Arctic Express Canada The Heart of the Northwest Passage
Starting From:$7,526 USD
The quest for trade routes to the Far East inspired much of the age of exploration of North America, with the promise of the Northwest Passage its elusive jewel. On Arctic Express Canada, discover the great sea route at the top of the world—that obsessed explorers for centuries—on our game-changing new expedition ship Ultramarine, which allows you a journey no traditional vessel could offer: immersing yourself in the full Arctic experience while getting back home a week and a half later.
Nature and wildlife are the guides on this voyage as you explore the region’s diverse treasures. The Arctic’s stark beauty offers an unforgettable backdrop, while Quark Expeditions’ world-class team provides the knowledge and insight to help you connect with the region’s unique history and geography. Ultramarine’s two twin-engine helicopters, 20-quick-launching Zodiacs and unprecedented mix of on-ship amenities and off-ship adventure options will deliver an unrivalled Arctic experience no one else can.
Explore the highlights of Lancaster Sound
Search for iconic Arctic wildlife, such as polar bears and muskoxen
Experience incredible flightseeing and heli-landings aboard Ultramarine’s two helicopters
Cruise in a Zodiac to get up close to glaciers, fjords, icebergs and more
Visit Inuit communities and learn about their traditions and customs
Our portfolio of immersive itineraries allows you to choose where—and how—you’d like to explore the Arctic with the best expedition team in the Polar Regions.
- Departing From:
- Calgary, Canada
- Starting From:
- $7,526 USD* Per person(Incl. Transfer Package)
- 9 Days
Your Arctic expedition begins in Calgary. Explore this vibrant city on your own before spending the night enjoying the comfort and amenities of your designated hotel.
This morning, board your charter flight to Resolute, Nunavut. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your ship via Zodiac or helicopter (depending on ship location and weather conditions).
Winding your way around the remote islands of the Canadian High Arctic aboard Ultramarine, the newest ship in our fleet, you’ll navigate the same icy inlets, channels and bays that fascinated legendary explorers of long ago as they searched for the fabled Northwest Passage, the great sea route at the top of the world. Designed to give polar adventurers unprecedented access to the hardest-to-reach places on the planet—and equipped with two onboard twin-engine helicopters for unparalleled access to areas only Quark Expeditions can bring you—this one-of-a-kind ship will take you beyond the familiar in polar exploration. Throughout your journey, your Expedition Team will work hard to give you a taste of the best the Canadian Arctic has to offer, immersing you in the heart of the Northwest Passage in under a week. You’ll quickly get a sense of one of the true wonders of the Canadian High Arctic: its staggering remoteness. It is here, in these rugged landscapes thousands of kilometres from civilization that so few outsiders have visited, that you’ll experience the true essence of the remote High Arctic.
While this waterway is known to European cultures as the Northwest Passage, these lands and waters have nurtured and sustained the Inuit and their predecessors who have called these shores home for almost 5,000 years. Moving through these remote landscapes you will be traveling through Inuit Nunangat, the ancestral homelands of the Inuit. Local guides will enhance the guest experience onboard and during shore excursions as they share their Inuit history and traditions. Nunavut is an Inuktitut word meaning “our land” and the Nunavummiut (the people of Nunavut) are renowned for their incredible resourcefulness, hospitality, good humor, and a deep knowledge of the land and animals that has allowed them to thrive in the far north for millennia.
Remote and rich in history, the Canadian High Arctic is as awe inspiring as it is informative. Your days spent exploring this mysterious region will have you traveling back in time to the Age of Exploration. While following in the footsteps of renowned explorers like Sir John Franklin and Roald Amundsen, you’ll navigate the waters and visit the historic sites in the area around Lancaster Sound that were key to the discovery of the Northwest Passage. You’ll also learn about the scientific, cultural, geopolitical and environmental aspects of the route from our world-class experts, guides and the local communities. Reaching remote lands that have lured adventurers for centuries will be an experience you’ll never forget.
Wildlife sightings are likely, as many of the areas we hope to explore are home to a surprising number of birds and mammals that thrive in this challenging environment. You may see polar bears, muskoxen and several bird species, such as gyrfalcons and thick-billed murres. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the elusive narwhal or a bowhead whale, though sightings of these iconic creatures in the wild are rare, even in places where we have the greatest chances of encountering them.
Coburg Island, for instance, is a wildlife reserve for such birds as thick-billed murres (Brünnich’s guillemot), black- legged kittiwakes, northern fulmars and black guillemots, while the impressive vertical cliffs of Prince Leopold Island are dotted with nesting seabirds like northern fulmars and black guillemots. The sheltered shores and steep cliffs of Arctic Bay, a hamlet located in Admiralty Inlet, provide an ideal nesting habitat for various High Arctic birds such as thick- billed murres (Brünnich’s guillemots) and kittiwakes. This community, whose inhabitants’ ancestors have lived a traditional Inuit nomadic lifestyle in the region for almost 5,000 years, is also an ideal spot to go ashore and learn more about the Inuit culture, sampling the local cuisine and mingling with artists, perhaps picking up carvings or other handicrafts as a memento of your polar adventure.
Devon Island is another possible locale for wildlife encounters, as walrus, polar bears and muskoxen inhabit the area, which is also the location of the remains of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police outpost, established at Dundas Harbour in 1924 to curb foreign whaling and other activities. Here you’ll find a small cemetery, one of Canada’s most northerly, still maintained by the RCMP to this day. Another exciting excursion your Expedition Team might offer, conditions permitting, is the opportunity to fly up to explore the Devon ice cap, one of the largest in the Canadian Arctic.
At the western end of Devon Island, windswept Beechey Island might be small, but it’s steeped in history, as its broad shore and safe anchorage made a suitable stopover for Arctic expeditions. You’ll want to pay your respects to the ill-fated Franklin expedition of 1845–46 at the small marked graves of three crew members on the island, one of Canada’s most significant historical sites. This is also where Norwegian Roald Amundsen stopped to pay his own respects to his childhood hero, Franklin, during his 1903–06 voyage, which became the first successful transit of the Northwest Passage.
History buffs will be further intrigued by the chance to explore an abandoned Hudson’s Bay Company trading post at Fort Ross, at the southern end of Somerset Island.
Fort Ross is at the eastern entrance of Bellot Strait. One of the goals of this expedition is to transit this famous channel, one of the most narrow and challenging of the passage. If we’re successful, at the midpoint you’ll sail past Zenith Point, the northernmost point of continental North America. Named for Frenchman Joseph Bellot, one of several explorers who set out in the 1850s to search for Franklin’s doomed expedition, the strait separates Somerset Island from the Boothia Peninsula on mainland Canada. (On Beechey Island, you can visit the memorial to Bellot, who disappeared during his search for Franklin.)
Those looking for even more excitement may have the opportunity to cruise by Zodiac along the face of an active glacier near Croker Bay, Devon Island and possibly even witness the wonder of calving ice, at a safe distance. Listen closely for the steady crackle and loud roars as pieces of ice break off and crash into the water below. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for walruses that are occasionally spotted in this area.
There is no shortage of natural beauty, wildlife and history in Canada’s High Arctic. Each day, you’ll discover something new and inspiring, whether it is admiration of the tundra flora that survive here, a rare bird species soaring overhead, a polar bear on the hunt in its natural habitat, or the ancient remains of a Thule dwelling, ancestors of the Inuit.
Remember that no two polar voyages are alike, since each expedition presents new opportunities and different weather and ice conditions. While this voyage has no fixed itinerary, our objective is to visit as many of the incredible highlights the season has to offer, using the opportunities provided by the weather and ice to give you the best experience. Each day, your highly skilled Expedition Team will read the conditions and choose the best course to set, but despite their extensive expertise in these areas, each visit brings something new to discover. That said, our expeditions will have some elements in common, including daily Zodiac cruising, land excursions, a robust education program, a community visit and wildlife viewing opportunities. And thanks to our onboard helicopters, you’ll also discover the ultimate polar expedition experience: as stunning as polar landscapes are from your ship, they’re even more striking from the air! Conditions permitting, you’ll enjoy ultra-immersive activities like flightseeing (short sightseeing flights around your ship and surrounding areas), as well as kayaking, Zodiac cruising and hiking, to name a few.
After disembarking in the Inuit hamlet of Resolute, you’ll be transferred to your charter flight to Calgary, where you’ll spend the night at your included hotel.
Today, make your way to the airport to catch your homeward flights, or spend the day exploring this fascinating city.
- Leadership throughout your voyage by our experienced Expedition Leaders, including shore landings and other activities
- All Zodiac transfers and cruising as per the daily program
- All shore landings as per the daily program
- Shipboard accommodation with daily housekeeping
- All meals, snacks, soft drinks and juices on board throughout your voyage (Please inform us of any dietary requirements as far in advance as possible. Unfortunately, the ships’ galleys cannot prepare kosher meals.)
- Select beer and wine during dinner; and coffee, tea and cocoa available around the clock
- Formal and informal presentations by our Expedition Team and guest speakers as scheduled
- A photographic journal documenting the expedition
- A pair of waterproof expedition boots on loan for landings and Zodiac cruising excursions
- An official Quark Expeditions® parka to keep
- Hair dryer and bathrobes in every cabin
- All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program
- All luggage handling aboard the ship
- Emergency Evacuation insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of USD $500,000 per person
- International airfare
- Arrival and departure transfers in Calgary
- Passport and visa expenses
- Canadian eTA required for non-Canadian or U.S. visa-exempt passengers
- Government arrival and departure taxes not mentioned above
- Meals ashore unless otherwise specified
- Baggage, cancellation, interruption and medical travel insurance—strongly recommended
- Excess-baggage fees on international and domestic flights
- Mandatory waterproof pants for Zodiac cruising, or any other gear not mentioned
- Laundry, bar and other personal charges unless specified
- Phone and Internet charges (connectivity may vary by location)
- Voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for shipboard staff and crew
- Additional overnight accommodation
- Adventure Options not listed in Included Activities
All we need is a little bit of information about your travel preferences and one of our Polar Travel Advisors will be in touch.
in open water
Staff and Crew
Ultramarine's off-ship adventures start here on Deck 2. This is where you’ll find the efficiently-designed Ready Rooms A and B next to the Zodiac hangar, where you'll embark on your off-ship adventure options. Ultramarine’s two ready rooms include an individual locker for each guest to safely store and dry personal items and expedition gear between outings. They're also equipped with benches that are handy when changing attire before or after off-ship excursions. Zodiac embarkation is at water-level which makes for quick deployment.
Deck 3 is where you’ll find Reception, where a crew member is available (during posted hours) to assist you. It’s also where you’ll purchase internet or email access cards and phone cards, arrange for a wake-up call, or settle your accounts at the end of the voyage. Also on Deck 3 is the Polar Boutique, which is stocked with expedition gear and a selection of polar souvenirs. The Clinic is located on Deck 3, as are the Explorer Triples and the Explorer Suites (two of which offer modified layouts and bathrooms for wheelchair accessibility).
- Explorer Suite
- Explorer Triple
Deck 4 offers guests two categories of suites. The Balcony Suites feature one double or two single beds, and a 52 sq. ft. (4.8 sq. m) balcony, a refrigerator, safe, TV, and a bathroom with shower and heated floors. (Some Balcony Suites offer interconnecting rooms.) The larger Deluxe Balcony Suites feature one double or two single beds, a 70 sq. ft. (6.5 sq. m) balcony, refrigerator, safe, TV, and a bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors.
- Deluxe Balcony Suite
- Balcony Suite
Deck 5 is home to Balena restaurant, featuring tables that accommodate 2 to 10 guests. Every seat in Ultramarine’s main restaurant offers views of the wraparound deck. At the opposite end of Deck 5 is the state-of-the-art Ambassador Theatre, where guests enjoy daily presentations and films on the high-definition LED wall screen. This space is large enough to accommodate all guests.
During your voyage you may be granted access to the Bridge to observe how the Captain and officers sail and navigate the ship. This is an excellent opportunity to learn how your vessel operates. Strict etiquette applies during Bridge visits which can be facilitated through the Expedition Leader. Also on Deck 6 is a selection of Deluxe Balcony Suites, Ultra Suite, Solo Panorama, Owner’s Suite and Terrace Suites.
- Ultra Suite
- Owner's Suite
- Terrace Suite
- Deluxe Balcony Suite
- Solo Panorama
- Balcony Suite
Guests can go to Deck 7 to visit Bistro 487, an alternative dining option to the larger Balena restaurant. Here, they'll enjoy selections from the main menu, healthy eating options and light snacks, as well as an early riser’s breakfast, afternoon tea and late night snacks. Also on Deck 7 are the Sauna (with floor-to-ceiling windows), the Library, Tundra Spa, a gym with the latest fitness equipment, and studio space for informal yoga.
- Penthouse Suite
Ultramarine’s two twin-engine H145 helicopters enable guests to enjoy the largest selection of off-ship adventures, all of which start at the two helidecks. It’s here on Deck 8 that guests will safely board the two helicopters to experience more unique aerial perspectives and heli-supported activities than are possible on any other ship in the industry.
Located on Devon Island, there are the remains of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police post, dating back to 1924. The RCMP cemetery is tended annually by a contingent of Mounties, who arrive especially for that purpose. Other evidence of human habitation found nearby is centuries older.
This picturesque and remote community maintains strong ties to the land and sea, as its Inuit inhabitants have lived as nomadic hunters in this region for almost 5,000 years. The protective high hills and sheltered shores of this hamlet make for an ideal nesting habitat for various Arctic birds, including thick-billed murres, kittiwakes, ivory gulls and Ross’s gulls. Seals, narwhals and bowhead whales call the waters here home.
In 1937, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post, named Fort Ross, on the coast of Somerset Island. Due to the harsh conditions and isolation of the post, it was closed in 1948. The store and manager’s house still stand.
Named after Frederick William Beechey, an explorer with the Royal Navy, this is one of Canada’s most important Arctic sites and has been deemed a Canadian National Historic Site. During the Franklin expedition of 1845–46, two of Franklin’s ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, anchored here with perilous results. Three of Franklin’s crew died here and are buried at marked gravesites.
Prince Leopold Island
Impressive, vertical cliffs surround part of this small island. This creates an ideal environment for nesting seabirds, and they nest here in vast numbers—more than 300,000 strong! Thick-billed murres, black guillemots and northern fulmars are most commonly seen here.
The 1.2 mile (2 km) wide Bellot Strait separates Somerset Island from the Boothia Peninsula. During the transit, you’ll sail past the northernmost point of mainland North America, Zenith Point.
One of Canada’s most northern settlements, Resolute was formed by forceful relocation of Inuit from northern Quebec by the Canadian government in 1953, during the Cold War. Today, it’s also a jumping off point for much high Arctic research. It has everything from a grocery store and cable TV to a school and a couple of hotels. About 200 people live in Resolute throughout the year, where hunting and logistical support to research, mining and tourism contribute to the community’s economy.
On the south coast of Devon Island is Croker Bay. A glacier here actively calves off chunks of ice, creating a birthplace for icebergs. The bay was a popular stop during the 1800s, when a path to the Pacific (the Northwest Passage) was at the forefront of Arctic exploration.
This is the largest uninhabited island in the world. Marking the northern side of Lancaster Sound, this desert island is so cold and dry that NASA and other organizations conduct research here for future missions to Mars. The Inuktitut name, Tallurutit means “tatoos on the chin” referring to the similarity of the geological features of the area to an Inuit woman’s traditional chin tattoos.
Situated on Baffin Island’s most northerly shore is Admiralty Inlet, whose steep coastline soars 1,500 feet (460 meters) above sea level. Just off the inlet’s northeastern shore lies Arctic Bay, an Inuit community we partner with to arrange authentic experiences that highlight the best this area has to offer. Narwhals and polar bears are known to frequent the fjord.
Departure Dates and Cabins
All we need is a little bit of information about your travel preferences and one of our Polar Travel Advisors will be in touch.