A complete guide to create the perfect Arctic cruise
Our vast experience in the cruise and expedition market enables us to provide you with the information you require before you start your adventure!
Keep reading for practical advice from our polar experts about your upcoming trip to the Arctic.
When to Travel to the Arctic
You can comfortably travel to the Arctic any time between June and September depending on what sort of experience you are looking for. Outside these months, daylight is very limited and weather tends to be extreme. The only reason a visitor may choose to travel out of season is to see the Northern Lights, stay in an ice hotel or, in December, visit Santa Claus!
The best time to travel is in the high summer when days are long and the weather generally more clement. This is also the time when ships are able to penetrate further north and there are opportunities to circumnavigate Spitsbergen or even reach the North Pole.
March – May: In March, there are still chances of seeing the Lights and through to May, there is still lots of snow and ice around. However, there are no organised expeditions or cruises and the only way of venturing north is independently or on board the Hurtigruten daily post ship to Kirkenes in northern Norway.
June – September: Ice recedes giving increasing opportunities for travelling north, especially on board icebreakers. Wildflowers in the early weeks on Spitsbergen and Greenland. Possibilities of seeing polar bears on Spitsbergen.
Humpback, northern right (or bowhead), beluga and orca whales are best seen July to September with seals and walrus at any time. Birdlife abounds with nesting colonies and young fledglings. Earlier and later in the season is a time when there are fewer mosquitoes around, although these are not a problem on board ship. Chances of seeing the Northern Lights in September.
October: most of the cruises and expeditions finish this month. A good time to see Aurora Borealis.
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What Do I Need To Take?
"When your feet are cold, cover your head." - Inuit saying
As your trip will be in the Arctic summer, you won’t need to take any real extreme cold weather gear. Temperatures on many or most days will be above freezing and although the average mid-summer level is about 6º on Spitsbergen, daytime temperatures in double figures are not uncommon. Obviously people adapt to the cold in different ways and some tourists in the Arctic favour lightweight clothing while others wrap up like the Michelin man in the same conditions. Layering is the key, and then you can be flexible according to conditions.
Camera: Be sure to take a good quality digital camera with you. An SLR with zoom lens is preferable, especially for wildlife shots; however all the principal manufacturers also offer super-zoom, automatic ‘bridge’ cameras and high-spec compacts for those who prefer an easier life! You will also find that fellow passengers are often willing to share their efforts.
Spare batteries and chargers as well as memory cards are absolutely essential.
If you do not take your own laptop or PDA, make sure you have a couple of high density memory sticks, so you can download and share images whilst on board.
Quality sunglasses: It gets really bright! Especially when the sun reflects off the sea and ice or snow.
High factor sun-cream: Clear air and ultra-violet light, especially where it reflects off snow or ice, are real dangers. Don’t get caught out!
Lightweight waterproof rucksack to carry your stuff ashore while leaving arms free to clamber in and out of zodiacs.
Take a good pair of waterproof binoculars - if yours is an Arctic wildlife holiday. 8 x 42 (or 8 x 30 compact) specification ones are recommended for wildlife viewing and are ideal for use on moving ships.
Swiss army penknife: Never leave home without one, but don’t have it on your person when you check in for your flight!
Photography – What to Use
Digital Photographic technology has advanced incredibly over the last 5 years, with a good quality camera coming in at a very reasonable price. Generally a digital camera makes the ideal choice for an Arctic Cruise; pictures can be viewed immediately and shared easily/edited simply. It really boils down to your own expertise, the convenience you want and your budget. You will take more images than you expect, we know this from personal experience so you may need to decide if it’s wise to download using a laptop or hard drive back up.
You will have exceptional photography opportunities on your Arctic adventure, so the best equipment to suit you will ensure perfect memories.
Arctic Cruises and Expeditions
Watch our Arctic cruises and expeditions video and see what the Arctic has in store for you.
Different types of vessel
The Research Ships tend to offer more active programmes and attract an adventurous but ageless clientele. The accommodation on these vessels is simple – comfortable, but not luxurious. These trips often feel more like a private expedition in the Arctic than a conventional cruise.
An expedition ship is designed to cruise remote waterways. Polar Expedition cruise ships focus on natural history and culture, and have on-board educational programs. The Arctic expedition ships offer more comfortable, even luxurious, accommodations and higher quality of onboard service and dining.
An icebreaker is specifically designed for breaking through sea ice. The icebreakers often explore the most remote areas, located further north, where an icebreaker is needed to safely explore in more extensive sea ice. These are true Polar expeditions.
There are currently two true sailing ships offering unique adventure itineraries in the Arctic. They are both schooner-rigged, one with just 10 twin cabins and the other with 17. Sailings are up the west coast of Greenland and around Spitsbergen in the summer and the smaller ship goes down to the Lofoten Islands in the late autumn to see the Aurora Borealis in perfect conditions.
Luxury Expedition Vessel
Large, spacious vessels, purpose built for expedition conditions. 5 Star facilities on board including excellent staterooms and dining whilst still offering authentic well organised Zodiac landings with experts but maybe not as many as you would expect on smaller expedition ships. Offer a large variety of on board facilities taking between 200 and 250 passengers. Excellent level of guiding and lecture programme.
For further details of facilities on board visit our Life On Board page.
What Our Customers
Superlatives abound – a truly amazing experience...awesome. Thanks to all for making it such a memorable experience.
We had the time of our lives on board ship...if anybody wants to go to Antarctica, we will certainly advise to go with you.
The best way to describe the entire experience. 1. Top rate service...we would not hesitate to recommend you to others and use you again.
Thank you and your team for arranging what was a fantastic holiday in Argentina...Iguazu falls was exceptional with our guide knowing an awful lot about the falls and the wildlife. Could go on forever, but had better stop.
I’m sure you get plenty of compliments, but I just wanted to follow up by telling you what a great time we had...If we are planning on one of the other regions you serve, we’ll definitely be in touch!
I wanted to drop you a note to say a big “THANK YOU” for all your organizing of my travel arrangements and the holiday itself. Everything flowed perfectly. The holiday was breath-taking and is hard to express in words...
It was even better than I expected, so I am grateful that you made the call (back). I will certainly recommend your services
Thanks again for helping me select the best trip and for all your help with the admin and my questions along the way, it all made for an even better experience.
Thank you for all your help. Great service, very efficient, flexible...We feel looked after when setting off into the unknown. I feel it is my duty to tell fellow travellers and birders/photographers how good you are!
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Foreign & Commonwealth Office
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World Travel Guide
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