itself is magical.
The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are one of nature’s most dazzling spectacles. Witnessing the glowing ribbons of green, red, purple and blue lights dancing across the night sky is truly an unforgettable experience. For many, seeing the northern lights is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One of the best ways to catch this celestial show is by taking a cruise that sails to areas where the northern lights are known to be visible.
A northern lights cruise offers several advantages for aurora hunting. Cruise ships sail to higher latitudes in areas like Alaska, Iceland, Norway and Greenland that fall under the auroral zone. This is the area around the north magnetic pole where the northern lights occur. Being at sea means you don’t have to worry about cloud cover or city lights obscuring the view. The ship will steer clear of light pollution and search for breaks in the weather to maximize sightings.
Most northern lights cruises embark in the fall and winter months when the lights are at their peak. Shorter itineraries of 1-2 weeks focus solely on aurora viewing, while longer voyages incorporate stops at northern destinations. No matter the length, ships will adjust their schedules and itineraries as needed to target prime auroral activity. Nightly northern lights watches are set up on deck while the ship sails into areas expecting clear skies and solar activity.
What to Expect on a Northern Lights Cruise
So what can you expect when you book a northern lights cruise? Most itineraries focus on scenic cruising and maximizing aurora viewing opportunities. The schedule will revolve around nightly northern lights watches set up on deck. Passengers will bundle up in warm layers and scout for auroral activity in the dark skies overhead. Whether the lights fizzle out or erupt in a dazzling display, the wait is part of the adventure!
During the day, ships will call on ports in northern locales depending on the itinerary. You may explore glaciers and national parks in Alaska, soak in hot springs in Iceland, or visit fishing villages and Viking sites in Norway. Some cruises even offer excursions focused on the science and culture of the northern lights. Onboard programs also teach passengers about space weather, photography and legends surrounding the aurora.
When not gazing skyward, relax with a book in the ship’s library, take a dip in the pool or sample regional cuisine in the dining room. Compared to chasing the northern lights on land, cruising allows you to travel in comfort with lodging, meals and transportation all taken care of. You get to see the majestic scenery along the way while having help scanning the skies for that auroral glow.
Top Northern Lights Cruise Destinations
From late fall through early spring, northern lights cruises sail to prime locales for spotting the aurora. Here are some top destinations and cruise regions for seeing the greatest light show on earth:
Alaska – Cruises around Alaska sightsee by glaciers and along the Inside Passage during the day and bundle up for northern lights watches at night. Popular ports include Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.
Iceland – Circumnavigate this volcanic island to explore waterfalls, hot springs, lava fields and possibly dance across the northern lights overhead.
Norway – Base out of Tromsø, Alta or other northern Norwegian ports while gazing at the shimmering lights then visiting villages and fjords during daylight.
Greenland – Remote Greenland offers front row seats to dazzling auroras and glacial scenery. Cruises often include stops in Iceland too.
Canada & New England – See the northern lights over North America while cruising along the Canadian Maritimes, Gulf of St. Lawrence and Maine coastline.
Planning a Northern Lights Cruise
Does chasing the northern lights across the ocean sound enticing? Here are some tips for planning your cruise:
– Go during peak aurora season between September and April when skies are darker and solar activity increases.
– Choose an itinerary based on your desired destinations and length – options range from week-long Iceland voyages to month-long Arctic expeditions.
– Pack warm clothes for standing outside on night watches, including hats, gloves, boots and thermal layers.
– Book any excursions for northern lights photography or science tours in advance through the cruise line.
– Manage expectations – the lights are unpredictable so having flexible plans helps. Patience and luck are key!
– Check the forecast before your cruise and during to get a sense of solar storm activity and cloud cover.
– Enjoy the journey! Even if the lights don’t appear, cruising through scenic northern regions is an incredible experience.
With great anticipation and a bit of luck, you’ll get to witness one of nature’s most dazzling and ethereal displays – the magical northern lights – all from the comfort of a cruise ship! This once-in-a-lifetime experience will create memories to last forever.
Harry Pope has various books on Amazon, the most popular is Buried Secrets, a hilarious account of his time in the funeral profession. He reversed the limousine into a lamppost, another time he slid slowly into ma grave as the coffin slowly slid onto him. Ultimately he worked for the Royal undertakers in London. Involved in Lockerbie/PanAm, The Herald of Free Enterprise, and Piper Alpha. Buried Secrets: Anecdotes of a Funeral Director: Amazon.co.uk: Pope, Harry: 9781785388231: Books