The 4,028gt/1995 built British Antarctic Survey research vessel Ernest Shackleton will escort the 68,870gt/2003 built Crystal Serenity from anchorage, Alaska, through the Northwest Passage to New York in summer 2016. The cruise ship will be the first vessel of her type to make such a voyage. Internationally there has been heightened concern over a rise in polar tourism, due to the increase in large cruise vessels with no ice-class strengthening sailing in remote waters with a high risk of ice. The Polar Code, which will soon come into force, will create some of these changes, but will not affect the issue of how thousands of passengers could be rescued if there was a significant casualty in a remote location.
The Crystal Serenity has no ice-class notation but the company has chartered the 4,028gt/1995 built Ernest Shackleton as an escort, to carry additional provisions including arctic safety and environmental protection equipment, for the voyage. The Master and crew of both ships, and the ice navigators that will be on board both vessels, will be given additional training at the ice navigation simulators at the Memorial University of St. John’s in Newfoundland. In conjunction with the announcement, Crystal Cruises’ parent company, Genting Hong Kong, also said it will be ordering three new ice-classed cruise vessels for delivery in 2018.