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Luxury cruises to sail above the Arctic Circle and cross the Northeast Passage

Luxury cruises to sail above the Arctic Circle and cross the Northeast Passage
Artist's rendering of Crystal Endeavor, which will launch in 2020. (Crystal Cruises)

The discovery of Arctic maritime routes that would carry ships westward from the Atlantic to the Pacific, or eastward from Alaska to the coasts of Norway and Russia, took centuries of perilous exploration. Today's adventurers can sail above the Arctic Circle in the plush confines of luxury ships.

For the first time, Silversea Cruises will embark on a 25-night Northeast Passage cruise from Nome, Alaska, to Tromso, Norway, on Aug. 10. It's a pricey voyage, with rates beginning at $48,000 per person, double occupancy. Economy airfare is included.

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The cruise will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Silversea's expedition arm and will visit Russia in addition to Alaska and Norway, with port stops at Wrangel Island, a UNESCO site known for its walruses and polar bears; the Russian city of Murmansk; and coastal villages.

Another chance to explore frigid Arctic waters will occur in 2021 when Crystal Cruises’ new expedition ship Crystal Endeavor sails the Northeast Passage. The line made history in 2016 when Crystal Serenity became the largest passenger ship to sail through the Arctic Archipelago during a 32-night Northwest Passage cruise.

The upcoming Northeast Passage cruise is one of many off-the-beaten-path itineraries that will be offered on Crystal Endeavor.

The ship, scheduled to launch in 2020, will begin its 28-night Northeast Passage cruise on Aug. 18, 2021, from Anadyr, Russia. It will visit several remote islands, archipelagos and coastlines before concluding in Tromso, Norway, on Sept. 15.

Bookings for the cruise begin March 13.

Why is the trip a big deal? “Because until very recently (the 1990s), the only ships that made this journey were specialized vessels that made the trek through the Northeast Passage during a very limited window and with very specialized ice-breaking capabilities. So unless one happened to stow away in a shipping container bound for the Arctic, this extremely remote region remained unexplored by travelers,” the Crystal Insider blog said.

The ship will sail through the East Siberian, White, Barents and Laptev seas during its journey. Highlights include Wrangel Island; the former Russian military watch point of Franz Josef Land; Severnaya Zemlya, the last charted archipelago on Earth; and Cape Chelyuskin on the Taymyr Peninsula.

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