Saturday 14 February 2009

Go North, everyone! Arctic cruising is all the rage.

By Teresa Earle for Canada Tourist Commission

This summer, record numbers of intrepid travellers are boarding ships headed north of the Arctic Circle. Cruise North is leading the charge.

The North is hot—and I’m not talking about global warming. Arctic eco-tourism is all the rage, with a record number of cruise ships calling into ports north of the Arctic Circle this summer. Much of this traffic is bound for Nunavut Territory and northern Quebec, bringing curious visitors to high-Arctic outposts with tongue-twister names like Auyuittuq, Pangnirtung, Kuujjuaq and Akpotak Island, plus the enduringly-named Resolute.

Riding this new wave of Arctic cruising is Cruise North Expeditions, a Toronto, ON-based company owned by the Inuit of Northern Quebec (Nunavik). Once the exclusive domain of the wealthy, today touring the Canadian Arctic by ship is comfortable, affordable and geared to outgoing, inquisitive travellers.

Cruise North’s president, Dugald Wells, sums it up nicely, calling his brand of ship-based exploration the “anti-cruise.” Passengers care far more about birds than bikinis, and their idea of a good time is photographing beluga whales at 3 am.

Could this trend spell the end of the boozy, hedonistic Caribbean cruise? Not likely. But for some intrepid adventurers, there’s clearly more to cruising than the cruise. Hmmm, let’s see… should I explore fragile Arctic ecosystems and learn about Inuit culture aboard a 122-passenger expedition vessel, or should I sign up for another tour of duty-free shopping and Vegas-style entertainment on a 2,000-passenger “fun ship”? Exactly.

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