Cruising the Northwest Passage In Style

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

While working on finishing the story of my sea voyage last week down from Canada to Oregon, I was surprised to see that there is a new market in the world of marine “eco-tourism”. This one involves burning thousands and thousands of gallons of eeevil fossil crystal cruises polar bearsfuels so that rich folks can make a futile attempt to traverse the Northwest Passage, over the top of the US from Anchorage to New York. In a giant cruise ship. Not this year, not next year, but in the year 2016. Polar cruises of all kinds seem to be hot right now. As a seaman, I think that there are places where no cruise ship should go. Here’s a picture of an Antarctic cruise that went wrong …

explorer cruise ship


Now, as others have commented, I’ll believe CO2 is a problem when the folks who claim it’s a problem act like it’s a problem. But what intrigued me was, how was the Crystal Cruise line going to deal with the fact that there’s a good chance they won’t be able to make it all the way through the Northwest Passage in 2016? Would they issue refunds if they couldn’t complete the trip? Do you get half the money back if they only make it half way?

So I did some research on the Crystal Cruises site, and found a couple of oddities. First, since the cost of the cruise alone starts at $20,000 per person and goes up from there, we’re gonna assume that most contestants will be well past fifty years old … and as a result, subject to a variety of weaknesses of the flesh, including but not limited to dropping dead without prior notice. So on their “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) page, the cruise ship operators put the following restriction on potential cruisees …

Due to the remote locations, emergency medical evacuation by plane from the Arctic regions can reach costs of $50,000 or more.  Therefore, proof of a minimum of $50,000 per person in Emergency Evacuation Repatriation insurance is required to participate in this cruise.

Well, that’ll keep out the feather merchants. However, on either the page advertising the 2016 Northwest Passage cruise or their FAQ page, I couldn’t find one word about too much ice. So I dug deeper, and here’s what I found in their fine print that applies to all cruises:

9. Itinerary/Right To Change/Detention: Crystal Cruises reserves the right at its sole option and discretion and that of the Captain of the Ship without liability for damages or refund of any kind, to deviate from the Ship’s advertised or ordinary itinerary or route, to delay, advance or cancel any sailing, to omit or change ports of call, to arrange for substantially equivalent transportation by another vessel and/or by other means of transportation, to cause the Guest to disembark from the Ship temporarily or permanently, to tow or to be towed or assist other vessels or to perform any similar act which, in its sole judgment and discretion, is justified for any reason. SOURCE

Holy moly, talk about signing your life away. Once you’re on their ship, they can do anything they damn well please, including saying they’re going to Tenerife and taking you to Texas instead, or tossing your poor benighted corpus off the ship if they don’t like the cut of your jib.

Oh, if the cruise is cancelled before it starts they’ll refund the ticket, but otherwise? Once the ship sails, they’ve got your money, and if there’s too much ice … tough. They’ll just shorten the cruise, go to Vladivostok instead, and call it good enough. And if you get sick? Pay for it yourself.

Clearly, we’re all in the wrong business …

Best to everyone,


PS—Care to sign up? Do you have $20,000 to spare? Their web site is here, a news story on their crazy-like-a-fox plan is here. To their credit, the journalists do note the irony of burning fossil fuels in order to save the planet from fossil fuels.


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Where is the faith in our melting of the Arctic? The Church of Climate Change has such a timid and faithless flock.

David in Cal

Although Arctic ice has been generally shrinking for 30 years, it has been growing in the last few years. People who sign up for this cruise are taking a big risk.

Bill Illis

A big cruise ship is not getting through the NorthWest Passage this year. Even a large ice-breaker would not attempt it unless they had to save a big cruise ship.

When was the last time the Northwest passage was open for traffic? 2012?
Isn’t there a ship or two half way through and have been waiting for a year or so?


I plan on going…. NOT!


What I meant to add before hitting enter is, where are all of the greens, screaming bloody murder about this. You had better believe they will hire a ice breaker to ensure success of this cruise. That means any multi-year healthy ice that gets in its way will be broken…. Then again every scientific voyage into the arctic cuts through at least the fragile first year ice.

I think the main purpose of that “$50,000 per person in Emergency Evacuation Repatriation insurance” is to cover eventualities like the one pictured. Let’s see, $50,000 per passenger, a couple hundred passengers: they just might decide to head on in even if the passage is blocked.


Wadhams was right. Check out the year.

New Scientist – 2 March 2002
Arctic melting will open new sea passages
Peter Wadhams of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge agrees that the Arctic could soon open up. “Within a decade we can expect regular summer trade there,” he predicts.

At the last Permafrost Conference in Yellowknife, NWT earlier this year.. Captian Joe spoke of his years sailing the NW a Captain. I asked him what was the average depth of the NW passage.You should hear his lecture on “The Mysterious Receding Sea” Interesting.

Patrick L. Boyle

Is that ship on its side a cruise ship? It doesn’t look much like the Caribbean type cruise ships we have all seen. The infamous Francesco Schettino was enjoying the favors of a female passenger when he ran a typical warm water cruise ship literally on the rocks. It ended up in much the same attitude as the one you show on the ice. But these real cruise ships look to my untutored eye much less sea worthy.
The ship lying over on the ice looks more like a freighter, not one of these modern over tall floating hotel-casinos.

Matthew R Marler

But what intrigued me was, how was the Crystal Cruise line going to deal with the fact that there’s a good chance they won’t be able to make it all the way through the Northwest Passage in 2016? Would they issue refunds if they couldn’t complete the trip? Do you get half the money back if they only make it half way?
I was wondering how much extra a customer would have to pay for a cruise where the ship was guaranteed to capsize; and if you had to pay extra for practice walking on the walls.

Bloke down the pub

‘Oh, if the cruise is cancelled before it starts they’ll refund the ticket, but otherwise? Once the ship sails, they’ve got your money, and if there’s too much ice … tough.’
I wouldn’t mind betting that if, having bought your ticket, you take a look at Anthony’s sea ice page and work out for yourself that the ship won’t get through, you’ll lose your money if you try to cancel.


Just last summer the northwest passage was free of ice. Many made it through to tell their tale of catastrophic Arctic heating.

Sail World – 29 Aug 2013
North West Passage blocked with ice – yachts caught
The Northwest Passage after decades of so-called global warming has a dramatic 60% more Arctic ice this year than at the same time last year. The future dreams of dozens of adventurous sailors are now threatened. A scattering of yachts attempting the legendary Passage are caught by the ice, which has now become blocked at both ends and the transit season may be ending early……..
National Post – September 13, 2013
Reality TV stars crossing Northwest Passage on jet skis forced to cancel Arctic trek after costly rescue
Two fanciful expeditions to cross the Northwest Passage — one on jet skis, the other in a rowboat — have been turned back after crews found that their path through the Canadian Arctic was blocked by ice.


Maybe, if there was a time machine, we could send the cruise ship back to 1100 where they would find, as congressman Don Young said
“Remember, the Arctic didn’t have any ice. And the Northwest Passage was wide open. They were raising grapes in Scotland for God sakes, had a huge winery. Iceland was a farming community. As some of the glaciers retreated they found villages that were covered with ice.”
I guess the Anthropogenic Catastrophic Climate Warming Lemmings would have to scratch out their own lying eyes, all the while screaming “I don’t see any Medieval Warm Period!”
And maybe we could leave them there.


The NW Passage will soon be the route of preference for masses of climate refugees.
I’m lobbying to get the Tim Hortons’ franchise. Double double?


Then there were the rowers. It seems as if everyone believed what the scientists told them about the NW passage.

CBCNews – Sep 03, 2013
Sea ice, winds end rowers’ Northwest Passage bid early
Vancouver rowers say they saw grizzly bears and beavers at the Arctic Ocean
……They were aiming to raise awareness about climate change by rowing through areas previously covered in ice, but in the end, they didn’t find what they were expecting……
….After learning that ice choked much of the route ahead, the group decided to end their trip at Cambridge Bay, about halfway to Pond Inlet…..

Oh what a shame.


Fools and their money are soon parted.


Here is the massive death spiral in all its glory.

16 August 2014
Massive Increase In Arctic Ice Over The Past Two Years
Green shows gain since August 15, 2012. Red shows loss.

The north west passage finally opens up.

NSIDC – 16 August 2014
Overview of conditions
The Northwest Passage through the channels of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago remains choked with ice. Parts of the Northern Sea Route are still difficult to traverse because of high-concentration, near-shore ice between the Laptev and East Siberian seas and also north of the Taymyr Peninsula.

Wadhams predicted this.


Fact is that once you are on-board a cruise ship (any cruise line), you are at their mercy. They do not even need to leave the dock! I speak from personal experience.


Last January the ex-fiance and I took a Quark cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula. Quark’s people are well trained and will intimidate you into observing all of the safety rules. Consequently, there were no incidences, unlike with those Australian clowns. It was a breathtaking trip. The kayaking among the icebergs was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and we got to do it several times. It even surpasses doing the upper Amazon and crossing the Gobi Desert on camels. The organized jump into the cold sea was an experience, too. It was expensive, almost as much as the Passageway trip, but I’m months away from being 70 and I can’t take it with me.
To Boyle, above: Companies that plan off the ship activities need a smaller ship with an open stern to store Zodiacs and kayaks and to facilitate getting people into them. There are are larger, more modern cruise ships down there, but you will never get off the ship to go ashore. It’s a “look, but don’t touch”. We were right in penguin and seal nesting areas. Carefully, of course. And we had open decks to film the numerous whales up close.


the blog “Northwestpassage2014” on blogspot follows the current attempts of the sailors and boats trying to make the passage this summer. There are links to the boats own websites and logs and much information and links to charts showing ice conditions in the NWP as well as detailed weather maps. The blog is maintained by an experienced sailor and USCG licensed Ocean Master Motor and Steam Vessels, retired who is not loath to question decisions made by others in the harsh environment up north. The ice varies from day to day with the weather and much strategy is involved in choosing where and when to go. Apparently there is more ice this year so it is not certain that any will succeed without the help of ice breakers. The information on this blog is fantastic for armchair sailors.


The Vikings were probably the last ones to cross the North West Passage with ease about 1,000 years ago, in a boat not much bigger than a rowboat with a flimsy sail plunked in the middle. But shhhh, please don’t tell the climate warmists about this, because it makes them rather unsettled.

Their survivor kit probably has instructions on how to catch a polar bear for food. Since they are rather elusive, the preferred method is to first catch a polar bear cub so the mother will come to you. 🙂

Damn is two years enough time to set up; Hug a Polar Bear booths on their route?

John West

In the interest of fairness to the cruise line with respect to their “Itinerary/Right To Change/Detention” section; they have a legal and moral obligation to assist others in distress regardless of the itinerary.


That ship on it’s side in the photo was indeed a small cruise ship. I took a cruise from South America to Antarctica on it (several years before it came to be on it’s side). Nice trip, though it was a bit rough crossing over to the Antarctic Peninsula (20-25 foot seas if I recall). Quite impressive watching a Wandering Albatross (largest wingspan of any living bird, upwards of 13 feet) follow us with no wing beats, just catching a little lift off each wave crest.
Unfortunately one elderly passenger passed in his sleep during the return trip. He was repatriated onto a harbor support vessel at an unscheduled stop in Chile. He always wanted to see Antarctica in his lifetime and got his wish.
Cheers, Kevin

Curious George

This is one prudent cruise line. The Arctic Ocean should be completely ice-free in 2015, according to many models, but they wait an additional year to be completely safe.

Gary Pearse

There sure won’t be any passage this year. Things are beginning to freeze up again north of 80.
I don’t think they should hold out much hope for 2016 either, although the cruise folks don’t have to worry with their reams of fine print. With a contract like this, look to another few hundred arctic cruises to go into business if this ship fills up with its fools. How big a boat can you lay your hands on Willis?


The ‘substantially equivalent’ clause is what says they will not take you to Vladivostok and leave you there. What they will do is get other, better equipped and smaller boats to take you to some place near an airport, and then FLY you there.
As far as the NW passage being open…it is ALWAYS open, has always been open, and will continue to be open. Where open means that if you can keep your boat from being crushed by the ice long enough to thaw where you are…and you eventually comes out the other side, even if it is 20 years later…HEY! It’s a successful transit of the NW passage!
It will be interesting to see in 10 years when the warmists have hired 10,000-strong force of men to go out with an armada of ice-breakers, along with the required giant cranes and other mass movers…to ensure that NOBODY gets turned back in their quest to cross the NW passage.
And the lead will be “incident-free open-water NW passage transit”, and the photo will be of a 24-footer with 20 ice-breakers 600m ahead of it.


NE Passage more likely to be open, but in any event an ice classified vessel would be the safest bet.
I doubt that the advertised vessel is ice classified.
But the whole thing should provide great entertainment. Buy popcorn futures, and shares in an icebreaker that might be conveniently near in the event of an emergency.

richard verney

Stargazer says:
August 16, 2014 at 12:27 pm
Deviation clauses (such as the type cited by Willis), and indeed non performance clauses are commonplace in shipping. It is a historical thing, dating back to the days when a voyage truly was an adventure.
It makes you appreciate how very difficult it must have been for the likes of Amundsen, who managed to sail the Northwest Passage, without the benefit of satellite imagery, to see the location of open water/thin ice, and without GPS to know the position of the ship in relation to open waters/thin ice.
I think that a lot of people underestimate how very much more difficult it must have been for sailors who did not benefit from those modern aids. Indeed, it suggests that the ice conditions must have been far more open for them to have successfully prosecuted their yoages, or that they were particularly lucky.
Anyone who wishes to claim that there is significantly less Arctic ice compared to the 1880s/1915 period should perform a voyage with no modern navigational aids (including no helicopters, and without backup from ice breakers and other forms of rescue craft). In that way, one would get a more representative picture of the present verses the past.


The only way anyone is making the crossing for a long time to come will be in a hovercraft or a track-type vehicle, not a boat, & every vehicle will burn tons of fossil fuel & damage the pristine natural environment. Not that the massive Arctic infrastructure won’t shake it off as a miniscule event.
All the rest is marketing-hype & clueless-kook nonsense.

richard verney

Oldseadog says:
August 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm
“NE Passage more likely to be open, but in any event an ice classified vessel would be the safest bet.
I doubt that the advertised vessel is ice classified…..”
I would be pretty damn sure that it is/will be ice classed. It is an insurance issue.
Of course, that does not mean that the ship is an ice breaker.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Sounds like the perfect venue for an IPCC meeting. Guest speakers to include Algore and Chris Turney.


Whoops, I rechecked my references, the Wandering Albatross has a wingspan up to 11 foot 6 inches, not 13 feet, but still impressive as all get out. Spends almost it’s whole life “at sea”, except for breeding “vacations” on land. Magnificent animal.
And the MS Explorer had a “ice rated” hull, but there are many classes of ice ratings, apparently it when someplace where it was outclassed by the ice.
Cheers, Kevin

Might have forgotten to tell you all that there exist two maps from before Hudson entered today’s Hudson Bay showing not only Hudson Bay but coast all way from Hudson Bay to Berings Straith…..
one of the is engraved on a Royal globe engraved (but NA wrongly mirrored by engraver in Flandern 1560) —– On that map please find Mississippi, Missouri resp. Florida engraved……
Northwest passage was open between 980 AD to 1341 according to contemporary documents I have access to. Not only maps.


Forget the Magical Mystery Tour…. to who knows where. Greens wanting to get to the bottom of things and experience genuine Future Climate Disaster should take the Yellow Submarine tour and live in the submariner’s standard 2500 ppm CO2, NASA’s “our common enemy..the major pollutant produced by humans”
More fuel efficient and they won’t disturb the polar bears.

This is the same Peter Wadhams, going by his CV, and he’s still milking the public purse…

RE: Zek202 8/16at 12:42 pm
the blog “Northwestpassage2014″ on blogspot follows the current attempts of the sailors and boats trying to make the passage this summer.
Here is the page for WILL THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE OPEN IN 2014? The Itinerary is not Decisive. But the Experience is. Either a Storm or an Icebreaker or both will make the difference in 2014
He posts the Canadian Ice Survey maps for
August 23, 2013 (last year. pretty free with only two choke points)
August 15, 2014 (90-100% blocked for much of the passage).
He also shows weather maps for a predicted Aug 20-26 storm that is the joker in the deck.
At the bottom of his post, he repeats is prediction (from Aug 22, 2013) of 2014

◾30+% concentration ice extent is near or at the minimum for the year
◾There will be a huge increase in the amount of 1+ year old ice next spring
◾The Northern Passage will not open up for the 2014 year

A gutsy prediction a year out.

Mike H

You now know why Green Peace is loaded with cash reserves. Too much money in the hands of very stupid people.


norah4you says:
August 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm
Northwest passage was open between 980 AD to 1341 according to contemporary documents I have access to. Not only maps.
norah…this map from 1418 shows the NWP open too

@Richard Guy 8/16 at 11:54 am
Captian Joe spoke of his years sailing the NW a Captain. I asked him what was the average depth of the NW passage
I think the minimum channel depth is the more important fact. How shallow must the draft of any ship be to have a hope of making the crossing? And for which passage? I’ve heard there are seven passages mapped for small boat and yachts. But how many are suitable for the Crystal ships? Are tides important?

James the Elder

I think they should go from New York to Anchorage. That way if the conditions look bad they can stop off in Bar Harbor for a couple weeks, Issue coupons for unlimited free drinks in all the local pubs and no one will be upset.

@Latitude 8/16 at 2:05 pm
norah…this map from 1418 shows the NWP open too
It also shows a Northeast passage that Portuguese reportedly used to trade with Japan.
is the map authentic? What is the source of the link? (Economist 2006)
But the map also shows California as an island with the Gulf of California connecting with either Puget Sound or San Francisco Bay. I also think the map shows the Saint Lawrence Seaway to be a second path to the arctic. Which just goes to show, what a cartographer puts on a piece of paper isn’t necessarily true and my be conjecture unsupported by observation.
It is amazing how good the early maps were, before the invention of the chronometer. But this map purportedly a 17th century copy from a 1418 original, begs a skeptical eye.


Curious George says:
August 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm
This is one prudent cruise line. The Arctic Ocean should be completely ice-free in 2015, according to many models, but they wait an additional year to be completely safe.
Thank you for a good belly laugh!!


Curious George,
Meanwhile there is, at this point, just a hint of a worrying upwards trend in Arctic ice cover…

I think that flying from JFK to Delhi and return on Air India for about $1,100 is a better deal. Better view of the ice, better view or the ocean and a better view of the geography. Use the extra money to spend a week or two or three touring India — you’ll have a great time and learn a lot.


BallBounces says:
August 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm
I must admit I had never visited a Tim Horton’s until I got a coffee at one of two in Whitehorse last week 🙂 It is very good coffee.