The Arctic roof of the world starts north of the Arctic circle and yet here you will find lands with spectacular coastal fjords, glaciers and ice flows and abounding with wildlife. Cruise ships visiting these areas vary from the larger luxury vessels to smaller expedition ships with ice-hardened hulls. You can travel around the coast of Norway to Murmansk or to the Islands of Svalbard. You can explore the icefields of the Greenland coast or Baffin Island and even risk the Northwest Passage around the top of Canada.
Norwegian Coast & Northern Russia
Cruises to the North Cape of Norway and round into the Arctic Ocean have always been popular and are available from UK and other Northern European ports. The famous Norwegian Coastal Voyages start in Bergen and wind their way northward through the passages, fjords and islands of the rugged Norwegian coastline calling at the Lofoten Islands, Tromso and over 30 ports before returning south from Kirkenes close to the Russian border. Larger cruise ships will go as far as the North Cape and follow a similar route with far less ports of call. Expedition vessels explore the Barents Sea and the north coast of Russia and even on to the North Pole.
The Svalbard Archipelago (Spitsbergen) lies deep within the Arctic Circle only 600 miles from the North Pole and is increasingly visited by cruise ships. Here you will find prolific arctic wildlife and dramatic fjords surrounded by jagged peaks and huge glaciers.
Greenland & the Northern Passage
Some major cruise lines are now visiting the remote towns and ice fields of Greenland as well as Expedition cruises from Canada or Greenland that explore Hudson Bay, the polar icecap on the northern Greenland coastline and the islands of Baffin Bay. There are also rare cruises through the Northwest Passage that break a course around the north of Canada and Alaska.
WHEN TO CRUISE?
Most cruises take place from June to August when the weather is pleasant but often cool or wet.
However because the Gulf Stream keeps the Norwegian Coast icefree during the winter, coastal voyages continue to sail and carry passengers prepared to brave the cold and shorter daylight hours. Cruises to view the spectacular Aurora Borealis are becoming popular.