From breathtaking encounters with whales and polar bears to mesmerizing moments spent gazing at the Aurora Borealis, Arctic cruises engage the senses and sometimes defy logic, especially when they happen in the winter.
After all, who in their right mind would go to the coldest part of the planet during the coldest time of the year? Apparently, plenty of people, me included.
Last week in Norway, Hurtigruten’s Trollfjord sailed into the Arctic night with 510 guests, a remarkable achievement considering that only a few years ago, not even half that many would have been on board.
“This is a new pattern of travel,” Trollfjord’s tour director told me. “All 11 of our ships are sailing full during winter.”
The Arctic is a region largely unexplored by avid cruisers. That need not be, however: There are plenty of opportunities to cruise the Arctic, anytime of year. Here are our top five Arctic cruises.
#1 – Norway, Summer Cruise
The sun almost never sets on Hurtigruten’s summer cruises in Norway. Even insomniacs can rejoice at the prospect of cruising where the Midnight Sun provides 24-hours of daylight during peak periods. The long periods of sunlight allows cruisers plenty of time to admire the Norwegian landscape. From rugged mountains to gorgeous fjords, Norway shines bright during the summer months.
#2 – Norway, Winter Cruises
Though you may think winter too harsh for an Arctic cruise, that’s not the case in Norway. Temperatures are mild, thanks to the warming influences of the Gulf Stream, and with the Northern Lights visible from as early as October through April, you’re almost guaranteed to see Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky when cruising Hurtigruten during the winter. Read all about my recent voyage here: Summing Up: The Avid Cruiser’s Take On Winter Cruises In Norway
#3 – Greenland from Canada
Adventure Canada’s Heart of the Arctic cruise provides an opportunity to visit Greenland from Canada. You’ll visit the largest ice cap on the globe. The fjords, birds and tundra come to life as spring becomes summer. On Adventure Canada, you’ll get to see Greenland and the Canadian Arctic up-close. Watch chunks of ice break off the Jakobshaven glacier, visit Frobisher Bay to experience the St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral, built to look like an igloo. You’ll see drum dancers and throat singers in Kangiqsujuaq, or Wakeham Bay. It’s an incredible experience.
#4 – Greenland from Europe
Repositioning cruises from Europe to the United States can be the ideal way to cross the Atlantic and experience the beauty of Greenland. Transatlantic repositioning cruises take you through the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland to North America. Expect to see Arctic wildlife, beautiful sunrises and sunsets throughout the summer and fall months. Walrus, polar bears and the Inuit live in this region, all co-existing on the most basic of nature’s bounty.
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#5 – Canada’s Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage was once limited to explorers. Today, however, avid cruisers can experience this incredible journey, where they will see a region teaming with life: sea birds, polar bears and a wide assortment of marine life.
If exploring the Arctic Circle is your goal, several cruise companies offer options. Check out the latest arctic cruises available from Hurtigruten, Adventure Canada, Hapag-Lloyd, Silversea Cruises, Holland America Line and others. It’s more than snow and cold. It’s a whole new wilderness waiting for you to experience firsthand.