Hurtigruten Resumes Expedition Cruise Operations After 13 Months
Thirteen months after Norway’s Hurtigruten suffered an embarrassing COVID-19 incident aboard one of its expedition cruise ships, the company resumed cruise operations as part of its newly created Hurtigruten Expeditions cruise brand. The company is working to expand its expedition cruises as it transitions from its historic Norwegian coastal voyages.
Hurtigruten Expedition’s third battery-hybrid powered ship, the Otto Sverdrup, departed from the company’s new homeport in Germany today, August 24, on a 15-night cruise along the Norwegian coast sailing to North Cape and returning to Germany. This cruise ship will be homeported year-round in Hamburg as part of the company’s efforts to expand into more geographies. Next month, the company will also start operations with its first UK-based cruise ship.
As part of the transition from coastal voyages into the expanded expedition cruising, Hurtigruten is rebuilding two vessels that formerly operated on the coastal voyages. Built in 2002 as the Finnmarken, they recently completed an extensive renovation of the vessel as part of its transfer to expedition voyages and renamed her Otto Sverdrup. As part of the conversion, Green Yard Kleven undertook an extensive technical upgrade, including installing a hybrid system consisting of a battery pack to run in conjunction with the diesel engines. In addition, the yard installed new combined shaft generators and drive motors together with new frequency converters. Hurtigruten previously announced it would also be converting its fleet to run entirely on biofuel and fitted the ship with shore power capabilities.
A similar conversion is also underway on the former Midnatsol that also operated on the coastal route. She has been renamed Maude and becomes the company’s first vessel to be homeported in the UK. The two newly refitted vessels join the first battery-hybrid powered cruise ships, the Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen.
“We are thrilled to finally be back exploring with our guests,” said Hurtigruten Expeditions CEO Asta Lassesen. “This is a day we have all been really looking forward to after a very challenging year for the entire travel industry.”
In July 2020, Hurtigruten resumed its expedition cruises in Norway. The company suffered a high-profile diagnosis of COVID-19 aboard the Roald Amundsen that led to accusations of a cover-up or failure in the reporting systems and protocols. Hurtigruten suspended its expedition cruises while internal and external audits were undertaken. The company reorganized its operations including splitting into brands focused on the continuing coastal operations and a new dedicated brand to expand the expedition cruises.
“We saw the travel industry’s global pause as a golden opportunity to invest, upgrade and improve our ships and product. As we return to cruising, MS Otto Sverdrup will feature a combination of advanced green technology, including new battery packs, that will ensure an even more sustainable way of exploring the Norwegian coast,” said Lassesen.
Under the restart plan, in October and November 2021 Hurtigruten will resume Antarctica expeditions and in January 2022 introduce cruises to the Galapagos Islands. Future programs include expeditions in Alaska and West Africa. By the end of 2022, Hurtigruten plans to operate eight expedition cruise ships.