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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.
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.
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.
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.
There are No bad cruises, just bad cruisers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.