Cruises to the Caribbean, South Seas and across the Mediterranean may still be booming, but nowadays more and more people are heading north – to the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Hurtigruten’ means ‘speedy route’ in Norwegian, and is the motto of the country’s traditional mail ships which have connected towns the length of Norway’s 2,700-kilometre west coast since 1893. Today, the combined cargo, passenger and cruise ships ply the coastline of Norway, from Bergen to Kirkenes, in six-and-a-halfdays, as well as passing through the vast Trollfjord and Geirangerfjord fjords in the summer. As well as ensuring Norwegians up and down the coast get their letters on time, however, the Hurtigruten route has been transformed in recent decades into something entirely new – a tourist attraction of international renown. A survey on the theme of customer satisfaction carried out last season showed that no less than 96 percent of those questioned were highly satisfied’ with what they called the ‘most beautiful sea voyage in the world’. Almost 5,000 passengers took part in the survey – what greater evidence of people’s desire to travel the frozen North could you possibly want?
There is a huge amount to discover on the cruises, which offer repeated opportunities to watch the fascinating local fauna in their Arctic habitat, a harsh wilderness dominated by imposing glaciers and strikingly beautiful fjord landscapes. The coming year is a big one in polar histoiy: polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen was bom isoyears ago, and it has been exactly a century since Roald Amundsen conquered the South Pole. Hurtigruten is also celebrating the two polar heroes, as Captain Richard With founded the
Hurtigruten line along the Norwegian coast in 1893, the same year Fridtjof Nansen set off for the Arctic Ocean on his newly-built research ship, Fram. Three years later, the Fram returned from the Arctic and Richard With established a shipping line from Norway to Spitzbergen with the intention of enabling travellers to experience the beauty of the Arctic world in icy reality. Hurtigruten has been offering sea voyages to the polar regions ever since. This historic connection with polar pioneers Nansen and Amundsen is being celebrated in 2011. On Hurtigruten’s expeditionary voyages aboard the MS Fram along the coasts of Spitzbergen and Greenland, travellers can see the fascinating Arctic summer up close, and together with Seetour Austria, Hurtigruten is offering cruises at attractive special prices from June to August 2011.
The ‘Spitzbergen Experience’ cruise leads into the realm of polar bears. On the MS Fram, passengers can explore the west coast of the largest island in the Svalbard Archipelago in detail. Starting out from the island capital ofLongyearbyen, the MS Fram first sets a course for the ‘Sorkapp’ (southern cape) of Spitzbergen. The nine-day expeditionary voyage then leads north along the west coast to the north of the island at a latitude of 8o° north. The focus of the cruise entitled ‘Disleo Bay Expedition’, meanwhile, is on the breathtakingly beautiful polar worlds, and encounters with the Inuit and their culture. The MS Fram starts off on its nine-day tour from Kangerlussuaq, moving north along the west coast of Greenland until it reaches Disleo Bay, where gigantic glaciers and overwhelming ice landscapes mesmerise passengers. In addition to these fascinating natural experiences, high points of the trip include visits to small Inuit settlements.
Other providers are also aware of the magnetic attraction of this region, and the AIDA Northern Europe product now takes its guests further north than ever before: for the first time, the AIDAcara now travels to the idyllic Spitzbergen island group, between the North Sea and the Arctic Ocean, while the Lofoten islands, just off the Norwegian coast, are also visited for the first time on a Northern Europe trip. AIDA guests can enjoy the midnight sun and fjord landscape on a trip from Hammerfest to Gravdal via Tromso. These spectacular 17-day trips start out from Kiel on three dates in June and July 2012.
Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten is also setting a course firmly north: on the MS Europa, passengers can enjoy an introductory trip with the eclectic title ‘MS Europa meets Sansibar offSylt’. Highlights of this trip include the day-long passage through the Kiel Canal, the island of Sylt, and an invitation to feast at the legendary beach bar Sansibar, a Nordic version of the Cafe del Mar on Ibiza. As the sun sinks slowly beneath the horizon, another unexpected pleasure awaits: a raucous party night aboard the Europa.
Anyone wishing to discover their more adventurous side is in the right place: the expeditionary ships Hanseatic and Bremen of Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten are distinguished by their low draft, categorisation in the highest ice class possible for passenger ships (E4), and their manoeuvrable and robust inflatable boats, 14 and 12 in number respectively. The very latest technology on board ensures the ships can navigate the harsh conditions of the waters of the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans safely and venture deep into the polar regions, beyond the northern and southern polar circles. After a long time out, the Bremen is setting out again in 2011, heading for Alaska, where it will offer two expeditionary voyages to the home of sea eagles and bears. The ship will navigate the legendary North-West Passage in August 2011, while the Hanseatic will take passengers to the eastern section of the North-West Passage at the same time.
Convincedyou’ve seen all there is to see in Northern Europe? Then treat yourself to a cruise through the region on one of the ships in the MSC fleet. The fleet travels to the Baltic, Norway and its beautiful fjords, as well as Iceland and the unique Faroe and Shetland Islands. The cities of Tallinn, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Amsterdam don’t just offer lovely tourist attractions, but are also perfect for taking extended shore leave. In general, anyone who loves tumultuous waterfalls, crystal-clear air and fascinating landscapes will love a trip north. Due to the large demand,
Cost a Kreuzfahrten now also sends its flagship, the Cos ta Pacifika, to the Great North: starting out from Hamburg or Kiel, the company offers uniquely lovely routes along the Norwegian coasts to the northern cape and Spitzbergen. Absolutely magical cities await you on the 8-day cruises of the Costa Magica. From Hamburg, it departs for Copenhagen, Oslo, Dover (London), Le Havre (Paris) and Amsterdam. Could there be a lovelier way to travel the most fascinating cities of Northern and Western Europe? No matter whether you decide on a classic Nordic cruise to the serene Norwegian fjords or prefer to dive into the chaos of the region’s most beautiful cities, you can be sure of one thing on all these cruises:you will be warmly welcomed on board.