Best cruise & time to see Northern Lights

Welcome to Cruise Critic! If you'd like to participate on our forums by joining in the conversation, please Register Now! Be sure to visit our FAMOUS Roll Call forums, where you can meet other cruisers sailing with you and share a tour or shore excursion and SAVE MONEY!

** Please post your recommendations ONLY in response to request...do not start a new thread. Thanks!
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts
BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
All times are GMT -4.
The time now is 05:33 PM.
#1
116 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Just wondering if any of you have been on an Alaskan Cruise to see the Northern Lights and which cruise or time of year would you suggest we book?

Thanks Lx x x
#2
446 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by Dolly Rocker
Just wondering if any of you have been on an Alaskan Cruise to see the Northern Lights and which cruise or time of year would you suggest we book?
Thanks Lx x x
The spectacular Northern Lights you are probably referring to are seldom seen from any port of call during the time of year the major cruise lines visit Alaska. Too much daylight and too far south. Fly to Anchorage or Fairbanks in the dead middle of the winter to (possibly) see the best displays. Google Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis for more info.
#3
petersburg, alaska
1,329 Posts
Joined May 2008
if you see them during cruising season, go out and buy a lottery ticket as you are very lucky.

http://www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/
we are going through a cycle of lower activity.

you need a pitch black night (tougher during the summer the further north you go) away from all stray light; deck lights, light streaming out of windows/ports/passageways. even a bright moon can wash out the auroras.

very rare, but never say never. the lovely mrs b-d comes home from her thursday radio show after midnight. she has a spotting during the summer maybe once a year and they are of poor quality.

winter and far north (fairbanks) are more dependable.
#4
Claremont, CA
91 Posts
Joined Aug 2003
Photos taken at the North Pole this week show amazing lights sightings. It is rare to see them in the summer from a cruise ship.
#5
Alberta
95 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
The closer to the pole you get the more likely they are to be visible. We live at 53 deg. and see them quite often. Juneau is at 58 deg., so should be more often. They are also more likely during Solar Maximum which runs in about a 11 year cycle. The next peak is expected to be 2012 so we are not that far off.

That said, the biggest issue is finding an area of darkness to view them from. Not sure it will ever be dark enough aboard a ship to see them. Also hard to see from a city with street lights. You really need to be out in the middle of nowhere where it is really dark. If you get a chance to see the sky miles away from any artificial lighting, you would be quite amazed to see how many stars there are in the sky. It is full. In a city you will only see a few bright ones. Also in Summer, you may have to stay up really late to get the sky dark. The farther north you go in summer the bigger this issue is.
#6
West Hempstead, NY
5,149 Posts
Joined Jan 2003
We did an Alaska cruise, Vancouver to Whittier several years ago, late August. we were due to fly out of anchorage at 12:30 at night. After reading on CC about sitting on the left side of the plane if you were thinking about seeing the Northern lights, we changed our seats on boarding.
I understand what has been said here, but we were treated to over an hour's worth of the Northern Lights, flying back home. Even the pilot of the plane commented on how truly amazing the 'lights' were this particular night.
To be perfectly honest, this was the highlight of an amazing cruise. We may forget several things about the cruise and the ports, but we will never forget the truly amazing sight of the Northern Lights and we were able to enjoy their display for over an hour.

As was said, not likely, but not impossible. So anyone flying out of Anchorage in the dead of night, try and sit on the left side of the plane. Remember you heard it here.

Cheers

Len
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
There are No bad cruises, just bad cruisers

You have seen bits and pieces of our Baltic adventure, now see the entire album.
http://s834.photobucket.com/albums/z...fan13/baltics/

We have also cruised to wonderful Hawaii, check out our wonderful time in this paradise. will be happy to answer any questions if anyone is interested
http://s834.photobucket.com/albums/z...tfan13/Hawaii/

Check us out touring the great Northwest and then our marvelous cruise to Alaska. Again, any questions, just ask away
http://s834.photobucket.com/albums/z.../new%20alaska/
#7
Wasilla, Alaska
3,573 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
Go to this link: http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/ and choose Alaska, and then the city that is the farthest north you will be and a month. Make certain to also select one of the twilight boxes (I'm not sure which one, as I haven't paid attention to how dark each one is, but I suspect at least nautical twilight). When you get the calendar, now look and see which nights will have total darkness for a time. During that time is when you have a chance, not a guarantee, of northern lights.
#9
Alberta
95 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
This shot was taken at the edge of our city in summer which is at 53 deg. and even with some background light, you can still see the northern lights.

#10
Wasilla, Alaska
3,573 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
Beautiful picture! Just don't forget that as you go further north, although you have more of a chance of seeing them in the winter, you have less chance of seeing them in the summer due to less darkness for several months.

Originally posted by Ron AKA
This shot was taken at the edge of our city in summer which is at 53 deg. and even with some background light, you can still see the northern lights.

#11
Alberta
95 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Just to be clear, this is not my shot, but I wish it was. I do know where it was taken from, and it is a remote dark park. It does show you how bright northern light can be, compared to artificial lighting.
#12
Sechelt, BC & Fort Mohave, AZ
26,687 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
The likelihood of seeing them in coastal Alaska during the summer cruise season is fairly remote...not impossible just not likely. I have never seen them in coastal Alaska, I have seen them during the winter in Whitehorse and I can also remember my dad waking us up one winter's night as children in about 1950 to show them to us in Vancouver....but that would never happen again, there is far too much light in Vancouver now.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature

Upcoming Cruises

South Pacific & Australia - HAL Noordam - September 24, 2017
Hawaiian Islands - Star Princess - January 3, 2018


Previous Cruises:
Hawaiian Islands - Star Princess - January 4, 2017 .. Scandinavia & Russia - Regal Princess - May 26, 2016 .. Hawaiian Islands - Ruby Princess - January 9, 2016 .. British Isles - Royal Princess - Aug 25, 2015 .. Eastern Caribbean - Ruby Princess - Jan 24, 2015 .. Eastern Caribbean - Ruby Princess - Jan 17, 2015 .. Western Caribbean - Ruby Princess - Jan 10, 2015 .. Eastern Caribbean - Celebrity Silhouette - Jan 19, 2014 .. Western Caribbean - Celebrity Silhouette - Jan 12, 2014 .. Athens to Venice - Ruby Princess Sept. 15, 2013 .. Rome to Athens - Ruby Princess - Sept. 9, 2013 .. Southern Caribbean - Emerald Princess - Jan. 16, 2013 .. Eastern Caribbean - Emerald Princess - Jan. 6, 2013 .. Mediterranean & Adriatic - Grand Princess - Sept. 4, 2012 .. Southern Caribbean - Celebrity Constellation - Jan. 14, 2012 .. Mexican Riviera - HAL Oosterdam - Dec. 24, 2011 .. Pacific Coastal - Sapphire Princess - Sept. 18, 2011 . . Pacific Coastal - Sapphire Princess - May 14, 2011 . .Pacific Coastal - Golden Princess - May 11, 2011 .. Eastern Caribbean - Ruby Princess - Jan. 16, 2011 .. Western Caribbean - Crown Princess -Jan. 8, 2011 .. Mexican Riviera - Sapphire Princess - Dec. 4, 2010 .. Alaska - Diamond Princess - Sept. 4 2010 .. Alaska - Diamond Princess - Aug. 28, 2010. Pacific Coastal - Golden Princess - May 9, 2010 .. Southern Caribbean - Grand Princess - Jan. 15, 2010 .. Alaska - Sapphire Princess - Sept. 19, 2009 .. Pacific Coastal - Coral Princess - May 15, 2009 .. Panama Canal - Coral Princess - Jan 6, 2009 .. Pacific Coastal - Golden Princess - May 3, 2008 .. Hawaii - Diamond Princess -Dec.18,2007 .. Alaska - Celebrity Mercury - Aug. 10, 2007 .. Alaska - Canadian National Steamship's - SS Prince George - 13 cruises - May thru Sept, 1963 (crew member)
#13
more or less in TX
10,418 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
The earliest in the summer season I've ever seen the Northern Lights in Alaska is Sept 5 and that was from near Flat Top outside of Anchorage. That was in a very active year. Usually due to hours of daylight increasing as the spring season passes, in a low activity year (this is one) it would be highly unlikely to see than after March any further south than outside of Anchorage.
#14
116 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Thanks for all your responses and that picture was amazing!!!!

May look into going to fairbanks then to try and see them still defo want to do the alaskan cruise though!!!

L x x x
#15
petersburg, alaska
1,329 Posts
Joined May 2008
May look into going to fairbanks then to try and see them

hm, maybe something got lost in the translation. during the summer, the further you go north, the longer the daylight with the least amount of darkness needed for viewing auroras.
#17
Syracuse, New York
49,529 Posts
Joined May 2000
If you truely want to consider "looking" for northern lights with a cruise vacation, then consider a northbound first week of Sept sailing and adding another 2 weeks interior Alaska. In this timeframe, include a Denali Park visit the second week of Sept.

What has not been mentioned is the TIME required IF aurora is a priority. It means days. Do not expect to get a view, if you figure you'll do a night or two.

I've done 2 winter trips with the aurora priority and spent 2 weeks each time, mostly in Fairbanks. One year was spectacular, with excellent views about 10 days, other trip, had 2 days of view.

I have ONE time seen northern lights sailing into Skagway, was later in the first week of Sept.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Happy Alaska travels

[email protected]
#18
more or less in TX
10,418 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
Whenever I've seen the Northern Lights it has been by chance and not by plan. One spectacular night of late season camping at Denali I woke up feeling that something odd was going on. Outside the Northern Lights were on full display. I made coffee and spent the whole rest of the night sitting up watching. Never happened again.

One night when driving down from the area near Flat Top outside of Anchorage I saw the Northern Lights in my mirror and pulled over to watch the whole show.

Both of those sightings were near the time of the Equinox so I make a point of being in Alaska at those times (when possible). As Anchorage has grown and spread out the chances of seeing NL in Anchorage have been reduced. You really need to be much further north.

BQ's schedule would give you a chance, but only a chance. No one will give you a promise.

I've seen the Northern Lights dozens of times but likely have slept through them many more times than that. You really need to be a night owl.
#19
5,606 Posts
Joined Nov 2005
When we stayed at Kantishna Roadhouse on the west side of Denali Park years ago, we greatly appreciated that they had a sign up sheet where you could sign up to be awakened if the Northern Lights were visible. I am guessing that other hotels in the area may do it too. The night clerk came around pounding on our doors to awaken us around 2 a.m. one night and we all stood outside in our PJs and robes looking up at the sky in awe.
#20
more or less in TX
10,418 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
You were lucky. I wasn't terribly far from there when I was awakened in the night by the feeling that something weird was going on and spent the rest of the night watching the show.

I almost felt as if I had heard them in my sleep. When I'm on a cruise ship in Alaska I go outside and look in the wee hours just in case. Don't want to miss something.