remote places and encroaching on the turf of wild animals.

We’d like to share a statement (edited for brevity) about the incident issued by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO).

Polar Bear Shot Dead


On Saturday July 28, a polar bear was shot dead in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, after attacking a cruise ship’s polar bear guard. The guard sustained moderate injuries.

Svalbard, and the high Arctic in general, is a region of the world where wildlife habitats and human settlements overlap. As a result, there are encounters between polar bears and humans. Thanks to strict safety protocols and regulations, polar bear attacks are extremely rare. However, such attacks sometimes occur and may have tragic outcomes.

Expedition cruising is part of the tourism in Svalbard. Most expedition cruise operators in Svalbard are members of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO). The operator involved in the polar bear incident this weekend — Hapag-Lloyd Expedition Cruises and its vessel the MS Bremen — is one of the few expedition cruise operators in Svalbard that is not a member of AECO, but AECO would nevertheless take the opportunity to underline that the Arctic expedition cruise industry takes polar bear safety extremely seriously.

From AECO’s point of view, it is very sad when an incident leads to human injuries and the death of a polar bear. AECO’s objective is to ensure that expedition cruises and tourism in the Arctic are carried out with the utmost consideration for the vulnerable, natural environment, local cultures and cultural remains, as well as the challenging safety hazards at sea and on land. Keeping passengers safe and ensuring non-disturbance of Arctic wildlife is essential for AECO’s members.

AECO was founded in 2003 and has almost 70 members, 40 of which are cruise operators or vessels owners/management. They operate 40 cruise vessels and 10 commercial yachts in the Arctic. AECO has developed mandatory polar bear guidelines that provide detailed instructions on how to avoid encounters with and disturbance of bears. Learn more:

Polar Bear Shot Dead

Polar Bear in Svalbard. * Photo: Ted Scull

As a footnote, here are the thoughts of QuirkyCruise co-founder Ted Scull who has taken several expeditions to the Arctic, including Svalbard.

From my experience, expedition cruising is the most responsible form of “animal safari-style” travel on land or sea or from the air, and the lines do their best to provide passengers with polar bear sightings, almost always from the vessel or in Zodiacs, and often close up enough to take photos without a telephoto lens. The curious bears may approach and sniff the new smell, then go about their business. The lines do not put passengers ashore where there are polar bears, and in the instance described, the advance party, but no passengers, came upon one. We do not yet know exactly what the advance party was doing ashore and what the landscape looked like. When our group went ashore for a hike over the terrain and photography lessons, the landscape was flat and open and did not provide any location where a bear might be nearby but out of view.

Humans in the millions go to national parks (animal habitats) and take safari-style trips in parks and reserves all over the world. Incidents occur often, sometimes because of careless and even outrageous human behavior. However, this polar bear incident is highly unusual, and lessons will be learned, but you can’t be 100% safe going anywhere where animals and humans interact. In Svalbard, polar bears are not confined to some tiny patch; it’s a huge place for them to freely roam. QuirkyCruise will share more if and when we know more.

➢ Here’s more coverage on the incident by the New York Times.

➢ And here’s an opinion piece by travel writer Brian Major of TravelPulse,  It’s Time to Re-think Dangerous Animal Encounters.

➢ QC Contributor Anne Kalosh wrote about the incident in Seatrade Cruise News.


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Articles About Hapag-Lloyd Expedition Cruises

HANSEATIC Inspiration cruises Antarctica. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd

HANSEATIC Inspiration cruises Antarctica. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd

N.B. HANSEATIC INSPIRATION will resume sailings for the English and German-speaking markets when the ship departs from Hamburg on September 7, 2020 on a cruise to Greenland. The following few sailings will feature Western European and Mediterranean ports. The ship will sail at 60% of capacity and will have a full day in port to undergo a thorough cleansing. Before that, the initial sailings ex-Hamburg mostly will be offered only to Germans, Austrians and Swiss.

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Hapag-Lloyd Expedition Cruises

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises traces its origins back to the 19th century when two German firms — Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd — entered the passenger trade, competing largely on the North Atlantic and then spreading their routes to other parts of the world. Later they merged, and today the passenger cruise business is owned by the TUI Group that operates the top-rated, medium-size cruise ships, EUROPA (built 1999 & 400 passengers) and EUROPA 2 (b. 2013 & 500 p), the latter offering guaranteed English-speaking cruises; and a pair of expedition vessels: BREMEN (b.1990 & 155 p) and HANSEATIC (b. 1991 & 175 p), the latter now sold with a trio of high-tech expeditions ships coming on line. The BREMEN may offer some bilingual cruises from time to time and is also chartered by English-speaking affinity groups.

N.B. In late July, Hapag-Lloyd announced that its BREMEN, a long-serving member of the fleet since 1993, will not return to service. There was no mention about the sale to Scylla scheduled for 2021, whether it will be advance or not.

N.B. A trio of high-tech expedition ships with 120 passenger cabins and suites have the first in service and two under construction: HANSEATIC NATURE entered service in May 2019 for German-speaking passengers, HANSEATIC INSPIRATION (October 2019) for both German- and English-speaking passengers), and HANSEATIC SPIRIT (adults only) for delivery in Spring 2021. The 15,650-ton ships are being built in Norway’s VARD shipyard.  Passenger capacity will be limited to 199 for Antarctic and Spitsbergen (circumnavigation) cruises. Additional details will be available on as the first delivery gets closer but it is safe to say that this class will be 5 Star in accommodations, amenities, expedition gear and ice classification.

Hapag Lloyd Expedition Cruises

Bar Observation Lounge. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd


While Hapag-Lloyd is a German company, drawing mainly German-speaking passengers, selected bilingual cruises are set aside for English-speaking passengers with guaranteed departures. That means that all documentation, handbooks, programs, announcements, menus, lectures and safety drills will be in English. Shore excursions are arranged separately. Any other international cruises that attract at least 15 English-speaking passengers will automatically become bilingual as the aforesaid  Those cruises will be featured here, and expect German-speaking passengers in varying numbers and often in the majority.

Passenger Decks

7 decks and lifts serve all levels except the Sun Deck, the highest and with a small outdoor area.



Included features

Expeditions ashore in Zodiacs (14) and tenders; parkas, rubber boots, snorkeling gear, Nordic walking poles and bicycles, depending on the itinerary; staff gratuities; sending & receiving e-mails up to 1MB; minibar with soft drinks replenished daily; a bottle of Champagne upon arrival.


A full winter program of Antarctica cruises include the Falklands, South Georgia, South Shetland and South Orkney Islands, Weddell Sea, and the Antarctic Peninsula. The large number of Zodiacs carried means that everyone can be on an excursion at one time, and not waiting aboard for a second or third rotation as with larger capacity ships. Highlights are the varieties of penguins, incredible numbers of birds (especially at South Georgia), whales, walrus, seals; Zodiac excursions to get close to beautiful ice formations and glaciers, a former whaling station, and connections to the Ernest Shackleton expedition.

Pre-Antarctic season, a Pacific cruise begins in Tahiti and calls at numerous islands, remote and virtually unknown, and justly famous such as Pitcairn (Mutiny on the Bounty), Easter Island (stone statues) and Robinson Crusoe Island (inspiration for the fictional character) and onto Puerto Montt at the north end of the Chilean fjords.

Post-Antarctic season, one cruise makes a nearly complete West Coast of South America voyage from near the southern tip at Patagonia and sails northward past glaciers, into the Chilean fjords, calls at Valparaiso, the lovely port for the capital Santiago then onto Peru and Ecuador.

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia. * Photo: Ted Scull

The Amazon journey begins way up river at Iquitos (Peru, and headwaters of navigation for ocean-going ships) and travels 2,500 miles (4,000 kms) to the mouth at Belem. Zodiacs take you to remote Indian tribes who live along the riverbanks and to tropical fruit and vegetable markets, cruise for pink river dolphins, make explorations into tributaries penetrating the world’s largest rain forest, filled with flowers and exotic birds. At the meeting of the waters where the Rio Negro joins the Amazon sits Manaus, the largest city on the river and boasting an opera house, built during the rubber boom period. The Amazon then widens considerably as it reaches the delta and spreads out into several channels.

From Belem on the northeast Brazilian coast, the itinerary explores the Orinoco, offers a flight to Angel Falls, calls at off-shore islands, a UNESCO site, national parks for bird life, sloths, and monkeys, a research station, examples of Spanish colonialism, San Blas Indians, views of the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal, and finishes at Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

HANSEATIC in the Amazon basin. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd



Spitsbergen (Svalbard), a circumnavigation cruise, is a large archipelago tied politically to Norway, two days by sea north of the North Cape and well above the Arctic Circle. The expedition embarks at Longyearbyen, the capital with an excellent museum, and goes in search of polar bears that often come to the shore, well within camera range, plus whales, walrus, Arctic foxes, birds, fantastic cliff formations, ventures into fjords, up close to glaciers and makes Zodiac landings where it safe from polar bears. The final couple of days visit the North Cape with disembarkation at Tromso, Norway’s largest community above the Arctic Circle.

Svalbard: Polar bears feeding on a whale carcass. * Photo: Ted Scull

Svalbard: Polar bears feeding on a whale carcass. * Photo: Ted Scull

The Northeast Passage, less frequented than the Northwest Passage, follows an Arctic route from Northern Europe eastward across the top of Siberian Russia, Kamchatka and Kuril Islands to Japan.

FUTURE ITINERARIES include an unusual circumnavigation of Iceland embarking and disembarking at Reykjavik and visiting nine locations – islands, volcanoes, fjords, fishing villages, bird inhabited cliffs, waterfalls; the west coast of Greenland with its colorful villages, early Viking settlements, ice fjords, and at sea, humpback and fin whales, then onto Labrador for breathtaking scenery such as spectacular rock formations, Inuit culture artifacts, traditional fishing villages and fjords; coastal southern Africa with two port calls in Namibia revealing architecture from the former German colonial rule and six ports in South Africa including Cape Town and Durban and access to the lovely Garden Route, beautiful beaches, and game parks for the homes of the “Big Five.”

Why Go?

There is a wonderful world out there, and the destinations outlined here can only be comprehensively done by ship.

When to Go?

The expedition cruises are scheduled for the best seasons such as Antarctica in the Northern Hemisphere winter and the Arctic Regions in summer.


HANSEATIC Nature/Inspiration/Spirit: All outside cabins and most with balconies or French balconies; separable beds; equipped with binoculars, Nordic Walking sticks, coffee machine, minibar (free), and heated bathroom for drying towels and parkas.

Hapag Lloyd Expedition Cruises

HANSEATIC Inspiration – French balcony cabin. * Photo: Hapag Lloyd

Public Rooms

The principal spaces are the Observation Lounge with bar and adjacent library, with 180-degree views, Explorer Lounge with bar and a dance floor for presentations and occasional musical entertainment.


The restaurant is the main dining area for all meals (excellent menu selections including Continental as well as German specialties) seats everyone at one assigned sitting at dinner, with open seating for breakfast and lunch. Americans like open seating and Germans like fixed, so this is the fair compromise. Buffets-style meals take place in the informal café and tables are available just outside in good weather. Barbeques and themed dinners here require reservations, but entail no extra charge. Tea time is a daily ritual.

Activities & Entertainment

There are film presentations and lectures in preparation for the landings, plus you’ll find a sauna steam bath, fitness room, whirlpool and small swimming pool. Some Germans like a dip in the winter. Snorkeling and cycling is on offer when appropriate.

The Hanseatic at anchor in Antarctica. * Photo: Ted Scull

Special Notes: Helicopter pad. Hull is given the highest passenger classification – E-4.

Along the Same Lines

The passenger mix is unusual, as most high-end expedition lines draw mainly English-speaking passengers, unless the line is entirely focused on a European language.


Hapag-Lloyd Expedition Cruises, C/O Kartagener Associates Inc., 14 Penn Plaza, Suite 2223, New York, NY 10122;, 877-445-7447 or 800-334-2724 (USA/Canada); Free Phone United Kingdom: 08000 513829. — TWS