Cruising the Arctic
Have you ever wanted to meet a polar bear, spring across the tundra, watch shimmering ice floes, or explore native cultures in colorful and remote villages?
If the answer is yes, then the Arctic has an iceberg with your name on it.
The Arctic is the vast polar region surrounding the North Pole. It’s basically everything above 60 degrees N latitude, and the Arctic Circle itself is everything above 66.5 degrees N latitude. The Arctic stretches from Russia’s Far East to Spitsbergen on Svalbard Island to Arctic Norway to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Canada’s Ellesmere and Baffin Islands and to Greenland. That’s a lot of “to’s” and a lot of territory, not to mention that most of the Arctic is considered “high seas” that aren’t restricted by national boundaries.
The Arctic is a spectacular wilderness covered in ice for most of the year. The best time to go is during the Arctic summer when the pack ice recedes – from July to September.
[TRIP TRIVIA: Will you see penguins in the Arctic? No. They’re in ANTarctica, which is in the southern hemisphere. But you might see walruses and polar bears.]
How Do I Get There?
Just take the first iceberg on your left and follow that polar bear. If that sounds too simple – and possibly dangerous – it is. Especially with rapidly melting polar ice and the high probability that the bear considers you lunch.
The best way to see the Arctic is by guided expedition aboard a cruise ship. And we’re NOT talking about the giant floating cities with Las Vegas-style shows and entertainment. On a real Arctic adventure, you replace the glitz with educational presentations by experts and close encounters with the plants, animals and people that call the Arctic home.
That said, there are a lot of options on cruise ships and packages. Most vessels should be ice-strengthened, but only ice-breakers travel to the North Pole.
Pick a smaller ship if you like a more intimate setting. Pick a luxury cruise if you like to luxuriate in five star accommodations. If the on-shore hikes aren’t enough exercise, make sure the ship has a gym with the appropriate equipment.
Also look at available room options. Some are fancier than others, higher or lower, single or shared, etc. Do you want a roommate, a porthole, a suite?
Popular destinations include: the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land and the Russian Far East. Your departure port depends on where you’re heading. There are even awe-inspiring trips to the North Pole that leave from Russia via icebreaker and offer helicopter shuttles to the interior!
[TRIP TRIVIA: The North Pole isn’t on a continent. It’s a big patch of ice that’s not attached to land. It’s a frozen ocean surrounded by land, while Antarctica is land surrounded by ocean.]