national geographic explorer luxury high arctic cruise

Epic 80°N: Exploring Greenland, Baffin & Ellesmere Islands

  • Overview
    Canada’s Ellesmere Island stretches farther north than any other land in the world, save for Greenland—explore both on this epic Arctic expedition. This is a region of ancient ice, where tidewater glaciers of exceptional beauty dominate the landscape. Few humans have ever been here. It is home to hunting polar bears, muskox, and extremely rare wildlife, including narwhal. Rely on our expedition team’s experience in Baffin Island and Lancaster Sound at the entrance to the Northwest Passage to ensure peak exploration and wildlife encounters; and then strike as far north at the ice allows, tracing the rarely visited coast of northwest Greenland and Ellesmere Islands into parts largely unknown, where the only assurance is great wonder, beauty, and genuine exploration. The High Arctic in its full glory is a lifetime experience.
    Duration: 23 days
    Passengers: 148 passengers
    Embarkation Point: Keflavik, Iceland
    Disembarkation Point: Keflavik, Iceland
    Physical rating: Soft Adventure
    Fly/Cruise: Mandatory extra flight
    Single Supplement: Unavailable
  • Itinerary
    • Day 1 - Reykjavik, Iceland

      Arrive in Keflavík and transfer to Reykjavík, located just south of the Arctic Circle. Check-in to the Island Hotel (or similar). Take a guided overview of the old town, including Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral. Or choose to explore the Blue Lagoon and soak in the geothermal waters

    • Day 2 - Reykjavík/Kangerlussuaq, Greenland; Embarkation Day

      Fly by chartered aircraft to Greenland. Embark National Geographic Explorer at the head of Kangerlussuaq Fjord, a picturesque waterway that stretches 100 miles.

    • Day 3 - At Sea; Greenland’s West Coast & Sisimuit

      Dozens of deep fjords carve into Greenland’s west coast, many with glaciers fed by the ice cap that covers 80% of the country. In the morning, we trace this ragged coastline, and search for humpback and minke whales. Later, at Sisimiut, a former whaling port, we visit the museum and wander amid a jumble of wooden 18th-century buildings.

    • Day 4/6 - Baffin Island

      European explorer William Baffin first ventured here in the 15th century to search for the Northwest Passage. Yet the area may have had human inhabitants as early as 4,000 years ago, with later Dorset and Thule occupations right up to recent historical times. Using our years of experience in the ice, we explore some new and old places along the jagged coastline.

      Stretch your legs on good hiking trails at Qikiqtarjuaq, an Inuit name meaning “Big Island.” It is home to our Inuit guide, Kisa, who will proudly show us his village. Next we head to Coronation Fiord where 5,000-foot cliffs are set near Coronation Glacier, and we stop at Niaqurnak Point, a former Inuit camp where glacial tongues extend to the water’s edge. Walrus haul outs can be found here and it’s a good place to spot polar bears and whales. We plan to stop at Buchan Gulf, another good hiking area with picturesque cliffs and a Thule site nearby, and Isabella Bay, an important marine habitat where deep troughs create ideal conditions for bowhead whales—up to 100 at a time have been recorded here.

    • Day 7/9 - Exploring the Canadian High Arctic

      Carved by Ice Age glaciers, Lancaster Sound is the eastern gateway to the Arctic Archipelago. The sound has been a favorite Inuit hunting and fishing location for hundreds of years. Our days here will be spent searching for ringed seals, arctic foxes, walruses, and polar bears, as well as beluga and bowhead whales. We may even see the elusive narwhal, an arctic whale known for the long, spiraling tooth that projects up to ten feet from its upper jaw. We plan to explore Prince Regent Inlet, a good place for polar bears on ice, and Beechey Island where the remains of the winter quarters of the Franklin Expedition are seen.

    • Day 10 - Devon Island

      National Geographic Explorer ploughs the waters at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, now heading towards the most easterly part of the south coast of Devon Island to Dundas Harbor, where the Canadian government established a RCMP (Royal Mounted Police) post in the 1920s. Later, we reach Croker Bay, where last year we discovered several very well preserved winter-house ruins from the Thule culture. From the 1200s and until late in the 1800s, Inuit were living in these regions hunting caribou and muskoxen—which we hope to spot along with polar bears.

      Continue to Philpots Island, a geological structure consisting of ancient red granite that is part of the Ellesmere-North Greenland geological complex. It has been dated to 1.6 billion years in age! The plan is to go ashore on rocky Philpots Island for a chance to hike on the tundra and search for interesting flora and fauna, including extensive moss beds with interspersed flowering vascular plants, various bird species, Arctic hares, and perhaps even musk oxen—an impressive beast covered with an incredibly thick coat of long hairs overlying a dense layer of underfur known as qiviut (very valuable wool used in producing the lightest, finest knitted products available today). Be on deck as we head out into the open waters offshore, where there are plenty of impressive icebergs calved from a huge glacier.

    • Day 11/12 - Ellesmere Island

      Heading ever northward, we make our way up the beautiful and remote east coast of Ellesmere Island, where the Explorer first ventured last season. Cruise along scenic Smith Bay (a.k.a. Skog Inlet) bordered by a steep wall of mountains, with a glacial ice tongue which pours down the mountains on either side. Be up on the bridge as we search for a patch of "polar bear ice," the mixture of first-year and multi-year sea ice that is the preferred habitat of the ice bears. Our binoculars seek out any small ivory-colored dot on an otherwise white ice surface. We strain to see the dot move. Yes, it is a bear, spotted at a considerable distance. We approach, ever so slowly, stalking the polar bear much as the bear stalks seals on the ice. At the end of the bay we go ashore to hike or kayak in picturesque surroundings. Ice is always present here.

      On our next day, we enter Buchanan Bay, and turn into Alexandra Fjord to reach the area of Skraeling Island. (“Skraeling” is the word that the Norse settlers of Greenland used for the Inuit.) This is the site of an important archaeological find. Norse artifacts show that the Norse traded with the natives here on Ellesmere Island, far north of their settlements on Greenland. Last summer, quite unexpectedly, we discovered the remains of a summer encampment of natives, we think of the Thule Culture (the third of the three Inuit cultures to occupy this area.) We saw rings of stones that held down the edges of skin tents against the wind, and stone chambers that might have been constructed for storage. Perhaps the Inuit camped at this very site as they traded with the Norsemen, exchanging skins and walrus ivory for European goods, especially metal.

    • Day 13/14 - Farther North

      On these two days we explore to 80ºN and hopefully beyond, if the ice allows. We take full advantage of our “human resources”—our experienced captain, expedition leader and naturalists—as well as our technological resources. We chart where the ice is impenetrable and where there are leads guiding us to exciting discoveries.

    • Day 15/18 - Exploring Northwest Greenland

      The remote and rarely explored coast of Northwest Greenland is our next destination—going places the Explorer has never been. The area north of Qaanaaq has the most interesting exploration history of Greenland, with many expeditions based here; timbers from Hall’s ship, the Polaris, may still exist on the beaches. Cape York is also historically significant with a monument to Admiral Peary. We visit the small community of Etah, the north-most habitation in West Greenland, where we can interact and learn about the people of the Far North.

      Explorer will be in true expedition mode every turn of the way. The former Prime Minister of Greenland, Kuupik Kleist, told us this region was one of the most beautiful and unexplored parts of all of Greenland: glaciers, fjords, inlets and islands. Wildlife galore, unlike parts of the south where it is more actively hunted. In addition, we connected with our very own Dr. Henning Thing, one of the more experienced scientists working in Greenland, and he gave us some very specific places to explore that sound wonderful. We will definitely be exploring new frontiers.

    • Day 19 - Qilakitsoq

      Today we are back in familiar waters, stopping at Qilakitsoq, where a collection of mummies dating to 1475 was discovered in 1972 and featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine’s February 1985 issue.

    • Day 20 - Ilulissat

      Sail into Disko Bay to explore the UNESCO site of Ilulissat Icefjord. Take an extraordinary cruise among the towering icebergs or visit the Inuit fishing village of Sermermiut.

    • Day 21 - Greenland’s West Coast

      Our final day aboard will be spent in the beautifully scenic fjords. Take a Zodiac cruise, kayak, or hike across the tundra. Our undersea specialist may launch the ROV to see the marine life inhabiting the fjord floor.

    • Day 22 - Kangerlussuaq/Disembark/
      Reykjavík, Iceland

      Disembark in Kangerlussuaq in the morning followed by a tour and lunch. Fly by private charter to Reykjavík, where we check in to the Island Hotel (or similar).

    • Day 23 - Reykjavík/Keflavík/Home

      Our grand adventure takes us to Iceland’s lively capital city, Reykjavík. Have a guided tour of Reykjanes Peninsula, followed by lunch. Transfer to Keflavík for your flight home. Or you may wish to extend your stay in Iceland for further adventures.

    Please consider that our voyages are expeditionary in nature. This means, that there are no concrete itineraries, your captain and expedition leader will utilise their vast experience to chart the best course for your expedition depending on the climatic and environmental conditions. Mentioned highlights and wildlife cannot be guaranteed.

  • Adventure Activities


    We pioneered kayaking in polar geographies, allowing our guests to have unprecedented personal experiences in the ice.

    Now, nearly all our ships carry types of kayaks designed to get guests of all experience and fitness levels out on the water comfortably and safely. And more than just a token few, we carry a veritable fleet to ensure everyone who wants to can.


    Charter Flights

    The National Geographic Explorer operates with a mandatory charter flight package on this departure;

    Reykjavik, Iceland - Kangerlussuaq, Greenland - Reykjavik, Iceland

    USD$ 1,230 per person

    Ancient glaciers, seldom seen by humans

    Ellesmere Island’s remoteness and short window of accommodating conditions has long isolated it from exploration and study. It’s amazing to realize with all the exploration that has been done in the Arctic, Ellesmere Island was circumnavigated for the first time only in 2011.

    Iconic High Arctic wildlife

    We’ve been sharing the wonder of the High Arctic with guests for decades. Rely on our experience in finding polar bears, ringed seals, arctic foxes, plus beluga and bowhead whales. Weather permitting, we’ll sail into Milne Bay, a place we’ve seen narwhal, the rare arctic whale known for its long, spiraling tooth that projects up to ten feet from its jaw.

  • Inclusions

    Expedition Team

    Every expedition sails with a veteran expedition leader, an assistant expedition leader, and a team of eight naturalists, many of them polar veterans, of a variety of specialties: zoology, biology, ornithology, geology, polar history, and more. Other members of the 15-person team include an undersea specialist, a photographer, plus a certified photo instructor, a Global Perspectives guest speaker, a video chronicler, and a wellness specialist. Together they provide you with a greater understanding and appreciation for this extraordinary and diverse geography.

    Excellent food

    Our chefs use fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, including sustainably caught fish, and other local and indigenous products. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style; dinner is served. There are fish or meat choices at every meal, and our chef will happily accommodate vegan or other special diet requests.

    Inclusions / Exclusions

    Included in your Expedition

    Not included in your Expedition

    - Massage services
    - Gratuities
    - Internet and Wifi expenses
    - Airfares unless stated in the itinerary
    - Bar expenses
    - Laundry expenses
    - Mandatory waterproof gear not provided
    - Baggage / cancellation / interruption and medical travel insurance
    - Passport and Visa expenses
  • Map
    Screen shot 2017 07 05 at 2.16.02 pm
  • Gallery
  • Vessel


    Inaugurated in 2008, National Geographic Explorer is the world’s ultimate expedition ship. The embodiment of the National Geographic alliance, her design and equipment is the result of almost 200 years of collective expedition experience. Originally built for service along Norway’s coast as part of the famed Hurtigruten, or Coastal Express, her excellent maneuverability and just-right size made her a natural choice for addition to our fleet. Drawing on our nearly 50 years of pioneering expedition history and expertise, we completely redesigned and rebuilt her. Explorer is uniquely equipped with an ice-strengthened hull and advanced navigation equipment for polar expeditions; a roster of tools for exploration; and a well-appointed interior with vast expanses of glass for an unprecedented connection to the regions we explore. She provides a peerless expedition experience. Explorer accommodates 148 guests in 81 cabins, including 13 cabins with private balconies, six spacious suites and 14 cabins specifically designed for solo travelers. At 367 feet with six decks, she is spacious and modern, with a variety of public rooms that offer startling views of the passing landscape. Friendly and informal, Explorer instantly fosters a welcoming environment where enthused and curious passengers share in exceptional experiences and enrichment.

    Features & Facilities
    • Luxury expedition vessel
    • Affiliated with National Geographic
    • Dining room & Bistro
    • Large observation decks
    • Open Bridge
    • Library
    • Observation lounge
    • 24 hour beverage station
    • Wellness Centre
    • Gym
    • laundry
    • Spa
    • Internet/Wifi
    Key Facts
    Luxury star rating: 5
    Guests #: 148
    Crew #: 70
    Ice Class: 1A
    Speed: 18
    Technical Specs
    Year built:
    Length: 112m
    Width: 16
    Tonnage: 6471
    Registry: Bahamas
    Elec Outlets: 220V / 2 Round Pin
Check Voyage Dates, Pricing and Availability
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Ready to book your expedition?

We understand that the trip of a lifetime takes planning, so we make the financial commitments easy to manage.

  • Confirm your booking today with just USD$ 1,000 per passenger.
  • Pay your 25% deposit 5 day later.
  • Final payment due 120 days prior to departure.

1 - Twin Cabin with Porthole

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
Twin cabin, with private facilities with plenty of luxury finishings
USD$ 22,093pp
USD$ 22,093pp

2 - Twin Cabin with Window

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
Twin or double cabin, with private facilities with plenty of luxury finishings
USD$ 23,793pp
USD$ 23,793pp

3 - Twin Cabin with Window

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
Twin or double cabin, with private facilities with plenty of luxury finishings
USD$ 24,629pp
USD$ 24,629pp

4 - Superior cabin with Window

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
Twin or double cabin, with private facilities with plenty of luxury finishings
USD$ 26,343pp
USD$ 26,343pp

SA - Single cabin with Porthole

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
Single cabin, perfect for the decerning solo traveller
USD$ 29,743pp
USD$ 29,743pp

SB - Single cabin with Window

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
Single cabin, perfect for the decerning solo traveller
USD$ 30,783pp
USD$ 30,783pp

5 - Superior cabin with Balcony

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
Superior cabins with Balcony and luxury finishings
USD$ 31,851pp
USD$ 31,851pp

6 - Suite with Balcony

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
Suite cabin with Balcony and luxury finishings
USD$ 36,305pp
USD$ 36,305pp

7 - Suite with Balcony

18 Aug 2018 - 09 Sep 2018
The largest suites with Balcony and luxury finishings
USD$ 42,194pp
USD$ 42,194pp