Expedition cruise line Hurtigruten is best known for its port-hopping journeys along Norway’s coastline but today, it ventures well beyond Scandinavia and explores oceans and destinations across the globe.
Damian Perry, Hurtigruten managing director, China and Asia Pacific, says there is a new breed of traveller out there who wants to engage, learn and travel in a sustainable way. He talks to Travel Weekly Asia.
TWA: It’s been a challenging time for the cruise industry across the globe with the pandemic putting on hold what was shaping up as a boom year. As vaccinations roll out is there a glimpse of blue sky for international cruise operators?
Perry: It has been a very tough year, a roller coaster ride. but I’m now optimistic that we’ll rebound quickly in 2022 and a level of normality will return in 2023.
People have been conservative with their bookings, but I think that’s more to do with border closures by governments rather than Covid-19. Border closures make people feel nervous about travel.
TWA: What plans does Hurtigruten have for the restart of operations? What measures are being taken to restore passenger confidence?
Perry: Our ships have been sailing Norwegian coastal cruises during the pandemic and this has allowed us to test our ‘Safer Together’ programme to further improve guidelines and measures for the prevention of infectious diseases.
New on board, for example, is Ørjan Olsvik, renowned professor for infection control — he is supporting the Hurtigruten medical team in the development and quality assurance of infection control measures before, during and after expedition sea voyages from pole to pole, and for our sailings along the Norwegian coast.
We’re going through a review process right now, looking at what may be required for our passengers and crew, but I suspect that for the more remote destinations that we visit vaccinations will be on the table.
Key to Hutigruten's sustainability drive is the hybrid battery powered technology, which Damian Perry likens to a Toyota Prius charging its batteries as it goes along.
TWA: What makes Hurtigruten’s new expedition ships so special?
Perry: These new expedition ships — the MS Roald Amundsen and the MS Fridtjof Nansen — have a footprint like no other when it comes to sustainability.
Key to this is hybrid battery powered technology. The best way to explain how this works is to take the example of a Toyota Prius moving along, charging its batteries as it goes.
When our ships need more power in rough conditions the batteries kick in to move the ship along in a safe and steady way, but with lower emissions. And in port the ships can operate on battery power alone.
In addition, the ship is designed from top to bottom to be more sustainable. For example, we recycle our onboard power to heat baths, showers and warm the pools.
TWA: Expedition cruises are gaining in popularity. Why so?
Perry: We believe the current popularity of Hurtigruten expedition cruises is because our experiences are an alternative to mass tourism and have a strong focus on history, culture and outdoor activities.
A strong base of resilient travellers seeks to achieve their ‘bucket list’ journey and they are viewing Antarctica as hot property with nearly 80% of bookings in the last quarter of 2020 going to the White Continent.
There are a lot of curious travellers out there who want to learn, who want to be engaged. We’ve invested more real estate than ever before into our onboard science centre, which is the heart of the ship.
Onboard we have scientists and researchers, and passengers love to become engaged and learn with them.
TWA: Your August 2023 flagship voyage through the Northwest passage promises to be a once in a lifetime experience. What can people expect?
Perry: The Northwest Passage is one of those bucket list destination that people queue up for, but few are lucky enough to make the journey.
Departing on 18 August 2023, The Northwest Passage – In the Wake of the Great Explorers, is a 26-day itinerary onboard the explorer’s namesake ship, MS Roald Amundsen.
Expedition fans will venture from Nome in Alaska through the Bering Strait, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and the Amundsen Gulf before arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
With a team of experts covering biology and wildlife, the onboard expedition team will also include a professional photographer, an archaeologist, and one or more Inuit cultural interpreters.