North west passage
We have recently returned from the inaugural north west passage cruise on Crystal Serenity. We booked this two years ago but still had to go on a wait list as it had sold out within days of going on sale. After paying a $500 refundable deposit we heard about three months later that we had been allocated a "pure " cabin but had no choice in choosing our cabin. The cruise was very expensive and this cabin was dearer than we had wanted but we really wanted to go on the cruise, especially as I would celebrate a special birthday whilst on board. Crystal picked us up at Anchorage airport, having booked our own flights, and took us by coach to pick up the ship in Seward a 100 miles away. This was included and was very well organised with coaches running every hour picking up passengers arriving from multiple destinations. There was an air of excitement and anticipation as we arrived on the ship. We had previously sailed on Serenity so knew what to expect from the ship. The cabins are on the small side for a luxury ship but there is plenty of storage space which we needed for all our cold weather clothing. All passengers were provided with parkas with fur trimmed hoods that we certainly needed but were very effective. All the staff were very courteous and worked hard to look after the passengers. The food in the main restaurant was excellent and they would make any dish with 24 hours notice. The speciality restaurants Prego and Silk Road were the places to go and eat with friends and for a special night. Both the ambiance and the food were outstanding with our favourite being Prego. The entertainment was of a high standard with production shows and a variety of individual performers being flown in and out of very inaccessible places. Our favourite entertainment was going to see Perry Grant who played the piano, sang and encouraged audience participation for 3 hours every evening in the Avenue Saloon. I believe Crystal have signed him up for the next World cruise as he was so popular with guests. As the first cruise ship to go through the North West Passage we were very excited. HMS Shackleton sailed in front of us as an ice breaker and carried all the "toys" - kayaks, helicopters, zodiacs and a fast boat. Visiting Inuit communities was fascinating with the people being so welcoming and delightfully nieve. The highlight of the cruise was seeing polar bears on ice flows. Going out on zodiacs to see the bears was so well organised. There was even a zodiac coming around with hot chocolate drinks. For passengers unable to go in the zodiacs there were large TV screens set up in the viewing lounge so everyone could see the polar bears and spectacular icebergs. Another highlight was seeing the Northern Lights when we near Greenland. Crystal did a magnificent job of research and planning this cruise. Moving 900 passengers ashore in zodiacs is no easy feat but they managed it with very few issues. Also they had done appropriate work with all the Inuit communities we visited.
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