NORTHEAST & NORTHWEST PASSAGES

These elusive sea corridors have captivated explorers’ minds since the 15th century. Now you can traverse these fabled passages on an Arctic expedition voyage with Seabourn.

European explorers have searched for a northernly sea passage between Western Europe and Asia since the 1400s. Such a route would save months of arduous travel around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn at the tip of South America.  Many explorers journeyed west around Greenland and through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in search of a corridor connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; others steered their ships east across the top of present-day Norway and Arctic Russia. These early seafarers were turned back time and again by treacherous weather conditions and thick sea ice; many perished. Yet the Arctic has experienced monumental change since these passages were first mapped, and the region’s transformative nature has created ice-free areas year-round, making shipping — and expedition travel — possible. 

Northeast & Northwest Passages Destinations

Northeast Passage

Northeast Passage map

Northwest Passage

Northwest Passage map

Northeast Passage
A cadre of early seafarers pieced together various sections of this passage across the frozen region atop Norway and Arctic Russia. Finnish-Swedish scientist Adolf Nordenskiöld made the first full transit on an 1878-79 expedition — although his ship was frozen near the Bering Strait for nearly ten months. It took another 55 years before a Soviet icebreaker did it in a single season, and until 1991 for the route to officially open to foreign shipping. Seabourn guests will discover one of the most mysterious and wildly beautiful places on Earth, venturing out on Zodiac excursions and tundra hikes that reveal fascinating rock formations and microscopic flora. Wherever possible, you can join your ship’s Kayak Team for a rare, water-level perspective. Stop at important remnants of early expeditions and Indigenous villages that still eke out a meager living off this frozen land. Possible wildlife encounters abound — from muskoxen, reindeer, and Arctic foxes to walruses, and whales. The chance to witness a polar bear in the wild is worth the journey alone, and Seabourn explores two of the best places to view the “King of the Arctic”: Franz Josef Land and the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Wrangel Island Reserve — home to the highest concentration of polar bear dens on earth.

Northwest Passage
Venetian navigator John Cabot first set out in 1492 to search for this fabled passage, which spans some 900 miles between Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago to the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. Numerous expeditions followed and failed — including the infamous Franklin Expedition of 1845 — before Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen finally made a successful transit in 1906. Today’s adventurers can traverse the corridor in ultra-luxury comfort with Seabourn. Take an exhilarating Zodiac excursion along the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ponder the lonely graves of doomed Franklin Expedition members on tiny Beechy island, and hike to an ancient Thule settlement of stone pit houses on Devon Island — a.k.a. “Mars on Earth.” Visit Inuit towns like Cambridge Bay in Canada’s Nunavut territory, and learn how Indigenous people survive in such a remote and harsh environment. Wherever possible, Seabourn guests can join their ship’s Kayak Team for an optional paddle. You can even explore below the frigid water surface in one of your ship’s custom-built submarines.

Please note: Destinations shown above are representative of many of the places we'll visit but are subject to conditions.

Polar bears are an exciting possible discovery on an all-inclusive, luxury expedition cruise along the Northeast Passage.

Seabourn Current

A Travel Blog from Seabourn
Read the latest Northeast and Northwest Passages articles on Seabourn’s digital magazine, Current — the newest way to find out about some of the most unique Seabourn destinations.

Navigating the Northeast Passage
Discover the hardships that early adventurers endured in their search for this important sea route, and how life can still thrive amidst the barren Arctic environment.

In Pursuit of the Northwest Passage
Learn why it took explorers so long to locate — and then navigate — this famous passage, and what it means for the future of expedition travel.

Arctic fox, a common sight on all-inclusive, luxury expedition cruises on Seabourn.

Featured Ports: Northeast Passage

Tromsø, Norway

This lively city in Northern Norway — often called the Arctic Capital — takes full advantage of its Midnight Sun-lit summers and front-row seating for the aroura borealis.

Storstappen Island

Largest of the Gjesvaestappen island chain, Storstappen is a designated nature reserve that supports some 100,000 puffins, as well as large colonies of kittiwakes, great cormorants, and razorbills.

Hornvika, Norway

Marvel at the towering stone Horn en route to the cove of Hornvika, set below the North Cape plateau on the northernmost point of the European mainland.

Nome, Alaska

The annual Iditarod finishes in this former Gold Rush town, set at the southern tip of the Seward Peninsula and noted for its dramatic scenery, Inupiat culture, and plentiful wildlife.

Featured Ports: Northwest Passage

Reykjavik, Iceland

More than half of Iceland’s population lives in this sophisticated city, the northernmost national capital in the world. Its name translates as “smoky bay,” a reference to the many mineral hot springs and geothermal areas nearby.

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Greenland’s only inland town, located at the head of its namesake, 120-mile-long fjord, is the gateway for wild adventure on the Greenland Ice Cap.

Ilulissat Icefjord

This 37-mile-long fjord, set along Greenland’s west coast, is the sea mouth of one of the world’s most active glaciers and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hike to Sermermiut Valley to view its spellbinding bergs, as well as the remains of an ancient Inuit settlement.

Northwest Passage Experience

The 900-mile-long route through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans — and gives visitors a rare glimpse into this glacier-carved region dominated by sea ice.