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Iceland and Greenland Cruises

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Iceland Cruises and Greenland Expeditions

Cruise to Iceland or explore the most dramatic and awe-inspiring coastlines of Greenland. Alternatively, combine them both together in one trip!

Iceland and Greenland cruises are among the most coveted Arctic experiences of all, due to the exceptional rewards offered by sailing the strait of water that separates them. The Denmark Strait attracts an abundance of Arctic marine life and, along the coasts of both islands, are a nearly infinite array of dramatic fjords, inlets and coves that attract whales, walruses and seals in abundance.  If that’s not enough, the Denmark Strait has also been particularly rewarding for Northern Lights viewing on Arctic cruises in September and is set to remain right under the Auroral Borealis Oval Zone for the next few years, adding to the popularity of Iceland to Greenland cruises.

Iceland is both an Arctic destination of its own accord and about the best springboard for cruises to East Greenland, one of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring coastlines in the entire Arctic Region. The immensely wild nature of this coast and almost complete lack of human habitation means that cruising infrastructure is non-existent. If you want to cast your eyes on the magnificent wonders of East Greenland, therefore, you’re going to have to reach it by expedition ship and Iceland is the closest and best springboard, by far, to explore the spectacular eastern coast.

Given its modern and well-developed infrastructure, Iceland itself offers greater options. Yes, you can head west across the Denmark Strait to East Greenland, but you can also cruise solely around the Icelandic coast. A circumnavigation of Iceland, for example, is one of the most astonishing Arctic experiences of all because it offers a wealth of on-land historical and cultural experiences that are simply not available anywhere else. If you’d love feasting your eyes on exceptional Arctic wildlife but also delve deeper into the culture and amazing Viking history of this region, then an Iceland cruise itinerary that covers the entire coastline may be just the ticket for you.

FAQs

Can I see the Northern Lights on an Arctic cruise?

Yes, you can, but only if you travel to the right place at the right time of year – location and timing are the main prerequisites to Northern Lights viewing.

Location – Contrary to what many people believe, the Northern Lights are not visible everywhere in the Arctic Region but only in very specific places. These places are right below what’s known as the Aurora Oval Zone which, as the name suggests, is a ring-shaped area which has the magnetic North Pole at its core. The best viewing of the Northern Lights occurs at the very edge of this oval zone, not in the heart of it, which means the further you travel from the border (either south but also north), the dimmer the lights become until they are no longer visible. Moreover, you’ll need to be in a remote place (like, say, the middle of the Arctic Ocean aboard an Iceland and Greenland expedition cruise!) to be able to see the Aurora, as light pollution from cities can also easily wash them out.

Timing – You’ll need to experience at least a few hours of darkness if you hope to see the Aurora so that discounts the summer months of July and August which drench the Arctic with almost 24 hours of daylight. It’s for this specific reason that September is the ideal month for Arctic cruising if you wish to see the Northern Lights. Naturally, you’ll have plenty of chances as the year progresses however, you’ll need to plan for a land-based Arctic visit as cruises don’t depart during the winter months. Always do keep in mind that given this is a natural phenomenon, a sighting of the Northern Lights is never guaranteed.

What to see and expect on a Greenland cruise?

If you were to take just a quick glance at Greenland on a map, you’d swiftly realise that few places in the Arctic region can offer such a phenomenal array of sailing options. Stretching over 2,600km from north to south, and more than 1,500km for east to west, this astonishing land of ice and polar bears boasts over 44,000km of dramatic, rugged Arctic coastline. For this reason, Greenland Arctic cruise itineraries are divided into regions. The two main coastlines you can explore by expedition ship are the western and eastern seaboard, with specialised cruises concentrating either on the north or the southern stretches, depending largely on where they departed.

Greenland is as wild as the accessible Arctic could ever get. Only 60,000 people live in this enormously beautiful island, one that’s almost entirely covered by ice. Most of Greenland, in fact, is covered by the largest glacier on our planet: the spellbinding Greenland Ice Sheet. On a Greenland explorer cruise, you’ll meander whichever side of the coast you choose, taking daily Zodiac excursions to explore on foot (or by kayak) some of the most isolated, overwhelming and unforgettable wilderness on earth. On the east, explore the largest fjord system on our planet and, on the west, the whale hotspot of Disko Bay and a handful of remote communities where people manage to live and thrive against such startling odds. Greenland Arctic cruises are simply phenomenal – they’ll take you way off the beaten path and show you just how priceless and mesmerizing, this part of the world really is.

What to see and expect on an Iceland cruise?

Iceland is proof that not all great things come in gargantuan packages. Greenland’s smaller neighbour to the east may well be tiny in comparison but it is just as enticing. Revered for its picturesque volcanic landscape and for boasting some of the most beautiful glaciers, waterfalls and fjords in the whole Arctic Region, Iceland offers an altogether distinct experience. On Arctic cruises to Iceland, you’ll soak up the glamour of its ridiculously picturesque coastline whilst also soaking up plenty of culture and history to boot.

Due to its central location, ease of access and the fact that it offers so much, Iceland cruise itineraries are impressively varied. Aside from the above mentioned circumnavigation cruises, which really are amazing, you can also combine certain regions of Iceland with other destinations, namely the west coast with Greenland and eastern Canada (the golden 3-in-1 Arctic cruise deal) as well as Svalbard, over the northeast, which lets you explore the magical Westfjords, one of the best puffin-potting places in the world. A host of nature reserves and small seaside port towns offer an abundance of options for on-land excursions as well. Some of the most iconic spectacles on Iceland Arctic cruises are casting your eyes on sky-reaching glaciers, immense fjords, steaming geysers and some of the most jaw-dropping waterfalls you’ll ever see in your life. This is one truly spectacular island and you can expect to be utterly overwhelmed no matter which Iceland Arctic cruise you choose.

What to pack for an Iceland cruise?

You can expect a cold and windy climate on an Iceland cruise even if sailing in the heart of the northern summer. This is the Arctic, after all! Waterproof and windproof outerwear is perhaps the most important thing to pack as the strong Arctic windchill is a force with which to be reckoned. Be warned! Couple that with a bit of water spray when you’re out on inflatable Zodiacs and you can imagine how ‘fresh’ you’ll feel without proper gear. The weather, this far north, can be unpredictable, so you must have invaluable accessories like beanie, scarf and gloves with you, always.

Your walking boots should likewise be waterproof and have a sturdy, non-slip sole. On-land excursions on Iceland cruises involve walking over ancient lava flow, glaciers, ice, mud, snow, the lot – you need to have some serious grip when out and about in this country. Don’t forget to pack your swimmers (hello, natural geothermal pools!) and pack warm, practical and comfortable clothing to be worn under your raingear. If cruising Iceland, you may also want to pack one nice going-out ensemble as you’ll no doubt want to check out Reykjavík for a few days even before or after your cruise. There are some exquisite restaurants in the city you may just want to check out.

What to do on an Iceland and Greenland cruise?

An abundance of onshore activities brings the wilderness of the Arctic to life on Iceland and Greenland cruises. Although you need not be a world-class athlete to give everything a go, it certainly helps if you have a moderate level of fitness and plenty of agility to get in and out of inflatables and simply manages the at-times tough terrain on hiking excursions.

All Arctic expedition cruises to Iceland and Greenland include onshore landings, weather permitting. This means that landings are usually included in the itinerary, with the premise being dependent on the actual day’s weather. Cruising the Arctic in July and August is so popular because these two summer months promise the most ‘idyllic’ weather so very few cruises must bypass a spot due to bad weather. But don’t worry, your Captain and crew will always do their best to serve up an astonishing, up close and personal Arctic experience.

Aside from hiking nearby landing sites, usually replete with bird nesting sites and sensational scenery, you’ll also have the chance to join snowcat expeditions further inland, usually to visit extinct volcanos or spellbinding glaciers. Or, in the case of the extinct volcano glacier, Snaefellsjökull, both! You’ll also have the chance to try out kayaking (which is insanely beautiful in the calm fjords of both Iceland and Greenland) as well as snowshoeing, horseback riding and 4WD tours to nearby attractions you may want to see. Everything along this route is worth seeing, exploring and discovering so make a point to include as many extracurricular activities as you can, especially if you can’t envisage coming back here any time soon. Arctic cruises to Iceland and Greenland can be as active as you’d like them to be and although both the sailing itself and daily Zodiac ‘safaris’ offer an exceptional experience; you may want to indulge even more in this jaw-dropping part of the world.

Is it possible to circumnavigate Iceland?

It sure is and, between us, it’s totally awesome! Iceland is quite an insane little island and you won’t believe how action-packed a cruise here can be. This is since being quite compact and boasting fab infrastructure, Iceland’s many inland attractions are easily reached from the coastline and the nearest port of call. With its jagged coastline and volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers, thermal pools, geysers, lagoons, volcanic craters, lakes and icebergs, not to mention quaint fishing villages, museums and history POI, a circumnavigation cruise of Iceland offers the very best of the whole country.: a wonderful combination of cruising and land explorations. The main highlights of round-trip cruises in Iceland include visits to Hvalfjörður (famous for being both a whale station and naval station during WWII), the amazing Snæfellsjökull National Park (and its ice-capped volcano), the Westfjords (of course!) The UNESCO-listed Westman Islands and plenty more ‘local treasures’ you’ll want no-one else to discover

This land of exceptional contrast and stark Arctic beauty can be easily circumnavigated in under two weeks, with most itineraries lasting about 11/12 days. Cruises make a loop from/to Reykjavík and usually include at least one full day in the capital, although you’ll no doubt want to extend that by a few days. We can certainly help you find the right accommodation and organise connecting flights to the city from wherever you happened to be.

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Some of the main Attractions

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Huge Fjords

Sail into some of the largest fjords in the world and set your eyes on huge glaciers that drop straight into the sea. There's a total of 109 fjords in Iceland, spoilt for choice and far too many to explore on one cruise.

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Nordic Culture

Meet the Inuits of Greenland when docking at Hvalsey, one of the best-preserved Norse ruins. Here you will learn about Greenland's long cultural history.

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Whale Watching

Visit Húsavík, an Iceland destination famous for its whale watching and home to 24 species of whale. You may be lucky to spot fin whales, humpbacks and minke whales in Greenland, especially around the Disko Bay region.

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Aurora Borealis

Travelling on cruises early or late in the season increases your chances of seeing the northern lights. The longer the night, the higher the chance you will see the lights skip across the sky reflecting in the oceans.

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Musk Oxen

Landing at C. Hofman Halvø in Greenland gives you some of the best chances to see Musk Oxen. With long shaggy hair, they are perfectly adapted to life in the Arctic.

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Circumnavigate Iceland

Why not see it all on a trip that circles the whole of Iceland. Visit seaside towns, stunning fjords, meet the Icelandic people, step across the Arctic circle and visit The Land of the Elves.

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Our Vessels

MS Fram | Antarctic & Arctic Cruise Ship

max. 318 Passengers

MS Fridtjof Nansen | Antarctic & Arctic Cruise Ship

530 Passengers

L'Austral | Arctic & Antarctic Cruise Ship

264 Passengers

Ocean Endeavour | Antarctic & Arctic Cruise Ship

199 Passengers

M/V Plancius | Arctic & Antarctic Cruise Ship

116 Passengers

MV Hondius | Arctic & Antarctic Cruise Ship

176 in 83 cabins + 72 Staff & Crew Passengers

M/S Expedition | Antarctic Cruise Ship

134 Passengers