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article imageCruise ship with 1,070 on board attempts Northwest Passage route

By Karen Graham     Aug 25, 2016 in Travel
The once pristine Arctic will soon be a thing of the past, now that climate change and melting ice is the new norm. Last week, the Crystal Serenity, a luxury cruise ship, began a month-long trip through the once-impassable Northwest Passage.
After three years of planning and working to meet the rigid requirements needed to voyage through the pristine Arctic environment, Los Angeles-based Crystal Cruise Lines' luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity has embarked on the trip of a lifetime, a voyage through the Northwest Passage.
Crystal Serenity weighs nearly 69,000 tons and has 13 decks. The $350 million luxury ship measures 250 meters (820 feet) in length and 32.2 meters (105.6 feet) in width. The ship has a crew of 650 and can carry 1,070 passengers. The ship set sail from Seward, Alaska on August 16, and if all goes well, should arrive in New York on September 17, reports CTV News.
Proposed route of the Crystal Serenity through the Northwest Passage.
Proposed route of the Crystal Serenity through the Northwest Passage.
Crystal Cruise Line
This voyage across the Northwest Passage is not the first to be made by a passenger ship with paying customers. In 1984, the Lindblad Explorer made the first trip carrying paying passengers, and then in 2012, a cruise-size ship, The World made it across with 481 passengers. But Crystal Serenity will be the largest, ever.
A dangerous voyage into the unknown
The voyage is not without its risks, big and dangerous risks. Over the years, explorers have lost their lives trying to make the crossing. And it is very easy to get trapped in the ice. But that seems to be less of a problem now, because of climate change and melting sea ice. Actually, NASA scientists are calling the Arctic "the new normal."
And with the cruise ship being huge, its size alone poses some big risks. There are no "defined' routes for a ship to take in the labyrinth of waterways that make up the Northwest Passage. There are unknown currents, shallows, and rocks that could lay waste to the unwary. On top of this, only 10 percent of the waterways have been charted.
Rachel Waldholz
But the intrepid adventurers will not be without help, reports the Telegraph. A "first responder," the RRS Ernest Shackleton, an ICE 05-Class icebreaker, chartered from the British Antarctic Survey will be alongside to provide logistical support and ice-breaking assistance if needed. They will also be carrying emergency supplies.
Crystal Cruise Lines
Passengers aboard the cruise ship have paid between $22,000 and $120,000 for the privilege of making this historic voyage. They also have to pay additionally for any excursions, like helicopter trips to view glaciers close-up or polar bears. These trips can cost up to $6,179 per person, according to Quartz.
Global temperatures are changing at a far faster pace than ever before  dramatically affecting the A...
Global temperatures are changing at a far faster pace than ever before, dramatically affecting the Arctic ice cap
Cory J. Mendenhall, US COAST GUARD/AFP
The passengers will also be in the company of 21 scientists and guest lecturers, from marine biologists and divers to climatologists and naturalists. The ship is also equipped with forward-looking sonar, ice-detecting high-resolution radar, thermal imaging equipment and emergency flood lights. This is all reassuring, and necessary.
Passengers also have to buy $50,000 in emergency evacuation insurance in order to make the crossing of the Northwest Passage. The dangers did not seem to bother any of the intrepid explorers. When the cruise was announced, it sold out in three weeks. And Crystal Cruise Lines is already preparing for another trip in 2017.
More about arctic cruise, Northwest passage, Luxury liner, Tourists, Environment
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