Expedition cruise line Hurtigruten will be one of the first lines to return to the oceans when it starts itineraries on the stunning Norwegian coast this month with a raft of new health protocols.

The line will kick start its summer season on June 16 with the classic Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen itinerary onboard the 900-passenger MS Finnmarken  – described as “the world’s most beautiful voyage”.

With prices starting from $2,002 for the 12-day trip, and deposits of just 5%, the line is anticipating a strong reaction from local cruisers on its first voyages- and later from Australians, who have already made the line a firm favourite.

“These voyages in Norwegian waters will be our first small steps towards the new normal. As of now, we do not know what the international travel restrictions will look like this summer,” said Hurtigruten CEO, Daniel Skjeldam.

“From even stricter hygiene protocols to reduced guest capacity to allow social distancing, you have my word that this will give you a safer voyage without impacting your experience,” he added.

Hurtigruten also plans to gradually restart its Arctic expedition cruises this summer “in areas where restrictions are lifted – where and when we believe it is safe,” Mr Skjeldam said.

Hurtigruten brochure

The line is the only company in Norway that has continued to sail during the pandemic, with two of its ships providing transport, shipping products and delivery of critical supplies and post up and down the coastline.

“As per our agreement with the Norwegian government, two of our ships have continued to provide transport for people, products and post up and down the Norwegian coast as we have done since 1893. June will see the return of two more ships to the coast as Norwegian domestic restrictions lift,” says the line.

Hurtigruten has not had any “suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus on any ship,” and has successfully repatriated all guests, including Australians, from its ships when the pandemic put a temporary halt to global cruising.

The line has a fleet of 19 custom-built ships which provide cruise holidays, transport, delivery of goods and post in Norway.

It is also considered the world’s greenest cruise line, launching the first hybrid, battery-operated ship, MS Roald Amundsen, last year.

Hurtigruten ship
Hurtigruten ship

Its latest addition, the Ms Fridtjof Nansen, a sister ship to Roald Amundsen, which debuted this year, can accommodate 530 passengers but only carries a maximum of 500 guests to Antarctica.

From voyages to the Antarctica, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Northwest Passage, South America, Norway to the remote Svalbard, Hurtigruten has become the recognised leader in expedition cruises.

The company has recently chalked up another accolade when it was ranked as one of top three most trusted companies in Norway in the annual RepTrak 2020 survey which analyses the reputation of 50 prominent Norwegian companies.

So why cruise to Norway?

If there’s one natural attraction that defines Norway –  it’s the fjords.

With more than 1,000 fjords meandering around the country, you will be amazed by the deep, narrow and elongated sea inlets surrounded by steep cliffs and soaring mountains plunging deep into the emerald-coloured sea water. They are one of Europe’s most beautiful sights.

No wonder it is popularly known as the Land of the Fjords.

Norway is also known for its dramatic coastline which is second longest in the world, after Canada. If you put Norway’s 100,900 km of highly irregular coastline with fjords and islands into a single line, it would circle the planet two and half times.

To really experience Norway’s natural wonders, you also have to taste some of the country’s cuisine.

The national dish is farikal, a hearty mutton and cabbage stew, garnished with pepper and cooked for several hours in a casserole and served with boiled potatoes.

The country is also famous for its dried, salted cod called Klippfisk – an acquired taste for non-Norwegians.

For sweets, there’s Svele, a pancake, very much like American pancake served with generous amounts of sweetened brown cheese or butter.

So what are the highlights of cruising the Norwegian coast when MS Finnmarken starts her first sailing after the global lockdown?

The classic, 12-day cruise from Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen will take you on a wonderful adventure along the country’s famous coastline, with 34 ports of call, sailing past 100 fjords and 1000 mountains.

You will cross the Arctic Circle and hunt for the Northern Lights in winter or enjoy 24 hours of daylight under the Midnight Sun in summer.

In spring and autumn, Norway showcases its brilliant colours and magical light while you discover the country’s fascinating culture.

Your journey starts at the charming city of Bergen which was founded in 1070 AD and still retains its unmistakeable culture and postcard-perfect streets. Beautifully located by the Bergen fjord, it is surrounded by seven mountains. Known as the gateway to the fjords, “must-see” attractions include the wooden UNESCO Bryggen wharf which dates back to the 14th century.

Your cruise then takes to Alesund, renowned for its Art Nouveau architecture and famed Atlanterhavsparken aquarium before heading for Mount Aksla for a breathtaking view.

Couple enjoying the Norwegian fjords with HurtigrutenIn summer, you will cruise by the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord passing 800-metre-high cliffs and dramatic waterfalls. In autumn, you can explore the Hjorundfjord with its pristine natural landscape of steep rock walls, lonely mountain farms and tiny villages.

You then visit Molde, known as the City of Roses. The pretty coastal town has stunning views of 222 mountain peaks across the fjord called the “Molde Panorama.”

Your cruise will then arrive at pretty Trondheim, a unique mix of old and new. Founded by Viking King Olav Tryggvason in 997, Trondheim is famous for the soaring Nidaros Cathedral, a gothic cathedral where King Olav was buried, the northernmost tram line or you can simply go kayaking on the River Nid.

The cruise will cross the Arctic Circle where you can see the Northern Lights in winter or experience the Midnight Sun in summer. You will visit the spectacular Lofoten with its stunning scenery, mountain peaks and tiny fishing settlements which is home to hundreds of sea eagles and other sea birds including the colourful puffin.

Hurtigruten in the Norwegian fjords

You will then arrive at Tromso to learn about the Arctic hunters and taste beer from the world’s northernmost brewery.

Here you can go for a thrilling dog-sledge ride in winter where you are pulled by huskies over a frozen landscape past stunning views of the snowy plateaus.

At night, if you are lucky, you may be able to spot the Northern Lights. In summer you can go for a kayak excursion along Tromso’s coastline and get close to its marine wildlife.

You will then sail to the North Cape, one of the northernmost points on European continent where in summer you can see herds of reindeer or go bird-watching at Honningsvag, home to millions of birds during the nesting season. In winter you can go on a snowmobile across snowy plains to spot the Northern Lights in the sky.

Your cruise will then arrive at Kirkenes, where the Russian border is just a few kilometres away. Here local road signs are in Norwegian and Russian. One of the must-do highlight is to go on a excursion to catch and eat giant king crab from the Barents Sea.

You will visit Kristiansund, Norway’s cured cod capital because of its centuries old export of dried fish and sail through the picturesque Nordfjord and the mighty Sognefjord, the biggest fjord in the country, before arriving and disembarking in Bergen.

Receive up to $500 onboard credit on select 2021 Original Coastal Voyages of Norway. See their deals page here or call Hurtigruten on 1300 159 871.