Crystal Serenity stops in Nome en route to New York City
The luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity made landfall in Nome on Sunday, after its maiden voyage through the Northwest Passage last summer was successful and Crystal Cruises decided on an encore voyage that followed last year’s itinerary from Anchorage to New York City via the Northwest Passage. The Crystal Serenity left Seward on August 15 and arrived via Kodiak and Dutch Harbor in Nome on Sunday, August 20. Saturday’s grey clouds parted and Nome greeted the cruise passengers on Sunday morning with blue skies and blazing sunshine. According to Robin Johnson with Northern Logistics, the company that organized the land and air tours for the cruise visitors in Nome, said that 750 passengers got off the ship to participate in a total of 850 tours. “Some guests made two tours, one hiking and a helicopter trip, for example,” Johnson explained. The guests were offered a menu of tours they could book: helicopter sightseeing, a tour to Shishmaref, Providenja, to the Midnightsun Reindeer Ranch at Banner Creek, a birding trip to Safety, a Tundra Wildlife tour, hiking tours or a complimentary Nome Tour that included a stop at the National Park Service, at a gold panning demonstration on East End Park, a sled dog presentation and musk ox viewing as well as free time in Nome and at the Nome Berry Festival, at Anvil City Square. The influx of 750 guest plus crew members boosted Nome’s population for one day and created an atmosphere of excitement in Nome, as it is rather the exception than the daily routine to have that many tourists in Nome at once. To coincide with the arrival of the ship, Nomeites Angela Hansen and Sarah Hofstetter in cooperation with Kawerak Inc. had organized a Berry Festival that offered tables for artists to sell their craft, and showcased Nome’s musicians on stage at Anvil City Square. Kawerak encouraged vendors from outlying villages to come to Nome to sell their arts and paid for their airfare and lodging. Kawerak also covered the $20 for table costs for each vendor. Last year, drizzling weather chased the festival participants inside the Mini Convention Center, however, this Sunday, the weather showed its friendlier side and allowed for the event to take place in Nome’s community space at Anvil City Square. Tour organizer Robin Johnson said that Captain Birger Vorland commented that visitors last year considered Nome to have been the highlight of the trip. “And he said, this year was even better,” Johnson said. In order to get ready for the influx of the visitors, Northern Logistics, which is owned by Dave Karp, Robin Johnson and Phil Okeson and which also owns Nome Discovery Tours, planned for six months the logistics of offering itineraries for the different tour packages. Johnson said they rented seven full-sized school busses, eight vans, and hired 35 local people for the day to work as tour guides, bus drivers or running shuttles between the harbor and the airport. Since nobody is a professional tour guide here in Nome, these jobs were filled by Nomeites, who are teachers, pilots, retirees or other professionals in their day jobs. “It always amazes me how Nome and the community steps up when its needed,” said Johnson. She added that in casual conversation with Berry Festival vendors, one vendor said she made three times as much as last year. Crafts table organizer Angela Hansen said there were 35 vendors, including seven from Shishmaref, Brevig Mission and Gambell. “The sales were excellent,” said Hansen, who also ran her own table with her artwork. “I made more than double than last year.” She said the weather contributed to the success. “The outdoor atmosphere was so enjoyable. I think visitors and Nomeites really enjoyed the mix of food and music and arts, it was just wonderful,” Hansen said. She added that this was the busiest craft show she’s ever been in. While this year’s economic impact of the ship has not been tallied yet, Johnson said last year, sales taxes paid to the city were $11,000 for services associated with the Crystal Serenity visit to town. When the passengers climbed back onto the tenders that brought them back to the Crystal Serenity, anchored in Nome’s roadstead, a Nome made a lasting impression on the guests for one day. “I hear so many times that people comment on how nice they were treated here, how nice people are just on the street,” Johnson said. “We got nothing but smiles from our visitors.” The Crystal Serenity’s next visit to Nome is scheduled for the summer of 2019.