Arctic & North Pole Cruise Guide – Sea Cruises In The Arctic Circle

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North Pole Cruise Guide Sea Cruises In The Arctic Circle & The North Pole


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Cruises In The Arctic Circle & To The North Pole

The North Pole – the northern most point on Earth – is harsh, remote, fragile and pretty inaccessible, and yet it’s a region that has long captivated explorers and intrepid travellers for these exact same reasons. The vast, otherworldly and almost silent landscape of flat ice is broken at intervals by massive icebergs pointing up into the endless sky. Even polar bears (despite their name) don’t usually go this far north, preferring the southern parts of the Arctic ice cap where food is less scarce and they can swim and hunt better.

This frozen landscape is not owned by any country, and unlike the South Pole it doesn’t sit on land but is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, amongst a wilderness of icy waters – so there’s no official land ‘marker’ to show exactly where it is. The nearest land is usually said to be Kaffeklubben Island, off the northern coast of Greenland, some 700 km (440 miles) away. As a consequence, there has been a great deal of debate over who was really the first to reach the North Pole, with many laying claim to the title of being the ‘first’ to get there – and even now the voyage to this extreme point presents quite a challenge.

Only a couple of icebreaker vessels are capable of taking passengers to the North Pole by sea, which makes it quite an exclusive experience. Other cruise vessels are able to visit more accessible destinations just south of the North Pole, but still within the Arctic Circle region that surrounds it. The land included within the Arctic Circle region is split between eight countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (the state of Alaska), Canada, Denmark (Greenland) and Iceland. The cruises covered in this article focus on the North Pole itself and the European side of the Arctic region (excluding Canada and Alaska).

Choosing a cruise

The Arctic region is vast, and a cruise will only cover part of it. If you want to get as far as the North Pole, there are only a couple of commercial sea vessels which make regular trips there. Although getting right to the North Pole will place you in a very small group who’ve had the privilege, for many people it’s prohibitively expensive. Not only that, but in terms of ‘sightseeing’ there’s more wildlife and variety of landscapes in the surrounding area, where the environment is a little less harsh. You may spot polar bears, killer whales, seals and a variety of birdlife (but don’t expect penguins – they’re found in the Antarctic) – while at the North Pole itself far fewer species can survive the extremes.

Your choice of cruise will therefore probably depend on two main factors: firstly, your budget, and secondly, whether your main motivation for the trip is to reach the North Pole or rather to explore the landscapes and wildlife of the surrounding region.

Budget Cruises In The Arctic Circle

‘Budget’ doesn’t seem to enter the vocabulary of most Arctic cruises, so it’s a tall order finding one that falls into this category. The 4-day (3 night) ‘Taste of the Arctic: Troms・to Trondheim’ cruise ticks some of the boxes – firstly, it costs from just 」570 per person (half board); and secondly, it offers good value for money because it includes return economy flights from London Stansted to the embarkation point at Troms・ It aims to give you a taste of Arctic Norway, starting in Troms・ weaving through the beautiful Vester虱en and Lofoten Islands, before reaching medieval Trondheim. But a taste is all you’ll get: this cruise is only likely to disappoint you if you want to feel like you’ve really explored the vast wilderness of the Arctic.

On the other hand, this cruise is offered earlier in the year (up to March) so there’s a chance of spotting the ‘Aurora Borealis’ (Northern Lights) en route – but this also means that if you’ve missed the boat this year, the trip and cost may have changed by next year. This trip is offered on various vessels depending on the date booked.
Full details of this and similar short cruise trips can be found at

A longer ‘budget’ option is offered by Noble White with P&O Cruises: a15-day ‘Arctic Adventure Cruise’ on the MV Artemis, costing from £1,706 per person. This starts out from the UK, so there are no extra flight costs for UK passengers, and it’s a fairly lengthy cruise for the price. From the UK the ship travels to Norway, right up to the world’s northernmost town, Hammerfest, then takes in several ports of call as well as the rugged scenery and wildlife of the Lofoten Islands, which lie within the Arctic Circle. These islands are known for their good variety of sea birds – including cormorants, puffin and sea eagles. This cruise offers a good balance of visits to interesting ports of call – including sightseeing towns such as Stavanger and Trondheim – with journeys through Arctic scenery. Despite its name, the cruise doesn’t really offer quite the spirit of ‘adventure’ that the more expensive cruises outlined below offer, but the itinerary is likely to appeal to an older crowd looking for a more traditional cruise in the Arctic region.

The vessel carries up to 1260 passengers plus crew, and unlike the smaller vessels used for the adventure cruises, the Artemis is big enough to fit in lots of the typical cruise ship features: a range of facilities (fitness centre, sauna, jacuzzis, small swimming pools, a spa, etc) and entertainment (shows, a cinema, a casino and a library).

For full details visit PO/AT810&CLine=P+and+O&Cclass=Superior&PDate=30/07/2009&UDate=30/07/2009& nShip=Artemis

Mid-range Cruises In The Arctic Circle, a travel company which specialises in sustainable and ‘responsible’ holiday options and packages, offers an 11-day ‘Spitsbergen cruise to the Arctic’, costing from 」2250 excluding flights. This is a small group adventure cruise to the high Arctic in a beautiful, unspoilt region – and one that aims to minimise its impact on the fragile environment. A number of ships do this trip, including former research vessel the ‘Professor Molchanov’, which holds just 52 passengers plus crew, making for a more intimate trip. All the potential vessels used have a similarly small capacity, however, in a bid to minimise the impact of any landings.

The price (as for all cruises) depends on the accommodation you choose – and in this case it does not include the optional adventure activities , which are offered at significant extra expense (the diving option, for example, will set you back 」400, while kayaking will cost you 」450!). The price does, however, include full-board, and all on-board activities such as lectures, videos, slide and film shows, an so on – aiming to educate passengers about the region, its wildlife, and its fragile ecology.

The vessel’s route takes passengers on a full circumnavigation of Spitsbergen and its off-lying islands (subject to ice conditions) to within 600 nautical miles of the North Pole. Spitsbergen has a tiny population of just 3500 across five settlements, and the area is a breeding home for walrus, polar bear, Arctic foxes, reindeer and many migratory land and sea birds. If you’re lucky, you may even spot whales, as various species are present in the waters around Spitsbergen. The cruise starts in Longyearbyen (Spitsbergen) and includes on-shore excursions such as visits to the village of Ny Alsesund on the West Coast of Spitsbergen, and the whaling station on Amsterdam Island.
Full details at

Luxury Cruises In The Arctic Circle & To The North Pole

Billed as the Ultimate icebreaker adventure to the ultimate destination at the top of the world, the 16-day ‘North Pole Cruise’ is entirely focused on reaching the North Pole – with landings at both the North Pole and Franz Josef Land, an archipelago located in the far north of Russia. The package doesn’t come cheap, though – costing from (yes, from) 」12,770 per person, excluding international flights to and from Helsinki, and excluding charter flights to and from the points of embarkation/ disembarkation (Murmansk). The price does, however, include full-board, lectures, guided excursions, helicopter transfers and aerial sightseeing.

The vessel is the powerful Russian icebreaker Yamal, which carries 100 passengers plus crew. Dare-devils can choose to use the holes created in the ice by the vessel to plunge into the Arctic water – while the less adventurous can enjoy the view from overhead (there are helicopters on board). With good weather conditions, passengers reach the North Pole on the eighth day of the expedition, when there’s a chance to disembark on the ice and do whatever you do when you reach the North Pole: presumably take lots of photographs as evidence of having reached this ultimate northern point – although since it’s shifting ice that may be hard to capture!
We found this cruise offers by Steppes travel – full details at

When To Go

At the North Pole, the Sun is above the horizon all the time during the summer months, meaning it’s always light, and people wanting to see a variety of landscapes and wildlife choose this time to go. Summer temperatures (June to August) average around the freezing point (0 ーC, 32 ーF).

During the winter, you get the opposite: the sun is always below the horizon and therefore it’s permanently dark at the height of winter – but many people still choose to travel to the Arctic at this time hoping to witness the amazing aurora borealis (also known as the ‘Northern Lights’), which are usually seen at night. Winter temperatures at the North Pole average around −34 ーC (−30 ーF) in January.



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