Calling it “a new chapter in maritime history,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam led two days of celebrations marking the Vancouver inaugural of the world’s first hybrid cruise ship, MS Roald Amundsen.
The timing could not have been better for the Norwegian expedition cruise line’s event for its newest vessel. As the Amundsen was welcomed at its Canada Place cruise ship terminal berth by Hurtigruten staff, local dignitaries and about 200 guests, some 100,000 young people were marching in downtown Vancouver to demand action on climate change.
“We are of the opinion the cruise industry has done too little, too long,” Skjeldam told TravelPulse Canada.
“This is the world’s first hybrid polar cruise ship. That in itself makes this vessel unique but it’s got so many other elements that also make it unique,” he said.
A wall of battery packs on the ship cut fuel consumption by 20 per cent. They can also be used to run the engines for short periods. Think of it as an early generation floating Toyota Prius, Skjeldam said.
Among its green initiatives, the Amundsen has water stations for guests to fill metal water cannisters. The pool and hot tubs are heated by water used to cool the ship’s engines and the cruise line banned single-use plastic on all ships last year.
Meanwhile, Hurtigruten will begin using biogas made from fish farm organic waste in Norwegian ships next year and is committed to being emissions-free within 20 years, Skjeldam said.s
Amundsen’s hybrid sister ship, MS Fridtjof Nansen, is scheduled to be launched in 2020. A third battery-powered expedition vessel is coming in 2021 and several ships in the fleet are being refitted with battery packs.
At the Vancouver event, Hurtigruten announced the cruise line is adding Alaska expeditions to its portfolio starting next summer, with Vancouver as the turnaround point.
It’s a good fit for the Port of Vancouver, said CEO Robin Silvester. The busy facility is committed to becoming the world’s most -sustainable port. Ty Speer, CEO of Tourism Vancouver, said Hurtigruten’s arrival slots well into its greenest city by 2020 initiative. “It’s such a great compliment to our brand story,” he said.
The battery packs on board also have a Canadian connection. They’re made in Richmond B.C. by Norwegian-Canadian company Corvus Energy.
The ship is named for famed polar explorer Roald Amundsen, the first person to cross the Northwest Passage. His namesake ship followed in his 19th-century path earlier this month as it made its way to the Pacific, the first battery-powered vessel to make the voyage.
Guests for the event included travel partners and travel trade. They had a chance to explore Amundsen Friday, taking ship tours, enjoying dinner and virtually experiencing a typical day for Antarctica guests led by on-board research specialist, Canadian ornithologist John Chardine.
Guests enjoyed Hurtigruten hospitality, then spent the night on board. Plans to sail overnight to Seattle were scuttled by unscheduled maintenance.
Even at the dock, the MS Roald Amundsen didn’t disappoint inside, with light-coloured woods, plenty of windows and warm, simple-yet-elegant Scandinavian design.
The first thing guests see when they board is a massive vertical LED screen, the largest at sea, showing breathtaking natural vistas from beautiful places the ship visits. The silently running, glass-fronted elevators are an ideal way to watch the show.
A massive LED screen is also a showpiece in the large expedition launch area.
The Explorer Lounge & Bar has a long, narrow “fireplace” running down the middle of part of the room — a clever device that uses lights, puffs of steam and the gentle sound of cracking logs to mimic the real thing.
Although the new ship is a compact 140 meters long, which enables it to explore remote areas that bigger cruise ships can’t sail into, it feels spacious.
The 256 cabins and suites are roomy, with touches like heated bathroom floors and soft wool blankets inspired by the ones Amundsen used on his expedition.
There are three dining rooms on board, including a “street food at sea” casual café. The upscale Lindstrom dining room features artwork by HM Queen Sonja of Norway, who also chose the 600 works by young Norwegian artists throughout the ship.
The large and impressive Amundsen Science Center drew raves, with state-of-the art equipment and reading, relaxing and research areas. Learning about the regions they are sailing in is a big part of the guest experience on these expedition ships.
Name recognition in North America may be a problem for Hurtigruten. But John Downey, president, Americas for Hurtigruten says the company is working on that., building consumer and trade brand awareness.
For the Canadian market, Hurtigruten now has all its marketing material in English and French, he said, and is building a local trade sales team to engage travel agents in Canada and offer support for the sales side.
A new booking and resource web portal is coming in 2020, with a modular training program, marketing tools and user-friendly booking engine to help agents quote efficiently.
Hurtigruten has an inaugural hybrid booking promotion for select sailings of $500 onboard credit and up to 15 percent and 25 percent off, depending on destination. For every booking on Amundsen or Nansen during the promotion, the agent will receive an entry to win a free trip on the Amundsen in 2020.
Canadian travel agents were impressed with what they saw.
Cathy Scott and Cathy Larsen of Departures Travel in British Columbia said the Amundsen will be an easy sell for its Alaska cruises and also for clients who are concerned about environmental issues yet want an expedition cruise experience with a touch of luxury. Scott is sure she will have an enthusiastic response from a group of women travellers looking at Antarctica.
“This is cutting edge and I think it’s going to change the game for everybody,” she said. “They’ll follow suit in the industry. They have to.”
“This ship is pretty amazing,” said Ian Kew of Maritime Travel in Burnaby B.C.
“Nowadays, people are more conscious about what’s going on with climate change and it means a lot for travellers, whatever little they can do,” said Kew.
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SeaDream Yacht Club to Resume Sailing in Norway on June 20
SeaDream Yacht Club, which paused operations in March, plans to start sailing again June 20 in Norway.
The nine new Norwegian voyages on SeaDream I through September include destinations hand-picked by SeaDream’s Norwegian founder and owner, Atle Brynestad.
The Norway program includes seven-day voyages between Oslo and Bergen and a 12-day voyage from Oslo to Tromsø and back – with three days in Lofoten, one of Norway’s premier destinations. SeaDream will offer new Yachting Land Adventures so guests can fully experience each port.
As the Covid-19 pandemic developed, SeaDream was able to avoid contamination but decided to pause operations because of the resulting travel restrictions. The yachts moved to Lisbon where the crew chose to stay on board and have been kept busy doing maintenance and upgrades.
They’re also having some fun – a basketball hoop was installed on the pool deck – and keeping calm and in shape with yoga and other activities. The chefs are designing new dishes, and the deck crew has painted, replaced the teak deck, and performed other maintenance tasks.
SeaDream continues to closely monitor the global health and travel restrictions and can adapt itineraries as needed.
“It has been very apparent from our frequent video calls with the onboard teams that without our guests, the yachts are simply not the same and that the crew genuinely miss serving our loyal guests,” said SeaDream’s Andreas Brynestad.
While SeaDream usually operates in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, the yachts have been to Norway before. But this time they are going north of the Arctic Circle so that guests can experience the midnight sun, the Lofoten Fjords, and Tromsø.
The SeaDream experience is known for its personalized service, five-star cuisine, intimate ports and onboard features such as the Balinese Dream Beds to sleep under the stars and the watersports marina with water toys. For additional details, click here.
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