Three Ships To Tackle Canada’s Full Northwest Passage in 2013

The first commercial passenger ship to transit Canada’s famed Northwest Passage was Lindblad Expeditions’  2,398-ton 104-berth Lindblad Explorer, which made the passage in 1984. Arctic conditions can vary from year to year but the only problem she encountered was off the coast of northern Alaska, where fog and ice forced her to backtrack for ten hours, then sail closer inshore to escape the permanent polar ice shelf.

Since then, a small number of expedition cruise ships have made the full transit, and from time to time, one of them has had to turn back because of ice conditions. In recent years, other ships have introduced partial transits of the easternmost end of the passage that make only part of the full passage and then return east.

In the summer of 2010, both of Hapag-Lloyd’s expedition ships, the Bremen and Hanseatic, transitted the full Northwest Passage, with one ship traveling in each direction. While the Bremen traveled from Nome, Alaska, to Reykjavik, Iceland, the Hanseatic sailed in the opposite direction, from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to Nome. During their cruises, the two made a rendezvous in the High Arctic near Cambridge Bay.

The route Hapag-Lloyd’s MS Hanseatic will take in 2012

In 2011, the Bremen made the passage from Kangerlussuaq to Nome while the Hanseatic made only a partial transit of the Northwest Passage on a cruise that began in Kangerlussuaq and ended in Reykjavik and followed the traces of Franklin and Amundsen. In 2012, the Hanseatic will make a full 25-day transit leaving Nome August 14 for Reykjavik.

In 2013, however, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises plan a two-ship transit again, with one ship sailing in each direction. But now comes word from Compagnie du Ponant that it too plans to send a ship across the Northwest Passage in 2013 after it takes delivery of its third Le Boréal class ship from Fincantieri.

Based on initial plans, the 10,900-ton Ice-classed ship, provisionally named Le Soléal, is due to make her 10-night maiden voyage from Venice to Lisbon on July 2. From Lisbon, details that have yet to be confirmed call for an 11-night cruise to Reykjavik, a 7-night round-Iceland cruise, and a 13-night cruise from Reykjavik to Kangerlussuaq, another 13-night cruise round trip from Kangerlussuaq and then an attempt at the Northwest Passage.

Le Soléal‘s Northwest Passage voyage is due to set off from Kangerlussuaq on August 25 for a 21-night transit, to arrive at Anadyr in Russia’s Far East on September 15. If all goes according to plan, the Northwest Passage transit would be followed by cruises in the Russian Far East, two cruises via Japan to Hong Kong and three 10-night cruises between Hong Kong and Singapore.

For further details on itineraries and how to book please contact The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail

The Cruise Examiner for 6th February 2012: TransOcean’s Astor To Be Opened Up To English-Speaking Passengers – Other Cruise News: Dertour’s Mozart Is Relaunched on the Danube – Three Ships To Tackle Canada’s Northwest Passage in 2013


          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 6th February 2012

Astor South PacificFor those wanting to experience a smaller more traditional cruise ship that was built for ocean passages, TransOcean Cruises of Bremen is set to begin welcoming English-speaking passengers on board its ocean cruise ship Astor, as well as four of its river cruisers. Elsewhere, on the Danube, Dertour is once again opening up the fabled river cruiser Mozart, which was once operated by Peter Deilmann but has recently been sold only to German-speaking passengers. Finally this week, news has arrived from Marseilles-based Compagnie du Ponant that with the delivery of its new Le Soléal from Fincantieri in June 2013, three ships will attempt the full Northwest Passage across the Canadian Arctic in 2013.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                   (See previous columns)