Next summer, after being closed for a long time, two famous routes will be opened again at the two far ends of USA, in Alaska and in Florida. Crystal Serenity, a Crystal Cruises‘ passenger ship, will leave with 1,700 people from Seward (Alaska) next August. It will cruise through the mythical Northwest passage, between Alaska and Greenland, headed to New York. Just before, in May, Adonia, a Carnival’s ship, will leave from Miami to Havana; it will give 700 passengers the possibility to circumnavigate Cuba in a week.
Both routes will be opened thanks to the “thawing”, physical in one case, political in the other, and they both plant some technical problems shipping companies have decided to solve through the expected large profits. They will be in fact very expensive (about 20,000 dollars for the Northwest passage, about 2,000 dollars for the one-week cruise to Cuba). However, American tourists (and not just them) seem to be ready to pay a lot in order to explore the “new” two routes.
In the case of Cuba, the cold lasted almost 60 years but it is melting little by little. Carnival had to face two important problems to organize the cruises in Cuba: first of all, harbours, not able to host big ships and not comparable to usual ship cruise stopovers.
Secondly, authorities have allowed only cultural travels: so, Carnival was obliged not only to find a ship small enough but even some Castilian teachers, Cuban films and music and typical restaurant menus in order to transform the travel into a full learning experience. The company has dedicated an entire brand to the cultural exchange, called Fathom, whose programme doesn’t include (because it can’t) piña colada on the beach but a series of specific cultural activities.
For the moment, the travel is not allowed to all native people of Cuba who changed their citizenship, which excludes a good portion of Miami’s people. The target market is large anyway and Carnival is very optimistic.
The Northwest passage involves some other problems. It’s a difficult and dangerous passage, as proved by numerous accidents: Franklin expedition, in 1847, turned into a tragedy for its 150 crew members, while, in 1850, the sailors of McClure expedition got stuck in the ice for 3 years and only in 1906 Roald Amundsen was successful in completing the passage. Since then, the melting of the Arctic cap has made the passage easier and lots of small boats pass through it every year.
Moreover, authorities are very worried about the potential damages ships can provoke to nature more than the other way round…. In order to sail between Alaska and Greenland, ships will have to suspend all loads in the sea, use a special fuel and be followed by some ships equipped to remove fuel leaks. Some long meetings are taking place in order to define emergency plans and the specific tasks of Canadian and American Coastguard (in 2010 they saved 200 passengers from a sinking ship after it shoaled). Finally, one of the main worries concerns the number of passengers: tourists will outnumber the local population and their cohabitation might turn out to be far from easy.