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Cruise Alaska and See the Northern Lights

Aurora Borealis is the kind of scientific phenomenon that most people seem to either know everything about or nothing at all. I must admit – until I became interested in global cruising, I don’t think I’d ever heard of this natural wonder with the weirdest of names. But if you are thinking of cruising to Alaska in this lifetime, I am practically begging you to learn just a little bit about the Borealis, because you may want to plan any entire life-changing Norwegian cruise vacation around it.  

Ready to start planning? Explore all Alaska cruises.

What is Aurora Borealis?

Aurora Borealis (also known as the Northern Lights) are magical bands of neon green light that spontaneously burst and dance in the sky. And there are only a few places on the globe where it can be viewed. Specifically, it occurs within the Northern Lights zone (at latitudes 65 to 72 degrees).

The Borealis is composed of solar particles shooting into the magnetic field of the earth and appear more than 60 miles above the earth’s surface. Natives have believed the lights have a mystical force or even marked the appearance of spirits who have passed on.

Norwegian Bliss Cruise to Alaska
Norwegian Bliss Cruise to Alaska.

Where & When You Can See The Northern Lights

Aurora Borealis can only be seen from a few places in the world. One of the best viewing locations is Fairbanks, Alaska, which is why this landmark is one of the central highlights of a Norwegian Cruise Line tour.  In fact, Fairbanks is often voted as one of the top ten places in the world to witness the brilliant green waves of light. Some make the most of the expedition and travel to the small town of Manley Hot Springs to witness this amazing wonder from the view of a steamy spring-fed hot tub.

Although the full viewing season spans from March to September, you’ll have the greatest chance of witnessing the Borealis’ emergence in September, when skies are so much darker than during the summer cruise season. Incidentally, this is also the time when you’ll find cost savings on your cruise since most families tend to vacation while school is out.

You Should See The Northern Lights

A survey by the Discovery Channel noted that seeing Aurora Borealis made it to more “bucket lists” than any other travel adventure. And it truly is an adventure – because its appearance from one sighting to the next is never the same. And you never know just when it will appear and where. But you can guarantee that you’ll be somewhere in the wilderness. I like to think that chasing the Borealis similar to the adrenaline rush of storm-chasers who follow tornadoes – except, you’re chasing a natural beauty, rather than a destructive force.

The sheer magnetism of the lights has inspired so many mystical tales, ranging from extravagant supernatural phenomena to theories about child conception (some believe that babies conceived under the lights will have higher IQs – just in case you want to test out the theory!)

Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali National Park, Alaska.

Although you may not be guaranteed a sighting, it’s important to note that anytime is a great time to take a cruise to Alaska. June 21, for instance, is known for the Midnight Sun, not to mention warmer days for offshore excursions and exploration, especially through Denali National Park as part of the Alaska Cruisetours package.

It’s easy to start checking things off on your bucket list, like seeing the most extravagant natural wonders in the world because Norwegian Cruise Lines knows how to make grand adventures easily accessible. See for yourself – take the first step and decide which Alaska cruise you’ll take. What's on your bucket list?

Northern Lights above Alaska
Northern Lights above Alaska.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published on December 21, 2017. It has been updated for relevant content and itineraries.