Hurtigruten Aims to Resume Operations from Mid-June
Expedition cruise operator Hurtigruten extended an operational pause for its fleet of small, custom built ships until June 15, but hopes to gradually restart cruises from mid-June as restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic begin to ease.
Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam, said, "There is still a lot of uncertainty in what the next weeks and months will bring. However, we do see international restrictions gradually being lifted. Step by step, the pandemic is being brought under control. Businesses are re-opening and everyday life is slowly getting back to a degree of normality."
In Norway – home to Hurtigruten headquarters and a popular destination for Arctic cruises – schools, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers are already open and travel restrictions are being lifted gradually.
"Gradually restarting operations within Norwegian waters are natural first steps towards a normalization for us. The size and scale of our step-by-step restart is dependent on national and international travel restrictions, government support and other external factors outside of our control," Skjeldam said.
The first planned departure will be MS Finnmarken from Bergen on June 16.
Hurtigruten, which has not had any confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 on any of its ships, also plans to gradually restart Arctic expedition cruises this summer, according to Skjeldam “in areas where restrictions are lifted – where and when we believe it is safe”.
"Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our crew and guests. We are working closely with all relevant authorities, experts and agencies to ensure a safe and sensible restart of our expedition cruises," Skjeldam said.
"In total, we will implement hundreds of small and larger measures to keep our guests and crew safe and healthy. Some of them are transitory, some will be permanent. But from even stricter hygiene protocols to reduced guest capacity to allow social distancing, this will give you a safer voyage without impacting the experience," Skjeldam said.
The company has also introduced a flexible rebooking policy including free rebooking all voyages departing before September 30 and future discount options.
Hurtigruten, in agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of Transport, has deployed two of its ships, MS Richard With and MS Vesterålen, in an amended domestic schedule to transport critical supplies and goods to local Norwegian communities. This service will continue through June 15.