North Pole Cruise Ships

Only a handful of the Earth's most formidable and powerful ships can penetrate the thick pack ice to reach the North Pole

A Guide To North Pole Cruise Ships

Very few ships on Earth can reach as far north as the Geographic North Pole. The pole is surrounded by thick sea ice throughout the year, sometimes measuring up to 3 metres in depth. North Pole cruise ships are specially built icebreakers with unique bows that can crush down on the ice coupled with powerful engines that allow them to penetrate the thick sea ice.

Out of the handful of icebreakers that can reach the North Pole, only two offer this experience to paying guests. The others are working ships employed in science, research, and maritime whose sole purpose is to keep shipping lanes open from the pack ice. So unless you are a scientist, the only way to reach the North Pole by ship is on an icebreaker cruise

Which Cruise Ships Can Reach The North Pole?

As of 2024 there are only 2 cruise ships that are capable of reaching the North Pole, luxury icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot and the nuclear powered icebreaker 50 Years Of Victory.

Gone are the days when the only option for reaching the North Pole by ship meant travelling on a working icebreaker from Russia (although for some adventurous guests, this is all part of the experience.)

The first icebreaker ship explicitly designed to take guests to the North Pole is Le Commandant Charcot, a marvel in modern engineering, technology, sustainability and ship design. Before this ship entered service, reaching the North Pole was possible on a working nuclear-powered icebreaker with far fewer amenities, the 50 Years of Victory.

2024 Update: Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine expeditions on the 50 Years Of Victory are currently not available.  

Le Commandant Charcot Luxury Icebreaker ship

North Pole Cruises

Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen - Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen
Aug 6 - Aug 21 2025
15 Nights

Price from per person

Geographic North Pole PONANT
Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen - Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen
Aug 21 - Sep 5 2025
15 Nights

Price from per person

Trans Arctic Icebreaker cruise to the North Pole
Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen - Nome, Alaska
Sep 5 - Sep 25 2025
20 Nights

Price from per person


Le Commandant Charcot

A personal favourite with us at North Pole cruises and one of the most advanced polar exploration ships ever constructed, it was launched in 2021. Le Commandant Charcot is notable for being the first hybrid electric polar exploration vessel capable of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) and electric battery power, and it represents a significant advancement in opposite exploration capabilities. 

Le Commandant Charcot was explicitly built as a luxury cruise ship that can navigate the summer pack ice and reach the Geographic North Pole during the summer. The onboard experience is out of this world with indoor and outdoor pools, large cabins with balconies, sumptuous duplex owners' suits with private verandas and outstanding cuisine. 

Unique Features of Le Commandant Charcot

Hybrid Propulsion System

Le Commandant Charcot is the world's first hybrid-electric polar exploration ship. It combines electric battery propulsion with the ability to use cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Advanced Icebreaking Capabilities

Designed to navigate through both polar ice and open seas, Le Commandant Charcot has advanced icebreaking capabilities.

It is the first cruise ship built with a reinforced Polar Class 2(PC2) hull, which allows it to access remote ice-locked polar areas, including the North Pole, Antarctic and Arctic regions.

Luxurious Accommodations

Despite its polar expedition focus, Le Commandant Charcot offers luxurious accommodations.

The ship provides high-end cabins and suites with panoramic views, private balconies, and upscale amenities.

Scientific Research Facilities

Le Commandant Charcot has scientific research facilities to support polar exploration and research missions.

The ship aims to contribute to environmental and climate research in polar regions.

Unique Itineraries

The ship offers unique itineraries to less-explored polar destinations, including remote Antarctica and the Arctic areas.

Le Commandant Charcot allows passengers to experience pristine and untouched landscapes.

Observation Lounges

The ship features observation lounges with large windows to provide passengers with unobstructed views of the polar landscapes and wildlife.

Eco-Friendly Design

With its hybrid propulsion system and use of LNG, Le Commandant Charcot is designed with a focus on environmental sustainability.

The ship aims to minimize its impact on the delicate polar ecosystems.

Expedition Experience

Le Commandant Charcot has an extensive team of expedition guides equipped with Zodiac boats, allowing passengers to explore remote areas inaccessible by the ship.

Culinary Excellence

The vessel offers a high standard of cuisine, featuring a variety of dining options for passengers to enjoy during their polar expeditions.

Please see our Le Commandant Charcot ship page to learn why we love this ship's unique features, cabins, and itineraries. 

Le commandant Charcot Antarctica icebreaker cruise

50 Years of Victory

50 Years of Victory is a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker that offers an entirely different experience to Le Commandant Charcot. During the winter months, the ship is employed to keep shipping lanes open in the Russian Arctic. During summer, guests can explore the North Pole and Franz Josef Land. 

For guests looking for an experience on a working icebreaker, 50 Years of Victory offers an authentic experience with helicopters for flight, seeing a unique chance to explore Franz Josef's land on the way back from the North Pole.

Unique Features Of 50 Years of Victory

Nuclear Propulsion

The ship is powered by two nuclear reactors, making it one of the most powerful icebreakers in the world. Nuclear propulsion allows for continuous and reliable operation in ice-covered waters.

Icebreaking Capabilities

Designed as an icebreaker, the 50 Years of Victory has a reinforced hull that enables it to break through thick Arctic ice, ensuring a clear path for navigation.

Helicopter Operations

The icebreaker has a helicopter pad and facilities for helicopter operations, allowing for aerial exploration and scenic flights over the polar landscapes.

Passenger Accommodations

While not as luxurious as some cruise ships, the 50 Years of Victory provides comfortable accommodations for passengers on polar expeditions. Cabins typically offer necessary amenities, and public spaces are designed for observation and relaxation.

Observation Decks

The ship features observation decks providing passengers panoramic views of the surrounding Arctic. These areas are ideal for wildlife spotting and enjoying the breathtaking scenery.

Educational Programs

Expeditions on the 50 Years of Victory often include educational programs led by experienced naturalists and polar experts. Passengers can learn about the Arctic ecosystem, wildlife, and the challenges of polar exploration.

Safety Features

Given the extreme conditions of the Arctic, safety is a top priority. The 50 Years of Victory is equipped with advanced navigation and safety systems to ensure the well-being of passengers and crew.

Dining and Facilities

The ship provides dining facilities serving meals suitable for the challenging Arctic conditions. Its common areas include a lounge, bar, and other spaces for socializing and relaxing.

(please note as of 2024, expeditions on the 50 Years of Victory are currently unavailable due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine)

50 years of victory nuclear powered icebreaker

How to Choose Your North Pole Cruise Ship

Kindly note the only option in 2024 to visit the North Pole by Cruise ship is on Le Commandant Charcot. Please see our North Pole Cruises for more information. 

As there are only two cruise ships that can reach the North Pole, your choice is limited to two options based on available itineraries and the experience you are looking for:

Choose Le Commandant Charcot for a luxurious experience and exciting itineraries, which include exploring Svalbard, Scoresby Sund, and East Greenland as part of a North Pole Cruise. Or cross the Arctic Ocean on a trans-Arctic expedition from Canada to Svalbard.

Choose 50 Years of Victory to experience an authentic working nuclear-powered icebreaker with North Pole itineraries, which include visiting the seldom explored Russian Arctic Islands of Franz Josef Land. 

What is the difference between a North Pole Cruise ship and a regular expedition ship?

North Pole Cruise ships are specialist icebreakers with powerful engines and unique scoop-shaped bows. The bow uses the ship's weight to crush the ice, and the hulls are reinforced for navigating thick polar sea ice. This extraordinary engine power and hull strength allow these ships to reach the North Pole and other inaccessible places, such as the sea ice in East Greenland. They offer guests a truly out-of-this-world experience. 

In comparison, regular expedition ships are ice-strengthened but not icebreakers. While they can navigate into open-pack ice, they don't have the strength or capability to break through ice up to 3 metres thick. Different expedition ships have a variety of ice classes, which dictate where they can and can't go in the polar regions, depending on the sea ice conditions.

Would you like to visit the North Pole on a cruise ship?

If you want to visit the North Pole, our expert Travel Experience Team at North Pole Cruises has first-hand experience and is here to help you plan your North Pole cruise.

We will assist you with choosing your preferred North Pole cruise ship, clarify the differences between voyages, and help you make your cabin selection based on your preference. We will describe what is included and any optional activities. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have. 

All bookings made through us at the North Pole Cruises include 100% financial protection for your peace of mind. We have supplier failure insurance free of charge to ensure your complete protection. We also guarantee the best price from the operator when your reservation is made.

You can see all our North Pole Cruises. To reserve your place or ask any questions, please Enquire Here.

Thanks for reading, and happy exploring.

Do you need help planning your expedition?

Our friendly and knowledgeable Travel Experience Team is ready to assist you.

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