Hurtigruten - A Sustainable Route to the Northern Lights
The cruise operator Hurtigruten has a special place in the hearts of many Norwegians, with a more than 125-year long history of transporting both travelers and goods along the wild Norwegian coastline. Hurtigruten is gaining momentum as a premium cruise provider and is currently the only company that operates 365 days throughout the year from Bergen to Kirkenes. A forerunner in the industry, they are also taking significant measures to reduce their environmental impact. A refurbishment of all old vessels and the introduction of three new ones are underway (The vessel Amundsen has already debuted), with several of them set to run on eco-friendly LNG conversion biodiesel. We sat down with Japan-representative, Mr. Kengo Kuno, to hear more about their strategy.
There are many cruise operators out there. What distinguishes Hurtigruten from other players?
I have worked in the cruise industry for 18 years and can sense the drastic differences in the way we operate compared to other cruise liners, for instance in how we serve our guests. Other large cruise lines often carry between 2000-5000 passengers at the same time, and with so many guests it is necessary to prepare large amounts of ingredients and precooked dishes for the all-you-can-eat menus. It is difficult make adequate food estimations, and all the food waste often left me feeling unsettled at the cruise lines I previously worked for. At Hurtigruten, on the other hand, we have a capacity of 638 passengers for our largest vessel, which makes it easier to cater to the individual traveler’s needs. Minimizing food loss is a must, and cuisine prepared onboard from locally produced fresh ingredients also provide travelers with an authentic Norwegian food experience. We refer to it as the "Norwegian coastal kitchen", focused on local production for local consumption, a very unique concept that I don’t think any other cruise line has.
Minimizing food loss is a must, and cuisine prepared onboard from locally produced fresh ingredients also provide travelers with an authentic Norwegian food experience. We refer to it as the "Norwegian coastal kitchen"
It seems that Hurtigruten is putting a lot of emphasis on sustainable tourism. Can you tell me a little bit more about your strategy?
We are working on introducing environmentally friendly biogas for some of our vessels, as a pioneer in the industry. This effort is combined with a full refurbishment of the old ships, as well as the introduction of three brand new vessels. These vessels are named after the famous Norwegian explorers Amundsen and Nansen (number three is yet to be named). All of the new vessels will run on battery-powered hybrid and environmental-friendly LNG.
We are taking issues surrounding environmental pollution seriously, and another example of a recent implementation of ours is the decision to discontinue single-use plastic onboard and for all of our offices.
I would emphasize that while our focus on sustainability can help strengthen our brand image in an age where consumers are getting more environmentally conscious, our CEO has been outspoken about the fact that we as a company strongly encourage other cruise liners to take the same path, to ensure a pristine environment for future generations.
We are working on introducing environmentally friendly biogas for some of our vessels, as a pioneer in the industry. This effort is combined with a full refurbishment of the old ships, as well as the introduction of three brand new vessels.
What do you find most challenging about promoting Hurtigruten in Japan?
Many Japanese people dream about seeing the northern lights but they don’t know about our Northern light cruise. I want to let people know that they can enjoy the marvelous sight of these lights from onboard our ships, something that is almost impossible to get from other providers. The biggest challenge in Japan is increasing our brand recognition, but it is also a challenge that Japanese people don’t take long vacations, an issue that applies to other cruise liners as well. Our boats operate between Bergen to Kirkenes and back again, but the travel agencies usually promote only a one-way trip for customers in the Japanese market. Which is a pity, as we even have a northern light guarantee in place for travelers who journey with us for a round trip during the winter season.
But even a one-way trip requires at least 10 days in total including the plane back and forth to Norway from Japan, which is considered an extraordinarily long vacation for most Japanese travelers.
We even have a northern light guarantee in place for travelers who journey with us for a round trip during the winter season
Many people travel to Norway for the Northern lights. What can you offer those who are seeking other sights?
Our cruise is most popular for the Northern lights in Japan, but there are a lot of other things to experience on the way. Many travelers love seeing the Norwegian fjords and coastline from our roof deck jacuzzi. Hurtigruten provides a pure Norwegian experience, and those who travel with us have the chance to get a close encounter not just with the Northern lights, but also the beautiful fjords, all in the comfort of our ship. Our ships' interior is a showcase of Scandinavian design and nature, and the cuisine reflects the Norwegian taste.
In Norway, we also offer expeditions to the Svalbard islands and Spitsbergen. We have multiple departures from Longyearbyen (capital of Svalbard) with different ships, where people can choose theme depending on their interest. Polar bears and unique natural surroundings make Svalbard a popular destination. In addition, we can also operate outside of Norway. Our voyage to Greenland is another itinerary we proudly offer travelers yearning for an outstanding voyage. We also have Iceland itineraries where the ships circle around the whole island, passing through the northern part where tourists usually cannot go. We can thus offer unique sights that most people haven’t experienced. It takes 9 days to get around Iceland, so including the transportation back and forth from Japan, you’d need 12 days.
Many travelers love seeing the Norwegian fjords and coastline from our roof deck jacuzzi. Hurtigruten provides a pure Norwegian experience, and those who travel with us have the chance to get a close encounter not just with the Northern lights, but also the beautiful fjords, all in the comfort of our ship.
Which months would you recommend people to travel with Hurtigruten, and why?
September to March is the best period for those who dream of seeing the Northern lights. At the same time, the Northern parts of Norway get very dark during winter, so late September to early October is ideal for those who also want to enjoy daytime activities. For those wishing to see Fjords, my recommendation would be the summer season around July or August. While our main purpose is to maximize the Hurtigruten brand image we also see it as a goal in itself to promote Norway and Norwegian culture, and I hope that Hurtigruten can provide travelers with the dream vacation they deserve.