Cruise liner soaks in beauty of the North

Passengers day trip in Iqaluit



It’s been said before that the French have good taste.

Elegant surroundings and tanned men in uniforms fell under this commonly accepted notion recently when Le Levant dropped anchor in Koojesee Inlet off Iqaluit this week.

The French cruise ship brought about 50 passengers, mostly Americans, on a 12-day cruise, which set out from the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon south of Newfoundland July 10.

It was the second such occasion for the relatively small but classy cruise liner, which made a stop in Iqaluit in 2000 when bad weather forced the ship to continue on from Churchill, Manitoba.

As a water taxi ferried over the first of its 55 passengers on Tuesday morning, Captain Roger Van Damme followed behind in a Zodiac, his face lusciously kissed by days of sun reflected from the ocean and deeply lined with the markings of a man who smiles often.

As the first group of passengers disembarked to a small group of waiting children, drum dancer Serapio Ittusardjuat and his wife and songstress Monica Ittusardjuat, the late morning sun and hungry mosquitoes were there to greet them.

After two weeks at sea, with stops in St. John’s, Nfld., Hebron, Akpatok Island, Cape Dorset, Digges Island, and Kimmirut, the oldest passenger, New Yorker Roslyn Mark, 82, was the first to touch land in Nunavut’s capital city.

She described her experience at sea as “beautiful.” And as a handful of crew returned to the ship with a group of fortunate voyeurs, it was no doubt why.

In understated style, the cruise liner boasted a quaint piano bar, an intimate gastronomique restaurant, 10,000 bottles of international wines and a small souvenir shop complete with blue and white, sailor-like clothing — not to mention the handsome international crew members flashing sincere, exotic smiles.

Along the way passengers were treated to a daily dose of Arctic wildlife, including polar bears, whales and walrus. And although the luxury yacht sports a small pool and outdoor bar, the Arctic climate didn’t lend itself to much Speedo time.

Before the group of travelers caught a chartered plane back to Ottawa, they were treated to a walking tour of the city while the ship prepared to take on a new group of passengers for the trip back.

In a moment, the ship set sail on its return voyage, fading into the glints of sunlight reflecting of the salty bay with a mission to return next summer.

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