A North Pole cruise is the ultimate Arctic expedition that only a select few embark upon each year. Seeking to add your name to the short list of adventurers who have made it to the top? Read on.

Travel to the North Pole requires a purpose-built expedition ship, an experienced polar crew and intrepid guests with the time and money required to obtain this privileged experience. Getting to the North Pole, at 90 degrees North, you will join an exclusive club of travelers who have reached the top of the world. AdventureSmith Explorations have been there ourselves and bring our firsthand experience to you. Our North Pole expedition cruise experts will help you achieve your dream of a cruise to the North Pole.  

A group of guests in yellow parkas stand in a circle around a red north pole sign looking out over an endless icy landscape

ON THIS PAGE: North Pole Cruises
Can You Go to the North Pole?
A Brief History of North Pole Expeditions
North Pole Cruises & Ships
How to Travel to the North Pole
What Can You See at the North Pole?
The Best Time to Visit the North Pole
How Much Does it Cost to Travel to the North Pole?
More Arctic Resources
The Best North Pole Expedition Cruises

Can You Go to the North Pole?

Can you visit the North Pole in 2022 and 2023? Yes, there are North Pole expedition cruises to take you there. In fact, the North Pole has never been more accessible to travelers.

A new fleet of luxury expedition ships with ice-strengthened hulls voyage to the North Pole in safety and comfort. An older fleet of Russian icebreakers, converted for use in tourism, is currently on hold.

Our Arctic cruise experts have cruised to the North Pole, and we have the expertise to get you there. 

The royal blue and white luxury icebreaker ship Le Commandant Charcot parked in sea ice with guests standing spelling 90N

A Brief History of North Pole Expeditions

The history of North Pole expeditions is long, exhilarating and sometimes tragic. Early explorers understood that the North Pole was in a sea, and it might be reached through the ice during summer. Throughout the 1800-1900s, explorers attempted and claimed to reach the North Pole. There is a long history of North Pole expeditions via airplanes, airships, dogsleds, skis, submarines and surface ships with unsubstantiated and credible claims of success.

The first ship to reach the North Pole was the Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika in August 1977. In 1991, the first group of travelers reached the North Pole aboard a converted research icebreaker via the Northeast Passage across the Russian Arctic.

At first, North Pole cruises were a novelty trip, occurring every couple of years. As expedition cruising has gained popularity and Arctic ice has retreated, cruises to the North Pole have become a consistent offering. North Pole ships, routes and embarkation points vary from year to year. Our experts will help you determine the best expedition for your interests, ability and budget.

North Pole Cruises & Ships

Obviously, it takes a specific type of vessel to endure polar extremes, break through multi-year sea ice and reach the geographic pole at 90 degrees North. Traditionally, North Pole cruises operated aboard nuclear-powered Russian icebreakers.

For many years the Yamal and 50 Years of Victory icebreaker were the workhorses of the North Pole cruise industry. Owned by the Russian government, they were chartered by polar expedition companies specifically for North Pole cruises. Cruises to the North Pole aboard Russian icebreakers are currently on hold.

The newly launched Le Commandant Charcot is an extraordinary, next-generation expedition cruise ship. Her PC2 ice class rating is the highest of any purpose-built expedition ship. Hybrid electric and liquid natural gas propulsion is the first of its kind. Aboard the Charcot, you can travel to the North Pole in comfort and style, representing the future of North Pole cruising.

Currently the Charcot North Pole and Charcot North Pole to Iceland expeditions are the only North Pole cruises scheduled in 2022 and 2023. We expect more ships to schedule this unique route in the future, so check this page often or sign up for our newsletter

How to Travel to the North Pole

Wondering how to get to the North Pole? By expedition ship, unless you are among a handful of endurance athletes who’d dog sled or ski!

Russian icebreaker North Pole expedition ships depart from the port of Murmansk. From Murmansk, ships sail north out of Kola Bay about 1,400 miles to the North Pole. Cruises from Murmansk stop in Franz Josef Land in search of polar bears and arctic wildlife. Cruises aboard Russian ships are currently on hold, but in the past averaged 13 to 14 days.

Cruises to the North Pole also operate from Svalbard, Norway, over an average of 17 days. The geographic North Pole lies only 500 miles north of Spitsbergen, the largest island in Svalbard. To embark a North Pole cruise in Svalbard, travelers must fly from Olso, Norway, to Longyearbyen. Round-trip cruises from Svalbard include an exploration of the archipelago including searching for polar bears, walrus and other arctic animals

The ultimate North Pole expedition begins in Svalbard, visits the geographic North Pole, then proceeds down the east coast of Greenland before cruising to Iceland. Travelers embark in Longyearbyen, Norway, and disembark in Reykjavik, Iceland. Reykjavik offers flights to Europe and North America, making this a popular option. This extraordinary cruise visits all of the Arctic travel highlights travelers seek.

Any cruise to the North Pole will include many days at sea, navigating through ice floes. The vast expanse of virgin ice is unusual at first. Then your eyes adjust to a constantly changing landscape, shifting from smooth flat wilderness to a chaotic jumble of ice formations, then to channels of open water. Seek out a particular kind of wildlife, totally dependent on the ice floe. 

What Can You See in the North Pole?

Upon arrival at the geographic North Pole, there is no signpost or landmark to identify the achievement. The ship’s navigational equipment will indicate 90 degrees north. Provided there is enough ice, the ship will stop, and guests will have a chance to disembark directly onto the sea ice. Much celebration and fanfare will take place.

In the past, some ships offered a hot air balloon ride or helicopter rides above the ice along the way. Ice fishing is another possible activity. But most guests are content to stand on the top of the world, walk on the ice and take pictures to document the momentous achievement. You have reached the top of the world. Anywhere you gaze, you are looking south. Massive icebergs are surrounded by a horizon that seems to go on forever. The vacant blue of the wide sky looks over a sea of ice. The scale and silence is vast and humbling. A cruise to the North Pole puts life in perspective. 

What wildlife is there to see on a cruise to the North Pole? Guests will have chances to see polar bears, walrus and other arctic animals. Prior to entering the ice there is a chance to see whales and other marine life. Visits to Svalbard, Greenland and/or Iceland on select North Pole cruise itineraries are rich in birdlife, wildlife, marine life and stunning scenery. Older North Pole cruise routes even touched down on the rarely visited Russian Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land, where interesting geological features, such as the mysterious stone spheres on Champ Island, columnar basalt cliffs of Rubini Rock and the northernmost point of land in the Eastern Hemisphere can be found.

group of ponant guests in red parkas walking along the ice at the North Pole part of a luxury north pole expedition.

The Best Time to Visit the North Pole

North Pole cruises operate during a short season that begins in mid-June and ends in mid-August each summer. This is the time when frozen sea ice is at its minimum, allowing the possibility that icebreaker ships can reach the geographic North Pole. During this time, 24-hour midnight sun shines and arctic wildlife is the most active. 

How Much Does it Cost to Travel to the North Pole?

No doubt, it is expensive to travel to the North Pole. North Pole cruise prices start at $30,000 per person. Luxury cruises start at $45,000 per person with suites costing $50,000 up to $100,000 per person.

Why do people invest so much money on a North Pole trip? Few people can claim to have visited the North Pole. It is the ultimate nature and adventure travel achievement. Motivations range from checking it off your bucket list, an extraordinary photographic expedition or a once-in-a-lifetime feat. There is even an exclusive group for whom North Pole trips call them back over and over.  

Ask anyone who has traveled to the North Pole and they will tell you, it is absolutely worth it. 

MORE ARCTIC RESOURCES:
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Arctic Tours
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Arctic Animals
Arctic Cruise Deals
Arctic Trip Reviews

Best North Pole Expedition Cruises

How to best get to the North Pole? With our expertise and selection. Browse the best North Pole cruises below. Our crew has been to the North Pole aboard expedition ships, and we help clients to research, book and prepare for their North Pole cruise. Each year there are only a handful of trips to the North Pole. So, the best North Pole expedition cruise is the one you are on.