Natural phenomena and wonders of nature do not come much bigger than Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights. It’s little wonder why seeing the solar winds which occur usually on the doorstep of winter in the Northern Hemisphere sits so high on the bucket list of many people around Australia and the world.
While there is a lesser known or celebrated southern equivalent which at the right time of year can be seen from high latitudinal areas in Australia and New Zealand, its northern counterpart is more famous and sees greater numbers journeying to view them each year. This is largely due to Northern Europe benefiting from greater areas of land not affected by things such as mountains, forests or light pollution emanating from cities and towns.
The cruise industry is well set up to deliver ideal viewing opportunities for travellers, however due to their unpredictability, many of the big ship brands prefer not to cruise in these parts of the world and to instead remain in more reliable and regular markets. That’s not the case however with all brands.
We’ve taken a look at some of the cruises you can do from the Northern Hemisphere which will put you in prime viewing position for Northern Lights forecasts at either end of winter.
Several different ships in the Hurtigruten fleet operate year-round along the Norwegian coast between Bergen and Kirkenes, which in turn puts them in prime position each year to see the Northern Lights. This particular Scandinavian route is also the best one if the sole mission of your trip is to see this natural wonder. Hurtigruten also offers a Northern Lights Guarantee whereby if the ship records absolutely no sightings of the natural wonder over your cruise, you’ll be invited back to cruise again for free next year.
Provided you’re cruising at the right time of year, Hurtigruten’s Captain will announce over the ship’s loudspeaker whenever signs of the Northern Lights appearing become evident. The company operates weekly voyages between the two cities as well as opportunities to cruise round-trip from Bergen, as well as voyages which visit Iceland, Greenland and Arctic Canada.
P&O Cruises UK
The British sister line to our own P&O Cruises bases most of its fleet in the UK port of Southampton, from where many of its voyages originate. Unlike expedition cruise lines or those more attuned to operating a cruise focused on the destination, P&O Cruises UK is much like its Australian sister and far more of a traditional cruise brand which just so happens to venture into Northern Europe at the right time of year to see the Northern Lights.
However, while many cruise operators will aim to maximise viewing of the lights by being in the region in September or October each year as winter arrives, P&O UK schedules its voyages at the other end of the season when winter is ending and the frozen region thaws.
Three opportunities are currently on sale for travellers to see the Northern Lights. The ‘Norway & Northern Lights’ itinerary is a 12-night cruise on Oriana, departing 22 February 2017 from Southampton, visiting Andalsnes, Romsdalsfjord, Tromso, Alta and Stavanger. Inside cabins for this cruise are still available, priced from AUD$1,959 per person twin share. Another departure of this voyage is scheduled to run consecutively, on 06 March 2017, while it has been scheduled again for 25 February 2018.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
Another UK-based brand – Fred Olsen Cruise Lines – will venture into Northern Europe to show off the Northern Lights next year, with one departure of the 15-night ‘Norway Winter’ itinerary leaving Southampton on 20 January 2017. The cruise will be operated by the line’s mid-sized ship Balmoral, with cabins priced from AUD$2,742 per person twin share.
This particular voyage will berth overnight in Alta, Norway, which is considered one of the prime viewing locations for the Northern Lights. Other highlights include a chance to view prehistoric rock carvings in Hjemmeluft and to go dog-sledding. This cruise itinerary will also visit Alesund, Harstad, Tromso, Molde and Bergen, with late departures scheduled for each.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
As far as general availability for non-local ships cruising in Northern Europe in time for guests to view the Northern Lights, you’ll probably find the best availability on British line Cruise & Maritime Voyages, which operates a number of ships including Australia’s own MS Astor.
For such an in-demand product, CMV also offers several promotions to incentivise guests to sail the region on its ships. These include savings of up to 40% off the regular fare price or even two-for-the-price-of-one, valid on selected sailings. Three different ships – Astoria, Marco Polo and Magellan – run the itinerary, with stateroom prices starting from AUD$1,709 per person twin share.
The ‘Land of the Northern Lights’ itinerary ranges in length from 12-15 nights depending on their originating port and set sail from ports including London Tilbury, Bristol Avonmouth, Liverpool and Amsterdam. Ports visited during the cruise include Alesund, Narvik, Alta, Tromso and Bergen.