C​ANADIAN ARCTIC CRUISE

COMPLETE GUIDE TO CRUISING THE CANADIAN ARCTIC

Our aim on this page is to provide you with all the information you need to have a great cruise to the Canadian Arctic. We also provide loads of links to more specific information. If you're travelling to Canada as part of a longer cruise, no problem, the information below will still be very relevant.

The Canadian Arctic is truly one of the most unforgettable cruise destination and we know you'll have an unforgettable trip!

Below we have answered the questions we get most from readers. If you're still in the planning stage then we recommend bookmarking this page to come back to it in the future.

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Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

​Canadian Arctic Cruise: The Complete Guide

​Overview

Far to the north of Canada lies the Canadian Arctic archipelago. Made up of the over 36,000 islands, the landscape is truly one of a kind and simply unforgettable. A Canadian Arctic cruise will sail through these islands, taking in the majestic scenery and incredible wildlife on offer.

On your cruise you shut expect to see fjords, towering glaciers, and local Inuit culture. In terms of wildlife, you could spot polar bears, musk ox, walrus, artic foxes, millions of seabirds and wide variety of whale including the beluga or white whale!

If its history you're after then look no further as you'll be greeted with many archaeological remains and the rich history of the early explorations to discover the fabled Northwest Passage. From Amundsen, Baffin and Franklin, your cruise guides will tell their stories and bring to life their expeditions in ways you can't imagine.

Throughout your Canadian Arctic cruise you'll be greeted with sights, sceneries and wildlife that you never expected. Very few people explore this remote landscape and you'll be captivated by the wild and rugged feeling that envelops you.

We know that there are a lot of things to think about when deciding on your perfect Canadian Arctic cruise, so we have listed everything below. From pre-trip planning, to choosing the right itinerary and travel insurance.

​Best Time To Cruise The Canadian Arctic

​A Canadian Arctic cruise can only be completed in the summer season.

The higher temperatures in summer melt the ice-floes, allowing access to the thousands of islands that make up the Canadian Arctic archipelago.

Generally temperatures range around 10 degrees celsius and the sun stays above the horizon 24 hours a day during the peak month of July.

​Summer

When you go during the summer period largely depends on what you wish to  see. For people looking to follow in the steps of the great explorers such as Franklin and Amundsen and complete the fabled Northwest Passage, you'll need to travel in July or August when the channels have opened up completely and are free of ice.

 Early summer is also a great time to see polar bears stalking the coast for food and walrus hauling out on the ice. Wildflowers are in bloom and the entire area looks stunning. Pods of beluga whale are common sightings in July, as are humpbacks and narwhal.

However, if whales are your main purpose for your Canadian Arctic cruise, then later in the season around August/September is better. During this period many species can be seen including minke, bowheads, sperm whales, and the mighty blue whale.

​Winter

​Winter in the Canadian Arctic is very cold. The ice chokes up the Northwest Passage, making it impossible for ships to navigate. 

There are however winter land based tours to places like Churchill.

During these tours you can dog sled and take nature walks under the stars. The most notable element of these winter tours is​witnessing the majestic Northern Lights!

Churchill is actually one of the top three spots in the world to see the Northern Lights with an incredible average of 300 nights of Aurora activity per year! ​

​Types of Expedition Ships

​Deciding what size/type of ship you want to travel on is hugely important.

Do you want a large ship with all the mod-cons? Or do you want a cheaper, smaller research-style vessel?

Both have their pros and cons. Large ships offer better facilities whilst smaller ships can access smaller bays and inlets.

Other options to consider include​ on-board facilities, staff ratio, activities, and food quality.

​Research Vessels

​The cheapest option for a Canadian Arctic cruise is to sail aboard a research-style vessel. 

​Although once used for research, these ships have been turned into expedition cruise ships.

As expected, the accommodation and facilities are basic, however, you do get a great sense of adventure aboard these ships.

Although basic, research ships are often small and can navigate small inlets easily.  

​Expedition Ships

​Expedition-style ships ​are often purpose built to suit adventurous-style cruising. 

Although not luxurious, you'll generally get a gym, library and excellent lounge space.

Cabins won't be enormous, but they will be comfortable and often provide sea views. 

Expedition ships are very popular as they find a nice balance between luxury and research whilst not breaking the bank. 


​Luxury Cruises

Luxury cruise ships offer all the comforts of home whilst still maintaining that adventure feel. 

Expect several restaurant options, gym, sauna, library and good-sized rooms.

Although these are luxury ships, they are still expedition-style vessels and you shouldnt expect pools and cinemas!

Also bear in mind that luxury ships tend to be bigger than others and you may not get as many shore landings. 

​Canadian Arctic Cruise Cost

As mentioned above, Canadian Arctic cruises are not cheap. This is largely to do with the high costs of operating a cruise in a remote landscape.  

The bare minimum you should expect to pay for a Canadian Arctic cruise is at least $3,000. This would be a basic 8 day cruise with shared cabin and facilities.

This does not mean that the cruise will be poor. You'll still visit stunning locations and witness wildlife that you have never seen before.

​Other Cost Considerations

​Beside the main cruise cost, there are also a number of other cost factors to consider. 

​Solo Travelers

​Flights

​Gear

​Visa and other Misc. Expenses

Choosing The Right Cruise

The Canadian Arctic offers a wide range of cruise itineraries. Deciding on your perfect Canadian Arctic cruise can therefore be daunting and somewhat difficult. Don't worry though, this is why we're here.

To help you decide, we always ask the same question; what do you want to get out of your cruise?

This is the most important question as you don't want to be disappointed with your trip. Do you want to see whales, polar bears, musk ox, dramatic landscapes, icebergs? Or perhaps you want an itinerary with loads of activities like diving, kayaking and dog sledding?

Deciding this will get you well on the way to deciding on your perfect Canadian Arctic cruise.

  • ​When
  • ​How long
  • ​Where
  • ​activities
  • ​cabin type
  • ​book ahead

​​Please book ahead. We really can't stress this enough. 

Canadian Arctic cruises book up well in advance. To avoid dissapointment we suggest booking at least one year in advance. Many people book earlier than this. 

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

​Canadian Arctic Cruise: Wildlife

​​The Canadian Arctic is truly a wildlife lovers dream.

Of all the places in the Arctic region, Northern Canada and the archipelago of islands offer the most diversity.

Baffin Island is generally considered to be the best location for wildlife, often being referred to as the 'jewel of the High Arctic'. There are over 70 specie of bird that nest on the island and polar bears, wolves, caribou and whales are common sightings.

On Ellesmere Island musk ox roam the grasslands and Arctic foxes hunt the coastlines for bird eggs.

​Types of Wildlife

​Polar Bear

Canadian arctic wildlife polar bear

​​Without doubt the most iconic creature to room the Arctic.

Polar bears are frequently spotted throughout the Canadian Arctic, particularly around Baffin and Ellesmere Island though.

​​Walrus

Canadian arctic cruise wildlife walrus

​​Fabulously fun creatures to watch, walrus are spotted all around Baffin Island and many of the smaller islands that make up the larger archipelago.

​Musk Oxen

Canadian arctic cruise wildlife musk ox

​​​Huge, stoic and mesmerising, the musk ox can be seen grazing on Ellesmere Island.

When standing near one you'll get a shock as to just how big they are!

​Arctic Fox

Canadian arctic cruise wildlife fox

​​​Although not white in the summer, the Arctic fox is a favourite of many travelers.

Witness the creatures hunting lemmings and bird eggs along the coast.

​Arctic Wolf

Canadian arctic cruise wildlife wolf

​​​Two species of wolf can be found on Baffin Island: the Arctic wolf and the Baffin Island wolf.

Both species hunt alone and can be spotted at any point on the island.

​​Whales

Canadian arctic cruise wildlife whales

​​​Whales are exceptionally prevalent throughout the Canadian Arctic archipelago.

Species such as beluga, humpback, minke, bowhead and blue whales are seen frequently. Baffin Island is also a great place to the see the rare narwhal.

​Arctic Seabirds

Canadian arctic cruise wildlife puffin

​Huge numbers of coastal birds live on Baffin Island including the Snow Goose, Gyr Falcon, Long-tailed Skua, King Eider, Sabine’s Gull and Brunnich’s Guillemot.

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​​Canadian Arctic Cruise: Things To Do

​Because the Canadian Arctic is such a large region, there are countless activites and things to see. ​

Visit Inuit cultures, swim with whales, watch a polar bear hunt or kayak among huge icebergs, the options are endless!

​Some of the most remote islands sit within the Canadian Arctic and are home to incredible wildlife such as the huge Musk Ox!

Read below to get a little more information. 

​The Northern Lights

things to do on a Canadian Arctic cruise - Northern lights

With over 300 days of aurora activity a year, Churchill is one of the top three places on earth to see the majestic Northern lights!

Take a winter wonderland tour where you'll see the lights every single night.

During these tours you'll also visit Inuit communities, take wildlife walks under the stars and even dog sled!

​Photography

Canadian-arctic-cruise-photography

For many visitors to the Canadian Arctic, photography is one of the main draw cards.

The abundance of wildlife coupled with the dramatic scenery makes it ideal for great photo opportunities. The constant light also means that photographers can spend more time doing the thing they love.

Luckily, most expedition cruises will have a photography expert onboard. ​They often know the best spots and great framing options at certain locations.

If you haven't photographed in a cold location there are certain things to know and the experts will hopefully take you through these things. ​

​​Wildlife Watching

things to do on a Canadian Arctic cruise - wildlife watching

​​​Because the Canadian Arctic has such a wide and diverse range of wildlife, you'll be constantly on the lookout for the next sighting!

Expect to see polar bears, musk ox, seabirds, whales and much more.

You'll need to decide on your itinerary prior to departure as not every creature will be seen on each itinerary. 

​​Kayaking and Zodiacs

things to do on a Canadian Arctic cruise - kayak

​​Many Canadian Arctic cruises will offer extra activites aboard your ship. 

Kayaking is one of the most popular of these options. It allows you to get close to the wildlife and view ice formations from angles not seen from the ship.

You'll also get many zodiac trips during your cruise which will allow you to go ashore and explore the flora and fauna. 

​​Scuba Diving and Snorkelling

things to do on a Canadian Arctic cruise - scuba

​​Although it's not everyones cup of tea due to the cold waters, scuba diving is offered on select Canadian Arctic cruise itineraries. 

One of the best options is just off Baffin Island where you'll witness an underwater eco-sytem that few others ever have. You will need to be a certified diver and have expereince in cold water.

Snorkelling in Hudgson Bay is also offered. You'll get to see beluga and narwhal if you're lucky. 

​​Camping, Skiing and Hiking

things to do on a Canadian Arctic cruise - camping

Additional activities such as camping, skiing and dog sledding are frequently offered on Canadian Arctic cruises. 

These will generally come at an additional cost, however, we think it's well worth it!

There are few times in your life where you will ge the opportuity to camp out on the ice or take a pack of snow dogs on a sled run. 

Canadian Arctic Packing List

Although you will be cruising in summer, the Canadian Arctic is still cold. Day time temperatures stay around 10 degrees celsius whilst night time temperatures can get far colder.

There is also the wind which greatly decreases the outside temperature.

Because of this, bringing the right clothing is paramount. You'll enjoy yourself far more if you're comfortable and warm during your cruise. I

If you live in a cold environment then you'll no doubt have the necessary clothing. However, for people coming from a warm climate, you may ned to purchase a few items.

Items you'll need to consider before sailing are as follows:

​Items To Consider

Clothing: ​Cold weather means layering up. We recommend a base layer, shirt, fleece and outer jacket to protect from the wind and rain.

Footwear: ​Because you'll be making wet shore landings, you'll need to bring specific boots on your cruise. Standard hiking boots won't cut it I'm afraid!

Headgear: ​Because you lose most of your heat through your head, seeing your head warm with a good beanie is very important.

Gloves: ​Your hands will freeze before any other art of your body. Purchasing a good pair of gloves is therefore paramount.

​Bags and Daypacks: ​Travelling with camera gear, water bottle and snacks require a good day pack.

Important Accessories: ​From water bottles and zip-locks to spare batteries and ear plugs, there are tons f accessories that will make your Arctic cruise that much more pleasant.

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Canadian Arctic Highlights

Baffin Island

Canadian-arctic-cruise baffinisland

​Baffin Island is jewel of the High Arctic and legendary gateway to the Northwest Passage. The island is a paradise for wildlife with over 70 species of bird, polar bears, walrus, wolves, caribou and numerous species of whales.

​E​llesmere Island

Canadian-arctic-cruise ellesmere island

​The tenth largest island on the planet, Ellesmere is another haven for wildlife. This is the best place to spot musk ox grazing on the grass during summer. You can also spot polar bears and walrus hauling up in the ice floats.

​Beechey Island

beechey-island

​If it's history you're after then Beechey Island may just be the best spot. Retrace the Pathways of Franklin and his expedition. Beechey Island is the location in which the famous expedition wintered in 1885/86 during their search for the Northwest Passage.

​Northwest Passage

canadian arctic cruise northwest passage

​The most legendary cruise route is now a reality. Because of global warming, the pack ice, which has stopped expeditions for years, has now melted enough to allow large cruise ships through. Discover Inuit settlements, wildlife and dramatic scenery as you travel through one of the most famous passages on earth.

​Hudson Bay

canadian arctic cruise hudson bay

​Hudson Bay is the world's second largest bay and without doubt the best place to see beluga whales! Thousands enter the bay during summer and many boat trips are geared towards this event. Also expect to see polar bears roaming the coast line in search of food.

​Leopold Island

prince-leopold-island

​Although a bleak looking island, the 300m cliffs are truly dramatic, especially when visited up close on a zodiac! The island is an important breeding ground for birds such as thick-billed murres, northern fulmars and black-legged kittiwakes.

Arctic Cruise Insurance

​In our article – Arctic Travel Insurance – we have provide all the information you need to find your perfect insurance policy. Alternatively, you can get a quote straight away with our rcommended specialist below. ​

Canadian Arctic Cruise Video

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