Witness the Northern Lights on a Luxury Cruise

Northn Lights - Tromso, Norway

Tromso, Norway – Northern Lights

The Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora Borealis) have fascinated people for centuries, and a Northern Lights cruise is the perfect way to discover their mysteries. Along with expert guides, you’ll explore the science and magic behind the Northern Lights.

And, because a cruise provides some of the best access to the dark skies, you’ll have the perfect vantage point to watch these amazing lights dance across the night sky.

The Aurora Borealis – What Are the Northern Lights?

Galileo coined the term Aurora Borealis in 1619. “Aurora” came from the Roman name for the goddess of the dawn and “Boreas” came from the Greek name for the north wind.

The Aurora Borealis occurs when particles from the sun collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. When this collision occurs, the Earth’s atoms and molecules release energy that cause the colorful lights. The more active the storms are on the sun, the more active the light displays are on Earth.

Depending on the location, this spectacle can take different shapes – from rays to currents to spirals – and display different colors – from vivid green and yellow to red, purple and blue.

Why See the Northern Lights on a Cruise

If you’re looking for a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience, you should add a Northern Lights cruise to your bucket list. Imagine watching the Aurora Borealis dance across the sky from the deck of a luxurious cruise ship. With excellent food, luxurious accommodations, and expert guides, you’ll have an unforgettable adventure.

Perfect Vantage Point

One of the benefits of going on an ocean cruise to witness the Northern Lights is that you’ll have the perfect vantage point. The odds of seeing the lights increase while on a cruise because you’ll have some of the best access to the dark skies (so much better than competing with city lights).

And, because there’s no predicting how long the light display will last – it could last minutes or hours (or return again later) – getting comfy on a lounge chair tucked under a blanket with a hot toddy in hand is a great way to settle in and wait.

Why You Should See the Lights in 2024 or 2025

Because of an increase in solar activity, the Northern Lights are expected to be especially brilliant and more active in 2024 and 2025.

According to scientists (those in the know), every 11 years or so the sun’s north and south poles flip which cause sunspots on the sun’s surface. When there are the highest number of sunspots – a “solar maximum” – the Aurora Borealis becomes the most active and bright.

If you’d like to experience the Northern Lights on a cruise, you should consider going in 2024 or 2025. These cruises are typically very popular; it’s best to reserve in advance.

Best Places to See the Northern Lights

The best places to view the Northern Lights are in high-latitude regions close to the Arctic Circle, such as Northern Europe countries, Alaska, and Canada.

This “auroral band” as it is known, stretches across Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, and Canada.

Best Time to See the Northern Lights

Knowing when is the best time to view the Northern Lights is difficult to predict as so much is dependent on the weather and solar activity. In general, though, the ideal viewing conditions are in remote locations away from light pollution, on cloudless and moonless nights when the skies are at their darkest, and where you can have sweeping views of the skyline.

A prime time to view the Northern Lights is in mid-March and mid-September, when the spring and fall equinoxes occur. The geomagnetic disturbances around these equinoxes can lead to stronger auroras.

Northern Europe:  The best time to view the lights in Northern Europe is between late September through the end of March or mid-April. This can depend on location; for example, the best time to view the Northern Lights in Finland begins at the end of August.

Alaska: The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is from September through April, when the days are longer and the skies are at their darkest.


Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Regent Seven Seas Explorer – Cruises to Alaska

Cruise Lines with Northern Lights Voyages

There are a number of luxury cruise lines that offer voyages during peak viewing seasons in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Alaska. This allows you to choose which cruise best fits your travel type.

While the Northern Lights will undoubtedly be the highlight of your cruise, there’s so much more to discover, whether you are in Alaska or Northern Europe.

In addition to viewing the Northern Lights, each of these locations offer other amazing natural wonders – from volcanoes to glaciers to picturesque villages. With your ship’s knowledgeable crew and expert guides, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore these wonders.

And, if you’d like to extend your vacation to dive deeper into these areas, many cruise lines offer guided shore excursions as well as extended land vacations, beginning in your arrival or departure port.

Best Cruises to Alaska

These cruise lines offer cruises to Alaska during prime viewing time in September during the fall equinox. They also offer voyages between May and August, although because of the longer days, there is less opportunity to view the lights.

  1. Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Cruises offers 7-night Alaska itineraries, departing from Seattle or Vancouver. Celebrity also offers longer Cruisetours – a combination of land and sea itineraries. A highlight of these tours is a scenic train ride from Anchorage to Fairbanks (one of the best inland locations to view the Northern Lights).
  2. Regent Seven Seas Cruises – Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers 7-night Alaska itineraries, departing from Anchorage or Vancouver and sailing between May – September, with several during the fall equinox.
  3. Silversea – Silversea offers multi-night Alaska cruises departing from Anchorage or Vancouver and sailing between May – September, including during the fall equinox.
Best Cruises to Northern Europe & the Arctic

These cruise lines offer luxury expeditions to Northern Europe during prime fall viewing time in September and October. Several also offer winter cruises, like Hurtigruten Expeditions.

  1. Silversea – Silversea offers Northern Europe & Arctic cruises, sailing between May and October. During the cruise, the ship’s captain might dim the lights to enhance the effect of the lights.
  2. Hurtigruten ExpeditionsHurtigruten offers Northern Lights itineraries across their fleet of ships, that sail the Norwegian coastline between September and March, featuring voyages during the darker months of winter.
  3. Quark Expeditions – Quark offers 14-day itineraries from Iceland to Greenland in September through early October. Most of their voyages are above the Arctic Circle, increasing your chances of viewing the Northern Lights. 

 What to Pack

You’ll want to pack appropriately for outdoor viewing on the ship and on while on shore excursions. You’ll also want to pack for onboard activities – everything from dressing for specialty dining to spa treatments.

Because these locations can vary in temperature, it’s best to bring clothes that can easily be layered. Consider bringing more long-sleeve tops than short sleeves. It’s a good idea to pack a lightweight jacket (a water-resistant one is even better) and maybe a down vest to layer over your tops. You might also want to tuck in a hat, scarf, and gloves, just in case.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring a swimsuit – not only for the onboard pools and hot tubs, but just in case you want to do a polar plunge!

Tips for Photographers

Don’t forget a camera (and yes, your phone will work), as the Aurora Borealis appears more vivid in pictures than to the naked eye. Because a camera can take a longer exposure, the images you capture will generally be a lot more colorful than what you actually see.

Hint: If you have a travel-ready tripod, it’s worth bringing it along.

Learn More About the Northern Lights

There are a number of websites where you can find information about what the odds are of seeing the Northern Lights. For example, if you’re considering an Alaska cruise, the University of Alaska offers an Aurora Forecast on their site.

There are also several apps you can download that offer forecasts on when and where the best time to view the lights is – both in the U.S. and Europe. A couple of apps to check out are: My Aurora Forecast and Aurora Borealis Forecast & Alerts.

Make Plans to View the Northern Lights

If witnessing the Northern Lights isn’t on your bucket list, it really should be. It’s truly a breathtaking sight and one of the most awe-inspiring displays that nature has to offer.

Plus, in the next few years, the chance of seeing them is even greater, making for a truly memorable experience. Whether you go on an Alaska or Northern Europe cruise, you’re guaranteed to have the adventure of a lifetime.

If you’d like more information about Northern Lights cruises – either in Alaska or Northern Europe, please fill out our “Contact Us” form and we’ll get in touch with you.

Comments are closed.