The Northwest Passage: From Greenland to the Bering Sea

Le Boreal Cruise Ship
Le Boreal
199 Passengers

Set sail aboard the commanding Le Boreal on an epic - and rare - voyage from east to west across the entire, remote and wildly historic Northwest Passage.

- Cruise for 21 nights aboard the luxury, all-balcony expedition ship Le Boreal.
- Travel in the company of a world-class seasoned Expedition Team for a deeply enriching and captivating journey.
- Contrast the most historic and remote islands, fjords and harbors along the legendary passage, taking in moving stories of voyages won and lives lost in the name of conquering a trade route between the Atlantic and the Pacific.
- Sail the full extent of the Northwest Passage, from Greenland to the Canadian Arctic provinces to Alaska and ending in Anadyr, Russia's Far East.
- Explore the West Coast of Greenland, where you may meet with local Inuits in their homes or alongside their dog-sled teams, visit a traditional hunting village and learn the traditional art of leather tanning.
- Marvel at geological wonders from the "Smoking Hills" of Franklin Bay to the dramatic Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site teeming with icebergs.
- Delve into the Northwest Passage as the world's greatest polar explorers once did, with stops along the way that may include Pond Inlet, Lancaster Sound, Beechey Island, Sommerset Island and Gjoa Haven.
- Discover the rarely-visited Yukon Territory, where whaling once thrived and an abundance of wildlife still reigns supreme.
- Enjoy the convenience of charter flights to Kangerlussuaq and from Anadyr that begin and end in North America.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1Arrive Montreal, Quebec
Day 2Kangerlussuaq | Edge of Indlandsis
Days 3 to 8Western Greenland | Where Amundsen Began
Days 9 to 15Nunavet & the Canadian Arctic Archipelago | The Heart of the Northwest Passage
Day 16Franklin Bay & the Smoking Hills | Endless Fire
Day 17Hershel Island & the Yukon Territory | A Haven in the Farthest Reaches
Days 18 & 19Beaufort Sea & Point Barrow | Sea of the “White One”
Day 20Little Diomede | Along the Alaskan Coast
Day 21Bering Sea | Crossing the International Date Line
Day 22Anadyr | Far Eastern Seaport
Day 23Depart Vancouver

Day 1 — Arrive Montreal, Quebec

Arrive in Montreal, Quebec’s festive European-style city. Transfer to your hotel before meeting your local guide for an afternoon walking tour. Tonight, gather for a welcome cocktail reception and dinner to celebrate the beginning of an unforgettable journey.

Day 2 — Kangerlussuaq | Edge of Indlandsis

Arrive by charter flight this afternoon in Western Greenland at Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strømfjord in Danish), located on the tip of its namesake fjord and once a strategic allied stronghold during World War II. Weather and time permitting, visit the edge of the Greenland ice sheet (indlandsis), a vast body of inland ice covering 80 percent of the continent. En route, be on the lookout for native wildlife, such as muskoxen, reindeer, Arctic foxes, falcons and eagles. Later, arrive at the pier to board your luxurious expedition cruiser, Le Boreal. Tonight, meet your award-winning expedition team and crew for a welcome cocktail reception.

Days 3 to 8 — Western Greenland | Where Amundsen Began

In 1906, polar explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to successfully cross the entire Northwest Passage. Start your voyage exactly where Amundsen did — along the stunning West Coast of Greenland and north into Baffin Bay, which you explore for six days. Your enrichment and lecture program also begins, offering the first of many opportunities to delve deeper into the story of this dramatic and remote region.

Based on ice, weather and sea conditions, your captain and expedition crew determine the day’s best sightseeing opportunities, which may include these seldom-visited regions:

Sisimiut: located just north of the Arctic Circle, Sisimiut is both the northernmost city in Greenland able to maintain a year-round ice-free port as well as the southernmost town with sufficient snow for dog sledding through the winter and spring. Visit the local museum with its interactive exhibits on Inuit culture and Greenlandic colonial history, as well as a local dog musher and his dog-sled team.

Disko Bay & Ilulissat: Cruise into Disko Bay, a wide inlet off the Baffin Sea first explored by Erik the Red in 985 AD when he established the first Norse settlements in Western Greenland. Discover the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the sea mouth of one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world, Sermeq Kujalleq. The scene is dramatic with floating growlers, bergy bits and the sounds of the calving ice-stream. Take a walking tour of the village of Ilulissat, including a visit to the local history museum and a visit with villagers in their multicolored homes to learn about life in this often-harsh Arctic region. Enjoy a husky dog-sled demonstration and learn about the centuries-old methods of leather tanning, still practiced today.

Kullorsuaq: Located at the southern end of Melville Bay, Kullorsuaq is the northernmost village in the Upernavik Archipelago and one of the northernmost settlements in Western Greenland. Founded in 1928 as a trading station, Kullorsuaq received its first migrants some 4,000 years ago as well as the migration of all southbound Inuits that followed. It stands today as one of the most traditional hunting and fishing villages in Greenland. Grasp the full meaning when you spend time with local villagers who still maintain a traditional way of life, living off of the narwhal and seal populations common to this region.

Melville Bay: Enjoy Zodiac excursions through this remote area of far Northwestern Greenland and among thousands of small icebergs and “bergy bits” — small chunks of glacial ice — that cover the bay.

Days 9 to 15 — Nunavet & the Canadian Arctic Archipelago | The Heart of the Northwest Passage

Cruise west across Baffin Bay and into the Canadian Arctic Archipelago of Nunavut, where you begin your journey to the heart — and history — of the Northwest Passage. The expedition team continues to share a captivating lecture program to enhance your own discovery.

As Le Boreal winds it way through the passage’s legendary channels and inlets, your crew and Expedition Team will determine the best route based on ice, weather and sea conditions. Exciting expedition experiences led by the expedition team await and are likely to include:

Pond Inlet: Located on the Northern end of Baffin Island, Pond Inlet is the noted “gateway” to the fabled Northwest Passage. After clearing custom’s formalities for Nunavut, set off for a shore excursion to an area originally inhabited by the Thule (ancestors of the Inuit). Visit the Nattinnak Visitor’s Centre or Toonoonik Sahoonik Co-op, where you can shop for artisan carvings made from local red and green soapstone, beautiful wall hangings and other handcrafted goods.

Lancaster Sound: Situated between Devon Island and Baffin Island, this body of water forms the eastern entrance to the Parry Channel and the Northwest Passage. It’s also home to a rich abundance of Arctic cod, which in turn draws copious populations of sea birds and marine mammals. Beluga and endangered bowhead whales, the fantastic narwhal with its spiraling tusk, ringed and bearded seals, the magnificent polar bear, and mustached walrus as well as black-legged kittiwakes, northern fulmars, black guillemots and Arctic terns — all are among the fantastic wildlife that inhabit the area and some may come into full view on exciting Zodiac excursions and landings.

Beechey Island: Historic moments in Arctic exploration define this island, best known for providing a safe haven to British explorer Sir John Franklin in 1845. Look east toward Resolute Bay at the huge silhouette of Cape Riley and imagine what Captain Franklin saw here in Erebus Harbor, were he took shelter for two years before his ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage. See the three wooden grave markers for three of Franklin’s men, now bleached by the sun, and visit the memorial erected in memory of the explorer and all his men. It is a spectacularly moving location.

Somerset Island: Land at Fury Beach, a site frequented by the most legendary Arctic explorers, including Franklin, Captain John Ross and William Kennedy, who overwintered here in 1852.

Gjoa Haven: During his first attempt to transit the Northwest Passage on ‘Gjøa,’ Roald Amundsen used this natural harbor as a respite while waiting for ice conditions to sufficiently improve. For two years, he lived with the Netsilik Inuit, learning their skills for survival and more efficient travel, which would later prove invaluable in his successful South Pole expedition. Today, Gjoa Haven has population of 1,200 and still bears the historic significance of playing a key role in polar exploration.

Day 16 — Franklin Bay & the Smoking Hills | Endless Fire

In the Northwest Territories at Franklin Bay, see the spectacular “Smoking Hills,” steep cliffs of bituminous shale, spontaneously combusting and endlessly burning. This very rare geological phenomenon has likely been occurring for millennia, with layers of the relatively unstable mineral jarosite covering these hills. When the mineral comes into contact with cold air, it becomes red-hot and produces a thick, black smoke full of sulfur dioxide — a fantastic site not unlike the smoky fumaroles produced by volcanoes.

Day 17 — Hershel Island & the Yukon Territory | A Haven in the Farthest Reaches

During a long mapping expedition in 1826, Captain Franklin was the first European to lay eyes on this unique island at the northernmost point of the Yukon Territory. Named by Franklin in honor of a friend, Herschel Island is a landmark in the West Arctic and has since served alternately as a whaling station, a relay station and a refuge for travelers. It also teems with wildlife that includes the migrating bowhead whale, walrus, moose, musk oxen, Arctic fox and 94 species of birds. It’s also one of the only places on earth where you may see a grizzly bear, black bear and polar bear, the last of which live along the pack ice edge in summer. Evidence of the island’s whaling culture and Thule Inuit predecessors remains near the shoreline, though it may not for much longer; the island is subject to extreme coastal erosion and scientists predict the shoreline will disappear under the waves within 50 years.

Days 18 & 19 — Beaufort Sea & Point Barrow | Sea of the “White One”

Typically dense with ice floes and fog, from August to September, the Beaufort Sea opens up a 60-plus mile-wide coastal pass. Continue sailing in the comfort of your luxury expedition cruiser, participating in captivating lectures led by the expedition team. Be on the lookout across the sea for bowhead and beluga whales, the latter of which sustain one of the largest populations in the world here. Still hunted on a sustenance quota basis by Eskimos and Inuit, the sociable creatures often travel in numbers and are said to be quite “chatty,” with their trills, clicks and squeals heard clearly above the surface. Le Boreal cruises into the U.S. and clears at Point Barrow, Alaska. Your voyage continues through this narrow passage between North America and the ever-changing Arctic icecap.

Day 20 — Little Diomede | Along the Alaskan Coast

Continue cruising through the Bering Sea and along Alaska’s northern coast to Little Diomede, an island that sits between Alaska and Russia at the edge of the International dateline. Disembark for a Zodiac cruise of the island, where some 133 Ingalikmiut Eskimo inhabitants exist on subsistence lifestyle, hunting, fishing and egg gathering. In line with tradition and necessity, the Ingalikmiut also use seal, walrus and polar bear hides to make clothing, parkas, hats and mukluks, as well as trade currency for bartering.

Day 21 — Bering Sea | Crossing the International Date Line

Just south of the Arctic Circle, the Bering Strait guards the entrance to the Bering Sea, which Le Boreal enters and where a prolific ecosystem supports an incredible, world-renowned fishery. This is the capital of Alaskan king crab. From the ship’s upper decks or your own private balcony, you may spot any number of breeding seabirds, whales (bowhead, blue, fin, sei, orca and even the rare north Pacific right), and possibly the polar bear, all here for the feast. The day brings a new series of enriching lectures to supplement the vast ocean views. PLEASE NOTE: Lose a day (September 10) as you cross the International Date Line from the Western to the Eastern Hemisphere.

Day 22 — Anadyr | Far Eastern Seaport

Arrive in Anadyr, Russia’s Far East city situated in the secluded region of Chukotka. Celebrate the success of an epic voyage through the Northwest Passage with your fellow guests and friends. Following breakfast on board, disembark Le Boreal and board your charter flight to Vancouver. Arrive this evening for an overnight stay at your hotel, conveniently located above the U.S. departures terminal.

Day 23 — Depart Vancouver

After breakfast, you will be assisted with baggage transfer and check in for your return flights.

* Itinerary may be subject to change

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