First look: Inside Silversea Cruises' revamped Silver Cloud
Another cruise company is planning a voyage through the Northeast Passage — the little-traveled Arctic sea route across the top of Russia.
Silversea Expeditions says its 144-passenger Silver Explorer will cross the remote, icy waterway on an east-to-west routing in 2019. It'll be the company's first foray into the passage, which has seen few transits by vessels with tourists.
Silver Explorer will begin the 5,019-mile journey in Nome, Alaska on Aug. 10, 2019 and finish the trip 25 days later in Tromsø, Norway.
Billed as one of Silversea's most ambitious expeditions to date, the voyage will include a visit to remote Wrangel Island, known as a haven for polar bears, walruses and migratory birds. It also will feature stops at the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, famous for its fjords and glaciers.
The ship also will spend a day navigating as far north as possible, in the direction of the polar ice edge.
Silver Explorer carries a dozen motorized Zodiac boats for landings and sails with a team of naturalists and other destination experts. Silversea Expeditions is the expedition division of luxury line Silversea.
Only a handful of ships have sailed through the Northeast Passage with tourists. Most have been Russian icebreakers chartered by expedition companies. But the waterway is on the verge of opening up to more ship-borne visitors.
In addition to Silversea, expedition cruise pioneer Lindblad Expeditions is planning to send an expedition vessel across the Northeast Passage for the first time in 2020, and France-based expedition ship operator Ponant also is promising its first Northeast Passage trip by 2021.
The companies are following in the wake of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which in 2014 sent its 175-passenger expedition ship Hanseatic across the passage. It was the first crossing with tourists on a non-Russian vessel.
Hapag-Lloyd plans another transit of the Northeast Passage later this summer on the 155-passenger expedition ship Bremen. The vessel also will cross the waterway in 2019.
Long a Holy Grail for Arctic explorers, the Northeast Passage wasn't transited in its entirety until the late 1870s. Fenno-Swedish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld and a crew of more than 20 men made the journey over two years in the steamship Vega. The waterway wasn't transited in a single summer until a Soviet expedition in 1932.
The Northeast Passage is one of two fabled and long-sought passages across the Arctic. The other is the Northwest Passage, which traverses the Canadian Arctic.