When we say Arctic, we actually mean the Arctic Ocean. This ocean is six times larger than the Mediterranean and has coastlines on the continents of Europe, Asia and America. The best travel conditions can be found in the Arctic summer from June to September. This is when the climate is mild and the animal kingdom at its richest. With our small expedition ships and the Zodiacs, get right up close to discover vast landscapes, deep fjords, mighty glaciers and bizarre ice and rock formations.
Off the beaten track – discover the Arctic with our small, manoeuvrable expedition ships
Cultural highlights – West Greenland is enchanting with its colourful Inuit settlements
Bizarre ice sculptures – the ice-covered Disko Bay is best explored by Zodiac
Faces of the Arctic – the Inuit live in Greenland and in the Canadian Arctic
Safe in the ice – our fleet has the highest ice class for passenger ships (PC 6)
Breathtaking panoramas – on hikes through the expansive tundra, you will be walking in the footsteps of legendary Arctic explorers
Pure isolation – the Northeast Greenland National Park is far away from civilisation
In use over and over again – the Zodiacs get you up-close and personal with the experience
More important than any navigation system – even nautically demanding routes are no problem for the experienced polar crew
King of the Arctic – the best way to watch polar bears is from the deck or from a Zodiac at a respectful distance
Always on board – experts shed lights on the wonders of nature
The distinguishing feature that gave the island its name – the mighty mountain range of Spitsbergen
In a small group of explorers – experience the Arctic with no more than 230 guests
Giants of the ocean – the Arctic waters are teeming with many different species of whale in summer
Active explorers – numerous Zodiac rides and hikes make it feel like a true expedition
Arctic heavyweights – walruses only live in northern latitudes and can weigh up to a tonne
Unspoilt wilderness – enjoy the peace and endless expanse of the Arctic scenery
Inhabitants of the Arctic tundra – with a little luck, you will spot musk oxen in the Canadian Arctic and in Greenland
Cruises to the Arctic take place in the Arctic summer (i.e. between the end of May and the end of September) when the temperatures are milder and the animals are active. There are, however, different highlights within this period. From May, the ice begins to break up and several migratory birds return to breed. Polar bears and walruses return to the coastline after the winter while seals and whales return to the water. June to August is the main season for cruises to the Arctic. The sea has thawed far enough and a variety of animals bring the Arctic to life, including polar bears, reindeer, Arctic foxes and various species of bird such as puffins. Early summer is the time of year when these species mate, hunt and raise their young. From August, there is less sea ice, which means that the Northwest Passage, one of the last great adventures of our time, is accessible. In September, the days become shorter and the ice begins to form again. The autumn colours bathe the Arctic in a special atmosphere, and there is a good chance of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Our pure Spitsbergen cruises start or end in Tromso/Norway or Longyearbyen/Spitsbergen. You can reach both with a charter flight included in the cruise-only price, which is operated exclusively for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (flight time from Germany around four hours). Other cruises combine Spitsbergen with Iceland, Norway or Greenland. Almost all of our Greenland cruises start or end in Kangerlussuaq/Greenland, which you can also reach on a charter flight operated by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (flight time from Germany around five hours). Our Arctic cruises that start or end in Hamburg are particularly easy to reach.
This depends on how much time you have and which regions you want to see. Whichever cruise you choose, all routes promise a high level of adventure. We do not include special expeditions such as the Northwest Passage in our programme every year. You should allow plenty of time for this.
Fluctuations in the weather and climate are not uncommon in the Arctic. When our expedition ships travel to the Arctic, we are in the Arctic summer – the warmer months. The climate in the coastal regions is also milder than in inland areas. From May to August, temperatures generally range between 0 and +7 °C (32 and 44 °F) in Spitsbergen and in the Canadian Arctic; between +10 and +18 °C (50 and 64 °F) in Iceland; and between 0 and +15 °C (32 and 59 °F) in Greenland. In the Arctic summer, the sun hardly sets, if at all.
Everybody experiences cold and wet conditions differently. Polar explorers of the past generally wore three layers of clothing, an approach still followed by visitors to the region today. The innermost layer – in direct contact with the body – absorbs sweat. Thermal underwear is best for this layer. Our feet often get coldest first, so be sure to bring thick woollen socks and good insulating insoles for your rubber boots. The second layer – consisting of hard-wearing trousers and a wool or fleece jumper – keeps your body warm. The third layer protects you from wind and rain. Waterproof trousers are essential for this, as there will be light spray on Zodiac rides (travelling in expedition rubber boats). Your jacket should be made of thick, water-repellent fabric with a hood and several pockets. Mittens are better at keeping your hands warm than gloves. You will also need a warm hat. Good sunglasses will protect your eyes, and oil-based creams will protect your face and lips (look for high SPF). You will be provided with a warm parka and rubber boots on board during your cruise to save space in your luggage.
No two days are the same in the Arctic. The course is repeatedly adjusted according to the weather and ice conditions. To give you an idea of what an expedition day might look like, we recommend taking a look at our travel diaries.
Generally, you should be in good physical condition for an Arctic expedition. All landings in the Arctic take place with the Zodiacs. You must therefore be able to get in and out of the expedition rubber boat independently, often in windy conditions. The shore activities also require a reasonable level of physical fitness. Surfaces can be slippery, rocky or frozen – you must be steady on your feet.
When it comes to an expedition cruise, bigger is not necessarily better. Our small, state-of-the-art ships with the highest ice class for passenger ships (PC 6) are extremely manoeuvrable and have a small draught. This means that we can keep going to places where larger ships have to turn back. It also means that we are extremely flexible in line with the weather and ice conditions, offering you multiple landings a day and allowing more time per landing.
The Arctic is a fragile environment, and it is important to travel responsibly and to respect nature. For that reason, our aim on cruises with our new expedition class is to preserve vulnerable habitats. Preparations for your Arctic expedition should therefore particularly include thinking about the correct way to behave. There will be a specific briefing about this on board at the start of each expedition. Our experts and experienced guides will show you the most sustainable ways to experience the flora and fauna in a conscious and respectful way when you reach the area. No smoking is permitted in the Zodiacs (expedition rubber boats) or in protected nature reserves. We leave no rubbish behind and take away nothing more than memories and photos. Further information can be found on the AECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) website https://www.aeco.no/.