Hurtigruten Expands Homeport Cruising as Post-Pandemic Industry Model

Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten

Published Jun 11, 2020 4:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise line focusing on the expedition market, is adding new homeports for its future cruises as part of an expansion strategy for a post-COVID-19 industry. Starting in 2021, they will be offering year-round cruises from Dover, Hamburg, and Bergen to explore the Norwegian coast 

“We have seen an increasing demand for closer-to-home departures,” explains Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam. “We expect this to further increase in the wake of COVID-19. To give our guests even more flexibility, we have decided to expand our offering with year-round expedition cruise programs from both the UK and Germany,” in addition to the company’s cruises from Norway. 

Hurtigruten, founded in 1893, has continuously operated along the Norwegian coastline as part of its passenger and cargo services as well as year-round cruises. According to the company, the new itineraries were created with flexibility in mind, offering more time in port and taking advantage of the unique experiences created by the different seasons. 

The difference, however, is making the ships more accessible to the traveling public, not requiring flights for people who may still be concerned about the safety of travel. Hurtigruten is also emphasizing the remote nature experiences, along with avoiding the mass tourism crowds in the coastal cities, towns, and villages of Norway. 

Cruise lines had built on the concept of hometown cruising and bring ships closer to the markets through the expanded use of homeports after the terrorist events of 2001. They found that positioning ships so that more passengers could travel by private transportation, cars or trains, helped to restore the business, as people remained concerned over the safety of air travel. These same lessons are once again influencing the future of the cruise industry. 

Recently, several cruise lines, including Hurtigruten, announced that they would resume cruises in the coming weeks by basing their ships in domestic markets appealing to the local citizens as a way of offering vacations within the limitations of closed boards and other COVID-19 travel restrictions. Hurtigruten announced that it would be resuming its Norwegian coastal voyages from Bergen, initially only marketed to Norwegians. 

Following a similar strategy, Seadream Yacht Club, which had been planning to cruise in the Mediterranean in the summer of 2020, recently announced it would reposition its 112 passenger small cruise ship, the Sea Dream I, to offer nine Norwegian voyages. The company said that demand was so strong that it decided to add sailings on its second ship bring to 21 the total number of Norwegian cruises scheduled for 2020. 

Hurtigruten will be launching its new cruise program in January 2021 deploying its vessel the Finnmarken, which will be rebuilt as the Otto Sverdrup, sailing from Hamburg on two different summer and winter itineraries to the North Cape and back. Currently known as the Midnatsol, a second vessel will be rebuilt as the Maude to sail from Dover, England on cruises above the Arctic Circle as well as two new summer itineraries exploring the British Isles. Hurtigruten’s Trollfjord will offer the expedition cruises sailing from Bergen, Norway. 

As part of the upgrades to the ships, new restaurants will be introduced along with a science center. The company will also be expanding its focus on “green” cruising as part of its goal to become completely emissions-free. These three cruise ships will be fueled with biodiesel, which the company says will reduce emissions by up to 80 percent compared to regular marine diesel. The three ships are also equipped for shore power, eliminating emissions when docked in ports with shore power facilities, and all Hurtigruten ships have eliminated the use of single-use plastic. 

“We are thrilled to fuse sustainable activities, nature, and culture into exceptional adventure bundles at less explored locations,” concluded Skjeldam. 

Many cruise industry observers expect that Hurtigruten’s decision to expand the use of homeport cruising to provide new travel opportunities will provide an example for other cruise lines seeking to restore operations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.