Giant cruise ship Crystal Serenity heads to Arctic on pioneering journey

  • Crystal Serenity departed Seward, Alaska, on August 16 and is currently travelling to New York via the Arctic
  • The luxury vessel will go through the Northwest Passage, which used to be impassable for ships due to ice
  • Much of the ice has melted, making the journey possible, but the ship is also accompanied by an ice breaker

It is a voyage explorers only dreamed of not so long ago but thanks to climate change, a luxury cruise ship is sailing through the once impassable Northwest Passage.

Crystal Serenity, which set off from Seward, Alaska on August 16 with nearly 1,000 passengers, is scheduled to dock in New York on September 17.  

The pioneering month-long trip, which is bringing mass tourism to the remote Arctic regions for the first time, cost passengers up to $120,000 (£91,401). But while on board, everything is included and guests have the opportunity to take helicopter excursions and enjoy polar bear and whale watching.

Thanks to climate change, luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity  has undertaken a pioneering journey that will see it sail through the once impassable Northwest Passage

Thanks to climate change, luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity has undertaken a pioneering journey that will see it sail through the once impassable Northwest Passage

The group spotted their first polar bear (pictured) on August 30 on a floe just off the coast of Cambridge Bay

The group spotted their first polar bear (pictured) on August 30 on a floe just off the coast of Cambridge Bay

Passengers on the cruise will have a luxury all-inclusive experience. Above, the penthouse suite on  Crystal Serenity

Passengers on the cruise will have a luxury all-inclusive experience. Above, the penthouse suite on  Crystal Serenity

FACILITIES ON BOARD 

  • Four restaurants
  • Two swimming pools
  • 13 lounges and bars 
  • Crystal spa 
  • Casino 
  • Dolby surround sound cinema
  • Sports area with golfing facilities
  • Tennis courts 

The ship made its last Alaska port call on Sunday, stopping in the remote town of Nome, before heading further north.

It’s accompanied on the journey by the RRS Ernest Shackleton, a British supply and icebreaking vessel.

The voyage marks the first time a passenger ship this size has sailed the storied Northwest Passage where warmer temperatures and melting ice are opening the Arctic, one of the most pristine places on Earth, for business.

Passengers on board the $350million (£266million) vessel paid between $22,000 (£16,757) and $120,000 (£91,401) for the journey, which took three years of planning and preparation to avoid any mishaps, including a repeat of the Titanic.

Guests were also required to purchase $50,000 (£38,084) in emergency evacuation insurance in order to cruise through the Northwest Passage, which was once an unnavigable shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The ship made its last Alaska port call on Sunday. Above, the vessel arriving in Ulukhaktok near the beginning of the trip

The ship made its last Alaska port call on Sunday. Above, the vessel arriving in Ulukhaktok near the beginning of the trip

The group spotted their first block of Arctic ice on August 23. The blue-tinged mass was seen as the vessel approached Beaufort Sea

The group spotted their first block of Arctic ice on August 23. The blue-tinged mass was seen as the vessel approached Beaufort Sea

At Ulukhaktok, on August 28, the travellers met some of the locals living in the remote region (pictured)

At Ulukhaktok, on August 28, the travellers met some of the locals living in the remote region (pictured)

Passengers on board the $350million (£266million) vessel paid between $22,000 (£16,757) and $120,000 (£91,401) for the once in a life time experience

Passengers on board the $350million (£266million) vessel paid between $22,000 (£16,757) and $120,000 (£91,401) for the once in a life time experience

The Crystal Serenity, which set off from Seward, Alaska on August 16, is scheduled to dock in New York on September 17. Above, the route it will take

The Crystal Serenity, which set off from Seward, Alaska on August 16, is scheduled to dock in New York on September 17. Above, the route it will take

The Crystal Serenity is expected to reach the northwest territories on Friday and complete the Arctic leg of its journey by September 4 before heading to Greenland and finally New York.

Crystal’s CEO and president, Edie Rodriguez, said in a statement: ‘Every aspect of this voyage is literally unparalleled in the luxury cruise industry, and nearly the entire travel industry as well.

‘It is a tremendous undertaking to embark on such a historic journey, but also an honor for us to be able to offer the world’s most discerning travellers the opportunity to experience a region of the world that so few others have or ever will.’

He said guests on the 820-ft (250-meter), 13-deck vessel can enjoy a slew of activities, including helicopter flights over glaciers as well as polar bear and other wildlife sightings.

Above, one of the two swimming pools on board the vessel, pictured in warmer weather. One of the swimming pools has a retractable glass roof

Above, one of the two swimming pools on board the vessel, pictured in warmer weather. One of the swimming pools has a retractable glass roof

As well as enjoying the dining and leisure options on board, the excursions include helicopter flights and wildlife watching

As well as enjoying the dining and leisure options on board, the excursions include helicopter flights and wildlife watching

For those looking for a spot of relaxation, there's also spa facilities on board the ship

For those looking for a spot of relaxation, there’s also spa facilities on board the ship

Passengers also access a fitness centre, a spa, swimming pools, restaurants and luxury shops on board.

But not everyone is hailing the high-profile voyage, with critics lashing out at Crystal Cruises and accusing the company of capitalizing on the destruction of the planet. 

An article in the online current affairs magazine Slate offered a scathing review, describing the cruise as yet another example of a consumption-driven society that will stop at nothing. 

There are four restaurants on board - all of which are part of the all-inclusive offer. Pictured is the sushi bar

There are four restaurants on board – all of which are part of the all-inclusive offer. Pictured is the sushi bar

Above, the Tastes restaurant, which features four 'living walls' and serves a variety of cuisines

Above, the Tastes restaurant, which features four ‘living walls’ and serves a variety of cuisines

Elena Agarkova, senior program officer for the World Wildlife Fund, acknowledged that Crystal Cruises had taken measures to offset the environmental impact of the Serenity’s voyage, including not using heavy fuel oil and discharging waste water at least 12 nautical miles from shore.

But she said there were still concerns about safety and protecting wildlife as well as the region’s diverse indigenous communities.

Agarkova told AFP: ‘This voyage is symbolic of the rapid changes happening in the Arctic.

‘Today, we do not have the right rules in place needed to reduce risks to wildlife and people, nor the capacity needed to respond to accidents.’

The Northwest Passage had once been impassable due to the amount of ice in the area

The Northwest Passage had once been impassable due to the amount of ice in the area

She said that as climate change accelerates and Arctic shipping and leisure travel grows, governments individually and collectively must match that pace in managing the region.

Agarkova noted: ‘Cruise ships of the size of the Crystal Serenity are essentially huge cities.

‘They are going to have some 1,700 passengers, including crew, on board and they are going to be discharging thousands of gallons of sewage and graywater as they sail through the Arctic waters.’

Agarkova said although the waste will be dumped away from shore, it will still be going into the Arctic ecosystem on a daily basis.

She added: ‘And of course the more ships that we have, the more impact and the more waste will be in these right now relatively pristine areas.

‘I find it ironic that one of the biggest selling points of these voyages is to see Arctic wildlife and to see the last frontier.

‘And the more people show up to see the last frontier, (the more) the last frontier it will be.’






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

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