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Crystal's first expedition-style voyage charts Northwest Passage in 2016

Crystal Cruises
'Arctic safaris' will involve Zodiacs, kayaks and more
Crystal Cruises plans an expedition-style voyage traversing the Arctic Ocean via the Northwest Passage in 2016. Crystal Serenity will maneuver through 900 miles of waterways lined with glaciers, fjords and vast unspoiled landscapes north of mainland Canada.

Beginning Aug. 16 in Seward, Alaska, the 32-day cruise will sail from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean/New York City.

Crystal evp Thomas Mazloum spearheaded the strategic planning of the itinerary, with the help of expedition voyage consulting by EYOS Expeditions.

'From reviewing operations with Canadian officials to meeting with Inuit elders of the Arctic who have provided their backing, our team has spent almost two years diligently gathering the field experts, information, resources and support to ensure an epic experience that is exceptionally rewarding and safe for guests and crew, and respectful of local lands and cultures,' Mazloum said.

During the voyage, speakers will address climate change and how it has impacted this passage. The recent retreat of polar ice has enabled Crystal to undertake the cruise.

The line's first expedition-style itinerary entails flexible scheduling. Extra days are built in to allow for polar bear-viewing, whale-watching, glacier-cruising, scenic helicopter flights and other highlights on the advice of local specialist guides.

Crystal will introduce 'Wilderness Adventures' that take passengers across polar tundra, up ice-strewn fjords and into scenic coves.

Although some excursions will only be determined 'in the moment' based on circumstances and environment, Crystal said it will spend the next two years planning excursions and 'Arctic safaris' involving kayaks, Zodiacs, a helicopter, ATVs, fishing, hiking, climbing, golfing at the world’s northernmost nine-hole course, and possible camping and/or overnighting away from the ship. Voluntourism opportunities to help local lands and communities will also be offered free to passengers and crew via the line’s 'You Care. We Care.' program. 

A 14-person expedition team of experts in a variety of subjects will provide lectures, hands-on seminars and workshops, host dinners, guide wildlife-watching from the ship and accompany excursions, where appropriate.

Embracing the spirit of expedition, Crystal will relax the dress code and offer complimentary parkas, boot rentals and outfitter recommendations. There will be none of the line's customary 'black tie optional' nights.

Ports include Kodiak, Dutch Harbor and Nome, Alaska; Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories; Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet, Nunavut; Ilulissat, Sisimiut and Nuuk, Greenland; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston, Mass.; Newport, R.I., and New York City.

Crystal said Crystal Serenity and an escort vessel will use low sulfur MGO. The escort vessel will carry additional safety and environmental protection equipment, as well as specially trained personnel. In addition, it will serve as a platform for a helicopter and zodiacs, and be manned by a crew highly experienced in all aspects of operating safely in the area. 

The first call in the Canadian Arctic is planned for the hamlet of Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, a settlement of just a few hundred people on the shores of the Amundsen Gulf, 1,400 miles from the North Pole. 

'The community is very pleased to see the thought that has been given to ensure that the experience for the passengers, as well as the residents, is positive and beneficial,' said William Bennett, senior administrative officer of Ulukhaktok.  

A 20% initial deposit will be required to secure all bookings, with $500 of the deposit non-refundable. Starting July 17, the initial booking window will only be available to Crystal Society members.  Non-members may add their name to a wait list, and if space remains, bookings will open to the public Sept. 2.

All-inclusive 'Book Now' fares start at $19,755 per person, double occupancy, with an additional Crystal Society savings starting at $495 per person and $3,000 included in savings if booked by Aug. 29.