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Northern Lights?


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The top of my wife's bucket list is seeing the Northern Lights. Any suggestions on a cruise that will allow us to see the lights? Also, what is the best time of year to maximize the chances of seeing them? Thanks!

 

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A number of cruis Lines does offer Northern Light cruises with overnight stop in Tromsø or Alta in Norway  - Viking Ocean P&O Cruises, Fred Olsen are examples.

Another alternative is Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes - not a cruise line - more a working ship/ expedition - 34 short stops along the coast. - Link to Hurtigruten Northern Light UK site.

Just note that it can be very, very cold being outside during night in winter - can be -22 degrees Fahrenheit in January, Also the sea can be rough during winter.

Going north you’ll have polar night - no sun the entire day - however twilight at noon.

January to March are probably the three most popular months for Northern light hunting because they bring long dark nights. 
In the Arctic, January is a time of renewal as the sun reappears above the horizon but it can be very, cold. Aurora might more likely appear in colder nights. 
In February the weather is improving and in March, the temperatures begin to rise. It can however still be cold at night. There might be less clouds to obscure the Northern lights.
Spring and autumn Equinoxes (around 20 March and 20 September) is told to have greater Northern Lights activity, not because there are more solar activities during this period, but due to the Earth's angle relative to the Sun the magnetic field does not protect the Earth quite as well. Also the intensity of northern light will increase the next three years due to increased solar activities.

Keep an eye on the lunar phases, when the Moon is full, it will be difficult to watch the Northern Lights. 
planning is extremely important - just ask all your questions.
I have a Hurtigruten review with more details. Also on clothing for the winter.

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Edited by hallasm
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Another option might be a September trip to Iceland. It is easy to fill your days there, which is important because Northern Lights are not guaranteed anywhere.  Iceland is great for self-driving in September and the sun sets early enough that you get the really dark skies you need for Northern Lights sightings.

 

Having said that, we have 5 nights in March and 7 in September under our belts with no Auroras to show for our trips, but we did have two AMAZING trips due to the day time activities

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If your primary goal is the Northern Lights, I would definitely consider a land-based trip over a cruise. First and foremost, seeing the aurora requires a clear sky. On land, especially in an area like Tromsø with several small localized weather systems, even if the weather isn’t behaving, you can travel elsewhere to someplace nearby with clear skies. This is why if you do opt for a cruise, having an overnight or two in a prime location is essential.

 

Second, if you’re planning to try to photograph them, you need a very long exposure. On a ship, it can be hard to maintain stillness long enough for a clear shot. Even if the ship isn’t moving, the small movements and mechanical vibrations can have an impact.

 

That said, the best display I’ve gotten to see happened to be on a cruise! We did an expedition cruise in Northeast Greenland in September, and the staff had an hourly rotation al night to watch for the lights, making announcements when they appeared. Since we were directly under the aurora band for a full week, we expected to get to see them at least once. Luckily, we ended up with three nights of activity, including one that was particularly strong.

 

Another thing to add: Remember that the lights look very different to the naked eye than they do in photos. Most displays in Northern Europe are a very pale greenish white, which ends up looking much more vibrant green in photos. Under strong conditions you can see more of the pink and purple colors appear. But the movement and dancing are indescribable. As is having a wide band of lights stretching overhead in an expanse that can’t be captured in standard photos.

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We saw the Northern Lights on a Celebrity Alaskan cruise in Sept. 2019.  The captain made an announcement and turned off ship's lights in order to view.  It was really beautiful, and we were really lucky.  Often, people take a trip with the sole purpose of seeing the Aurora and come home disappointed because the conditions don't cooperate.  We are planning a self-drive land tour in Alaska next month and are hoping to get lucky again in Fairbanks.

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Cunard offers a bus excursion for northern lights viewing on both nights in Tromso [6 and 7 November] that seem similar to offerings from some of the local services.

I'm looking at a van tour offered by 'polar adventures' where the description states that they will travel pretty far to find the best viewing probability [and to bring a passport - may need to cross a border].

 

The roll call thread has been pretty quiet, with 15 months to go. It might be too early to mention that as an option over there.

 

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On 8/10/2021 at 5:50 PM, TheOldBear said:

Cunard offers a bus excursion for northern lights viewing on both nights in Tromso [6 and 7 November] that seem similar to offerings from some of the local services.

I'm looking at a van tour offered by 'polar adventures' where the description states that they will travel pretty far to find the best viewing probability [and to bring a passport - may need to cross a border].

 

The roll call thread has been pretty quiet, with 15 months to go. It might be too early to mention that as an option over there.

We did a similar van tour one night when we were staying in Tromsø for a weekend. I definitely recommend it over the bus tours, because they tend to go farther afield. The night that we went, it was completely clouded over nearly all the way to the Swedish border, including the spots where most of the buses stop. The van driver was tracking the cloud cover and we ended up alongside one other van in an area where the clouds were broken up. Sadly, we were unlucky that night and had only the briefest moment of activity.

 

(Thankfully we had been luckier the night before with clear skies over Tromsø and moderate auroral activity. So we just walked over to Mandelasletta and were able to enjoy them from there.)

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