We see snow. Snow you say……Yes, snow.
When we opened the curtains to look outside we had a pleasant surprise. Snow flurries. Here we are and it’s summer and it snowing.
If you polled all of the guests on-board Crystal Serenity to find out what was on their "wish list" for this epic and historic Northwest Passage the top two items would likely be too see ice and polar bears. When it comes to ice we would say we want to see ice but we don't want to see so much ice that we get stuck in it or something worse. As to the polar bear most of us would say we want to see a polar bear "close up" but not so close that we are its meal. LOL.
Yesterday brought smiles to all of us on-board Crystal Serenity including both guests along with members of the crew and land based enrichment and entertainers. You could not have asked for a better day. Although it was chilly outside (well after all if it was hot outside there would be no ice and with no ice there would be no polar bears) for most of the day we had good visibility. We had the ice and at times you would see large pieces of floating ice with surrounded by the prettiest color of blue. We had the polar bears. We saw at least five polar bears including mother polar bear and her two cubs. We even had a seal as part of the kill.
In total, ten polar bears were spotted. According to the folks from the expedition team this is rarely ever the case. There are times that no polar bears are spotted and when they are spotted usually it is just one or two. It is the exception to even sea a mother polar bear and her two cubs or a lunch kill as we saw yesterday.
We thank Captain Birger, his team and the team from the RRS Ernest Shackleton for planning such a spectacular day for us.
When people ask us what are some of our top highlights from cruising we often say sailing off Antarctica and seeing the majestic beauty of our surroundings. We now will add yesterday to the list of our most memorable moments of cruising. We will carry with us for the rest of our lives memories of yesterday, along with photos and our writings. We feel so very blessed to be part of this epic and historic journey.
After we posted we enjoyed spectacular views from our room and verandah. We are so glad that we got to see so much ice. It is because of the ice that we had the opportunity to see several polar bears, not only through the high power telescope and the ships cameras but through our own eyes and our camera. We also had the opportunity to see why the polar bears go out to the ice as we saw a kill take place between a polar bear and a seal.
At one point as the RRS Ernest Shackleton we saw it in action as it broke through ice.
Captain Birger provided frequent updates and at 4:00 PM he provided his final update for the afternoon. He said that his team and the team from the ice breaker met at the bridge yesterday afternoon to plan today. They had two goals. Find ice and with the ice find polar bears. Well they succeeded. We could see five polar bears. One was a mother and her two cubs and on the other side of the ship we could see two other bears. We were closer enough to see the three polar bears through our own "naked" eyes. Amazing. There was even a kill.
We began last evening with a pre-dinner drink at the Avenue Saloon. It was nice to be able to get back out after spending pretty much the day before in our room. We couldn't get over all that we viewed from Serenity today.
The sweater that Keith is wearing we purchased in 2015 in New Zealand with this voyage in mind.
This was followed by dinner at the Crystal Dining Room with friend and Northwest Passage Hostess Stacey Huston. We have known Stacey since 2010 when she was World Cruise Hostess. Stacey has enjoyed an extensive career at sea and on land. She began as a dancer and in fact, danced with Curtis Collins many years ago. She has held several positions for Crystal Cruises at sea and on land including Dancer, World Cruise Hostess, Assistance Cruise Director and Crystal Society and Guest Relations Manager. We are blessed that on land Stacey lives less than an hour from us and we see her from time to time. Stacey is also well-known for having a smile on her face and for her laugh. We appreciate her positive outlook and that like us the glass is half full.
We certainly enjoyed lots of laughs at dinner between the three of us and our wonderful senior waiter Lylian and Head Waiter Augusto. Food was good too. After dinner we were also able to Face Time with our son, daughter in law and grandson and also we had a Face Time with our daughter (grandson and granddaughter were asleep). It was so nice to be able to speak as well as see them. After all how many people get to Face Time from the Northwest Passage.
We also saw world-renowned organist Hector Olivera perform. We have been fortunate to have seen Hector perform on several voyages and to also enjoy a friendship with him and his lovely wife Lieve. On several cruises Keith and Lieve have played Paddle Tennis together. When Hector performs if you close your eyes you think that you are listening to an orchestra. His career is extensive and began as at a very young age where he actually performed for Evita. He is so well regarded that an organ is kept on board Serenity all year long so that Hector can perform one or more times annually.
We both slept well and enjoyed our morning on Serenity. Keith is feeling better and should be 100% in a couple of days. He did take an indoor cycling class and Anne Marie walked for an hour. She couldn't go to Yoga as she went to the salon to have her haircut.
The day featured two interesting lectures.
Lois Harwood spoke about tracking and tagging. What’s that? She spoke about what is involved with tracking and tagging seals and whale in the Canadian Arctic and the ways in which these results help us to understand their movements, range and behavior.
There is so much they learn from this from where they go to how deep they go in the water.
She also noted that without tracking there is no way they could go where the seals and whales go and of course in the winter time it would be even the more challenging to follow them.
She also noted that it was unusual to be able to see the polar bears as well as we did yesterday so that it was a good day for viewing polar bears.
At approximately 11:00 AM we sailed the Bellot Strait. This narrow channel separate the Boothia Peninsula and the northernmost points of mainland North America from Somerset Island.
The RRS Ernest Shackleton sailed in front of us. The views were breathtaking.
In todays’ expedition notes it was noted that in 1957 the Canadian and American Coast Guard were interested in accomplishing a deep-draft transit of Bellot Strait. The strait is 25 km long and at its narrowest is only 1 km wide. It discussed the competition between the Canadian and American Coast Guard to be first to chart this route. The story continues tomorrow.
We have to say that some of the views were spectacular. The best views were from the stern (back) or bow (front) of the ship when you could see both sides all at once.
During the course of the scenic cruising two polar bears were spotted along with some whale.
During Captain’s Noon talk from the bridge he noted that tomorrow we might be doing another unexpected shore excursion. All of this depends on factors such as winds and currents.
We had lunch at the Lido Cafe as we often do and were treated to some spectacular views of scenic cruise before heading back out to sea.
We also both got in some afternoon exercise and just are enjoying the ship.
In the afternoon Expedition Lecturer Hector Williams continued with part 2 of the talk we mentioned yesterday. His talk focused on both the British and the American explorers between 1810 and 1860 who sailed the Northwest Passage.
We are looking forward to the rest of the day on board Crystal Serenity and we will see what tomorrow brings.
Keith & Anne Marie
Breaking News: Today we saw quite a bit of ice and a Polar Bear through a high powered telescope. It was another amazing day and the day is still young.
As we mentioned we enjoyed lunch in our room yesterday afternoon and evening.
We each had Salad Entrées. A Turkey Cobb Salad for Anne Marie and a Tuna Fish Salad for Keith.
They were not only tasty salads but also a work of art.
Anne Marie’s salad was featured on the Luncheon Menu and Keith’s was a salad that is regularly available.
After lunch Keith rested and Anne Marie took a one-hour walk on the Promenade Deck. We both read and wrote the rest of the afternoon and also watched a movie that we had checked out from the library.
The daily Reflections guide has featured some very interesting information this voyage. There is a special expedition notes section so we thought we would share some information from it.
A new scientific research facility is under construction in Cambridge Bay. It is scheduled to open next year. Its purpose is threefold: Advance knowledge of the Canadian Arctic, strengthen Canada’s leadership on Arctic issues and serve as an international hub for research in science and technology.
The center will bring economic benefits to Cambridge Bay.
Went on our verandah for a few minutes to get some fresh air and saw one of the zodiacs being unloaded. We can't say enough how organized the process has been to get guests on and off the zodiacs. Safety is always the number one priority. The guests have followed all of the instructions. For example, there is an art to load the zodiac and also to get each person off. The guests stand only when they are asked to do so and it is done one person at a time. Personnel help the guest onto a step that is place in the zodiac and then two or more crew members help the guest as they go from the zodiac onto the platform. Once inside there are crew members who take you life jacket off, get you through security and even assist as you step through the oblong buckets of water to clean your boots. Some wondered how you could get 900 or so people on and off the ship in an efficient manner. The answer is "Team Crystal" thought of everything.
As an example, there were 21 morning departures involving Kayaking, Community Visit, Helicopter, and Fast Expedition Boat and 17 afternoon departures involving the same category of excursions. Programs such as a Community Visit involve several zodiacs so as one is filled and leaves the next one comes up to the landing to be filled. At the same time as the day progresses you have all of the returning zodiacs that need to be unloaded. It worked like clockwork.
Just as the crew has been outstanding the guests have really done well to listen and do what they were asked to do. In fact in the mandatory briefing they were told that say you are on a tour and there is a safety issue someone might give a command such as "don't move", "sit", or whatever and that you need to just do what they tell you to do.
The organization to get so many guests on and off the ship, to do it over a spread amount of time, and to offer a diverse set of activities has ensured that even in the small town of Ulukhaktok that we never overcrowded the town nor overwhelmed the Inuit
Keith took some photos of one of the zodiacs being unloaded. Keith also took photos of a vessel shortly after it was leaving Serenity. Thinking it was a supply vessel with items such as produce.
Originally, we had been invited to attend an anniversary dinner with friends Bob and Glo at Prego who were celebrating their wedding anniversary. We were very sorry that we could not attend. We have been blessed to be friends with Bob and Glo but to have sailed with them often on Crystal Serenity since 2008.
Butler Jijo organized dinner for us. As we had mentioned we had Jijo as our Senior Waiter two years in a row when he worked in the Crystal Dining Room.
He is so very thoughtful as is
We ordered from the Crystal Dining Room menu plus added a couple of items.
Jijo organized this all for us so it was served course by course.
Soup: Two Chicken Broth with Matzo Ball not on the menu but a standard item served in the dining room and actually on the lunch menu from earlier in the day.
Salad: A butter leaf salad for Anne Marie with Tomato, Artichoke, Fennel & Edamame and for Keith his standing order salad.
Main Course: Seared Se Scallops with Chive Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Zucchini & Mushroom-Marsala Sauce for Anne Marie and Broiled Salmon with Mashed Potatoes, and Sauce Béarnaise.
A few sides and one roll, no butter. LOL.
The first photo is our Penthouse Attendant Ruti.
One of the lecturers who is not on now but we know from previous cruises reminded me of something which I do think of from time-to-time. It was about those brave explorers who sailed on vessels with very few if any amenities and succumbed to all sorts of diseases. We are very fortunate to be able to travel to so many interesting places but to do it with such wonderful on-board amenities.
Before going to bed we moved the clocks forward one hour as we are now sailing into a new time zone.
When we woke up there was a message on our phone from late last night. It was from the shore excursion desk for an unexpected one-hour zodiac adventure up the Victoria Strait. Several months ago we all had the opportunity to sign up for these not knowing where they would be. You could indicate preferences such as zodiac, fast boat, kayaking and helicopter. At the time we signed up they noted that if you are selected and say no than you would move to the bottom of the wait list, which makes perfect sense to us. We listened to the message at around 6:15 AM and our tour was for 8:15 AM. With Keith still under the weather we passed on it but Anne Marie ran them down to the shore excursion desk so that they could contact people next on the wait list.
A minute or so after listening to the voice mail we did get some unexpected scenery of our own. We finally saw some ice of the starboard side of the ship. No polar bear, but Keith spotted a bird. LOL. We also enjoyed a magnificent sunrise.
About 45 minutes later we saw lots of ice from the distance. Still no polar bears.
We enjoyed breakfast in our room while we continued to enjoy the scenery. Anne Marie got in one hour of exercise. Keith passed on the indoor cycling class.
At 9:00 AM, Captain Birger gave an update from the bridge. He noted that last evening that they decided to travel to this area where they knew there was quite a bit of ice. This way they could deploy the zodiacs for the unexpected adventures. As of that time several zodiacs were in one area where they were close enough to the see a polar bear and from there they could also see another polar bear and their cubs. The Captain noted that the zodiacs were at a safe distance from the ice and of course the polar bears. From the ship we could see one polar bear with binoculars.
We could also see the polar bear on the television monitor in the Palm Court. We have included photos but they are not clear. It was quite clear on the monitors and with the binoculars. It was also broadcast to our staterooms but very foggy.
We had three lectures on the schedule today.
Expedition Lecturer sigrid Henjum was first up and she spoke about skiing the Northwest Passages. She spoke about how seven guests and one guide skied from Cambridge Bay to Gjoa Haven and had to deal with not one the ice pack but also with curious polar bears. What added to her lecture were all the photos and the videos that she showed which showed the hear of dogs that took good care of the people and the photos/video of the polar bears. She spoke about how they took care of the dogs and how the dogs would make noise if the polar bear(s) was near.
She also spoke about the challenges of the weather elements including the difficult ice. Not easy to walk. There were times you had to take off the ski’s so they would not break. Then with flat ice you could walk in them. They often saw three to five polar bear tracks each day. They could see where the bears had killed a seal and where a fox was just behind them.
She would walk in the back with the guests up front. All of a sudden she saw the largest polar bear she has ever seen. She warned the guest to stop with signals. They couldn’t’ see it at first but then she signaled to them. She thinks it was 750 to 800 kilos and 150 meters in front of them. The bear started to walk around them. Eventually the bear comes straight towards them. She pulled out her pistol and they got out a shotgun. They actually had to start walking towards the bear with each person making noise on the whistle and shouting at the bear to show the bear who is in charge. Bear is now 70 meters in front of them. They fired bullets into the air and they were hoping they would not have to kill the bear. Thankfully the bear ran off.
Next up was Expedition Lecturer Hector Williams who spoke about the earlier exploration of the Northwest Passage. He focused on which countries visited here first. He focused on which countries visited here first. He began with ships and exploration from the late 1400’s into the early 1500’s. He covered specifics such as the first Englishman to explore the High Arctic and some of the reasons behind this including prestige to open up the new world, to find a more direct to the indies and the idea of treasure hunting. Before the actual voyages he showed what map makers expected the entire area to look like including even imaginary islands.
Shortly after the conclusion of this lecture we made our way to the Lido Cafe for some lunch. We spoke with one couple who had gone on the zodiac and was in the first group that spotted the bear. They showed us some photos of the bear. They said it was very cold as they were in the zodiac. At one point another zodiac got close to them and in Crystal fashion someone called out and said would you like hot chocolate. They thought it was a joke but it was not and they were given hot chocolate to warm up with and then the zodiac made its way to the next zodiac to offer them hot chocolate.
Changing gears in the afternoon General Nick Halley spoke about the leadership challenges of leading in peace and in war. We watched this talk but it is very similar to previous talks we have seen the General give.
We read and wrote in the afternoon. Anne Marie walked for an hour and Keith did just a little bit of exercise.
This evening we are back at the Crystal Dining Room and look forward to Hector Olivera's concert.
We wanted to close with a comment about human nature. Before this cruise there were some who weren’t sure whether or not to take this cruise because of concerns about the ice. Once this cruise was underway for a few days there were some saying would we see any ice. Well, the good news is today we saw ice. We were safe the entire time. We are reminded that one of the benefits of the ice is seeing the polar bears from a safe distance. Well, today we saw ice and we saw our first polar bear even if it was through a telescope. Today is also a reminder about how beautiful, diverse and amazing that this planet that we call Earth is. It is also a reminder about the diversity of some countries such as Canada given the size of this one country. We also wanted to note how lucky we feel to have the wonderful people who live in Canada as our neighbors. We think to other places in the world where they live in fear with the countries they share a boarder with. Thankfully we have neighbors who we live in peace with and share many common values with.
Keith & Anne Marie
Last night we went to Tastes for dinner for the second time since we boarded Serenity in Vancouver. We were invited to dine there by Crystal Society Hostess Jaque Brown for a Crystal Society Dinner. On Board Cruise Sales Consultant Daniele Puma also joined us.
We had an absolutely wonderful time at dinner. We do love the cuisine at Tastes. It takes us out of our routine pattern of dining since the food is served Tapa style so we are having small portions of some very tasty items. We also love the ambience of Tastes and the service is very warm and friendly. Add to this being with two wonderful people who we have know for many years and you couldn't ask for more.
First photo with Jaque and Daniele.
Second photo with Photo Manager Neil and with Jaque. Once Daniele arrived, Neil took a Crystal Society photo which we will receive from Jaque in a couple of days.
Final two photos with some of the wait staff team from Tastes including headwaiter German (G pronounced more like a Y).
These are some of the items that we had last night for dinner. First item is of Alaskan Halibut which was introduced to the menu for the Alaskan season. This one is very tasty. The second item is relatively new as well and this is the first time we have tried it. Its called Eggplant-Kasha Dip. It too was very tasty. The challenge was eating it. Third items we have had several times in the past and is the Oven Roasted Cauliflower. A favorite of Keith's. The next item is a favorite of both of ours. It is the Alsatian Tart. On our first visit to Tastes a few years ago we were introduced to this item and since that time we have had it each time we return to Tastes. Next item is Gambas a la Plancha. Similar to so many of the items it is enhanced with the very tasty Paprika Lemon Butter sauce.
We had a couple of items that we didn't take a photo of. One was Salmon Sliders. This was another item added for the Alaska cruise season and replaced beef sliders. We also were able to get half orders (one piece) of the Taco (for Anne Marie) and the Lamb Kababs (for Keith)
For dessert we shared the dark chocolate creme brûlée and bananas foster.
We always find that it's ideal when the wait staff team brings two items at a time. For whatever reason they started to bring out four items and we kindly asked that they slow it down and not bring out so many items since by the time we would eat two items the others would get cool. They removed a couple of the items, and allowed sufficient time between courses. We always recommend just speaking up in a polite manner on something like this and we find that the feedback is taken constructively as it was.
Often we say that we sleep well each night That is normally the case. However, Keith had felt a cold coming on yesterday and shortly after we returned back to the room he was not feeling too well. In fact, when we arrived to dinner last evening he let Jaque and Daniele know so there was not the usual hugging and he kept his distance from everyone. Since this cruise began there was a cold/virus going around. In fact, the last couple of days we both stopped attending the lectures in person and started to watch them on them live on the television in our room. As much as we try to keep distances from someone who appears to be sick and to wash our hands constantly these types of things are hard to avoid on land or at sea.
We were booked on the 8:30 AM tour of Cambridge Bay, but given how Keith was feeling and that we would be in a zodiac and it would be cooler in the morning we decided it best to stay on board. It's never an easy decision since we likely will not be returning to this area but nevertheless health should always come first. Keith knows too well from fainting on board Serenity in 2014 and spending most of an evening at a hospital in Yokohama, Japan to put health above all other things and that situation started with an upper respiratory virus.
Although we didn't go on tour, we have learned about Cambridge Bay through our readings, the lectures and the talks given by the shore excursion group so we will provide some information about the area.
Cambridge Bay has a population of close to 1,750 residents. It is a transportation and administrative center for the Kitikmeot Region. It is the most important stop for vessels transiting the Northwest Passage. In our case it allowed for various entertainers and enrichment personnel to join/leave the ship. It also allowed for a container of food and other items which had been sent to this area via a 737 airplane to be delivered to Serenity.
Cambridge Bay has two schools, and regional college. One of the schools was used for the shuttle drop-off area. It is located in the middle of town and was open for cultural activities and food tasting. Guests were advised that shoes/boots needed to be removed to enter the school.
Three churches are in-town. They represent the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Pentecostal faiths. Businesses included a Northern Store with a quick-stop selling Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken, a coop, and a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada as well as a Post Office. There are two hotels and a modern health center and community radio station.
There is a community hall and the Nunavut Arts. The Nunavut Arts festival has been running the past few days and today was its final day. We are sure that our visit was considered with respect to the timing of the festival.
Arctic Coast Visitors Centre. This facility provides tourism information about Cambridge Bay and the Kitikmeot Region . It contains displays of artifacts depicting people, history and the culture of Cambridge Bay and the Arctic Coast Region.
Cambridge Bay is also home for the remains of the Norwegian Maud vessel. Plans are underway to relocate the remains of the vessel to Norway.
There are many archaeological sites in the area. This is also a hunting and fishing location. These include caribou, musk ox, ringed seal, Arctic char and lake trout. There is also a nearby beach which is noted for bird watching.
The zodiacs actually go to the beach area and at the beach area there were some places for the guests to walk to and locals had items for sale. The actual town is about a fifteen minute drive from the zodiac landing. Although a complimentary shuttle was provided there are very few vehicles there so many people just stayed at the beach area.
There was also an arts festival that has been going on the past few days and today was the final day. We are sure that the timing took into account Crystal Serenity visiting Cambridge Bay today.
We had breakfast in our room. We had originally requested breakfast at 6:30 AM given the time of our tour and stayed with that time.
We had posted some photos from yesterday's buffet and wanted to include a few photos of some of the chefs who are a big part of the buffet. The buffet is a team effort. It involves many chefs and other personnel who work tirelessly at the galley preparing a wonderful meal along with all of the other meals they prepare several times a day. The wait-staff plays an integral role. Their involvement begins by 7:00 AM when tables are placed in the Crystal Plaza along with heating dishes and many other items. It continues as table cloths are placed on all of the tables in the Crystal Plaza area and after breakfast the dining room tables that were used are all reset for the buffet. When the buffet begins the waiters assist guests by carrying their plates to each table and assisting the guests throughout the meal. Sommelier's are on hand to serve items such as wine and champagne. The coordination of the tables, and much of the set up and inside the dining room is overseen by the head waiters. Let's not forget that when the guests are done eating the dining room must be reset for dinner and all tables and all the other items must be removed from the Crystal Plaza and that area must be reset. Housekeeping also is very involved as well. It truly is a team effort.
From Left to Right.
Chef Alda Chef de Cuisine from the Outlet Kitchen which includes areas on the Lido Deck including Tastes.
Executive Chef Werner.
Pastry Chef Harald. The woman that Harald was speaking with was concerned with the high calorie count of each dessert. Harald was trying to point out desserts which would not be so high in calorie content. Keith recommended just taking a couple of small desserts and eating them slowly and savoring the taste and Harald seconded Keith's suggestion.
These are some food photos from the buffet.
The Zodiac's began making trips at around 7:00 AM.
Although we didn’t go ashore, some of the locals came on board Serenity to sell some of their handicrafts and to also demonstrate throat singing. This took place at 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM, and 4:00 PM.
Shortly after 10:00 AM, Captain Birger, and John Stoll Vice President of Crystal Cruises Land Program and Port Operations presented the Mayor and the Associate Mayor of Cambridge Bay with a plaque commemorating our visit along with a check for $2,000.00 for the Youth Recreation Fund For Cambridge Bay. Captain Birger and John Stoll met with the Mayor a few months ago on their visit to Cambridge Bay.
The two women throat singers had Cruise Director Rick and Guest Chuck Porter do throat singing as well. We don’t think that Cruise Director Rick should change careers anytime soon. LOL. Even Ventriloquist/Comedian Mark Merchant and Captain Birger got into the act as Mark had Captain Birger move his lips as Mark worked his magic. All of this was well attended.
Since I wasn’t feeling well we had lunch in our room, will have dinner there too this evening and we are watching movies that we had taken our from the library the other day.
Life is good and we continue to have a great time on this epic and historic voyage
Keith & Anne Marie
We learned from our visit to Ulukhaktok, that weather can change quickly and dramatically in the Northwest Passage. The driver of the zodiac we returned on said while not as severe there is some similarity to rapid changes when visiting Antarctica. We do remember that on our first sailing around Cape Horn in South America how in just a matter of hours the seas went from being calm to being one of the roughest seas we have ever sailed.
When we looked out our verandah yesterday morning we saw the arrival of the zodiacs and the fast boat and we could see them being pushed up and down due to the strong sea swells. For those on the first tours including the community visits it was quite cold and with the strong sea swells. In fact, they delayed departures by around 30 minutes on the early tours until the sea swells were not so strong. Again, safety is number one priority. By the time we took the zodiac the swells weren’t as strong and they became even calmer at the time we returned to the ship. It wasn’t as cold either for us compared to those who went an hour or so before we did. By afternoon the sun was out and some people actually needed to unzip their jackets for part of the time they were on land such as on hikes and/or the community visits.
The zodiac driver mentioned that the weather changes could have happened in reverse. In other words the morning could have had calm sea swells and even warmer temperature while the afternoon could have been cooler with strong sea swells.
We did find that the guidance provided to us from Crystal Cruises and the vendor that they recommended (Ship and Shore) worked very well for us. This included what type of clothing to bring and how to layer it. Anne Marie went with three layers of clothing from the waist up while Keith went with four layers. From the waist down we wore three layers of clothing including water proof pants.
The Crystal land and expedition people thought of so much to make the process of getting in and out of the zodiacs as easy as possible and they assisted each person. They even made adjustments where necessary. For example, when we arrived to the beach area and got out of the zodiac we had to step into water and walk a few feet. It was not a problem with our waterproof pants and boots. On our return they came up with an idea of adding a step so you didn’t even had to step into the water. Some people needed extra help getting in and out of the zodiacs at the beach landing and the assistance was always there.
We wanted to share additional information on some of the places we visited yesterday during our community visit in Ulukhaktok.
Ulukhaktok Arts Centre. This centre is used by locals to produce crafts including prints, carvings and clothing. Demonstrations were shown to those of us who visited the centre.
Helen Kalvak School. This is the one school for the village serving Kindergarten through the Twelfth Grade. It has around 100 students at any given time. When we were in the gymnasium they had several basketball hoops as did the outside area. It is named after Helen Kalvak a 20th century Inuit from this area.
Community Hall. The name says it all. It is used for meeting, and events for the community. Several items were being sold during our visit.
Speaking of weather by end of October we were told that the water will be frozen over. To fish they will punch holes into the ice. The amount of daylight changes as well. It was noted that in the summer months that some of the Inuits will go to sleep late since it is so light outside and sleep-in the following morning. This pattern will change in the winter when there is far less daylight time.
Yesterday afternoon we enjoyed the rest of the day on board We each had salad entrées for lunch. tuna for Keith and a chef salad for Anne Marie. Since we were not sure what time we would get back for lunch, we pre-ordered it with the Jijo and they kept it cold for us at the butler's pantry. Afterwards, we both exercised. Anne Marie walked for an hour, mainly outside the ship on the promenade deck and Keith worked out at the Fitness Center.
One of the items that we purchased yesterday. You could attach it to a zipper or use it as a Christmas ornament. Second photo includes the woman all the way to the left hand site who made them.
Crystal arranged for an activity for those guests not participating in shoreside event. They had several locals come on board to show guests how to make traditional winter mitts. This was a two hour activity and materials were provided to all guests that attended. We think this was very thoughtful and we spoke with some guests who attended and really appreciated this activity. The locals that participate enjoyed lunch at the Lido Cafe. This was a really nice touch by Crystal Cruises.
Before dinner we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink at the Avenue Saloon.
Last night was pink night. LOL.
We dined at the Crystal Dining room for the second consecutive night. Cruise Director Rick joined us for dinner.
At dinner the night before Head Waiter Augusto offered to make us Pasta with Lobster, which he has prepared for us a few times in the past. He also suggested making us a Caesar Salad. We said yes and thank you for both suggestions.
We thoroughly enjoyed both items that Augusto prepared. Knowing that Anne Marie prefers food with less spices before adding some of the additional spices to the Caesar Salad he placed Anne Marie's salad on a plate before adding the additional items to Keith's salad. The photo is of Keith's salad.
Similarly he added some chili powder to Keith's entree after having prepared both.
Since boarding Serenity, last night was the first night when berries were no longer available. This is much better than we thought given that we are eleven days into the Northwest Passage Voyage. A 737 will be landing in Cambridge Bay tomorrow with additional food so we should be back in business with berries very soon. Keith happily had melon and Anne Marie had a low fat frozen yogurt dessert.
After dinner we attended one of two performances of Celtic Legend performed by the absolutely wonderful 2016 Northwest Passage Team. All we can say is bravo. They were wonderful.
Crystal Serenity departed Ulukhaktok at around 7:00 PM. We are with Ice Breaker Ernest Schakleton. In addition to carrying the toys and with us for its ice breaking capabilities many of the exhibition personal are on board including all of the people who pilot the helicopters, zodiacs and speed boats.
We now have a day at sea as we sail to Cambridge Bay.
The seas were relatively calm last evening. We kept to our morning routine. Keith worked out at the Fitness Center before breakfast and following breakfast took another indoor cycling class. Anne Marie walked for an hour and attended yoga.
As we spoke with fellow guests throughout the day we heard all about each of their experiences in Ulukahktok. This reminds us that in addition to the excursions we have mentioned there was also golfing. As one person said the only thing that resembled golf were the balls and a hole. Nevertheless it was a nice experience for those who participated and many of them also did a community visit in addition to this.
As usual, many programs were on the schedule. There is something for everyone. We focused on the lectures.
We wanted to highlight some of these events.
Expedition lecturer Jennifer Whithford spoke about Traditional Inuit printmaking. She spoke about how this type of art was developed and took us through its history. She noted that every community has their own style of art and their own way of making it and it differs widely by region. Jennifer herself tries to visit some of the smallest of regions and work with the Inuit’s to help them create prints which provides them with much needed income. It is their world that they create and show in their artwork. They also show their love of life and their love of the land even when things can be so challenging for them. To, us this is a good lifelong lesson. On this voyage Jennifer is actually bringing supplies to each of the villages we are visiting on this epic and historical voyage.
Later in the morning World Affairs Lecturer Bill Schneider spoke about the changing United States role in the world. He spoke about the impact and involvement we have had in the 20th and 21st century in terms of our involvement in both war and peace initiatives as well as our influence in other areas including Hollywood. He also covered some of the differences in approach taken by the Presidential Candidates from the Democratic and Republican Parties.
After Bill Schneider's lecture we had lunch in the Lido Cafe. We did want mention that from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM the executive chef and the galley team created a wonderful Viennese Brunch Buffet.
After lunch, Keith played two hours of Paddle Tennis for the second time of this voyage. Anne Marie walked for one hour outside the ship.
In the afternoon Expedition Lecturer Nigel Redman spoke about the Birds of the North West Passage. She noted that in the summer, huge numbers of birds visit the arctic region and she spoke about the birds that do visit this region.
Later in the day, Tim Soper and the Expedition Team will provide us with a recap and a briefing on our arrival to Cambridge Bay.
Keith & Anne Marie
We will start off with yesterday in a moment but we did want to say how wonderful our visit to Ulukahktok has been and to congratulate Crystal Cruises and the Expedition Team on being so very organized. There were so many people from the Serenity crew that assisted us. This started with Assistant Shore Excursion Manager Joyce at the designated meet up location. When it was time to go to the Zodiac Platform we were escorted from the lounge to the stairwell and down to Tender Deck number 4. There were lots of Crystal Crew members at designated spots reminding us to be careful walking down the steps and directing us. Several members of the crew were on hand to give us and help put on our life jackets. Then we walked down to Crew Deck 3 and security swiped our room cards and there were plenty of crew to safely help us on the Zodiac. Twenty guests and one Zodiac driver were on the Zodiac. We were then driven over to the beach area where we did what we had learned a few days ago and were reminded again today. We moved carefully to where we would get out of the Zodiac, lifted our legs towards the sea and got out of the Zodiac and walked a few feet in water. There were lots of personnel to assist those who needed help. Our rental boots worked flawlessly. We then waited for everyone and we were escorted up to the Village and the guide was very helpful pointing out key places to visit.
We will discuss those later. While we were there were lots of personnel from the expedition team available to answer any and all questions.
A similar process was used for our return. Twenty of us were placed in a Zodiac about five minutes after we returned to the beach zodiac drop off/pick up point. We road back to the ship. We were assisted out of the Zodiac by several Crystal crew members. We were welcomed back by Shore Excursion Manager Daniel who asked us how our visit went. We loved it. We went through secrurity and then we walked thru three buckets (oblong) with water to clean our boots and then we were able to dry them on a rug that was placed on the floor for that purpose. We were welcomed back by other crew members and as we walked up the stairwell we were greeted by other crew members.
We have posted some additional photos from Friday, August 26. Since we had arrived to our first stop at the Northwest Village we decided to wear jackets that we had purchased the other day on board Serenity to commemorate this historic visit.
We also wanted to mention that it was an unbelievable experience when we saw all of the zodiacs, speed boats kayaks and the two helicopters deployed. It was a combination of watching a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie while at the same time being an emotional experience. Anne Marie teared up as our ship started to play the song of this community.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying views from the ship. Up until that point we thought we made a mistake not taking our regular room and going to the starboard site but from our vantage point we had excellent views of everything. The funny item about the starboard side is from time to time Keith goes the wrong way to get to the fitness center, laundry room and. We all get a little set in our ways. LOL, but so very true.
Throughout the afternoon zodiacs ran back and forth to Serenity. Some brought the locals over who would perform as well as other personnel such as the Canadian Mountain Police and Canadian Immigration personnel. Some of the lectures were brought over and some supplies were also brought over from the zodiac, Some of the crew went back and forth as part of the dry run to make sure all was in order to get people back and forth from Serenity
Last evening we had a pre-dinner drink at the Avenue Saloon. At one point we saw several of the Inuit children who had come on board walking around the ship. As we were making our way over to the Crystal Dining Room, we spoke with one of the children. She said how much she was enjoying the ship and had never seen anything like this before. She also told us how she wished she could stay on board for a few days. The only ship that some of them might have seen that is larger than an expedition ship is The World. As we had learned in the lectures, many of the locals can be shy and she was. This is perfectly understandable. We told her how nice it was to meet her.
The dining room was not full which has been the case for most of this voyage as a few hundred people over both seating’s had plans to dine in the specialty restaurants. It was still a little louder than usual which we think has to do with the excitement of arriving to our first Northwest Passage Village.
Two local shows were shown with participation from forty or more of the locals. The show was very special. Between shows the locals posed for photos at the Crystal Plaza.
When we arrived back to our room there was a gift on our bed along with a card. The gift is an original piece of traditional inuit art. Each piece is unique and hand-crafted by renowned carvers of Nunavut. The gift was ordered a year ago and is part of the effort to make contributions to support the arts and crafts of the Northwest Passage villages.
We slept very well as we were anchored off of Ulukhaktok, Canada.
Keith was up first and completed a relatively long workout. All of the satellite stations were unavailable but he watched one of the Crystal programs about our visit to Ulukahktok and watched a movie.
We had a relatively early breakfast as we got ready for our community visit.
This village has a population of about 415 people. Crystal Serenity has a population of almost 1,600 people.
Ulukhaktok is the smallest of the Aricticl Village locations that we will visit.
This village has one hotel, three shops and is serviced by regular flights several times per week. Apart from a couple of expedition ships, that arrive each summer, very few tourists have ever visited this area.
There were four types of excursions.
Community Visit, which was by far the most popular of the excursions. It was complimentary and provided an opportunity for guests to have a short walk from the beach landing over to the village and to walk around the village, visit various sites and interact with the locals. The start times for these visits was staged throughout the entire day to limit the number of people at the village. Each person had an assigned time to leave the ship but they could return whenever they wanted.
Hiking. We originally signed up for hikes for all three villages. This would involve a fairly long hike. However, we changed our plans as we thought through logistics of bathroom facilities or let us say the lack of these facilities. Anne Marie is on a daily pill for a disease she has and hydration is important so we just thought it best to pass on the hikes. Instead we did the community visit.
Helicopters. Both helicopters were used and we believe they held five guest plus a pilot.
Kayaks. Each Kayak held two guests. Before leaving the ship the guests were taken to a special area on Crew deck 4 to be fitted for special outer gear that they would wear for this excursion.
Today represented several firsts. One of them was Crystal Cruises deploying zodiacs from their vessels for the very first time.
Of course another first was today marking the first time that guests of Crystal Cruises put foot onto a Northwest Passage Village and that a cruise ship of this size officially called on a Northwest Passage Village.
Our experience was wonderful.
Because Crystal Cruises carefully staggered the number of people going ashore the village did not feel crowded nor did we overwhelm the locals.
The locals were very friendly. When we arrived on the beach two large tables were set out with maps and baked goods for us.
We visited the arts center, the school where some locals were selling items. We purchased some to make a nice donation. The photo with the four people including a little two and one-half young child was where we purchased some items. They were very friendly and also took our photo to keep for themselves. We went to the community center where several locals were selling handmade items and other items such as paintings. Everywhere we walked we were greeted by friendly people. They truly welcomed us to their village.
As we have said numerous times we hope that we left them with as nice an impression about us as they have left us about themselves.
When asked by several crew members and members of the Expedition Team what we thought of the experience we noted that it was outstanding. We also mentioned that you can do a lot of advanced reading, watch documentaries and video clips, and go to all the lectures but that to see this through our own eyes is so very important to us and is so very meaningful.
Also some have said that the experience would be better by taking an expedition ship because we would overcrowd the village. That was not the case for us. For us it’s the entire package both on and off the ship.
This was a memorable visit and one that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
We are posting early since we are not sure what the internet connection will be like later today.
Keith & Anne Marie
Breaking News! We are sailing the Northwest Passage. Tomorrow will be our first stop. Very exciting.
Late yesterday afternoon as we were getting ready for the evening activities, when we saw some views of The Smoking Hills earlier than we expected. The Smoking Hills were discovered and named by John Franklin in 1826. They are situated on the east coast of Cape Bathurst. In this area smoke rises from the cliffs along fifty kilometers of the cliffy coastline. The smoke comes from places where brown coal, oil shales and bitumen deposits in the sedimentary strata burn continuously. They produce clouds of acrid acidic and sulfuric smoke.
Before dinner, we had a pre-dinner drink at the Avenue Saloon.
We then went to the Prego Italian Specialty Restaurant for dinner with friend Ileen. As we mentioned last week, we met Ileen several years ago on-board Serenity. Since that time we have sailed with her several times and we were also on an overland Crystal Cruises Adventure with her when we participated in a Safari staying at the resort Phinda in South Africa. Last week we dined together at Silk Road. We had a wonderful time. Food was terrific as was the service and the ambience of the dining room. Waiter Costa took excellent care of us.
Last nights entertainment was in the form of a themed mixer. It was appropriately called, Ice Breaker Mixer. The mixer took place in the Crystal Plaza from 7:45 PM to 11:30 PM with a special performance from 8:00 PM to 8:30 PM. We arrived close to 8:00 PM. The performance featured lead singers from the ensemble singers and dancers; Eric Strong and Sarah Combs. It also featured vocalists Jonathan Hawkins and Sarah Hayes who were special entertainers on World Cruises 2014, 2015 and 2016 and who are on board for this epic voyage. Dancers Curtis and Natalie also performed and live music was played by the Galaxy Orchestra. In the early morning hours Keith had seen them practicing their routine the past few days in the Crystal Plaza not realizing that it was for last evening's event. This mixer was a lot of fun and as has been the case with this voyage had a lot of participation along with lots of enthusiasm from the guests.
When we arrived back to our room there was a summary booklet in our room titled Arctic Code of Conduct. It covered many items including zodiac landings, conditions ashore, helicopter flights, kayak guidelines, health information, shopping and currency, customs considerations, cultural & safety guidelines, wilderness etiquette, safety ashore, avoid disturbing wildlife and their habitats, respecting cultural and historical remains and cultural and social interaction.
In Reflections (daily program) a section has been included each day called expedition notes. It included an additional writeup on things to remember during our visits.
It noted that communities are port to share but offered some cautions. When taking photographs of people or homes it is polite to ask permission first. We learned about that in our mandatory meeting. It went on to say that children will often volunteer themselves as subjects, but parental consent is important. Also it noted that local groups may ask for gifts, sweets or money. It said please do not give anything directly since it encourages them to ask again and can cause conflicts among the children.
The information we received also emphasized talking softly not only to be courteous but keeping in mind there could be wild dogs in the area and polar bears.
We slept very well as we are sailing to our next port of call. Seas were pretty much as calm as it gets.
We began our day as we always do. Keith worked out early, we had breakfast in our room and Anne Marie walked for an hour and attended Yoga and Keith took another spin class. Everyone in today's class except for one person took the class that Keith taught. Keith spoke to each person before and/or after class and the common question was "when will you teach the next class?" The consensus was that they really enjoyed the class and they thought it was professionally done. Keith will likely not teach another class, but as he's done before if others want to just get together an spin together that can be done. It's no different than a few people getting together and doing various exercises together on their own.
We watched each of the lectures:
Expedition Lecturer Ken Burton spoke about the Canadian Arctic including its environment and people. He spoke about the history and the natural environment of the land we will see. He also discussed the various sea and land animals and also how the local people utilize the animals. He also covered the various animals that we might see during our visit.
Next up was Expedition Lecturer Flip Nicklin who spoke about some of the stories and photos he has been involved with at National Geographic Magazine.
The afternoon didn’t feature lectures. This is because we arrived to Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, Canada in the afternoon. We also met up with the ice breaker.
Starting at around Noon, hot spiced win was available on the sun deck which people could enjoy as they enjoyed the scenery. A special soup and sandwich buffet was available in the Palm Court where guests could enjoy the views from the large bay windows of this venue.
During Captain Birger's talk from the bridge at Noon he noted that the Ice Breaker Ernest Schakleton has been at Ulukhartok for the past two days. At around 12:45 PM while Keith was at the Fitness Center and Anne Marie was on her one hour walk we spotted the Ernest Schakleton. As we got closer we both had the same idea and headed for our room. We had a nice view of not only the Ice Breaker but many of its "toys" such as the two helicopters and zodiacs and speed boats.
The Captain noted that deploying zodiacs from any Crystal Ship is a first. This afternoon they will have several dry runs so they are all set to go live tomorrow as we visit Ulukhartok. As the internet has been a bit unstable today based on where we are sailing we are going to post now.
Initially, when we first saw the ice breaker it didn't seem as large as we thought it would be. As it eventually got close to the starboard of Serenity we realized it is much larger than we initially thought.
Keith & Anne Marie
Breaking news……..Keith played Paddle Tennis right after lunch today. First time in about a year. Maybe this is historic. Wonder if anyone has played Paddle Tennis this far north. It was 37 degrees but sunny with just some wind. There are some media people on board and a reporter from Bloomberg Business asked if she could take photos of us. We’ll see if we make it. If so, look for a guy with a red hat, sun glasses and wearing a green fleece in the photo. Keith has actually played in worse weather such as on a crossing from Japan to California. Likely not as cold but with the wind chill factor it felt far colder.
Before dinner last night we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink at the Avenue Saloon. We first stopped by the Crystal Cove but it was on the noisier side so we decided on the Avenue Saloon.
Afterwards we dined at the Crystal Room with the creators of the iMovie class for Crystal Cruises; Kerry Millerick & Dina Sterr. Keith took their iMovie class on World Cruise 2013. This class is taught on all voyages With so many sea days, the type of itinerary and so many guests wanting to make iMovies for a keepsake and also to share with family and friends the classes on this voyage have been very well attended. They are attracting in the neighborhood of 80 to 100 guests per class which is a significant number.
They both had extensive careers. Kerry's career included filming documentaries and working for various local television news stations and some of his work was on national television for CBS. Dina produced two halftime Super Bowl Shows as part of her career.
Keith, Kerry and Dina began dinner with tuna tartare, while Anne Marie had jumbo shrimp cocktail. For our next course it was snapper for Keith and Anne Marie and steak for Dina and Kerry. The photo of the entree is of the snapper but it is not how it was presents. This one includes some grilled onions and peas that Keith had added to his entree. Dessert was berries for the two of us.
After dinner we enjoyed the evening entertainment.
Another fan (guest) favorite on board Crystal ships is the very talented Naki Ataman who took us through the popular music of 19 countries. He performed two shows; 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM. The times recognized that clocks were forwarded one hour before we went to sleep last evening.
Now lets's get to the bad news. LOL. When we returned to the room we had to set our clocks forward by one hour. The good news is we survived all of this but our preference continues to be traveling East to West, but that was not an option for this epic voyage. LOL.
We did sleep well last night. The seas were calm and there was a gentle rocking of the ship. We would say this is the calmest it has been in a few days. By the time Keith awoke, the outside temperature as a toasty 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Is this really summer?
As a result of the weather Keith has not been able to pay any Paddle Tennis. In fact, the gate has been locked and will likely stay that way at least until Greenland. This is largely due to not only how chilly and windy it can be but also due to moisture on the court which makes it slippery and of course dangerous to play. Hopefully before we get off the ship Keith will be able to play a game or two. If not, as they say there is next time.
We began our morning as we usually do. Some exercise for Keith at the Fitness Center. An early breakfast for us. Then a walk for Anne Marie and Indoor Cycling Class for Keith.
The only difference is that Keith taught the class. Keith has become a certified indoor cycling instructor at home and with supervision of the Fitness Center he taught today's class. Keith & Fitness Instructor Kyle went though a trial run of the playlist that Keith used for today's class which is one of many that Keith used back on land.
The good news is with Keith teaching it allowed one more guest to participate on a bike. All bikes were in-use. It was a fun class and Keith received good feedback from those in the class including his music selection.
Anne Marie took a couple of photos ten minutes before class started so not everyone was on their bikes.
The morning and afternoon featured several speakers and we watched all of them.
Expedition Lecturer Adam Lajeuness spoke about the history of the arctic. He spoke about the historic and exciting sea routes. He also discussed Canada's Arctic sovereignty and what it means and who is challenging it.
Contention began in 1985. American Navy sailed an ice breaker thru the Northwest Passage. They did this as they needed to get to Greenland and then Alaska very quickly. USA didn’t ask permission but just told them in advance and evidently the Canadian Press made a big issue of this creating an international incident. In a meeting between Ronald Reagan and the Prime Minister of Canada the Prime Minister pointed to a map and said this is owned by Canada. According to Canadian Government these waters are historical internal waters and they are Canadian and not international waters. The lecturer is from Canada. The United States position disagrees and thinks that the Northwest Passage outside the 12 miles coast line is an international sea with the international strait running through the Northwest Passage. They also believe that this is a critical path and no one country can control these straits.
Changing gears, next up was World Fairs Lecturer Bill Schneider who spoke about the secret to winning Presidential Elections.
In a nutshell Bill Schneider said the party out of power needs to figure out what the people want they are not getting today and try to offer that as an alternative. The key though is figuring out precisely what the people want and articulate it. He used several examples throughout his talk of what worked and what didn’t work in many of the recent elections. Often much of this comes down not to the issues but to the character, demeanor and persona of the candidate. This was the second talk given by Bill Schneider. He is very insightful and to us he is missed on CNN where he used to provide much added value to the discussion and he is one of those that you don’t know his political views.
We enjoyed lunch at the Lido Cafe.
Afterwards Expedition Lexturer Tom Smith spoke about the cold dark ocean and polar bear research. He told the story of the animal that lives in an impossible environment. This was a continuation of a story that he told yesterday.
In addition to the formal lectures three other programs were available from the expedition team. From 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM members of the expedition team were available in the Palm Court to keep an eye out for passing marine life. From 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM as he did the other day Captain Ken Burton was available in the Crystal Plaza with a display of artifacts, ephemera and copies of historically significant maps, charts and documents from the Vancouver Maritime Museum Collection. To close out the day, at 5:00 PM Tim Soper and members of the expedition team provided a recap of the day and a full briefing on our plans for Ulukhaktok of the Northwest Territories.
Brrrr…..Brrr…..Brrr…..It was cold and chilly this morning.
We wanted to begin with a few additional items from yesterday’s mandatory meeting.
As we mentioned, one of the items that was covered was about etiquette when we go ashore in the Canadian Northwest Villages. To expand upon that this includes how we interact with the locals. For example, as was the case in Nome we were advised don’t go up to people’s homes and look in the windows and take photos. Also, ask if it is OK to take a photo with a local before taking one. Since some are shy they may respond with a shake of the head or a nod of the head. Also, do not offer alcohol to the locals.
Locals will be coming on board Serenity to perform for the guests. This will not only give an opportunity for all guests to attend but for those guests who can’t or choose not to leave the ship it will give them an opportunity to see some of the locals.
The icebreaker, Ernest Shackleton that will be joining us has come over from Europe so they have come East to West as they meet up with us in the Northwest Passage. We saw some photos of the ice breaker including the storage area where we viewed of photo showing all of the water related equipment such as the zodiacs, kayaks and the speed boats. They also have the helicopters that will be used on tour and could also be used for medical and other related reasons.
Beyond the meeting we also want to comment on another area.
As we mentioned the other day lots of meetings have been held between members of Crystal Cruises, the Expedition Team and the locals. Because of the schedule of the locals (eg., hunting, fishing, etc.) some of these meetings were 11:00 PM sessions over coffee. The meetings served as a great opportunity to get feedback from the locals to exchange information and to make sure that our visit is done in a respectful manner. This type of planning often does not happen when prior vessels have visited these places. The locals mentioned that often expedition ships just show up with no advance warning and certainly no advance interaction with the locals.
What is clear to us from all we have learned since sailing on this epic and historical voyage is that the intent by Crystal Cruises which now involves all of us as guests is to leave the villages in a better place than we found them.
As to visits, some guests are signed up for more than one tour. An example might be someone taking a community visit and also kayaking later in the day.
Before dinner last evening we enjoyed a drink at the Avenue Saloon. We ended up speaking with another couple who was on our tour of Nome, Alaska.
We then had dinner with John Stoll, Vice President of Crystal Land Programs and Port Operations at the Prego Italian Specialty Restaurant. John is on board this entire voyage in the capacity of Project Manager. We had such as good time that we dined for close to three hours. John is part of our Crystal Family.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. This is what we had.
Appetizer: Cramy King Crabmeat Salad (Anne Marie) & Slow Poached Lobster Tail (Keith)
Salad: Caesar Salad (Anne Marie) and Keith's simple salad
Additional entree of Tuna (Keith) and Veal Scaloppino al Limone (Anne Marie)
Dessert: Fruit Plate ( Keith & Anne Marie) and Cheese and Crackers (Keith) which is a first.
Costa was our waiter and we took a photo of Anne Marie with Antonio who recently celebrated his 25th anniversary with Crystal Cruises.
The food was absolutely delicious. Service fantastic. Ambience terrific. And it was so very special to dine with John.
Last night the production show Curtain Call was performed. Curtain Call is the longest running production show on Crystal Cruises and we believe its been in production for fourteen years. It was performed two times at 8:30 and 10:30 PM.
The ship was relatively calm as we slept last night and continued to sail towards our first Northwest Passage stop.
Keith started the day as he usually does with a workout at the Fitness Center. When he made his way up to the Lido Café he was reminded that it is chilly outside. Some of the Lido Deck stewards were wearing windbreaker like jackets. It feels like winter time and it is sill summer. LOL.
After enjoying breakfast in our room, Anne Marie walked for an hour and followed this by Yoga. For one of the few days at sea there was no indoor cycle class.
Keith attended Rap With The Rabbi. Rabbi Morrie is on board with his lovely wife Geri. Rabbi Morrie is a favorite of many Crystal guests of all faiths and is a regular on World Cruises and also on the Holiday Cruise and also cruises that include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover. The Rabbi came up with the idea of Rap With The Rabbi several years ago. At each session he leads a discussion of one or more topics.
Since today was the first of four sessions scheduled for this voyage, rather than coming in with a set of topics the Rabbi asked those present to bring up topics that they wanted to see discussed. We ended up covering a wide range of topics.
The focus of today’s lectures was on the Northwest Passage;
Expedition Lecturer Tom Sharpe spoke about The Geology of Arctic Canada. He covered the Canadian Arctic exposed rock that extend back billions of years to our planets earlier days. We learned of other rocks that tell us that this area was once warm and made up of by tropical seas. He pointed out the evidence that is all around that tells the story about the great ice sheet that not only developed here but blanketed most of North America.
Expedition Lecturer Tom Smith spoke about the story of the Polar Bear. Speaking of Polar Bears when we land at each village there will be people assigned to different areas with guns to protect us in the unlikely encounter with a polar bear. On the hikes it is key to stay together and there will be more than one person with the appropriate gun. On the village tours it will be clearly marked where you can walk around and the boundaries marking the area you should stay inside. This is not an area you just walk around anywhere you want. This was reenforced by Tom when he said that bears can be anywhere. As he said, "who is watching who." Translation while we might be looking our for them they might be looking out for us. We posted one of many photos and video from his talk. This one is one of the largest bears he saw and estimated the weight to be between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds.
Expedition Lecturer Conrad Field spoke about the plants of the arctic. He shared with us what grows now and in the past.
Wrapping up the late afternoon, we had the opportunity to meet in the Galaxy Theatre at 5:00 PM to hear from Tim Soper and the expedition team for a recap of what we have seen and what we can expect to see. This was also broadcast live to all guest rooms and was also rebroadcasted from 6:00 PM to Midnight.
We have read where some have said that the best way to do this voyage is by expedition ship. For some this is undoubtedly the best way to go. As we have thought this through and have experienced a portion of this voyage ourselves we realize for us sailing on Serenity is a better alternative to an expedition ship. Why you ask? For us and we assume the majority of our fellow travelers we are able to immerse ourselves in the Northwest Passsage and have the benefit because of the size of Serenity to have on-board with us an incredible number and diverse set of speakers from so many different disciplines which would not be possible on a small expedition ship. These presenters are truly experts in their field and many have been recognized around the world for this. In addition, we can also enjoy the other benefits from sailing on Serenity from the enrichment such as the speakers who will address topics that are not Northwest Passage specific, to the other daytime activities (fitness, dance, iMovie/Compter/Bridge and other classes to all of the evening entertainment while enjoying wonderful cuisine and service that we love enjoy when we cruise. Choice is good. For us, this is what we prefer.
In between the lectures we enjoyed lunch at the Lido Café, exercised, spoke with fellow guests and crew, read, wrote and looked outside. In a reversal of roles, Keith also took one of the fitness directors though one of his playlists that he uses to teach indoor cycling at our community. More on this tomorrow.
This evening we will be dining at the Crystal Dining Room.
Keith & Anne Marie
Many articles have/are being written about this historic and epic voyage. This is a link to an article from local media. Keith participated in the interview.
We often say that we have a busy social schedule when we cruise. This combined with enjoying so many of the other pleasures of cruising is why we cruise. This includes cuisine, enrichment, entertainment, shore excursions, visits to new ports-of-call and revisiting places we've been before and the enjoyment of being with our fellow guests and the extraordinary crew. This is why we prefer cruising over other types of travel.
We had a lot of fun last night.
We began the evening attending a reception in Captain Birger's Quarters. He held two of these last evening and we are pretty sure that every guest will have an opportunity to attend a reception during this voyage.
Each guest was greeted by Captain Birger and Crystal Society Hostess Jaque Brown. Once inside there we were offered wine/spirits/soft drink/water and along with canapés. Several senior officers and senior staff were on hand. We always view this as a nice opportunity to talk with fellow guests and members of the crew. Towards the end of the reception Captain Birger welcomed everyone, shared some thoughts about this epic voyage and introduced officers and senior members of the crew who were in attendance.
When Captain Birger spoke he mentioned that we might see ice mid-day today. He said that two ice pilots are on board Serenity. He also mentioned that he, the Vice Captain and the first officer went to ice training this summer where they were in a simulator for six days. The instructor is one of the ice pilots who is on-board Serenity for this voyage.
We've included photos with Crystal Society Hostess Jaque and Captain Birger.
We enjoyed dinner in the Crystal Dining Room.
We began our meal with Tuna Tartare for Keith and a Shrimp Cocktail for Anne Marie. We each had Caesar Salads and Anne Marie had Barbecued Tiger Shrimp and Keith had Swordfish. Dessert was mixed berries for each of us.
The evening entertainment featured two performances by Comedy Ventriloquist Mark Merchant who just came on board along with a few other land based entertainers in Nome, Alaska. Mark has performed on Crystal Cruises ships for a very long time and is popular with many of the guests.
We attended the first performance and enjoyed the show. As usual Mark was very humorous. He used two different puppets and also had two guests (a married couple) participate in the show Bravo to Mark.
As usual we slept very well last evening.
Last night and into the morning it was significantly less windy than yesterday. We could not hear the howling of the winds. We are still moving at a fairly good clip. The early morning temperature was 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
We began our day as we normally do with Keith working out at the Fitness Center, breakfast in our room, an indoor cycling class for Keith and a one hour walk for Anne Marie. Anne Marie also attended Yoga.
Yesterday we received a card in our room noting that tomorrow we are to attend a Mandatory Arctic Briefing today at 11:00 at the Galaxy Theatre. Topics are to include: safety ashore, environmental regulations, procedures for Zodiac landings and more. It went on to say that attendance will be taken and those who have not attended will not be permitted to disembark Crystal Serenity until we reach Nuuk, Greenland.
Two sessions were held in the morning so there were no morning lectures. Sometimes a break is nice. There was a 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM session. We were assigned to the 11:00 AM session. Our room card was scanned as we entered the Galaxy Showroom.
The session covered lots of items and many people were involved in the talk. It was led by the expedition leader. Captain Birger spoke as well and showed a film that included several members of the crew covering several items related to going from the ship over to the zodiacs and going from the zodiacs to return to the ship.
Some of the items included:
Getting into and out of a Zodiac.
Etiquette while on land with respect to several items ranging from photography to not looking into homes to no alcohol and so forth.
How to dress and some of this will range depending on what type of activity someone has signed up for.
Details on the different tours including community visits, hikes, kayaking, speed boats and helicopter tours.
One of the people who spoke was a local person from Pond Inlet who is part of the expedition team.
It was very well organized. We will also be receiving additional written information that will be sent to each persons room.
The number one item that was stressed was clearly safety.
Following the talk we had lunch at the Lido Cafe. While at lunch we listened to Captain Birger's talk from the bridge. During the talk, Captain Birger said that later in the afternoon we would be passing by some ice. About an hour later, the Captain said that we would be seeing some ice several miles off the ship on the port side which we did.
We also decided to change out some tours for other ones so we stopped by the Shore Excursion Desk and they helped us with that.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exercising and also Keith met with dear friend Bob and Anne Marie spoke with some other guests.
In the afternoon there was a 1:30 PM lecture Expedition Lectures Adam Jaj spoke about the arctic in an age of climate change. He noted that the Arctic has undergone a radical environmental shift that has let to significant geopolitical, commercial, and social change. He also covered why the arctic will never be the same.
Late in the day, Tim Soper and the expedition team spoke about what we have seen so far and what we can expect in the coming days.
Looking forward to a fun night on board Serenity and our upcoming visits to the villages in the Northwest Village.
Keith & Anne Marie
Brrr….Brrrr….Brrrr…..When Captain Birger gave his daily talk from the bridge he reported that it was 37 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Most of the ship was comfortable except when we walked from the Lido Café through Tastes on the Lido Deck where it was cold.
In addition to posting the Crystal Dining Room dinner menu we have also posted today's Luncheon Menu and also the Prego Italian Specialty Restaurant menu.
We wanted to add a few additional comments and observations from yesterday’s visit to Nome.
A couple related to the infrastructure. On more than one occasion yesterday during the talks given by some of the locals they did have one concern about our visit. It was what impact there would be on their own cell phones if many of us used our cell telephones at once. As someone whose background is telecommunications, it’s not something I had thought about but a very interesting concern.
Most of the roads we traveled on are dirt roads as very few roads are paved. Yesterday was rainy so essentially we were traveling on mud and walking on mud as we got in and out of the bus.
For those who were wondering about annual snowfall in Nome we were total that average snowfall totals 40 inches per year. Our tour guide said that because of the wind it could snow and even if you shovel your car out it is not unusual to shovel out your car on three or four succeeding days because of snowdrift.
When Gay Sheffield spoke to us about sea life she was asked about the relationship with the neighbors from Russia. She noted a couple of times that officially the respective governments prevent most communication. She went onto say that because of social media including Face Book that they do communicate with their counterparts on issues such as their research to determine what was causing illnesses to seals and on the changes in the Sea Life in the area.
We began last evening with a pre-dinner drink at the Avenue Saloon. Afterwards, we saw Sarah Hayes at the Crystal Cove.
We enjoyed dinner at the Crystal Dining Room and we were joined for dinner by Jaque Brown. Jaque had been Crystal Society Hostess since 2009 and we have had the pleasure of sailing with her for many voyages starting in 2010. As Crystal Society Hostess she has many on-board responsibilities for those who have taken one or more voyages with Crystal Cruises in the past. This includes coordinating any special milestones that guests have achieved and following up on items related to this. For example, at certain milestone levels guests might have a special milestone dinner at a specialty restaurant, captain's quarters or even vintage room and Jaque coordinates the scheduling of this and all of the details. Likewise, when guest achieve certain milestones they might receive a Crystal Society Pin or even a shipboard credit and Jaque follows up on this. She is also available at her desk outside the Crystal Dining Room to meet with guests. She has plenty of other responsibilities even expanding to other areas such as taking visitors such as travel agents on tours of the ship.
We had a wonderful time with Jaque. Food was great and most importantly we had a great conversation with lots of laughs.
The main entertainment for the evening was a performance by Sarah Hayes which was appropriately called Swinging in the Stardust. It was held 7:00 and 8:30 PM. She was accompanied by The Galaxy Orchestra. Sarah first performed on Serenity as part of a big band cruise with one of the big bands. She impressed so many people that she was invited back to perform throughout World Cruise 2014. She teamed up with vocalist Jonathan Hawkins and they sometimes performed together and other times separately. They were such a hit that they both performed on World Cruise 2015 and World Cruise 2016. With this being such a special voyage they were both invited back to appear throughout this voyage. On land, Sarah has a busy schedule performing shows in New York City. Her performance last night was sensational as she sang songs from the big band era.
There was one downer from last night. We had to set the clocks forward by one hour. LOL, but we prefer to set them back not forward. LOL. We did sleep well but you could definitely hear the wind from outside. Shortly after Keith woke up and was working out at the Fitness Center the wind was even noisier. The good news is that the Serenity ship movement was not significant. Our speed was a little over 11 knots per hour. Ships movement did pick up by around 7:00 AM. There were times that one had the feeling they were in an airplane with turbulence.
We enjoyed our usual breakfast in our room and for the first time of this voyage we were able to watch the Daily Morning Show featuring Cruise Director Rick and Northwest Passage Hostess Stacey. On most sea days there is an indoor cycling class that conflicts with seeing the show live but that was not the case today. The show featured John Stoll, Vice President of Land Programs and Port Operations. John has been on-board as Project Manager. He has visited the Northwest Passage Multiple times as part of the planning effort. This included visiting with Captain Birger and some of the Expedition Leaders a few months ago and also traveling on a Russian Ice Cutter as part of the planning effort.
John noted that he has never experienced anything quite like Northwest Passage and that says a lot given his travels. He also talked about his meeting with the people of the community. He said they do welcome us and just ask that we are respectful of them and the community which makes perfect sense and that we leave the communities better than we found it. He said the meetings and visits were rewarding and there are several things being done so we do meet the goals that the locals have requested of us.
We were reminded that we have left the United States and sailing to Canada as we received a Canadian Immigration Form to fill out. It seems like we recently filled out a similar form. Well, we did when we sailed Serenity this past May from San Francisco to Vancouver. LOL.
As usual lots of activities were on the schedule and too numerous to list. We did want to highlight the lectures some of which we saw live and the others when they were rebroadcasted.
Expedition Lecturer Henry Pollack spoke about Ice Water & Climate. He spoke about changes taking place in the formation of ice given climate change. He covered how past ice ages extensive ice sheets spread over the northern continents resulting in the drop of sea levels allowing for human migration between continents and spoke about what might result from the changing climate and how it may effect the world we live in .
Expedition Lecturer Captain Ken Burton spoke about the Quest for the Northwest Passage by early European expeditions. He spoke about the challenges that these expedition vessels faced in an attempt to navigate this passage.
World Affairs Lecturer Bill Schneider spoke about the Rise of the New America. Many of you might remember him from his frequent appearances on CNN. We didn't realize he was a lecturer on this epic voyage until read the daily Reflections program last night.
When Cruise Director Rick introduced Bill Schneider he mentioned that although the major focus of the talks will come from the Expedition Team that we have some other lecturers covering other subject such as Mr. Schneider. Rick noted that we will have a General and an Astronaut. we have a closing quote from Bill at the end of this post. Bill Schneider did mention that he attended both national conventions and he has now attended nineteen of them.
There were also other opportunities to hear from the Expedition Team. As we've mentioned they have a hospitality desk that is manned during certain morning, afternoon and evening hours. They also had Naturalists available from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM in Palm Court. They were there to assist guests with their binoculars and to keep an eye out for passing marine life and to view the Diomede Islands as Serenity passed them. Palm Court has those large bay windows allowing for stunning views.
Late afternoon Captain Ken Burton was on hand so guests could view items from the Vancouver Maritime Museum Collection related to the Northwest Passage.
Photos of Henry Pollack and Bill Schneider.
Bill Schneider used this quote when asked who will win the 2016 Presidential Election. You could apply it to most items including what will the weather by like at each place we visit in the Northwest Passage.
"Never make predictions, particularly about the future." – Yogi Berra
Keith & Anne Marie