Published on : Friday, January 12, 2018
For centuries, ambitious mariners aiming to travel the Arctic Circle experienced little more than disappointment and even death as well.
But diminishing sea ice and more temperate weather have made travelling through polar waters a vacation more than an exploration.
Nordic countries and Greenland have led the Arctic tourism charge.
While in 1990, only 7,952 cruise passengers passed through Iceland, by 2016, a quarter of a million were visiting the country yearly. The Russian Arctic also saw a 20 percent rise in visitors last year, with Chinese tourists comprising the largest numbers.
But experts warn that the increasing traffic brings the chance of a catastrophe such as an oil spill or a sewage leak that would damage the pristine polar environment.
The Arctic is prone to severe and changing weather conditions that complicate travel and endanger seafarers. The high latitude also disrupts maritime navigational and communication systems. If there’s an oil spill, a crash or a machinery malfunction, the region’s remoteness would make an efficient emergency response nearly impossible.
Maximum numbers of Arctic voyages have involved minimalist research vessels. But guests hopping aboard Arctic Circle-bound ships expect a first-class experience along with elegant menus, comfortable rooms and additional activities such as diving or kayaking during a cruise. Hence, the cruising industry may consider bigger and bigger ships to accommodate rising demand and making cruises more profitable.
In 2016, Crystal Cruises’ hulking 13-story cruise liner Serenity traversed the Northwest Passage. Besides 600 crew members, the ship carried 900 guests who dined in its luxurious restaurant and observed glaciers from private verandas.
These ships must withstand the gruelling conditions that once made the Arctic the planet’s most daunting maritime challenge.
Tags: Arctic Tourism