Brave The Northwest Passage in Luxury Vessels Designed To Sail Polar Waters

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Story by Aaron Saunders, Postmedia News April 20, 2011
Hapag-Lloyd's MS Bremen cruises the Northwest Passage,

The MS Bremen, courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Even among cruise destinations known for their unique and obscure ports of call, this one is guaranteed to turn heads: the Northwest Passage.

Convinced of its value as a shipping route, the list of those who tried – and failed – to conqueror this waterway on behalf of their country is legendary: John Ross, Sir William Parry, George Back, Sir Robert McClure, John Rae and perhaps most famous of all, Sir John Franklin.

It was Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen who finally discovered the fabled passage in 1906. Despite his discovery, it was far from the open waterway many nations fantasized about.

Choked with ice for much of the year, the route opens briefly during the summer months.

Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, a leader in five-star expedition and ultra-luxury cruising, has been taking advantage of this small window for the past few years by operating extremely rare Northwest Passage cruises -a decision which has proved to be very successful.

This year, the line will operate a full transit of the Northwest Passage aboard the 365-foot long, ice-strengthened MS Bremen. She was specifically designed to sail these notorious waters, and boasts the highest ice class safety rating available to a passenger ship. A four-star expedition vessel, the Bremen is as much a working ship as she is a floating palace.

On-board, passengers have access to multiple lounges, a library, an expansive dining room, a spa, and even a sun deck complete with a swimming pool. Each and every public room boasts plenty of windows to ensure you never miss the passing scenery. Twelve Zodiac rafts are also located on-board, and allow for passengers to be put ashore in some of the most remote areas of the World.

The itinerary includes stops at notable places like Beechy Island. This remote, barren blip in the middle of nowhere played host to one of exploration’s greatest disasters: the Franklin Expedition. Sir John Franklin and the men of his ships HMS Erebus and Terror wintered here in 1845-46, and it was on this desolate island that the first of his men succumbed to illness.

Although this year’s transit is sold out, cruisers wanting to take this incredible voyage would do well to start planning now for the next one in August, 2012. Full itinerary and pricing information will be available later this month from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Visit www.fromthedeckchair.com for more cruise information, including voyage reports, phototours and daily news.

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The Cruise People Ltd in London have been booking guests through the Northwest Passage every summer for the past few years. For further details on the 2012 voyage please call Gay Scruton on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk