As we prepare for the second Northwest Passage sailing aboard Crystal Serenity – and final expedition for a Crystal ocean ship – it’s inspiring to reflect on some of the more profound experiences from the first groundbreaking trip in 2016. Hundreds of moments over 32 days of sailing through the Arctic north culminated in a once-in-a-lifetime journey for even the boldest Crystal guests. Here are the top five of those moments, as shared with Crystal by travelers on last year’s voyage.
These, and many other life-changing experiences, await Crystal Serenity guests on August 15, when the ship departs Seward, Alaska on her journey through the Northwest Passage.
The first polar bear sighting along the Victoria Straits
What was effectively the first “Unexpected Adventure” of the voyage, guests were greeted by one of the region’s most majestic animals out at sea.
It was early in the morning; a crisp, beautiful day. It started with a small group of people clustered together out on the deck with binoculars looking out to sea. Then the message came over the loud speaker – ‘Polar Bears spotted on the Starboard Side!’ The energy was high and everyone on the ship gathered out on the observation deck to take in a first glimpse of this magnificent bear on the ice. The zodiacs were loaded and guests were ferried out to take a closer look. He seemed happy to see us, proudly pacing back and forth and showing his massive size. It was an amazing moment and just the start of so many to follow.
Meeting the RRS Ernest Shackleton in Ulukhaktok
The fully-equipped vessel is a Royal Research Vessel, which escorted Crystal Serenity through the most rugged portions of the passage, offering additional equipment and crew support.
There was something awe-inspiring about watching this vessel, the zodiacs, fast boat and helicopters approaching. Knowing her proud history and seeing the small crafts that would be taking us ashore to explore territories in the north Arctic region made us all realize that the real expedition was about to start. It gave me goosebumps!
The first meeting with the local Inuit people
In Ulukhaktok, members of a local Inuit community boarded Crystal Serenity and performed a 20-minute traditional dance in the Cove which was filled with a standing-room-only audience.
The local dancers were phenomenal. The performance was mesmerizing, but more than that, they were just delightful people to meet. It was an honor to be in their community and share their culture and traditions.
Cineflex Cameras in Palm Court
A bevy of specialized equipment was added to the ship prior to sailing to further enhance and maximize guests’ viewing and experiences as they traversed the Northwest Passage.
It was wonderful to see Palm Court transform into an “observation lounge”. It quickly became the meeting place for observing and gathering. At any given time, dozens of guests would be huddled around the 65-inch screens specifically brought in for sending the feed from the Cineflex GryoCam that was constantly scanning for wildlife sightings while capturing the incredible topography. Ron Chappel sat at the controls guiding the high powered camera that is usually mounted on a helicopter when shooting action films. Absolutely fascinating.
The last stop on the Northwest Passage portion of the journey.
It was the first time many guests had become so emotional during the Northwest passage journey. We would soon be leaving this remote region for Greenland. Pond Inlet suddenly represented the completion of a true once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us. As we ascended Contemplation Hill, the sheer beauty stopped us in our tracks. Then came the dedication of the sign pointing out the distances to key cities around the world and the two park benches by the Captain on behalf of Crystal Cruises to the Mayor, his staff and the community of Pond Inlet. And in the peaceful and tranquil setting, some began to realize the enormity of it all.
The 2017 “Northwest Passage Explorer” departs August 15. We look forward to welcoming you aboard, and learning what your “top 5” highlights will be!