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Expeditions

Northwest Passage Cruises

Join us on an expedition cruise to one of the most extreme, gorgeous, and untouched places on Earth

See all expedition cruises

Northwest Passage Cruises

Join us on an expedition cruise to one of the most extreme, gorgeous, and untouched places on Earth

See all expedition cruises
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Cruising the Northwest Passage with Hurtigruten

With over 125 years of experience sailing polar waters, our pioneering heritage stretches back to an era of adventure, when ocean charts were still being drawn. Back then, the existence of a northern passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was unproven. It wasn’t until Roald Amundsen navigated the icy maze that this remote wilderness route became a reality.

Today, we offer expedition cruises through the fabled Northwest Passage, giving you the chance to explore an untouched region, home to abundant wildlife. With our state-of-the-art cruise ship and experienced onboard Expedition Team, we’ll attempt our sailings here in the same bold spirit as bygone explorers. Along the way, we’ll visit remote communities, watch for Arctic wildlife, and gaze in awe at majestic landscapes as we attempt this legendary route.

Northwest Passage Travel Guide
  • Davis Straight
  • White Belugas swimming
  • Seals
  • Small boat landing in Lancaster Sound
  • MS Roald Amundsen in Canada

Photo: Shutterstock, Camille Seaman, Andrea Klaussner and Karsten Bidstrup

Reasons to Cruise the Northwest Passage

Few voyages capture the imagination like the Northwest Passage. Spanning almost 1,700 nautical miles from Canada’s Baffin Island in the east to Alaska’s Beaufort Sea in the west, this isolated and wild sea route is an adventure like no other.

It’s only possible to sail the Northwest Passage during just a few weeks of the brief summer period, when ice conditions become more favorable. Hurtigruten’s nautical expertise in extreme polar waters makes us one of the few companies to offer Northwest Crossing attempts.

Reasons to Cruise the Northwest Passage

Few voyages capture the imagination like the Northwest Passage. Spanning almost 1,700 nautical miles from Canada’s Baffin Island in the east to Alaska’s Beaufort Sea in the west, this isolated and wild sea route is an adventure like no other.

It’s only possible to sail the Northwest Passage during just a few weeks of the brief summer period, when ice conditions become more favorable. Hurtigruten’s nautical expertise in extreme polar waters makes us one of the few companies to offer Northwest Crossing attempts.

True Artic Expedition

We love the Arctic, but we know nature has its own plans. Sometimes, we have to adapt. Occasionally, we’ll must look for alternative routes that don’t feature on the daily itinerary or might even have to turn back. If we’re forced to do so, we’ll simply head off on a different adventure. That’s why it’s called an attempt. This unpredictability makes it a true expedition, not just a cruise.

Artic Wildlife

Polar bears hunting on the ice, an Arctic fox venturing across the tundra, beluga whales breaking the surface of the water—these are just a few of the magnificent animals you might see on the expedition cruise. Our wildlife experts help you seek out the best sightings, and you can learn more at our extensive onboard lecture program and in the Science Center.

Spectacular landscapes

Cruising through the passage, we’ll see an ever-changing maze of water channels among vast and pristine panoramas. From breathtaking vistas of ice-capped mountains rising above the tundra to seascapes of blue water afloat with delicately hued icebergs, you’ll see it all from the comfortable vantage point of the ship.

Seafaring History

A marine route through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago had long been envisioned by mariners, and attempts to chart it began in earnest in the 16th century. At the time, sailors thought seawater couldn’t freeze, and believed a route might exist close to the North Pole. This conviction persisted for several centuries and led to numerous Arctic expeditions, many of which ended in disaster.

Historical Attempts

The most infamous attempt to transit the Northwest Passage was led by intrepid British sea captain Sir John Franklin. His two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with a combined crew of 129, set out to chart the passage in 1845. The ill-fated mission ended in disaster when they became icebound for over a year. None of the crew returned, thought to have perished due to hypothermia, starvation, and disease.

Local Heritage

It took five centuries for navigators to finally chart a safe route through the Northwest Passage. Norwegian Roald Amundsen sailed the route in 1906, triumphantly doing so in his remodeled fishing boat called Gjøa, with a crew of just six men. A key to the success of Amundsen’s three-year odyssey was learning survival techniques from the local Inuit people. These skills would also prove invaluable later in his quest to reach the South Pole.

Cruises

Northwest Passage Activities

The epic Northwest Passage is a bucket-list worthy destination, especially as only an intrepid few have sailed or set foot there. This notoriously challenging sea route is only navigable for just a few weeks of the year—and only if the sea ice and weather conditions are in our favor.

Conditions permitting, the Expedition Team will navigate the ice floes and take you ashore to visit historic trading posts, local settlements, archeological sites, and natural habitats. You may even find yourself visiting prehistoric Inuit dwelling sites with an archaeologist or spotting pods of narwhal with a wildlife specialist.

Activities and lectures in the Northwest Passage

Northwest Passage Activities

The epic Northwest Passage is a bucket-list worthy destination, especially as only an intrepid few have sailed or set foot there. This notoriously challenging sea route is only navigable for just a few weeks of the year—and only if the sea ice and weather conditions are in our favor.

Conditions permitting, the Expedition Team will navigate the ice floes and take you ashore to visit historic trading posts, local settlements, archeological sites, and natural habitats. You may even find yourself visiting prehistoric Inuit dwelling sites with an archaeologist or spotting pods of narwhal with a wildlife specialist.

Activities and lectures in the Northwest Passage

Kayaking*

The kayak, translated as the ‘man’s boat’, originated in the Arctic region. Channel the Inuit kayaker of centuries past as you glide silently through the still Arctic waters, with icebergs and glaciers towering in the distance.

* Please note that this is an optional activity and additional cost applies.

Small-boat (RIB) cruising

Even though your expedition ship is compact, there are limits on where it can go, due to its size. This is where our small boats (RIBs) come in. Launching from the ship’s tender pit, these small boats (RIBs) are small and agile, allowing you to experience pristine wilderness up close.

Wildlife watching

Some 60% of the world’s polar bears live in the Canadian Arctic. You may never have a better chance of spotting this impressive apex predator. Keep an eye out for the majestic minke, bowhead, and beluga whales. At Pond Inlet, try to spot narwhal, which many believe could be the inspiration of the mythological unicorn.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for caribou and Arctic foxes. Avid birdwatchers, keep an eye out for kittiwakes and auklets in the Bering Strait or gulls and guillemots at Prince Christian Sound. We’re always on the lookout for the elusive Ivory Gull and other species unique to the Arctic.

Hiking*

Our experienced guides lead optional hikes to areas of natural beauty. In Greenland, try the long hike through Paradise Valley and around Mount Lille Malene. Very fit climbers might try Sisimiut’s Palaasip Qaqqa mountain path, whose scenery is well worth the climb to the top. Fantastic views await those who hike up Tracey Hill at Red Bay, in Labrador, Canada.

* Please note that this is an optional activity and additional cost applies.

Landings

As wind, waves, and sea ice allow, our Expedition Team experts will escort you safely ashore for a variety of highlights: Visit Beechey Island, where you can pay your respects to the fallen maritime explorers of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1845: explore Ulukhaktok, a village rich in arts and handicrafts; or visit at Gjoa Haven, ‘the finest little harbor in the world’.

Onboard lectures

Exciting new discoveries generate questions—many of which will be answered at our informative onboard lectures. Topics range from tectonic activity, glaciology, and local history to culture, wildlife, and photography. The knowledgeable Expedition Team members aim to enhance your appreciation for your surroundings and tell you about upcoming landings.

Science Center

The ship’s Science Center is a hub for information and education. You’ll have access to scientific equipment such as advanced geological microscopes, as well as an extensive library. Learn about the Arctic wildlife and ecosystems or participate in ongoing scientific research with the Citizen Science program.

Walrus on a rock Walrus on a rock

High Artic Wildlife

The Northwest Passage is an unspoiled oasis in the High Arctic. Wildlife migrates to more comfortable climates or learns to adapt to the landscape, enduring bitter winters and periods with little food or sunlight.

Herds of musk oxen and caribou roam the tundra, while seals and polar bears can be found in the sea and on the ice.

Wildlife in the Northwest Passage
  • Polar bear in the Northwest Passage
  • Bird in the Artic
  • Whale watching in the Northwest Passage
  • The majestic caribou
  • Seals

Photo: Stefan Dall, Mark McDermott and Camille Seaman

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Norway Expedition

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