Adventures of Scandinavia's coastal stalwart

For 120 years, Hurtigruten has uniquely offered both essential ferry services and cruise-style exploration
Adventures of Scandinavia's coastal stalwart

By Lynn Houghton |

This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats

Tasked by the Norwegian government with delivering goods, post and passengers to all of the Norwegian ports of call on a daily basis, the Hurtigruten ‘Coastal Express’ is particularly crucial to this Nordic country’s remote northern ports. This is not only as a delivery service but also to provide regular contact with the outside world.

The end of 2014 ushered in a new chapter in the cruise line’s long history with the buy-out of the company by Silk Bidco AS (a joint venture of Home Capital AS, Periscopus AS and TDR Capital LLP).

CEO of Hurtigruten, Daniel Skejeldam had this to say about the announcement: “Our new owners represent an exciting new chapter for Hurtigruten, for our guests, staff and partners. Under the new ownership, the company would benefit from experienced investment partners, whose dedication, track record and long-term approach will provide important support to release Hurtigruten’s full potential.

“We believe our new owners recognise our 120-year history and close interaction with the coastal communities as one of the key elements that make us unique in the world. This makes us stand out in the global travel industry. We will seek to further invest in the Norwegian coast product as well as in the explorer product on Spitsbergen, and are looking forward to doing this together with our new owners.”

Following the acquisition of the company, there will now undoubtedly be speculation as to what impact this might have on Hurtigruten’s operations – although the established nature of the line’s services in the region is likely to lend stability during the transition.

The line has merged its diverse roles successfully over the years, says Svein Taklo, COO and SVP of Maritime Operations. “The combination of goods and passengers, combined with exploration voyages, works very well for Hurtigruten and is of great importance for our strategy. It will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. The combination of local coastal traffic and exploration voyages gives our guests the unique experience of being a part of a local business that has existed for more than 100 years, while experiencing a voyage through the most beautiful and dramatic coastlines in the world.

“This combination is one of Hurtigruten’s most significant differentiators in the exploration market. Eleven out of Hurtigruten ASA’s 12 ships are occupied in this market year-round.”

Among the company’s day-to-day concerns, managing fuel costs is always high on the agenda, as is compliance with environmental clean fuel requirements – particularly in sensitive areas like Svalbard and Antarctica. “Consumption of high-grade clean fuel comes at a significant cost and like other exploration operators, the cost of fuel is one of our biggest, if not the biggest, single cost item,” says Taklo. “Hurtigruten’s MS Fram is consuming marine gas oil (MGO) year-round, which means that even during transition voyages we consume MGO. This is above and beyond global regulatory requirements and contributes to reduce emissions of SOx and pollution to the atmosphere.”

He emphasises that the preservation of environmentally sensitive exploration areas, including the Arctic and Antarctica, is a priority for Hurtigruten. “We expect the environmental focus will only intensify in the areas where we operate and we welcome regulations that will help our industry become an even cleaner and more environmentally friendly one than we are today.”

Hurtigruten recently became the first operator to offer guests a guarantee regarding its cruises to see the Northern Lights. Philip Price, UK managing director, comments: “The ‘Northern Lights Promise’ has been a great tool for highlighting to potential customers that a Hurtigruten voyage through Northern Norway is one of the best ways of seeing the lights. In fact, all eligible customers travelling this winter in October and November have been treated to a showing of the lights.”

Hurtigruten offers a range of activities and excursions for guests on its ships. “We have announced a number of exciting new developments recently including a new Norwegian Coastal Kitchen concept, a new service concept on our classic ship the MS Lofoten (spring 2015), the trial of more explorer-style activities on MS Finnmarken (December 2015) and the introduction of two overnight excursions in Kirkenes (from January 2015). We have also announced a number of new pre-packaged flight-inclusive options for summer 2015.”

In addition, there have been some exciting developments for Hurtigruten’s Explorer programme, as the MS Fram will be joined next summer by the MS Nordstjernen. “The Nordstjernen was previously operated by Hurtigruten and has been chartered for the summer 2015 season to offer voyages in Svalbard. “We are also very much looking forward to welcoming the MS Fram to the UK in May next year, when she will be operating an ex-UK cruise from Dover up to the Norwegian fjords,” says Price.

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