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Northern Lights Cruise – Tips For An Unforgettable Experience


by Melodie Keyes



Welcome aboard on an extraordinary adventure amidst the breathtaking beauty of nature – a Northern Lights Cruise. Witnessing the celestial spectacle of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that captivates the imagination and leaves a lasting impression.


Embarking on a Northern Lights Cruise offers a unique opportunity to combine the excitement of a luxurious cruise with the wonder of witnessing nature’s most enchanting light show. Imagine sailing through icy fjords, surrounded by pristine landscapes and starry skies, as the vibrant hues of green, purple, and pink dance across the horizon.


To ensure an unforgettable experience, careful planning and research are essential. Choosing the right time, selecting the best cruise route, and finding the right cruise operator are just a few factors that contribute to an exceptional Northern Lights adventure. Additionally, packing the right essentials, understanding how to spot the lights, and capturing the magic on camera are crucial to making the most of this extraordinary journey.


In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the key aspects of planning a Northern Lights Cruise. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first cruise, we will provide you with valuable tips and insights to make your experience truly unforgettable.


Choosing the Right Time for Your Northern Lights Cruise

Selecting the perfect time for your Northern Lights Cruise is crucial for maximizing your chances of witnessing this mesmerizing natural phenomenon. While the Northern Lights can be seen from late August to early April, there are a few factors to consider when planning your trip.


The ideal time to embark on a Northern Lights Cruise is during the winter months when the nights are longer and the skies are darker. The months of September, October, February, and March are generally considered prime viewing times, as they offer a higher probability of clear skies and optimal aurora activity.


It is important to note that the Northern Lights are a result of solar activity, specifically the interaction between charged particles from the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field. Therefore, choosing a time when solar activity is at its peak increases your chances of seeing a stunning display.


Keep in mind that weather conditions can greatly affect your ability to see the Northern Lights. Clear skies are essential, so avoiding months with heavy cloud cover, such as November and December, can improve your chances of catching a glimpse of the auroras.


Another factor to consider is the location. Cruising to destinations closer to the Arctic Circle, such as Norway, Iceland, or Alaska, provides a higher likelihood of spotting the lights. These regions are situated within the “auroral oval,” an area where the Northern Lights are most frequently observed.


Additionally, timing your trip around the phases of the moon can enhance your Northern Lights experience. Planning your cruise during a new moon or a waxing crescent moon phase will ensure darker skies, allowing the auroras to shine even brighter.


Lastly, it’s important to be flexible with your travel dates. The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and their appearance cannot be guaranteed. Consider allowing a few extra days in your itinerary to increase your chances of witnessing this magical spectacle.


By carefully selecting the right time for your Northern Lights Cruise, you can greatly enhance your chances of experiencing this awe-inspiring phenomenon in all its glory. Remember, patience and flexibility are key, and Mother Nature’s vibrant performance will be worth the wait.


Selecting the Best Cruise Route

Choosing the best cruise route for your Northern Lights adventure is essential for a truly remarkable experience. The route will determine not only the destinations you visit but also the chances of witnessing the Northern Lights in all their glory.


One popular route for Northern Lights cruises is along the Norwegian coast. Cruises that sail from Bergen to Kirkenes and back offer a fantastic opportunity to explore picturesque towns, fjords, and the Arctic wilderness while keeping an eye out for the lights. The Norwegian coast is renowned for its pristine natural beauty and is located within the prime aurora viewing zone, increasing your chances of witnessing the Northern Lights.


Another captivating route is navigating the majestic waters of Iceland. Cruising along the Icelandic coastline allows you to explore the country’s surreal landscapes, including glaciers, volcanic formations, and geothermal hot springs. While the Northern Lights can be visible throughout Iceland, opting for a cruise that focuses on the northern regions, such as Akureyri and the Westfjords, offers a higher chance of encountering the auroras.


For those seeking a more remote and adventurous experience, an Arctic cruise can be an excellent choice. These cruises often embark from Tromsø, Norway, or Longyearbyen, Svalbard, and venture into the icy realms of the Arctic Circle. Sailing through the frozen wilderness, surrounded by glaciers and wildlife, provides a unique opportunity to witness the Northern Lights in a truly awe-inspiring setting.


When selecting a cruise route, consider not only the destinations but also the duration of the voyage. Longer cruises often provide more opportunities for Northern Lights sightings, as they cover a larger area and spend more time in prime aurora viewing locations. Additionally, look for itineraries that offer nighttime sailing, as this increases the chances of viewing the lights away from light pollution.


Researching the cruise itinerary and consulting with experienced travel advisors can help you choose the best route based on your preferences, desired experiences, and time constraints. Whether you opt for a Norwegian coast, Icelandic, or Arctic route, each promises its own unique blend of natural wonders, cultural treasures, and, of course, the mesmerizing Northern Lights.


Finding the Right Cruise Operator

When embarking on a Northern Lights Cruise, finding the right cruise operator is paramount to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. The cruise operator plays a vital role in crafting your overall experience, from providing expert guidance to offering top-notch amenities and services.


First and foremost, look for cruise operators that specialize in Northern Lights cruises. These operators typically have a deep understanding of the best routes, optimal viewing times, and the specific needs of passengers seeking to witness the auroras. Their expertise and experience can greatly enhance your chances of encountering the Northern Lights and provide invaluable insights throughout your journey.


Another crucial factor to consider is the quality and comfort of the cruise ship. Look for cruise operators that offer modern, well-equipped vessels with spacious cabins, comfortable amenities, and panoramic viewing areas. A well-designed ship will not only enhance your comfort but also provide ample opportunities to enjoy the stunning Northern Lights from various vantage points.


It’s important to research and read reviews about the cruise operator you are considering. Pay attention to feedback regarding the quality of the onboard lectures and presentations, as these are often informative and provide insights into the science and folklore behind the Northern Lights. Additionally, check for positive reviews regarding the crew’s knowledge, professionalism, and willingness to go the extra mile to ensure passengers have a memorable experience.


Consider the onboard amenities and activities offered by the cruise operator. While the main focus may be on the Northern Lights, a well-rounded cruise experience includes a range of entertainment options, spa facilities, fitness centers, and dining choices. These amenities can add a touch of luxury and relaxation to your journey, creating a perfect balance between adventure and comfort.


Lastly, consider the size of the cruise ship. Smaller, boutique-style ships can provide a more intimate and personalized experience, allowing for closer interactions with fellow passengers and crew members. On the other hand, larger ships may offer a wider range of onboard facilities and entertainment options. Consider which type of ship aligns with your preferences and travel style.


Taking the time to research and choose the right cruise operator sets the foundation for an unforgettable Northern Lights adventure. A reputable cruise operator with a focus on customer satisfaction, expert knowledge, and exceptional service will ensure that every aspect of your journey, from embarkation to disembarkation, is seamless and unforgettable.


Packing Essentials for Your Northern Lights Cruise

When preparing for your Northern Lights cruise, it’s essential to pack wisely to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Here are some must-have essentials to include in your suitcase:

  • Warm Clothing: Norway, Iceland, and other Northern Lights destinations can have chilly temperatures, especially at night. Pack plenty of warm layers, including thermals, sweaters, fleece jackets, and waterproof outerwear. Don’t forget hats, scarves, gloves, and thick socks to keep you cozy during outdoor activities and aurora viewing sessions.
  • Sturdy Footwear: Invest in a good pair of waterproof and insulated boots for exploring icy terrains. Opt for boots with good traction to ensure stability and safety during excursions.
  • Camera and Tripod: Capturing the mesmerizing Northern Lights requires a good camera with manual settings and a sturdy tripod. This will help you shoot crisp, long-exposure photos. Make sure to bring extra memory cards and batteries as the cold weather can drain battery life quickly.
  • Binoculars: To fully appreciate the beauty of the Northern Lights, pack a pair of binoculars. They will allow you to see more details and enhance your overall experience during the cruise.
  • Power Adapters: Depending on your destination, you may need power adapters to charge your electronics. Research the type of adapters required and pack them accordingly.
  • Swimwear: While it may seem counterintuitive, some cruise ships offer onboard heated pools and jacuzzis. Packing swimwear will allow you to relax and unwind even in freezing temperatures.
  • Medications and First Aid Kit: Remember to bring any necessary medications, as well as a basic first aid kit. It’s always better to be prepared for any unexpected minor injuries while on the cruise.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to pack some entertainment options for downtime on the ship. Bring books, games, or other activities to keep yourself engaged during the voyage.


Keep in mind that most Northern Lights cruises involve some excursions and outdoor activities. Pack a small backpack or day bag to carry essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, and sunglasses during these outings.


Lastly, don’t forget your travel documents, including passports, visas, cruise tickets, and travel insurance details. It’s essential to keep these important documents readily accessible and protected from moisture.


Packing the right essentials ensures that you are well-prepared to embrace the adventure and beauty of the Northern Lights. Remember to dress in warm layers, bring necessary equipment for capturing the auroras, and pack a few extra comforts to make your cruise truly enjoyable.


Onboard Activities and Amenities

A Northern Lights cruise not only offers the opportunity to witness the magical auroras but also provides a range of onboard activities and amenities to enhance your overall experience. Here are some highlights to look forward to:

  • Expert Lectures and Presentations: Many Northern Lights cruises feature onboard experts who give educational lectures and presentations about the science, folklore, and cultural significance of the Northern Lights. These talks provide fascinating insight into the phenomenon, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of this natural wonder.
  • Aurora Viewing Decks: Most cruise ships have specially designed viewing decks or open-air spaces that offer unobstructed views of the night sky. These decks are equipped with blankets, hot drinks, and comfortable seating, allowing you to witness the Northern Lights in a cozy and welcoming environment.
  • Spa and Wellness Facilities: Relax and rejuvenate at the ship’s spa and wellness centers, which often include indulgent treatments, saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs. After a day of exploring, pamper yourself and unwind with a soothing massage or a dip in a relaxing pool.
  • Onboard Entertainment: Many Northern Lights cruises feature live music performances, dancing, and other forms of entertainment. Enjoy lively performances by talented musicians, singers, and dancers, adding a touch of excitement and cultural experiences to your voyage.
  • Gourmet Dining: Indulge in a culinary journey with a variety of dining options onboard. Most cruise ships offer multiple restaurants, ranging from casual buffet-style dining to elegant fine dining experiences. Explore various cuisine options and savor delectable dishes inspired by local flavors and international cuisines.
  • Outdoor Activities: Some cruises include outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, dog sledding, or reindeer sleigh rides in their itineraries. These adventures allow you to immerse yourself in the Arctic landscapes and experience the magic of the region beyond the ship.
  • Nighttime Entertainment: After a day of aurora hunting, immerse yourself in the ship’s lively nightlife. Enjoy themed parties, live shows, dance performances, or simply relax with a drink and socialize with fellow passengers in the ship’s bars and lounges.

It’s important to note that the availability of specific activities and amenities may vary depending on the cruise operator and ship. Check the cruise itinerary and onboard facilities to ensure they align with your preferences and interests.


Whether you choose to indulge in spa treatments, enjoy captivating lectures, or immerse yourself in the onboard entertainment, the variety of activities and amenities onboard will keep you engaged and entertained throughout your Northern Lights cruise.


Tasty Cuisine and Dining Options

A Northern Lights cruise is not just a feast for the eyes but also for the taste buds. The dining options onboard offer a delicious array of cuisine, ensuring a culinary experience to remember. Here’s what you can expect in terms of tasty cuisine and dining options:


1. Gourmet Restaurants: Most Northern Lights cruises feature multiple gourmet restaurants with diverse menus catering to various palates. These restaurants offer a range of culinary delights, from international dishes to locally inspired cuisine. Immerse yourself in a culinary journey, savoring expertly crafted meals prepared by skilled chefs.


2. Buffets: Buffet-style dining is a popular option on Northern Lights cruises. These all-you-can-eat spreads feature a vast selection of dishes, including hot and cold options, salads, soups, and decadent desserts. Buffets provide flexibility and variety, allowing you to choose from a wide range of flavors and cuisines.


3. Specialty Dining: Some cruises offer specialty dining options, allowing you to indulge in unique culinary experiences. These specialty restaurants may focus on specific cuisines such as seafood, steakhouse fare, Asian fusion, or farm-to-table dining. These intimate venues provide an opportunity to savor carefully curated menus and exquisite flavors.


4. Local Cuisine: Depending on your cruise destination, you will have the chance to sample local specialties and traditional dishes. Explore the authentic flavors of the region, immersing yourself in culinary traditions that highlight local produce, seafood, and cultural influences. Don’t miss the opportunity to try regional delicacies and local ingredients during your Northern Lights adventure.


5. Room Service: If you prefer to dine in the comfort of your cabin, many cruise ships offer room service. Whether you want breakfast in bed or a late-night snack, room service allows you to savor delicious meals and enjoy the privacy of your own space.


6. Dietary Restrictions and Preferences: Cruise ships are equipped to cater to a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences. Whether you follow a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or other specialized diet, the onboard dining venues can accommodate your needs. Prior to your cruise, inform the cruise operator about your dietary requirements to ensure a seamless dining experience.


7. Wine and Spirits: Pair your meals with a selection of fine wines, cocktails, and other beverages available onboard. Enjoy a glass of Champagne while watching the Northern Lights, or indulge in a craft cocktail at one of the ship’s bars. Many cruises offer wine tastings and mixology classes, allowing you to explore and expand your palate.


From gourmet dining to local cuisine and a range of dining options to suit every preference, a Northern Lights cruise promises to satisfy any culinary craving. Immerse yourself in a world of flavors as you embark on this unforgettable adventure.


Expert Tips for Spotting the Northern Lights

Spotting the Northern Lights can be a thrilling and magical experience. Here are some expert tips to improve your chances of witnessing the mesmerizing auroras during your Northern Lights cruise:


1. Check the Aurora Forecast: Stay updated on the aurora activity by checking the aurora forecast regularly. Websites, mobile apps, and local weather services provide real-time information on the predicted aurora intensity and the likelihood of visible auroras in your area. Plan your aurora viewing sessions when the forecast indicates a higher chance of activity.


2. Stay Away from Light Pollution: The Northern Lights are more visible in dark and remote locations with minimal light pollution. During your cruise, try to find spots away from city lights and other sources of pollution. Visit the ship’s designated viewing spots or join guided excursions to locations with optimal viewing conditions.


3. Be Patient and Persistent: Spotting the Northern Lights requires some patience and luck. Be prepared to spend several evenings outside, waiting for the lights to appear. Stay motivated and keep trying even if you don’t see the auroras on the first night. Persistence can pay off and increase your chances of witnessing this natural phenomenon.


4. Dress Appropriately: Dress warmly in layers to stay comfortable during your aurora hunt. Wear thermals, a heavy coat, hats, gloves, and warm socks to protect yourself from the cold. Consider wearing dark clothing to minimize reflections and distractions while observing the luminous auroras.


5. Be Mindful of Weather Conditions: Clear skies are crucial for optimal Northern Lights viewing. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and try to plan your aurora adventures on nights with the lowest chance of cloud cover. If the weather is unfavorable one evening, remember that the lights can still appear on subsequent nights, so stay hopeful.


6. Choose the Right Camera Settings: If you want to capture the Northern Lights on camera, familiarize yourself with your camera’s manual settings before your cruise. Use a sturdy tripod to ensure steady shots, and set your camera to a high ISO, a wide aperture, and a long exposure time to capture the vibrant colors and movement of the auroras.


7. Follow the Aurora Activity: The Northern Lights can be unpredictable, and they can appear at any time during the night. Keep an eye on the horizon and look for signs of increased activity, such as faint green glows or wisps of light. Pay attention to the guidance of onboard experts or local guides, as they have experience in tracking and spotting the Northern Lights.


8. Relax and Enjoy the Experience: While it’s thrilling to capture the Northern Lights on camera, don’t forget to immerse yourself in the moment and simply enjoy the experience. Take breaks from photography to fully appreciate the beauty and awe-inspiring nature of the auroras. Let the dancing lights mesmerize you and create lasting memories.


Remember, spotting the Northern Lights is a natural phenomenon, and even with the best planning, there are no guarantees. Stay positive, be patient, and embrace the adventure of searching for these celestial wonders. Whether you witness them or not, the journey itself will be filled with wonder and excitement.


Capturing the Northern Lights on Camera

The Northern Lights, with their dazzling colors and ethereal movements, provide a captivating subject for photography. Here are some expert tips to help you capture the beauty of the auroras during your Northern Lights cruise:


1. Use a Tripod: To capture sharp images of the Northern Lights, it’s crucial to use a sturdy tripod. This will keep your camera steady during long exposure shots, reducing the risk of blur caused by hand movements. Ensure that your tripod is stable and set up on a level surface.


2. Master Manual Settings: Shooting in manual mode will give you greater control over your camera settings. Start by setting a high ISO, such as 800 or higher, to allow for faster shutter speeds in the low light conditions. Experiment with different shutter speeds, typically between 5 and 30 seconds, to capture the vibrant motion of the auroras.


3. Wide Aperture: Opt for a wide aperture (e.g., f/2.8 or lower) to capture as much light as possible. This helps to keep your ISO lower and reduces noise in your images. A wider aperture also creates a shallow depth of field, allowing you to focus on the distinct details of the Northern Lights.


4. Manual Focus: Set your lens to manual focus and focus on a distant object or star before the auroras appear. Since it can be challenging to autofocus in low-light conditions, manual focus will ensure that your subject remains sharp. Use the infinity focus point on your lens for best results.


5. Bracket Your Shots: When shooting the Northern Lights, it can be challenging to get the exposure just right. To overcome this, try bracketing your shots by taking multiple exposures with different settings. This will give you a range of exposures to choose from later, allowing you to select the image that best showcases the colors and intensity of the auroras.


6. Experiment with White Balance: The Northern Lights often display a range of colors, from vibrant greens to purples and pinks. Experiment with different white balance settings, such as “Daylight,” “Auto,” or “Custom,” to capture the true colors of the auroras. Trust your eyes and adjust the white balance to match what you see in the sky.


7. Capture the Surroundings: Don’t forget to incorporate the stunning surroundings into your Northern Lights photographs. Frame your shots with interesting foreground elements, such as mountains, lakes, or trees, to add depth and context to your images. This will create a more compelling composition and highlight the beauty of the location.


8. Stay Patient and Experiment: Capturing the perfect Northern Lights shot requires patience and experimentation. Be prepared to spend time outside, waiting for the best moments to photograph. Experiment with different camera settings, compositions, and techniques to capture unique and breathtaking images of the auroras.


Remember, photographing the Northern Lights requires practice and a bit of luck. Embrace the journey of capturing these mesmerizing lights and let your creativity guide you. Enjoy the process and be open to experimenting with different techniques to create truly stunning images of the Northern Lights during your cruise.


Safety Precautions and Emergency Procedures

Ensuring your safety and well-being during your Northern Lights cruise is of utmost importance. Here are some essential safety precautions to keep in mind and emergency procedures to be aware of:


1. Follow Crew Instructions: Pay close attention to safety briefings and instructions provided by the crew. Familiarize yourself with the ship’s layout, emergency exits, and muster stations. If an emergency occurs, listen carefully to crew members and follow their directions promptly and calmly.


2. Dress Appropriately: As you embark on outdoor activities and aurora-viewing sessions, dress appropriately for the cold weather conditions. Layer your clothing to stay warm and consider wearing thermal or insulated gear. Don’t forget to wear sturdy footwear with good traction to prevent slips and falls.


3. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: It’s important to stay hydrated and nourished during your cruise. Drink plenty of water and eat regular meals to maintain your energy levels. Cold temperatures can sometimes mask dehydration, so make a conscious effort to stay hydrated throughout the day.


4. Be Cautious during Excursions: Take caution while participating in excursions and outdoor activities. Follow all safety guidelines provided by guides and instructors. Stay within designated areas and respect wildlife and natural habitats. It’s better to observe animals from a safe distance and refrain from any behavior that may disturb them.


5. Know the Risks of Cold Environments: Familiarize yourself with the risks associated with cold environments, such as hypothermia and frostbite. Learn to recognize the symptoms of these conditions and take appropriate measures to prevent them. If you experience any concerning symptoms, promptly seek medical attention from the ship’s medical staff.


6. Stay Safe on Icy Surfaces: When walking on icy surfaces, exercise caution and walk slowly. Use handrails whenever available, and be mindful of your footing. If the surface is particularly slippery, consider using ice cleats or traction devices to improve your stability.


7. Adhere to Wildlife Guidelines: When encountering wildlife, adhere to the guidance provided by guides and crew members. Maintain a safe distance and avoid approaching or touching wild animals. Remember, your presence should not disrupt their normal behavior or habitat.


8. Be Prepared for Emergencies: Familiarize yourself with the ship’s emergency procedures, including the location of life jackets and evacuation routes. Make note of the muster station assigned to your cabin, and carry your identification and necessary travel documents with you at all times.


9. Travel Insurance: Before embarking on your cruise, ensure that you have adequate travel insurance coverage. This will provide protection and assistance in case of unforeseen circumstances or emergencies.


If you encounter any safety concerns or require assistance during your cruise, promptly report them to the ship’s crew. They are trained to handle emergencies and will take necessary actions to ensure your comfort and security.


By following these safety precautions and remaining vigilant throughout your Northern Lights cruise, you can focus on enjoying this extraordinary adventure while ensuring your well-being and peace of mind.



Embarking on a Northern Lights cruise is a remarkable journey that offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, adventure, and cultural immersion. From the moment you set sail to the anticipation of witnessing the awe-inspiring auroras, this experience is truly unforgettable.


By carefully considering the timing of your cruise, choosing the right cruise route and operator, and packing the essential items, you set the stage for a successful Northern Lights adventure. From there, it’s a matter of patience, flexibility, and embracing the magic of the moment.


As you navigate the icy fjords, explore stunning landscapes, and search for the vibrant lights dancing across the night sky, remember to take in the surroundings beyond the Northern Lights. Delight in the gourmet cuisine, indulge in onboard amenities, and partake in the various activities and entertainment offered on the ship.


During your Northern Lights cruise, keep in mind the safety precautions and emergency procedures to ensure a secure and enjoyable journey. Stay prepared, heed the advice of the crew, and take care of yourself and your fellow passengers.


As the journey draws to a close, the memories of witnessing the Northern Lights will linger in your heart and mind. The vibrant colors, the celestial dance, and the sense of wonder will forever be ingrained in your travel repertoire. The Northern Lights are a natural wonder that leaves a profound impact on all who are fortunate enough to witness them.


So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first cruise, embrace the adventure, open yourself to the beauty of nature, and prepare to be captivated by the mesmerizing brilliance of the Northern Lights. Your Northern Lights cruise promises to be an extraordinary experience that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.