Photo: Aurora Expeditions / Michael Baynes

11 Cruises Where You Can See Eclipses, the Northern Lights, and the Milky Way

Cruises Astronomy
by Morgane Croissant Sep 11, 2023

The key to seeing any celestial phenomenon is pretty obvious: You must be in the right place at the right time. While the exact location and time changes with every astronomical event, the right place is undeniably somewhere far away from any light pollution. These days, unless you make your way to a dark sky park, finding a spot on land that’s far away enough from civilization isn’t easy, so why not take to the seas? In the middle of the ocean, chances of street lights ruining your stargazing experience are very thin, that’s why cruise lines are ramping up their astronomy at sea offerings, including northern lights cruises, solar eclipse cruises, and more.

Solar eclipse cruises

Solar eclipse on a cruise

Photo: gorZh/Shutterstock

Holland America’s 22-day Solar Eclipse and Circle Hawaii voyage

Holland America’s Koningsdam leaves on April 5, 2024, on a solar eclipse cruise for 22 days. The sailing will start from San Diego, California, and continue south to Cabo san Lucas, Mexico, where passengers will spend the entire day of April 7. The next day, April 8, 2024, is the day of the solar eclipse and the ship will remain at sea between Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta to be right on the path of totality (the area where the eclipse is visible.) Passengers will don their protective eye glasses and be able to enjoy the four-minute spectacle starting at 11:07 AM PDT from the deck. The Moon will pass between the Sun and the Earth and block the face of the Sun, darkening the sky. After the event, the ship will stop in Puerto Vallarta for one day before making its way to Hawaii. From Hawaii, the ship sails towards British Columbia, Canada, where the voyage ends on April 27.

Professor of astronomy and astrophysics Adam Burgasser from the University of California San Diego will be on board this very special cruise to give lectures about the astronomical phenomenon and help passengers make their own protective viewers so they can see the eclipse safely. Of course, he’ll also be on the deck during the eclipse, sharing his knowledge with the passengers.

Price: Starting at $2,779

Princess Cruises’ two 2024 total eclipse voyages

Princess cruises has organized two sailings to see the 2024 total solar eclipse:

  • The 15-day Panama Canal – Ocean to Ocean voyage starts with the Emerald Princess leaving Los Angeles, California, on April 5, 2024. The ship then heads to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where passengers will spend the afternoon of April 7. On April 8, the day of the eclipse, the ship will be at sea, sailing on the path of totality, thus allowing passengers to see the eclipse in its entirety. The ship then sails and stops in Huatulco, Mexico, before heading to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; going through the Panama Canal; stopping in Cartagena, Colombia; and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. The trip ends in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on April 20.

    Price: Starting at $2,968

  • The 10-day Mexican Riviera sailing has recently been modified to allow passengers to see the solar eclipse. The Discovery Princess starts in Los Angeles on April 3, 2024, and heads south to Cabo San Lucas where cruisers will spend two days, and Mazatlan where they will spend the entire day of April 7. On April 8, the ship will be at sea and passengers will observe the total eclipse from the deck. The next stops after the astronomical event are Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on April 9, and Manzanillo, Mexico, on April 10. The voyage ends in Los Angeles, where it started, on April 13.

    Price: Not currently available

SeaTrek’s solar eclipse sailings

In April 20, 2023, parts of Indonesia were treated to a total solar eclipse and SeaTrek, a company that organizes adventures on wooden sailing ships in Indonesia, took its guests to see the celestial spectacle. The 16 guests and the crew made their way to a remote island on the path of totality where they watched the eclipse in a very intimate setting. SeaTrek also took their passengers to see the February 2017 solar eclipse and plans to curate voyages around the next solar eclipses in Indonesia: in 2028, 2031, and 2042.

Eclipse or not, Seatrek’s sailings take passengers to remote places with very little light pollution so passengers can have amazing stargazing experiences, on and off the boat. The crew even turns out all the lights (apart from the compulsory navigation indicators) so the conditions can be ideal.

Price: Not currently available

Northern lights cruises

Northern lights during a cruise

Photo: Aurora Expeditions / Michael Baynes

Aurora Expeditions’ 19-day Northern Lights Explorer voyage

Aside from the International Space Station, the best place to see the northern or southern lights is as close as possible to the poles. The Arctic, being the northernmost region on Earth, is the obvious choice of destination for those who are chasing the aurora borealis (northern lights). Aurora Expedition’s 19-day Northern Lights Explorer sailing will take you on a northern lights cruise from the North Cape in Norway, Europe’s northernmost point, to places within and close to the Arctic Circle such as the Lofoten Islands in Norway, the volcanic island of Jan Mayen, and remote parts of Greenland, and Iceland. The hope is that passengers on this northern light cruise that starts on September 8, 2024, and ends on September 26, 2024, will be able to witness the beauty of the aurora borealis.

Price: Starting at $15,836

Other astronomy experiences at sea

Person stargazing

Photo: AstroStar/Shutterstock

Astronomy experts on board Seabourn cruises

In December 2023, physicist and astronomy professor Dr. Svetlana Barkanova, will be on board Seabourn’s Quest for a 14-day sailing in the Caribbean. During the voyage, Barkanova will give astronomy talks in the theatre and on deck, and will be accompanying guests on an excursion to the archeological site of San Gervasio to see the Mayan observatories. During this particular sailing, passengers will also be able to make the most of the dark skies and partake in the Guided Night Sky Experience during which they’ll spot stars, planets, the Milky Way and even enjoy the Geminids meteor shower (weather permitting).

Barkanova is not the only astronomy experts that Seabourn welcomes on board. Jim Kennedy, former Director of the John Kennedy Space Station, joins several sailings per year to give space-focused lectures. The next ones will be a cruise to the Caribbean in November and December 2023, and a voyage to Hawaii in January 2024.

Price: starting at $4,938

Abercrombie & Kent invites an astronaut on board

Abercrombie & Kent’s new luxury expedition cruise will take you from French Polynesia to Easter Island. The voyage, which will take place from October 27 to November 9, 2023, will include on-board lectures and guided stargazing sessions by Commander Susan Kilrain — one of the first three women to pilot the space shuttle. During the lectures, Kilrain will draw parallels between early navigators who used the stars to navigate the ocean and today’s astronauts. With Kilrain’s expert help, passengers will be able to take advantage of the darkest skies in the world and observe star clusters, constellations, planets, and the Milky Way.

Price: Starting at $14,995

Expert-led glamping and stargazing experiences with Celebrity Cruises

Passengers lucky enough to be on board Celebrity Flora for a sailing around the Galápagos Islands are provided binoculars so they can partake in expert-guided (or solo) stargazing sessions on the ship’s stargazing platform. But that’s not all. The same cruisers can also take in the beauty of the night sky during an on-board glamping experience. After a naturalist-led stargazing session, passengers get to sleep under the stars in a luxury cabana.

Price: Starting at $8,215

Regent Seven Seas Cruises hosts astronomy experts

Dan Benedict, a journalist specialized in writing and lecturing about astronomy, takes part in Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Speaker Series on select sailings. Benedict focuses his lectures on astronomical events or items that can be observed without specialized equipment and enjoyed without much expertise such as constellations, meteor showers, eclipses, and more.

Another guest lecturer on board Regent Seven Seas Cruises is Frank Thomas Buzzard, a retired NASA Space Shuttle and International Space Station Chief Engineer. Buzzard focuses his talks on human spaceflight and astronomy. His next sailing with Regent Seven Seas Cruises will take place in January 2024 for the “Samba Sounds & carnival Joy” sailing from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Miami, US.

Stargazers Event on Virgin Voyages

At least once during every Virgin Voyages’ sailing, a 30-minute Stargazers Event is scheduled at The Dock, an indoor-outdoor lounge-bar. The event is more of a storytelling one than a scientific one, but it’s a lovely way to spend some time observing the night sky and looking for constellations, shooting stars, and more celestial marvels.

Stargazing on Viking Cruises

Viking’s two expeditions vessels, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, are equipped with telescopes for guests to make the most of their time at sea, where the skies are the darkest.

Discover Matador