It’s fun to say, “Hurtigruten.” I feel like the Muppets’ Swedish Chef, but it’s even more fun to be aboard Hurtigruten’s newest ship, the world’s first hybrid cruise ship, the MS Roald Amundsen. This ship has a big name – with what could be a big impact on the industry.
Hurtigruten is not one of the new kids on the block. The company has been in business for more than 120 years. The Arctic was one of its first cruise destinations, which makes sense, is the Arctic is the Norwegian company’s own backyard. Hurtigruten has since expanded into worldwide destinations, including the Antarctic, and rare sailings through the Northwest Passage – which is what made the real-life Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen famous. Next year Hurtigruten will begin Alaska sailings for the first time.
The destinations the MS Roald Amundsen explores are some of the most environmentally-sensitive eco-systems in the world. Recognizing the fragility of the Polar Regions, Hurtigruten wants all who visit to come away wanting to preserve it for future generations. It’s this desire that led to the construction of this ship.
The Roald Amundsen is the first of a new generation of greener Hurtigruten ships, using battery power to help it cruise while conserving energy. It’s essentially a floating Toyota Prius, with Rolls Royce mechanics. Indeed the luxury automotive legend was tapped to design the ship and equipment. Even much of the bridge, right down to the Captain’s Chair, was designed by the legendary luxury company. The ship has a dedicated battery room where two giant batteries, developed by Vancouver-based Corvus Energy, run in tandem with the ship’s engines to conserve energy cutting fuel emissions by as much as 20 percent.
Hurtigruten’s CEO Daniel Skejeldam is convinced that this is the right path. He believes that battery power, not LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), is the future for the cruise industry. Technological advances continue to be made, and stronger batteries are already in development. Hurtigruten plans to retrofit its entire fleet, in part, with battery power. Skejeldam believes that fully emission-free cruising will become a reality in less than 20 years.
Hybrid engines are just a small part of what Hurtigruten is doing to make its ships more environmentally-friendly. The entire fleet is free of single-use plastic, and you’ll find water stations (flat & sparkling) all around the vessel for your refillable, keepsake bottle.
Another thing you won’t find onboard, a helicopter. “You will never see a helicopter onboard any of Hurtigruten’s ships,” insists Skejeldam. He believes that pollution is not limited to exhaust, it includes noise pollution. “How can you truly appreciate the remoteness of the Antarctic while helicopters shatter the silence?”
The ship may lack a helicopter, but other “toys” onboard make up for it. These “toys” are not meant humor passengers, they are there to enhance the destination experience. The ship has underwater drones, which are able to capture sound and video from beneath the sea and livestream these on board. Passengers will be able to virtually travel with a curious seal or a pod of whales. I was assured that these drones don’t disrupt or even bother marine life.
Main activities onboard each day revolve around heading ashore or into inflatables for a closer view of the ice and the wildlife. One “landing” (akin to an excursion) per day is included in the price of the cruise fare, and passengers rotate through opportunities to explore historic encampments ashore in Antarctica, go ice cruising, kayak or even camp on the ice overnight (conditions permitting and for an added fee). An Expedition Launch Center, essentially a super mudroom, prepares passengers for a seamless experience off the ship and into the wild. Passengers get geared up, debriefed and helped into marine crafts.
Inside Roald Amundsen
The ship may be sailing to some of the most remote places on Earth, but onboard passengers travel in modern Scandinavian luxury. The ship’s décor, furnishings, and overall layout create an atmosphere of “premium comfort,” akin to some of Europe’s finest hotels. This design is accented by an art collection curated by Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway (in cooperation with the Queen Sonja Print Award). All of the artwork onboard has been chosen by Her Royal Highness, and indeed, you’ll find some of her very own artwork throughout the ship.
The overall feeling is warm, with a bright color palette, well-planned layout and plush materials. The ship’s centerpiece is its atrium. You won’t find Vegas-Style chandeliers or sculptures here, instead, you find a six-story HD LED screen visible from the atrium’s balconies and glass elevators. The screen showcases Hurtigruten’s destinations. Floor-to-ceiling windows seem to be everywhere bringing the outside in.
The ship has a large outdoor pool deck, hot tubs and a pool bar. In the Scandinavian spirit, near the pool are panoramic saunas providing views of the passing scenery, the largest I’ve ever seen onboard a ship.
The MS Roald Amundsen has three dining venues, with menus focused on local dishes and destinations. Hurtigruten is solidly Norwegian so expect smoked fish, cocktails made with Aquavit, and other Scandinavian staples. You’ll also find the Fredheim restaurant, this venue is designed to be like a global market serving burgers, sausages, tortillas and, my favorite, milkshakes – which can be made boozy and come in flavors like chocolate, blueberry or cloudberry.
Aune is the main dining restaurant, an upscale bistro serving three meals per day. There is also the fine dining restaurant Lindstrom, serving upscale Norwegian and international cuisine. It is complimentary for suite passengers, but there is a small cover charge for all other guests.
Onboard are several different categories of cabins and suites, all are outside, with 60 percent having a balcony and 20 percent of those being suites. Some of the cabins have a kettle and tea/coffee provided. All the cabins have televisions that broadcast views from the bridge so guests can know when it’s time to go outside to take photos. Cabins and suites are well-designed, highly functional with lots of storage space. The reclining chairs in my balcony stateroom were the most comfortable, I wanted to bring them home with me. At bedtime, I snuggled under a soft, handmade wool blanket, probably like the one that Roald Amundsen took on his explorations.
Roald Amundsen Itineraries
The ship sails a series of 16- to 20-day cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula, Chilean fjords, Falkland Islands, and Patagonia, an itinerary that will continue into March 2020. Some of these cruises include a stopover at Cape Horn, which is often called the “End of the World.”
After completing her first season in Antarctica, the ship sails up the western coast of South America. After sailing back to Norway on a series of American and European cruises, the Roald Amundsen itineraries include Arctic destinations like Greenland, Iceland, Spitsbergen, and northern Canada, along with the traditional Norwegian coastal voyages.
In the spring of 2020, the ship will again transit the Northwest Passage making its way to Vancouver where in the summer of 2020 it will homeport. It will begin a season of Alaska cruises, for the first time in Hurtigruten’s history. Following the Alaska season, the Roald Amundsen will again head to the Antarctic.
MS Roald Amundsen Statistics
- Gross tonnage – 20,889
- Passengers – about 530
- Cabins – about 265
- Length – 459 feet
- Width – 77 feet
- Draught – 17 feet
- Specifically designed to sail in polar waters and service the Norwegian coastal route; ice class PC-6
- Designed by Rolls Royce and constructed at the Kleven Yards in Norway
- About 20 percent reduction in fuel and carbon dioxide emissions
In 2020, Hurtigruten plans to launch a sister ship to the MS Roald Amundsen, the MS Fridtjof Nansen. This ship is similar to Roald Amundsen but can sail longer under total electric power. The investment in the two ships represents the company’s largest singular newbuild expenditures.