An Arctic Expedition Cruise: What to Expect

Nellie Huang December 24, 2012 4

G Adventures’ M/S Expedition in the Arctic

I’ve dreamt of going to the Polar Regions ever since I got bitten by the travel bug: the idea of entering one of the most remote parts of the world, coming face to face with wildlife, trudging on ice was intoxicating. So when I was setting off on my Arctic expedition, I had a whole world of expectations.

The Arctic definitely did not disappoint.  The wildlife encounters we had, the thrill of hiking on glaciers, the sensation of swimming in Arctic waters and the stimulation provided by the stunning environment – all made it one of the best trips of my life.

Sure enough, an Arctic expedition might not be for everyone. There are those who prefer independent trips to guided tours and those who’d rather stay in the warmth of the cruise then venture out into the cold, choppy sea. For those who are considering going on an expedition cruise, this might help you make your decision.

Expedition Cruise vs Holiday Cruise

They are worlds apart. If you’re worried about environmental impact, you’ll be glad to know an expedition cruise is much smaller than a holiday cruise, G Adventures’ M/S Expedition ship takes up to only 120 passengers. Only expedition cruises provide educational lectures conducted by experts onboard, each of them specializing in a different field.  Onboard an expedition cruise, passengers also get to receive daily expedition reports and wildlife lists.

M/S Expeditions setting sail.

Guided Tours and Safety

Independent travelers who are used to exploring on your own should know that due to safety reasons, passengers are asked to follow behind the expedition leader/guide at all times. There is a strict protocol to this, and for good reasons, as polar bear attacks in the Arctic are not uncommon. That said, for those who are worried about safety, rest assured that safety is the priority of these expeditions and plenty of precautions are taken by the team to make sure the trip goes smoothly.

Nellie doing a crazy Arctic swim!

No Requirements for High Fitness Level

From previous expedition experiences, I was expecting to go on long day-hikes or landings that would last more than half a day. But as mentioned above, hikes in the Arctic are limited to short walks of not more than three hours due to safety reasons. Each time we did a landing, the expedition team had to spread out and enclose a perimeter and not to mention, carry a rifle with them, to ensure our safety.

Kayakers paddling through the icy waters.

Traveling with a Group

Travelers who go on such expedition cruises tend to be adventurous, responsible travelers. There is a wide range of people who come onboard: from retirees to young outdoor travelers to adventure-seeking families. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people on the cruise, many of whom were solo travelers like me. Some of us have become  lifetime friends and we’re already planning our next expedition cruise together.

Watching polar bears from the safety of a zodiac.

So if these information about the Arctic expedition cruise fall within your expectations, then don’t hesitate – it’s time to make that dream come true.


  1. Jessica March 5, 2013 at 6:19 am - Reply

    Hey Nellie. That’s a great article. Thank you for sharing. I’m a huge fan of river cruises but have never been on an expedition cruise. It sounds amazing though. I actually like the cold a lot but prefer warm weather for my holiday. I went on a Paris river cruise with Viking River Cruises last year. I loved it. But you’re right, there might be worlds apart between expedition and holiday cruises. Not sure if I’d like it. I’d rather go on another European cruise tour.

  2. Wendy Wason February 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Hi. I am interested in becoming a guide in the Arctic and also the Antarctic. Do you have any positions available?

    I am familiar with the northern and southern hemisphere and have lectured on various topics, flora, fauna, anthropology, history, geography, geology, glaciology. I have been guiding and lecturing for over 20 years.

  3. Barbie Gibson February 16, 2014 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Wonderful reading… I, too, am like you…my hubby and I love adventure travelling and prefer expedition trips. In 2002 we went to Namibia & Botswana trip…birding, safaris. In 2009 – India…several safaris – saw tigers, leopards and other wildlife and birds…very interesting. In 2013 – adventure of a lifetime – Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands…it was amazing. And in June — off to the Arctic Circle – Iceland, Svalbard and Norway!

  4. Sacha Mlynek February 20, 2014 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    Hi Wendy, please inquire to and have a look at our open positions here:

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