These days the best cruises aren’t all sunshine and beaches – arctic cruises are opening doors for adventurers and cold weather lovers everywhere. There’ll be sunshine, sure, but set against snowy peaks, Norwegian fjords and Alaska’s rugged landscape. Once reserved for only the boldest of explorers, Arctic Circle cruises are even an option now and take cruisers up to Greenland and Norway – where the skies are lit with the greens, pinks and blues of the Northern Lights.
Grab your best winter coat and prepare to fall in love with the chill, because Arctic cruises are here to stay and guaranteed to impress. Here’s a list of some of our favourites.
Northern Lights cruises
There’s really no better way to view the Northern Lights than from the comfort of your cruise ship, not least because you won’t have to go far to see them. If the night is clear enough, just step on deck and there they are, glittering overhead. On top of this, the Northern Lights are best seen when you’re far away from light pollution – and we can’t really think of anywhere more remote than out in the water.
P&O Cruises offer a long list of Northern Light cruises that hit everywhere from Tromso, a chilly city in northern Norway, to Atla, known as ‘The Town of the Northern Lights’. Cruise & Maritime Voyages also offer Iceland cruises where, on top of seeing the famed Aurora Borealis, you’ll get the chance to partake in dog sledding excursions and glacier visits.
Forget outer space – Alaska is arguably our world’s final frontier. The least populated of the United States and located right up in the north, Alaska is a haven for outdoorsy types and boasts a crazy big expanse of territory covered in rivers, forests, grizzly bears, glaciers and snow-topped volcanoes.
Norwegian Cruise Line might be a newcomer to the Alaskan cruise sphere, but they’ve really outdone themselves with a wealth of cruising amenities. Not only do they sail up to Juneau and through Alaska’s Icy Straight Point, but they also offer holidays that are part cruise, part railway adventure through Alaska’s staggering Denali National Park. On top of all that, the excursions available are run by local Alaskan guides and include gold panning, dog sledding and fishing trips.
The Norwegian fjords are staggering sights in and of themselves, carved from millions of years of glacial erosion. They’re massive rock faces coated in greenery or snow that tower above often narrow waterways. One thing that’s for certain is that cruising through here will get you some spectacular views.
There’s a huge variety of cruise lines that offer trips up to the Norwegian fjords. Royal Caribbean® offers a cruise that kicks off in Oslo and winds through a number of Norwegian towns, where you can spot local flora and fauna and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With Fred. Olsen’s smaller ships, you’ll get the exclusive opportunity to wind through fjord-laden waterways that bigger ships can’t access, seeing glaciers and waterfalls along the way.
The Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle contains earth’s northernmost territories, and until relatively recently, was a landscape way off most people’s holiday radars. Lucky for us adventurous types, arctic cruises have made exploring this snowy scenery that much more possible.
Hurtigruten is a Norway-based cruise company that offers an impressive array of arctic holidays. Onboard their fleet of small ships, you can travel everywhere from the vast expanse of Greenland to snowy Norway, track the movements of caribou or even head in the absolutely opposite direction down to the other snowiest spot on the planet – Antarctica.
Cruises to Canada’s snowiest regions are usually grouped with Alaska, so you’ll get a two-for-one on the country scale. Cruising to Canada’s eastern regions are often grouped with New England and other ports along the United States’ east coast, which offer a wholly different holiday in the form of picturesque lighthouse towns.
If you’re heading out to Canada’s western coast, you can expect to discover sweet harbour towns coupled with Alaska’s vast wilderness. Princess Cruises offers a voyage leaving from San Francisco that first hits Alaska and eventually makes its way down to Victoria, a charming town on Canada’s Vancouver Island. Holland America Line even offers short-term cruises – think everything from one day to four – that hop up to Vancouver for a taste of one of Canada’s most vibrant cities.
Just because you’re going somewhere cold doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring your swimsuit, either. Some liners will still have swimming pools and whirlpools, alongside a selection of onboard spa treatments. Arctic cruises are all about the unexpected, after all.
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