Best Arctic Liveaboard Reviews 2023

The Arctic region and scuba diving is not a combination that many people will think of. However, the Arctic is a very interesting dive destination. Indeed, especially when compared to other cold water dive destinations, the Arctic has a surprising amount of biodiversity. Scientist list over 12,000 species in its waters, but most of that is microscopic.

Arctic Liveaboard Diving

Moreover, divers will be delighted to know that there are 233 species of fish, including some sharks. Plus, there are 12 species of marine mammals that inhabit the Arctic, and they are particularly fascinating to encounter or observe!

  • 4 species of whales including Narwhal, Bowhead Whale, Grey Whale and Beluga Whale
  • Polar bear
  • Walruses
  • 6 species of ice-associated seals

Plus, other marine mammal species are spotted occasionally, seasonally or even regularly within marginal waters of the Arctic. These include the sperm whales, blue whales, fin whales, humpback whales, orcas (a.k.a killer whales), and the harbor porpoise.

arctic liveaboard photo link

Arctic Scuba Dive Buddy Photo by Lwp Kommunikáció

How to scuba dive in the Arctic

First, there is some land base diving available. Indeed, the Baffin Island in Canada is a great example of land-based scuba diving in the Arctic. You fly to the isolated island, into the village of Pond Inlet, and stay overnight in a local hotel. The next morning you head out on snowmobiles, then changing over to dog sleds, to reach your camp near the edge of the ice flow. There you will find an Arctic yurt-style safari camp on 8 feet of ice.

Secondly, if such an adventurous trek is not in your plans, you can choose to do a liveaboard diving cruise in the Arctic. Most noteworthy is that the liveaboard industry in the Arctic is much different from other places. Indeed, you will generally be on boats with other passengers who are not divers. While diving is not the main focus of the trip, you will have ample time to discover.

Moreover, there are over two dozen ships that bring guests to the Arctic, and they are mostly of two kinds. .First, you will find luxurious expedition cruise ships that welcome around 100-200 passengers.

The second type of ships is small ship adventure cruises. These usually welcome a smaller number of passengers, sometimes as low as 50. Plus, they include more adventures, and thus, scuba diving, on their itineraries.

Arctic Liveaboards

M/S Sula

The M/S Sula is operated by Strømsholmen dive Center in Northern Norway. They provide 3 and 6-day Orca liveaboard expeditions. These trips differ from most scuba liveaboards as scuba is not the main focus, snorkeling or free diving is the prime activity.

The M/S Sula does the Arctic version of the South African sardine run. Here they follow the herring. Where the herring is, the Orca or killer whales will soon show up, As many as 50 to 60 at a time.

The M/S Sula sails from Thomson Harbor in Northern Norway. October to March is the prime season. Outside of this time frame the M/S Sula sails with group charters.


Arctic Expedition Liveaboards

There are many expedition ships visiting the Arctic on an adventure cruise basis. However, few offer scuba diving. Oceanwide Expeditions offers expeditions in both the Arctic and Antarctic. They currently have four vessels with another one due in 2019.

Two of these vessels, the M/V Ortelius and the M/V Plancius, have scuba diving in the Arctic available on their cruises. Each of these vessels can carry 116 guests, hosting them in 53 cabins. However, they only welcome between 8 and 24 scuba divers per trip.


Furthermore, the Arctic dives are for experienced divers that have at least 20 cold water dives under the belt. Divers will need to bring their own, complete set of dive gear, suitable for cold water diving. Also, a check out dive with a dive master is required. The dive master will have the authority to have a diver sit out any dive that he feels the diver is not prepared for.


scuba dive arctic liveaboard

M/V Plancius Arctic Scuba Diving

How to dive in the Arctic region

When weather and sea conditions are favorable, the goal is to do 2 dives per day. Also, when the ship is at full capacity in term of divers onboard, they will separate divers into two groups of 12 divers. Then, two zodiacs will each take 6 divers and a dive master to the dive site.

On most dives, the dive master will not be in the water but will remain on the zodiac with the boat operator. When necessary, one or both dive masters can enter the water to provide assistance. Divers are generally shallow between 20 and 60 feet. When the first group has finished diving and return to the expedition ship, the second group will dive the same dive site.

While two dives a day may seem few, remember these are shallow dives and that cold water diving takes a great deal out of you. Plus, when you are not diving there are plenty of other activities to enjoy! Remember that over 75% of the passengers on board are only seeing the Arctic from above water. Onboard, you will find educational opportunities and it is possible that you can still enjoy many of the shore excursions the non-divers are looking forward too.


Plancius & Ortelius – Arctic liveaboard diving cruisers

M/V Plancius was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy. She was rebuilt in 2009 to become an expedition ship with a 116 passengers capacity.

The Plancius is 89 meters/293 feet long and has a beam of 14.5 meters/ 47 feet. Each of the 53 cabins has an ocean view and en-suite facilities. The vessel is not in a luxury class but is very comfortable.

⇒ You can view the Plancius’s page & divers reviews here. 

arctic scuba diving liveaboard plancius

M/S Plancius Diving room


As for the Ortelius, it was originally named the Marina Svetaeva. Indeed, the ship was built in Gdynia, Poland in 1989, to serve as a special-purpose vessel for the Russian Academy of Science. She has been refurbished deck by deck between 2012-2017. The ship’s features are much alike the MV Plancius.

⇒ You can view the Ortelius’s page & divers reviews here. 


scuba diving artic liveaboard m/s ortelius

M/S Ortelius


Arctic Liveaboards Itineraries

The itineraries for these two very different experiences are shown with their respective vessels. The M/S Sula sails from the Troms on a course that stays near the coast and following the Ocra. While Oceanwide Expeditions sails from Longyearbyen around the Spitsbergen Islands.

arctic liveaboard scuba diving

Oceanwide  itinerary

Best time to dive in the Arctic

Between the two companies with liveaboards shown here, you can dive year round. The M/S Sula focus is the Orca expeditions, while Oceanwide Expeditions brings you to ice flows and nearshore diving.


Arctic Liveaboard last minute

Liveaboard diving in the Arctic is limited and is often booked a year even two in advanced. However, there are times when a guest may need to cancel so it might be possible that there are opening at the last minute. Keep an eye on our Arctic last minute page for openings.


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