Covid-19: Updated information
Expeditions

Northwest Passage Cruises

Join us on an expedition cruise to one of the most extreme yet most beautiful and untouched places on Earth

See all expedition cruises

Northwest Passage Cruises

Join us on an expedition cruise to one of the most extreme yet most beautiful and untouched places on Earth

See all expedition cruises
}

Cruising the Northwest Passage with Hurtigruten

With over 125 years of sailing experience in polar waters, our pioneering heritage stretches back to an era of adventuring when ocean charts were still being drawn. Back then, the presence of a northern passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was unproven. It wasn’t until Roald Amundsen navigated the icy maze that this remote wilderness route became a reality.

Today, we offer expedition cruises through the fabled Northwest Passage, giving you the chance to explore an untouched region, home to an abundance of wildlife. With our state-of-the-art cruise ship and experienced onboard Expedition Team, we’ll be attempting our sailings here in the same bold spirit as bygone explorers. Along the way, we’ll visit remote communities, scout out Arctic wildlife and gaze in awe at majestic landscapes as we attempt this legendary route.

Northwest Passage Travel Guide
  • Davis Straight
  • White Belugas swimming
  • Seals
  • Small boat landing in Lancaster Sound
  • MS Roald Amundsen in Canada

Photo: Shutterstock, Camille Seaman, Andrea Klaussner and Karsten Bidstrup

Reasons to Cruise the Northwest Passage

Few voyages capture the imagination quite like the Northwest Passage. Spanning almost 1,700 nautical miles from Canada’s Baffin Island in the east, to Alaska’s Beaufort Sea in the west, traversing this isolated and wild sea route is an adventure like no other.

It’s only possible to sail the Northwest Passage during the brief summer of just a few weeks when the ice conditions become more favourable. Hurtigruten’s nautical expertise in extreme polar waters means we’re one of the few companies to offer crossing attempts.

Reasons to Cruise the Northwest Passage

Few voyages capture the imagination quite like the Northwest Passage. Spanning almost 1,700 nautical miles from Canada’s Baffin Island in the east, to Alaska’s Beaufort Sea in the west, traversing this isolated and wild sea route is an adventure like no other.

It’s only possible to sail the Northwest Passage during the brief summer of just a few weeks when the ice conditions become more favourable. Hurtigruten’s nautical expertise in extreme polar waters means we’re one of the few companies to offer crossing attempts.

Real Arctic Expedition

We love the Arctic, but we know nature has its own plans sometimes and we have to adapt. Occasionally, we’ll have to find alternative routes that don’t feature on the daily itinerary, or we'll even have to turn back. If we’re forced to do so, we’ll simply head off on a different – alternative – adventure. That’s why it’s called an attempt, and it’s this unpredictability which makes it an expedition, not just a cruise.

Arctic Wildlife

Polar bears hunting on the ice, an Arctic fox venturing across the tundra, beluga whales breaking the surface of the waters; these are just some of the magnificent animals you might see on the voyage. Our wildlife experts will help you seek out the best sightings, and you can learn more from our extensive onboard programme of lectures and our Science Center.

Spectacular landscapes

Cruising through the passage, we’ll see an ever-changing maze of water channels between vast pristine panoramas. From breathtaking vistas of ice-capped mountains rising above the tundra, to seascapes of blue water afloat with delicately hued icebergs, you’ll see it all from the comfortable vantage point of the ship.

Seafaring History

A marine route through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago had long been suspected by mariners and attempts to chart it began in earnest in the 16th century. At the time, sailors believed seawater couldn’t freeze and thought a route might exist close to the North Pole. This conviction persisted for several centuries and led to numerous Arctic expeditions, many of which ended in disaster.

Historical Attempts

Probably the most infamous attempt at the Northwest Passage was led by the intrepid British sea captain Sir John Franklin. His two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with a combined crew of 129, set out in 1845 to chart the passage. The ill-fated mission ended in disaster when they became icebound for over a year. None of the crew ever returned, thought to have perished to hypothermia, starvation, and disease.

Local Heritage

It took five centuries for navigators to finally chart a safe route through the Northwest Passage. Norwegian Roald Amundsen sailed the route in 1906, triumphantly doing so in his remodelled fishing boat Gjoa, with a crew of just six men. A key to the success of his three-year odyssey was to learn survival techniques from the local Inuit people, skills which would later prove invaluable in his quest to reach the South Pole.

Cruises

Northwest Passage Activities

The epic Northwest Passage is bucket-list worthy, especially as only an intrepid few have sailed or set foot there. With sea ice and weather conditions hopefully in our favour, this notoriously challenging sea route is potentially navigable for just a few weeks of the year.

As conditions allow, the Expedition Team will navigate the ice floes and take you ashore to visit historic trading posts, local settlements, archaeological sites and natural habitats. You may even find yourself visiting pre-historic Inuit dwelling sites with an archaeologist or spotting pods of narwhal with a wildlife specialist.

Activities and lectures in the Northwest Passage

Northwest Passage Activities

The epic Northwest Passage is bucket-list worthy, especially as only an intrepid few have sailed or set foot there. With sea ice and weather conditions hopefully in our favour, this notoriously challenging sea route is potentially navigable for just a few weeks of the year.

As conditions allow, the Expedition Team will navigate the ice floes and take you ashore to visit historic trading posts, local settlements, archaeological sites and natural habitats. You may even find yourself visiting pre-historic Inuit dwelling sites with an archaeologist or spotting pods of narwhal with a wildlife specialist.

Activities and lectures in the Northwest Passage

Kayaking

The kayak or ‘man’s boat’ originated in the Arctic region. Channel the Inuit kayakers of centuries past as you glide silently through still Arctic waters, with icebergs and glaciers towering in the distance.

* Please note that this is an optional activity and additional cost applies

Small-Boat Cruising

Although your expedition ship is compact, there are limits on where it can go due to its size. This is where our small expedition boats come in. Launching from the tender pit of the ship, these expedition boats are small and agile, letting you experience this pristine wilderness up close.

Wildlife Watching

Some 60% of the world’s polar bears live in the Canadian Arctic – increasing your chances of spotting this impressive apex predator. Keep an eye out for the majestic minke, bowhead and beluga whales. At Pond Inlet, try to spot narwhal, which many believe inspired the legend of the mythological unicorn.

Add caribou and Arctic foxes to your list of wildlife to look out for. Avid birdwatchers might spot the kittiwakes and auklets of the Bering Strait or the gulls and guillemots of Prince Christian Sound. We are also always on the lookout for the elusive Ivory Gull and other species unique to the Arctic.

Hiking

Our experienced guides will take the lead on optional hikes to areas of natural beauty. In Greenland, try the long hike through Paradise Valley and around Mt. Lille Malene. Or for the very fit climber, Isimiut’s Palaasip Qaqqa mountain path is well worth the scenery at the top. At Red Bay in Labrador, Canada, a hike up Tracey Hill will reward you with a fantastic view.

* Please note that this is an optional activity and additional cost applies

Landings

As wind, waves and sea ice allow, our Expedition Team experts will escort you safely ashore for a variety of highlights: Visit Beechey Island where you can pay your respects to the fallen maritime explorers of 1845’s ill-fated Franklin Expedition; explore Ulukhaktok, a hamlet rich in arts and crafts; or stop at Gjoa Haven, 'the finest little harbour in the world.'

Onboard Lectures

With each exciting new discovery come questions — many of which will be answered at our informative onboard lectures. Topics range from tectonic activity, glaciology and local history, to culture, wildlife and photography. The knowledgeable Expedition Team aims to enhance your appreciation for your surroundings and to inform you of your upcoming landings.

Science Center

The ship’s Science Center is a hub for information and education. You’ll have access to scientific equipment such as advanced geological microscopes, as well as an extensive library. Learn about the wildlife and ecosystems of the Arctic or be a part of live scientific research with the Citizen Science programme.

Walrus on a rock Walrus on a rock

High Arctic Wildlife

The Northwest Passage is an unspoiled oasis in the High Arctic. Wildlife migrates to more comfortable climates or learns to adapt to the landscape, enduring bitter winters and periods with little food or sunlight.

Herds of musk oxen and caribou roam the tundra, while seals and polar bears occupy the sea and ice.

Animals in the Northwest Passage
  • Polar bear in the Northwest Passage
  • Bird in the Artic
  • Whale watching in the Northwest Passage
  • The majestic Caribou
  • Seals

Photo: Stefan Dall, Mark McDermott and Camille Seaman

Explore other destinations:

Alaska

The wild northern frontier

Antarctica

Explore this wild and wonderful frozen continent and see penguins, whales and seals in their natural habitat

British Isles

Wild beauty and historic sites

Caribbean and Central America

Tropical paradise off the beaten track

Europe

Magnificent cities and hidden gems

Greenland

The beautiful land of contrasts

Iceland

The mythical land of volcanoes and glaciers

North America

Historic towns and national treasures

Norway

Land of the fjords and Northern Lights

Norway Expedition

Norway’s wild and dramatic coastline is made for expedition-style adventure. Sailing here for almost 130 years, we’re the experts, showing you both its highlights and its hidden gems.

South America

Hunting for cultural treasures

Svalbard

Remote, mysterious and extreme

Transoceanic

Explore our transoceanic themed cruises