From spectacular scenery, remote archipelagos and breathtaking glaciers to polar bears, tight-knit communities and age-old traditions, a Canada or Arctic Circle cruise has plenty to offer.

New for 2019, Tauck Small Ship Cruising has added a seven-night expedition voyage north of Norway into the wildlife capital of the Arctic, exploring a remote archipelago of glaciers, fjords and ice floes as part of an overall 10-day tour.

On board Le Boreal, passengers go where the weather and wildlife lead, seeking out tiny Svalbard reindeer, walrus colonies, whales, Arctic foxes and puffins.

A wildlife filmmaker from BBC Earth is among experts on the cruise, sharing fascinating insights into this untapped world far above the Arctic Circle – the closest most of us get to the North Pole.

While the region is undoubtedly niche, there are plenty of selling points for UK cruisers, according to polar travel specialist Chimu Adventures.

Co-founder Greg Carter said: “The Arctic is a great option for British cruisers because it offers an amazing polar experience without having to travel as far – or incur the same expenses – as Ushuaia in Argentina to board a ship to the Antarctic.

“It is also a good choice for those who suffer from seasickness; Arctic waters are much calmer than those in the Antarctic. The relative proximity to the UK and price point and the incredible wildlife and scenery are also big draws for the Arctic and will help agents sell the destination.”

Canada and beyond

One Ocean Expeditions, a privately owned Canadian small-ship cruising company, offers unusual itineraries in the Canadian Arctic and Atlantic Canada and has a new ship, RCGS Resolute, joining the fleet next year.

The cruise line’s marketing and business development executive, Vicky Dowdeswell, said: “This is a unique region. Within the Arctic Circle, the High Canadian Arctic is home to extraordinary wildlife, from the majestic polar bear to the muskox, beluga whale and the elusive narwhal. It also has the fascinating history of early polar exploration and incredible cultural heritage of the Inuit that live there.

“As one of the last great wilderness regions on the planet, the glaciated scenery, soaring mountains and deep fjords of Baffin Island make it a haven for guests looking for a truly outstanding expedition.”

Operator Frontier Canada sells One Ocean Expeditions product in the UK, as well as offering small wildlife cruises in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Colombia and Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off British Columbia’s west coast, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Frontier Canada product and marketing manager Julie Thompson said: “Atlantic Canada has grown in popularity with our clients over the last few years, especially as other parts of Canada get busier and people want to see more of this vast country.

“Focusing on incredible wildlife viewing experiences such as the wild horses on Sable Island and golfing on some amazing courses makes it a very interesting product to sell.”

Canada, of course, is also the gateway for Alaska, which can only really be experienced by cruise ship.

Crystal Cruises’ senior sales and marketing manager Elaine Gillard said: “Alaska is always a popular choice for UK passengers and is a great selling opportunity for agents, as a cruise gives guests the view from the water. It’s the perfect destination to package together a cruise with a land stay or rail journey in Canada.”

Baffin Island, cruise, cruising, Arctic Circle, Canada,
Baffin Island

Example itineraries

Tauck Small Ship Cruising’s 10-day Spitsbergen Arctic trip includes a seven-night cruise into the Arctic Circle. Passengers meet in Oslo, then fly to Spitsbergen to join Le Boreal. The itinerary is flexible, although passengers can expect to see plenty of wildlife and perhaps the blue-tinted Monaco Glacier. There is only one trip planned in 2019 and prices start from £7,580pp. departing 24 June 2019. tauck.com

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has a 13-night Crossing the Arctic round trip out of Liverpool on Black Watch on 7 June 2019, calling at Trondheim, Leknes, Tromsø, Honningsvåg, Alta and Kristiansund, taking in the untamed scenes of the Lofoten Islands and the North Cape plateau, with the chance to marvel at the majestic Torghatten and Seven Sisters Mountains. Prices start at £1,749pp. fredolsencruises.com

Adventure travel specialist Wildfoot Travel takes keen photographers as far north as possible on a 13-night North Pole Adventure. The trip includes setting foot on the North Pole and visiting the remote Franz Josef Land archipelago to spot polar bears and other wildlife, with photography workshops and lectures along the way. From £22,700pp, disembarking on 23 June 2019. wildfoottravel.com

Chimu Adventures has an eight-day Arctic Unveiled charter cruise on board Ocean Atlantic, departing on 23 June 2019. The starting point is Longyearbyen, the northern-most city in the world, reached via Oslo, then exploring Spitsbergen. Passengers can expect to see bearded seals, walruses, the Arctic fox, pink-footed geese and polar bears. Cruise-only prices start at £2,927pp. chimuadventures.com