More money than sense
Arctic expedition cruising is a growing business and quite a lucrative one at that for the specialist ships that make the voyages but it is difficult to see the sense of sending a luxury cruise ship more suited to temperate cruising on a voyage through the North West Passage from Pacific to Atlantic. Yet that is what Crystal Cruises are planning for the 2003-built Crystal Serenity this summer. The ship is not the most modern and was built before the SOLAS Return to Port requirements. If full, she will have something like 1100 passengers and almost 600 crew onboard. The passengers are reportedly paying between $22,000 and $120,000 for the trip. Evacuating 1700 people in the event of a major problem will be a considerable test of the emergency services and depending upon the ship’s position and its circumstances some would say something that just may not be possible. Although she will be accompanied by an icebreaker escort and will have two helicopters at her disposal, the potential for disaster is huge. Leaving aside the fact that the ship is probably considerably wider than the icebreaker and that its hull was never designed for such waters, the possibility of a fire or engine failure that could leave her helpless and drifting as the Costa Allegra was in 2012 is always present. At least the Cost Allegra was in teh Indian Ocean and although the lack of air conditioning made the cabins unbearably hot there was some refuge on the open decks. Even in August in the NWP the conditions will not make for much comfort if the heating is lost. If the ship does make it through unscathed, it is likely that more will attempt to follow and while this year has seen relatively mild conditions in the high latitudes as a consequence of a strong El Nino, that is not something that should be seen as a guarantee for the future.