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Hurtigruten fleet

Review of Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten (translated as "Express Route") is a daily freight and passenger shipping service along Norway's northern and western coast between Bergen and Kirkenes. Often referred to as "Norwegian Coastal Express", the ships of the line sail nearly the entire length of the country and complete their round-trip journey in 11 days. The cruise has been described as "World's Most Beautiful Sea Voyage," and features highlights including the Lofoten Islands, Vesteralen Islands, the Hanseatic League city of Bergen and the Geiranger fjord. Hurtigruten has around 2% of the worldwide cruise market.

Hurtigruten company history

Hurtigruten cruise line was established by government contract  in 1893, in order to improve communications along the jagged and long coastline. On July 2, 1893 ms Vesteraalen ship commenced the first round-trip sailing from Trondheim, bound for Hammerfest. The ship arrived at Svolvær on July 3 after 35,5 hours and Hammerfest on July 5 after 67 hours. Vesteraalen was captained by Richard With, the founder of Hurtigruten. Currently, Trondheim-Svolvær takes 33h, Hammerfest 41h 15min.Hurtigruten logo

Only Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab was willing to navigate the then poorly charted waters. Such a voyage was especially hard during the dark and long winters. Hurtigruten was a breakthrough for communities. Mail to Hammerfest from central Norway, which had taken 3 weeks in summer and 5 months in winter, could already be delivered in only 7 days.

Encouraged by the early success of Vesteraalens, several other companies obtained a concession to operate along the route, extended to run from Bergen in the southwest to Kirkenes in the far northeast. 11 ships visit each of the 34 ports daily, northbound and southbound.

In the 1980s, Hurtigruten's role changed. Operating subsidies were phased out and the operators put emphasis on tourism. New, larger and more luxurious vessels were introduced, with more attention to restaurants, bars, hot tubs and other comforts. Hurtigruten still serves important cargo and passenger needs, and operates year-round. The last two shipping companies, Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskap (TFDS) and Ofotens og Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab (OVDS), merged on March 1, 2006 as the Hurtigruten Group, and a year later became Hurtigruten ASA. In addition to the ferries, high-speed regional express ships and coastal route, the company operates cruises around South America, Antarctica and Greenland.

In the end of 2014, the British private equity "TDR Capital" (specializing in control buyout investments in Europe) acquired Hurtigruten. In July 2014, TDR announced 3 potential buyers for the company and receiving offers from them. Since 2014, TDR Capital has provided the money needed for the purchasing and the refurbishment of MS Spitsbergen, as well as the capital for the dry-dock refurbisments of 4 ships in the Hurtigruten fleet and for two new ship building orders (with optional two more vessels) in an attempt to revive the company.

When TDR bought Hurtigruten, the bid was for USD 884 million. TDR Capital got 90% and both Hurtigruten's shareholders retained 5% of the company each. Future plans are the brand (specializing in explorer cruising / expedition-type vacations) to be popularized on the markets in Asia and the USA. New itineraries will be added, including in exotic destinations, such as Amazon River (South America in general), Caribbean and other not polar regions, in addition to the line's traditional Arctic and Antarctica cruises.

New Hurtigruten ships (Polar-class expedition vessels)

In early June 2016, Hurtigruten signed a letter of intent for building up to 4 new expedition cruise ships with ice-strengthened hulls, allowing cruising to Antarctic and Arctic destinations. This was the company's largest investment in its 123-year history. It followed the announcement in April 2016 that Hurtigruten will add 2 new Polar expedition vessels to its fleet.

Hurtigruten new expedition cruise ship (bow view)

  • The shipbuilder is Kleven Marine shipyard (Norway). Ship design and propulsion were developed by Rolls-Royce, with assistance of the designer Espen Oino. The construction order included two additional options.
  • The new ships were named MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Roald Amundsen. These are the world's first expedition ships with hybrid propulsion.
  • The new series Hurtigruten vessels feature latest environmentally friendly marine technologies. The new hybrid technology allows cruising with fully electric propulsion for up to 30 min. The main gain is the total reduction in fuel consumption and CO2-emissions. The new hybrid technology, along with the effective use of electricity onboard and the optimized hull design, reduces bad emissions by neary 20%.
  • Each of these vessels has 3 restaurants with menus that reflect local flavors and destinations. The pool deck has bars, infinity pool, Jacuzzis. Building materials used during construction were predominantely Norwegian, with extensive use of granite, oak and wool, among other.
  • WIth passenger capacity 530 each, the new ships were scheduled for launch in July 2018 and July 2019.

Hurtigruten new expedition cruise ship (aft view)

The last time when the company had a newbuild was in 2007 - MS Fram.

Hurtigruten cruise experience

Hurtigruten ships provide a comfortable home while touring the charming cities, islands and mountain scenery of Norway. Atmosphere onboard is casual because these vessels are on a mission to transport traveling locals and freight in addition to the international mix of cruise passengers making a voyage out of it. Most of the Norwegian crew speak English. Tipping is optional, though many guests will remember line's dining staff. On the expedition ms Fram, Hurtigruten recommends 50 kroner per day.

Dining, with all meals included for one-way and roundtrip travelers, takes place in a single onboard restaurant. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style, open-seating, with a good selection of international and Norwegian selections. Dinners are reserved-seat, set-time, 3-course meals. Special dietary requests have to be made in advance. The 24-hour cafe is most often used by the travelers making short trips. Liquor is highly taxed. Passengers may bring their own alcohol supply onboard for consumption in cabins. 

Apart from an occasional musical group aboard during summertime departures, there is no entertainment scheduled by Hurtigruten. The Arctic Circle crossing ceremony is a rousing show for those guests chosen by King Neptune as victims (ice-cold water initiation) and others spectating. Everyone watches the constantly changing scenery from decks or in the cozy observation lounges and midship bars, while some also play games and read. Norwegian sculpture and paintings decorate the entire fleet. 

An extensive tours program is geared to the seasons and includes city walking tours, church and museum visits, dog sledding, birding, kayaking, Lapland cultural tours, and trips to the North Cape. Hurtigruten tours may be pre-booked online. 

Norwegian guests are mostly aboard to sail point-to-point and attend conferences, with the next biggest nationalities being German, British, other Europeans, Americans, Australians. Most passengers are sophisticated and well traveled, yet unpretentious vacationers, content to enjoy the picturesque communities and spectacular scenery. Many speak decent English. The average Hurtigruten passenger age is around 50, with few families. However, one of the best features of these sailings is that the passenger load rotates often with point-to-point cruisers embarking and disembarking along the way.

Itinerary of Hurtigruten

For season 2018, Hurtigruten expanded the company's Antarctica operations to 3 cruise ships. This small fleet was lead by the new 530-passenger ms Roald Amundsen (LNG-Diesel hybrid vessel). The line offers tailored experiences which extend from exploratory itineraries with the 600-passenger ms Midnatsol, to nature-immersive expedition itineraries with the 254-passenger ms Fram.

  • Roald Amundsen (2018) operates from Punta Arenas Chile, combining the Chilean Fjords and Falkland Islands with Antarctica/ Fram and Midnatsol leave from Ushuaia Argentina.
  • All Hurtigruten Antarctica cruise itineraries leaving from South America offer optional land tours, such as Manuel Antonio National Park (Costa Rica), Machu Picchu (Peru), biking excursions (Santiago de Chile), Atacama Desert (Patagonia), Iguazu Falls (Argentina-Brazil).
  • MS Fram also operates on expedition itineraries in the Caribbean and along US East Coast. The list of port destinations also includes 8 countries in Central America as well as Zodiac landings (San Blas Islands, Fort San Lorenzo, Boscas del Toro, Puerto LimónCorn IslandsIsla de Providencia, Cayos Cochinos, Lighthouse Reef).
  • Hurtigruten's US East Coast itineraries also feature large port cities like NYC New York and Boston MA.

Norwegian coastal voayges

On Hurtigruten Norwegian coastal itineraries, the line offers flight-cruise package deals. Bookings are protected with ATOL Certificate. ATOL stands for "Air Travel Organisers' Licensing" (Civil Aviation Authority, UK).

Hurtigruten's new coastal Norway excursions program was introduced for season 2018-2019 and implements expedition teams. More than 35 of these voyages are new, along with the line's existing shore excursions and themed activities.

Adventure cruisers can expect the unexpected with Hurtigruten, offering:

  • A record number of authentic Norwegian excursions (3-day and 4-day cruise extensions) are offered, raging from gentle strolls to energetic hikes, and from nature-themed tours to urban exploration – on shore and by ship.
  • Professional expedition teams interpret the wildlife, nature and culture along the coast during onboard lectures and port talks..
  • "Young Explorers" kids activity program is custom-tailored (on selected ships and cruises only).
  • Kids-friendly tours / excursions specifically designed for children ages 7-13 yo
  • New astronomy-themed cruises offer stargazing excursions (first introduced in 2018).
  • A locally-sourced onboard food menu mirrors the Norway's rugged coastline.
  • The company offers convenient dates for year-round Norwegian cruise departures. Hurtigruten is one of the ever best options to book the uniquie "Northern Lights" cruises.

Hurtigruten's coastal expedition excursions accommodate all activity levels and ages. They range from the midnight concert (in Tromso's Arctic Cathedral) to exploring Kristiansund mountains by dogsledding with Alaskan huskies. Adventurers are even able to chase the Northern Lights during snowmobile safaris between the ports Kjollefjord and Mehamn.

Among the other excursions on the daily coastal voyages between Bergen to Kirkenes, are themed:

  • Discover Norway’s 2nd largest glacier
  • Catch, prepare and eat king crabs
  • Explore the most powerful tidal current in the world on a RIB-boat safari.

Expedition hosts of the coast are available on 9 out of 11 Hurtigruten ships. Onboard experts share their first-hand knowledge on natural phenomena, wildlife, landscapes and history. They also enhance cruise passengers’ experiences by a variety of activities and interpreting the natural and cultural treasures encountered along the ferry route.

Expedition teams also provide both ashore and onboard activities and excursions, such as media presentations, lectures, gatherings, historical plays, story-telling, guided tours, also voluntary environmental activities (like beach clean-ups).

Hurtigruten passengers can also enjoy touring mainland Norway by adding port stays (3 or 4 days) in one of 6 featured port cities (prior to or after the voyage). In BronnoysundTromso and Trondheim, passengers can take “naturban” mini-expeditions on explorer boats while the cruise ship is docked in port.

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