Northwest Passage (Canadian Arctic)

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Northwest Passage cruise port

Arctic - Antarctica

Local Time
2024-07-12 21:11

min: 33 °F (0 °C) / max: 38 °F (4 °C) 34°F
Wind: 269°/ 6.6 m/s  Gust: 8.4 m/sWind: 269°/ 6.6 m/s  Gust: 8.4 m/sMod. breeze
6.6 m/s
Min / Max Temperature38 °F / 4 °C
33 °F / 1 °C
  Port Map

Port Northwest Passage cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Northwest Passage, Canadian Arctic. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.

2 September, 2024
Hurtigruten Cruises cruise lineMS Fram
5 September, 2024
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises Cruises cruise lineHanseatic Spirit

Northwest Passage is an Arctic Ocean route in North America, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The route goes along Canada's northern coast via Arctic waterways (sea channels) through the Canadian Arctic islands. All the Arctic sea waterways that separate these islands are known as "Northwest Passages" and also as "Northwestern Passages".

As result of the Vikings' westward explorations, hunting expeditions and Greenland settlements, they sailed west and north reaching the islands Ellesmere, Skraeling and Ruin, trading here with the Inuit people.

The Northwest Passage route was officially discovered by Sir Robert John Le Mesurier McClure (1807-1873, an Irish explorer). In 1850, he transited the Northwest Passage (by boat and sled) as part of his circumnavigation of both Americas.

The Northwest Passage's eastern entrance was found in 1819. During the 1903–1905 expedition, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) transited the Canadian Artic passage. This was the world's first actual ship crossing of the Passage, as Amundsen used a small expedition ship (schooner, named "Gjoa") hugging the coast.

In 1957, three USCG Cutters (Bramble, SPAR, Storis) were the first-ever motor ships to cross the Passage route with length approx 7250 km (4500 mi) in 64 days.

In 1969, the ice-strengthened supertanker SS Manhattan was the ever first cargo ship that traversed the Passage. The vessel was accompanied (assisted) by the Canadian icebreaker ship John MacDonald. This voyage was only done to test the Passage as an alternative to the Alaska Pipeline project. The Passage was determined not economical and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System was built (between 1974-1977).

Until 2009, most of the pack ice in the region prevented regular Arctic Ocean shipping traffic. Nowadays, the Arctic shrinkage has rendered this route more navigable. There are contested sovereignty claims over the Arctic Ocean waters (see below) that further complicate marine shipping through the Northwest Passage. Canada considers these passages part of the country's internal waterways. USA and some European countries claim these are international waterways (including the transit passage). Another complication is that the Passage's eastern end has depth just 15 m (49 ft) which reduces the route's viability as a marine shipping route.

A Chinese cargo shipping line has announced its plans to operate regular boxships (containerized cargo ships) transits through the Northwest Passage, thus connecting China with East Coast USA-Canada and Europe. These plans became more viable after the September 2013's successful transit done by the bulk carrier Nordic Orion (73,500 DWT), as the cargo vessel was fully loaded and too large to transit through Panama Canal.

The potential benefits of the Passage are significant - around 4000 km (2500 mi) shorter cargo shipping routes between Europe and East Asia, faster and cheaper transportation of the Alaskan oil to ports on the East Coast USA, easier developing and shipping of the Canadian Arctic's mineral resources.

Where is the Northwest Passage (map)

According to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO, founded in 1921), the Northwestern Passages limits are as follows:

  • Western limit - Beaufort Sea's eastern limit [through the Prince Patrick Island's southwest coast to Griffiths Point), the northwestern tip of Banks Island, through Banks' western coast to Cape Kellet's southwestern point) and to Cape Bathurst (mainland Canada)
  • Northwestern limit - Lands End, Prince Patrick Island, C Columbia, Ellesmere Island
  • Northeastern limit - Ellesmere Island's coast ( between C Columbia and C Sheridan) and Baffin Bay's northern limit.
  • Eastern limit - Ellesmere Island's eastern coast (between C Sheridan and Cape Norton Shaw) to Phillips Point (on Coburg Island) through Coburg Island to Marina Peninsula and to Cape Fitz Roy (on Devon Island) down its eastern coast to Cape Osborn and to Cape Liverpool (on Bylot Island), down the Bylot's eastern coast to Cape Graham Moore, across to Cape Macculloch, down Baffin Island's eastern coast to East Bluff (Baffin's southeastern extremity) and the Hudson Strait's eastern limit.
  • Southern limit - mainland Canada coast (Hudson Strait), the bay's northern limits, mainland Canada from Beach Point to Cape Bathurst.

The Northwest Passage map shows that marine vessels traveling west enter through Baffin Bay, then pass through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (by some of the above-listed routes), exit into Beaufort Sea, and through Chukchi Sea and Bering Sea enter the Pacific Ocean. Recent satellite images taken near the summer's end (early September) show large portions of the Northwest Passage being relatively free of ice.

There is a progressive (steady) decline in the ice thickness in the region. NASA studies have shown the decline rate is several % per decade. Discharge rates of the Eurasian rivers draining into the Arctic Ocean are also increasing due to melting glaciers. These freshwaters are much warmer than the Arctic's.

Arctic Ocean waters dispute

Canada claims that some of the Northwest Passage waters (those in the Canadian Arctic) are internal waterways (waters), giving the country the right to control transits through these waters. Most maritime nations (including the USA and those in Europe) classify these waters an "international strait", where all vessels have the right of transit the passage. Canada would still have the right to enact regulations (including fishing and environmental), laws (including fiscal and smuggling) and safety shipping regulations, but not the right to close the Northwest Passage. When (eventually) the passage’s waters during summer become completely free of ice, they would allow Arctic transition of supertankers - too big to pass through Panama Canal and otherwise navigating around South America (through the Strait of Magellan).

  • In 1985, the USCG icebreaker Polar Sea transited the passage from Greenland to Alaska. The event resulted in a diplomatic incident. In 1986, Canada issued a declaration reaffirming its rights to these waters. The USA refused to recognize the claim. In 1988, both governments signed "Arctic Cooperation" agreement resolving the issue without solving the questions about the passage's sovereignty. Under the law of the sea, marine vessels engaged in transit passage are not permitted to research. However, the 1988's Canada-USA agreement allows USCG ships engaged in research would require permission from Canada to pass through.
  • In 2005 was reported that US nuclear submarines had traveled through the Canadian Arctic waters. Later, the US Navy released photos of USS Charlotte (Los Angeles-class submarine) at the North Pole.
  • On April 9, 2006, Canada declared that its military will no longer refer to this Arctic Ocean region as "Northwest Passage", but as "Canadian Internal Waters".
  • On July 9, 2007, Canada's Prime Minister announced the establishment of a deep-water port in the region. On the next day, two US Rear Admirals - Timothy McGee (US Navy) and Brian Salerno (USCG) - announced that the USA would be increasing its Arctic patrol ability.

Northwest Passage routes

The Northwest Passage route includes 3 sections:

Eastern route - east of Baffin Island (between Baffin and Greenland) to Lancaster Sound (located at the island's northern end), west of Baffin Island (through Hudson Strait, located south of Baffin), north through Foxe Basin, west through Fury-Hecla Strait, north to Lancaster Sound (through Boothia Gulf and Prince Regent Inlet). However, this route is considered impractical as Fury-Hecla Strait is usually closed by pack ice.

Northern route - from Lancaster Sound west through Parry Channel to Prince of Wales Strait (located on Victoria Island's northwestern side), southwest through Prince of Wales Strait (located between the islands Victoria and Banks).

Southern route - from Lancaster Sound west past Prince Regent Inlet (exiting west through Bellot Strait), past Somerset Island, south through Peel Sound (between the islands Somerset and Prince of Wales), either southwest through Victoria Strait or directly south (through the straits Rae and James Ross) then west through Simpson Strait (located south of King William Island) going into the Queen Maud Gulf, then west alongside mainland Canada and south of Victoria Island.

Northwest Passage cruise terminal

In this section, you will find information on all cruise ships on Northwest Passage itineraries through the years.

Northwest Passage cruises

In 2011, Hapag-Lloyd's ship MS Bremen (now Seaventure) became the world's first-ever cruise ship with a Northwest Passage Cruise itinerary (Kangerlussuaq Greenland to Nome Alaska).

In 2012, Hapag-Lloyd's MS Hanseatic (now Heritage Adventurer) made full transit with 25-days itinerary leaving from Nome AK (on August 14) and ending in Reykjavik Iceland (on September 7). In 2012 were reported a total of 24 yachts that have fully-transited the Passage.

In 2012 (August 18 through September 12), MS The World (world's largest privately-owned cruise ship) did a Northwest Passage cruise from the USA to Greenland (Nome Alaska to Nuuk Greenland).

  • The ship was carrying a total of 481 passengers (residents) and crew.
  • During the 26-day voyage, MS The World traveled over 5500 mi (8900 km) following the route of Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) who was the first sailor completing the voyage in 1906.

In 2013, two of the Ponant's superyachts - Le Soleal and Le Boreal - were the first France-flagged marine vessels crossing the Northwest Passage. The unique itinerary started on August 26, 2013, when they left Kangerlussuaq Greenland to arrive in Anadyr Russia on September 16. Among the ports of call along the route were Beechey Island and King William Island (Gjoa Haven).

  • During these voyages, Ponant passengers enjoyed meeting the Inuit people and wildlife - seeing hundreds of beluga whales and narwhales, and around 60 polar bears. Charles Hedrich (French sportsman and adventurer) was also there as a special guest - being the world's first man to solo cross the Northwest Passage (in September 2009) in a rowing boat.
  • The Ponant ships were under the command of Captains Etienne Garcia (on Le Boreal) and Patrick Marchesseau (on Le Soleal).
  • In 2015, Abercrombie & Kent chartered Le Boreal for a full Northwest Passage transit (Kangerlussuaq to Anadyr).

In 2014, Silversea's superyacht Silver Explorer did the company's first Northwest Passage crossing. The 23-day itinerary started in Kangerlussuaq (August 9) and ended in Nome AK (September 2), covering a distance of over 4000 mi (6480 km). In 2019 (Aug 10 - Sept 6) the ship offered 26-day crossing from Nome AK to Tromso (Norway) covering a distance of 5780 mi (9300 km).

Date / TimePort
10 AugDeparting from Nome, Alaska
12 AugAt Sea
13 Aug 10:00 - 16:00Provideniya, Chukotka
14 Aug 14:00 - 18:00Uelen, Chukotka
15 Aug 15:00 - 20:00Kolyuchin Island
16-17-18 AugWrangel Island
19-20 Aug (overnight)Chukotka Peninsula
21 Aug 05:00 - 12:00Bear Islands Russia
22-23-24-25 AugAt Sea
26 Aug 07:00 - 14:00Severnaya Zemlya
27 AugAt Sea
28 Aug 06:00 - 13:00Uyedineniya Island
29 Aug 07:00 - 12:00Novaya Zemlya
30 Aug 14:00 - 21:00Franz Josef Land
31 AugChamp Island
31 AugHooker Island
01 Sep 05:00 - 11:00Franz Josef Land
02 Sep - 03 SepAt Sea
04 Sep 11:00 - 17:00Murmansk
05 Sep 14:00 - 19:00Gjesvaerstappan Island, Norway
06 SepArriving in Tromso, Norway

In 2022 (Aug 24 - Sept 17, Silversea's Silver Wind did a 24-day passage (Kangerlussuaq to Nome).

In 2023 (Aug 27-Sept 17), Seabourn Venture did a 21-day Northwest Passage (Kangerlussuaq to Nome). The 23-day cruisetour package was inclusive of two (pre- and post-cruise) hotel overnights - in Reykjavik, and Anchorage (Alaska).

In 2019, Hurtigruten's MS Roald Amundsen completed the company's first Northwest Passage transit (Aug 20 - Sept 10/Kangerlussuaq to Nome/21-day voyage, 7645 km of sea navigation).

In August 2016, Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity became the world's first larger-sized cruise vessel (LOA length 250 m / 820 ft) to transit the Northwest Passage. Previously (in April 2016), RRS Ernest Shackleton icebreaker was chartered by Crystal to escort the Serenity ship.

  • Ernest Shackleton was equipped with two helicopters for emergency use, tools for oil pollution containment, high-tech communications equipment, survival rations and professional experienced crew using the onboard safety equipment. Crystal Serenity was upgraded with ice detection radar, ice navigation system and forward-looking sonar. Its bridge team received ice navigation training, and ice pilots boarded both Ernest Shackleton and Crystal Serenity for the Arctic Ocean crossing cruise. RRS Ernest Shackleton's crew also assisted with Crystal's "Unexpected Adventures" tours (helicopter flightseeing, Zodiac wet landings, speed boat rides, kayaking).
  • Crystal's "Northwest Passage Cruise" was a 32-day itinerary from Seward Alaska to NYC New York (Aug 16 - Sept 16), with call ports Kodiak Island Alaska (Aug 17), Dutch Harbor Unalaska (Aug 19), Nome Alaska (Aug 21), Victoria Island Nunavut Canada (Aug 27 and 29), Baffin Island Nunavut Canada (Sept 4), Ilulissat Greenland (Sept 7), Sisimiut Greenland (Sept 8), Nuuk Greenland (Sept 9), Bar Harbor Maine (Sept 13), Boston Massachusetts (Sept 14) and Newport Rhode Island (Sept 15). In 2017 the Serenity ship has scheduled a second Northwest Passage transit.
  • The 2017 itinerary (32-days Seward to New York City, August 15 through September 15) included the same ports of call - Kodiak Island (Aug 16), Dutch Harbor (Aug 18), Nome (Aug 20), Victoria Island (Cambridge Bay and Ulukhaktok, Aug 25 and 28), Baffin Island (Pond Inlet, Sept 3), Ilulissat (Sept 6), Sisimiut (Sept 7), Nuuk (Sept 8), Bar Harbor ME (Sept 12), Boston MA (Sept 13) and Newport RI USA (Sept 14). For the 2017 cruise, the company hired a comprehensive team of Arctic experts from "Arctic Kingdom" (Canada-based company) for regular onboard lectures on the region's geography, culture and wildlife, and also for leading all the expeditions ashore. Crystal's 2017 cruise prices started from USD 21,855 per person (double occupancy rates).

The top-luxury brand RSSC-Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced its first "Northwest Passage Cruise" scheduled for 2017 summer.

In September 2016, MS Hanseatic (now Heritage Adventurer) navigated the Northeast Passage covering 10264 km (6378 mi).

  • The 25-days itinerary (Aug 17 - Sept 10) from Tromso Norway to Vancouver BC was through Arctic Russia's waters (northern Asia).
  • The ship visited North Cape, Murmansk, Barents Sea, Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, Severnaya Zemlya, New Siberian Islands, Bear Islands, Wrangell Alaska, Bear Islands, Wrangell AK, Kolyuchin Island, Bear Islands, Kolyuchin Island, Lorino (Chukotka), Provideniya (Chukotka), Nome AK.
  • The vessel was commanded by Captain Thilo Natke. The voyage was fully booked.

In mid-January 2018, Hurtigruten announced company's new 530-passenger ship ms Roald Amundsen will operate a 26-night "Northwest Passage Cruise" leaving from Kangerlussuaq (Greenland) to Nome Alaska. Roald Amundsen became the 3rd-largest passenger liner with a full Northwest Passage transition itinerary - after the 980-passenger Crystal Serenity and the 165-passenger MS The World. Next is shown Hurtigrute's 22-day voyage between Greenland and Canada-Alaska.

Date / TimePort
20 AugDeparting from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
21 AugAt Sea
22 AugIlulissat, Greenland
23 AugSisimiut, Greenland
24 AugDavis Strait
25 AugHudson Strait
26 AugBaffin Island, Nunavut Canada
27 AugLancaster Sound
27 AugDevon Island
28 AugBeechey Island
28 AugPrince Leopold Island
29 AugSomerset Island, Fort Ross
29 AugBellot Strait
30 AugPrince of Wales Island
31 Aug - 01 SepKing William Island, Gjoa Haven
02 SepVictoria Island, Cambridge Bay
03 SepAmundsen Gulf, NT Canada
04 SepUlukhaktok, NWT Canada
05 SepSmoking Hills, Cape Bathurst, NWT Canada
06-07 SepBeaufort Sea, Canada-USA
08 SepBarrow, Alaska
09-10 SepBering Strait (Russia-USA)
11 SepArriving in Nome, Alaska (flight to Flight to Vancouver, BC Canada)

Prices started from ~USD 9900 pp (with double occupancy).

On Aug 28, 2023, two Hurtigruten Expeditions ships on Northwest Passage voyages met in Cambridge Bay. Roald Amundsen was on 27-day westbound itinerary (en route to Nome AK) while Fridtjof Nansen was on 26-day eastbound itinerary (en route to Halifax NS). For 2024, Fridtjof Nansen had scheduled a 27-day Northwest Passage crossing (themed "In the Wake of the Great Explorers Westbound", Aug 8th departure from Reykjavik to Nome and Vancouver).

Date / TimePort
08 AugDeparting from Reykjavik, Iceland
11 AugPrince Christian Sound Greenland
12 AugIvittuut, Greenland
13 AugNuuk, Greenland
16 AugBaffin Island, Nunavut Canada
17 AugDevon Island, Nunavut Canada
18 AugBeechey Island, Nunavut Canada
19 AugSomerset Island, Nunavut Canada
20 AugKing William Island, Nunavut Canada
21 AugVictoria Island, Nunavut Canada
22 AugUlukhaktok, NWT Canada
23 AugSmoking Hills, Cape Bathurst, NWT Canada
27 AugBarrow, Alaska
02 SepArriving in Nome, Alaska (flight to Vancouver, BC Canada)

Hurtigruten's prices started from EUR 18790 pp.