More than a century after Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen skied across Greenland, Hurtigruten is celebrating his polar endeavours with a second hybrid expedition ship named after him – and what a beauty she is. A near identical twin to sister ship Roald Amundsen, the stylishly-designed ship offers adventurous itineraries and expertly-led expeditions.
This month the 530-capacity ship is operating three ‘showcase’ sailings around the British Isles before she sets off on a 15-day Norway – Exploring the Fjords and North Cape voyage on April 1 from Hamburg.
Did the threat of coronavirus put a dampener on the cruise?
Other than a temperature check before embarkation, frequent reminders to use the antibacterial hand gel dispensers dotted about the ship and a cancelled trip to the bridge and engine room, the sailing went ahead as planned. Well, we did miss out on port calls to the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Man but that was definitely down to the weather and rough seas!
How do the ship’s green credentials stack up?
Fridtjof Nansen’s eco credentials are evident from the moment you step on board: recycling bins in cabins, reusable water bottles fillable from hydration stations on each floor and no single use plastic. Some crew uniforms are made from recycled plastic and hairdryer bags from recycled linen. For every guest who forgoes a daily cabin clean by hanging out a ‘we go green’ sign on their door, Hurtigruten will donate half a euro to an environmental fund. Guests are encouraged to take part in beach clean-ups too.
However, it’s the ship’s battery-powered propulsion system that’s revolutionising the industry. By running on a combination of battery and diesel power, the ship uses 20-30 per cent less fuel, reducing CO2 emission significantly. Excess electricity can be stored in batteries too.
The science centre… what’s that about?
The state-of-the-art science centre with its microscopes and glass cabinets of bird skulls (black-browned albatross) and walrus tusks offers a wealth of information on the places the ship visits. It’s also a research hub for the 22-strong expedition team and groups such as the Orca Foundation. Expect to see scientists pouring over microscopes studying sharks eggs, octopus beaks and more.
What’s the vibe on board?
Casual, friendly, relaxed and outdoorsy. Guests are more likely to be dressed in Craghoppers than Karl Lagerfeld – and a gilet and walking boots are not out of place. You are free to be as formal or as casual as you like. A seven-story TV screen showing stunning pictures of wildlife and Nordic scenery enhances the nature vibe – it’s great viewing from glass-walled lifts in the central foyer.
Norwegian heritage is evident in the storytelling sessions, lectures, art and food served on board. Salmon, pickled vegetables, cloudberries and seafood pepper the menus.
And the design?
A stylish upgrade on Hurtigruten’s older style vessels. A Scandi theme of Norwegian granite, oak and birch complements adornments of elegant lamps, kilner glass jars of herbs and fruits and pots of ferns and lavender. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows in Aune, the main dining room, provide oceans of light and views. A long glowing ornamental fire is a vivid centrepiece in the observatory lounge, where comfy day beds, swivel tub chairs and a pianist’s chilled tunes are perfect for a snooze or aperitif.
How are the cabins?
Compact, well designed and furnished in Norwegian woods and with stylish lamps. Bathrooms have controllable underfloor heating. Beds and cotton linens are ultra luxe. Cabins are all outside facing, 50 per cent have balconies, and aft suites have hot tubs.
What’s for dinner?
The Nordic experience extends to the three dining rooms. Aune, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with lavish seafood displays, has been thoughtfully laid out with tables for two and long high tables for large groups or solo travellers who don’t want to eat alone.
Cafe-style Fredheim, open for early breakfast, offers street food such as king crab soft rolls, tasty burgers, freshly-cooked waffles and milkshakes with delicious cloudberries.
Fine-dining Lindstrom dishes up reindeer, confit duck with Cointreau jus and a decadent berry and white chocolate mousse with hot chocolate sauce (25 euro supplement for non-suite guests).
Wherever you eat, beer, wine and soft drinks are complimentary with lunch and dinner.
How can you fill time on board?
There’s everything from early morning wildlife watching out on deck with ornithologists and orca cruise conservationists to talks and lectures on wildlife, nature and culture. The talks are streamed to cabins if you prefer to listen in your PJs. Evening storytelling is Hurtigruten’s showtime and an imaginative way to learn about polar exploration and the destinations you are visiting, the speaker often dressed in costume for effect.
For fitness fanatics, there’s a gym with rowing machines, bikes, treadmills and weights, outdoor exercise bars, 150-metre running track and spa offering a selection of treatments from 65 euros for 25 minutes. Yoga, tai chi and meditation are offered in warm water destinations.
A huge sauna offers wildlife spotting opportunities from its huge panoramic window plus there’s a heated outdoor pool and hot tub to relax in.
For excursions, there are kayaks, Zodiacs and even Blueye underwater drones to help you take a closer look under floating icebergs in Antarctica.
Where’s the ship sailing?
A 15-day Iceland Expedition cruise will depart on June 24, and in July and August Fridtjof Nansen will offer 16-day Disko Bay – the Heart of Greenland itineraries, all from Reykjavik. From January 21, 2021, the ship will sail 12-day cruises in Antarctica departing from Buenos Aires.