Crystal Cruises’ luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity has completed its traverse of the Northwest Passage, arriving in New York City on Friday morning. The successful voyage marks the first of its kind made by a large luxury cruise ship.
For 32 days and 7,297 nautical miles, more than 1,000 guests and 600 crew members witnessed the remote Arctic waterways and terrain that was inaccessible just over 100 years ago.
The vessel was captained by Master Birger J. Vorland, who enters an exclusive club of maritime explorers to successfully lead a vessel through the Northwest Passage, and joins Norwegian-born sailors Roald Amundsen and Henry A. Larsen on achieving the professional milestone.
During the northernmost portion of the journey, Crystal Serenity was escorted by the RRS Ernest Shackleton. In addition to being fully equipped as a first response vessel for virtually any emergency situation, the RRS Shackleton provided ice breaking capabilities, two helicopters for special adventures and additional expert expedition crew.
“From day one of planning the voyage, we were committed to ensuring the safety of our guests, crew and the ship,” said Vorland. “In addition to carrying two veteran Canadian Ice Pilots, Crystal Serenity’s bridge team received ice navigation simulator training to prepare ourselves for the conditions, and prior to the voyage, the ship was outfitted with forward looking sonar, ice searchlights, ice radar, and a thermal imaging system were installed.”
The rugged journey was somewhat of a departure from Crystal’s luxury ocean cruises, as adventures ashore were centered on the remote and sparse terrain of the region. “Wet” zodiac landings, icy hikes, and intrepid treks were enhanced by the extensive knowledge of the local Inuit guides and the onboard expedition teams.
Crystal donated school supplies, hired local guides to assist in tours, hosted “community visits” which allowed local communities to sell arts and crafts, and made charitable monetary donations that collectively represented more than $150,000 in direct and indirect benefits.
Along the way, Crystal’s voyage brought impromptu opportunities to encounter wildlife, including close-up greetings (from the safety of an expert-driven zodiac) with polar bears and numerous whale pods. A small group of adventurous guests embarked on an overnight Crystal Adventure to a Greenland Ice Camp, trekking through deep crevices in massive glaciers and sleeping under the stars on the frozen ground.
Crystal has announced a second Northwest Passage route in 2017.