Expedition and environment were the two buzzwords at Hurtigruten’s media launch in London this month with the promise of greener expedition cruise ships and an exciting new programme of Dover departures.
The afternoon started in the atmospheric surroundings of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, founded by Charles II in a bid to seal Britain’s supremacy of the seas.
Now part of Royal Museums Greenwich, Greenwich was chosen from four European observatories in 1884 as location for the world time standard, thanks to English being the principal language for trading maps.
After marvelling at telescopes and astronomical clocks, and – I think – just about understanding how scientists finally learned to calculate longitude, it was time for a brisk walk downhill to river level, soaking up the views of Canary Wharf and the O2 arena on the way, still stupendous despite glowering skies.
Here a small band of travel press settled down in the Queen’s House, home to an internationally renowned art collection, to find out Hurtigruten’s own plans for supremacy as a specialist provider of unique cruise holidays.
Environmental concerns paramount
Big news for those of us concerned about the environment was the announcement that Hurtigruten continues to move the boundaries for green technology. Three of their vessels will be transformed over the coming months to premium, hybrid-powered expedition cruise ships. Equipped with battery packs and other green technology, they will operate year-round expedition cruises along the Norwegian coast from 2021 on itineraries yet to be announced.
So if you are already familiar with the Hurtigruten fleet, expect to find MS Trollfjord transformed into MS Maud, MS Finnmarken into MS Otto Sverdrup, and MS Midnatsol into MS Eirik Raude. Each ship will carry a maximum of 350 guests and the artist’s impressions of the new cabins, restaurants and public areas look sure to be a winner with clients old and new.
The public areas will feature natural Scandinavian materials such as granite, oak, birch and wool, and each ship will have a choice of places to eat. The main restaurant, Restaurant Aune, will serve three Scandinavian-inspired meals a day, whilst Restaurant Lindstrom, named after the favourite chef of the Norwegian polar heroes, will offer fine dining that blends traditional Norwegian fare with modern cuisine. Guests can also choose the informal Fredheim eatery, named after a legendary 1920s hunting station in Svalbard, or a new outdoor grill which will be added to the top decks.
A specially designed Expedition Launch will be added to all three ships. And for those passengers who like some extra background to their expedition, Hurtigruten’s signature Science Centre will be added to the three ships. Expect touch screens, science equipment and other interactive features.
The MS Otto Sverdrup (currently Finnmarken) takes its new name from a Norwegian polar hero who skied across Greenland with Fridtjof Nansen, whilst MS Erik Raude (currently Midnatsol) honours a famous Viking chief, Eric the Red, who discovered Greenland. But it’s fitting that Hurtigruten’s other big news story involved MS Maud (currently Trollfjord). She takes her name from Roald Amundsen’s famous ship Maud, which in turn was named after the first Queen of modern-day Norway, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
Maud to make history in Dover
For anyone who hates flying or just loves the convenience of a no-fly cruise, Hurtigruten is now coming to us. Whilst the classic daily coastal route out of Bergen remains unchanged, a new programme of winter departures from the Port of Dover will be part of their new Norway Expedition programme for 2021/2.
Passengers will travel on MS Maud across the North Sea to Stavanger and along the coast of Norway with more time in familiar and new ports, and with more Expedition team members on board to help them make the most of the experience.
Guests will be offered a free activity each day to explore the local history, culture and wildlife, plus a range of optional, paid-for excursions such as fishing, hiking and a Northern Lights safari. The price of the cruise will also include free hire of equipment for excursions, on-board lectures by the expedition team, free WiFi, and all meals including house wine or beer.
For Hurtigruten, this new programme is an opportunity to open Norwegian expedition cruising to one of its most receptive markets through direct access to their ships. For the Port of Dover, it offers the chance to operate their first winter cruise programme as part of the harbour expansion. But don’t hold your breath for summer Expedition cruises from Dover. With so many cruise operators already offering fjord cruises during the long light days, Hurtigruten are concentrating on a market sector in which they reign supreme.
Having already fallen in love with the classic Coastal Voyage, I can hardly wait to unleash my inner explorer from my home port. But that’s for next year. To whet our appetites, our lucky band finished the afternoon with a mini-expedition by RIB boat from Greenwich to the Thames Barrier and then back to the Tower of London.
There were thrills but no spills as we sped across the water to a rocking musical soundtrack before gliding serenely beneath Tower Bridge. Not quite the fjords, but a very acceptable alternative on a grey September afternoon!
Hurtigruten’s Norway Expeditions from Dover will run from October 2021 through to March 2022. Prices from £3,299 per person for 14 days.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Hurtigruten.