Going on a cruise allows you to travel to new and exciting destinations. And this summer, one cruise ship will take the plunge by becoming the largest vessel – and the first of its kind – to sail the Northwest Passage.
The Northwest Passage is a sea route that allows people to get from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean via the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Up until recently, the Northwest Passage had been impassable due to thick sea ice, but in recent years enough of that ice has melted that the Passage is now navigable to commercial traffic and large-scale cruising.
The Crystal Serenity from Crystal Cruises will make its inaugural 32-day voyage on August 16, setting sail from Anchorage, Alaska, and ending up in New York City by way of Canada and Greenland. If you were hoping to be on board the Crystal Serenity, the cruise is unfortunately already sold out, with ticket prices ranging from $30,000 to $156,000 per passenger. Yes, per passenger!
The cruise will combine enrichment seminars, guided shore excursions, and stops to three Canadian Arctic communities. And, of course, passengers will also be able to take part in typical cruise features such as fine dining, spa services, slot machines, and even a putting green and driving range.
While the cruise is highly anticipated by its passengers, the route through the Northwest Passage has many concerned about safety.
Preparing for the Worst
Why is it such a big worry? The Northwest Passage is one of the least mapped regions of the world. On top of that, it is also largely out of reach for Canada’s search and rescue helicopters in the event that something goes wrong. For this very reason, both Canadian and United States Coast Guards, along with Crystal Cruises, say that they will run a bunch of drills and exercises in the Arctic Ocean to prepare for the worst.
With 1,000 passengers and 600 crew members on the 253-meter long cruise ship, it would be an extremely massive rescue operation if something does go wrong. Michael Byers, a Canada research chair in global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia, goes so far as to say, “If the ship sinks, then that would actually break the Canadian search-and-rescue system.”
The smaller Clipper Adventurer cruise ship attempted to sail the Northwest Passage in 2010. It collided with an uncharted rock shelf in Coronation Gulf near Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada, and it took nearly two days for a coast guard icebreaker to arrive.
If a similar scenario were to befall the Crystal Serenity, it would likely take days for multiple military planes across the country to be reach the ship.
In addition to worst-case scenario drills and exercises, Crystal Cruises will have its own icebreaker following the cruise ship the entire duration of the trip. There will also be polar navigation specialists and special ice-spotting lights and radar on board.
Along with safety concerns, some are also worried about the impact the cruise will have on the environment and the Arctic communities the ship will visit. With the increased tourism this voyage could potentially bring, critics believe the Canadian Arctic might not be able to accommodate the challenges.
If the trip is successful, however, the Crystal Serenity may give way to other large cruise ships that want to make the Northwest Passage voyage in the future.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.