Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The North West passage is an infamous graveyard of ships, where the weather can turn deadly without warning, and floating ice is an ever-present peril. But this arctic track record of disaster is not deterring the owners of the Crystal Serenity, and passengers reportedly paying a staggering $22,000 + per berth, from attempting a daring journey from Alaska to New York starting on August 16th this year.
A new Titanic? US and Canada prepare for worst as luxury Arctic cruise sets sail
The loss of Arctic sea ice cover, due to climate change, has spurred a sharp rise in shipping traffic – as well as coast guard rescue missions – and increased the risks of oil spills, shipping accidents, and pollution, much to the apprehension of native communities who make their living on the ice.
It’s into these turbulent waters that the luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity will set sail next August, departing from Seward, Alaska, and transiting the Bering Strait and Northwest Passage, before docking in New York City 32 days later.
The scale of the Crystal – 1,700 passengers and crew – and the potential for higher-volume traffic in the Arctic has commanded the attention of the coast guard, government officials and local communities, all trying to navigate an Arctic without year-round ice.
“If something were to go wrong it would be very, very bad,” said Richard Beneville, the mayor of the coastal town of Nome, which the Crystal is due to visit. “Most cruise ships that get here have passenger manifests of 100, maybe 150. This is a very different ship.”
Prices for the journey aboard the 14-deck luxury liner start at nearly $22,000 rising to $120,000 for a deluxe stateroom – and this year’s cruise is sold out, according to the company.
You know what? I wish I had a berth. I can completely understand why the ship is fully booked, despite the risk. The Arctic is beautiful, and utterly alien, compared to more temperate regions. I only visited the Arctic once in my life, a week in Bodø in April. The snow covered mountains, the familiar seaside sights, mixed with the utterly unfamiliar, the sun which hangs just above the horizon for 18 hours, before dipping into a brief twilight, the people, the strange landscape. I would love to see places like Nome, one of the stops on the planned route.
If it all ends badly, as seems a real possibility, at least everyone is embarking on this adventure with their eyes open – unlike the ridiculous ship of fools, the Crystal Serenity owners appear to be taking the safety of the passengers seriously.