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How to Choose an Arctic Cruise

  • Pick the perfect Arctic cruise and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime cruising the Arctic Circle
  • Encounter a diverse variety of wildlife – from polar bears and humpback whales to Arctic foxes and seabirds
  • What to expect on an Arctic cruise – accommodation, life on board, and what to pack for an Arctic cruise

Although considered one of the remotest parts of the world, holidays to the Arctic are increasing in popularity with more adventurous travel companies offering a selection of Arctic cruises. Travellers to the Arctic Circle embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and will experience a trip like no other – but what’s involved in an Arctic cruise?

Where is the Arctic?

The Arctic is the northernmost part of the world, the polar region of the earth that surrounds the North Pole. It covers anything north of the Arctic Circle, an imaginary line that sits at approximately 66°34’ north of the equator.

It’s a stark and bewildering place that spans the Arctic Ocean and covers land in parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Alaska, Russia and Iceland. While extremely remote, the Arctic is home to polar bears, whales, walruses, seals, Arctic foxes and more, as well as, perhaps surprisingly, around four million people.

arctic cruise polar bear

Why go on an Arctic cruise?

Trips to the Arctic are enticing ever more travellers, and it’s easy to understand why. Not only is an Arctic cruise an exciting way to see spectacular glacier landscapes, but you’ll also be astounded by the sheer amount of wildlife you can catch a glimpse of – including humpback whales, reindeer and maybe even a polar bear. Indeed, around the Svalbard archipelago, a rugged frozen terrain three times the size of Wales, polar bears outnumber humans.

Aboard an Arctic Circle cruise, travellers can also sail through magnificent waters and fjords, appreciate the wealth of birdlife inhabiting precarious cliffs, and come face to face with giant glaciers. An Arctic cruise is an epic voyage of discovery that allows you to immerse yourself in nature and wildlife.

arctic cruise arctic landscape spitsbergen

What can I expect to see and do on an Arctic cruise?

Although embarkation points vary – the Voyage to the Arctic and Spitsbergen cruise, for example, begins in Longyearbyen, Norway – and the duration of Arctic cruises may differ, you’re guaranteed an educational trip, and not just when outdoors. Evening lectures and presentations from naturalists, historians and expert guides on the Arctic’s geography, history and wildlife are an integral part of your holiday.

As your ship navigates narrow channels and fjords, you’ll witness this incredible wilderness first hand, and daily expeditions, courtesy of sturdy Zodiac dinghies, allow you to explore the environment up close. Shore landings are of course weather-dependent, although the ship’s captain and cruise expedition leader aim to take guests on as many small-craft excursions as possible. Visit a walrus colony, or perhaps kayak between icebergs and look out for Arctic terns, an Arctic fox or a narwhal, a creature known as the unicorn of the sea.

Every adventure in the Arctic is unique, but intrepid explorers are guaranteed an unforgettable, memory-packed trip. Visit during June, when the region experiences a natural phenomenon called the midnight sun; you can step outside after a nightcap at the bar and see the sun skimming the horizon. It’s a truly remarkable sight.

What are ships like on an Arctic cruise?

Arctic cruise ships, such as the MV Ocean Atlantic, are ice-strengthened exploration vessels that are strong, safe and extremely comfortable on board. Typically carrying fewer than 200 passengers, often with a crew member for every two guests, Arctic cruise ships offer a relaxed and informal environment where you can enjoy the company of like-minded travellers. It’s easy to mingle in spacious public areas, the cosy bar or in a pleasant dining room, the latter which may serve four-star international cuisine.

Priced according to their location and size, passenger cabins are found on various decks and usually have outside views with either a window or porthole. With a compact en-suite bathroom, accommodation is warm and welcoming – the perfect retreat to rest and recharge your batteries after an exhilarating day.

arctic cruise arctic tourists

Who is best suited for an Arctic cruise?

If you love the great outdoors, are passionate about wildlife or are just keen to experience an outstanding cruise, then you’re sure to enjoy a trip to the Arctic. Keen photographers will be in heaven too – there will be plenty of animal action shots to capture on camera and the stunning icy seascapes are magical. Consider Arctic Circle cruises in 2020, and if you travel in June, you’ll also be able to snap the midnight sun.

Arctic cruises are ideal for solo travellers as well, as they allow you to explore a remote destination with an expert expedition leader safely. You’ll be in the company of equally excited fellow passengers – all thrilled to be discovering such a captivating place.

While suitable for many, it’s worth noting that expeditions will involve hikes in the tundra, walking across icy and often slippery terrain. A certain level of fitness is also required to get in and out of inflatable dinghies. As you’ll be in a remote area of the world, some distance from hospital medical care, an Arctic cruise is not suitable for anyone with a severe or potentially life-threatening health condition.

When is the best time of year to go on an Arctic cruise?

Arctic cruises typically operate from May through to early October when travellers will be able to take advantage of longer daylight hours – inside the Arctic Circle in June you’ll experience the midnight sun. Summer embarkations also give you the best opportunity to spot amazing wildlife – it’s easier to see polar bears on sea ice at this time – and experience more pleasant temperatures of around 1-4°C (the mercury can sometimes drop as low as -30°C). Visit later in the year, however, and by September evenings are dark enough to witness the mystifying northern lights.

arctic cruise two walrus

What do I pack for an Arctic cruise?

You’ll need warm clothing for an Arctic cruise. Some trips, such as the Iceland Expedition Cruise, provide an expedition jacket included with the cost of the cruise. If this isn’t the case, pack a suitable cold-weather, waterproof coat. It’s also a good idea to bring waterproof trousers to wear when on dinghy excursions when seats may get wet.

There’s no formal dress code on board, so pack comfortable clothes, ideally suitable for layering. A sturdy pair of shoes that can cope with snow and ice are essential too – complimentary muck boots may be provided so check with your cruise operator.

As shopping trips aren’t on the agenda, make sure that you pack any medications you require such as motion sickness remedies, just in case. Cold weather can drain camera batteries so bring plenty along with a battery charger – you’re sure to be snap happy.

Start your own Arctic adventure

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Explore the Arctic with cruises such as the Voyage to the Arctic and Spitsbergen cruise and the Iceland Expedition Cruise, and prepare to experience a whole new world north of the Arctic Circle.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.