Hurtigruten have been in operation ever since there has been a safe maritime route that connects the north and south regions of Norway. In fact, the founder of the company, Captain Richard With, was involved in the creation of this route which made trade connections a lot faster and much safer.
In the late 19th century the Norwegian government vowed to improve the mapping of the coastline between Bergen and Kirnes as the current maps were unreliable and left ships open to the jagged rocks, uncharted reefs and narrow bays which pepper the coast. It was captain With and his friend, Anders Holfe, who took on the task of thoroughly scaling the coastline and it led to the creation of a course that is still heavily used today.
It was 1893 when With’s ship, DS Vesteraalen, started regularly traversing this new watery path and this heralded the birth of Hurtigruten. The name is Norwegian for ‘the fast route’ and celebrated the fact that it was now possible to travel this new journey in just seven days. So with one hundred and twenty years of maritime experience under their belts, Hurtigruten have been growing ever since this pioneering pathway was created.
The many voyages offered by Hurtigruten’s fleet have always included trips to Spitsbergen (there was even a fast route established in 1969) but it wasn’t until 2002 that they made their first expedition to Antarctica. And with the introduction of MS Fram, their dedicated explorer vessel, in 2007, they have been able to extended their reach to parts of Greenland and Iceland; establishing a strong foothold in the expedition tourism market.
These explorer voyages aim to take you right into the heart of waters and lands that you otherwise would never get to see, and create unique experiences in these unique destinations. It is one of the company’s core values to offer responsible tourism which doesn’t take for granted the places which they visit and which illuminates its travellers as much as it animates them. They draw on the wide range of seafaring heritage they have, doffing their cap to their founder at every opportunity in order to create trips that are authentic, exciting and engaging in equal doses.
Hurtigruten have been sailing the Norwegian coastline for over 120 years, and you don’t get to rack up that much experience in this industry without knowing how to create a great product for willing explorers. Branching out into expedition tourism in 2002, when they made their first trek to Antarctica, Hurtigruten have been continually adding new destinations and itineraries so that they can offer a comprehensive range of extreme experiences in beautifully unspoilt locations.
With a wide range of activities and excursions to take part in when you are not confined to the ship, there is so much to look forward to on these expedition cruises. Whether you’re there for the wildlife, the chance to interact with local communities or the stunning scenery which is incessant in the way that it dominates these landscapes; you are sure to find your perfect trip with Hurtigruten.
Hurtigruten provides a full range of accommodation to cater for plenty of different budgets. From grand outside suites that offer excellent views of your new surroundings, plenty of space to live in and amble space to store your belongings, through to smaller suites, outside cabins and finally inside cabins which offer a great options for those looking to travel on a tight budget. There are also a couple of cabins that can be converted to accommodate anyone who has a disability.
The facilities within these rooms do vary depending on which grade you decide to book but most include a fridge, a seating area for relaxing within your own private space and en-suite bathroom facilities.
Dining on board the MS Fram will take place in either the main restaurant or in the bistro. Whilst the restaurant offers sit-down, table-served meals, the bistro is a great option for those looking for more buffet-style refreshments.
Hurtigruten have made a commitment to help out local businesses wherever they can. Not only do they source the majority of their ingredients from the towns they visit up and down the Norwegian coastline, but they have also launched an initiative in which they will work in partnership with Innovation Norway to help grow smaller businesses to the point where they are able to supply food to the ship on a regular basis.
Expect to receive a true taste of Norway whilst you are on board (including reindeer meat when it is in season), along with many different ingredients sourced from the places that you visit on your journey.
Hurtigruten are also currently involved in another project which aims to experiment with the taste of single malt whisky. For ten months of 2014, MS Fram will carry three hundred litres of Scottish whisky around the wild in a bid to improve the unique flavour of the alcohol even more. After its trip into the Antarctic Circle and back again, the whisky will be distilled into specially produced bottles and labelled as the ‘MS Fram Expedition Whisky’.
It is hoped that the movement of the ship, coupled with the constant temperature changes and the fresh sea air, will change the notes of the liquid significantly; producing a unique product from a very exciting experiment. The finished bottles will be sold on board the ship later on in the year and you’ll even be able to sample a swig of the ‘fine drop’ from the ship’s bar.
There’s no need to spend any more time than needed within the confines of your cabin as there are plenty of public areas that you can explore whilst on board. Whether you want to converse with new friends in the lounge, gaze off into the sunset on the observation deck or relax in a warm Jacuzzi as enormous ice bergs float past; you’re sure to find the perfect way to pass the time. You can even do your best Rose and Jack impression at the bow of the ship as you recreate the famous ‘I’m the king of the world’ scene from Titanic.
If all the relaxing is giving you itchy feet then why not head into the fitness room and work off a few calories in time for dinner. But if nothing is exactly what you want to be doing then there is plenty of deck space for you to take the weight off and enjoy your time away. One great way to warm up after a spell out in the cold is to take a seat in one of the saunas on the top deck. This will get just enough feeling back in your fingers so that you can head to the internet room and attempt to convey what you are experiencing to everyone back home.
The main destinations that MS Fram travels to on its polar explorer voyage are Spitsbergen, Greenland, Iceland and Antarctica, but there are many different stops situated within these itineraries. Journeying to Antarctica will take in places such as Ushuaia - the southernmost city in the world, the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. There is even a chance to cross the Antarctic Circle on board the 'Polar Circle Expedition'.
Travelling north could take you to a number of different places such as Reykjavik, Longyearbyen, Tromso and Nuuk – the capital of Greenland. Most journeys are geared towards a specific goal, such as spotting polar bears or penguins, following in the footsteps of great explorers of the past, and seeking out specific natural wonders.
On arrival in these wonderfully diverse places, there will be various activities and excursions that you will be able to take part in. These range from active past times like trekking and snowshoeing, to more casual activities such as sightseeing and mini cruises on smaller boats, to once in a life time experiences like interacting with local communities, taking a helicopter tour and camping overnight on the isolated ice.