Cruise ship passengers from around the world coming to Cambridge Bay this summer don’t know it, but Cathryn Epp is racing to ensure they have a most memorable experience.
Epp, who started her job with the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay in May, is on a countdown to late August when five massive vessels arrive within a week, four of them being cruise ships. She’s already been lining up local throat singers, drum dancers, Arctic sports athletes and models for a fashion show to ensure visitors get a feel for Kitikmeot culture. She’s also been seeking tour guides and cooks and has a caterer ready to provide country foods.
“It will be like, rush, rush, rush and then it’s done. It’s over,” she said of the Aug. 24 to 30 period. “But I have a lot of help, though. A lot of people are willing to step up and help and work.”
Epp mentioned Vicki Aitoak in particular. Aitoak has many years of local tourism experience and she was a key figure in coordinating last summer’s Crystal Serenity visit to Cambridge Bay.
“She’s given me a lot of her old information to work off of and names of people to (consult),” Epp said of Aitoak. “She’s going to help me with the first cruise ship that comes in,” the Akademik Ioffe, which can accommodate up to 96 passengers, on Aug. 24.
The Crystal Serenity, which traversed the Northwest Passage last year for the first time, is due to arrive on Aug. 28. However, it may have only half the 900-some passengers it carried last year. Bookings for the Northwest Passage cruise were down with two weeks left to departure, Epp noted.
“They’re estimating quite a lower number than we had last year, which I’m quite surprised at,” she said.
Epp, who has a degree in general management studies and a minor in international management, worked in the hamlet’s recreation department as a summer student last year. She also has a background in retail, having served as the assistant manager of Kitikmeot Supplies for a couple of years.
As the cruise season winds down, her job duties will switch more to economic development in the community.
Epp said she’s always dreamed of having her own business and her international management education will come in handy if she decides to launch an enterprise in another country someday.
As someone who loves to travel, she has taken a cruise tour of the Greek islands and has many great things to say about Australia, where she spent five months.
The idea of going on an Arctic cruise holds great appeal for Epp, who has lived in Cambridge Bay for 12 years.
“I’d actually really like to do one of these Northern ones and get to see different parts of Nunavut from the perspective of a passenger,” she said. “I think it would be really neat.”