The World’s Most Beautiful Fjords—and the Cruises That Will Take You There
From Norway to New Zealand, Greenland to Glacier Bay, Alaska, these sailings offer the best way to view the striking coastal bluffs that make up some of the world’s most stunning fjords.
Cruising through a glistening inland waterway surrounded by soaring cliffs and cascading waterfalls with snow-covered peaks in the background is one of those experiences that can take your breath away—and that will leave you feeling deeply humbled by the glory of Mother Nature. Having such an awe-inspiring encounter is what draws travelers to remote corners of the world for fjord cruises.
Whether you are visiting the UNESCO World Heritage-protected fjords of Norway, New Zealand’s Milford Sound, the icy Chilean fjords or other destinations around the globe that are known for these ancient, submerged valleys, be prepared for truly dramatic views. And you can expect more than just a superficial glance at the natural phenomena. Cruises that explore fjords allow passengers to go even deeper and offer unique perspectives with intimate excursions on kayaks or inflatable Zodiac craft, or by catching a birds-eye views from above via helicopter, train rides, or mountain hikes.
Here are some of the world’s most spectacular fjords and the cruise ships that will get you there in comfort and style.
Cruises amid the vast wilderness of Alaska’s Inside Passage bring access to calving glaciers at the head of stunning fjords, whether the ship visits Glacier Bay, College Fjord or Tracy Arm. For sailings that embarks from Seward, plan to overnight so that you can board a small boat to tour Kenai Fjords National Park, with its coastal fjords, islands, glaciers, and prolific marine life—including whales and playful sea otters. Misty Fjords National Monument, visited by small ships and accessible via shore excursions, is the gold standard of Alaskan fjords, a magical, often misty place that involves sailing along icy blue water through the narrow glacier-formed passageways flanked by sheer, 3,000-foot cliffs, tall cascading waterfalls, and dense temperate forest.
Alaska fjord cruises
UnCruise Adventures visits Misty Fjords on its Alaska Fjords & Glaciers itinerary on the 60-passenger Wilderness Adventurer, 74-passenger Wilderness Explorer and 76-passenger Wilderness Discoverer, with fares from $4,800 per person for a seven-night sailing from Juneau or Ketchikan.
South America’s Chilean fjords stretch some 1,000 miles along the southwest coast of Chile through Patagonia, starting at Cape Horn. They are famous for blue-tinged glaciers, icebergs, the rugged Andes mountains and pristine wilderness. The most well-known of the steep-walled fjords is the narrow Garabaldi Fjord, with glaciers as high as skyscrapers. The remote village of Tortel, entirely built on stilts, is visited on itineraries in the region. Wildlife sights include Andean Condors, among the largest birds in the world, along with Magellanic penguins and orca and humpback whales.
Chile fjord cruises
Ships that visit include large vessels from Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises and smaller ships from lines such as Azamara, Lindblad Expeditions, Silversea and Viking. French line Ponant offers a 14-night cruise in February 2024 on the 264-passenger L’Austral that will sail roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina; fares from $11,250 per person.
The island country of Greenland is home to some 1,200 fjords. On the west coast, the Illulissat Icefjord, which is approximately 25 miles long, has come to serve as a harsh reminder of the realities of global warming, home to giant icebergs that have broken off the fast-moving Greenland ice sheet. The east coast of Greenland has the distinction of having the world’s longest fjord system, Scoresby Sund, with one steep-walled branch that is more than 200 miles long. Adventure cruise lines such as Quark, Hurtigruten and Aurora Expeditions all explore the vast wilderness and fjord systems of this remote destination.
Greenland fjord cruises
Aurora Expeditions has a new 13-night East Greenland Explorer itinerary in the rugged and dramatic landscapes in northeast Greenland that sets sail in August 2023, with fares from $12,415 per person. The cruise is roundtrip from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík, on the 132-passenger Greg Mortimer. Stops include the tiny Inuit town of Ittoqqortoormiit, population approximately 350, and the goal is visiting the northernmost point in Greenland.
In the Northeast Atlantic, Iceland boasts 109 fjords and visiting them on cruise ship offers one of the best vantage points for seeing them. Charming fishing villages such as Seydisfjordur, with its colorful wooden homes, are often located at the head of some of these cliff-lined waterways —the Vikings having sought such isolated and protected locations for their communities. A circumnavigation of Iceland, roundtrip from Reykjavík, gives passengers the opportunity to compare the fjords of the east, backed by green hills and snow-capped peaks, to the vast and rugged dramatic cliffs and flat-top mountains of the less-populated Westfjords. In both cases, roaring waterfalls add to the dramatic natural scenery. Among the wildlife attractions are the eternally popular puffins as well as whales.
Iceland fjord cruises
Luxury line Seabourn will sail an 11-night circumnavigation of Iceland on the 264-passenger expedition ship Seabourn Venture in July 2024, with fares from $11,499 per person. For an extra fee, go below the surface of Grundarfjordur on the north coast and Papey Island in the east on one of the ship’s two custom-built six-passenger submarines.
The famed Milford Sound is a pristine, ice-carved fjord, nearly 10 miles long that cuts through steep cliffs in New Zealand’s southwestern Fiordland National Park. English novelist Rudyard Kipling referred to the waterway as “the eighth wonder of the world.” Lush rainforests, impressive peaks, and close-up views of big waterfalls are among the natural bounty of this stunning environment. Passengers might see bottlenose and dusky dolphins following their ship and may be able to spot Kea, the world’s only alpine parrots. Fair warning, however, that the weather does not always cooperate. If the fjord is a must-see, consider booking an overnight excursion to improve your chances of viewing it.
New Zealand fjord cruises
For its late 2023 and early 2024 season, Celebrity Cruises visits Milford Sound on 12-night sailings between Auckland and Sydney on the decked-out, 2,908-passenger Celebrity Edge, with fares from $2,000 per person. For $699 per person, you can add a Queensland overnight (during which passengers leave the ship in Dunedin and rejoin at Milford Sound).
Norway abounds in stunning fjords—more than 1,000 in total—with cruise ships bringing you up close for spectacular views. The crown jewels are the UNESCO-recognized Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in southwestern Norway, part of a landscape of fjords that encompasses more than 310 square miles, with cliffs rising as high as nearly 4,600 feet accentuated by stunning waterfalls, lush green coniferous forests, dramatic snow-capped peaks, and glaciers. Some 130 cruise ships visit every year, bringing passengers to some of the longest, deepest, and most beautiful fjords in the world. Visit in winter when you have a good chance of catching the Northern Lights, too, or in the summer when the Midnight Sun shines for nearly round-the-clock views.
Norwegian fjord cruises
A classic Norwegian experience is doing all or part of an 11-night, 2,500-mile circuit with Hurtigruten’s Norwegian Coastal Express, an itinerary that features stops in 34 ports between Bergen and Kirkenes. Hurtigruten has deep roots in Norway—it’s celebrating its 130th anniversary in 2023. Roundtrip fares are from $2,309 per person; and six-night sailings are from $1,600 per person.
Multi-country fjord cruises
For those who can’t decide between fjord destinations, consider a multi-country cruise. For instance, Viking combines seven countries in its new Grand Fjords & Iconic Viking Shores itinerary, which sails between Amsterdam and New York on the 930-passenger Viking Star or sister ship Viking Neptune. Passengers will stop in the quaint Danish fishing village of Skagen, and will have ample opportunity to explore Norway, including the natural beauty of Geirangerfjord and Aurlandsfjord, which guests will be able to view from above during a ride on the Flåm Railway . In Arctic Svalbard, the ships will explore the untouched wilderness of Isfjorden, the second longest fjord in Norway, where passengers should keep an eye out for polar bears. After that, the cruise will sail the Norwegian Sea for a circumnavigation of Iceland and will continue to Greenland to explore the fjord landscapes there, before sailing the Labrador Sea to Canada and then on to the Atlantic.
Fares are from $16,997 per person, for sailings in June and July 2024 or May through July in 2025.