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Ice-bound Cruise Ship Gets Under Way

August 28, 1991

BARROW, Alaska (AP) _ A luxury cruise liner that had been put on ice by an arctic freeze-up got under way again today when the vessel headed toward the Atlantic Ocean via the Northwest Passage.

The 360-foot Frontier Spirit had been stalled in the Beaufort Sea, a quarter-mile off the nation’s northernmost city, since Friday, waiting for ice floes to move off. It lifted anchor at 6 a.m. today.

While they waited, some of the 160 passengers and 70 crew members amused themselves by taking inflatable rafts ashore to Barrow to meet residents and sample Inupiat Eskimo culture. On Tuesday they saw a performance by Eskimo dancers.

Although passengers paid as much as $26,000 for the coast-to-coast arctic crossing and won’t receive a refund if their ship has to abandon its journey, some were philosophical.

″There’s a lot of romance about the Northwest Passage, and I think the people who came on the expedition knew there might be difficulties with ice - that’s what they signed on for,″ said Jennifer Merin of New York.

″We will probably do it, but there’s no guarantee,″ said Mario Spola of Cresskill, N.J. ″You have to be philosophical ... or else. There’s nothing you can do about it.″

″Nobody knows whether we will be able to make it through successfully - only the ice knows,″ Heinz Aye, the ship’s captain, said Tuesday.

The ship left port Aug. 18 from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands and was scheduled to dock in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on Sept. 16.

Aye said the Frontier Spirit’s owners have given him an extra 10 days to get to St. John’s. He said the ship would have to leave Barrow by Sept. 2 to arrive on time.

The Frontier Spirit is an ″ice-strengthened″ ship, one class below an icebreaker, and can travel through as much as 3 1/2 feet of ice. But reports from Canadian icebreakers call the early buildup the worst in at least 10 years.

″I suppose it’s unavoidable if we have to turn back,″ said 87-year-old Florence Freyermuth of St. Louis. ″I’m sorry, but I’d rather go back than have an accident.″

A retreat wouldn’t end Freyermuth’s plans for adventure - she has already signed up for a Frontier Spirit trip to Antarctica next year.

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