Crystal Cruises has announced plans to become the world's first luxury cruise liner to take guests through the fabled Northwest Passage 805 km north of the Arctic Circle -- a new route that speaks to the larger issue of climate change.
Beginning in 2016, the luxury liner will take guests on what it's calling an expedition-style voyage navigating the legendary route that, until recently, remained an elusive passage frozen in Arctic ice.
But the effects of global warming have disintegrated parts of the route, opening up the passage and one of the world’s final frontiers.
And along with cargo ships, commercial cruise liners could soon make the passage a major thoroughfare in once impossible terrain.
Crystal Cruises aims to be the first cruise ship company to launch a maiden voyage through the Northwest Passage in two years and will navigate the waterways lined with glaciers and fjords.
Ports of call include Kodiak, Alaska, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut in Canada and Greenland.
The cruise -- operated by Crystal Serenity -- will sail for 32 days from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean and finish in New York City.
Activities include polar bear-viewing, whale-watching, glacier-cruising, helicopter flights, golf and guided tours with natives, scientists and wildlife photographers.
News that the luxury liner will be bringing thousands of pleasure seekers to one of the final patches of virgin land and sea on the planet will no doubt raise questions, concerns and controversy.
What’s the environmental impact? How will it affect the local native Inuit communities?
Crystal Cruises says the itinerary was developed to serve as both a leisure and an educational experience, with activities created to spotlight the native Arctic heritage, arts, crafts, music and culture.
The liner will use low-sulfur Marine Gas oil fuel which they say exceeds environmental regulations, while an escort vessel will carry additional safety and environmental protection equipment.
"From reviewing operations with Canadian officials to meeting with Inuit elders of the Arctic who have provided their backing, our team has spent almost two years diligently gathering the field experts, information, resources, and support to ensure an epic experience that is exceptionally rewarding and safe for guests and crew, and respectful of local lands and cultures," said Crystal’s executive vice-president Thomas Mazloum in a statement.
"During this voyage, speakers will enlighten guests on information regarding climate change, and how it has impacted this passage. With the recent retreat of polar ice, the time is right for us to lead the way within the travel industry, as Crystal has done throughout our 25-year history."
Fares start at $19,755 per person, double occupancy.
For more info on Crystal Adventures visit http://www.crystalcruises.com/.