Warm welcome, tight schedule, culture builds cruise traffic for Nunavut town
"They can count on us and the passengers love it"
Some 200 cruise ship passengers toured Cambridge Bay Aug. 25, making that day the western Nunavut community’s busiest cruise-hosting day to date.
Starting in the morning of Aug. 25, after passengers with One Ocean Expeditions — and their luggage — were shuttled off in zodiacs from the Akademik Ioffe cruise ship, they got a mini-tour of Cambridge Bay on their way to the airport.
Once at the airport, they were able to purchase arts and crafts.
And they bought, said Vicki Aitaok of Qagguit Tours in Cambridge Bay.
That was only the beginning of a day that put at least $10,000 into the hands of local residents, gave another 25 people jobs for a day, and, in return, offered cruise trip passengers a taste of Inuinnait culture to talk about back home with them.
As the first load of cruise ship travellers finally boarded their Canadian North charter flight to Edmonton, another group of 95, which had arrived on the same flight, got ready to tour Cambridge Bay.
For them, the afternoon held a walking tour of Cambridge Bay, including stops at its visitors centre, shops and public buildings, followed by a lunch of smoked char, sandwiches and bannock at the Luke Novoligak Community Hall and entertainment from local drummers and dancers.
All that before the cruise ship passengers hopped on zodiacs to head to their ship, passing by the wreck of Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen’s Maud on the way.
Before they left, the cruise ship passengers presented the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay with 100 hockey sets for youth, including shoulder pads, knee pads, gloves, hockey bags, 50 badminton rackets and 50 cans of birdies, 30 soccer balls, 30 volley balls, 30 dodge balls along with 12 pumps and connectors, so these balls can be inflated when necessary, 12 dozen fluorescent golf balls, and 50 athletic skipping ropes.
That sports equipment came to Cambridge Bay thanks to passenger Richard Burnet, One Ocean Expeditions, and Canadian North, which helped bring the Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart sports equipment donation program to Nunavut for the first time.
All of these items will be distributed through the hamlet recreation department to community groups, Aitaok said.
Before the Akademik Ioffe, Cambridge Bay had already hosted one cruise ship: the MV Bremen on Aug. 25, with 184 passengers, who enjoyed a performance by singer Tanya Tagaq, who was born and raised in Cambridge Bay. On Aug. 29, the MV Hanseatic planned arrive with the same number of passengers (although the ship ended up arriving a day earlier) followed by Le Soleal on Sept. 5, with 264 passengers on board.
Asked why the cruise ships decide to come to Cambridge Bay, Aitaok, who has organized community activities for cruise ships since 2007, said it’s “because they can count on us — and the passengers love it.”
“That is why they come,” she said, adding that the Aug. 25 schedule rolled out on time, from beginning to end.
Cambridge Bay will receive more cruise ship visits than any other community in Nunavut in 2013 after Pond Inlet, which is scheduled to see six cruise ship visits in 2013.
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 in early September, Arviat, Cape Dorset, Clyde River, Gjoa Haven, Grise Fiord, Iqaluit and Pangnirtung will also have seen at least one ship each stop by.
Among the challenges to more cruise ship traffic in Canada’s Arctic: the poor global economy and a lacklustre, and occasionally hostile, reception in some communities, whose residents occasionally aren’t even aware that a ship is calling.
As cruise ships visit certain Arctic communities more often, negative feelings about those cruise ships continue to grow, said a recent research project called “Cruise Tourism in Arctic Canada.”