|The once forbidding Arctic region, home to polar bears and ice-covered seas, has melted enough that this summer it’s open not only for shipping but high-end tourism. The proof lies in the Crystal Serenity cruise, a luxury tour of the Arctic that promises to carry passengers through the Northwest Passage and across the roof of the world.|
The cruise set sail Tuesday from Seward, Alaska, and will dock 32 days later in New York City. Scientists have long predicted this moment, although as recently as last year, a scientific study found the Northwest Passage would remain too unpredictable for regular shipping.
|1,700 passengers and crew were expected to be on board the Crystal Serenity, which will transit the Bering Strait and visit Greenland. Tickets for the historic journey started at $22,000.|
That price doesn’t include extras that guests can book, such as helicopter rides. Despite the cost, the trip sold out quickly, and the company said a second journey is being planned. The location might be the Arctic, but the Crystal Serenity’s guests aren’t roughing it. The $350 million ship is 820 feet long and has 13 decks and 535 state rooms.
|It has a driving range and putting green, a casino, a movie theatre, half a dozen restaurants, multiple pools and a library with thousands of books, games and DVDs. There’s also a spa, fitness centre, hair salon and 24-hour complimentary room service.|
More than anything, the cruise is a symbol, a harbinger of the tourism and commercial traffic that is likely to fill the once-isolated waters of the Arctic.
|The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this image of the Northwest Passage on August 9, 2016. A path of open water can be traced almost the entire distance from the Amundsen Gulf to Baffin Bay, encountering a scattering of broken ice just east of Victoria Island.|
The nearly ice free Northwest Passage snaking through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago illustrates the Arctic’s “new normal” as climate change continues to transform the region.