A History of Cruising in the Canadian Arctic

(This is a slightly amended version- May 2018 –  of the original paper. Recently available information on Canadian Arctic shipping showed that the Lindblad Explorer visited first in 1974)

In writing Arctic Cargo, I deliberately omitted cruise activity, partly because I couldn’t think of cruise guests as cargo, and partly because I could not find any resources beyond my own files. There still isn’t much outside information, and some of it is, regrettably, inaccurate. The paper that follows attempts to provide a basis of data about cruising in the Arctic with larger ships. It does not cover small yachts, or “Adventurers”, of which there are many; nor does it attempt to provide information about mega yachts (private passenger vessels over 30m length); again, the number of these vessels is growing.

Western Arctic

For Canada, Arctic Cruising really started as river cruising on the Mackenzie River after the completion of the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway between Edmonton and Waterways on the Clearwater River in 1922[1]. The Clearwater led, via the Athabasca and the Slave Rivers, and Lakes Athabasca and Great Slave to the Mackenzie.

 In 1923 the Alberta and Arctic Transportation Company (AATC) offered their new steamer service with a special round trip fare of $240[2] excluding berth and meals between Waterways and Aklavik. The round trip took about one month; the full tariff is given in the table on the following page.

The AATC brochure extolled opportunities for fishing as well as big and feathered game. The trip “…combining splendid state rooms and meals make this one of the most unique and interesting tourist trips to be found anywhere”. The AATC had the Slave River on the upper route with the Distributor on the lower route, while Northland Trading had the Northland Echo and Northland Trader, and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) offered their sternwheelers Athabasca River and Mackenzie River.

A Winton 6 Touring Car

This is a 1916 edition of the car


   The upper and lower portions of the route were separated by the rapids between Fort Fitzgerald and Fort Smith. Here the AATC offered passenger transportation in a Winton Six Touring Car over the sixteen-mile portage.

 Alberta and Arctic Transportation Company Passage Rates[3] 1923 season

Location Miles Downstream

From Waterways $



Aklavik $

Waterways 0 150.00
Fort MacMurray 6 1.00 148.00
Fort MacKay 40 5.00 142.00
Point Bruce 153 9.50 133.25
Lake Athabasca 176 13.50 131.50
Fort Chipewyan 192 15.00 130.00
Mouth of Peace River 222 18.00 127.00
Fort Fitzgerald 292 22.00 120.00
Fort Smith 308 27.00 115.00
King’s Sawmill 352 31.50 110.00
Fort Resolution 512 37.00 100.00
Hay River 587 42.00 92.00
Wrigley Harbour 621 45.00 89.50
Fort Providence 665 47.00 85.00
Fort Simpson 821 57.00 70.00
Wrigley 973 67.00 55.00
Fort Norman 1125 77.00 40.00
Norman Oil Well Discovery 1175 82.00 32.00
Fort Good Hope 1298 87.00 25.00
Arctic Red River 1512 97.00 10.00
Fort MacPherson 1566 102.00 5.00
Aklavik 1666 107.00

        Meals: Breakfast $.75, Dinner and Supper $1.00. Berths Lower $1.50, Upper $1.00

       Children 5-12 half fare.


In 1923, there were three carriers, although there wasn’t enough cargo and passenger business for one. Added to which the fur market, on which all the companies depended for income, had collapsed in 1920. It recovered somewhat over 1921 and 1922, but still wasn’t enough to support companies, like Lamson and Hubbard (the parent of AATC), that had invested heavily in transportation infrastructure and they declared bankruptcy.

Northern[4] also fell on hard times and the following year, there was just the HBC, which consolidated the assets into Mackenzie River Transport.

In the June 1925 issue of The Beaver, the HBC published a promotional piece about the river trip, saying…”in commodious and up to date steamers we may travel in absolute comfort to the very rim of the world, the home of the Eskimo and the land of the Midnight Sun”. Business on the river obviously improved, and by 1927 the HBC was offering a 35 day round trip to Aklavik at $325 including meals and was unable to keep up with the passenger demand[5]. At this time, they were running the Athabasca River and Northland Echo on the Upper Route, and the Distributor and Mackenzie River on the Lower Route.

ss Grahame[6]

Photograph Courtesy Peace River Museum Archives and Mackenzie Centre

 – Weaver family fonds F033-PRMA, 87.1506.007

Business must have declined with the Depression as the HBC averaged only some 16 passengers per trip on the Upper Route over 1931 and 1932, and about 30 per trip on the Lower Route. The fleet was still the same in 1940 when Josephine Robertson[7] took her son to Tuktoyaktuk for the summer. They sailed on the Northland Echo from Waterways and the Distributor to Kittigazuit[8] in the Delta. She reported only two passengers who were not connected in some way with the region. The other five were post managers, clergy or their wives; thus in all nine passengers.

Hudson’s Bay Company Passenger Boats 1930’s

Route Boat Built Dimensions LxBxd Berths
Upper Athabasca River 1922 147’5”x35’6” x4’6” 58
  Northland Echo 1923 137’6”x24’3”x4’5” 40
Lower Distributor 1920 151’4”x35’3”x4’6” 60
  Mackenzie River 1911[9] 126”x26”x? 30

                        Not all boats operated every season

Passenger travel on the Mackenzie effectively ended in 1949 when the HBC stopped being a common carrier, and the boats were either broken up or sold to other operators for accommodation.

In 1971 a small expedition style cruise ship, the Norweta[10] entered service running cruises from Hay River to Inuvik (8 days down stream, 10 days upstream). Reportedly, the 18-passenger boat was run for 4 years, and was then purchased as a standby vessel for Beaufort Sea exploration. In 1991, a local family purchased her; refurbished the boat and again ran it as a small cruise ship. It was probably difficult to make money with such a small operation, and the Norweta was laid up in 2009 and is for sale. Ownership[11] has been as follows:

1971-1980    Arctic Cruises Ltd Hay River NT

1982-1988    Arctic Offshore Ltd Hay River NT

1989-1991    Pristine Tours Hope BC

1992-2014    175119 Canada Inc Yellowknife NT

mv Norweta

from http://explorenorth.com/wordpress/hay-river-nwt-to-manning-alberta/


Map of Communities in the Canadian Arctic


Eastern Arctic

Cruising in the Eastern Arctic might have commenced in 1923, when the HBC chartered the Canadian Pacific liner Montreal[12] for a cruise to Hudson Bay. However, bookings were not at a level to justify the trip and deposits were refunded. Tourist trips to the Eastern Arctic commenced a decade later with the first sailing of the HBC’s venerable ss Nascopie in 1933. Built in 1912 in partnership with Newfoundland’s Job Brothers, the ship was the mainstay of HBC seasonal re-supply until 1930 when she was laid up because of high operational costs. For the next three years, the HBC used Job Brothers’ ss Ungava.

In 1932, control of the Nascopie was transferred from London to the Canadian Committee in Winnipeg, and from 1933 on Arctic re-supply trips started in Montreal, not Britain. In 1932, the HBC consolidated its position with the Dominion Government’s Eastern Arctic Patrol[13] (EAP), agreeing a space charter commitment from 1933 onwards on the Nascopie for 20 round trip berths and 400tons of cargo at $25,000.

The Nascopie was brought out of lay-up in Ardrossan (Scotland) and, according to the advertisement in The Beaver (below) accommodation was expanded to include additional berths for possible cruise passengers[14]

From http://www.gov.mb.ca/rearview/perrin/summercruise.html

The advertisement asks that prospective passengers write to the Fur Trade Commissioner for pricing and accommodation. In fact, Ralph Parsons, the Commissioner at the time personally vetted all requests and “chose the passengers carefully in order to maintain the ‘right’ atmosphere aboard ship”. Mr. Parsons retired in 1940, and Major McKeand, the Officer in Charge of the EAP commented that: under Parsons’ direction, the passenger list was well chosen, but there was a marked difference in the class of passenger this season [1940] over that of previous voyages.”[15]

After embarking passengers in Montreal, the Nascopie typically dropped them off at different posts, also picking up way passengers (ie between posts) as well as post employees heading to Churchill to take the train south. There was a major change when the ship reached Churchill; from here, the Nascopie served northern Arctic posts on its return voyage so in addition to cargo being loaded, passengers joined the ship for northern posts, or the trip to Halifax[16]. Annex 1 gives a summary of passenger numbers between 1933-1946, as well as passage rates for 1936 and tourist fares for 1939.

The 1933 voyage[17] embarked the following in Montreal:

    • 6 HBC Employees
    • 13 Government, including 4 RCMP
    • 2 Missionaries
    • 3 Revillon Frères post employees
    • 3 American tourists
    • A King’s Scout on a round trip
    • Max Bauer, a photographer commissioned by The Beaver.

When the ship left Churchill, the following were among the persons who embarked:

    • Dr Colin Ross and family, noted as a German Newspaper Correspondent
    • Harold E. O’Neil, Sunday Editor of the Daily Home News, New Brunswick (NJ)
    • Owen Russell from the New York Times Publicity Department.

The 1934 voyage did not embark any tourists in Montreal as it carried Patrick Ashley Cooper, the Governor of the HBC, his wife and a large number of HBC employees on the trip to Churchill. However, four tourists did embark in Churchill for the return voyage.

Tourists Numbers on the Nascopie[18]

Embarking 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941
Montreal 5 0 6 8 5 8 12 4 5
Churchill 4 4 0 3 8 6 7 7 5

Apparently a decision was made in 1941 to get out of the business on the rationale that tourists were bad for Inuit health. This is unlikely to have been an HBC decision, and was probably driven by the Dominion Government, which was taking a greater interest in Inuit well fare. More than likely there were also security considerations as the ship disembarked tourists at Port Alfred in Quebec in 1940, carrying those that embarked at Churchill via Ivigtut in Greenland. This was a key allied source of cryolite for aluminium smelting. The ship also called Ivigtut in 1941 and 1942.

In 1946 the ship reportedly carried six medical officers, a dentist, an optician and optical technician, an X-Ray technician and two nurses. Typically, during the 1930’s only a single doctor had been carried. Also, space would have been needed to accommodate the X-Ray equipment, eye testing and spectacle manufacture as well as dental treatment.

ss Nascopie leaving Montreal in 1936

Photograph Courtesy Hudson’s Bay Archives HBCA1987/363-N-7/42

After WWII the HBC was effectively out of the tourist business, although it may have continued to carry some in-house passengers on its re-supply boats, as these had accommodation for up to twelve persons. Air was being used more for personnel transfers, and the HBC operated its own aircraft, including a Canso flying boat.

As far as we can find, there was then a hiatus in cruise activity in the Canadian Arctic until Lars Eric Lindblad brought his small expedition ship the Lindblad Explorer north in 1974. Cruises took place in 1974, 1982 and 1983, then on August 20, 1984, the 2,398-grt 104-passenger ship left St John’s, Newfoundland, bound for a 43-day voyage through the Northwest Passage that would take her to Yokohama on September 29, thus becoming the first passenger ship to transit the Northwest Passage. In 1985, the 3,153-grt 138-passenger World Discoverer followed, becoming the first ship to transit the Northwest Passage in the opposite direction, completing a 32-day 6,295-mile voyage from Nome to Halifax for Society Expeditions. The Lindblad Explorer came back in 1988 as the Society Explorer with a west to East transit.

See Annex 2 for the itinerary of the Lindblad Explorer in 1983; Annex 3 for details of ships that have cruised in the Canadian Arctic since 1974 and Annex 4 for cruise ships that have undertaken a Northwest Passage. Numbers of ships and estimated cruise numbers between 1989 and 2017 are given in Annex 5. This also includes numbers of adventurers and Mega yachts. The data shows that ship numbers have tended to increase in recent years, although in 2012 only four cruise ships visited the Canadian Arctic, and two were NWP transits. Numbers of cruises increased dramatically over the period 2005 to 2010 when Cruise North Expeditions, operated an aggressive cruise programme based out of Kuujjuaq in Nunavik. This was an experiment by the Makivik Corporation, to encourage economic development. The operation must have been difficult, because the Koksoak River is very shallow, and safe anchorages for ships with the draft of their charter ship, the Lyubov Orlova would require a long tender from the community.

If the Cruise North programme is removed from the cruise activity, the average over the past 13 years (including NWP activity) has been 14 cruises and seven ships. It should be noted, however, that some of the cruises are very short and may only call at between one and three locations in Canada. Increasingly, some operators are offering a quasi NWP, by cruising to Cambridge Bay or Kugluktuk and then turning around, sometimes with a passenger change.

Lindblad Explorer

From: http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=1377721

Cruise ships that came into the Canadian Arctic, even those that made a Northwest Passage, often undertake a number of cruises with turnarounds at different locations. Some, like Iqaluit, Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay were voluntary, others like the National Geographic Explorer at Resolute Bay in 2014 were forced on the operator because of ice conditions.

Although some cruises start at places like St. John’s (NL), Greenland[19] is the preferred origin/destination in many cases, particularly for non-Canadian-flagged vessels due to Canadian cabotage rules. By utilizing Greenland ports, long sea-passages can be avoided, allowing for more days of scenic Arctic activities. Also, air uplift capabilities are better, and most communities can offer a dock for passenger and baggage transfer, rather than using zodiacs over a beach. See Annex 6 for a selection of cruises by different ships[20]. Churchill was frequently used as a turnaround port in Canada, probably because the train trip to/from Winnipeg offered a unique addition to the cruise experience.


Calls by selected ships and years on Northwest Passage Itineraries

mv Kapitan Khlebnikov mv Hanseatic
Westbound 19/08 – 19/09 2001 Eastbound 23/08 – 09/09 1998
Thule, Green land Herschel Island
Coburg Island Smoking Hills
Grise Fjord Holman
Tanqueray Fjord Ross Point
Eureka Cambridge Bay
Mokka Fjord Jenny Lind Island
Radstock Bay Arctic Bay
Beechey Island Beechey Island
Resolute Bay Resolute Bay
Bent Horn Dundas Harbour
Smoking Hills Nungavik
Walker Bay Pond Inlet
Sachs Harbour Sam Ford Fjord
Herschel Island Umanaq, Greenland


Calls by selected ships and years on Eastern Arctic Itineraries

mv World Discoverer mv Ocean Endeavour
31/07 – 14/08 1989 16 – 26/07 2017
Upernavik  (Greenland) St. John’s (NL)
Dexterity Fjord (presumably Labrador Coast)
Eclipse sound George River
Pond Inlet Akpatok Island
Admiralty Inlet Douglas Harbour
Resolute Bay Digges Island
Strathcona Sound Cape Dorset
Nunavik Kimmirut (Lake Harbour)
Sermilik Glacier (Greenland) Lower Savage Islands
Pond Inlet George River
Holsteinborg (Sisimut,Greenland) Akpatok Island
  Douglas Harbour




By comparison with Canada, Greenland sees an enormous number of cruise ships. In 2017 there were 34 large ships from the major operators that called, sometimes on more than one occasion. Eight of these ships also cruised in Canadian waters. The reason may be partly bureaucracy; a complaint by operators about Canada is the sheer number of departments of the federal and territorial governments that need to provide approval. Also, cruises that operate Canada to Canada involve issues over stores and liquor that may not apply in Greenland. For vessels of less than 100 passengers, duty is also an issue. As well, ice conditions have an influence in that the Greenland shore has, because of ocean currents, always been relatively ice free, and Nuuk is typically ice free year round.

Ice conditions in Davis Strait week of June 04

From: http://iceweb1.cis.ec.gc.ca/30Atlas/page1.xhtml?region=ec&lang=en


Passenger Numbers

Providing actual passenger numbers for any given year is probably impossible at this remove, although estimates can be made based on ship berths and assumptions regarding occupancy. Some actual figures are available for more recent years, but NORDREG only records the Persons on Board (POB), i.e. passengers and crew, on entry into Canadian waters. If a ship does a turnaround in an Arctic community, POB information is only sporadically available. For example, in 1992, the Kapitan Khlebnikov undertook a NWP from Provideniya (Russia) to Upernavik in Greenland. No POB figures on entry are available, but it was reported that 34 passengers embarked at Cambridge Bay. No advice, though, on any disembarking passengers.

In some years, NORDREG provided the same passenger and crew numbers for each cruise. For example, in 2008 both the Bremen and Hanseatic undertook two round trip cruises from Greenland. On both, Bremen reported 164pax/100crew, and the Hanseatic 164pax/125crew. In 2015, the Hanseatic undertook three round trips from Greenland, reporting 300, 293, 295 POB respectively, which seems much more reasonable. Annex 6 provides details for the 2015 cruise season, and out of 19 cruises, only one is missing a POB figure. As a result, passenger numbers can be estimated with some accuracy using boilerplate crew numbers from Annex 3, thus for 2015 there wereprobably 4,901 POB, with an estimated 3,018 passengers, and 1,883 crew.

It must be kept in mind that these aren’t all the marine tourism visitors to the Canadian Arctic. In 2015 there were three mega yachts with 74 POB and 20 adventurers with an estimated[21] 90 POB.


Although commentators tend to make a big deal of the sinking of the Explorer in Antarctica, and the grounding of the Clipper Adventurer in Coronation Gulf, when discussing safety of passenger ships in the Arctic, the record is actually very good, considering the ships go to out of the way locations in a region that is not well charted, and there is probably a desire to get as close to a landing beach as possible to minimize the zodiac run. Following is a list of known incidents[22] in the Canadian Arctic:

1993    Alla Tarasova              Ice Damage                 Greenland waters

1996    Hanseatic                    Grounding                   Shoal, Simpson Strait

1996    Kapitan Dranytsin       Pollution                      Cambridge Bay

1997    Hanseatic                    Ice Damage                 Coronation Gulf

1998    Alla Tarasova              Ice Damage                 Frobisher Bay

1999    Le Levant                    Mechanical                  Hudson Strait

2010    Clipper Adventurer     Grounding                   Sea Mount, Coronation Gulf



Arctic Cargo: A History of Marine Transportation in Canada’s North Christopher Wright 2016

HBCA File A105/31. Western Arctic passenger numbers from a hand written document headed: “see letter CCP#126 of 31/1/33 with accompanying report”. This appears to be an ongoing exchange with Furness Withy (a British shipping company) regarding an analysis of HBC’s operations. However, the passenger numbers and accompanying revenue figures do not appear to correspond. The report was not found.

The Beaver Magazine articles:

Trading into Hudson Bay RHH McCauley about the Governor’s trip from Montreal to Churchill,

Down North by River Steamer JC MacDonald, June 1934

Edmonton to Aklavik 1920 Catharine Hoare, June 1938

By Sternwheeler to the Arctic Josephine Robertson, June 1941

Personal communications with Kevin Griffin, Managing Director, The Cruise People Ltd. (Europe)

Gertrude Perrin Fonds http://www.gov.mb.ca/rearview/perrin/summercruise.html

Thirty Years Of Northwest Passage Cruises; September 22, 2014. Posting by Kevin Griffin on Cybercruise Newsletter.

The Maximum of Mishap: Adventurous Tourists and the State in the Northwest Territories, 1926-1948, Tina Adcock. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/619052/pdf

1983 Sealift After Action Report by Canadian Coast Guard.

NORDREG Reports 1974-2017

Cruise Tourism in Polar Regions: Promoting Environmental and Social Sustainability

Editors Michael Luck and Patrick T Maher. Emma J Stewart Author, Earthscan 2010

Tourism in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions

Editors: Collin Michael Hall and Margaret E Johnston Wiley 1995

I was no Lady, Jean Godsell, Ryerson Press 1961.

Down the Mackenzie, Fullerton Waldo, The MacMillan company 1925

NWP Transits List from RK Headland, Scott Polar Research Institute Cambridge

Annex 1

Passenger Numbers for the Nascopie 1933-46

Year Days RT Round Trip Passengers Outbound









Total Crew
1933 82 12 18 18 24 30 72 42
1934 86 9 38 23 17 47[23] 87 45[24]
1935 78 15 27 20 20 42 82 44
1936 80 17 22 26 28 39 93 43
1937 81 17 36 26 28 53 107 47
1938 73 16 25 19 23 41 83 47
1939 78 19 19 24 25 38 87[25] 45
1940 89 10 15 33 94 25 152 42
1941 102 9 24 22 63 33 84 45
1942 140 9 23 27 88 32 103 47
1943 101 7 12 25 59 19 147 51
1944 93 16 7 10 51 23 118 56
1945 81 8 14 19 63 22 104 47
1946 89 17 26 22 69 43 134 50


Nascopie Table Notes

  • Round Trip Passengers were usually government personnel, other than RCMP.
  • Outbound passengers only went as far as Churchill, but many disembarked en route
  • Return Passengers embarked at Churchill, but many disembarked at posts en route to Halifax[26]
  • Way Passengers are those that embarked and disembarked between Montreal and Churchill, or Churchill and Halifax
  • Probable Montreal Passengers is the sum of Round Trip and Outbound Passengers. This number is not always supported by information from passenger manifests.

Passage Pricing

1936 Season from Montreal to Hebron $60.00
Lake Harbour $110.00
Chesterfield Inlet $320.00
Mission Staff received a 25% discount; Children <5 Free, <12 Half Price
1939 Season Tourist Fares: Montreal to Churchill $300.00
Churchill to Halifax $350.00
Montreal Round trip $650.00

Annex 2

1983 Cruise of the Lindblad Explorer[27]

80 passengers embarked at Reykjavik in Iceland

Location Dates
Gothaab 30Jl
Akpatok Island 02Au
Shaftesbury Inlet 03Au
Cape Dorset 04Au
Mill Island 04Au
Holsteinborg 08Au
Sarsanguak 08Au
Jakobshavn 09Au
Sondreupernavik 10Au
Carey Island 12Au via Melville Bight
Harstein Bay 12/13Au
78o 18’ N 13Au
Kane Basin 14Au Stopped by multi-year ice
Cobourg Island 14Au
Craig Harbour 14Au
Cape Sparbo 15Au
Grise Fjord 15/16Au
Dundas Harbour 17Au
Navy Board Inlet 18Au
Eclipse Sound 18/19Au
Pond Inlet 19Au
Cape Graham Moore 19/20Au
Frobisher 24Au Passengers disembarked


Annex 3

Ships that have cruised in the Canadian Arctic between 1974 and 2017

Name Previous Name Built RF Gross Dimensions

LOA x B x d

Pax Crew


SR Ice Years operating in Arctic
Akademik Ioffe   1988   6450 117.2×18.2×6 96/


65* 48 1A 1997,98,99,01,02,03,04,05,06,07,08,09,10,11,12


Akademik Sergey Vavilov   1988   6450 117.17×18.2×5.9 92/


65* 37 1A 2015,16,17
Akademik Shokalskiy   1982 1998 1764 71.06×12.82×4.5 54 30 28 UL 2008
Albatros[28] Dawn Princess 1957 1971/1984 24,724 185.4×24.49×9.0 800 350 400 N 1998,02,
Alexander von Humboldt[29] Crown Monarch 1990 2010 15396 152.5×20.6×5.8 510 215 250 N 2006,07,08,
Alla Tarasova   1975 1998 5750 100.58×16.3×4.72 122 84/72 61 1A 1994,95,96
Bremen Frontier Spirit 1990 1993/2006 6752 111.5x17x4.8 164 94/100 82 E4 1998,03,06,07,08,09,10,11,13,14,16,17
Caledonian Sky Renaissance VI 1991 01/12 4,200 90.6×15.3×4.2 114 74 57 Y 2012
Clelia II[30] Renaissance IV 1990 01/09/15 4,077 88.3×15.3×4.5 100 70   1D 2010,
Clipper Adventurer Alla Tarasova 1975 1998 5750 100.58×16.3×4.72 122 84/72 61 1A 1998,99,00,01,04,05,06,09,10,11,12,
Crystal Serenity   2003 2011 68870 249.94×32.31×7.6 1070 655 548 N 2016,17,
Explorer Lindblad Explorer 1969   2398 76.2x14x4.3 104 54   1A 2005,06,07,
Frontier Spirit   1990 93/06 6752 111.5x17x4.8 164 94/100 82 E4 1992,93

Abbreviations: RF= Rebuild or Refurbished; LOA= Length over all, B= Beam, d= Draft; Pax=Passengers, lower berth: SR.= Staterooms; Ice, Y=Yes, but degree not known; E3, E4= Germanischer Lloyd, 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, Lloyds Class; L3, UL Russian Register; IB=Ice Breaker. N=No Ice Class

*In 2016 the ships entered Canadian waters with only 46 and 44 crew/staff respectively

Ships that have cruised in the Canadian Arctic between 1974 and 2017

Name Previous Name Built RF Gross Dimensions

LOA x B x d

Pax Crew SR Ice Years operating in Arctic
Hanseatic Society Adventurer[31] 1993 1997/09/11/15 8378 122.8x18x 184 125 92 E4 1993,94,95,96,97,98,99,00,01,02,04,06,07,08,0910,11,12,13.15,17
Illiria   1962   3745 103.8x15x 209       1991,92
Kapitan Dranitsyn   1980   12919 129.02×26.5×8.5 100 60 49 IB 1996,99,00,07,
Kapitan Khlebnikov[32]   1981 1990 12288 122.5×26.5×8.5 110 70 54 IB 1992,93,94,95,97,98,01,02,03,04,05,06,07,08,1016
L’Austral   2009   10700 142.1x18x4.8 264 136 132 1C 2014,16
Le Boreal   2009   10700 142.1x18x4.8 264 136 132 1C 2011,12,13,14,15,16,17
Le Diamant[33]   1974 86/11 8282 124.19×16.03x 366   189 1D 2010,
Le Levant   1998 2012 3504 100x14x3.5 90 60 45 N 1999,00,01,03,04,
Le Soleal   2013   10700 142.1x18x4.8 264 136 132 1C 2013,15,17
Lindblad Explorer[34]   1969   2398 76.2x14x4.3 104 54   1C/1A 1974,82,83,1984 First NWP by a cruise ship
Livonia   1984     71.9×12.8 38   19 Y 1995,
Lyubov Orlova[35]   1976   4251 100×16.24×4.6 110 70   L3 2000,04,06,07,08,09,10
Maxim Gorkiy[36] Hamburg 1969 1989 25,022 194.72×26.6×8.27 652 340   1A 1999,
Ntl. Geo. Explorer Midnatsol 1982 2008 6471 112×16.5×4.74 154 71 81 1A 2008,13,14,15,16,17
Ocean Atlantic Konstantin Chernenko 1985 10/16 12798 140x21x5.5 198 140 99 1B 2017

May be incomplete prior to 1989.





Ships that have cruised in the Canadian Arctic between 1974 and 2017

Name Previous Name Built RF Gross Dimensions

LOA x B x d

Pax Crew SR Ice Years operating in Arctic
Ocean Endeavour Konstantin Simonov 1982 2014 12907 137.61×12.01×5.6 199 124   1B 2015,16,17
Ocean Nova Sarpik Ittu 1992 02/06 2183 72.8×11.1×3.7 78 38 38 1B 2007,08,11,
Orion   2003   3984 102.7×14.25×3.8 106 75 53 E3 2004,
Polar Prince Humphrey Gilbert 1958 2009 2153 72.5×14.7×5       1B 2017
Polar Star Njord 1969 2000 4998 86.5×21.2x 96 35   1B 2005,06,08,09,10,
Polaris[37] Oresund 1960 1982 2138 72.12×13.03×4.25 80     ? 1990,91,93,95,
Prince Albert II World Discoverer[38] 1989 2008 6130 108×15.6×4.38 132 111 66 1A 2008,09,10,
Professor Multanovskiy   1983 90/96 1753 71.6×12.8×4.5 52 26 24 1D 1995,99,
Sea Adventurer Clipper Adventurer 1976 1999/02/17 5750 100.58×16.3×4.72 132 84/72 61 1A 2013,14,15,16,
Sea Explorer Renaissance VII 1991   4200 90.36×15.3×4.2 120 72 59 1C 2014,15
Sea Voyager[39] Cape May Light 2001   4954 91.44×15.24×3.81 220 79 110 N 2011
Shearwater Disko 1968 2005 2097 70.56×13.54×4.4 76 36     2000,
Silver Explorer Prince Albert II 1989 2008 6130 108×15.6×4.38 132 111 66 1A 2013,14,15,16,17
Society Explorer Lindblad Explorer 1969   2398 76.2x14x4.3 104 54   1A 1988,90
Name Previous Name Built RF Gross Dimensions

LOA x B x d

Pax Crew SR Ice Years operating in Arctic
Spitsbergen[40] Atlantida 2009 2015 7025 97.58x18x5.3 280/290 70 106 1C 2017
The World[41]   2002   43524 196.35×29.8×6.7 200 280 165 N 2012
Ushuaia Malcolm Baldridge 1970 1990 2963 84.73×15.41×5.48 84 40 46 Y 2005
World Discoverer[42]   1975 1996 3724 87.51×15.1×4.4 137 75/80 66 1A 1985,86,89




Annex 4

Passenger Ships that have undertaken a Northwest Passage

Name Years when a Passage was Undertaken and Direction
Bremen 2003W, 06W, 07E, 08W, 09W, 11E, 13E, 17E
Crystal Serenity 2016E, 17E
Frontier Spirit 1992W, 93W
Hanseatic 1994W, 96E, 97W, 98E, 00W, 02E, 07W, 09E, 10W, 11E,12E, 13W,
Kapitan Dranitsyn 1996E, 99W, 00W
Kapitan Khlebnikov 1992E, 93E, 94E&W, 95E, 97E, 98E, 01E&W, 02E, 03E, 04E, 05E&W, 06E, 07E, 10E, 16W
Lindblad Explorer 1984W,
L’Austral 2014W, 16W
Le Boreal 2015W, 17E, 17W
Le Soleal 2013W, 15W,
Polar Prince 2017W
Silver Explorer 2014W
Society Explorer 1988E
The World 2012E
World Discoverer 1985E

West means that the ship was heading from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean, while East is vice versa.


Some ships set out on a NWP, but were unable to complete the trip due to ice conditions. In 1986 the World Discoverer met heavy ice in Peel Sound and had to turn back at the western end of Bellot Strait, even though they had icebreaker support. In September 1991, the Frontier Spirit, heading East, had to turn back at Point Barrow because of heavy ice.

Other cruises are planned as “technical” transits, ie they did not meet the criteria of a full ocean-to-ocean voyage, but travel through most of the NWP. Turnarounds have been at, or planned for, Kugluktuk or Cambridge Bay in the Western Arctic. In 2014 the National Geographic Explorer had to turn back in Peel Sound and undertake the turnaround in Resolute Bay due to heavy ice. The Akademik Ioffe was more successful in 2012 and achieved a turnaround in Kugluktuk.




Annex 5

Cruise Ship and other Passenger Ship Activities in the Canadian Arctic 1989-2017

Primarily from NORDREG reports, not cruise brochures

Year Ships Cruises NWP Adv. MegY Year Ships Cruises[43] NWP Adv MegY
1989 1 3 0 2 2004 8 17 1 7
1990 2 4 0 2 2005* 7 16/5 1 8 1
1991 2 4 0 1 2006* 11 25/7 2 6 0
1992 2 2 2 1 2007* 11 26/7 3 5 0
1993 5 8 2 3 2008* 12 28/8 1 7 0
1994 4 4 2 4 1 2009* 9 20/8 2 11 1
1995 7 14 1 4 2010* 12 19/4 2 10 3
1996 4 6 2 1 2011 6 10 2 16 5
1997 5 7 2 0 2012 6 11 2 24 3
1998 8 13 2 1 2013 9 16 3 24 4
1999 8 17 1 3 2014 9 16 2 28 3
2000 6 13 2 3 2015 11 19 2 20 3
2001 5 8 1 5 1 2016 11 22 3 17 5
2002 6 11 2 2 2017 14 19 4 28 4
2003 5 11 2 8            

Ships = Number of Cruise ships cruising in the Eastern Arctic. Excludes the Hanse Explorer, 2007, 2010 & 2013 NWP, included under mega yachts. Excludes the Sea Voyager in 2011; operated as an accommodation ship in Deception Bay. Excludes ships undertaking a Northwest Passage unless they also undertook one or more cruises prior to, or following, the NWP.

Cruises = Number of Cruises they made. Author’s estimate based on a combination of number of cruise days, logical turnaround community together with call repetition after the turnaround. Some “cruises” are very short and may only include one or two places. For example in 1998 and 2002 the Albatros, and in 2009 the Maxim Gorky made a single call at Pangnirtung, possibly as part of a transatlantic voyage.

NWP = Northwest Passages. These are also counted in Ships and in cruises as having undertaken one cruise.

Adv = Adventurer. Small vessels, typically under 30m length. Includes boats cruising the Eastern Arctic and undertaking a NWP.

MegY = Mega Yachts. Vessels over 30m in length. Includes boats cruising the Eastern Arctic and undertaking a NWP. Prior to 2005 it is difficult to determine small vessel lengths

* Cruise North Expeditions operating with support from the Makivik Corporation and the Province of Quebec used the Ushaia in 2005, Lyubov Orlova 2006-2010 with a cruise programme based out of Kuujjuaq in Nunavik. Turnarounds were also undertaken in other locations, such as Churchill, Iqaluit, Nanisivik. Number of cruises, figure to the right of, e.g. 26/8. The programme collapsed in 2010 because of problems with the operator of the Lyubov Orlova. The ship was under arrest in St. John’s from 2010-2013. It broke away from a scarp tow and is believed to have sunk off Eire.



Annex 6

2015 Arctic Cruise Season Passenger Estimates

Ship # Cruise[44] POB Pax Crew
Akademik Ioffe 1 Illulissat – Cambridge Bays 163 98 65
  2 Cambridge Bay – Halifax 159 94 65
Akademik Sergey Vavilov 1 Greenland – Cambridge Bay 146 81 65
  2 Cambridge Bay – Halifax 140[45] 75 65
Hanseatic 1 Greenland – Greenland 300 175 125
  2 Uumanak – Greenland 293 168 125
  3 Kangerlussuaq – Greenland 295 170 125

Le Boreal

1 Illulissat – Alaska 339 203 136
Le Soleal 1 Illulissat – Illulissat 388 252 136
  2 Savissivik – Alaska 372 236 136
Nat. Geo. Explorer 1 Illulissat  – Greenland 243 172 71
  2 Greenland – Greenland 233 162 71
  3 Greenland – Greenland 242 171 71
Ocean Endeavour 1 ? – Nuuk 392 268 124
  2 Uumanak – Upernavik 302 178 124
  3 Greenland – Upernavik 327 203 124
Sea Adventurer 1 Uumanak – Greenland 195 123 72
Sea Explorer 1 Qaanaaq (Thule) – Greenland 180 108 72
Silver Explorer 1 Nuuk – ? 192 81 111
                                             Total 4,901 3,018 1,883

Crew numbers are taken from Annex 3.

Bolded name indicates a NWP.





[1] Anecdotal information suggests the rails had arrived by 1919, but the track bed and the trestle over the Christine River were so poor that “end of steel” was for all practical purposes several miles short of Waterways until 1922. That year Jean Godsell reported that 10 American tourists made it to Aklavik.

[2]The American travel writer, Fullerton Waldo, took a trip in 1922, and noted that the rail fare was $18.25.

[3] To get a sense of costs at today’s levels, the round trip cost was equivalent to $3,360, and the one-way fare to Fort MacMurray would be $14.00, according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator.

[4] Northern Trading, the parent company, had expanded with financial backing from AW Nesbitt, a fur auction house in London (UK). The collapse of the fur market in 1920 forced Nesbitt into bankruptcy, and this eventually dragged Northern down as well.

[5] Peter G Newman Merchant Princes. Page 237

[6] Although the Grahame was built in 1882 at Fort Chipewyan, it is typical of river boats on both the Upper and Lower portions of the Mackenzie Route. Their design did not change over the years.

[7] From Cleveland OH, article in The Beaver June 1941.

[8] An Inuit community that was wiped out by influenza in the 1920’s..

[9] Other sources say 1908 and the boat was reportedly updated in 1923

[10] 103’ LOA, 23’beam, 4’6”draft 10 cabins.

[11] http://www.nauticapedia.ca/dbase/Query/Shiplist4.php?&name=Norweta&id=22321

[12] ss Montreal. Built by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg in 1906 as the Konig Freidrich August  (475.8ft x 55.4ft, twin screw 15kts) for the Hamburg America Line. She was ceded to Britain in 1919 as war reparations. In Nov.1920 she was purchased by Canadian Pacific and refitted with accommodation for 332-cabin class and 990-3rd class passengers, and renamed Montreal. Again refitted, in 1923, to accommodate 229-cabin and 240-3rd class passengers

[13] A sovereignty assertion exercise that took place each season in the Eastern Arctic commencing in 1922. The EAP agreement for 1932 with the ss Ungava had been similar to the EAP contract with Job Brothers for the ss Beothic from 1926-1931 at 15 round trip berths and 300tons of cargo.

[14] Finding the number of passenger berths for the Nascopie is difficult. The HBC record for the ship states 50, but there is no qualification as to whether this was the number on delivery in 1912, or after the 1933 upgrades. An attachment to a letter of January 24 1933 states 40 berths, but interestingly makes no mention of work that had been, or was to be undertaken at Ardrossan prior to the 1933 season, or any decision about the tourist trade.

[15] The Maximum of Mishap: Adventurous Tourists and the State in the North West Territories 1926-1948, Tina Adcock https://muse.jhu.edu/article/619052

[16] In 1933 the southern terminus port was St. John’s (NL), while in 1940 it was Port Alfred (QC), as the ship had loaded cryolite at Ivigtut in Greenland for delivery to the aluminium plant there.

[17] The numbers and names are taken from the 1933 passenger list. A somewhat misleading review of persons embarked was given in The Beaver for September 1947.

[18] The number of tourists given in HBC summary reports are often different from numbers derived from the Passenger lists. These are from the passenger lists, except for 1941.

[19] Note that references to places in Greenland in cruise itineraries are not, necessarily, the turnaround location. They are the places that the ship advised to NORDREG as their last or first call in Greenland. 

[20] The cruises have been reconstructed by the Author from a combination of repetitive location visits and length of cruise.

[21] Estimates had to be made for six adventurers, although for five of these boat information suggested the complement.

[22] The ice damage was all to Bulbous Bows.

[23] The passenger list published in RHH McCauley’s book about The Governor’s trip, Trading into Hudson Bay, indicates at least 60 passengers on departure Montreal. However, the HBC passenger list differs in a number of ways, and the two lists have some different persons on the trip.

[24] Crew List states 42.

[25] The source document states 112, but internal numbers sum to 87

[26] Halifax was usually the winter lay up port for the Nascopie after the Canadian Committee took control. The HBC sometimes got a cargo of Nova Scotian apples on completion of re-supply voyage. The return voyage terminated St John’s in 1933. In 1939 the ship did a special trip to the UK for maintenance. In 1940 the return voyage terminated at Port Alfred QC after a call at Ivigtut Greenland to pick up cryolite.

[27] As reported in the 1983 Sealift After Action Report: There were no incidents and icebreaker support was not required. The Sealift Report noted that this was the third time the ship had cruised in Arctic waters.

[28] State room numbers and lower berth capacity are Author’s estimates.

[29] There is a sail training vessel of the same name. From 2012 sailing as Voyager. There have been other ships of this name, ex Saga Pearl, ex Minerva that also sailed under this name for a short period.

[30] The first four Renaissance small cruise ships were slightly different dimensions and capacity than the second group of four ships.

[31] Name as built. Due to the bankruptcy of Society Expeditions, never sailed under this name.

[32] Reportedly retired from passenger service in 2012 and returned to IB escort duty on the NSR.

[33] Sold by Cie des Iles du Ponant in 2011, now trading as Ocean Diamond with Quark.

[34] Delivered with a 1C Ice classification, it is not known when it was upgraded to 1A. Sank off South Shetlands 2007

[35] Arrested in St John’s in 2010, the ship was eventually presumed sunk off the coast of Eire in 2013. Crew numbers on board in St. John’s reported to be 51. This number may have excluded officers.

[36] Scrapped 2009. Passenger capacity is as given for cruise service.

[37] The current ship of this names is ex Shearwater and now Russian owned

[38] Note this a different cruise ship to the one given in this table as having cruised the Canadian Arctic.

[39] Did not cruise. Used as an accommodation ship in Deception Bay

[40] Doubler plates added to hull.

[41] The World is owned by its residents. It is not a cruise ship per se and does not take cruise bookings.

[42] Wrecked 2000 in Solomon Islands

[43] Cruise numbers include those made by Cruise North

[44] The Greenland location is not necessarily where the cruise started or finished. It is the reported point of departure for the ship before entering Canadian waters, or the destination when leaving Canadian waters.

[45] Author’s Estimate