Summary : Cruise the entire Northwest Passage on an extraordinary voyage from Greenland to the Canadian Arctic to the Bering Sea and ending in Nome, Alaska. Joined by a world-class Expedition Team, enjoy a deeply enriching and captivating journey. Explore by Zodiac and discover the most historic and remote islands, fjords, and harbors along the elusive Northwest Passage. Hear moving stories of voyages won and lives lost, in the name of conquering a trade route between the Atlantic and Pacific. Explore the West Coast of Greenland, where you may meet with local Inuits and their dogsled teams. Marvel at geological wonders from the "Smoking Hills" of Franklin Bay to the dramatic Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site teeming with icebergs. Delve into the remote Yukon Territory, where whaling once thrived and an abundance of wildlife still reigns supreme. Keep an eye out for spectacular Northern Lights displays.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Arrive in Montreal, Quebec’s European-style city, and transfer to your hotel. The rest of your day is free to relax or explore the city independently. Tonight, gather with your Expedition Team for a welcome cocktail reception and dinner to celebrate the start of your adventure.
After breakfast this morning, enjoy the opportunity to explore this modern and culturally rich Canadian city with a choice of engaging tours, each arranged to fit a variety of activity levels. Options may include a panoramic city tour, beginning with a guided visit of Notre-Dame Basilica, then pausing at the scenic summit of the Mont-Royal and sampling Montreal’s fabled bagels. Or, you may instead opt to explore multicultural Old Montreal, enjoying those same beautiful vistas at Mont-Royal before proceeding to Little Italy and its open-air Jean Talon Market, filled with authentic local and international ingredients. As an alternative, explore Old Montreal on foot, learning about its rich French and English heritage; see City Hall, Jacques-Cartier Square, Place d’Armes and Saint Jacques Street with its notable Victorian architecture. As another option, you may take a guided walking tour through the city’s downtown, traversing the pedestrian “Underground City” (a network of shop-lined tunnels), the boutique-filled Sainte Catherine Street and Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal’s premier entertainment district.
Transfer to the airport for an early morning charter flight to Western Greenland. Arrive this afternoon at Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strømfjord in Danish), located on the tip of its namesake fjord and once a strategic allied stronghold during World War II. Pause here for lunch. Søndre Strømfjord sits at the base of the edge of the Greenland ice sheet (indlandsis), a vast body of inland ice covering 80 percent of the continent. Later, transfer to the pier to board your luxury expedition mega-yacht, ‘Le Boreal.’ Throughout your journey, gain rich knowledge both on board and ashore, with an immersive, exciting enrichment program led by your award-winning Expedition Team. Tonight, join fellow guests and crew for a welcome cocktail reception.
In 1906, polar explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to successfully cross the entire Northwest Passage. Start your voyage exactly where Amundsen did - along the stunning West Coast of Greenland and north into Baffin Bay, which you explore for six days. Your enrichment and lecture program also begins, offering the first of many opportunities to delve deeper into the story of this dramatic and remote region. Based on ice, weather and sea conditions, your captain and expedition crew determine the day’s best sightseeing opportunities, which may include:
North of the Arctic Circle, Sisimiut is both the northernmost city in Greenland able to maintain a year-round, ice-free port, as well as the southernmost town with sufficient snow for dogsledding through the winter and spring. Visit the local museum with its exhibits on Inuit culture and Greenlandic colonial history, and enjoy an Inuit sea kayak demonstration.
Disko Bay & Ilulissat:
Cruise into Disko Bay, a wide inlet off of Baffin Bay first explored by Erik the Red in 985, when he established the first Norse settlements in Western Greenland. Discover the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the sea mouth of one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world, Sermeq Kujalleq. The scene is spectacular with giant icebergs, floating growlers and bergy bits (large chunks of glacial ice), and the sounds of the calving ice-stream. Take a walking tour of Ilulissat, including a visit to the local history museum, and meet with villagers to learn about life in this often-harsh Arctic region. Conditions permitting, board a local vessel for an iceberg cruise of Disko Bay.
Located north of Ilulissat, the Uummannaq Fjord System is a geological wonder teeming with marine life. Visit Karrat ø to enjoy the stunning view of the iceberg-studded bay and also discover the remains of ancient huts, made of whale bones and sod by the Thule (ancestors of the Inuit) some 500 to 1,000 years ago.
Founded in 1772, this summer camp for nomadic Greenland Inuit was an ideal hunting ground for whales, seals and fish. Witness this for yourself when you spend time with local villagers who still maintain a traditional way of life, living off the fish and seal populations common to the region. Visit the shops, church and local museum, which offers an excellent display of Greenlandic life.
Cruise west across Baffin Bay and into the Canadian Arctic Archipelago of Nunavut, where you begin your journey to the heart and history of the Northwest Passage. The Expedition Team continues to share captivating lectures to enhance your own discovery. As the ship winds its way through legendary channels and inlets, your crew and Expedition Team determines the best route based on ice, weather and sea conditions. Exciting excursions await and are likely to include:
Located on the Northern end of Baffin Island, Pond Inlet, which translates to “Place of Mittima’s Grave,” is the noted gateway to the fabled Northwest Passage and a rich archaeological site. After clearing customs formalities for Nunavut, set off for a shore excursion to an area originally inhabited by the ancient Thule. Visit the Nattinnak Visitor’s Center or Toonoonik Sahoonik Co-op, where you can shop for artisan carvings made from local red and green soapstone, beautiful wall hangings and other handcrafted goods.
Situated between Devon Island and Baffin Island, this body of water forms the eastern entrance to the Parry Channel and the Northwest Passage. It’s also home to a rich abundance of Arctic cod, which draw a seasonal population of sea birds and marine mammals. Beluga and endangered bowhead whales, ringed and bearded seals, as well as northern fulmars, black guillemots and Arctic terns are among some of the wildlife that inhabits the area.
Historic moments in Arctic exploration define this island, best known for providing a safe haven to British explorer Sir John Franklin in 1845. Look east toward Resolute Bay at the huge silhouette of Cape Riley and imagine what Captain Franklin saw here in Erebus Harbour, were he took shelter for two years before his ill-fated attempt to conquer the Northwest Passage. See the wooden grave markers for three of Franklin’s men, now bleached by the sun, and visit the cenotaph memorial erected in memory of the lost explorer. It is an unforgettable experience.
An abandoned trading post on the tip of Somerset Island, Fort Ross was founded in 1937 as a place for trappers to barter Arctic fox pelts in exchange for food and necessities. Explore the remaining wooden buildings of the post, which closed in 1948, and imagine life in such a barren landscape. Perhaps take a Zodiac excursion to CoBay, keeping watch for local wildlife and learning about residents from expert, accompanying naturalists.
During his first attempt to transit the Northwest Passage on ‘Gjøa,’ Roald Amundsen used this natural harbor as a respite while waiting for ice conditions to improve. For two years, he lived with the Netsilik Inuits, learning their skills for survival and more efficient travel, which would later prove invaluable in his successful South Pole expedition.
Cruise along the south coast of Victoria Island, which straddles both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, voyaging through Queen Maud Gulf, Dease Strait and Coronation Gulf. Expedition stops may include bird sanctuary Jenny Lind Island and Johansen Bay, home to the remains of a nomadic trapper base camp. Your Expedition Team may also lead you to Ulukhaktok (Holman village) in Queen’s Bay for an unforgettable visit with its local Inuit people. Only in contact with the rest of the world since the middle of the 19th century, the people of Holman continue to practice a traditional lifestyle and represent surprising cultural diversity; experience both with a warm welcome at the shore, drum dances, fresh char and bannock rings (fried dough) prepared over an open fire, and a tour of the town art center. Ulukhaktok is famous for its printmaking and you bear witness to the beautiful tradition here; also find carvings, hats made of coveted qiviut (musk ox wool) and ulus: traditional, half-moon-shaped knives used by women to prepare food and skins.
In the Northwest Territories at Franklin Bay, tread where few ever will when you see the spectacular and enormous “Smoking Hills,” cliffs of bituminous shale that endlessly combust and burn. This rare geological phenomenon has likely been occurring for millennia, with layers of the relatively unstable mineral jarosite covering these hills. When the mineral comes into contact with cold air, it becomes red-hot and produces a thick, black smoke — a fantastic sight not unlike the smoky fumaroles produced by volcanoes, though far rarer to see.
During a long mapping expedition in 1826, Captain Franklin was the first European to lay eyes on this unique island at the northernmost point of the Yukon Territory. Named by Franklin, Herschel Island is a bear-populated landmark in the West Arctic and has since served alternately as a whaling station, relay station and refuge for travelers. The island supports numerous species of wildlife, which seasonally may include musk ox and arctic fox and is also one of the only places on earth where you may see a grizzly bear, black bear and polar bear, the last of which live along the ice edge in summer. Evidence of the island’s whaling culture and Thule Inuit predecessors remains near the shoreline, though it may not for much longer; the island is subject to extreme coastal erosion and scientists predict the shoreline will disappear under the waves within 50 years.
Typically dense with ice floes and fog, the Beaufort Sea opens up a 60-mile-wide coastal pass from August to September. From here, ‘Le Boreal’ cruises into the U.S. and clears at Point Barrow, Alaska (U.S. Customs clearance only). Sailing in the comfort of your luxury expedition cruiser, continue participating in eye-opening talks led by the Expedition Team. Still hunted on a sustenance quota basis by local Inuit, sociable bowhead and beluga whales often travel in numbers here and are said to be quite “chatty,” with their trills, clicks, and squeals audible above the surface. In the late evening, relax on your private balcony or join fellow guests out on deck and, with some luck, witness the northern lights, known for delivering a stunning display in autumn. Your voyage continues through this narrow passage between North America and the ever-changing Arctic ice cap.
Continue cruising through the Bering Sea to Little Diomede, an island that sits between Alaska and Russia at the edge of the International Dateline. Disembark for a Zodiac cruise of the island, where the Ingalikmiut still maintain a traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and egg gathering. In line with customs and necessity, the Ingalikmiut also use seal, walrus, and polar bear hides to make clothing, parkas, hats, and mukluks, as well as trade currency for bartering.
Arrive and disembark in Nome, Alaska, among the wildest reaches of mainland America and the final destination for the Iditarod dogsled competition. Gold can still be mined here and you have opportunity to try gold panning firsthand; also experience a dogsled demonstration and a stop at the Bering Sea Land Bridge National Monument visitor’s center. Following lunch at Old St. Joe’s Church, take advantage of time to explore the downtown area of Nome. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Anchorage. Continue on your homebound flight or extend your stay with an Alaska post-tour extension.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase emergency evacuation/repatriation insurance at a minimum coverage of US$50,000. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Optional Post-Trip Extension: Anchorage (4 Days)
Available to add to select departure dates. Visit the bustling seaplane base of Lake Hood, take in expansive vistas atPoint Woranzoff and witness a salmon run in Ship Creek. Ride the rails north to Talkeetna to enjoy a jet boat ride or a hike along Talkeetna Lake. Ride a cable car to the top of Mount Alyeska and celebrate with a farewell dinner. From $3,295 per person. Contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Two nights pre-cruise hotel in Montreal, Canada; accommodation and meals on the ship; arrival transfer to the starting hotel; transfer to the airport on the day of debarkation; fully guided sightseeing as noted in the itinerary including park and entrance fees; Wi-Fi onboard the ship (2019 only); on loan: boots, walking poles and pants; local bottled water during sightseeing; complimentary standard bar drinks, beer, house wine, soft drinks, coffee drinks, juices and bottled water (excluding premium wines, spirits and Champagnes) while on board the ship; hotel taxes; butler service in Suites aboard the ship; parka and backpack to keep; and gratuities for the ship’s crew and Expedition Staff. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; charter flights; passport or visa expenses; laundry; meals, beverages or sightseeing not included in itinerary; premium wines, liquors and champagnes; communication charges and optional activities; all items of a personal nature; required travel insurance; excess baggage charges; airport departure tax; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © A&K Image Library