Monday, April 8, 2024

Alaskan Cruise To See The Northern Lights

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Best Time To Witness The Northern Lights

UNBELIEVABLE!!! Northern Lights in the skies from an Alaska Cruise!

The best time to witness the Northern Lights is in the dead of winter, from 11:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., with peaks around 1:30 or 2:30 a.m. However, some say you can catch a brief glimpse of the Northern Lights 240 nights a year, especially during March, September and October. Your best hope is for a clear, cloudless night. Other ideal times include the equinoxes around September 22 and March 22. According to the Geophysical Institute, spring is twice as good as the fall for clear skies, with the best viewing around the new moon in March. The last two weeks of August and first three weeks of September are usually the clearest, if you must come in the fall.

Youll meet a lot of nature lovers aboard an Alaskan Northern Lights cruise. There are honeymooners, photographers and veteran travelers whove seen it all. A magical glimpse of the green, blue and red lights is an unforgettable experience. In addition to the Northern Lights, Alaskan cruises offer a glimpse at rarely seen wildlife like polar bears, seals, whales and reindeer. The changing of the seasons bring wildflowers in the springtime and colored leaves in the fall, but you can also see never-melting glaciers rising up out of the arctic waters.

When To View Aurora Borealis

Northern lights dance across the sky all year round, but we are able to see it only on a dark and clear night. So the season stretches from late August through to late April. Winter being the best season is a myth. You can spot absolutely stunning aurora borealis displays in September or October, as well as March or April. The best time to look for the shimmering lights is between midnight and 2 am.

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Quark Expeditions Under The Northern Lights

This two-week voyage that begins in Reykjavik, Iceland, not only provides prime northern lights viewing opportunities but does so among some of the most stunning vistas on the planet. Eight of the 14 days are spent exploring Greenlands eastern coast, which is home to the most extensive and arguably the most beautiful fjord systems in the world.

The Ocean Adventurer is a 1A polar-class vessel that operates with a crew of 87 and can accommodate 128 passengers. Cabins are fairly straightforward in their amenities. This voyage is certainly not one for those seeking to lounge around in the lap of luxury if youre one who puts more stock in the adventure that awaits at the destination than the comfort of the journey to get there, this is right up your alley.

Speaking of adventure, this may be the only cruise line operating in the Arctic that has a polar bear plunge scheduled on each of its northern voyages . Other activities include Zodiac excursions for close-up views of icebergs, whale watching, and guided Arctic hikes across the frozen tundra.


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You Can Cruise Alaska Anytime Between April And October

The weather in Alaska can be unpredictable and challenging , so youll always be at the mercy of Mother Nature. Winter is a strict no-go, so the cruise season typically runs from the end of April to the beginning of October . Not only is this six-month window the safest time for cruise ships to sail, but it also means avoiding the freezing months of January and February when the earth has tilted and theres hardly any sunlight. For those lucky enough not to be restricted by school term times, one of the best times to travel is in May and early June not least for the wildflowers blooming along the Inside Passage, the migrating wildlife, and the chance to see icebergs and snowdrifts just before the breakup turns it into a melting and slushy mess. Equally standout are the peak summer months for glorious light-filled days when the sun simply refuses to set, temperatures that range from 60°F to 80°F , and rainfall that wont ruin your sightseeing . This is also when cruise-goers make the most of ship facilities such as outdoor pools, sun decks, and swim-up bars.

Glacier National Park :

Alaskan Northern Lights Cruise 2017

Glacier National Park has been a bucket list item for me to explore and very soon I just might get the chance to do this.

And one more reason Im very excited about going there is that the Northern Lights can be viewed there.

One of the major reasons why Glacier National park is excellent for this is because:

  • The skies are very clear there.
  • The nature is astoundingly beautiful.
  • Its also close to the Canadian Rockies where the Northern Lights are even more commonly see.

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What Is The Best Time To Go On A Northern Lights Cruise

Seeing the northern lights on a cruise isnt guaranteed . But you will increase your odds of seeing the northern lights by being in the right place in the Arctic Circle at the right time.

The arctic viewing season for northern lights cruises is from late September to late March/early April, though the best months are December through March, when there are the longest hours of darkness and many clear night skies. Generally, skies are clearest near the spring and fall equinoxes in later September and March. Some late September/early October Alaska cruises can include northern lights sightings as well.


Cunard Norway And Northern Lights

Departing Southern England and crossing the North Sea, Cunards Queen Victoria sails along the Norwegian coastline and travels as far north as Tromsø, which lies approximately 250 miles inside the Arctic Circle. With its late autumn/early winter timing, this cruise falls well within the recommended window of opportunity for viewing the northern lights.

The Queen Victoria is one of the larger vessels making the Northern Europe excursion, measuring almost 1,000 feet in length and accommodating over 2,000 passengers and nearly 1,000 crew members. As far as taking in the aurora borealis, this voyage not only puts guests in the right place at the right time, it also does so on a grand scale and with a level of comfort matched by only a few others.

While viewing the northern lights would certainly qualify as one of the highlights of this cruise, operators and travel sites do caution that the appearance of the aurora borealis during the voyage, however likely it may be, is not guaranteed. Fortunately, if ever there was a surefire way to get over the disappointment of missing the northern lights, it would be a week and a half aboard Cunards Queen Victoria.


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Hurtigruten Roundtrip Cruise Of The Norwegian Coast

This cruise line specializes in Norwegian excursions and operates ships year-round. As Norway is considered by many to be the capital of northern lights viewing, Hurtigruten offers several cruises highlighting the opportunity to experience the aurora borealis.

This Norwegian cruise line is so committed to ensuring that its passengers see the northern lights and confident it can deliver on this commitment, it even offers a guarantee either the northern lights appear during the cruise , or Hurtigruten will provide a 6 or 7-day cruise free of charge.

With over half of its 34 Norwegian ports of call located north of the Arctic Circle , the odds would seem to be in favor of Hurtigruten not needing to pay out on its northern lights guarantee.


Types Of Northern Lights Cruises

Searching Alaska for the Northern Lights in 360 video

Find an itinerary from cruise companies, such as Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Holland America, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, Niche Cruise Lines and Cruise West. Cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas or Celebrity offer world-class cuisine, with local dishes like seal or Alaskan salmon. Your bedding accommodations on the upscale lines include the most comfortable linens and more spacious cabins.

Mainstream ships like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival offer more onshore activities and on-board entertainment options. However, you may have a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights if you take a smaller cruise like Cruise West.

The most popular itinerary is the inside passage cruise which departs from Seattle, Victoria or Vancouver and features breathtaking scenery before stopping in port of calls like Juneau, Seward, Ketchikan, Skagway, Whittier, Haines or Sitka. The Fairbanks area is the most likely place to see the Northern Lights on any given night, but you can also spot them close to Anchorage in the north or Ketchikan in the south.

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Cruising Is A Great Deal

Alaska is a large state and a vacation here can get expensive. Taking a cruise can be the least expensive way to see the best of in a short amount of time. Airline tickets from the continental US to Anchorage average $400 round trip during the summer months and the round-trip ferry ticket from Bellingham, WA to Ketchikan is $500 per person and then you need to pay for a rental car, hotels, meals, etc. A cruise gives you a great overview of the state at a great price which includes lodging, onboard activities, meals, and transportation. You can also add on an excursion in each port which gives you a more in-depth look at the area.

Even without the ports of call, an Alaskan cruise is a beautiful journey. The Inside Passage is one of the most scenic waterways in the world with towering mountains, glaciers, and numerous islands. There are cruises with a wide variety of itineraries ranging from 7 to 14 nights, plus select sailings have Kids Sail Free program and onboard credit incentives to save you money.

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Iceland Greenland And Eastern Canada Cruises

Roughly a thousand miles from Scandinavia and Northern Europe are Iceland and Greenland, both of which have caught the attention in recent years of travelers seeking to experience the northern lights. These island nations lie within the Arctic Circle between Northern Europe to the east and Eastern Canada to the west.

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Vacations To The Northern Lights In Alaska

Alaska is a seasonal cruise destination, with major cruise ships passing through the state between early May and late September. The Northern Lights are brilliant colors that flash across the dark night sky, invoking a sense of wonderment in any spectator who has ever seen them. Even though the best chance to see the lights is the dead of winter, scientists and cruise passengers say its possible to spot the phenomenon any time of year.

The Best Time To See The Northern Lights On An Alaska Cruise

2022 Alaska Northern Lights Tour

Aurora Borealis is the kind of scientific phenomenon that most people seem to either know everything about or nothing at all. I must admit until I became interested in global cruising, I dont think Id ever heard of this natural wonder with the weirdest of names. But if you are thinking of cruising to Alaska in this lifetime, I am practically begging you to learn just a little bit about the Borealis, because you may want to plan any entire life-changing Norwegian Cruise Line vacation around it.

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Scientists Are Getting Better At Predicting Northern Lights

It was not long ago that experiencing the northern lights in person was a hit-or-miss proposition where a successful excursion was more the result of happenstance than employing anything remotely resembling the scientific method.

Today, however, scientists have made great strides in:

  • Understanding the causes of the northern lights
  • Predicting when and where they will occur
  • Predicting the intensity of those occurrences

For instance, the Space Weather Prediction Center, managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provides 30-minute aurora forecasts for both the northern and southern hemispheres, along with percentage probabilities of viewability and predicted intensity.

Based largely on measuring waves of solar energy as they track toward the earths magnetic poles, the scientific community has effectively taken the guesswork out of venturing to the auroral oval to catch a glimpse of the northern lights .

As with so many things in the modern world, when it comes to predicting the visibility of northern lights in the auroral oval, the best advice is to keep a smartphone handy because a real-time northern lights forecast is just a few clicks away.

What Do I Pack For A Northern Lights Cruise

For fall and winter, when sightings of the Northern Lights are more common, layering is key.

A large coat or puffer jacket is helpful, but the true secret to staying warm is layering. Thick wool socks and not airy fabrics are important in keeping heat trapped in and closer to the body.

When in doubt, wear one more layer than you think you need. Remember: you can always take off another layer, but if you didnt bring one to begin with, you might find yourself battling the cold.

Beanies, hats, hoods, gloves, and hand warmers are all good ideas, too.

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Voyageurs National Park Minnesota

Located on the international border of Minnesota and Ontario, Voyageurs National Park is an approximately 218,000-acre labyrinth of boreal forests, lakes and streams. Voyageurs is Minnesota’s only national park it’s also unique in that, for much of the year, the water-based park’s interior is accessible only by water. As a certified International Dark Sky Park, Voyageurs provides opportunities to view the Milky Way on clear evenings, especially in the summer. Year-round aurora viewing is also possible on evenings with clear dark skies, but the best time to see the show is during the winter.

For a custom guided tour to view the nighttime lights display, including the Milky Way and the constellations, you can hire Voyageurs Outfitters. If you’re on your own in the park, campsite docks offer some of the best spots for northern lights viewing and stargazing. You can also check out Voyageurs Forest Overlook, Beaver Pond Overlook and the Kettle Falls Dam area for top-notch views. Those who prefer to sleep in a warm, cozy bed and not camp in the park under the stars can make reservations at the Cantilever Distillery + Hotel, a boutique Trademark Collection by Wyndham property in the nearby town of Ranier, Minnesota.

Northern Lights Viewing Tips

Fairbanks, Alaskas Northern Lights

Each fall as the midnight sun wanes and the night skies get darker, theres one question that we hear the most: how do I see the northern lights in Alaska?

We hear you loud and clear. Witnessing these bright colors dance across the sky is one of the most magical experiences ever. It makes you stand up straight, your mouth fall open and maybe just maybe, your eyes tear up.

The best time to see the aurora borealis in Alaska is from Aug. 21 to April 21. We call it the Aurora Season. So yes, there are some very lucky cruise passengers who will see the northern lights in the Inside Passage late in the summer and fall, but dont bank on it. Southeast Alaska is a temperate rain forest, so precipitation and cloudy skies are more common. Typically, the farther north you go, the better chance you have.

If youre in Anchorage, yes, there are weather-dependent tours that will let you know ahead of time the probability of seeing the northern lights that night. Book one, and let the experts tell you if its worth losing sleep.

If youre farther north in Talkeetna or Denali, Alaskas Interior, your chances improve. And if youre in Fairbanks or the Arctic, you have the best shot at witnessing the aurora. The region lies underneath the Auroral Oval, a ring-shaped zone where northern lights activity is concentrated.

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If Youre Interested In Wildlife Viewing

In addition to having the warmest temperatures, June and July are the best months to see the humpback whales when they migrate to Alaskas Inside Passage. But as long as nature parks and trails are on your itinerary, you can pretty much count on spotting wildlife from late May through mid-September. Angling to get an up-close look at a grizzly bear? Take a guided tour into Denali National Park and keep your eyes peeled for these solitary giants along rivers and among blueberry bushes, where they like to feast. In Ketchikans Tongass National Forest the largest national forest in the country be on the lookout for deer, seals, black bears and bald eagles. And in Skagway, you can mingle with a playful team of huskies and take part in the traditional practice of dog sledding, still Alaskas state sport.

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Where To See The Northern Lights Outside Alaska

With its Arctic location, Alta, Norway, calls itself The City of Northern Lights.

Altas credentials include the fact that the worlds first permanent observatory for viewing the phenomenon was built there in 1899. Theres a whole industry centered around the lights, including such extravagant shore excursions as an overnight in a teepee with viewing windows at a Sami dogsledding camp. Alta is also home to the Northern Lights Cathedral, an architectural landmark.

Tromso is another Norwegian destination known as a hub for aurora borealis viewing. In late January, theres a northern lights arts festival featuring top artists in various musical genres.

Cunard, P& O Cruises and Princess Cruises are among the lines that visit northern Norway in the fall, though keep in mind that the peak viewing season is November to March. Viking visits in the winter .

Iceland, Greenland and Arctic Canada are visited by some expedition ships during northern lights season by such brands as Quark Expeditions, Aurora Expeditions and Lindblad Expeditions.

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