Have you ever dreamed of exploring the Arctic on one of our small ship cruises? Our team of passionate explorers, conservationists, and photographers started Secret Atlas to share our dream of making Arctic cruises more personal, more sustainable, and lower impact.
We take small groups of just 12 passengers on expeditions around incredible and remote parts of the Arctic including Svalbard archipelago, Greenland, and northern Norway. Visitors come to discover incredible polar nature, go on wilderness hikes, follow in the footsteps of great explorers, see Arctic wildlife, and capture incredible photographs.
Our Top Small Ship Cruises
As we look forward to exploring with you again in 2021 we would like to reassure our customers with our risk-free booking promise.
Advanced Safety Measures
Find out about the advanced safety measures we will be taking on our future voyages to ensure your safety.
Small Ship Cruises to Svalbard
These days, cruise ships can be huge, carrying thousands of passengers at a time, which takes a heavy toll on the environment. Expedition ships to the Arctic are much smaller, but the largest ones now take 350 people, which means longer waiting times to get ashore, and a more crowded experience. Big groups can be disruptive to the local wildlife too.
We like to keep things small scale at Secret Atlas. Our expedition micro-cruise vessels take just 12 guests, along with a small, experienced crew including a veteran expedition leader and expert guide who has been to the region many times. Joining a smaller cruise like ours means there is space for everyone on the Zodiac landing craft, with time for exploring, discovering, and learning in incredible polar environments.
Find our more about our Svalbard small ship cruises here.
Expedition Vessel Togo collecting guests from a shore landing.
Seeing polar bears in the wild is one of the many highlights of a small ship Svalbard expedition cruise.
Norway Northern Lights and Whales Small Ship Cruises
If you’re looking to experience winter wonder, then join us in Tromsø, Norway for a chance to see the colourful spectacle of the northern lights at night, and go whale watching by day. Tromsø is situated in an area known as the auroral oval and has a latitude of almost 70° north – making it one of the best places on earth to see natural phenomena that is the aurora borealis aka northern lights. There is very little light pollution in this part of Norway too, which also greatly increases our chances of experiencing them.
Our small ship cruises to Tromsø also offer an excellent opportunity for spotting the mighty Orca (killer whale) in the while. During the day, we’ll venture north of the mainland to the surrounding fjords in search of the Orca, while witnessing stunning frozen scenery and conditions allowing our experienced guide will take you ashore by Zodiac landing craft where you’ll explore remote, and picturesque villages.
Greenland Small Ship Cruises
Although it sits within the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland is an autonomous country. It’s also the largest island in the world and the most sparsely populated country on Earth, with a population of approximately 57,691 people. Over 80 per cent of Greenland’s landmass is covered by a huge ice cap.
Secret Atlas small ship cruises take groups of 12 passengers to explore Greenlands vast Arctic landscapes, see enormous icebergs, and encounter incredible wildlife including polar bears, musk oxen, narwhals, humpback whales, and minke whales up close. Our expeditions are also a rare opportunity to experience local culture and meet the welcoming residents in the tiny capital of Nuuk and more remote settlements too.
You can find out more about our small ship cruises to Greenland here.
Antarctica Small Ships Cruises
We love taking people from all over the world to experience destinations in the high Arctic. And soon we’ll be going on adventures to the frozen south, on small ship cruises to Antarctica – one of the world’s last frontiers. From 2022, we’ll be launching expedition micro-cruises with 12 guests to the most remote continent on Earth. The expedition will be a fly and cruise trip from South America to Antarctica to an airbase in Antarctica – this means we don’t have to cross infamous choppy waters of the Drake Passage.
It’s a truly one-off opportunity to explore this lesser-visited part of the world. Our small ship voyages around the Antarctic peninsula range between 7 and 14 days of witnessing awe-inspiring landscapes filled with lava flows, glaciers, and layered sandstone. You’ll also get the opportunity to take amazing photographs, and see wildlife including penguins, elephant seals, and whales – all led by our experienced expedition leader and guide.
Sign up for updates about our upcoming Antarctica small ship cruises here.
Private Small Ship Cruises
Are you interested in chartering your own private expedition small ship?
We can plan a full itinerary with a crew, and additional activities to suit you and your group’s wishes. So whether it’s a bespoke trip to witness the northern lights and go whale watching in Norway, or exploring Svalbard – we’ve got you covered. Secret Atlas plan the entire expedition on your behalf using the best expedition leaders in the industry to create a once-in-a-lifetime Arctic experience.
Our private expeditions are flexible and customisable – although of course, part of an adventure to the wilderness is a willingness to change course. All our itineraries are subject to weather and sea ice conditions, but our expert crew and leaders will share their deep knowledge of the region for an enriching voyage to explore nature, wildlife and history.
You can find out more about our private small ship cruises here.
Small Ship Cruises vs Micro Cruises
Small ship cruises are built for big Arctic adventure that minimises the impact on vital polar regions. They’re also a more intimate and authentic way to experience a once-in-a-lifetime expedition with a small group of like-minded travellers, rather than a massive tourist group. In short, they’re better for passengers and the planet too.
Micro cruises on small ships like ours only take 12 guests, but the largest expedition cruise ships can take up to 500. You can find out how micro cruises compare to traditional expedition cruises here.
Here are some of the reasons why smaller is better:
Reach remote destinations and visit unspoilt wilderness:
One of the major advantages of taking a small ship voyage is they can reach places the larger ships can’t pass through. They can’t visit areas with shallow anchorages or pass through narrow fjords – which are beautiful and home to wildlife including polar bears and walruses. Smaller ships can get up close to glacier fronts, and allow visitors to hike through the polar wilderness.
As a member of AECO we follow strict guidelines to ensure our cruises don’t disturb the environment or wildlife.
Intimate travel experience with like-minded travellers:
Expedition micro-cruises are perfect for people who want to experience the Arctic in a more intimate, and sustainable way, away from large tour groups. It’s the chance for a real adventure, in the company of like-minded travellers who are adventurous, curious and looking for meaningful experiences in nature. Secret Atlas trips are active, so a good level of physical fitness is required to get the most out of the experience.
Secret Atlas is run by a team of passionate explorers, conservationists, and photographers, we work with a veteran crew and expedition leader, as well as world-class nature photographers to run personal, expert, and unique small ship cruises. Find out more here.
What our guests have to say about small ship cruises:
Our small ship cruises attract curious travellers, adventure-seekers, and nature lovers from all over the world looking to discover the Arctic. Following in the footsteps of great explorers like Roald Amundsen, getting up close to glaciers, and watching polar bears and whales in the wild are a few of the reasons why people come to explore these incredible places with us.
Here’s what some of them have to say.
“I woke up in the middle of the night to see the landscapes around me in 24 hours of daylight. It is a landscape that is so totally different from what you’ve seen before. I have travelled a lot in South America, Africa, and Europe, but this is an experience for everybody. You must go there once in your life.” Anna from Italy
“For the first time in my life, I felt like I was in the wilderness and that we were the real guests not in control of anything. When you visit ashore you see the traces of human artefacts – and you see the impermanence of humans.” Pancrazio from Italy
“It is impressive to not see anyone else, be fully disconnected, and really soak in the beauty of your slowly changing surroundings. I think we only saw one other boat in the ten days.” Julia from Switzerland.
“I had no idea humans could travel so far north in the Arctic for touristic purposes. Setting out with an open mind, not knowing what to expect, I began the most epic trip of my life.” Annie from USA
You can read more about the experience of our previous guests here.
Introducing our small ships:
Welcome aboard the MV Togo – a small ship designed for a big adventure. It’s a 31m (102ft) long motor yacht which was custom built by legendary Dunstan Shipyard and was most recently refitted in 2018. The MV Togo began its life as a North Sea trawler, then converted into Lloyd’s safety vessel in the 80s. It had an extensive refit in 2012, to convert it into a yacht, and then it became an expedition yacht in 2018, ready for the kind of Arctic adventures that await you.
It is an intimate, charming ship like an old-time tramp steamer, but with modern comfort and safety. The MV Togo is fitted out with an ice-strengthened hull, and full safety gear. Outside has a large deck for where guests can witness majestic scenery, or take photographs. Prefer to enjoy the view in the warm? There’s plenty of room for relaxing in the galley, mess room, and elegant saloon bar and taking in the view from the front of the lounge area.
Meet the MV Balto, a spacious and elegant polar expedition yacht, ready to take you where you want to go. Of course, it’s sturdy as well as stylish – built as Lloyd’s 1-A ice-class ship, it’s also ice-enforced, and has a structure and skin made of high grade “corten” steel. Electric diesel propulsion keeps travel smooth – perfect if you’re keen to capture Arctic photographs or video.
The MV Balto is a small ship that’s big on luxury accommodation for its 12 guests. There are staterooms with full private facilities and a 12-person crew. Cabins include three suites, two large double cabins, and two spacious single cabins, all with private bathrooms and showers. The lounge area is also set up for meetings, collaboration, and strategy sessions. The MV Balto has plenty of space for rest and relaxation too, including a library, lounge, card table. The guest deck also has a sauna and cold shower – perfect for unwinding and re-charging after a long day of hiking and exploring.