Arctic cruise via once-impassable route
IT IS a voyage explorers only dreamed of not so long ago.
But thanks to climate change, a luxury cruise ship is undertaking a pioneering journey that will see it sail through the once impassable North-west Passage during a month-long trip.
The Crystal Serenity, which set off from Seward, Alaska on Aug 16 with nearly 1,000 passengers, is scheduled to dock in New York on Sept 17.
The ship made its last Alaska port call on Sunday, stopping in the remote town of Nome before heading farther north, accompanied by a supply and icebreaking vessel.
The voyage marks the first time a passenger ship this size sails the storied North-west Passage where warmer temperatures and melting ice are opening the Arctic for business.
Passengers on the US$350 million (S$470 million) vessel paid between US$22,000 and US$120,000 for the journey, which took three years of planning.
Guests were also required to purchase US$50,000 in emergency evacuation insurance in order to cruise through the North-west Passage - a once unnavigable shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that is increasingly becoming a popular route for shipping.
The Crystal Serenity is expected to reach the north-west territories on Friday and complete the Arctic leg of its journey by Sept 4 before heading to Greenland and New York.
Crystal's chief executive and president, Edie Rodriguez, said guests on the 13-deck vessel can enjoy a slew of activities, including helicopter flights over glaciers as well as polar bear and other wildlife sightings.
But critics have also lashed out at Crystal Cruises, accusing the company of capitalising on the destruction of the planet.