Crystal Serenity Reaches NW Passage Halfway Point

The Serenity enters the Northwest Territories with a zodiac escort (courtesy Crystal Cruises)

By MarEx 2016-08-30 21:28:53

The Crystal Serenity, the largest cruise ship ever to attempt the Northwest Passage, has arrived at the halfway point of her voyage, the hamlet of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. 

The Nunavut community has spent two years preparing for the ship's arrival, CBC reports. 

Local artisans hoped to sell thousands of dollars worth of carvings and other goods to the passengers, each of whom paid in excess of $22,000 to join the record-setting, month-long voyage. The Serenity's crew ferried the passengers to town in groups of 150 at a time to avoid overwhelming Cambridge Bay's limited facilities. 

The ship did not encounter ice during its voyage to Cambridge Bay, Canadian media report. However, two experienced Canadian ice pilots are on board, and the vessel subscribes to highly detailed satellite-based ice forecasts. Just in case, the Serenity is escorted by the icebreaker RSS Ernest Shackleton; search and rescue resources in the Canadian Arctic are scarce, and in addition to ice escort duty, the Shackleton is equipped to provide other forms of emergency support. 

The U.S. Coast Guard held a major passenger vessel casualty simulation in the Bring Strait to coincide with the ship's sailing. The Coast Guard said that the "timing of the exercise [was] coincidental to the voyage of the Crystal Serenity . . . however, [her voyage] represents a change in the level of activity in the Arctic that highlights the importance of the exercise in ensuring that support services are prepared."

Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten, has called on the industry to limit the size of the vessels visiting the Arctic in order to keep the passenger volume proportionate to the size of the local communities visited. 

Crystal is already planning another voyage for next year from August 15 September 16, departing from Anchorage. Expedition cruise operators have passed through the region for several years now, and other offerings for 2017 include:

- Ponant's luxury expedition cruise ship Le Boreal, chartered by Abercrombie & Kent
- Polar Cruises' expedition cruise ships Sea Adventurer, Vavilov, Ioffe and Ocean Endeavor