The Crystal Serenity ship arrives in it's first stop in Canada, Ulukhaktok, after five days out at sea. The Northwest Passage Crystal Serenity cruise is the first ever cruise ship to voyage from Anchorage, Alaska to New York City through the once impossibly dangerous Northwest Passage. The ship made numerous stops in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, often times in communities that have never before received such a quantity of visitors or tourism of this level. The Crystal Serenity is a 350 million dollar luxury vessel, and a ticket on this cruise costs an approximate minimum of 22,000 up to 125,000. This journey is only made possible due to warming weather and melting sea ice, which this year reached a record low, caused by climate change. As the US lags behind Russia with the opening up of new shipping and trade routes in the Arctic, and many oil dependent economies are on the brink of economic collapse, some hope new tourism opportunities like cruises can benefit the region. Others see the cruise as an opportunity for the “1 percent” to “drink martinis while the world burns” and that the Arctic already faces enough devastating environmental challenges, and cruise ships are notorious polluters.
Yet the Crystal cruise company’s historic voyage has been organized for nearly a decade, and so far seems to be going flawlessly, with enough safety preparations for a small country, a focus on being “green” and years of effort to pin the community visits with local people. Yet after this trip’s success, other cruise ships will inevitably follow in Crystal’s footsteps, and the consequences could be disastrous for the delicate arctic ecosystem and small indigenous communities that are already under immense pressure.