This Cruise Line Guarantees You’ll See The Northern Lights (Or You Get A Free Trip)

Have you always dreamed of seeing the northern lights? This natural wonder—also known as the aurora borealis—is one of the most awe-inspiring sights on the planet, capturing the imagination and inspiring travelers to plan bucket-list trips to witness the colorful display.

Spotting the northern lights can be an elusive event, but one way to increase your chances is to take a cruise. The reason? Out at sea, light pollution won’t get in the way.

One cruise line is so passionate about making sure you see the northern lights that it’s putting money behind it. Hurtigruten has created a “Northern Lights Promise” on expeditions along Norway’s coast during peak aurora-spotting season, September 26 to March 31. The promise: If there’s no northern lights display on a voyage of 11 days or more, the cruise line will give you another Norwegian cruise for free.

“We want our guests to feel confident they’ll check the northern lights off their bucket list,” says Hedda Felin, CEO of Hurtigruten Norway.

Why Norway? “In most of Norway, the northern lights are the norm, not the exception; nearly half of the country lies above the Arctic circle and within the high auroral visibility range,” says Felin. “You can search for the live auroral oval to see for yourself—it’s quite incredible.”

The auroral oval encompasses a radius of about 1,550 miles around the North Pole, and it’s the area where the northern lights are most commonly seen.

On the Astronomy Voyages during northern lights season, Hurtigruten has experts like Tom Kerss F.R.A.S.—an astronomer, astrophotographer and founder of Stargazing✦London—onboard. What does Kerss love about being on a cruise under the northern lights? “It evokes the spirit of the great polar explorers who mastered the seas at the top of the world over a century ago,” says Kerss. “As we stand on the deck, mesmerized by the colorful arcs overhead, we get a sense of what they felt.”

Here, a few northern lights spotting tips.

Don’t look at your phone: “As with the stars, your view of the northern lights is greatly improved when your eyes are dark adapted,” Kerss recommends in his best-selling astronomy book, Northern Lights: The Definitive Guide to Auroras. “While it takes about 30 minutes to fully dark adapt, it takes only a fraction of a second to spoil the experience by glancing at a bright light source.” The most common culprits: your phone or camera.

• Use this photography advice onboard a ship: Stian Klo (who has almost 250,000 followers on Instagram @stianmklo) has been published in National Geographic, Lonely Planet and more. His advice for shooting on a moving cruise ship: “When onboard, you need to account for the ship’s movement. To ensure sharpness, be certain the shutter speed is no slower than 1/200th sec. Use a tripod or monopod to secure stability. Use a fast lens. Set the camera at a high ISO value to keep the shutter speed as fast as possible. Set your lens to infinity focus and start shooting.”

• Remember—they’re fleeting: “The northern lights most commonly appear between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m.,” according to Hurtigruten. “They don’t usually exhibit for long—they may only show for a few minutes, then glide away before returning. A good display may last for no longer than 15-30 minutes at a time, although if you’re really lucky, it could extend to a couple of hours or longer.”

• Check the (best) forecasts: Here’s a great website to find out if the northern lights might be in view: The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska. “It allows you to view predicted activity in all auroral regions,” says Hurtigruten. “You can also sign up for Northern Lights forecast email alerts.”

And check out these northern lights images from recent Hurtigruten sailings.


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