Just as the arctic cruise season gets underway, officials at the British Foreign Office this week warned travelers that they should consider the “limited” search and rescue options in the Arctic, prompting a furious reaction from cruise lines.
In a statement posted on its website, the Foreign Office said that the “combined search and rescue ship capacity may well be less than would be needed to cope with even one of the small cruise ships that frequent parts of the Arctic area.”
In addition, the body noted that search and rescue ships were not capable of advanced life support, that there are uncharted waters in some arctic fjords and water temperatures can be very low, even in summer.
“If you are thinking of such a trip, please consider these factors and check the operational records and relevant experience of captains and crews operating vessels in Arctic waters,” concluded the FCO.
With the sinking of the Costa Concordia still fresh in minds, a government warning on cruising safety couldn’t come at a worse time for the industry, particularly as arctic cruising is widely considered one of the rising stars of cruise tourism.
A spokesperson for one adventure holiday company described the warning as “out of order” to British newspaper the Independent, while a spokesperson for arctic cruise firm Hurtigruten said “as long as passengers choose companies who can demonstrate a robust safety policy then we should not discourage such trips.”