Hybrid Norwegian cruise ship to sail through Northwest Passage

The MS Roald Amundsen cruise ship, the first of the new hybrid-powered expedition ships in Hurtigruten’s fleet, arrives at Tromsoe, northern Norway on July 3, 2019. (Rune Stoltz Bertinussen/AFP/Getty Images)
A Norwegian cruise ship named after one of the country’s most famous polar explorers, Roald Amundsen, who became the first European to sail through the Northwest Passage, is set to become the first hybrid vessel to sail through the famed Arctic route later this summer.

The cruise ship operated by the Norwegian shipping company Hurtigruten is planning a full transit of the Northwest Passage from Greenland to Nome, Alaska, in late August and early September, company CEO Daniel Skjeldam told Radio Canada International.

But while the voyage of Amundsen’s ship, Gjoa, lasted nearly three years from 1903 to 1906, it will take MS Roald Amundsen less than three weeks to complete the same journey.

A second cruise ship operated by Hurtigruten, MS FRAM, will travel from Greenland to Cambridge Bay in the Arctic territory of Nunavut and then return back to Greenland between Aug. 19 and Sept. 13, Skjeldam said.

(Click to listen to the full interview with Daniel Skjeldam)

Norway and Canada share a lot of history around the Northwest Passage, thanks to the contribution of Amundsen and other Norwegian sailors and explorers, Skjeldam said.

“We are very-very respectful of the history, of the cultures that we meet along the way in the Northwest Passage,” Skjeldam said. “It’s very interesting for our guests to experience it, to see it with their own eyes and to reflect about the history and the greatness of this area.”

There is high demand for sailings to Canada and the Canadian Arctic and the cruise is completely sold out even at starting price of $7,000 per ticket, Skjeldam said.

“We’re also spending a lot of time talking to the Inuit communities along the route on how we together can drive sustainable tourism in the area,” he added.

Next year Hurtigruten plans to offer 13 sailings to Canada, including to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland in the Atlantic, and British Columbia on the Pacific Coast, Skjeldam said.

“Canada is very much on our list of foreign destination,” he said.

Hurtigruten’s cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen is seen in the sea near Ulsteinvik, Norway July 1, 2019. (Hurtigruten/Handout via Reuters)

A total of 15 cruise ships are expected in Canadian Arctic waters this season, according to the Canadian Coast Guard.

Cruise ships that are scheduled to transit the Northwest Passage on either a partial or full transit are:

  • MV Bremen (German flag) full transit from Greenland to Nome, Alaska
  • MV Fram (Norwegian flag) partial transit from Greenland to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut and return to Greenland
  • MV Le Boreal (France flag) full transit from Greenland to Nome, Alaska
  • MV Ocean Endeavour (Bahamas flag) partial transit from Greenland to Kugluktuk, Nunavut and return to Greenland
  • RCGS Resolute (Portugal) partial transit from Greenland to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut and return to Greenland
  • MV Roald Amundsen (Norway) full transit from Greenland to Nome, Alaska
  • MV The World (Bahamas flag) full transit from Greenland to Nome, Alaska

Several other vessels planning to attempt to sail the Northwest Passage this year, coast guard officials said:

  • MOLI, a 45-foot sailboat from Australia is planning an East to West transit from St. John’s, NL
  • OPEN GOAL, an 18-metre racing yacht from France is planning an East to West transit.
  • TECLA, a 68-metre sailboat from the Netherlands is planning an East to West transit from Greenland.
  • BREAKPOINT, a 14-metre sailboat from Germany is planning a West to East transit.
  • JOOLEY , a 14-metre sailboat from Belgium is planning an East to West transit from Greenland.
  • ROSEHEARTY, a 58-metre sailing yacht from the U.K. is planning a West to East transit.
  • SNOW DRAGON 2, a 50-foot sailboat from the U.S. is planning a West to East transit.

In addition to these vessels, smaller adventurers are also planning to transit the Northwest Passage. A paddleboat from Germany is planning to sail from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories to Pond Inlet, Nunavut, and a team of three kayakers led by American West Hansen intend to follow same route as Roald Amundsen, from Baffin Bay to the Beaufort Sea, according to coast guard officials.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Small community in Arctic Canada disappointed by cruise ship cancellations, says mayor, CBC News

Finland: Giant cruise ships bringing tourists in record numbers to Helsinki, Yle News

Iceland: Arctic tourism in the age of Instagram, Eye on the Arctic special report

Norway: Antarctic-to-Arctic ultra-luxury cruise announced for 2022, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia considers building its own fleet of Arctic cruise ships, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Environmental groups call for global moratorium on ‘emissions cheat’ systems on ships, Eye on the Arctic

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

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