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Zodiac Cruising in Svalbard

Health & Safety

Medical & Mobility Considerations Before Booking Expedition Travel


Due to the remoteness of the regions we visit, an adequate medical facility could be up to 72-hours away or more, depending on weather, sea and ice conditions. We do have an expedition doctor on board for every voyage, and guests have access to a basic level infirmary. Prescription medications cannot be refilled during your voyage. Basic over-the-counter medications are in extremely limited supply and we cannot guarantee the medication you need will be available.

Ensure you bring an adequate supply of any medication you may require. It is advisable to always bring a minimum of an extra week’s supply of any prescriptions, in case of an emergency or any unforeseen circumstances. Emergency medical evacuation can be delayed or unavailable in certain areas.


It is essential that all passengers have a high level of mobility. You must be able to complete the safety drills and emergency evacuation procedures without the assistance of others. Rolling seas and windy conditions require passengers to be stable on their feet, especially when walking on slippery decks or up and down staircases. Getting in and out of Zodiacs requires good knee and hip mobility. While assistance is provided, guests must rely on their own mobility.

Walking through varying depths, textures, and densities of snow can be challenging, especially for those who are not accustomed to winter conditions. Hikes can cover a broad range of terrain, duration, and general difficulty. Prior to each excursion, the Expedition Team will advise travelers of the levels of activity they can expect during their shore activity. If passengers have difficulty walking or require an assistive device to move about, our trips may not be appropriate for you. Please call one of our Polar Travel Advisors to discuss your situation.

Child Safety in the Polar Regions

We welcome families with children on our polar expeditions. Immersing children in the polar landscapes is one of the best educational experiences to offer young inquiring minds! We receive numerous questions about child-appropriate activities, properly fitted safety equipment, and child supervision during a polar voyage. We strongly encourage you to read Quark Expeditions’ Terms & Conditions  (section 5) pertaining to children on our expeditions.

The purpose of these policies is to ensure the safety of your child, our staff, and other guests. If you have any questions about our policy regarding children on our polar expeditions, please speak with one of our Polar Travel Advisors.

Travel Insurance

Our remote destinations in the far-removed Polar Regions present us with unique challenges when unexpected medical incidents arise. We strongly recommend that you and all members of your party purchase comprehensive travel medical insurance coverage. Please read section 6.2 (Comprehensive Travel Insurance) in our Terms & Conditions for details on acquiring travel insurance. Travel with peace of mind knowing you and your travel companions are financially protected in the event of an unexpected incident.

Safety During Your Voyage

Your safety is our top priority. Knowing how to safely move about your ship and participate in off-ship excursions will help ensure you have a fulfilling and hassle-free expedition.

Safety Briefing and Lifeboat Drill

According to international maritime law, you must participate in an emergency evacuation drill within 24 hours of sailing. Upon embarkation, the Expedition Leader will host a safety briefing to outline these procedures and discuss appropriate behavior while onboard. The Expedition Leader will conduct this mandatory drill soon after the safety briefing. They will familiarize you with lifeboats, life vests and emergency evacuation route. You will be provided with full details after embarkation, and notified when the drill will commence.

Slips, Trips and Falls

Please be cautious when moving about the ship and passing through access doors connecting to outer decks. Due to the natural roll of the ship, which can be amplified by weather and sea conditions, it’s important to hold handrails while walking the corridors and navigating staircases. Ship movements can be unpredictable.  

In keeping with ship water-tight requirements, doorways leading to outer observation decks have raised frame—which can become a tripping hazard so please take your time and step carefully when passing through outer doorways.

Outer observation decks and staircases present a greater risk of slips and falls especially when wet. When utilizing these outdoor spaces, guests should wear appropriate non-slip footwear, and be mindful to hold handrails and never rush.

Activities such as Zodiac cruising and shore landings also pose risks for injuries due to slipping and falling. Exercise caution if you encounter the following situations:

  • Entering and exiting wet Zodiacs
  • Ice- or snow-covered ground
  • Loose terrain  
  • Wet rocks
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Loose personal equipment in Zodiacs or in walking areas during shore landings.

Please take your time when moving in slippery conditions. Feel free to ask for assistance from a member of the expedition team. They’re always eager to help our guests!

Exposure to cold weather conditions

The Quark Expeditions team is committed to doing everything possible to ensure you have immersive, authentic polar experiences on our voyages, whether you’re participating in one of our unique off-ship excursions—or spotting wildlife from one of the ship’s outdoor observation decks.

Due to the harsh climates in which we operate, weather can change in an instant, potentially exposing guests to extremely cold temperatures or unfavorable weather conditions. Always dress appropriately for your activity.  We recommend you wear: a thermal base-layer and socks to stay dry; mid-layers to stay warm; and outerwear, such as waterproof pants and your complimentary Quark Parka and Muck boots (on loan to you for the duration of your voyage). Synthetic material, such as fleece or natural wool, are preferred as they will keep you warm in inclement weather.

It’s also important to wear a warm hat, gloves and scarf. Extremities such as fingers, ears, nose and cheeks are often the first to become cold and are prone to frostbite if exposed to cold temperatures for extended periods.

Helicopter Safety  

(Specific Ultramarine Voyages Only)

Helicopters enable us to take you on aerial sightseeing adventures to bays that are inaccessible to ships or Zodiacs, as well as glaciers high atop mountains! Guests on Ultramarine also get to choose from an array of helicopter-supported adventure options, such as flightseeing, heli landings and  heli hiking. These activities also introduce an additional element of risk. For your safety, a mandatory helicopter briefing will be held before the first helicopter excursion. Staff will discuss appropriate clothing, fitting of lifejackets, operating procedures, boarding and de-boarding the aircraft, as well as designated safe areas to adhere to when near the aircraft.

Always listen to the Helicopter Team, stay clear of the heli-deck during operations or remain at the muster station if you are waiting to board. When you are instructed to approach the aircraft, watch your footing on deck, walk slowly and carefully—never approach the aircraft unsupervised! Be aware of your surroundings at all times. It’s also vital that you secure loose belongings as the helicopter creates a strong downdraft which can cause unsecured items to be blown about.

Please note that the helicopter activities are weather/logistics dependent and the decision to fly is ultimately up to the Pilot in Command who works closely with the Captain and Expedition Leader.

Our Expedition Team  

We welcome you to get acquainted with our Expedition Team —recognized as the best in the polar expedition industry—and their expertise prior to embarking on your voyage. All of our Expedition Team undergo rigorous training at Quark Academy, the only training institute of its kind in the Polar Regions. The staff who guide you through the Polar Regions are trained in safety protocols that exceed industry standards, thus ensuring guests’ health and safety on or off the ship.