Luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity to arrive in Nome on Sunday
On Sunday, Nome can expect to see a sharp rise in population for the day as 1,064 passengers will disembark from the luxury cruise liner Crystal Serenity.
This will mark the first time that a cruise ship of mega-proportions will anchor in the Nome roadstead. The cruise ship with over 1,000 passengers and a crew of 565 onboard left Seward on Tuesday, August 16, where it began its unprecedented 32-day journey through the Northwest Passage with the final destination of New York City.
The ship will make land fall in Kodiak and Dutch Harbor before arriving on Sunday morning in Nome.
From here, it will continue through the Bering Strait and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas to its next landfall at Ulukhaktok, in the Northwest Territories of Canada, going on to Nunavut, then making three stops in Greenland, before arriving in Boston, Newport and finally New York City on Sept. 16.
The ambitious and unprecedented sailing journey for a ship that size has made headlines not only in the Nome Nugget but also in nationwide publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
According to Crystal Cruises’ Vice President of Land Programs John Stoll, the journey has been three years in the planning. He said in an interview with the Nugget that his team poured over documents going back 20 years of sea ice data collected by the National Snow and Ice Data Center to determine whether it is feasible to cross the Northwest Passage. “After an intense investigation we determined that it is feasible, but it still is a challenge and it is still not common,” Stoll said. Smaller cruise ships with 250 to 300 passengers onboard have done it in the past.
Stoll added that Crystal Cruises hired RRS Ernest Shackleton, a British Antarctic Survey icebreaker, as a support and extra supply vessel. In addition to being the backup plan to bust the cruise liner out of icy situations, if need be, the icebreaker will carry extra supplies, two helicopters and also will take on gray water and trash as the luxury liner traverses the Arctic.
Stoll said that the clientele of Crystal Cruises are sophisticated world travelers who have seen many destinations and are eager to experience the adventures of northern countries.
So, what does Nome need to brace for when more than 1,000 world travelers descend on Nome?
Not to worry, said Stoll, they won’t be all in Nome at the same time. “We don’t want to overwhelm the community,” he said. As soon as the ship drops its anchor somewhere in front of Nome – its draft is too deep to dock at one of the Port of Nome’s docking cells — tender boats will begin shuttling guests from the ship to Nome so that there won’t be more than 250 guests on the ground at once. Come Friday and Saturday, said Harbormaster Lucas Stotts, Nomeites will see some changes at the harbor as the parking lot in front of the floating docks will be blocked off on Sunday to allow busses for cruise guests only. Also, the inner sections of the two floating docks will be reserved for the cruise ship’s tender vessels as cruise guests will be shuttled back and forth to the Crystal Serenity.
In preparation for the Nome visit, Crystal Cruises hired Nome Discovery Tours to flesh out day tours. In addition to a community tour, which takes cruise passengers around town and to a gold panning and a dog mushing demonstration, there are several tours offered.
Nome Discover Tour operations manager Robin Johnson said they organized a two-hour tundra wildlife adventure tour; a four-hour birding tour to Safety; an Anvil Mountain Hike; chartered one-hour helicopter flights over Nome; two and a half hour helicopter flights around the region; a visit to the Midnight Sun Reindeer Ranch; a fixed wing tour to Shishmaref; and three guests even signed up for a day trip to Provideniya, Russia.
Johnson said, just on her end, she hired 25 local guides to help with the tours.
Coinciding with the Serenity’s arrival is the Nome Berry Festival. “We planned it to give the community the opportunity to interact with the cruise guests and offer the guests the chance to meet the locals,” said Johnson. Sarah Hanson Hofstetter and Angela Hansen organized the event that will feature local artists selling their crafts, music performances and two performances by the King Island Dancers and the Nome St. Lawrence Island dance group. If the weather holds, the event will take place at Anvil City Square, if it is raining, it will be moved to the Mini Convention Center. Kawerak, Inc. has agreed to cover the cost of all vendor tables and even offers financial assistance to artists from surrounding communities for travel and lodging in Nome.
According to Johnson, Nome Mayor Richard Beneville will hold a welcoming address at Anvil City Square and at 5:45 p.m., the captain of the Crystal Serenity will receive the ceremonial key to the city as a symbolic honor of being an esteemed guest to the community.
At 6 p.m., there will be a Polar Bear Swim organized by the Nome Rotary Club and according to Johnson, Crystal Cruises is going to present the Rotary Club with a donation, matched by Nome Discovery Tours.
Stoll said he is very excited about the land tours in Nome.
He described the guests as upscale and that they are well-traveled and interested in learning how we live here in Nome, at the edge of the Bering Sea. “They are interested in your lives and in authenticity,” Stoll said.
Nome and the region are yet unspoiled from mass tourism, so authenticity is what the visitors will get.