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N.W.T. hamlet welcomes largest cruise ship to attempt Northwest Passage

The weekend the community of Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., has been waiting for has arrived.

The Crystal Serenity cruise ship sailed into the hamlet of 400 people on Friday afternoon, bringing with it about 1,000 passengers and 600 crew. It’s the largest cruise ship ever to sail through the Northwest Passage, having left Anchorage, Alaska, on Aug. 16 on its way to New York.

The town’s mayor, Laverna Klengenberg, says the community has been busy preparing.

“It’s wonderful,” she said.

“People have been drum dancing, preparing their traditional clothing, doing arts and crafts, taking training to be tour guides and whatnot. So it’s been quite busy, so we’re happy to see that.”

Janet Kanayok, Ulukhaktok’s economic development officer, was eager for the day to come.

“We can showcase to the world what we’ve been preparing for,” she said.

‘Won’t be congested or overwhelmed’

Janet Kanayok,

‘I just hope that [visitors] get a sense of how unique and how friendly our people are,’ says Janet Kanayok, Ulukhaktok’s economic development officer. (submitted by Janet Kanayok)

This is the Crystal Serenity’s maiden voyage.

In order not to overwhelm the small community, every two hours 150 to 200 passengers will be shuttled off the ship in inflatable boats and brought into Ulukhaktok.

“So we won’t be congested or overwhelmed with visitors,” Kanayok said.

She said the first thing they’ll see is a caribou skin tent and local women handing out bannock and tea.

“There will be people along the shores as well, welcoming people to Ulukhaktok.”

Once the customs paperwork is complete, Kanayok and other hamlet officials will board the ship with two traditional drum dance groups. On board, they’ll take part in a commemorative plaque exchange.

The tourists will have a chance to go on walking tours of the hamlet, sample local cuisine and shop for traditional carvings and artwork.

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