We spoke to Anthony Daniels, head of sales at Hurtigruten, the historic Norwegian shipping company making waves in expedition cruise
In the late 1800s, the 780-mile journey along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes was a long and sometimes dangerous one, with very few lighthouses north of Trondheim. The country was dependent on the important trade route,
but could easily fall prey to its own geography.
In 1893, the government invited businesses to try to improve the link, and one man, Captain Richard With, answered their call by establishing a steamship service between the north and south, dubbed the
fast route – or Hurtigruten in Norwegian.
As far as histories of cruise lines go, this company, which soon expanded its operation outside Norway to include Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica, is certainly one of the most fascinating.
Since the 1980s, the company has put a greater emphasis on tourism – its 11 ships in Norway and four expedition vessels offer experiential travel to sthe most fascinating regions in the world. It is embarking on an expansion powered by the company’s greatest ever investment. Following the MS Spitsbergen, which was christened earlier in the year, four new explorer ships will join the fleet from 2018/19.
The company has also attempted to move away from the word ‘cruise’, preferring instead to use ‘voyage’, and have left Clia.
We sat down with Anthony Daniels, head of sales, UK & Ireland, to discuss this and more.
Cruise Adviser: What’s unique about Hurtigruten?
Anthony Daniels Our heritage certainly sets us apart from our competitors. We have over 120 years’ experience exploring the coast and fjords of Norway and we’ve taken this expertise to new, exciting destinations across the world, including Antarctica, South America and Canada.
What’s the secret to experiential travel?
For Hurtigruten it’s all about understanding that one size doesn’t fit all. We aim to accommodate all our guests and offer a wide range of activities to suit everyone’s needs and desires. Whether you want to hike up a mountain or relax and enjoy a culinary tour in a Nordic town there are excursions suitable for everyone. We want our guests to push boundaries and try new things.
The size of our ships also puts us at a distinct advantage, as we are able to dock in hard to reach locations, which means we can truly get our guests to the heart of destinations such as Svalbard and Greenland.
What can you tell us about the new expedition ships you have on order?
The four new explorer ships will join the fleet from 2018/19 sailings and make up the largest investment in Hurtigruten’s 120-year history. Our explorer programme is continually growing in popularity and increasing our fleet means we can expand our list of destinations to offer more adventures to our customers. We are also delighted that our new expedition ships will be built in Norway – a nod to our heritage as well our commitment to investing in the local economy. It also aligns with our sustainability goals in trying to limit and reduce our footprint.
How does Hurtigruten source its food?
We source the best local ingredients for our voyages. Over 90 per cent of food on board our coastal voyages are fresh local produce. We take deliveries when we arrive in port from the towns’ food suppliers – even the local fisherman will dock alongside and deliver fresh fish to our chefs.
Taking this globally will naturally be a challenge, as the amount of local produce available in Antarctica will be less accessible than coastal Norway. However, we relish the challenge to ensure we offer our guests the best food, no matter where they are in the world.
How do you go about setting up special shore excursions — such as camping in Antarctica?
We have a great onboard expedition team who are the leading experts in our destinations and know them inside out. All the activities we offer guests are based on our expedition teams’ own experiences. Before we commit to any new programme our team carry out their own mini-adventure to assess its suitability for our
guests and also to ensure it aligns with Hurtigruten’s ethos.
One of our biggest sellers is dog sledding, which proves popular among guests of all ages. However, there are plenty of other extraordinary activities available on our explorer routes. Our latest additions are certainly stand out. You can go ice caving in Spitsbergen, have a go at polar snorkelling or ski under the Northern Lights.
Why did Hurtigruten decide to leave Clia?
We are very supportive of the good work undertaken by Clia for the cruise industry, not just in the UK, but globally. However, as a business, Hurtigruten has ambitions to be seen more as an adventure travel business than a mainstream cruise line, so we decided it was the right time for us to part ways.
Do you see Hurtigruten offering more travel experiences outside
This year we announced our first land-only trip in Spitsbergen. The Pure Spitsbergen itinerary includes flights (direct from London Heathrow) and a choice of two excellent hotels, one of which is a converted mining barrack. As the starting point for Artic exploration, there are 20 excursions to choose from, including a Spitsbergen winter safari where you might just spot a polar bear.