Cruises that venture to the Arctic reveal a beautiful world of water and ice, magnificent wildlife and dramatic Northern Lights. Cruise ships visit in summer, when the ice retreats a little; there’s 24-hour daylight; and the polar bears, walruses, whales, Arctic foxes and reindeer are at play. Some of these cruises explore the northern coast and islands of Norway or Russia; others take you to the impressive islands of Iceland and Greenland.
The main cruise port in Iceland is the capital of Reykjavik, where visitors love the city’s distinctive and quirky character. There are sleek, modern buildings that contrast with colorful row houses and whimsical street murals. Fishing is a major industry here, and fresh seafood is expertly prepared in the city’s restaurants, which also showcase other local products.
Some cruise itineraries schedule an overnight in Reykjavik to give passengers time to explore the city and to venture into the interior of volcanic rock and lava fields, glaciers and thermal pools. Visit Strokkur geyser, which erupts every 8 to 10 minutes; the beautiful Gullfoss Waterfall; the amazing views at Thingvellir National Park; or the Blue Lagoon, a stunning geothermal spa.
Ships that venture to Iceland may also call on Akureyri, gateway to Iceland’s dramatic “Land of Fire and Ice,” where glaciers meet lava flows; or Isafjordue, for a look at the Western Fjords region.
Greenland also provides an unforgettable cruise experience. The rugged terrain and often harsh climate of this vast island mean it is largely unspoiled. Sailing is a way of life for Greenlanders: it’s often easier to sail along the coast to another town than to traverse the interior. And, the coastline is very beautiful, backed by craggy peaks and ice fields, and fronted by crystal-clear water and floating ice.
Ships from mainstream cruise lines usually call on Nuuk or Qaqortoq in southern Greenland. You can spend a day hiking and watching for wildlife, learning about native Inuit culture, tasting traditional Greenlandic dishes, or all of the above.
There are also fortified expedition ships that offer all-Greenland cruises: these often feature a visit to the Iluslissat Icefjord and Jakobshavn Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage site on Greenland’s west coast. This very productive glacier calves enormous icebergs that float into Disko Bay, then on to the sea.
Your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert can share more information about Arctic itineraries, plus some tips for preparing and packing for this cruise of a lifetime.