The guide to expedition polar cruises

The guide to expedition polar cruises

For most people, taking a cruise is about relaxation. It’s time to do nothing except watch the sea roll by and see the sights. But then, there’s expedition cruisers. And they are a different breed altogether.

Here, relaxation isn’t necessarily the main selling-point, but rather getting as close to extreme climates and nature as humanly possible.

Polar expedition cruises can in many ways be seen as trophies, or dinner party mementos – where the prize goes to the best story. So if you’ve got a score to settle with a friend, check out the itineraries below.

They are guaranteed to blow the socks off your guests.




The Antarctica voyage

From the Silversea Explorer
From the Silversea Explorer

Ultra luxury cruise line Silversea offers a 10-night Antarctica cruise, departing from Ushuaia, with 11 expedition team members onboard.

The sailing will be an opportunity to see mountainous polar icebergs, set foot on the continent of Antarctica and encounter penguins in their natural habitat.

The expedition team members include team leader Kara Weller, Antarctic studies specialist Hanne Nielsen and leading British authority Dr Toby Musgrave.

Prices from £6,550 per person




Following in Shackleton’s footsteps

Ultimate Shore Excursions: Snorkelling in Antarctica
Photo by Karen Hinchliffe

Australia-based firm Aurora Expeditions is to retrace the voyage Sir Ernest Shackleton took after pack ice stopped his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914 and the heroic steps he took to save his men.

The 20-day voyage departs Argentina and heads for the polar Weddell Sea, crossing Drake’s Passage where passengers will watch for whales and attempt a continental landing.

After a week guests will arrive on Elephant Island, with views of Cape Wild, where Shackleton’s men sheltered for four months while awaiting rescue.

Guests are also able to snorkel in the icy waters – one of the only cruise lines to offers this experience.

Prices from $13,660


One Ocean Expeditions

70th anniversary of the Northwest Passage

Ultimate polar: Northwest Passage
An ancient Inuit inukshuk serves as a landmark for seafarers in a fjord of Baffin Island, Nunavut

One Ocean Expeditions is offering an exciting opportunity to travel through Canada’s fabled Northwest Passage on a special cruise to mark the 70th anniversary of the first ever single season transit of the legendary route.

Travelling onboard the ice-strengthened Akademik Ioffe between Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit, the 12-night voyage departs 25 August 2014 to retrace the deep-sea route followed by the RCMP St Roch in 1944 under the command of Staff Sergeant Henry Larsen.

On board for the occasion will be Larsen’s granddaughter, Doreen Larsen Riedel who, together with passengers and crew, will have the opportunity to enjoy anniversary celebrations, interact with remote polar communities, visit historic locations such as atmospheric Beechey Island, where the Franklin expedition over-wintered before disappearing forever, and witness spectacular scenery and wildlife.

The first ever transit of Canada’s Northwest Passage was between 1903-1906 under the command of the great Roald Amundsen of Norway.

The feat was not repeated until 1940-42 when the RCMP St Roch completed a West to East transit of the passage.  In 1944, Larsen undertook an East to West transit in the same season, marking the first ever single season crossing of the Northwest Passage and making the St Roch the first vessel to complete the route in both directions. 

 Prices from $7,995


Lindblad Expeditions

Shackleton Centennial

Ultimate Polar: Sunset at the Weddell Sea which was part of Shackleton's voyage
Sunset at the Weddell Sea which was part of Shackleton’s voyage

Voyage experts Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic are bringing to life Shackleton’s adventure by focusing on one of their own key areas of expertise: that of the remarkable images taken by expedition photographer Frank Hurley.

The expedition will be joined by Kim Heacox, National Geographic photographer and author of Shackleton: The Antarctic Challenge.

The programme will include journeys on to the ice, accompanied by expert National-Geographic photographers and influenced by Hurley’s own polar images.

Definitely one for the keen photographer then!




G Adventures

Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Islands

Ultimate polar: South Georgia
South Georgia

This 22-day adventure gives guests the opportunity to meet hardy locals, explore the Falklands and even visit the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton himself on the island of South Georgia.

The expedition, which departs from Montevideo is a great opportunity to see a vast amount of wildlife, including a colony of penguins; shore landings on South Shetland Island; and a packed polar programme of lectures and educational sessions.

 Prices from £5,779  



Compagnie du Ponant

Northwest Passage

Ultimate Polar: The Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage

Quintessentially French yacht firm Compagnie du Ponant is taking its intimate 132-stateroom ship L’Autral well beyond the Arctic Circle and into the legendary expedition route made famous by the great Roald Amundsen of Norway.

The opportunity to cruise the passage is only available for a few short weeks – with the temperatures rising high enough for parts of the ice to melt, freeing the route for passengers willing to travel on ‘top of the world’.

The 21-night sailing from Kangerlussuaq to Anadyr departs in August with prices including return flights from Paris.

This cruise offers a chic way to travel the Northwest Passage.

Prices from €10,886 per person




National Park Expedition


Norwegian specialist firm Hurtigruten is offering a special voyage which visits three Arctic islands: Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland.

The line’s explorer ship, the MS Fram, will depart Longyearbyen and call at national parks on all three islands, including North West Greenland – the biggest and least visited national park in the world.

The ship will also have an expedition team onboard who will organise landings and get hikes underway for those wanting to check out the unexplored terrain.

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