Our Arctic Cruises: An Introduction

Secret Atlas offers the smallest sized groups for our Arctic cruises with a choice between 12 guests on a Micro cruise or 48 guests on an Explorer Small Ship Cruise.

We love exploring the Arctic and we offer expedition cruises to Svalbard, Greenland, Franz Josef Land, the North Pole, Baffin Island and the Canadian Arctic.

Our small ship cruises to the Arctic offer a richer way to experience the pristine natural environment and wildlife free from the crowds of larger vessels.

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Where can I visit on an Arctic Cruise?

polar bear photo tour in svalbard

Svalbard

An abundance of wildlife including a good chance of seeing Polar Bears, glaciers and sea ice.

greenland photography expedition

Greenland

Remote communities, giant icebergs and the purest wilderness on Earth.

north pole arctic cruise with secret atlas

North Pole

Reach the most northerly point on the globe.

baffin island photo tour

Canadian Arctic

Remote settlements, wildlife and unexplored wilderness.

baffin island photo expedition

Baffin Island

Majestic landscapes, remote communities and unexplored hikes.

franz josef land cruises

Franz Josef Land

A rarely visited archipelago of remote Russian islands in the high Arctic.

Our Arctic Cruises

Guests

12 – 48

Days

8 -15 Days

Months

April – September

Svalbard Cruises

Explore Svalbard on an Arctic Cruise with 12 – 48 Guests

Explore the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard on a small ship expedition cruise. Our Arctic cruises to Svalbard offer an excellent opportunity for wildlife viewing and we regularly see polar bears in their natural habitat. Svalbard is home to stunning natural wilderness including glaciers, arctic landscapes and some fascinating human history. Secret Atlas offer the smallest group sizes in Svalbard.

See Svalbard Cruises E-mail me Brochure

Greenland Cruises

Explore Greenland on a Cruise with 12 – 48 Guests

Explore the majestic wilderness and remote communities of Greenland on a small ship cruise with Secret Atlas. Greenland is ideal for those looking to immerse themselves in nature. It’s a fantastic place for photography and is home to the largest icebergs on the planet. Visit remite settlements and get an insight into the Greenlandic way of life.

See Greenland Cruises E-mail me Brochure

Guests

12 – 48

Days

10

Months

June – August

Guests

128

Days

13 Days

Months

July & August

North Pole Cruises

Icebreaker Expedition to the Furthest North

Take a journey to the furthest point north on the planet on this one of a kind expedition cruise. Step onboard the 50 Years Of Victory, a Russian nuclear powered icebreaker and working research vessel. This is a true expedition that very few have undertaken. Visit the North Pole and Franz Josef Land on one voyage. Make your dream come true and stand on the North Pole.

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Arctic Canada & Baffin Island Cruises

Explore Baffin Island and the Remote Canadian Arctic on an Expedition Cruise with 48 Guests

Coming soon! Join Secret Atlas on an exciting voyage to explore the wilderness and remote communities of Arctic Canada and Baffin Island.

Enquire About This Voyage

Guests

48

Days

12

Months

August

Expedition Micro Cruise

with 12 Guests

Days

15 Days

Months

August

Franz Josef Land cruises

Expedition Micro Cruise with 12 Guests

Coming soon! Join Secret Atlas on an exciting Arctic cruise to explore the rarely visited Archipelago of remote islands in the Russian Arctic famed for their abundance of wildlife, glaciers and remote landscapes.

Enquire About This Voyage

What Can I See on an Arctic Cruise?

polar bear photo tour in svalbard

Wildlife

The Arctic is home to an abundance of wildlife including polar bears and walruses. We recommend Svalbard and Frans Josef Land as the top destinations for wildlife watching in the Arctic.

glaciers in Svalbard in Norway

Glaciers

Throughout the Arctic you will encounter mighty glaciers. Svalbard, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Franz Josef Land all have truly awe inspiring glaciers.

zodiac-cruise-in-svalbard

Sea Ice

In the north of the Arctic it is possible to visit the sea ice. On our Svalbard and North Pole trips we regularly encounter the Arctic sea ice.

spitzbergen in norway

HUMAN HISTORY AND SETTLEMENTS

The Arctic is full of remote communities and interesting human history. To visit remote settlements we recommend Greenland and Arctic Canada.

Plan Your Arctic Cruise

The Secret Atlas blog has a wide variety of articles to help you plan your Arctic cruise.

5 Myths About Visiting the Arctic on a Small Ship What to pack on an Arctic Cruise When Is the best time to visit Svalbard on a Cruise? Which Expedition Cruise is right for me? 10 places in Svalbard you can visit on a cruise

Arctic Cruise Information

Departure Ports

Longyearbyen (Svalbard) Akureyri, Iceland for East Greenland

Time Of Year

April – September

Onboard Languages

English & German

‘The luxury of being alone in nature and getting close to animals is worth it.  This trip is also great for slowing down and reconnecting with the wild.  Smaller groups meant no waiting to go ashore. We anchored and the landing craft was ready to go. It is a much more adventurous feeling on a small ship and you are really immersed in nature.’

Julia, Secret Atlas Guest

Arctic Cruises FAQ

Plan Your Arctic Cruise

When is the best time of year to take a cruise to the Arctic?

The cruising season in the Arctic starts in late April in Svalbard and finishes in late September / early October in Greenland. Before April the sea ice restricts many places in the Arctic. The coastline in Greenland and Svalbard is inaccessible and after September the light hours reduce as the winter approaches.

Each month of the cruising season offers something different and depending on when you visit can be a totally different experience.

In April and early May the landscapes and shores of Svalbard are still covered in snow making it a scenic paradise and ideal for photography. During these months cruises are shorter as access to the north coast can still be restricted due to the sea ice. Please see our Frozen Svalbard Cruise to find out more.

As the 24-hour daylight arrives, the coast to the north of Svalbard opens up making longer cruises possible. Cruises from mid-May through to the end of June can explore the northern shores which are a great place to spot polar bears. With constant daylight cruises during this period are ideal for wildlife watching. Please see our Wildlife and Natural Wonders of Svalbard Cruise for more information.

Our Greenland cruises begin exploring the west coast and areas to the north in Disko Bay become accessible.

In July and August the summer has finally arrived. The sea ice has retreated further north and in most years it is possible to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Our Svalbard Pioneer Cruise is ideal for getting off the beaten track and seeing the wilder side of Svalbard.

July and AUgust are the only months of the year it is possible to visit the North Pole on an icebreaker as the sea ice is at its lowest.

These months offer excellent in cruising in Greenland. During August the East Coast of Greenland becomes acceasible and we offer trips to explore Scoresby Sund.

September is a good month for photography as the light becomes lower in the sky.  

Where do your cruises to the Arctic depart from?

Our Svalbard cruises depart from Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard. Longyearbyen is easily reached by daily flights from Oslo in Norway making it one of the easiest destinations to reach in the High Arctic. To find out more about how to get to Longyearbyen please visit our guide. 

Our East Greenland cruises depart from Akureyri in Iceland. Our Disko Bay cruises depart from Ilulissat in West Greenland.

Our Cruises to the North Pole depart from Murmansk in Russia.

What is an Expedition Micro Cruise?

Expedition micro cruise is a term we use to describe an expedition cruise with no more than 12 guests in total. Our cruises take place on custom built expedition vessels built for safe travel in the polar regions. All our vessels offer good comfort levels, private cabins and great food with the huge added bonus that you will be experiencing Svalbard with just a handful of guests.

The focus on our trips is exploring and we will aim to make daily landings by Zodiac landing craft to explore the shore. You will be accompanied by a knowledgeable expert guide who will tell you about the areas you visit. When you have been apart of a small group experience we guarantee you will never want to go back to cruising on larger vessels.

Why is an Expedition Micro Cruise or Small Ship Cruise the best way to explore the Arctic?

Unlike larger vessels with higher passenger capacities, our voyages are personal and unique in their approach. Travelling with a small group of guests means more time and flexibility exploring and less time waiting to go ashore.

Our small expedition vessels will get you closer to nature and landscapes that you came than larger ships can due to their smaller size, offering you a great deal more intimacy.

Our Expedition Micro Cruises and Small Ship Adventures give you the opportunity to experience the Arctic first hand on a real adventure without the crowds of people on larger ships. Our goal is to make you part of the adventure.

How does a small ship experience compare to other Arctic cruises?

Non-expedition cruises on regular cruise ships don’t offer shore landings and often only visit towns and settlements which means they miss out on lots of the adventure. The average size of a cruise ship doing non-expedition cruises takes 2000 passengers.

A number of companies offer expedition cruises in the Arctic with landings on larger vessels. The average number of passengers these ships take is over 200. In our opinion that is too many people to be landing at sensitive places in the Arctic.

Many companies advertise small ship cruises to the Arctic but their definition of a ‘small ship’ varies and can range from anything from 250 guests down to 12 guests. The experience between travelling with 250 guests and 48 or 12 guests is huge. Our Expedition Micro Cruises and Small Ship Cruises to the Arctic are the way they should be, intimate and low impact.

During Your Arctic Cruise

What wildlife will I see on my cruise to the Arctic?

If your interest in in wildlife watching we recommend Svalbard and Franz Josef Land as the top destinations to encounter wildlife. Whilst you do see wildlife in Greenland due to the countries size wildlife sightings are a lot less frequent.

If seeing a polar bear is one of your main attractions we would recommend Svalbard Pioneer of the Wildlife and Natural Wonders of Svalbard cruises. On these trips, we visit areas where Walruses are known to haul out and also regularly see Arctic foxes, puffins and Beluga whales.

What places will I visit on a cruise to the Arctic?

A part of the adventure of an expedition cruise is to spend time exploring the wilderness which means every trip is different. Our route is decided on the day of boarding and is chosen by the expedition leader and the captain in line with the prevailing weather and ice conditions. Their aim is to ensure that you see the very best that the Arctic has to offer.

On a typical cruise, you can expect daily shore landings to visit sites of historical and natural interest and to undertake short wilderness hikes.

Will it be cold on my Arctic cruise?

The temperatures during the Arctic vary depending on the season but are usually much warmer than people anticipate.

For example in Svalbard, due to the influence of the gulf stream on Svalbard’s climate, it is warmer during the summer than most people would imagine. A summer’s day rarely feels colder than the temperatures experienced in Northern Europe during the winter. It is not uncommon to be out hiking with only a base layer on when the sun is shining.

The temperature varies depending on the month you travel with the months of July and August offering the warmest temperatures.

Average High:

April -9°C,

May -3 °C

June +3°C

July +7°C

August +6°C

September +1°C

Know More

Is an Expedition Micro Cruise or Small Ship Suitable for me?

Our cruises are suitable for the vast majority of people and we aim to make them as accessible as possible. We ask that our guests have a good level of mobility as it is a requirement that you can safely step down from the vessel into the landing craft and then exit the landing craft on the beach. Due to the remote areas we visit and the distance from medical assistance, we advise that you have a reasonable level of fitness and are in good health. During the shore landings, we have 2 guides which enable us to split the group if we have some keen hikers and some other guests with more limited range.

Who joins your Arctic cruises?

We don’t have any age restrictions on our trips and we pride ourselves on having diverse guests from all over the world with a passion for exploring. In the past we have had young professionals eager to explore, middle-aged solo travellers, looking for their next adventure, through to retirees looking to see the Arctic in a more in-depth way. Our trips are friendly and inclusive for all our guests.

Can I join your cruise as a solo traveller?

Yes, you can and every year we welcome solo travellers onboard where you will find a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

We offer accommodation options for single cabins or sharing a cabin with travellers of the same gender.

Sustainability

How do you ensure your cruises don’t have a negative effect on the environment?

That’s a great question and one we want to answer honestly.

The vessels we work with don’t burn heavy fuels which are particularly detrimental to the environment and run on standard marine diesel. As a part of our commitment to the environment, we climate compensate all of our emissions by planting trees with our sustainability partner in Greenland. The cost of this is covered within the fares our guests pay and we don’t charge an additional fee for this.

Secret Atlas don’t sell flights but we are aware our guests have to fly to our destinations to board our cruises. As a part of our climate commitment, we will match the offset costs for any guests who would like to offset their flights with us. This is offered at the time of booking.

During our cruises, we follow very strict guidelines as set out by AECO (Association Of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) to ensure minimal impact on the wildlife and places we visit. This includes following strict rules about not disturbing wildlife in its natural habitat. We employ highly experienced expedition leaders to run our expeditions in accordance with the rules and safety code laid out by AECO. The principal rules are:

  1. Leave no lasting signs of your visit
  2. Do not pick flowers
  3. Do not take anything with you
  4. Do not disturb animals and birds
  5. Leave cultural remains alone Cultural remains are protected by law and a zone of 100 meters around the remains is also considered a protected zone. Watch where you are walking and standing. Walk around and not in between obj
  6. Take the polar bear danger seriously
  7. Respect local culture and local people
  8. Be safe

Our expedition leaders are highly trained in safety and following these rules and brief guests at the beginning of each departure. They ensure the safety of the guests throughout the cruise and that the AECO rules are followed.

As a member of AECO we take great efforts to ensure our trips don’t have any negative impact on the wildlife or environment. You can find out more here.