Crystal Delays Ocean Ships, Faces Arctic Safety Concerns

Open Jaw

With its massively ambitious expansion plans, Crystal Cruises is bound to encounter some heavy seas along the way.

Last week the luxury travel company pushed back the delivery date for its ocean new-builds and is facing environmental and safety concerns regarding its inaugural voyage through Canada’s Arctic this summer.

The 3 new Crystal ships, originally slated to debut in late 2018, will now come in 2019. These vessels will be polar class and feature the line's Crystal Residences, apartments that will be for sale.

While the delay on new ships isn’t a big deal, Crystal also got some attention in Canada this past week, when popular CBC Radio current affairs show The Current ran a story and podcast about the potential impact on the Arctic, and potential safety issues, of Crystal Serenity’s 16AUG cruise from Anchorage through the Northwest Passage and on to NYC.

The month-long cruise has long been sold out at prices ranging from $30,000 to $156,000. There’s plenty of reason for excitement, as the Northwest Passage has long been a ‘Holy Grail’ for explorers. It’s only since 2009 that warming temperatures and a shrinking ice pack made such a journey possible. Serenity will be the largest ship and the first of its kind to make the journey.

Not everyone is excited about the prospect of large cruise ships plying Arctic waters and visiting remote communities. If something were to go wrong, a massive and expensive rescue operation would be required.

The CBC story also raised questions about the impact a cruise this size will have on the small Arctic communities it visits along the way. The 1,700 people on the cruise ship will essentially double the populations of Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet, Nunavut — 2 of the several port calls on the route.

While they are used to receiving visitors on cruise ships during the short summer season, Canada’s northern communities have never had to deal with the number of people Serenity will bring.

Crystal is taking the safety concerns seriously. Serenity will sail with an escort ice breaking vessel, oil pollution mitigation gear, a helicopter for real-time ice condition reconnaissance, additional bridge officers, ice searchlights, 2 experienced pilots and a diver.

As well, each passenger embarking on the voyage is required to carry a minimum of USD50,000 in emergency evacuation insurance.

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