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Ilulissat Icefjord at sunset

Traversing the Northwest Passage

Toronto - Anchorage - Example 29 Day Cruise aboard Sylvia Earle
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Embark on this 29-day expedition cruise from Toronto to Anchorage aboard the Sylvia Earle. Inspired by Roald Amundsen's journey, navigating the Northwest Passage's intricate waterways across Arctic Canada to the Beaufort Sea. Explore historic sites, encounter locals, and seek unique wildlife, but anticipate potential pack ice challenges for a true adventure.
Kayaking in the Northwest PassageSled dogs on Baffin Island, CanadaPlaying on iceberg at floe edgeMusk Ox roaming the Northwest PassageIlulissat Icefjord at sunset
Highlights
  • Discover Ilulissat's 'birthplace of icebergs' and hike to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Icefjord
  • Experience a zodiac cruise in Qeqertarsuaq (Disko Island) and witness fascinating geology and marine life
  • Visit Beechey Island and learn about the Franklin expedition and the history of arctic exploration
  • Explore Sisimiut and hike through the town and mountains for spectacular vantage points
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Toronto

Having made your way to Toronto Airport, check in at your group hotel near the airport for an overnight stay. Please visit the Aurora Expeditions hospitality desk to collect your luggage cabin tags and speak with the ground operations team, who may have information to share with you about pre-embarkation procedures and the charter flight to Nuuk tomorrow. Receive Aurora Expeditions cabin tags for your luggage. Please clearly label the tags with your name and ship cabin number.

Day 2: Fly to Nuuk | Embark

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Dinner
After breakfast at the hotel, board your charter flight to Nuuk, Greenland, where the vessel Sylvia Earle awaits. After boarding, there is time to settle into your cabin before the important safety briefings. This evening, meet your expedition team and crew.

Day 3: Sisimiut

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Greenland’s second-largest town, Sisimiut, is located approximately 54 kilometers (33.5 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, meaning that during the summer, you can experience the midnight sun here. The town is famous for the old blue church with a gate made of whalebone. In the cozy museum next door to the church, you can find an excellent reconstruction of an Inuit turf house and exhibits of local history and early life in Greenland.

Sisimiut offers hiking trails with various degrees of difficulty. The more accessible trails take you through the town, its outskirts, and into the mountains, where you can find spectacular vantage points.

Approximately 4,500 years ago, the Saqqaq culture arrived from Canada and settled there. They lived here for about 2,000 years, after which they mysteriously disappeared from the area. The Dorset culture came around 500 CE and stayed until the 1200s when the Thule culture replaced them, and today, most of the population of Sisimiut are descendants of the Thule culture.

Day 4: Ilulissat

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Known as the 'birthplace of icebergs,' this region produces some of the most dazzling icebergs in the Arctic. Hike past the husky sled dogs to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Icefjord and stand in awe at its immensity. Sermeq Kujalleq, also known as Jakobshavn Glacier, is the most productive glacier in Greenland and throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere. It produces 20 million tons of ice daily, floating into the Ilulissat Icefjord and Disko Bay. Conditions permitting, enjoy a zodiac cruise at the mouth of the fjord and kayak through sea ice and icebergs. An optional 90-minute helicopter over the ice fjord is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Optional helicopter flight (90 minutes): this excursion is the only way to get close to the gigantic glacier. The 12-seater helicopter departs from Ilulissat Airport, sweeping over hills, lakes, and ice fjords. Land on the mountain at Kangia, in the middle of the preserved area, to revel in the incredible surroundings. On the return flight to Ilulissat, fly above the glacier's edge with breathtaking views of the massive icebergs drifting in the fjord. The views of some of the enormous icebergs that become stranded on a moraine underneath the water just outside the town offer a fantastic finale to this excursion. Please note that this excursion requires a minimum of 8 passengers to operate.

Day 5: Qeqertarsuaq (Disko Island)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This compelling island has more in common with Iceland than Greenland. While most of the interior is mountainous and glaciated, its beautiful shorelines boast black sandy beaches, unusual basalt columns, hot springs, and dramatic lava formations. The Zodiac cruise in Disko Bay features fascinating geology. It is also a hotspot for marine life, including humpbacks, fins, minkes, and bowhead whales.

Day 6: At sea | Enter Canada

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The experts entertain you with informative talks about wildlife, geology, and epic tales of early explorers such as Franklin and Amundsen. Reaching the coast of Baffin Island, you may encounter Greenland’s famous icebergs. Keep an eye out for humpback, sei, sperm, fin whales, and various species of seals, such as ring and harp seals.

Day 7-9: Baffin Island

  • Ship
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
The east coast of Baffin Island features hidden bays that are feeding grounds for bowhead whales and where glaciers calve into the sea. Sail along inlets and fjords surrounded by towering mountains that feature impressive geology. You may visit Home Bay, Sillem Island, John Ford Fjord, Sam Ford Fjord, and Scott Inlet. Conditions permitting, you can go ashore at Pond Inlet and be treated to a warm welcome from the local community.

Covered with mountains, icefields, cliffs, snowfields, and glaciers, Bylot provides nesting habitat for large numbers of thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes. A total of 74 unique species of arctic birds thrive on this island. Due to the richness of the wildlife and the beauty and diversity of the landscapes in the area, a large portion of the island was also included in the Sirmilik National Park, established in 2001. You plan to sail along the coastline of Bylot Island, where you hope to enjoy the scenery and outstanding birdlife.

Day 10-12: Devon Island, Lancaster Sound

  • Ship
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
You are now in the high Arctic at almost 75° north latitudes. Here, nutrient-rich waters support abundant wildlife, giving the area the moniker ‘wildlife superhighway’ of the Arctic. Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on Earth and features stunning geology, with flat-topped mountains and glacial valleys, giving it its unique character. You hope to visit Dundas Harbour to enjoy walks on undulating tundra and perhaps some birdwatching. Other possible places that you might see include Croker Bay and Maxwell Bay. A dilapidated Royal Canadian Mounted Police outpost and remnants of a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post can be found here. In the bay, walruses are often present.

Beechey Island, where you plan to land, is at the western end of Devon Island. Named after Frederick William Beechey, the island is one of Canada’s most important arctic sites and is a designated Canadian National Historic Site. During the Franklin expedition of 1845–46, Franklin attempted to sail through the Northwest Passage with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with perilous results—three of his men are buried here. Roald Amundsen landed at Beechey Island in 1903, during the first successful voyage by ship to transit the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean fully.

Day 13-16: Expedition Cruising

  • Ship
  • 4 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners
Your options for the following days are heavily dependent on unpredictable sea ice. You may attempt to cross the Bellot Strait if conditions allow you to sail Prince Regent Sound, search for wildlife, and perhaps visit historic Fort Ross, an abandoned Hudson’s Bay trading post. You may also visit Prince Leopold Island, which features magnificent vertical cliffs. Around the low-lying Tasmanian Islands, you may encounter similar pack ice that halted Franklin’s expedition in 1845. If conditions allow, you might enjoy a walk at historic Cape Felix on King William Island and learn more about Franklin’s ill-fated expedition.

Prince Leopold Island, Port Leopold

On the southern side of Lancaster Sound, opposite Beechey Island, lie the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island, the most important bird sanctuary in the Canadian Arctic, with approximately 500,000 birds nesting in pairs in the summer. Ringed seals are often spotted on the sea ice. Nearby Port Leopold is a historic site where British explorer James Clark Ross wintered in 1848 while searching for the missing Franklin expedition. The ruin of a century-old Hudson’s Bay trading post can be found there, and polar bears often lurk nearby. The shallow gravel beds attract beluga whales, which molt in this part of the Arctic each summer.

The following are places you hope to visit:

Coningham Bay

Across from Victoria Strait, Coningham Bay lies on the shores of Prince of Wales Island. This is a polar bear hotspot where the majestic creatures come to feast on beluga whales that are often trapped in the rocky shallows at the entrance to the bay. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons—and very healthy-looking polar bears!

King William Island

Remains attributed to the Franklin expedition have been found at 35 locations on King William Island and the nearby Adelaide Peninsula. South of Cape Felix, in Victoria Strait, you hope to get close to where the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were abandoned in 1848.

Day 17-22: Coronation and Amundsen Gulfs

  • Ship
  • 6 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 6 Dinners
Your experienced expedition team will create your day-by-day itineraries based on sea ice and weather conditions. Apart from Franklin, other heroic explorers, including Amundsen, explored this territory, and you may visit the same places as early explorers. You hope to meet the resilient locals who make the exceptionally far north their home.

In your Zodiacs, plan to explore the coastlines, bays, and hidden estuaries of the region and delight in the autumn colors shown during this changing season. Hold your breath as you near the geological wonder evocatively known as the 'Smoking Hills,' where the stench of sulfur rises from below the earth. Where it's possible to land, stretch your legs on hikes to explore the region's dramatic landscapes of hills, valleys, cliffs, and canyons.

Below are some of the places in the area that you may visit:

Cambridge Bay

The administrative and transportation hub of the region, Cambridge Bay, is the most significant stop for passenger and research vessels traversing the Northwest Passage. It unofficially marks the midpoint for voyages of the Northwest Passage. Zodiac ashore to explore this Inuit settlement located in the high Arctic. Enjoy a walk through the village, where you can visit the local church and visitor center and support the local community by purchasing locally made handicrafts. You plan to visit the ancient archaeological sites of the Pre-Dorset, Dorset, and Thule people in the old town. Wildlife abounds in this area, and you might see caribou, musk oxs, and seals. The tundra is ablaze with wildflowers, and birds, including jaegers, ducks, geese, and swans, visit the area in large numbers.

Johansen Bay, Edinburgh Island

Edinburgh Island is a small and uninhabited island in Canada's Nunavut region. The scenery consists of colorful flowering shrubs, beaches tinged in stunning ochres, and surrounding cliffs shaded in rich, deep tones. You hope to enjoy a Zodiac excursion within an estuary at the northeast end of Johansen Bay and up the river towards the lake. A possible walk to a lookout overlooking the lake offers spectacular views over lakes, seas, and mountains. Wildlife frequents the area, including Caribbeans, reindeer, arctic foxes, hares, and peregrine falcons.

Jesse Harbour, Banks Island

Located in the north of Canada's Northwest Territories, Banks Island, the fifth largest island in Canada, is home to approximately 60 percent of the world's population of Lesser Snow Geese. Arctic foxes, wolves, polar bears, caribous, musk oxs, and many other birds are also found here. Grizzly bears are occasionally spotted, and bowhead whales are often seen offshore. The dramatic cliffs on the southeast coast feature colorful yellow, white, and red quartzites, while the west coast is characterized by long, sandy offshore bars. Nelson Head cliffs feature ancient Precambrian rock almost 2 billion years old.

Smoking Hills, Franklin Bay

The smoking hills in Canada's Northwest Territories have been smoldering, sending gas plumes across the landscape, for centuries. Technically, sea cliffs, you would be forgiven for thinking that the multicolored, fiery natural phenomenon is the set of an apocalyptic movie depicting the end of the world. The smoke is caused by layers of combustible, sulfur-rich lignite (brown coal) that ignite and emit sulfurous gas into the air when exposed to erosion and landslides, which also create a dazzling coloration of the rocks.

Day 23-25: Beaufort Sea

  • Ship
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
Excitement builds as you sail the Beaufort Sea. Whether you are out on deck or in the comfort of one of the observation lounges, watch as the captain navigates the state-of-the-art vessel through these waterways, which are frozen for most of the year. Keep a close watch for marine wildlife, including Beluga whales often seen here. At Prudhoe Bay, you say farewell to Canada and enter the United States.

Day 26-27: Chukchi Sea | Bering Strait

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
As you sail westwards to Nome, along the northern coast of Alaska, where the U.S. and Russia are only 100 km (60 miles) apart, separated by the Bering Sea, there is ample time to reflect on your adventures while scanning the water for marine life. You Hope to get permission to ship cruise close by Point Hope, Little Diomede, and King Islands in Alaska.

Day 28: Nome | Disembark | Fly to Anchorage

  • 1 Breakfast
In Nome, farewell your expedition team and crew after sharing a once-in-a-lifetime voyage. After disembarking, transfer to the airport for a charter flight to Anchorage for an overnight stay. 

Day 29: Depart Anchorage

  • 1 Breakfast
Transfer to the airport for your onward journey.

Ship/Hotel

Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle
Sylvia Earle Observation Deck
Sylvia Earle Library

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Book now and save up to 25% off on select 2025 Arctic and beyond departures. Bookings must be made and deposited by June 30, 2024. This promotion is valid for new bookings and is capacity-controlled. A non-refundable deposit of $2,500 per person is required to confirm your booking within seven days of reserved berth/s. Additional restrictions may apply. Please contact us for details.
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Greg Mortimer-Aurora Stateroom Triple
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Aurora Stateroom Triple
22.67m2 (244ft2) - There are two Aurora Stateroom Triple cabins featuring portholes, all with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms.
Sylvia Earle Aurora Stateroom Superior
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Aurora Stateroom Superior
19.9m2 - 20.8m2(214.2ft2 - 223.9ft2) - Located on Deck 7, the Staterooms feature french balconies, floor to ceiling windows, en-suite bathrooms and a comfortable desk area. Perfect for polar adventurers who travel with plenty of gear.
Sylvia Earle Balcony Stateroom C
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Balcony Stateroom C
19.5m2 - 28.7m2 (209.9ft² - 308.9ft2) - 11 Balcony Stateroom C cabins - most economical, fitted with all the necessities and comfortable for up to 2 people. These cabins are scattered throughout Deck 6.
Sylvia Earle Balcony Stateroom B
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Balcony Stateroom B
19.5m2 - 28.7m2 (209.9ft² - 308.9ft2) - 17 Balcony Stateroom B Cabins - standard cabin, many fitted with interconnecting features making them great for families or groups. These cabins are located at the fore and aft of Deck 4 and 6.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom A
19.5m² - 28.7m² (209.9ft² - 308.9ft²)- 23 Balcony Stateroom A cabins - premium cabin, and the most abundant on board. These cabins are located in preferred positions on Deck 4 and 6 which provides easy access between Decks via the internal stairs or elevator.
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Balcony Stateroom Superior
29.2m2 - 35.2m2 (314.3ft2 - 378.9ft2) - Located on Deck 4 and 6, the Staterooms feature floor to ceiling windows, en-suite bathrooms and a comfortable desk area. Some of these rooms are equipped with wheelchair accessible bathrooms.
Sylvia Earle Junior Suite
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Junior Suite
Up to 41.6m2 (447.8ft2)- 4 Junior Suites take in some impressive scenery from their vantage points on Deck 7. When you aren't enjoying a landing, you can relax in the suites' separate lounge area, or just watch the world float by from the private balcony.
Greg Mortimer-Captain's Suite
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Captain’s Suite
43.8m2 (471.5 ft2) - Captain's Suite - the largest of all our rooms, will take you to the polar regions in ultimate style and comfort. Complete with large lounge area, balcony, walk-in wardrobe and en-suite, you'll need to get in early to secure this suite.
Included
  • 28 Breakfasts, 25 Lunches, 26 Dinners
  • 27 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information
  • Beer, House Wine, and Soft Drinks with Dinner 
  • Educational Lectures and Guiding Services from Expedition Team 
  • Complimentary access to onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic (initial consult)
  • Port Surcharges, Permits, and Landing Fees
  • Captain's Welcome and Farewell drinks including four-course dinner, house cocktails, house beer and wine, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • A 3-in-1 waterproof polar expedition jacket
  • Complimentary use of Muck boots during the voyage
  • All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises
  • All airport transfers mentioned in the itinerary.
  • On-board accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service
  • One night’s hotel accommodation including breakfast, in Toronto on Day 1
  • Charter flight from Toronto to Nuuk on Day 2
  • Charter flight from Nome to Anchorage on Day 28
  • One night’s hotel accommodation including breakfast, in Anchorage on Day 28
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Passport and Applicable Visa Expenses
  • Airport Departure Tax - Airport arrival or departure taxes
  • Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service), laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses, Wi-Fi, email or phone charges
  • Hotels and meals not included in itinerary
  • Optional activity surcharges
  • Reciprocity and Vaccination Charges
  • Passengers traveling with Aurora Expeditions are required to be covered by a reputable travel insurance policy that includes baggage loss, cancellation & curtailment of the holiday, medical, accident, and repatriation/emergency evacuation coverage worth at least $250,000 USD.

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Kate was great to work with in the planning stage. She was prompt, helpful, and efficient. Our tour guide, Edwin, was knowledgeable and passionate. We were very happy to have traveled with Adventure Life, it made the trip easy and a true pleasure. We could concentrate on enjoying the experience rather than the details of travel.
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