Earlier this month, MS Roald Amundsen, the newest ship from polar cruise company Hurtigruten, made its first call in Vancouver, marking a milestone for Hurtigruten and for the cruise industry as a whole.
The 530-guest ship, named after the first man to cross Antarctica and reach the North Pole, is the first of two ships from Hurtigruten, and the first in the industry, to be able to sail on battery power.
“The response is absolutely incredible,” John Downey, Hurtigruten’s Americas president, who joined the cruise company last April, told Travel Market Report. “Customers and trade partners onboard were really excited about the experience onboard.”
Downey spoke to Travel Market Report about the ship and Hurtigruten’s plans for North America and travel advisors.
Sustainability and responsibility
Roald Amundsen is a first-of-its kind for the cruise industry. The ship is the world’s first hybrid vessel, dually powered by diesel engines and massive battery packs onboard.
“This is a huge step for the industry,” Downey said. “Three years ago, no one thought this was possible.”
The ship’s technology will allow it to switch from diesel power to battery power when it’s accelerating or using its advanced hull to cut through ice in polar waters, which will allow the ship to cut its fuel usage and C02 emissions substantially.
The ship’s size, at 20,889 gross tons and a capacity of about 530, also reflects that message. The ship was built at that size with two things in mind, according to Downey. One is the passenger experience.
The batttery room onboard MS Roald Amundsen. Photo: Hurtigruten.
“We believe the size of the ship gives our customers the best combo of intimacy and ability to sail into the unique areas of the world that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to sail into,” he said.
The other, Downey said, is that “we are trying to make sure that the communities we are sailing into are benefiting and not being hurt by us.” Bringing in 500 people to those destinations allows Hurtigruten to have a smaller local impact than a larger ship would.
Hurtigruten believes the move toward a more sustainable and more environmentally friendly approach, both in construction and in life onboard, is not only a boon for the company, but a responsibility for itself and for the industry as a whole.
“We have to be responsible about how we actually consume,” Downey said. “We have to be caretakers of the environment while allowing guests to explore the corners of the world.”
That responsibility includes Hurtigruten’s plan to convert 50% of its fleet to alternative energy by 2020. Hurtigruten also hopes to continue to reach toward its ultimate objective of getting to 100% emission-free ships sailing around the world, the first cruise company in the world to set that as its goal.
“We take that goal very seriously. And we think the industry should take that goal seriously, too,” Downey said.
The ship's Science Center, the heart of its onboard life. Photo: Hurtigruten.
Bringing the outside in
While the ship is designed for passenger experience, with “a level of luxury and finishes that make the guest comfortable,” which includes aft suites featuring private outdoor hot tubs and a trio of restaurants, the destination remains the focus.
“Customers are getting this great external environment experience,” Downey said.
Onboard life on Roald Amundsen starts at the ship’s Science Center, the hub of the guest experience. The Center is the gathering place for guests to mingle and talk with crew, to dig into the ship’s small library, or listen to a lecture from a member of the Expedition Team.
The onboard sauna includes a panoramic window. Photo: Hurtigruten.
All of the ship’s cabins were designed to be outside cabins, as the line wanted “all customers to be able to experience the environment the ship is sailing through,” Downey said. That concept was taken across the ship’s public spaces, including its sauna (which opens up to a giant panoramic window) and its infinity pool and hot tubs on its Observation Decks.
Another centerpiece of the ship that’s designed to bring that outside world in is the ship’s 57-foot, seven-deck-high LED screen that faces the three glass guest elevators that go up to deck 10. The screen broadcasts live shots from outside the ship, including scenes of destinations and wildlife found along its itinerary, and allows Hurtigruten “to bring that experience back to our customers who are walking around the ship,” Downey said.
Travel advisor outreach
A big focus for Hurtigruten right now is building the North American market for Hurtigruten and raising the line’s brand awareness among consumers and travel advisors.
“We’re really excited about the growth and opportunities we have in the Americas, in general, and also in North America,” Downey said.
Some of the consumer outreach will include both digital and print marketing that Hurtigruten hopes will raise that brand awareness among the public.
The plan for the trade outreach includes a new, redesigned advisor portal that Downey says will help the line’s trade partners better discover Hurtigruten as a company and “learn about us to best advise their clients on which Hurtigruten expedition cruise to take.”
The new portal will include a rebuilt search and booking function. It is expected to launch in early 2020.