If you’re tired of mainstream sailings, dream big. From the lush vistas of Asia to the Amazon River to the Galapagos Islands, there are enough sailings available to explore beyond any comfort zone.
The world is truly getting smaller and for some seasoned cruise passengers it is getting more difficult to come up with a destination that has gone unexplored. Forever seeking the new and unusual, there is a new target in the cruise industry.
The newest destination of 2016
The Crystal Serenity made headlines recently cruising through the Northwest Passage. Of course, the chance for an out-of-the-ordinary setting meant that when this innovative itinerary was announced, the entire sailing sold out in just 48 hours.
The direction for this voyage is widely considered to be one of the hardest sea routes to travel in the world. The Crystal Serenity is the largest passenger vessel (1,070-guest-capacity) to sail through the icy Canadian route.
The 2016 Northwest Passage sailing began on August 16th from Seward, Alaska as a 32-day journey. The passengers will disembark in New York on September 16.
What and where is the Northwest Passage?
The Northwest Passage is a sea route that journeys through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. In other words it connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans just as the Panama Canal does. The Northwest Passage is not a favoured route for the shipping industry because it was covered by thick, nearly all year long sea ice, making it virtually impassable.
The route was once considered the most dangerous route in the seven seas, to the extent that an attempt to cross it would be called a “voyage of delusion”. Wreckages from the 1800s are still being found today under the ice. Perhaps the best known tale of this area is Franklin’s lost expedition, an attempt to traverse through the passage in 1845 by famed explored James Franklin.
After Franklin and his crew disappeared, an expedition to find their remains by government officials proved fruitless. The HMS Erebus was only found a few years ago off of the coast of King William Island, covered completely in ice. A total of 129 people went missing.
The first successful trip through the Northwest Passage didn’t take place until 1907 by Roald Amundsen, a journey which took him about 3 years to complete.
The first voyage
Precautions had to be made for this ice-breaking journey and this is where modern technology came in. Equipment such as forward seeking sonar and thermal imaging to detect any sudden icebergs and large search lights ensure that the trip will be a safe and enjoyable trip through a beautiful location.
The luxury cruise liner was accompanied by an ice-breaking boat and two helicopters. Besides making history as being the first cruise line to venture in pristine and unspoiled territories, it took three years to plan and collaborate with the locals of the Arctic to insure that no environmental damage would occur.
Expert guides accompanied the passengers taking them out on zodiacs to obtain views of polar bears on floating ice. The ship anchored in Ulukhaktok and Cambridge Bay, where the villagers greeted the passengers with an introduction to their culture, folklore, music and dances. The ship has since sailed through the Victoria Strait heading towards the Bellot Strait.
Crystal Serenity Master, Captain Birger J. Vorland asserted, “After successfully transiting the Bellot Strait as the largest vessel ever to have transited this challenging passage, we spotted an iceberg which appeared to be far, far away in the horizon. With time to spare we headed in the direction of the sighting and found not one, but two large icebergs drifting.
These icebergs likely came from Greenland and have probably been drifting for a couple of years.” There will be plenty of other unspoiled locations to create a lasting memory.
Due to the nature of keeping the environmental impact of a fragile area to a minimum, this will never be an area of weekly cruises. The window is short for a sailing (only a few weeks) as the winters come early and are long and harsh.
However, the response for this journey was so big, that Crystal has announced it will sail the route again in 2017.
But Crystal might not be the only cruise line to attempt to tackle the Northwest Passage in the future. It was rumoured that another luxury line, Regent Seven Seas, may offer cruises to the area but as of this date, no schedule has been set up.
Click on the link for more information on Crystal Serenity.
Written by Veronica Shine