Elegance, adventure on Crystal’s Northwest Passage cruise

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The route that the Crystal Serenity will take on its Northwest Passage voyage in August.
The route that the Crystal Serenity will take on its Northwest Passage voyage in August.
Mary Pemberton
Mary Pemberton

Passengers booked on Crystal Cruises’ expedition-type tour of the Northwest Passage are being advised to pack long underwear, heavyweight wool socks and wearable mosquito netting.

Crystal also is recommending guests bring two neck gaiters: one to be worn around the neck and the other to be pulled up over the face and nose to protect from Arctic cold. Fear not. These guests won’t be roughing it.

Onboard will be the luxuries Crystal is famous for, said Crystal Cruises spokesman Paul Garcia. Count on the usual array of high-end wines, the finest spirits, gourmet meals and excellent service, he said.

Crystal’s 32-day voyage of the Northwest Passage — two to three years in the planning — is scheduled to leave Anchorage, Alaska, on Aug. 16 and arrive in New York on Sept. 17.

The Crystal Serenity and its 1,070 passengers will traverse North America through a series of waterways north of the Arctic Circle that link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Garcia said Crystal’s research shows that the Northwest Passage is routinely near the top of bucket-list destinations for Crystal customers.

They want adventure and to see the world, but don’t want to leave the cruise line’s trademark luxuries behind, Garcia said. Despite the remoteness of the Northwest Passage, they won’t have to.

“There will be that luxury style onboard the ship,” Garcia said.

The ship’s itinerary is flexible to account for ice conditions and variable weather in the Northwest Passage. August was chosen because the ship is expected to encounter less ice then. But if there is ice, Crystal has planned for it. The Crystal Serenity will be accompanied by an escort vessel with ice-breaking capabilities, Garcia said. There also will be a helicopter to conduct ice reconnaissance. The ship also will carry an expedition team experienced in traveling the Northwest Passage, two pilots to advise the ship’s captain and bridge personnel, two ice searchlights and high-resolution radar to look for uncharged rocks and underwater obstructions.

Passengers will take excursions via zodiacs.
Passengers will take excursions via zodiacs.

Crystal worked with the U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard in planning the Northwest Passage cruise, Garcia said, and additional safety precautions have been included to ensure the safety of the guests.

Nearly all — if not all — of the passengers booked on the Northwest Passage cruise are previous Crystal customers, Garcia said.  The cruise, priced at $21,855 per person, sold out within three weeks of being offered in 2014. There are 200 to 300 people on a waiting list.

While Crystal guests like luxury, they also are seeking more of an all-encompassing experience and aren’t afraid of adventure, Garcia said.

With that in mind, the Crystal Serenity will have 14 expedition experts providing seminars and workshops, as well as taking guests on wilderness tours. The ship will be making stops at several Inuit communities where passengers can learn more about the indigenous people and their culture, and buy traditional Inuit art. There might even be an opportunity to play golf at the northernmost golf course in the world.

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