Crystal Serenity in Bar Harbor on a previous visit. PHOTO COURTESY OF WINSTON SHAW

Cruise ship to sail to MDI via Northwest Passage



BAR HARBOR — Crystal Serenity, one of the many large cruise ships set to visit later this year, will arrive Sept. 13 near the end of a month-long transit through the fabled Northwest Passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean via Canada and Greenland.

Crystal Serenity is set to transit the Northwest Passage this fall on a 32-day, $22,000 trip that will include a stop in Bar Harbor. IMAGE COURTESY OF CRYSTAL CRUISES

Crystal Serenity is set to transit the Northwest Passage this fall on a 32-day, $22,000 trip that will include a stop in Bar Harbor. IMAGE COURTESY OF CRYSTAL CRUISES

For centuries, European explorers tried and failed to sail across the top of North America on this northern route but usually were thwarted by ice. Now, for fares starting at $21,855 per person, adventurers can cruise from Seward, Alaska, to New York City in 32 days. The ship is 790 feet long and has a passenger capacity of 1,070.

This trip is planned for the time of year when the sea ice retreats, a statement from Crystal Cruises says. “The typical conditions along the planned route during the Arctic summer are substantially free of ice. Keeping the ship clear of ice is entirely feasible.”

Serenity will travel, however, with a smaller escort vessel with ice breaking capability. The crew also plans to work closely with the Canadian government and Coast Guard to monitor conditions along the route.

The cruise company has been planning the trip for several years, working with polar expedition experts EYOS. That group has helped coordinate the trip for large private yachts, and in 2012 helped the 644-foot residential yacht The World become the largest unsupported vessel ever to complete the ocean-to-ocean transit.

The industry has seen yacht owners and other adventurers “becoming interested in the Northwest Passage and wanting to follow in the footsteps of great explorers,” Rob McCallum of EYOS said in a statement announcing The World’s feat.

Excursions ashore will be a bit different than other cruises, the company said, “due to limited infrastructure” in the small port communities in Nunavut and Greenland.

Naturalists, photographers and other experts, including a local Arctic guide, are set to provide lectures, seminars and workshops. The escort vessel will provide a base for zodiac, kayak or shore adventures.

Other activity planned for Bar Harbor include first visits by six different ships, mostly in September and October. These include Anthem of the Seas, Aug. 29; Zuiderdam, Sept. 10; Seven Seas Mariner, Sept. 24; Europa 2, Sept. 25; Azamara Quest, Oct. 2; and Sirena, Oct. 21.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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