Cruise ship spurns Nunavut community’s organized tours
Le Soleal's 220 passengers will spend the day in Cambridge Bay on their own
(updated at 5:50 p.m.)
On Sept. 7, two days later than initially planned, the streets of Cambridge Bay are likely to be crowded — that’s because the French-owned luxury cruise ship, Le Soleal, will dock outside the western Nunavut town for the day and its 200-plus passengers are likely to want to go on shore after travelling through the Northwest Passage.
But Le Soleal is the first cruise ship in 2013 that has decided not take a package that would offer organized tours of the community, performances by musicians and dancers and a sampling of local cuisine.
“For these guys to opt out, I just don’t get it,” said Vicki Aitaok of Qagguit Tours, who has organized cruise ship visits in Cambridge Bay since 2007.
Aitaok helps coordinate visits for cruise ships at rates less than $50 a person — much less than most cruise stop tours in places like Alaska or the Caribbean.
A recent tour for passengers from the MV Bremen even included a performance by internationally acclaimed singer Tanya Tagaq, who was born and raised in Cambridge Bay.
For the community, the decision by Le Soleal to not take a packaged tour means more than 25 local people who usually get employment for the day as guides or cooks or entertainers won’t see any work.
And, while the cruise ship passengers may visit local stores to buy souvenirs, they won’t necessarily have any contact with local artisans who usually set up tables in the community hall.
“Even though I have made multiple requests, the ship has declined all local tour and performance services” was the message Aitaok communicated to people in the community of 1,500 on Sept. 3.
Beyond the loss of revenue for the community, the idea that a cruise ship with so many people can stop in a Nunavut community for an unsupervised visit is unsettling — although, of course, everyone will still be hospitable, Aitaok said.
“It’s too bad that the authorities from the ships don’t pay for landing fees, and that they decline the community’s hospitality because I think our residents have a lot to offer,” said one Cambridge Bay man in response to Aitaok’s announcement about Le Soleal’s decision.
Le Soleal, on its maiden Arctic voyage from Kangerlussuaq to Andayr in Chukotka, says it’s the first “cruise ship sailing under the French flag to cross the entire North Pole including the famous North West Passage.”
The ship also plans to stop by Cambridge Bay in 2014.
Most vessels that call at Cambridge Bay — at one point last month, there were eight of various sizes — seek out local services and help to make arrangements for food or laundry, Aitaok said.
With four scheduled cruise ship visits in 2013, Cambridge Bay is seeing more cruise ship visits than any other community in Nunavut in 2013 after Pond Inlet, which is scheduled for 10 cruise ship visits.
Together the two communities, at each end of the Northwest Passage, account for about half of the 21 expected cruise ship visits in 2013 — down by a few community visits from 2012.
By the time the cruise ship season for 2013 winds down this week, Arviat, Cape Dorset, Clyde River, Gjoa Haven, Grise Fiord, Iqaluit and Pangnirtung will also have seen at least one ship each stop by.