Without doubt one of the most epic expeditions on earth, the North Pole cruise is a once in a lifetime adventure.
Little known fact: the first human to ever reach the North Pole was only in 1948 – after centuries of failed attempts via sled, ship, aircraft and even balloon.
Luckily, these days it's a little easier. You can take a voyage to the far reaches of the North by way of the formidable 50 Years of Victory – a nuclear-powered (and safe) ice-breaker vessel.
The 50 Years of Victory has enough power to plow through thick multiyear pack ice. Hear the ice cracking and crunching as you steadily sail north to your ultimate goal - 90°N.
Not only this, you'll get plenty of shore landings on the islands leading to the North Pole. Once at the top of the world, you can explore a landscape that few people have ever seen. You can then expereince the North Pole like no other with a helicopter tour or hot air baloon ride. Have some champagne whilst looking down on the icy Arctic Ocean.
This memorable expedition to the North Pole is simply one of the greatest cruises in the world. You'll be one of the lucky 250 people who visit this point on earth each year. Just imagine adding your name to the small number of other explorers who’ve stood defiant on the top of the world before you.
To help you get the most out of your epic cruise, or to decide if this cruise is right for you, we have written a detailed guide below.
Below is a typical itinerary to the North Pole. Please note that visiting certain islands is not guaranteed due to the changing weather and ice formations. When sailing to the North pole, you sail by the weather's law.
Following your arrival into Murmansk, Russia, you will group with the other explorers at the hotel. The hotel is included with your voyage.
Boarding the 50 Years of Victory, you will set out on this tremendous and monumental journey north out of Kola Bay.
As you cruise aboard the Victory north-bound through the Barents Sea, you will experience a trip all on its own by taking a guided tour through the ship and witness the pure awesome power of her as she plows through gigantic ice-blocks.
The twenty-four hours of daylight in this region gives you the perfect opportunity for photos and wildlife watching. Keep watch for whales!
Sightseeing tours by helicopter will be available – just be sure to book early, so you don’t miss out. High in the air you'll be able to observe the Victory trampling through glaciers amidst the breathtaking splendor of this polar paradise.
You’ve arrived at the geographic North Pole – congratulations! The ship will drop anchor at the true 90 degrees point, before those on board are able to disembark onto the frozen waters and share a celebratory champagne.
This is the time to experience the much-anticipated rush of literally standing at the top of the world. You and your fellow explorers will ceremoniously join hands as you walk in a circle, known as the international Round Dance.
Hope you’re hungry – a barbeque meal will be served – on the ice, no less – where you will be given the opportunity to plunge head-first into the icy waters (if you dare!)
Here you will also have the opportunity to take a hot air baloon ride or helicopter trip (at additional cost and weather permitting). We strongly suggest doing this as you'll never get another chance!
Part of the Russian Arctic National Park since 2012, the Franz Josef Land archipelago is a wildly beautiful Polar utopia made up of 191 islands. Animals to be on the lookout for include polar bears, walruses and even certain rare whale species such as narhwal and beluga.
Dramatic mountain slopes line the region and are home to several colonies of seabirds including ivory gulls, dovekies and guillemots. Dailty trips via Zodiac or helicopter await you throughout this continuous-daylight region of the planet.
Other notable sites on Franz Josef Land include the strange spherical stones lining Champ Island, and the location of Cape Figely on Rudolf Island’s which is the most northern landmass in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Onward, you will literally explore the same routes as famous polar explorers gone before you. Among the list is Julius von Payer, Benjamin Leigh Smith, Frederick George Jackson, and Fridtjof Nansen. All these explorers kept detailed accounts of their journeys and are viewable by would-be explorers.
Lectures will be conducted outlying the foundings of Cape Norway, Cape Flora, Eira Harbour and Cape Tegetthoff. You will be delightfully inundated by the various memorials and monuments erected that stand as testimonies to these incredibly special polar expeditions of the past.
Additionally, you will make a stop of Tikhaya Bukhta – a National Park ranger station housed within old Soviet-era research facilities that also served as headquarters for numerous polar expeditions. Don’t forget to appreciate the dozens of colonies of seabirds located within interesting basalt cliffs of Rubini Rock.
You will cross back through the Barents Sea after exploring Franz Josef Land.
Numerous lectures and workshops will commence, followed by excellent amenities provided onboard including the polar library, a volleyball court and gym, two saunas, an actual seawater pool (warm) and several choices of massages.
Following that, go get some fresh air on deck, and don’t forget your camera – whale sightings are probable and always special.
After a lovely breakfast, you will disembark the ship and make your way to the charter flight awaiting you.
Whilst the wildlife at North Pole is sparse, Frans Josef Land offers up a diverse array of species that will keep photographers and wildlife lovers very happy!
Most notable among these is the polar bear. Although not always spotted, there is a good chance of seeing these majestic creatures.
Probably the animals most people want to see.
Huge and stoic, the polar bear is often seen around the Barents Sea area of Franz Josef Land.
Walrus are great fun to watch. They are also far bigger than many people imagine with the large males weighing twice what a male polar bear would.
Seen often on Heiss Island and other areas within the archipelago.
Arctic foxes can be spotted pretty much anywhere within the Franz Josef Land archipelago.
The best place to spot them is near nesting bird colonies.
Due to the high number of marine creatures, the waters around the Franz Josef Land archipelago are now a marine reserve.
Expect to see minke, humpback and beluga whales. If you're lucky you'll see narwhal and orca.
The Franz Josef Land archipelago is known for its seabird populations.
You'll see fulmars, Arctic terns, little auks and many more species!
Not including walrus, there are several species of seals found in the archipelago. These are the harp and bearded seal.
Of the two, the harp seal is far more common and you may be lucky enough to see a polar bear hunt one!
One of the greatest things you can do during your North Pole cruise is to take a hot air ballon trip!
This is a once in a lifetime experience that you won't forget. You'll get 15 minutes high above the North Pole looking down on the beautiful and icy landscape.
This activity does come at an extra charge and there is only 50 spaces per visit - so please book early!
The bleak landscape of the North Pole, mixed in with the dramatic landscape and wildlife of Frans Josef Land means that photographers won't be short on photo opportunities!
On top of this you'll get a dedicated photography workshop with one of your guides.
Your guides will also always be there to give you advise, show you the best shot and even help with the post-editing of your pictures.
The Franz Josef Land archipelago is a magical place for wildlife and one you won't want to miss.
We suggest bringing a good pair of binoculars to get the best out of the trip.
Expect to see polar bears, whales such as humpback and minke and Arctic foxes stalking the bird colonies.
One of the best bits about the North Pole cruise is the option to take helicopter trips.
Several of these trips are included in the price, but extra ones are also available.
This is by far the best way to understand the incredible landscape around you and get to grips with the geography.
As you well know, the North Pole is not a warm environment. this means wearing the appropriate clothing.
If you live in a cold environment already then you'll probably have the right clothes.
For people coming from warmer climates, you may well need to purchase some key pieces of clothing mentioned below.
Clothing: You'll need to consider items such as base layers, fleeces and shell jackets. A parka will be provided by your cruise operator.
Footwear: The right footwear is very important as you'll be making wet landings and also walking on snow/ice frequently.
Headgear: Keeping your head warm is paramount and you'll want certain headgear items such beanies.
Gloves: Bringing good-quality gloves is a must. your hands will thank you! Special photography gloves may also be needed.
Bags and Daypacks: You'll have some gear with during your shore landings such as snacks and photography gear. So you'll want a good day pack.
Important Accessories: From water bottles to ear plugs. There is a whole host of little accessories that will make your journey more enjoyable.
Bell Island offers up several fascinating historical sites such Benjamin Leigh-Smith’s expedition hut from 1881. The hut is in excellent condition and can visited by tourists. There is also an older Russian wood hut which may pre-date when the archipelago was discovered.
Because seals gather in the Cambridge Strait, polar bear are frequently seen here. If you're very lucky, you'll witness a hunt. Although it's rare for a polar bear to catch a seal, just seeing the hunt is fascinating.
Northbrook Island was a haven for Arctic explorers during the 19th and 20th centuries with over a 100 expeditions passing through. because of this, there are many remains here and crosses and memorial stones are scattered across the land.
Hall Island has a beautiful landscape and is common hiked when polar bears are not in the area. The island is a breeding ground for seabirds and the cliffs are teeming with species such as little auks and fulmars.
Champ island is famous for two things. Firstly, it's beautiful tundra flowers that are in full bloom during the summer. Secondly, and far more mysteriously, the island is home to large, perfectly rounded stones. These stones are a mystery and can be up to 2m in diameter!
This is a fascinating island as many Arctic explorers have passed through. It has wreaked havoc for many travellers and there are several shipwrecks around the island. An abandoned polar station also lies here.
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.
Because the North Pole cruise is so remote and requires a nuclear powered ship, cruises costs are understandably high.
Thee are 5 types of cabins and these range from $28,600 for a basic twin up to $45,000 for a suite.
There is no real fitness required for this cruise.
There will be numerous shore landings in which you will walk short distances to see wildlife and historical remains. The fitter you are, the easier this will be. You can stop at any time and remain on the ship should you wish.
Very few North Pole cruises depart each year - generally around two or three. Because of the pack ice, the cruises depart in high Summer. Cruises will always be during June and take several weeks. For a detailed page on when to visit the Arctic, please click here.
Below is a short video by the Great Canadian Travel Group showing the wonders of a North Pole cruise!