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Luxury Arctic Cruises: Explore the Arctic Circle in Comfort

The Arctic’s icy and remote wilds were once accessible only to intrepid explorers on months-long expeditions and the occasional tour group sailing aboard bare-bones ice breakers. 


Now, a range of travel operators sail the Arctic Ocean above 66°33′ north and into the Arctic Circle.


If you’re considering a journey to the far north, you’ll find there are options for every type of traveler. Luxury Arctic cruises—like the voyages designed by Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic—set the standard on every front, from the ship amenities and shore excursions to the service you enjoy throughout your journey. 


Above all, our small and nimble ships are purpose-built to take you deeper into this icy frontier for the most authentic and wild experience available at the top of the globe today.


Luxury Arctic Cruises

Guests travel by Zodiac in Nordfjord in Svalbard, Norway
Guests aboard a Zodiac explore the glacial waterfalls and emerald waters of Norway’s Nordfjord. Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins


A vast expanse of icy islands, scenic fjords, and massive icebergs, the Arctic stretches across eight countries, from Norway to the state of Alaska. An expedition to the Arctic once conjured images of rusty scientific research vessels and industrial fishing boats.


Fortunately, luxury Arctic cruises now sail this frozen realm, taking you deep into its wilds while offering all the indulgences of a premier travel experience, from fine dining and spa services to sumptuously appointed cabins and suites.  


Whether you want to see polar bears in Svalbard, encounter Inuit cultures in tiny coastal villages, or witness Iceland’s volcanoes and waterfalls, there’s an Arctic itinerary that will work with your interests and schedule.


What Does a Luxury Expedition Cruise Include?

On luxury trips to the Arctic, many cruise lines tack on additional costs throughout the journey, charging you extra fees for everything from kayaking and hiking excursions to your nightly cocktail and tips for the crew. 


We’ve kept it simple by structuring our prices to include everything you need for the full Arctic experience.


See what’s included on a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic voyage


There are myriad adventures waiting in the Far North. Here are some Top Things to Do in the Arctic.


Two people take photos of the plant life in Svalbard
A Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Certified Photo Instructor is aboard every Arctic voyage to help guests capture the best photos possible. Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins


Most Arctic luxury travel also includes the expertise of an expedition team, ranging from naturalists and historians to certified photo instructors. The insights and instruction they provide during presentations and in conversation will enrich your Arctic voyage.


If you choose a Lindblad-National Geographic expedition to the Arctic, you’ll enjoy the added benefit of traveling alongside National Geographic Experts — from top photographers who can help you capture incredible wildlife shots to researchers and adventurers who have spent years exploring our surroundings. 


Depending on the voyage, you may also be joined by fascinating local luminaries—from musicians to politicians—who offer insights into modern-day Arctic life.


A staff member pours wine at dinner on board National Geographic Resolution
The National Geographic Resolution features the Cook's Nook, where guests are treated to a zero-waste dinner experience, a highlight of our polar voyages. Photo: David Vargas


The cuisine on luxury expeditions is also elevated, with a variety of fresh fare that is locally sourced and sustainable when possible. For example, guests aboard our state-of-the-art polar ships are invited to dine at an intimate chef’s table featuring a specially crafted seven-course tasting menu.


Our dining experiences never incur additional costs and, with the exception of super premium wines and liquors, all snacks and beverages—alcoholic or otherwise—are always included.


Amenities offered on luxury ships can include everything from spas and swimming pools to white-gloved butler service, depending on the company you choose to explore with. Laura Macfarlane, who develops the Arctic itineraries for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, explains that the wellness areas on our vessels have been carefully considered: “We design our ships with luxuries like saunas and infinity hot tubs so travelers can relax and unwind during time at sea or after adventure-filled days.”


An igloo on board National Geographic Endurance
The infinity-edged hot tub aboard the National Geographic Endurance is the ideal place to relax after an invigorating day exploring the wilds of the Arctic. Photo: Oivind Haug


In addition to saunas, hot tubs, and fitness areas, our polar ships National Geographic Endurance and National Geographic Resolution are equipped with geodesic igloos that can be reserved for a unique night under the Arctic sky—perhaps with a glimpse of the aurora borealis. These two ships are also home to unique art exhibits that feature an array of paintings, sculptures, photos, and multi-media installations that showcase the grandeur and fragility of polar landscapes and add a powerful layer of insight to our voyages.


For comfort and safety in Arctic weather conditions, the proper gear is critical. Some luxury Arctic cruises provide gear to save guests the trouble and expense. 


We offer our guests a beautiful, high-quality parka—yours to use for the duration of the voyage, and then to take home as a prized souvenir of your adventure. Other bulky gear, like waterproof boots, are available to rent from our Ship to Shore service.


Learn what to wear on an Arctic cruise


Gratuities for the ship’s crew, hotel staff, and other members of the expedition team can add up, but there’s no need to worry about them on an Arctic voyage with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic—they are all included in the cost of your expedition. 


Staying connected while away from home is important to most guests, and internet access is often included on luxury Arctic cruises. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic provides free Wi-Fi—in addition to paid tiers for faster internet speeds—to all of our guests fleetwide.


What to Expect From Your Luxury Cruise?

A cabin on board National Geographic Resolution
Category 7 cabins aboard the National Geographic Resolution and National Geographic Endurance feature premier amenities in a more spacious atmosphere. Photo: Oivind Haug


Luxury small ship Arctic cruises offer comfortable accommodations, with cabins that feature amenities like climate controls,  hair dryers, and televisions. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic cabins are elegant retreats, featuring spacious sitting areas, in-room exploration tools, and incredible views of Arctic icescapes.


Our Suite Exclusives package includes additional amenities, such as priority booking for igloo stays and spa treatments, complimentary laundry service, an espresso maker, and a welcome gift.


Arctic voyages often include days at sea, and aboard our vessels, you can spend your downtime exploring the beautiful public spaces, filled with onboard exploration opportunities. 


Browse books on your destination in the ship library, watch for wildlife on the observation decks, or visit the open Bridge, where you can learn about navigation from our captains. Sea days also leave plenty of time to share a cocktail and conversation with new friends or naturalists in the lounge.


Daily activities on trips to the Arctic Circle are designed to engage guests of all ages and interests in everything from bird watching to kayaking. When it comes to exploring with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, Macfarlane says, “The diversity of experiences is unmatched due to the wide-ranging expertise among our expedition team members that lead activities.


Guests should also expect attentive service, with food and beverage, daily outings, and all other aspects of a luxury Arctic cruise.


Choosing Your Luxury Arctic Expedition

Reindeer walk on sheet ice with National Geographic Resolution in the background
A herd of reindeer welcomes the National Geographic Resolution as it stops along the ice edge in the Svalbard Archipelago. Photo: Alexandra Daley-Clark


Since the Arctic is one of Earth’s most remote destinations and can therefore be challenging to navigate, safety and experience should be on the top of your list when comparing luxury cruises to the Arctic.


Familiarize yourself with the ships you are considering and read up on their capabilities in Arctic conditions. It’s also key to consider how much experience an operator has working in these icy waters.


For example, Lindblad Expeditions has been exploring a wide swath of the Arctic, from Greenland and Svalbard to Arctic Canada, for over 50 years. Vessels like the National Geographic Resolution and National Geographic Endurance were specially built to sail in polar regions, with features like a reinforced hull and ice radar to safely move through the water. 


The number of guests on an Arctic Circle expedition will also impact your experience. Lindblad’s Arctic expeditions never carry more than 148 guests, and our small and powerful ships are able to explore more remote areas, with excellent maneuverability and trip flexibility, than large ships with hundreds—or thousands—of passengers.


Lindblad’s outstanding staff-to-guest ratio of no more than 1-to-16 ensures personalized service, and our exclusive partnership with National Geographic provides guests access to leading naturalists, noted historians, and certified photo instructors who know the Arctic well.


At our core, we want to share the wonders of this unique wilderness, which is why we believe Luxury Arctic Circle travel should adhere to environmental standards that help protect this pristine and fragile region. Lindblad Expeditions pioneered ecotourism—our expeditions are designed with sustainability at the fore, and we take every precaution to leave no trace of our travels.


Luxury Arctic Expedition Cruises

Three polar bears stand on sheet ice in Svalbard, Norway
Three curious polar bears stand on shimmering pack ice in Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago. Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins


Luxury Arctic cruise ships range in size, expertise, and amenities offered, and operators have varying degrees of experience.


Macfarlane points out that “it’s a formidable task going up above 80 degrees north.”  To ensure the best and safest experience possible, you want to choose an expedition company that has been exploring the region for decades and a veteran expedition team that has a deep understanding of these icy waters and landscapes. 


Since the Arctic is so vast, Arctic explorer ships sail to numerous locations and offer many different experiences. Iceland is relatively accessible and is known as the “Land of Fire and Ice” for its dramatic geological landscapes of volcanoes, waterfalls, and ice tunnels.


Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, is one of the best places in the world to spot polar bears. Greenland’s massive ice forms are impressive, and traveling the famous Northwest Passage through Arctic Canada offers the opportunity to see how Inuit people live.


Watch our Arctic webinar to learn about the range of itineraries we offer in this diverse travel region.


What is Considered a Small Ship Cruise?

The definition of “small” when it comes to cruise ships is constantly evolving as newer, bigger ships arrive on the scene. For example, Royal Caribbean is launching a ship in 2024 that will hold 7,600 passengers.


According to industry guidelines, a mega-ship can hold more than 3,500 guests; a large ship carries between 2,500 and 3,499 passengers; a mid-size ship has a capacity of 1,500 to 2,499 guests; small-to-mid-size ships fall in the range of 800 to 1,499 passengers; and small ships hold no more than 800 guests.


As you can imagine, the more guests aboard, the harder it is to ensure a high-quality experience which is why many luxury Arctic cruises sail with no more than 300 guests. The ships in the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic polar fleet are among the smallest operating in the Arctic, holding up to 148 guests.


Small Ship Arctic Circle Cruises

Guests on the bridge of National Geographic Endurance
The open-bridge policy aboard the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet gives guests ready access to our captain and crew and the best view in the house for spotting wildlife. Photo: Oivind Haug


When wondering what cruise ships go to the Arctic Circle, companies like Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic may come to mind as offering small ship Arctic cruises. Other companies that have Arctic expedition ships include Ponant, Hurtigruen, and Quark Expeditions.


Arctic Luxury Ship Charters and Private Expeditions

Private Arctic expeditions are another category of Arctic small ship cruises. Certainly qualifying as small ship Arctic cruises, chartering a polar-equipped ship or icebreaker yacht for a private expedition is an option if cost is not a concern—these experiences begin at around $200,000 per week.


Whether you seek a basic voyage aboard a functional vessel or an immersive experience that prioritizes in-depth exploration and supreme comfort, today’s Arctic traveler has an abundance of options to choose from. 


For these voyages of a lifetime, carefully consider all the items on your wishlist—from essentials like safety to comforts like gourmet cuisine—to help ensure a truly unforgettable experience in the far north.  


Explore our Arctic expeditions