Nunavut cruise ship passenger numbers could hold steady despite absence of 1,000-guest Crystal Serenity

by Derek Neary- July 10, 2018

Even without the Crystal Serenity, which won’t sail through the Northwest Passage again this summer, there’s potential for the number of Nunavut cruise ship passenger to reach near record highs.

The cruise ship Crystal Serenity makes a stop in Pond Inlet in September 2017. The Serenity, with close to 1,000 passengers, called upon Nunavut the last two years but will not return this summer.
photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

If all of the cruises booked for this summer sell out, the total number of passengers would reach 4,946, according to the Department of Economic Development and Transportation (ED&T). That compares to a maximum capacity of 4,972 passengers last year.

Regardless, the planned 70 total community visits will easily set an all-time high – 59 in 2016 was the previous best – and the 25 voyages this summer will match the previous record from 2016.

This year’s community visits will take place between July 30 and Sept. 17.

Without the Serenity, the Norwegian-based MV Fram, carrying 500 tourists, will be the vessel with the most passengers. However, multiple voyages by several of the 11 cruise ships sailing in the Arctic this year make up for the absence of the Serenity, which only had close to 600 people on board last year, leaving many empty cabins, unlike the maiden Arctic voyage in 2016, which was full.

“The company has not announced any new itineraries into this region at this time,” stated Joanne Lee, a public relations specialist with Crystal Cruises, owner of the Serenity.

However, Kevin Kelly, CEO of Travel Nunavut, and Sebastian Charge, manager of tourism development with ED&T both said they expect to see Crystal Cruises back in Nunavut in the future, although not likely with the hulking Serenity.

Charge said Crystal Cruises is building a smaller-scale expedition ship that will probably be used in the Arctic in the coming years.

Overall, cruise ship passenger numbers have been trending upwards over the past several years.

“There’s growth but we’re not looking at explosive growth or anything,” said Charge. “It’s a very niche market.”

Kelly credited Destination Nunavut for its work promoting the territory.

“It’s great to see more visits happening,” he said.

Inuit trainees on board

Charge noted that the 11 participants in the Government of Nunavut’s pilot Inuit cruise training initiative – previously known as the cruise ship boot camp – will be working aboard cruise ships this summer. They will then finish the second phase of the training, which will consist of subject matter such as Nunavut history, tour guide training, Zodiac guide training, cultural sensitivity training, wildlife identification and polar bear guard training.

ED&T has also started helping communities capitalize on visiting vessels through cruise preparedness workshops. Those workshops were held in Gjoa Haven and Pond Inlet last year. Another is scheduled in Clyde River on July 24-25.

“It involves basically everyone in the community from artists to tour guides to hamlet officials – selecting price points, dealing with contracts how to issue payment effectively for the artists, that kind of thing,” Charge explained.

Fine tuning in Gjoa Haven

Gjoa Haven will welcome five different cruise ships making seven stops this summer, some of them during the Umiyaqtutt Festival, Aug. 25-Sept. 3. Close to 2,100 tourists are expected, said economic development officer Bob Cheetham.

“It’s going to be busy this year,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Things generally went well last summer, with plenty of positive comments from visitors, Cheetham said. Even so, there will be more tour guides in place this year and those guides will be wearing more identifiable clothing, he said.

He added that a short road is also being built to provide more direct access to the local health centre, should a passenger need medical attention.

“That just makes it that much better for overall safety and emergency response,” he said.

Fact file
Nunavut cruise ship traffic in 2018
– 10 operators
– 11 unique vessels
– 24 total voyages
– 13 unique communities (Arctic Bay, Cambridge Bay, Cape Dorset, Clyde River, Gjoa Haven, Grise Fiord, Iqaluit, Kimmirut, Kugluktuk, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq and Resolute)
– 70 total community visits planned
Source: Department of Economic Development and Transportation

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