You can visit Inuit communities, learn about life in the High Arctic and, fingers crossed, see polar bears in the wild. But if you are reluctant to embark on a full blown expedition cruise then Crystal Serenity's 2017 Northwest Passage cruise gives you an extraordinary opportunity to explore this region whilst travelling in extreme comfort, enjoying the excellent service, wine and food for which Crystal Cruises is renowned.
The Northwest Passage is a sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic archipelago. For many years the route was virtually impassable as a result of thick, year round sea ice, but climate change is now allowing commercial traffic to pass through the Arctic Ocean. This is not without controversy, of course, but our view is that responsibly managed tourism can serve a valuable role in educating travellers about the impacts of a warming climate on the fragile Arctic environment.
Crystal Serenity's first Northwest Passage cruise took place last summer. It was wonderful to be able to follow the journey day to day with blogs and pictures from the ship, and to get first hand reports back from the many clients we had on board.
For the most remote part of the journey, Crystal Serenity was escorted by the RRS Ernest Shackleton, a fully equipped first response vessel for virtually any emergency situation with ice breaking capabilities, two helicopters for special adventures, and additional expert expedition crew.
More than 40 expert scientists and lecturers were on board, so the opportunity to learn every detail about the region is extraordinary, with a far greater range of expertise than you might expect on a small expedition ship. Naturalists, biologists, nature photographers and videographers, historians and professional adventurers all led captivating presentations, as well as joining the guests on trips ashore.
For the majority of the northern part of the cruise, beach landings by zodiac were essential. For the communities themselves it was an extraordinary thing to have so many visitors, but long and detailed discussions with the cruise line in advance of the visits ensured that they benefitted just as they would wish. Crystal donated school supplies, hired local guides to assist in tours, hosted community visits which allowed local people to sell arts and crafts, and made charitable donations.
A programme of 'Unexpected Adventures' involved zodiac excursions, mainly during the four days between Cambridge Bay and Pont Inlet. Guests register in advance for these to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to set out on the zodiacs to explore, while those left on board have time to enjoy all the usual facilities of the ship. These facilities were enhanced by four sets of premium high-powered binoculars, as well as flat screens streaming from a cutting edge Cineflex system in the Palm Court.
From a wildlife point of view, the Arctic should not be compared with Antarctica: sightings are limited (although of course the opportunity to see a polar bear is very exciting). There are many glaciers and icebergs though, and extraordinary fjords which you would never see in Antarctica. Most interesting is the opportunity to visit the settlements, villages and little towns where people have carved out an extraordinary life in an alien environment with contrasts in Alaska, Canada and Greenland. And you have the opportunity to learn about the economic and strategic importance of the Arctic region.
If you think such an exciting trip might be the thing for you, don't delay… now is the time to ensure you secure your own stateroom on this summer's very special voyage: it's now or never.
Find out more: The Northwest Passage 2017 - Full itinerary