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Crystal Serenity embarks on its Northwest Passage odyssey

Capt. Birger Vorland, who went through ice navigation simulator training in Newfoundland, will be accompanied by two veteran Canadian ice pilots
Crystal Serenity becomes the latest cruise ship—and certainly the largest—to attempt the Northwest Passage, embarking today at Seward, Alaska, with nearly 1,000 passengers.

The journey across the Arctic region of northern Canada has entailed more than three years of planning and preparation by Crystal Cruises and its expert expedition consultants.

Crystal president and ceo Edie Rodriguez called it a 'tremendous undertaking' and an honor to be able to offer travelers 'the opportunity to experience a region of the world that so few others have or ever will.'

Throughout the voyage, which will conclude in New York City on Sept. 16, Crystal Serenity will sail with additional crew, training and equipment in consideration of the special operating conditions in the far north. Two veteran Canadian ice pilots will be on board to advise Capt. Birger Vorland and his bridge team.

Earlier this year, the captain and ice pilots attended ice navigation simulator training in St John’s Newfoundland, and during a routine scheduled drydock in May, Crystal Serenity was outfitted with two ice searchlights, forward looking sonar, a thermal imaging camera and software to improve the ability to pick up small contacts on the radar such as small amounts of ice.

In addition, Crystal Serenity will be receiving continuous ice condition updates from Canadian Ice Services that can be overlaid on its electronic navigation systems.

During the route through the Northwest Territories the ship will be accompanied by the RRS Ernest Shackleton, a powerful and high-ice-class vessel with a crew that has years of experience operating in polar conditions. It is well outfitted to be a first responder to virtually any emergency that might arise, and carries two helicopters and supplemental safety equipment, as well as additional expert guides and adventure equipment.

Shackleton’s crew will also assist with Crystal’s specially designed excursions ashore, which range from adventurous to extreme in the remote conditions of the Arctic. They include flight-seeing journeys over glaciers, navigating floating sea ice via kayaks, 'wet landing' by Zodiac, polar bear and other wildlife sightings and Crystal’s new 'Unexpected Adventures,' impromptu opportunities to explore ashore and in the surrounding areas.

Specially designed parkas, boots and other outdoor gear have been provided to passengers. These sport official Crystal Northwest Passage expedition patches, while added technological perks are evident throughout the ship.

Four premium telescopic binocular sets stand at the ready near the floor-to-ceiling windows in Palm Court, as well as large flat-screen televisions for streaming updates from crew and expedition team members, safety precautions and facts about the voyage. An in-depth photographic journey into the history of the passage and its previous explorers is displayed near the Galaxy Lounge.

For cruise updates and destination highlights, follow the company's blog, the Crystal Insider. Seatrade Cruise News also will be reporting from a portion of the journey, starting the last week of August.

Due to the tremendous response to this Northwest Passage voyage, Crystal plans to sail the route again in 2017. Bookings are open now.