Oceanwide Expeditions COO Mark van der Hulst says expedition cruising in the Arctic means ‘helping each other, working together, sharing knowledge’ – even utilising spare parts from other cruise lines' ships when difficulties arise.

He added, ‘Preparation goes years and years before you start a trip… it can take weeks before you get a spare part for a ship…Learning the hard way is the wrong way… everywhere around the world we have broadband, but the Arctic is a blindspot. It makes your operations more different than somewhere else, but more special.’

The comments came during ‘News from the North: Arctic Update’ at Seatrade Cruise Virtual: Expedition Cruising, which takes place throughout today and tomorrow. 

Hulst continued, ‘Operating in the Arctic is not easy, you need to be very well prepared, aware of the conditions where you operate, the remoteness, the self-sufficiency and understanding the impact that you can have can be huge.’

He added, ‘We wouldn’t be so environmentally responsible if we hadn’t worked together.’

Commitment to the environment 

‘The common denominator for all of us in the expedition cruise industry is that nature trumps everything…there’s a huge education proportion of our industry that we are very proud of, which is unique to our industry, as well,’ offered Karin Strand, expedition leader on MS Fram and MS Midnatsol at Hurtigruten Expedition, which has a 127-year heritage in the region. 

She went on to add that Arctic cruise passengers are ‘envionmentally conscious of where they’re going… curious but respectful to nature and to the environment, and to the communities they visit.’ 

Protecting minorities

Sebastian Charge, manager, Tourism Development Government of Nunavut touched on the traditional harvesting and boating activities carried out in spring by Inuit communities, stating, ‘No matter how worldly your passengers are… these communities are extremely different from anywhere else these passengers might have visited before.’ 

He added, ‘Some of the communities that you visit, their populations may double or even triple when your passengers come ashore…walking around gawking, it can be quite an obtrusive thing, sometimes.’

To mitigate this challenge, he recommended that the expedition cruise sector focus their attention on preplanning phases, working with community organisers and using Nunavut government and AECO resources. 

‘[We] would like to see more community guidelines and get passengers to take those to heart… to create meaningful long lasting relationships,’ he added. 

Concluded Hulst, ‘We make a lot of effort in showing people the beautifulness of where we operate, but also how careful we should be with that area, and what they can do about it themselves.’