1,750 passengers and crew set sail today to traverse the Northwest Passage aboard the Crystal Serenity. The challenges are many. The rewards are uncertain. We’ll be watching to see what happens, but here are some things to think about:

  1. The cruise line has hired an ice-breaker to attend throughout the month-long voyage, and there are 3 ice-pilots aboard the ships. Average Aug-Sept temps in some parts of trips are in the single digits (Celsius). Even best estimate response times are 6 hours – reality is probably at least 10. The risks are not negligible.
  2. Only about 200 ships of any size have made this journey in the last 110 years. New pressure on the route -> increased chances for invasive species that could change the entire ecosystems upon which local subsistence users rely heavily
  3. They are stopping in ports where the population is smaller than the number of visitors.
  4. The passengers coming ashore can deplete a month’s worth of the community’s internet bandwidth availability in a day – hope they can figure out a peak pricing system to charge accordingly
  5.  They are not the only cruise ship hitting these small ports – just the only one making the trans-Arctic passage. Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, for example, will have 5 ships in that week. And that’s the whole schedule for the season. Seem a bit like an open-access fishing derby problem for investments? We shall see.
  6. You can already sign up for 2017’s trip…cheapest bunks start at about $22,000 not including most excursions.

Ship Photo: By L. Colombo (Olonia) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons