Norway is the new cruise capital of the world, with Hurtigruten leading the charge having four ships sailing the Norwegian fjords and coastal voyages from this week.
The coastal sailings are open to Norwegian and Danish domestic markets, with many locals jumping at the opportunity to experience the wonders of their own coastline this summer.
When the line’s MS Finnmarken sailed from Bergen last week, it marked the world’s first ocean cruise ship to resume sailing following COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, three other ships, MS Midnatsol, MS Richard With and MS Trollfjord will cruise the popular Norwegian coastal voyage.
“I take great pride in knowing that Hurtigruten is currently operating and safely sailing the Norwegian fjords in this special time of history which is a salute to our enduring legacy. With the pandemic as a backdrop, we are again navigating uncharterd waters – only in a new meaning of the term – just as we have done since 1893 when we started delivering mail from Trondheim to Hammerfest,” said Daniel Skjeldam, Hurtigruten CEO.
The ships are cruising at low capacity with passengers social distancing.
“We are serving meals and refreshments; we are giving lectures; we are offering shore excursions; we arrange onboard activities. In summary, we produce an abnormal normality. And the guests love it. I have spoken to many of them, I have received reports from others and the social media is overflowing with photos, videos and positively charged comments.
“The feedback I seem to receive most often, is that life aboard is experienced as differently magnificent. Different because our infection control measures are ever-present as they should be. Magnificent, because a virus cannot change the fact that this is the world’s most beautiful sea voyage and that we have the very best people available to showcase it,” Mr Skjeldam added.
Hotel manager, Tor Eivid, on board the MS Finnmarken in Trondheim told Cruise Passenger that the atmosphere has been amazingly festive and celebratory. Some of the communities in smaller ports such as Rorvik and Stamsund had bands, buntings and flags to welcome the ship and passengers.
“It was fantastic – even the local Mayor turned up to distribute flowers to guests. It was very emotional for all of us,” said Mr Eivid.
MS Finnmarken which usually accommodates 900 passengers only had 250 mostly Norwegians for the 12-day cruise which departed Bergen on June 16. The ship stopped buffets and only offered table-service at restaurants. While nobody wore masks, they all observed social distancing and washed their hands frequently.
Hurtigruten will also offer 8 and 15-day voyages from Tromso, Svalbard and Tromso on the world’s first hybrid powered expedition ship, the MS Roald Amundsen from July. Svalbard sailings on the MS Spitsbergen will start in mid-July while the line’s newest hybrid powered ship, the MS Fridtjof Nansen will cruise the Norwegian coast during the summer season.
To help in the rebound of cruising, the line has adopted local, then regional sailings followed by international bookings.
“The rebound will not happen overnight. As we have seen in Norway, the process must be a measured, cleverly planned phased rollout, with the health and safety of your guests, staff and crew to be your top priority,” Hurtigruten said.
Hurtigruten has also issued a new health and safety policy:
Maximum 50% capacity on all ships for the 2020 northern hemisphere summer sailings.
Following the national Norwegian Institute of Public Health guidelines will be mandatory at all times for guests and crew.
Wearing a face mask is optional. Masks will be available if a guest chooses to wear them.
Guests must respect the capacity restrictions in public areas of the ships. Floor markings will aid with physical distancing.
Guests will be expected to observe handwashing protocols including at embarkation and disembarkation, outside all restaurants and on entering public areas.
Guests will need to open a cruise account, with touch-free purchases.
Self-declaration screening and travel history analysis plus temperature screening will be conducted before embarkation
Temperature screening cameras have been installed to test your temperature as you move around the ship.
Extra dining sessions, each serving fewer people, to ensuring necessary social distancing.
Increased disinfecting stations for hand cleaning on board and at restaurants.
Dining rooms to be disinfected between dining sessions.
No buffets will operate as guests will be served by our chefs.
Digital menus will be supplied removing multi-use card menus.
In addition to strict cleaning procedures, UV light will be used to identify organic materials so they can be removed.
All cabins will be fully disinfected at changeover.
Electrostatic cleaning with strong disinfectants used in all communal areas, storerooms and galleys.
Regular microbiological testing will be carried out to detect whether any infectious substances remain after cleaning, or whether there are any traces of coronavirus on board. Positive results will prompt a full disinfection of the entire ship.
Planned and unannounced hygiene inspections on all ships.
Regular inspections of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) ventilator filters, and drinking water quality.
Reduced capacity to ensure social distancing.
Additional cleaning and hygiene procedures.
Regular handwashing/disinfecting throughout the excursion.
All equipment provided disinfected before use by another guest.
All buses thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each trip.
Health checks prior to embarkation as well as daily temperature readings.
All crew must complete the WHO’s official COVID-19 course for hygiene procedures and infection management, as well as an extensive internal training program.
Dedicated Health & Safety Officer, responsible for ensuring the quality of infection control on board.
IN CASE OF COVID-19
Procedures for handling infection are in place, and in the case of a COVID-19 infection on board, infection tracking, dedicated isolation cabins, and on-call assistance from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.