Nunavut regulators consider giant cruise ship trip through NW Passage

Cruise company plans to buy Inuit art to give to guests

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

The MS Crystal Serenity will carry about 1,625 occupants including 900-960 paying clients, on a month-long cruise from Alaska, through the Northwest Passage to Greenland and its final destination in New York this summer, if the NIRB gives the ship's operators approval. (CRYSTAL CRUISES PHOTO)


The MS Crystal Serenity will carry about 1,625 occupants including 900-960 paying clients, on a month-long cruise from Alaska, through the Northwest Passage to Greenland and its final destination in New York this summer, if the NIRB gives the ship’s operators approval. (CRYSTAL CRUISES PHOTO)

A view of the living room area of the penthouse with verandah accommodations on board the Crystal Serenity. Occupying that 1,345-square-foot suite, according to the company's website, will cost $120,095. (CRYSTAL CRUISES PHOTO)


A view of the living room area of the penthouse with verandah accommodations on board the Crystal Serenity. Occupying that 1,345-square-foot suite, according to the company’s website, will cost $120,095. (CRYSTAL CRUISES PHOTO)

The Crystal Serenity, that enormous cruise ship we told you about in March, is hoping to set sail through the Northwest Passage this summer.

And now is the time to voice your concerns, if you have any, with the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

The NIRB sent out a notification July 5 that it is considering an application from Crystal Cruises for the MS Crystal Serenity’s month-long voyage from Alaska, through the Northwest Passage, to New York City, Aug. 16 to Sept. 16.

In fact, the application is for two voyages through the Northwest Passage in 2016 and 2017.

The NIRB is asking people to comment on whether the project will likely arouse significant public concern or cause significant adverse impacts on the ecosystem, on wildlife or on Inuit harvesting activities. The deadline for those comments falls on July 26.

The NIRB application says the Crystal Serenity is expected to carry between 900 an 950 passengers, 655 crew members and 20 expedition staff for a potential total of 1,625 occupants, making it the largest cruise ship ever to ply Arctic waters.

And that privilege doesn’t come cheap for paying clients.

The cost of the month-long luxury cruise ranges from $21,855 for a 226-square-foot “deluxe stateroom” to the 1,345-sq-ft “crystal penthouse with verandah,” which evokes “an enviable style of Hollywood glamour and Fifth Avenue elegance,” and which includes, among a long list of services, 24-hour butler service and complimentary “unpacking and packing on request.”

That fine penthouse accommodation will only set you back $120,095 or about $4,000 a day.

Once the ship reaches Ulukhaktok, it will be escorted through the passage by the ice-breaking vessel RRS Sir Ernest Shackleton, operated by the British Antarctic Survey, with 26 crew on board.

The cruise plans to stop near Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet along with other remote, sightseeing spots, before leaving Nunavut for Greenland and then for New York.

The icebreaker will be equipped with two helicopters, expedition equipment, 15 Zodiacs, 16 kayaks and a sightseeing rigid-hulled inflatable boat or RIB.

Along with a short summary of the Crystal Serenity’s trip, Crystal Cruises has submitted to the NIRB a 100-page project description which includes how the company plans to conduct on-land visits to communities and remote sites — with small groups going ashore by Zodiac for a few hours at a time.

The description also says that because of theatre amenities onboard, community groups will be invited onto the ship to perform local arts “such as drum dancing.”

The application says neither of the two ships will carry any heavy fuel oil. They plan to use low sulfur marine gas oil instead and unleaded gasoline for the smaller motorized vessels.

A spill prevention plan is also outlined for the “rare instance of a spill at sea,” and that includes deploying spill-absorbent booms and moorings, “in sufficient length to encircle the vessel.”

The Crystal Serenity’s specifications show:

• it cost $350 million to build and entered service in 2003;

• it weighs 68,870 tonnes;

• it is 820 feet (250 metres) in length — equivalent to two-and-a-half CFL football fields; and,

• onboard amenities include a shopping arcade, casino, piano bar, a lab for classroom instruction, library, children and teen centres, pool, spa, fitness centre, weight room, ballroom, nightclub, live theatre space and a variety of dining, bistro and café options.

Under the heading “Giving Back to the Community,” the company states, “we know that all too often, ship guests spend the day in communities but leave very little financial impact.”

To remedy that, the company has agreed to buy artwork from Ulukhaktok, Pond Inlet and Cambridge Bay when they visit, and distribute those artworks free to guests.

“They will also work with local artists within Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to stock additional artwork onboard the ship so that guests can buy more art on board,” the application says.

“In addition, the company has committed to making a donation towards funding development projects in the communities to be visited.”

The NIRB is also considering another cruise ship voyage, this one smaller and shorter.

The MS Silver Explorer, owned by Silversea Cruises Ltd., is hoping to get approval for a two-and-a-half week round-trip cruise out of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland from Aug. 22 to Sept. 9.

Though Silversea Cruises and Crystal Cruises are two different companies, their applications to the NIRB are identical in style down to the language used in the project description and font.

The Silver Explorer will carry 128 passengers, 120 crew and 13 expedition staff and their itinerary includes a stop in Pond Inlet Aug. 28, the only community it plans to visit.

Other stops include various fiords, bays and islands off Baffin Island’s east coast.

The NIRB is accepting public comments on this cruise until July 26.

A map of the route the massive MS Crystal Serenity hopes to take in August and September, this year and next. (CRYSTAL CRUISES PHOTO)


A map of the route the massive MS Crystal Serenity hopes to take in August and September, this year and next. (CRYSTAL CRUISES PHOTO)

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