Crystal Serenity navigating the Northwest Passage (Image: Paragon Pixels, Crystal Cruises)
Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity has become the first large luxury cruise ship to transit the Arctic’s Northwest Passage after completing her journey in New York City, US on 16 September.
Captained by Master Birger Vorland, the ship sailed a total of 7,297 nautical miles in 32 days, enabling more than 1,000 guests and 600 crew members to explore remote Arctic waterways and terrain that was inaccessible just over 100 years ago.
During the northernmost portion of the journey, Crystal Serenity was escorted by the RRS Ernest Shackleton, which served as an emergency responses vessel and also provided ice-breaking assistance. The vessel was also equipped with 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 Captain 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.”
Shore excursions included ‘wet’ zodiac landings and icy hikes led by local Inuit guides and the onboard expedition teams, community visits in Canada’s Northwest Territories, a visit to Beechey Island to learn about the fateful Franklin Expedition, and a call to Pond Inlet, where Captain Vorland exchanged gifts with the town’s mayor. Crystal’s ‘Unexpected Adventures’ – introduced for this voyage – brought impromptu opportunities to encounter wildlife like whales and polar bears from zodiacs. In addition, a small group embarked on an overnight Crystal Adventure to a Greenland Ice Camp, trekking through crevices in glaciers and sleeping outside.
Onboard highlights included presentations from naturalists, biologists, nature photographers and videographers, historians and professional adventurers. Guests were also able to use four sets of high-powered binoculars to spot wildlife, or look at the scenery and wildlife from flat screens streaming from a Cineflex system in Palm Court.
Crystal also supported local communities on the route by donating school supplies to villages, hiring local guides to assist in tours, encouraging passengers and crew to buy arts and crafts from local communities, and made charitable monetary donations that collectively represented more than CAD$200,000 in direct and indirect benefits.
“We did not set out on this expedition to simply sail through the Northwest Passage, but also to illuminate the region and its remarkable nuances while also making a positive impact on the communities we visited,” said Edie Rodriguez, CEO and president at Crystal.
Following the response to the 2016 sailing, Crystal has created a second Northwest Passage journey for 2017.
“We are humbled and thrilled to have completed such a monumental journey,” said Rodriguez. “As Crystal is constantly seeking new ways to share the world with our guests, the Northwest Passage represents an especially massive undertaking that was made possible by the extreme dedication of our expert destination team and expedition partners. We now look forward to beginning the planning process in delivering another memorable experience for guests on our 2017 sailing.”
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