SEWARD, ALASKA — On August 16, a luxury cruise ship will begin a 32-day journey through the Northwest Passage — a melting but still treacherous waterway that connects the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Crystal Serenity, measuring 820 feet long and weighing nearly 69,000 tons, is set to cross through the Northwest Passage in less than a month. The ship will carry some 1,000 passengers on board, each of whom paid anywhere between $22,000 to $121,000 for the trip, reported the Washington Post.
The cruise ship plans to set sail from Seward, Alaska and finish its journey in New York, with a UK-operated research ship called the RRS Ernest Shackleton traveling alongside during the long stretch over Canadian waters. Equipped with two helicopters, the smaller ship will also provide ice-breaking assistance if necessary, reported the Guardian.
The Crystal Serenity will be set up with ice-detecting radar, two ice searchlights and thermal imaging equipment to scope out ice in the ship’s path during the day and night.
Global warming has caused ice cover in the Arctic to significantly shrink over the last century. In light of this change, an increasing number of small cargo ships are now navigating the Northwest Passage. According to the Washington Post, in 2013, 13 ships made the journey across the waterway. In the summer of 2015, 20 ships passed through. Although it’s getting more traffic, the Northwest Passage is still a loosely defined passage, and boats can choose several routes. The Crystal Serenity will be the largest and most luxurious ship yet make this journey.
Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard have expressed concern about the trip because of the inevitably slow emergency response times in the Arctic. According to the Guardian, both conducted emergency exercises in April in preparation for emergencies involving the Serenity or other vessels that plan to pass through the icy waters this summer.
The trip has been described as a “once-in-a-lifetime trip” for guests to visit areas that have largely off limits to anyone other than scientists or members of the military.
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