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LauraS

Luxury Line Silversea to Cruise the Northeast Passage

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Speaking of cruise ships going to this area of the world: There was a tragedy in the last few days when a cruise guard was attacked by a polar bear who had to be killed to save the guard:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/29/world/europe/polar-bear-shot-cruise-ship.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur

Polar Bear Shot and Killed After Attacking Cruise Ship Guard

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Wow, my husband would love that cruise, but unfortunately we still have to work.

 

As far as the polar bear being shot, it is very sad. The bear guards are there for a reason. They don’t allow passengers to go to shore if polar bears are spotted, but the guards are necessary and doing their job. The alternative would be to not allow shore landings at all, and I doubt many people would be interested in that kind of a cruise, or to just stop tourism to these areas.

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I suspect that an alternative and probably very unpopular view is that some very wealthy tourists were invading the natural habitat of some extremely hungry polar bears and their families who they were probably feeding and in the end it was the hungry polar bear that was avoidably sacrificed.

 

I doubt that this type of tourism adds much benefit to anyone, and certainly not the polar bears.

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Yes, I've read some comments on the NY Times article and many of them are very negative about cruise ships in this area.

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How on Earth is this acceptable? If there is no way of seeing them close up without endangering either crew members or the bears lives then just stay at home and watch a documentary. They are magnificent creatures and anybody that is willing to risk having them shot just so that they can have the thrill of invading their habitat and getting close to them for a picture and a tale to tell should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

 

In my opinion if you want to take the risk of seeing them up close yourself then take the risk yourself. Don’t expect either the polar bear or a poorly paid crew member to risk their lives for your quick thrill.

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Don’t expect either the polar bear or a poorly paid crew member to risk their lives for your quick thrill.

 

This situation is tragic. Nonetheless, I do not think the shot was fired by "a poorly paid crew member." Perhaps you have access to information I do not have, but I believe the patrols are conducted by specialists who board the ship (with guns) when the ship is in such areas -- not by crew members in the conventional sense. I don't know about their compensation, but I doubt they are "poorly paid."

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This was a very sad event. I do not believe this area of the world should be visited by regular cruise ships with large numbers of passenger's however this was a expedition ship run by Hapag-Lloyd. Having cruised with them I have to say they are a very responsible company very much aware of environment and very much inclined to obey the laws. Their crews are German, very well paid and seem happy' Below is their official statement of events.

 

 

Information about the current incident in Spitzbergen - MS BREMEN



This Saturday on a trip ashore in Spitsbergen during a BREMEN cruise an accident occured: a polar bear guard - an expert employed by the cruise line - was attacked on land by a polar bear. The guard suffered head injuries, however, he was responsive after the attack and was airlifted. He is out of danger, with no threat to life. In an act of self-defence, unfortunately, it was necessary for the polar bear to be shot dead. We very much regret this incident. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is very aware of its responsibility when travelling in environmentally-sensitive areas and respects all nature and wildlife.

To illustrate the situation: Spitzbergen is a large geographical area, about one and a half times the size of Denmark. Landings are possible only in a few places; these are not there to serve the purpose of polar bear observation, on the contrary: polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance. To prepare for a shore leave, the polar bear guards go ashore in advance after sighting the landing site as a group and without passengers. They then set up a land station and check the area again to make sure that there are no polar bears in sight. As soon as such an animal approaches, the shore leave would be stopped immediately.

The incident occurred when the four-person polar bear guard team, who are always on board for these expedition cruises as required by law, prepared for a shore leave. One of the guards was unexpectedly attacked by a polar bear that had not been spotted and he was unable to react himself. As the attempts of the other guards to evict the animal, unfortunately, were not successful, there had to be intervention for reasons of self-defense and to protect the life of the attacked person. The injured person was immediately provided with medical care and flown to a hospital with a rescue helicopter. We are in personal, direct contact with him. His condition is stable and he remains responsive.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has worked comprehensively and co-operatively with the Norwegian authorities to reconstruct and clarify the incident on the ground and will continue to do so.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has been traveling to these destinations for many years with an experienced crew. The cruise operator is respected in the destinations as a responsible partner and the experts actively inform the guests about the appropriate behavior required in these areas. We are extremely sorry that this incident has happened.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

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It would be highly uncommercial if HL didn't have a well-oiled effective PR machine and publish an extremely well-crafted defense of themselves that justified being there and the resulting slaughter of the polar bear. And those that wish to accept it will of course do so.

 

However the polar bear and wilderness seems to me to have no voice whatsoever in the debate, or indeed no presumed sovereignty by us of this domain and their probable alternative view and case will therefore remain totally unheard. Many thoughtful people might conclude however that these animals should be allowed the benefit of any reasonable doubt that might exist as to whether they should be there undisturbed by us, and that we should be there or not - in favour of "not". To me it seems almost "common sense". Just because we want something we then retro-fit justification of "the benefits" of us doing so to others. In other words we sort of have an obligation to be selfish and self-indulgent.

 

Just because we are able to doesn't give us the presumed and automatic right to do whatever we wish.

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This was a very sad event. I do not believe this area of the world should be visited by regular cruise ships with large numbers of passenger's however this was a expedition ship run by Hapag-Lloyd. Having cruised with them I have to say they are a very responsible company very much aware of environment and very much inclined to obey the laws. Their crews are German, very well paid and seem happy' Below is their official statement of events.

 

 

The logical consequence of your opinion is that it is OK to impact this wilderness so long as the people doing so are extremely wealthy.

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The logical consequence of your opinion is that it is OK to impact this wilderness so long as the people doing so are extremely wealthy.

 

 

I really can't see where money comes into this at all and no, my opinion has nothing to do with money. Many normal cruise lines, Crystal comes to mind, have done these trips or plan them in the future. Their ships carry 800+ passenger's to places with populations of 100's and no facilities. They use big ships that do all the bad things to the environment that big ships do. The expedition ships are small, environment friendly, ice ready and I believe a much better fit for this environment. If people really want to help Polar Bears I believe they should shout out about global warming, from what I have read its causing many of these animals to starve to death as it melts the ice pack allowing the Northwest Passage to become a destination.

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I really can't see where money comes into this at all and no, my opinion has nothing to do with money. Many normal cruise lines, Crystal comes to mind, have done these trips or plan them in the future. Their ships carry 800+ passenger's to places with populations of 100's and no facilities. They use big ships that do all the bad things to the environment that big ships do. The expedition ships are small, environment friendly, ice ready and I believe a much better fit for this environment. If people really want to help Polar Bears I believe they should shout out about global warming, from what I have read its causing many of these animals to starve to death as it melts the ice pack allowing the Northwest Passage to become a destination.

 

It is difficult to know where to start. In terms "of the world" all people that take cruises are wealthy as the majority of the world is struggling to eat and be sheltered and probably only a small part of the wealthiest 1% can take any cruise expensive or cheap. But arguing that small ships are better for this environment than those nasty irresponsible larger ships means to me that the consequence of your argument is that only the very wealthiest of the wealthy will be entitled to disturb this environment.

 

Discussing global warming might be a prudent issue to discuss but implying that those that are concerned about this issue cannot say so until global warming is cured is simply another diversion from this particular issue and possibly a sign that arguments in defense of this are weak.

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Cruise ships do bring revenue to these places which certainly helps maintain sensitive environments such as Svalbard. In South Georgia earlier this year we saw how cruise ships and individual passengers contributed massively to the eradication of rats which had been decimating local populations of birds. Sometimes we are a distinct benefit to these wild places.

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Cruise ships do bring revenue to these places which certainly helps maintain sensitive environments such as Svalbard. In South Georgia earlier this year we saw how cruise ships and individual passengers contributed massively to the eradication of rats which had been decimating local populations of birds. Sometimes we are a distinct benefit to these wild places.

 

I am sure you will agree that there is a contrary view concerning the damage caused by tourism.

 

However, taking your comment about how tourists have "contributed massively" to the eradication of rats, the only financial benefit that I have found that cruise ships bring to the eradiaction of rats on Svalbard is when people buy a book or pro-actively take trouble to contribute to the specific project. If the project was sourced by any other tourist funding I think it would have menioned it. It doesn't seem like a massive contribution to me. This site seems to be the most trustworthy on the subject.

 

https://www.antarctic.eu/2015/03/12/south-georgia-rat-eradication-is-making-progress.html

 

Success will now depend on weather and, as too often in life, money: the immense logistics needed to move the team, equipment, bait and helicopters to South Georgia, where no helicopters are available, require large-scale funding in the order of millions. The South Georgia Heritage Trust appreciates every donation

 

It is also possible to buy items which are nice to have and nice as presents to support the project, such as James McQuilken’s book The Mists of Time, the moving life story of Cymba, a Wandering albatross. The present author has translated this book into German as Die Nebel der Zeit to support the project. In 2014, sales of Die Nebel der Zeit raised money to support the work of the habitat restoration project on 2 hectares of South Georgia. Far from enough, but every contribution makes a difference!

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Whatever you say Jeff. Must be true.

 

Oh dear ... on the contrary.

 

You said one thing, the article said something different. Sometimes facts are inconvenient and irritating, and if you feel that the source I simply linked to is factually incorrect then perhaps you should say why rather than a cheap shot at the messenger.

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Cruise ships do bring revenue to these places which certainly helps maintain sensitive environments such as Svalbard. In South Georgia earlier this year we saw how cruise ships and individual passengers contributed massively to the eradication of rats which had been decimating local populations of birds. Sometimes we are a distinct benefit to these wild places.

 

Wild places should be protected by various goverments. The idea that tourists are a plus is misleading . Whether on a cruise ship, or any other types of ship that one pays premium dollars to get a good picture without breaking a sweat is a burden to these wild and enviromentally sensitve areas. If you want to support these regions contribute to various wildlife funds or NGOs.

I live near the vast Boundary Waters Canoe Area in MN and Canada. Sure, one can get a permit and hire a outfitter who will pack your food and give you a tent and canoe. But each person must paddle themsleves,portage, set up tents and take every item , that you did not eat, with you when leave the area.

This pristine area ,like the polar regions, should have the smallest human footprint as possible.

Expedition cruises are all the rage these days. I would never go on one.

I would rather read about a real expedition of travelers on their own without the luxury of guards to protect them from the wildlife who inhabit the areas.

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If you don't want to take a cruise like this one my recommendation is don't but remember that others do want to take such as cruise.

 

If you do. Great. I sure would.

 

As someone who was fortunate to take a cruise of the Northwest Passage (not Northeast but Northwest) I thought it was amazing and I am sure this one will be extraordinary as well.

 

I would have thought that the comments on this thread would focus on the actual itinerary rather than getting side tracked about a Polar Bear being shot and those demographics of those who cruise.

 

Some thoughts on the NWP as I think there are a lot of similarities between this one as well.

 

Having taken the first of two special NWP voyages offered by Crystal Cruises in 2016 I would tell you that this is one of the most fascinating voyages we have ever been on. This included the opportunity to visit places that very few have traveled which by the way included a very remote area in Alaska, to meet many locals, to view the beauty of the NWP and to discover and learn so very much. I am sure the Silversea Voyage will of the Northeast Passage will be very unique as well.

Should anyone be interested this was the blog I did for our NWP voyage.

http://nwp16.com

A lot of preparation was done starting years before this voyage was announced. It was also a collaborative effort with the local towns. Several visits were held with them ahead of time and many were involved in the actual program including acting as tour guides. Some got to visit the ship. Unlike some ships that in the past just "showed up" without any advance warning that was not the case for our visit. This also allowed the locals to prepare for our arrival. Donations were also made to the local community. We were truly welcomed. Yes, our stop did help the locals in terms of economics. The vast majority of them showed up to welcome us there. By the way they do need money to live and require money for fuel, food, ammunition, etc. So yes we were welcomed and the guests on board were generous knowing the money was needed by the local community.

A lot of preparation took place with the Canadian Coast Guard with safety of the ship, the people and also respect for the people and for the environment being the number one priority.

Please note that the reason that vessels can get into the NWP is not because they are sailing that area. Rather it is because of changes to our environment taking place all around the world.

Yes, this voyage was like no other one we have ever taken.

Yes tourism has its pluses and negatives for locals and that includes every place around the world.

If we could go back billions of years the earth was pretty much covered in snow and ice. That changed over a lot of time. It will continue to change. Changes and the continued advancement of technology as well as the ability for more and more people to travel because of economic wealth will allow people to get to the more remote locations of the world and for tourism to continue to increase.

If you don't like this, that doesn't mean that others should not be able to see the world through their own eyes.

As to Polar Bears, on each landing there were personnel with guns just in case of an attack by a polar bear. If any of you have ever visited Africa and been out on a drive the drivers carry guns as well. The change of it being used is low but it is truly a requirement in terms of safety.

 

Keith

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Hi Keith,

 

I think your rationale is as usual thoughtful and perfectly logical.

 

I think that people should do what they wish within reason, so long as they are honest, rather than simply justifying it on spurious one-sided grounds whilst ignoring the inconvenient downsides. It is honest to say that there are pluses and minuses to this - or indeed any type of travel and then saying "understanding that I am going going to do it anyway". That is at least honest.

 

I think the issue is on one level should we preserve parts of the planet as wilderness before it is too late to put the genie back into the bottle. That is more my concern than the individual effect of a cruise ship on the environment. The fact is that it seems to me that in a decade or two there will be no genuine wilderness left and once we cross that line we cannot reverse it. It is the tsunami of travel appetite for new experiences. An Earth without any wilderness whatsoever seems to me to be almost an inevitable consequence of the self-indulgent travel trajectory we are currently on. I just have this nagging doubt that perhaps we should start to curtail - or at least decelerate this self-indulgence before it is too late. That to me is the issue. We understand insufficiently about the end-consequence of this trend of a world where no part is predominantly uncontaminated by us.

 

On the other level it is the one-sided virtue signalling where some try to tell others that their visits to remote parts benefits those parts so that what they are doing isn't selfish in any way and that instead it is virtuous for doing so.

Edited by UKCruiseJeff

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It's a tough paradox. The human spirit for adventure draws us to see these pristine wild places, but if too many of us go we risk destroying the very thing we are there to see. How much is too much? And will we only know that it was too much, after it's too late? IAATO et al are important safeguards to minimize the environmental impact but nobody really knows if that is sufficient.

 

I can't answer, but I want to go there. And I want to go now, before "everybody else" goes there. ;)

 

Keeping these expeditions expensive does in a way limit the numbers but you can debate the merits of that all day. But travel has always cost lots. Even Columbus needed to get funds from the royal treasury for his transatlantic small-ship cruise.

 

Thanks Keith and Jeff for two very interesting and thought-provoking posts.

 

Sent from my SM-G930T using Forums mobile app

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Again where one travels is a personal choice.

 

 

And I truly believe no one should tell others where they can and cannot travel.

 

 

 

You are not going to stop tourism and that included tourism to the far reaches of the planet.

 

 

Remember what was considered far is no longer far given advancement in technology.

 

 

At the same time what was not possible is now possible due to changes in our environment and those changes have taken places in a wide range of areas of our planet.

 

 

 

When I first began cruising as a child very few people cruised. That has now changed.

 

 

 

When I first visited China on business very few people from North America visited. Once out of Beijing, you traveled dirt roads.

 

 

 

First visit to Alaska one ore two cruise ships max in a port. Today you could see five to seven ships.

 

 

First visit to Bermuda. One to two ships and none on the weekends. These days many more and seven days a week.

 

 

You can't go backwards. This doesn't mean you can't do it right.

 

 

Our visit to the NWP was done right. In fact, each of us was required to attend training which not only covered safety but also training about etiquette and people actually listened and followed what we were asked to do. Respect was shown to the locals from the moment itineraries were developed as meetings were held with them to get their input on the visit. The number of people who could go ashore at any given time was also limited. It was done right with respect to the people and to the land and its beauty.

 

 

 

Again, no one is forced to take any of these sailings. It's your choice.

 

 

Hopefully local authorities can require cruise ships to comply with the regulations.

 

 

In the meantime, my own view is to worry about those things that you have control over.

 

 

 

Keith

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We cannot change what has happened, but we can and have a responsibility for what we do today and it's consequences and therefore what may happen tomorrow.

 

It seems to me that we have an obligation to temper our own self-indulgence with what we leave and how we leave it for our children and grandchildren, and all later generations. This isn't always a black or white scenario but more often infinite shades of grey.

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