From North Pole expeditions to Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard and more, Arctic cruising has never been more accessible. We’ve explained the difference between the Antarctic and Arctic cruising, let us now introduce to you to a the Arctic cruise experience …
If you are cruising in the Arctic, you’ll most likely fly to join your ship in the Arctic and fly home again, rather than travel there or back by ship. You are less likely to meet rough seas in the Arctic than the Antarctic, fjords, channels and a lack of long open sea sailing mean that sea passages are usually smoother, and the chances of getting seasick are much lower than cruising in Antarctica.
The Arctic is made up of eight countries: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (which includes Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway (Svalbard) as well as Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
The Islands off the North Coast of Canada include Baffin Bay and the surrounding archipelago. The terrain is fairly mountainous with steep-sided fjords and plains coated with mosses and grasses. Wildlife you may see includes, the narwhal, beluga whale, lemming, muskox, wolf, fox, hare and, of course, the polar bear. Cruises to the islands feature lots of history and give an insight into Inuit culture and the remarkable attempts to sail the Northwest Passage.
There are very few Arctic expeditions to the North Pole; as such an expedition requires the world’s most powerful icebreakers. If being one of the few that have stood at 90° North is your goal, be prepared to spend approximately two full weeks on this challenging expedition. The journey is such a challenge that it was only first successfully completed in 1948.
One of the most popular Arctic cruise destinations, Svalbard offers a rich and diverse collection of natural and cultural historic sites. Cruises may feature a partial or full circumnavigation of the archipelago and/or its largest island, Spitsbergen. Svalbard offers many of the Arctic highlights including polar bears, walrus, the aurora borealis, magnificent fjords and towering glaciers all in the one geographic location.
Surprisingly not covered in ice, Iceland is a land filled with volcanoes and glaciers; dark winters and summer midnight sun. The 24 hour days in summer allow you to utilise your entire day and sightsee into the early hours of the morning. Iceland is also one of the best locations to witness the Northern Lights from September to mid April. In addition to the volcanoes, glaciers and northern lights, Iceland also offers incredible wildlife, from whales and artic foxes to puffins and reindeer.
The best place to see the Northern Lights without a doubt is Greenland. The best time to go is September to early October, the darker skies and cooler temperatures really enhance the spectacle. The world’s largest island features a dramatic landscape and unique culture. With the massive Greenland Ice Sheet at its centre, inhabitants high on the mountains and an array of flora and fauna; Greenland is an exceptional place to have an Arctic Adventure.
Depending on what you want to see, each area has is perks. Whether you’re wanting to see wildlife, nature or both, there’s somewhere in the Arctic perfect for you.
This is the perfect time to visit the Arctic if you want to see ice and snow. Sea ice is prevalent and the chances of seeing more polar bears is higher as they’re easier to spot on the ice.
July and August are the best times to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, as theres less ice likely to block channels. Because of the broken ice, ships can travel further providing more wildlife spotting and land access in general is better. During this time however, Polar bear spotting is slightly more difficult as they can be a bit harder to spot on land vs. the sea ice.
Autumn comes early in the Arctic, and by September, the nights are dark enough to witness the aurora borealis. Time at sea is perfect for witnessing this phenomenon; while days are still spent exploring sites up close and searching for wildlife.
Arctic cruises are truly spectacular. While you won’t see any penguins, the polar bears and arctic foxes make up for it. Furthermore, unlike Antarctica, the Inuit communities have inhabited the Arctic for thousands of years. With a rich culture and history, interspersed with remarkable wildlife, why wouldn’t you want to visit the Arctic?