Hurtigruten

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Hurtigruten fleet

Review of Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten is a Norwegian passenger shipping company specializing in cruise and ferry services. The "Norwegian Coastal Express Route" (Bergen-Kirkenes) is a cargo-passenger ferry service along Norway's western and northern coast. Hurtigruten's cruise ferries sail nearly the entire length of Norway and complete this roundtrip itinerary in 11 days. The route also includes Lofoten Islands and Vesteralen Islands.

Company history

Hurtigruten cruise line was established by government contract in 1893, in order to improve communications along the jagged and long Norwegian coastline. On July 2, 1893, MS Vesteralen commenced company's first roundtrip itinerary from Trondheim arriving in Svolvaer on July 3 (35,5 hours crossing) and at Hammerfest on July 5 (after 67 hours). The ship was navigated by Captain Richard With (company's founder).

Hurtigruten logo - CruiseMapper

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 the route, extended to run from Bergen (southwest) to Kirkenes (far northeast). 11 ships visit each of the 34 ports daily, northbound and southbound. The 12-day roundtrip itinerary Bergen-Kirkenes includes 65 port stops, with ports' stays ranging from 15 min to 4+ hours.

Currently, Hurtigruten provides 24/7 cargo and passenger ferry service Bergen-Kirkenes. To operate this service, the company receives a Norwegian subsidy. However, in 2017 the subsidy arrangement was changed as preventing ferry competition. Some Norwegian interests also argued that Hurtigruten's Norwegian Coastal Service monopoly is not beneficial to the country and that local passengers will only benefit from more competitive offers.

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.

At 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 drydock refurbishments of 4 ships in the Hurtigruten fleet and for two new shipbuilding 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.

In 2017, Hurtigruten signed a strategic partnership with Alibaba Group's Fliggy (a subsidiary company specializing in tourism). Via Figgy, Hurtigruten scheduled in January and February 2018 and 2019 Antarctica cruises (on the ship Midnatsol) exclusively for Chinese travelers. These itineraries are roundtrips from Ushuaia Argentina and transit through the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Since July 2, 2018, fleetwide was implemented a policy for not using any single-use plastic products (bags, straws, cups, cutlery, toothpicks, aprons, stir pins, drink mixers, coffee lids). The decision made the shipping company world's first "plastic-free". It is estimated that 15 tons of plastic enters into oceans every minute of the day, ranking plastic pollution world's single biggest threat to the oceans. Hurtigruten's ban of single-use plastics was also imposed on all hotels, restaurants and other establishments contracted by the subsidiary company subsidiary Hurtigruten Svalbard for the land-based operations on Svalbard islands.

Hurtigruten's ferry service "Norwegian Coastal Express"

"Norwegian Coastal Express" is a Norwegian passenger shipping (cruise ferry) service on the routes Bergen-Kirkenes (northbound) and Kirkenes-Bergen (southbound) along the western and northern coasts of Norway. Currently, Trondheim-Svolvaer ferry route takes 33 hours, while Trondheim-Hammerfest ferry time is 41 hours 15 min.

Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Express ferry route (itinerary map)

  • On the Bergen-Kirkenes ferry route are transported passengers, as well as provisions, mail and various cargo to Norwegian communities without any road or air access.
  • For the period 2012-2019, Hurtigruten was given an annual USD 600 million subsidies for public transportation (regular ferry) services not otherwise provided. The company's current contract expires on December 31, 2019, with an optional 1-year extension.
  • At the end of September 2017, Norway's Ministry of Transportation and Communication invited ferry companies to compete for the Norwegian Coastal Service's subsidy, with a deadline for the bids January 3, 2018.
  • The new ferry contract will be signed for the period January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2031.

Havila cruise ferries

On March 23, 2018, Norway's Ministry of Transportation and Communications split the "Norwegian Coastal Express" ferry service between Hurtigruten and the Norwegian company Havila Shipping ("Havila Kystruten AS", established 2003, headquartered in Fosnavaag, Norway).

  • The Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen route and its 34 ports will be served year-round by all 11 vessels, of which seven Hurtigruten ships and four Havila newbuilds.
  • Hurtigruten operates this service since 1893.
  • Norwegian Government's annual subsidy for this regularly scheduled ferry service is NOK 788 million (USD 100 million).
  • Havila Shipping will build 4 new cruise ferries (Havyard 923-class) designed specifically for "Norwegian Coastal Express" service. The newbuilds are LNG-powered hybrids (alternative battery power), with passenger capacity around 700, and designed by "Havyard Ship Technology AS" (a subsidiary of Havyard Group ASA - Norwegian maritime company established in 2000, owns Loland Verft in Leirvik Norway). Shipbuilding cost is ~USD 200 million per boat. Builders are Barreras Shipyard (Vigo, Spain, first two vessels) and Tersan Shipyard (Yalova, Turkey, the other two vessels).
  • Rolls-Royce Marine was contracted to provide newbuilds' power plants and propulsion units. The equipment includes 2x dual-fuel engines, 4x Bergen gas engines (two 9-cylinder, plus two 6-cylinder, all IMO Tier 3 compliant), 2x LNG tanks (with bunkering systems), 2x LNG fuel systems, control and safety systems. Ship's propulsion is also Rolls-Royce manufactured and includes 2x Azipull thrusters (with Permanent Magnet drive motors), stabilizers (Neptune 200), tunnel thrusters (allowing slimmer hull shape, better energy efficiency low noise-vibration levels). LNG fuel systems are separate, custom-designed, and serving both machine rooms (front and aft).
  • Ship's Energy Storage System (battery pack) has capacity 6100 kW per hour - or double the capacity of currently largest battery-packed ferries. battery power is combined with hybrid gas-electric propulsion. The powerplant consists of 4x LNG-powered marine engines (per vessel) with combined output 7,76 MW.
  • Havila Shipping serves the international offshore industry. Its current fleet consists of 23 offshore supply vessels. The list of services includes subsea construction, platform supply, anchor handling, maritime rescue, and recovery.
  • In late-December 2018 was announced that Enova (Norwegian government agency) will provide NOK 88 million (USD 10,1 million) as financial support for Havila Kystruten's newbuilds (or NOK 22 million per vessel).

Hurtigruten will modernize the deployed on the route 7 vessels in order to comply with the contract's requirements. Hurtigruten will also allocate 3 large ships from its fleet (Midnatsol, Trollfjord, Finnmarken) for cruise shipping operations between the homeports Bergen and Kirkenes. These new Norwegian coastal cruises will be available for booking by international passengers and not carrying Norwegian ferry passengers.

New 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 (Ulsteinvik Norway). Ship design and propulsion were developed by Rolls-Royce, with the 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-class 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 optimized hull design, reduces emissions by nearly 20%.
  • The newbuilds have underwater drones (ROV / remotely operated underwater vehicle) developed by Blueye Robotics (Norway). Each drone weights 7 kg and has 4 thrusters for propulsion. The ROV also features a wide-angle video camera designed to work in limited-light conditions. It streams true-color live images to the ship's TV screens, to all cabin TVs and also to the digital diving masks of the passengers cruising on the ship's Zodiac boats.
  • Each newbuild has 3 restaurants with current itinerary-based menus. The pool deck has bars, infinity pool, Jacuzzis. Building materials used during construction were predominantly Norwegian, with extensive use of granite, oak, and wool, among others. WIth passenger capacity 530 each, the new ships were scheduled for launch in July 2018 and July 2019.

In August 2017, Hurtigruten made an investment of NOK 300 million (USD 39 million) in Kleven Group for a 40% interest. In September 2017, Hurtigruten acquired 40% stocks in Kleven Verft after the shipyard experienced a financial crisis.

  • Along with Hurtigruten, Kleven Group (parent company for the shipyards Kleven and Myklebust) includes Age Remoy, the Kleven-owned companies John Kleven and H-Invest, the yacht building company Lurssen (Germany) and the private investor Per Lillebo. Without the newly infused capital, Kleven shipyard was facing bankruptcy.
  • In June 2018, Hurtigruten became full owner of the shipyard through buying the remaining 60% shares. Under the 2018 deal, Hurtigruten also fully owns the subsidiaries Kleven Maritime Contracting and Kleven Maritime Technology. Following the acquisition, Hurtigruten provided NOK 600 million (USD 75 million) financing in order to facilitate Kleven Verft's shipbuilding capabilities.

Hurtigruten new expedition cruise ship (aft view)

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

Hurtigruten fleet's LNG and Battery Power upgrades

In April 2018, the company announced a USD 150 million fleet renovation project - Hurtigruten's ever largest. Almost all vessels will be upgraded with new hybrid powerplants that combine LNG-engines (liquefied natural gas) and batteries. For the project was contracted Rolls-Royce Marine, initially for 6 vessels and optional another 3. Program's completion was scheduled before the new coastal service contract (January 1, 2021). The project also includes all boats to be upgraded with shore power capabilities.

In November 2018, Hurtigruten announced its fleet will be powered with LBG (liquified biogas) produced mainly from dead fish using organic-waste recycling methods. LBG will be sourced from Norway and other Northern European countries with large fisheries and forestry industries producing large volumes of organic waste. By 2021, the company plans to have six ships powered by a combination of LBG, LNG, and batteries. The project (budgeted USD 850 million) will result in creating the world’s greenest cruise brand.

Hurtigruten cruise experience

Hurtigruten ships provide comfortable home-like travel experiences while touring the charming cities, islands and mountain scenery of Norway. The 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 the 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. One of the unique features of these voyages is that passengers rotate often, with point-to-point ferry travelers embarking and disembarking along the route.

Itinerary of Hurtigruten

Norwegian coastal voyages

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

Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Express ferry route (itinerary map)

The list of all ports along the northbound "Norwegian Coastal Express" itinerary includes Bergen (turnaround port), Alesund, Floro, Geiranger (Stranda), Maloy (Vagsoy), Molde, Torvik (Heroy, Leinoya Island), Kristiansund, Rorvik (Vikna), Trondheim, Bodo, Bronnoysund (Bronnoy), Nesna, Ornes (Meloy), Sandnessjoen (Alstahaug), Stamsund (Vestvagoy Island), Svolvaer (Vagan, Austvagoya Island), Trollfjorden (Hadsel), Finnsnes (Lenvik), Harstad (Hinnoya Island), Risoyhamn (Andoy Island), Skjervoy, Sortland (Langoya Island), Stokmarknes (Hadseloya Island), Tromso, Berlevag, Hammerfest, Honningsvag (Mageroya Island, Nordkapp / North Cape), Kjollefjord (Lebesby), Mehamn (Gamvik), Oksfjord (Loppa), Batsfjord, Vardo (Vardoya Island), Kirkenes (turnaround port).

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, ranging from gentle strolls to energetic hikes, and from nature-themed tours to urban exploration – onshore 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 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 unique "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.

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 Bronnoysund, Tromso, and Trondheim, passengers can take “naturban” mini-expeditions on explorer boats while the cruise ship is docked in port.

Alaska and Antarctica cruises 2019-2020-2021

Via Figgy (Alibaba Group's subsidiary company specializing in tourism), Hurtigruten scheduled in January and February 2019 Antarctica cruises (on the ship Midnatsol) for exclusively Chinese travelers. These itineraries are roundtrips from Ushuaia Argentina and transit through the Drake Passage to Antarctic Peninsula.

Hurtigruten company also published the first cruises of 2019-2020 season, unveiling the most extensive Antarctica and Arctic program in its history. Antarctica voyages on MS Fridtjof Nansen, ms Roald Amundsen and ms Fram ranging 11-21 days. Arctic voyages from Longyearbyen on ms Fram, ms Nordstjernen and ms Spitsbergen ranging 4-14 days. Greenland expedition cruises are operated by MS Fram.

Hurtigruten's 2020-2021 cruise program includes company’s first series of Alaskan voyages, company's largest selection of Antarctic itineraries, extensive drydock renovation of MS Fram and the inaugural season of MS Fridtjof Nansen.

Starting summer 2020, Hurtigruten cruises in Alaska for the first time. The 8- to 18-day itineraries visit Inside Passage and more off-path destinations, like Petersburg. Roald Amundsen's Alaskan season ends with a Northwest Passage (Canadian Arctic) transit from Nome AK to Halifax NS.

In 2020, Hurtigruten also launches fleet's second battery powered ship - MS Fridtjof Nansen. The inaugural cruise season includes itineraries to Antarctica, Iceland, and Greenland, Arctic and Norway. With a total of 31 itineraries (ranging between 12-23 days), in 2020 Hurtigruten has its most expansive Antarctic season.

Hurtigruten related cruise news