The Northwest Passage Cruise is officially over. It has far exceeded our expectations and we have made memories which will last a lifetime.
We sailed from Seward, Alaska to New York City, New York. Total distance was 7,656 nautical miles or 8,805 land miles. This does not include the miles we sailed on the previous voyage from Vancouver, Canada to Seward, Alaska.
This journey has been truly amazing and far exceeded our expectations. Keith took part in several media interviews during this voyage including print, radio and television. Several questions were similar across all the interviews. One of them was why did you want to sail this voyage. My answer is that you can read books and articles on the Northwest Passage, watch specials shown on television but there is something very special about seeing things through your own very eyes and this is an example of that. As much research as we did, we saw so much more through our own eyes and we learned so much through the one-on-one interactions we had with the Inuit people and with the expedition team and from all of those lectures that were given on the ship. To sail and to walk on land where so few people have ever gone was an experience that we will remember for the rest of our lives.
We cannot say enough about the planning that went into this cruise by Crystal Cruises as well as the execution of all of the plans. Crystal Cruises was able to take a Cruise Line Ship and create a true expedition environment yet also offer amenities that you would not find on an expedition ship. The way they utilized the zodiacs and were able to get passenger’s on and off the ship in both a safe, orderly and efficient manner is amazing. On our visit to the first Northwest Village if you count the number of times that someone use a zodiac to visit Ulukhaktok there were over 1,000 round trip visits that day. Everything was like clockwork but done the Crystal way with so many crew in place to make this an easy process even for those who needed extra hands and assistance to get them in and out of zodiacs. At the same time there were some people who were unable to get off the ship in those ports and they were able to enjoy nice views from the ship with the assistance of the camera that was set up to show views on each stateroom television and on large monitors that were installed in the Palm Court public room and we also able to utilize the high powered binoculars and telescopes plus binoculars that were placed in each persons room. There was also scenery to just enjoy from the ship without the use of any of these devices and there was the opportunity to meet the Inuit people who came on board the ship including those who performed on board. Already there is talk about expanding this for next year.
We were blessed with excellent weather. We were fortunate that in port it didn’t rain and when it snowed it either took place before our arrival such as in Cambridge Bay or when we were at sea. The only place that there was any type of impact was with all of the ice that prevented many tours from running in one of the ports in Greenland. At the same time it did provide some wonderful views from the ship as we’ve never seen so much ice at any one time.
We’ve been asked to compare our experience on this voyage with a voyage of South America that includes Antarctica. We have sailed South America several times but only off Antarctica one time. Overall, we enjoyed this voyage a great deal more and that is because sailing off of Antarctica takes place over two to three days whereas this voyage involved so many more days in the actual Northwest Passage and provided lots more scenery and the scenery changed from day to day and this voyage provided the opportunity for us to get off the ship and land by zodiac. At the same time while we sailed off Antarctica it was one of our top experiences at sea and we felt that we were on another planet. Sometimes I felt that we were in heaven. Both are wonderful experiences but for us the Northwest Passage voyage was in total our most unique sailing ever. For different reasons we would say that this voyage along with sailing the Middle East portion on World Cruise 2010 are the two most unique voyages we were have sailed as in 2010 we stopped at various ports of calls that for the time-being cruise ships are not visiting and we had the opportunity to see those places through our own eyes.
The Northwest Voyage has truly been a cruise of a lifetime and what we and many say has been an epic and historical cruise. I do think that in spite of the controversies about a cruise ship the size of Serenity sailing this area of the world there were lots of benefits to this. It has provided attention to this area of the world. It has provided some financial assistance to the Inuit people. It has set the bar when it comes to safety and planning that other cruise lines should follow should they undertake this sailing. Finally, it has allowed for a discussion to take place about global warming. Regardless of what the cause (man-made or a change in weather) it has allowed there to be more of an awareness and a discussion that there is global warming because it was not many years ago that a cruise ship of the size of Serenity could not sail the Northwest Passage. We could see first hand the effects of Global Warming and that includes the size of Glacier Bay which we saw on the first of the two voyages which looked quite a lot smaller to us than only four years earlier.
We believe that one of the benefits of travel is discovery and we certainly have learned so very much from this amazing voyage.
We wanted to begin with a photo that was taken of Serenity as we were making our way to New York City. If you look closely you could actually see us. LOL, but yes we are on the bow.
Some photos from our verandah of Intrepid plus the New York City Skyline.
We decided to have our last dinner in our room. We have done this the last couple of years. We find that it's very relaxing.
We had salads and pizza. We didn't make it a movie night but we enjoyed some news, spoke with our children and enjoyed the views from our ship.
Rao, who has been our butler the last several years returned to Serenity yesterday to begin work today. We were happy to get a chance to see him.
We slept well even though there was no gentle rocking of the ship. After all the walking we did we were tired by the time we went to sleep. It was relatively quiet outside as well given where we are docked. Our routine this morning was unlike the other day. No early visit to the Fitness Center by Keith. We had an early breakfast to allow for us to freshen up and to put last minute items in our carry on luggage. We thanked butler Jijo for all he has done during our 42 days on board Serenity.
As JiJo was setting the table for breakfast, we saw the Carnival Cruise Ship Sunshine arrive. The sun was not shining but there was a full moon above the ship.
We arranged for a private car with the Crystal Cruises Concierge. Although you pay a little more than you would on your own it just makes it very orderly to get off the ship. It can be a challenge to find your private car if you make arrangements on your own given port security and even getting a taxi can be a challenge with two ships in ports as was the case today.
As is customarily done we received a letter from the concierges the other day noting that our car would be ready at 9:00 AM and asking that we arrive to the Crystal Cove just opposite the concierge desk at 8:45 AM. The letter noted that once the car was in close proximity of the cruise ship terminal for pickup the concierge would meet us at the Crystal Cove.
While we were waiting at the Crystal Cove several members from the ship and from Los Angeles stopped by to say hello. This included Douglas Scott, entertainment manager who is involved with the booking of entertainers and lecturers, Keith Cox, Vice President of Entertainment, and Christian Sauleau, Senior Vice President of Operations and Guest Satisfaction and Hotel Director Hubert, Head Waiter Augusto and a few other members of the Serenity Crew.
As has been our experience doing this the last few cruises everything worked like clockwork. We waited in the Crystal Cove, and once the car was ready the Concierge came to assist us off the ship.
This one was a bit more complicated given the distances involved and the process. The Chief Concierge, Ervin who just returned from Holiday met us at the Crystal Cove and walked us through the process. He walked us all the way to the terminal building. From there we were met by one of the officers who took us to where the luggage was waiting. Once we identified three of the six pieces he got a porter for us. Once we had all the pieces he walked with us and once we got near customs Concierge Hayley was there. She stood with us until we got to customs and waited for us on the other side. As Keith handed the Customs Official our Passports he realized he had the tip for the porter in the same hand and thought to himself oops. The Customs Official said jokingly "I don't accept tips." He was very friendly and said how was the Panama Canal Cruise? We laughed. Once though customs we walked with Hayley and the porter to Luggage Concierge where we hand dover four of the six pieces we are sending home and then we walked with them until we got outside the terminal area. We hugged Hayley and then were then escorted with two other couples across the street to where lots of private vehicles were waiting and then the escort with the help of the porter found our car. Let us say that often people criticize porters but this porter was a gem. He really worked hard and he did not leave until he put not only our luggage in the trunk but our carry ons in the vehicle.
We were driven to our hotel. We are staying at the Casablanca Hotel. This is our first time staying there although we have stayed at a sister property a few other times called Hotel Elysee. These hotels are part of the Library Hotel Collection group of hotels which consists of seven hotels located in New York City (4 properties), Prague, Budapest and Toronto. A friend stayed at the Casablanca Hotel and recommended it.
We arrived at 9:45 AM and had coffee and water in their club lounge and the good news is by 10:00 AM our room was ready.
Once settled we went out on the first of a couple of walks. We walked to where we will be meeting someone for lunch tomorrow to get a sense of location, checked out where will will eat this evening and also stopped off to pick up some salad to bring back to the room.
When we are in London sometimes we will get take out salad to bring back to the room at Pret A Manger who has lots of locations around London. We knew before our trip that they also have several locations in New York City so we went to one of them on our way back to the hotel.
After having lunch we went out for several hours and walked to several areas including Fifth Avenue and Central Park. The weather was terrific. We could not get over the crowds wherever we walked. Of course this is New York City; the city that never sleeps.
All in all it's been a wonderful day.
Keith & Anne Marie