By Mimi Kmet
The countdown is officially on: Crystal Cruises’ pioneering Northwest Passage voyage is just under a year away. The first of its kind, this 32-day, expedition-style luxury cruise will depart Anchorage/Seward, Alaska, on August 16, 2016, and sail as far north as 500 miles above the Arctic Circle, concluding in New York City. Crystal’s experts have carefully outlined (almost) everything you need to know about this incredible journey. Read further for more fascinating highlights in store:
In addition to several maiden ports of call — Nome, Alaska; Ulukhaktok and Cambridge Bay, Canada; and Ilulissat and Sisimiut, Greenland — Crystal Serenity will sail through magnificent fjords, bays and channels, offering guests once-in-a-lifetime views and experiences. A flexible itinerary will feature “surprise” days to allow unplanned wildlife viewing, glacier cruising, and other spontaneous experiences.
A bevy of Crystal Adventures shore excursions and Arctic safaris, led by members of a professional expedition team, will take guests aboard kayaks, Zodiacs watercraft, a helicopter, and ATVs, and to stunningly scenic areas for fishing, hiking, climbing, golfing, and voluntourism opportunities via the “You Care. We Care.” program. Crystal’s new “Wilderness Adventures” will take guests across polar tundra, up ice-strewn fjords, and into scenic coves.
Meanwhile, here’s a glimpse of what you might see and do during this historic voyage:
Kodiak, Alaska: Spot Kodiak brown bears, which have been isolated from mainland brown bears since the last Ice Age, in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. This pristine, 1.9-million-acre area on Alaska’s Emerald Isle is also home to red fox, river otter, ermine and other native species.
Nome, Alaska: See where Alaska’s gold rush began in 1898, when the “Three Lucky Swedes” discovered the glittering dust on Anvil Creek, and where the annual, 1,049-mile Iditarod sled dog race ends.
Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada: Walk along the trails in Ovayok Territorial Park for a chance to see muskox and nesting birds; or discover Inuit art and culture at the Arctic Coast Visitors’ Centre.
Pond Inlet, Nunavut, Canada: Watch for narwhal — the “unicorn of the sea” — a medium-sized whale with a single protruding tusk. You might also see harp seals, arctic foxes, geese, gulls, ravens, polar bears, and nesting birds in this wildlife wonderland.
Illulissat, Greenland: Gaze at the immense glaciers of Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There, you can witness the calving of the Sermeq Kujalleq, the most active glacier in the world.
Nuuk, Greenland: Visit the Greenland National Museum and its world-famous Qilakitsoq Inuit mummies, dating to 1475. And see the world’s largest Santa’s Letterbox, which holds letters that children from around the world write to Santa.
Bar Harbor, Maine: Experience the stunning, rugged shoreline of Acadia National Park (the first eastern national park); then indulge in an authentic, succulent New England lobster bake.
Newport, Rhode Island: Step into the world of some of New England’s famous families, including the Vanderbilts, Morgans, Astors and Fishers, as you tour their lavish, century-old mansions, which are adorned with marble, alabaster, gilt, mosaics, stained glass, magnificent furnishings, and fine tapestries.
At sea: As Crystal Serenity sails through pristine waterways, take in the magnificent scenery of Alaska, Canada’s far north, Greenland, and the fall foliage of the northeastern U.S. Gaze at glaciers, mountains, and wilderness tundra. You may even spot wildlife, such as whales, walruses, polar bears, caribou, and sea birds.
On board enrichment: Learn about the Northwest Passage — from its history and wildlife to modern Inuit culture — from any of approximately 14 experts, who will offer enrichment throughout the voyage via lectures, seminars, workshops, special dinners, and other events. And if you’re a photographer, you can participate in hands-on photo workshops and photography-focused shore excursions.
Featured image: A Kodiak brown bear in Alaska (Photo by Dreamstime.com)