Crystal Serenity left the port of Seward to head north in the most extravagant luxury cruise ever prepared by the US. The ship will be accompanied by the cutter Healy, which will help the ship have a smooth trip among the icebergs and glaciers from the Arctic, and two helicopters.
Seward is an important scientific center of the Arctic, as it’s the headquarters of the Kenai Fjords National Park and the home of the vessel owned by the National Science Foundation and designed to research climate changes. The port also fosters the Alaska SeaLife Center and the only Coast Guard training center for navigation in polar ice. However, this new trip is not about science.
The luxury cruise will travel the Northwest Passage, a route that connects the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans by going through the Arctic Ocean. The ship will go through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and then enter the Pacific Ocean near Alaska.
The travel is secured by the Healy icebreaker, and it was probably made easier by global warming which permitted a much safer trip through the Northwest Passage. The voyage will take 32 days.
The route was known as historically impassable, and only explorers and adventurers had been know to attempt crossing the Arctic territories. However, the warming temperatures changed the ecosystem, and it allowed multiple crossings of the area.
Scientists even noticed that the reduced ice permitted new species to migrate across the Arctic Ocean. For example, a gray whale left the Arctic and reached as far as the Mediterranean. Species of plankton that were traditionally found in the Pacific reached the Atlantic, and the scientists again believe they made the crossing through the melting Northern Passage.
The luxury cruise has a capacity of 1,070 passengers and crew, and it’s the largest cruise that had ever tried to make such a crossing through the Arctic Ocean. The cost of the sailing goes from $19,000 to $120,000 per person, and it will include hot tubs, fancy restaurants, a casino and of course, the beautiful scenery of the Arctic.
However delightful it may be, such a cruise raised the attention of environmentalists and people who try to protect the Inuit communities. The ship can become a disturbance to marine life, and the danger of an oil spill is not to be ignored.
As for the Inuit community, even if the touristic route will bring money to the Northwest Passage, the activity is seen as “extinction tourism.” Moreover, the small settlements rely on fishing, and the arrival by boat of a large number of tourists will only make things worse for the marine ecosystems.
On the other hand, the Crystal Serenity captain reassures the public saying that the voyagers will have a strict code of conduct when making shore visits, and the waste will be perfectly controlled.
Image Source: Wikipedia