Crystal Cruises is introducing a new expedition-style  voyage traversing the Arctic Ocean via the legendary Northwest Passage (500 miles north of the Arctic Circle).

Crystal will mark the biggest ships in the area, following on the footsteps of Ponant and Hapag-Lloyd.

Crystal will be maneuvering through 900 miles of majestic waterways lined with spectacular glaciers, towering fjords, and vast unspoiled landscapes away from mainstream civilization and tourism, north of mainland Canada.  Beginning August 16, 2016 in Anchorage/Seward, Alaska, the award-winning Crystal Serenity will sail for 32 days from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean/New York City.

“Crystal’s inaugural Northwest Passage offers guests the opportunity to begin a new story of thrilling adventure, all the while indulging in the world’s very best luxury vacation experience,” said Crystal President Edie Rodriguez.  “The voyage combines intrepid adventure, the great outdoors, and immersive cultural experiences with Six-Star service as only Crystal can deliver.”

Crystal’s Executive Vice President Thomas Mazloum spearheaded the strategic planning of the itinerary, with the help of Expedition Voyage Consulting by EYOS Expeditions, providers of bespoke expeditions to the most remote regions on Earth in safety and luxury.

“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,” says Mazloum. 

“During this voyage, speakers will enlighten guests on information regarding climate change, and how it has impacted this passage.  With the recent retreat of polar ice, the time is right for us to lead the way within the travel industry, as Crystal has done throughout our 25-year history.”

Approaches to itinerary scheduling, destination visits, onboard offerings, and safety standards are all new or enhanced, with major changes including:

A flexible itinerary: Extra “surprise” days are built into the schedule to allow unplanned “calls of the wild” for polar bear-viewing, whale-watching, glacier-cruising, scenic helicopter flights, and/or seeking out the best wildlife and weather on the advice of local specialist guides.

New enrichment: A 14-person expedition team of experts in a variety of subjects -- including a native Arctic guide, scientists, and accomplished wildlife and landscape photographers -- will not only provide lectures on subjects such as the science and history of the area, but also offer hands-on seminars and workshops, host dinners with guests, guide wildlife watching from the ship, and accompany excursions, where appropriate.

Enhanced safety and environmental standards:  Crystal Serenity and its escort vessel will be using low-sulphur Marine Gas oil fuel, exceeding environmental regulations. 

The escort vessel will carry additional safety and environmental protection equipment, as well as personnel specifically trained in its use.  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 this unique 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, just 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 the Hamlet of Ulukhaktok.  

With the new cruise comes a new booking process.  A 20% initial deposit will be required to secure all bookings, with $500 of the deposit being non-refundable.  Starting July 17, the initial booking window will only be available to guests who have sailed with Crystal before (i.e., Crystal Society members).  Non-members may add their name to a waitlist, and remaining space, if any, will open to the public on September 2.  Crystal Adventures will open for pre-reservation 18 months in advance of the cruise.