On this page we provide all the answers to the most common questions regarding Russian Arctic cruises. We can guarantee you'll have a fantastic time as the Russian Arctic is truly remote and unforgettable landscape.
If you have just started planning, we recommend reading through the whole page. Within each section you'll find links to more detailed pages.
We hope you enjoy your Russian Arctic cruise!
One of the least explored areas on earth, the Russian Arctic feels truly remote. You could almost have landed on another planet, one with few inhabitants.
Very few people can say they have travelled to this region. The narrow area between between America and Russian was, until recently, known as the ice curtain. Thanks to new politics and the retreat of summer pack ice in the Chukchi Sea, this unknown area is now possible to explore.
Because of its remoteness, wildlife thrives here. The Kamchatka region is a hotspot for brown bears, whilst Wrangel Island is a hotspot for polar bears. Very few cruises on earth offer the chance to see both species on the same trip.
Beside bears are the enigmatic seabirds that make the high coastal cliffs their home during the summer. Expect to see millions of puffins as you wander the shoreline. Walrus are also common and a favourite of many cruise goers as they haul up on the ice in large numbers.
What makes a Russian Arctic cruise so memorable though are the people and local history of the land. Many villages you visit only received electricity in the last 10 years and the locals hardly ever witness foreigners. Many of the communities still retain their fishing heritage that has lasted well over 400 years.
The isolated landscape, beautiful long days and magnificent wildlife makes the Russian Arctic ideal for photographers who want to document the unknown.
We know there is a lot to prepare before choosing and embarking upon your Russian Arctic cruise, so we have written this guide to help you. We hope you enjoy and find the information useful.
When cruising the Russian Arctic, always follow the guidelines set out by AECO and your guides.
Known for it's long, harsh winters and short fiery summers, Far East Russia is one of the most difficult locations unearth to reach.
In the winter the Ice Curtain prevails, making it practically impossible for any large scale cruise ship to venture into the region.
Therefore, summer is the only time when Russian Arctic cruises operate.
Thanks to the chocking ice, Wrangel Island can only be accessed during July, August, and September. By this period thousands of seabirds have arrived on the island making it their home for the warmer summer months. If you want to see polar bears on your Russian Arctic cruise then this is the time you must travel.
For people wanting to only explore the coastal region around Kamchatka, then there is a slightly longer window. Cruises to this region generally run from June through to late September. Early in the summer is the best for bird watching and you may even spot pods of orca that hunt the coast line for food.
Later in the summer is best for brown bear watching as the animals have feasted heavily on salmon and berries and are relaxing in the warm weather before hibernation. This is also a beautiful time for photographers as the autumnal colours give the landscape lovely glow.
The Russian Arctic is a remote part of the world and operating costs are therefore very high.
Because there are so few itineraries in the region, the price band is fairly limited. Expect to pay at least US$8,000 for a shared cabin and bathroom facilities on a basic research vessel.
For people who can afford to splash out a little more, prices go well above US$50,000 per person. Although most people cannot afford that, we find that spending a little more often creates a far more enjoyable experience.
After all, the Russian Arctic is a true once in a lifetime cruise. For people want ting to visiting Kamchatka and Wrangel Island in a private cabin you should expect to pay around US$25,000 per person.
Beside the main cruise cost, there are also a number of other cost factors to consider.
Other costs you will need to take into consideration is flights.
Most Russian Arctic cruises begin in Alaska. Because Alaska is also fairly remote, flight costs can be quite high. We would always advise budgeting at least a $1,000 per person towards flight.
If you do not live in a cold climate, you may need to purchase etra cold-weather gear such as base layers, parkas and shell jackets!
Expect to budget at least $500 for these extras if required.
A visa is also necessary for cruises visiting Russian and you will need to factor this cost in. You must also remember to apply at least 5 months in advance for the required visa.
Also factor in hotel costs and any other expenses such as laundry, drinks etc.
Unlike areas such as Alaska or Svalbard, there are actually very few cruises that travel to the Russian Arctic.
Therefore, if you're set on visiting this part of the world, you won't have to spend too long deciding which itinerary and ship to choose as options are very limited.
Below we have a quick overview of each element to consider. For a more detailed article, please hit the button.
When you decide to sail to the Russian Arctic will have an impact on what you see. Winter is out of the question, so you'll need to decide when in Summer you want to cruise.
For people wanting to see brown bears then late in the summer is your best opportunity. However, polar bears are active during the high Summer period. For the best of both worlds we suggest cruising in the middle of summer when most wildlife is active.
Another element to consider with is time. Most Russian Arctic cruises take over two weeks to complete, but the Northwest Passage option takes almost four weeks!
If you can only get a certain amount of time off work or with the family, then you'll need to consider this when deciding on your itinerary.
There are less than 10 itineraries to the Russian Arctic and many are very similar. The options boil down to whether you want to visit Wrangel Island, the Kamchatka coast or combine both.
There is also the option of visiting the Russian Arctic as part of a Northwest Passage cruise.
To decide which option will suit you most, the best advise is to think about what you want to get out of your Russian Arctic cruise. Do you want to see polar bears, brown bears, orca, dramatic landscapes, traditional culture? Deciding this will narrow your decision considerably.
The wildife youwant to see during your Russian Arctic cruise will also affect your itinerary choice.
If you want to see polar bears then you really need to include Wrangel Island.
To be blunt, if you love wildlife then you'll want to visit Wrangel Island. Here you will find pretty much every Arctic creature you can think of including musk ox!
For gauranteed sightings of orca, you'll want to choose the itinerary that also includes Alaska. For brown bears you'll need to visit Kamchatka (which most Russian Arctic cruises do).
Not all itineraries offer the same activity choices such as kayaking or camping.
However, because there are so few option to the Russian Arctic, most itineraries wil offer similar activity options. This is something to consider still though prior to booking.
Ships that sail to the Russian Arctic such as the National Geographic Orion, Le Boreal and the Sea Spirit, all offer very different cabin choices and types.
We suggest asking for pictures prior to booking. Most good specialists will be able to provide them for you.
Because there are so few cruises, you seriously need to book ahead!
Most people book at least one year in advance, if not two. This avoids disspointment and, if you're on a budget, gives you the best chance of snapping up the best early-bird deals.
Last but to least, you need to decide on the type and size of ship you want. Smaller expedition cruises offer more shore landings, but the larger more luxurious ships provide all the comforts of home.
Most cruises to the Russian Arctic are offered on luxury vessels, however, the research ship 'Spirit of Enderby' also cruises the Wrangel Island itinerary.
Because the Russian Arctic is so remote, wildlife thrives. The harsh landscape of Wrangel Island is renowned as one f the greatest wildlife spots on earth and supports an incredibly diverse ecosystem.
Hundreds of species of birds descend upon the island at the start of spring to make the tall cliffs their home for the summer. You can also see polar bears, arctic foxes and the huge musk ox grazing on the bleak tundra.
The Kamchatka region is also diverse in its wildlife with brown bears, moose, wolves and walrus that can be seen on the ice floes. For wildife lovers, a Russian Arctic cruise should be the near the top of your list!
The most iconic of all Arctic species can be seen in large numbers on Wrangel Island.
When whale carcasses wash up, it's not uncommon to see 20+ polar bears in one spot.
These large creatures are often seen hauling up on ice floes around Wrangel Island and the Chukchi Sea.
The largest population in the world can be found on Wrangel Island. Always a favourite of cruise goers.
These huge creatures can be found grazing on the bleak tundra on Wrangel Island.
Huge and stoic, musk ox make for great photos, especially when huddled together against the driving wind.
These cute looking creatures can often be spotted below cliffs seeking out bird eggs.
Seen frequently on Wrangel Island.
Brown bears are seen frequently along the Kamchatka coastline.
Most cruises also depart from Alaska where you'll have a chance to spot the grizzlys.
Grey whales and orca are commonly sighted along the coast.
If you're lucky you'll spot a pod of orca whilst kayaking!
Wrangel Island is a hotspot for birds. Millions of seabirds descend in spring to stay through the warm summer. Most notable is the puffin which photographers absolutely adore.
Mighty Stella eagles can also be seen along the Kamchatka coast.
Among the rarer species that are possible to spot but unlikely include wolves, lynxes, mink and otters.
The Russian Arctic is a magical landscape and one you won't ever forget.
During your cruise you'll see some amazing sights and wildife.
Throughtout the expereince you'll have your guides with you explaing everything and showing yout the best spots!
Wrangle Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and for good reason. The wildife on the island is quite simoly second to none.
You'll see bears, musk ox, walrus, arctic foves, eagles, owls and much more. The weirdest bit is that you could see all these creatures in just one day!
So get your binoculars ready as wildife watching does not get better than this!
Once aboard your Russian Arctic cruise you'll get daily shore landings to explore the landscape further. You'll also take specific zodiac trips to search out wildlife and get closer to the action.
Although not common, you may also be given the opportunity to kayak. This is a great way to get different angles on landcapes and even your ship. Make sure to book ahead though as this activity will be limited.
Photography is a major part of many people's visit to the Russian Arctic. The remote region, dramatic landscape and epic wildlife make the region a photographer's dream.
Although there is no midnight sun in this region, the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular, completely unblemished by any light pollution.
Most of the Russian Arctic cruises will provide a photography expert onboard. This person is extremely useful, even to experienced photographers.
The expert will show you the best spots to set up, teach you any basics you want to know and give guidance on how best to spot the wildlife. They will even help in the post-production of your photos should you wish.
Even though you will be travelling in the Russian Arctic summer, temperatures will still be fairly cold. During summer temperatures generally stay between 2-12 degrees celsius, however, when you add in the wind chill factor, it can feel much colder.
To enjoy your Russian Arctic cruise fully, you'll need to bring the appropriate clothing. If you live in a cold climate then you will most likely have the clothing already. However, for people from warmer climates, purchasing a few key pieces will probably be necessary.
For a detailed packing list that includes clothing, bags, footwear, accessories and camera gear, please click the button.
Clothing: Weather conditions are often cold and windy, especially on Wrangel Island. Wearing base layers, a fleece and a wind and waterproof jacket is key!
Footwear: You'll be making numerous wet shore landings on your cruise. You will therefore need the appropriate footwear to sea with this. Please see the packing list for details.
Headgear: From beanies to su glasses, you'll want o keep your head and face protected from the elements.
Gloves: Your hands will freeze first and must be kept warm at all times. We provide our list of the best gloves.
Bags and Daypacks: Travelling with camera gear, snacks and water is important. Make sure you bring a good backpack.
Important Accessories: From water bottles and adaptors to filters and ear plugs, our section on accessories covers everything you'll need.
A purely magical landscape of volcanoes and ice where brown bears, wolves, eagles and orca are seen frequently. Best seen in the autumn when the landscape glows in burnished gold and browns.
On the northern tip of remote Yttygran Island lies the area known as Whale Bone Alley. This evocative site is littered with whale bones that stretch all along the ancient aboriginal site.
The Bering Straight separates Russia and America by just 2.3 nautical miles. Look out for grey whales and take in the Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Isle, so named by the because they straddle the International Date Line.
Kolyuchin Inlet is so big it can be seen from space. A rugged and beautiful inlet the is home to thousands of waterfowl and migratory waders. At certain times you'll also spot walrus hauling out.
All along your Russian Arctic cruise you'll meet local communities that rarely see any foreigners. Many of these communities still adopt the old ways and live off the land.
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.