Welcome to the ultimate guide to Northern Lights cruises! If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights, you’re in the right place. As a seasoned cruise enthusiast, I’ve seen firsthand how magical these journeys can be.

This guide will give you all the down-to-earth tips you need to make your trip unforgettable. From picking the right cruise line to knowing the best times to go, and how to photograph them, I’ve got you covered. 

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Best time to take a Northern Lights cruise

Best time to take a Northern Lights cruise

If you’re looking to catch the Northern Lights on a cruise, the best time to go is from late September to mid-April. Here’s what you need to know:

Late September to Early October:

  • Pros: The nights are getting longer, and the weather isn’t too harsh yet.
  • Cons: There might still be a bit of daylight that can make it harder to see the lights.

Mid-October to Mid-March:

  • Pros: This is prime time! The nights are longest, giving you the best chance to see the lights.
  • Cons: It can get really cold, and the sea might be a bit rough.

Late March to Mid-April:

  • Pros: The weather starts to improve, and you still have long nights.
  • Cons: Nights are getting shorter, so there’s less time to spot the lights.

🛳️ Pro Tip: Northern Lights App

I always use a Northern Lights alert app when I’m on a cruise. Some cruises even have a notification system that lets me know when the lights are visible. This way, I can rush out and enjoy the show without having to constantly watch the sky!

Cruise lines that offer Northern Lights cruises

Cruise lines that offer Northern Lights cruises

As a seasoned cruise expert, I can guide you through the best cruise lines that offer unforgettable Northern Lights experiences. Here’s a rundown of the top choices:

  1. Hurtigruten: With Hurtigruten, you’re choosing a line that excels in Arctic and Norwegian cruises. Their Northern Lights voyages along the Norwegian coast, stopping in Tromsø, the Lofoten Islands, and North Cape, offer you an authentic and immersive experience.

  2. Viking Ocean Cruises: Opt for Viking if you want to explore Norway’s stunning landscapes in comfort. Their Northern Lights itineraries feature excursions to picturesque fjords and charming coastal towns, providing you with an enchanting adventure.

  3. P&O Cruises: For a UK-based option, P&O Cruises offers excellent Northern Lights cruises. You’ll explore Norway’s beautiful coast, with key stops in Tromsø and Alta, perfect for catching those magical lights.

  4. Cunard Line: If luxury is what you seek, Cunard Line combines elegance with adventure. Their Northern Lights voyages take you to prime locations in Norway and sometimes Iceland, all while enjoying top-notch service and amenities.

  5. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines: Fred. Olsen is ideal for a more intimate experience. Their smaller ships grant you access to less-visited ports and intimate fjords, making your Northern Lights cruise a truly unique journey.

  6. Princess Cruises: With Princess, you’ll explore Norway’s northern regions and enjoy educational programs and onboard experts who enrich your Northern Lights experience.

  7. Aurora Expeditions: For the adventurous spirit, Aurora Expeditions offers specialized Northern Lights cruises focusing on exploration and wildlife encounters. Expect to visit remote locations in Norway and beyond.

  8. Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Cruises blend luxury with natural beauty. Their Northern Lights itineraries include stops in Norway’s northernmost ports, ensuring a memorable and comfortable journey.

  9. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL): NCL provides a mix of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and onboard comfort. Their Northern Lights cruises often explore Norway and sometimes Iceland, perfect for a varied adventure.

  10. Silversea Cruises: Silversea is the epitome of ultra-luxury. Their Northern Lights voyages explore the Arctic regions with personalized service and exclusive excursions, making your journey both luxurious and extraordinary.

🛳️ Pro Tip: Join a Sami

On my Northern Lights cruises, especially in Norway, I love joining a traditional Sami ceremony in a Lavvu tent. It’s a cool experience with storytelling and traditional songs, and sometimes you even get to see the Northern Lights in a unique, authentic setting​.

Choosing the Right Cruise Line:

  • Itinerary: Look for cruises that spend plenty of time in areas known for clear skies and low light pollution.
  • Onboard Experience: Think about the size and amenities of the ship. Smaller ships can get you to more remote spots, while larger ships have more activities.
  • Excursions: Check what shore excursions are available, as guided tours can make your Northern Lights experience even better.
  • Season: Make sure your cruise falls within the best time to see the lights, usually from late September to mid-April.
Older couple looking at the Northern lights from a cruise ship

What is the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights on a cruise?

So, you’re wondering about your chances of seeing the Northern Lights on a cruise? Let’s break it down:

Time of Year:

  • Best Months: Aim for late September to mid-April. This is when the nights are long and dark, which is perfect for Northern Lights sightings.
  • Peak Viewing: November to February is your sweet spot. The nights are longest, giving you the best chance to see those spectacular lights.


  • Norwegian Coast: Cruises along Norway’s coast, especially above the Arctic Circle, are your best bet. Places like Tromsø and Alta are hotspots for the Northern Lights.
  • Iceland and Arctic Circle: These areas are also great because they’re so far north

Weather Conditions:

  • Clear Skies: You need clear, dark skies. If it’s cloudy, the lights can be hidden.
  • Away from Light Pollution: Being out at sea helps because there’s no city light interference.

Solar Activity:

  • Solar Cycles: The Northern Lights depend on solar activity. When the sun is more active, the lights are stronger.
  • Forecasts: Some cruises provide Northern Lights forecasts to help you know the best times to watch.

Your Chances:

  • Pretty Good Odds: If you go at the right time and place, you’ve got a solid chance of seeing the lights, but it’s never a guarantee.
  • Nature’s Unpredictable: Remember, the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and can be a bit unpredictable.

Tips to Maximize Your Chances:

  • Stay Up Late: The best time is usually between 10 PM and 2 AM.
  • Be Patient: You might need to wait a while, but it’s worth it.
  • Dress Warmly: It can be freezing out on deck, so layer up to stay warm.

In a nutshell, while there are no guarantees, planning your cruise for the right time and place, and keeping an eye on the weather and solar activity, will give you the best shot at experiencing the magic of the Northern Lights.

Let us wade through the 1000’s of cruises for you!

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packing for a Northern lights cruise

What should you pack for a Northern Lights cruise?

If you’re heading out on a Northern Lights cruise, you’ll want to be prepared for some cold weather and make sure you have everything you need for a great trip. Here’s a handy packing list:


  • Warm Layers: Pack thermal underwear, fleece tops, and wool sweaters to stay warm.
  • Waterproof and Windproof Jacket and Pants: You’ll need these to keep the wind and rain out.
  • Insulated Gloves and Hat: Keep those hands and head warm!
  • Warm Scarf or Neck Gaiter: Protect your neck and face from the cold.
  • Thermal Socks: Bring several pairs to keep your feet toasty and dry.
  • Sturdy, Waterproof Boots: You’ll be glad you have these for excursions and walking around on deck.


  • Binoculars: Great for spotting the Northern Lights and wildlife.
  • Camera with Extra Batteries: Cold weather drains batteries fast, so bring spares and a charger.
  • Tripod: Essential for steady shots of the Northern Lights.
  • Memory Cards: Bring extras for all your photos and videos.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is important, even when it’s cold.

Personal Items:

  • Toiletries: Don’t forget essentials like lip balm and moisturizer, as the cold can dry out your skin.
  • Medications: Any prescription meds you need, plus something for seasickness if you’re prone to it.
  • Sunglasses: The snow and ice can reflect a lot of light, so protect your eyes.
Couple standing on the balcony of a cruise ship looking at the Northern lights

How do you choose the best cabin for viewing the Northern Lights?

Choosing the best cabin for viewing the Northern Lights can make your cruise even more special. Here’s how to pick the right one:

Go for a Balcony Cabin:

  • Why: With a balcony, you can step outside quickly if there’s an announcement about the Northern Lights. No need to rush to the deck; you can enjoy the view from your own private space.
  • Tip: Make sure the balcony has a clear view of the sky without obstructions.

Location on the Ship:

  • Higher Decks: Cabins on higher decks offer better views of the horizon and less chance of obstructions.
  • Front (Forward) or Back (Aft): These spots often give you wider views compared to cabins in the middle of the ship.

Port Side vs. Starboard Side:

  • Check Your Route: Depending on your cruise route, one side might have a better view. If your ship travels along the coast, the side facing away from land might be better.
  • Ask the Cruise Line: It’s always a good idea to ask the cruise line which side is best for your specific itinerary.

Avoid Obstructions:

  • Lifeboats and Equipment: Some cabins are near lifeboats or other equipment that can block your view. Check the deck plan and steer clear of these.
  • Overhangs: Make sure there are no overhangs above your balcony that could block your view of the sky.

Think About Noise Levels:

  • Away from Public Areas: Pick a cabin away from noisy spots like bars, restaurants, and entertainment areas for a quieter experience.
  • In the Middle of Other Cabins: Cabins sandwiched between other cabins (above and below) are generally quieter.
Person taking a photo of the northern lights from a cruise ship with a camera on a tripod

Best way to photograph the Northern Lights from a cruise?

Photographing the Northern Lights from a cruise can be a bit challenging, but with the right gear and techniques, you can capture stunning images. Here’s how to do it using a camera. Keep reading below for using your mobile phone:

Get the Right Gear:

  • Camera: Bring a DSLR or mirrorless camera. These let you adjust the settings you need for night shots.
  • Tripod: A must-have to keep your camera steady during long exposures.
  • Wide-Angle Lens: A lens with a wide aperture (like f/2.8) works best to capture more light and more of the sky.
  • Extra Batteries: Cold weather drains batteries fast, so pack some extras

Set Up Your Camera:

  • Manual Mode: Switch your camera to manual mode so you can control everything.
  • Aperture: Set your aperture to the lowest number (f/2.8 or lower) to let in the most light.
  • Shutter Speed: Start with a shutter speed of around 10-20 seconds. You might need to tweak this depending on the brightness and how much the ship is moving.
  • ISO: Set your ISO between 800 and 3200. Higher ISO can make your photo grainy, so find a balance.
  • Focus: Use manual focus. Focus on a distant light or set it to infinity.

Keep It Steady:

  • Use Your Tripod: Set it up in a stable spot on the ship. Avoid places with a lot of foot traffic to minimize vibrations.
  • Remote Shutter Release: Use a remote or your camera’s timer function to avoid shaking the camera when you take the shot.

Compose Your Shot:

  • Include Foreground: Add elements like the ship’s deck or railings to give your photos context.
  • Watch for Movement: The ship’s movement can blur your shots. Find the most stable part of the ship and take multiple shots to increase your chances of a clear image.

Take Lots of Shots:

  • Experiment: The Northern Lights can change quickly, so take lots of photos with different settings.
  • Bracket Your Shots: Take a series of shots with slightly different exposures to make sure you get a good one.

Edit Your Photos:

  • Software: Use editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to enhance your photos.
  • Adjustments: Increase the contrast, reduce noise, and tweak the colors to make your photos pop.

Be Patient and Stay Warm:

  • Be Ready: The Northern Lights can appear suddenly, so keep your camera ready.
  • Dress Warmly: Wear layers and be prepared to spend some time out in the cold.
Person taking a photo of the northern lights from a cruise ship with a mobile phone

Taking the best photo using a mobile phone

Prepare Your Phone:

  • Charge It Up: Make sure your phone is fully charged. Cold weather can drain the battery quickly, so consider bringing a portable charger.
  • Update Your Software: Ensure your phone’s operating system and camera app are up to date for the best performance.

Use a Tripod:

  • Phone Tripod: A small, portable tripod for your phone will help keep it steady during long exposures.
  • Mount Adapter: Make sure you have a mount adapter that fits your phone securely on the tripod.
  • Remote Shutter or Timer: Use a remote shutter release if you have one, or set the camera timer to avoid shaking the phone when you take the photo.

Download a Night Photography App:

  • Manual Camera Apps: Apps like Camera+ (for iPhone) or Manual Camera (for Android) allow you to manually adjust settings like ISO, shutter speed, and focus.

Adjust Your Settings:

  • ISO: Increase the ISO setting to make your camera more sensitive to light. Start around 800-1600 and adjust as needed.
  • Shutter Speed: Set a long shutter speed, around 10-20 seconds, to capture enough light.
  • Focus: Use manual focus if possible, and set it to infinity or focus on a distant light.

Let us wade through the 1000’s of cruises for you!

Jo, our cruise travel agent will personally search for the right cruise for you.