Mission Accomplished: Crystal Serenity Completes 32 Day Northwest Passage Journey
Photo Credit: Diana Bondareff, Crystal Cruises
More than 3 years after the inception of the immensely ambitious plan to transit the Northwest Passage, Crystal Serenity completed the epic undertaking, arriving in NYC Friday a.m. The successful voyage marks the 1stof its kind made by a large luxury cruise ship. For 32 days and 7,297 nautical miles, more than 1,000 passengers and 600 crew witnessed the remote Arctic waterways and terrain that was inaccessible just over 100 years ago.
“We are humbled and thrilled to have completed such a monumental journey,” said Edie Rodriguez, CEO & President at Crystal. “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. ”
Crystal Serenity was captained by Master Birger J. Vorland, who enters an exclusive club of maritime explorers to successfully lead a vessel through the Northwest Passage, and joins Norwegian-born sailors Roald Amundsen and Henry A. Larsen on achieving the professional milestone. During the northernmost portion of the journey, Crystal Serenity was escorted by the RRS Ernest Shackleton. In addition to being fully equipped as a 1stresponse vessel for virtually any emergency situation, the RRS Shackleton provided ice breaking capabilities, 2 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 2 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.”
Community visits in the Northwest Territories offered connections and insights into the local cultures. In Ulukhaktok, a troop of young local dancers boarded the ship to perform their traditional interpretive dances, fully outfitted in handmade costumes. Travellers reflected on the history of the fateful Franklin Expedition during a visit to Beechey Island, while a call to Pond Inlet brought Captain Vorland and the town’s mayor together for a mutual exchange of gifts of appreciation.
In its continuing spirit of goodwill and connecting intimately with communities worldwide, Crystal extended its support to the local Inuit villages during visits on the Northwest Passage voyage. Crystal donated school supplies, hired local guides to assist in tours, hosted “community visits” which allowed local communities to sell arts & crafts and made charitable monetary donations that collectively represented more than $200,000 in direct and indirect benefits.
“The importance of understanding the natural, cultural and historical implications of this sailing is tremendous,” adds Rodriguez. “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.”
Along the way, Crystal’s ‘Unexpected Adventures’ – introduced for this voyage – brought impromptu opportunities to encounter wildlife, including close-up greetings (from the safety of a zodiac) with polar bears and numerous whale pods. A small group of adventurous guests embarked on an overnight Crystal Adventure to a Greenland Ice Camp, trekking through deep crevices in massive glaciers and sleeping under the stars on the frozen ground.
Naturalists, biologists, nature photographers, historians and professional adventurers also joined the voyage to lend background and insights about various topics relevant to the journey.