"In my imagination I created an electric ship that could break through all kinds of ice, that nice and elegantly, fearful and irresistible, could sail through the Arctic oceans, straight to the Pole.”
Written by Roald Amundsen in his diary at the age of 10, these prophetic words became a reality 137 years later, as Hurtigruten launched the world’s first hybrid electric-powered ship named after the intrepid explorer himself.
The MS Roald Amundsen made her maiden call in Vancouver on Sept. 27. Her engine is complemented by battery packs created by Vancouver-based Corvus Energy. The electric engine can run for 30 minutes, reducing emissions by 20 per cent.
Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten, beamed with pride at the ceremonious plaque and key exchange with the Port of Vancouver.
“When you came onboard today, you stepped onboard a piece of maritime history," he told the crowd on the day of the ceremony. "This is the world’s first hybrid polar cruise ship. We’ve been working on this project since 2015. Everyone thought we were crazy, but here we are today, four years later, with batteries.”
Walking the talk of sustainability
Hurtigruten has a commitment to going green. Completely single-use plastic-free, guests are provided with refillable water bottles, bath amenities are in pump containers, recycling bins are found throughout the ship.
Ashore, guests have the option to participate in beach clean-up programs. Hurtigruten is currently implementing bio-gas fuel technology, and will be refitting seven more ships with hybrid engines.
“Our plan is to sail 100 per cent emissions-free in the future. It’s not possible today, but we think this is possible not too far away," Skjeldam said. “We really believe that the cruise industry needs more focus on sustainability. We want to walk the talk, and continue to lead and push for new technology.”
As the MS Roald Amundsen will spend most of her time in cold waters, her interiors are deliberated designed to exude warmth through faux fireplaces, light oak, birch wood, and cozy felts and wools. Natural light floods through floor-to-ceiling windows, sleek and contemporary furnishings reflect Hurtigruten’s Scandinavian heritage.
Her state of the art technology includes a 57-foot LED screen that spans seven decks, projecting 4K ultra-high definition images of the surrounding landscapes. Large LED screens in the ship’s Science Center also broadcast live feed from underwater drones and the hi-res outdoor camera to accompany its lecture and discovery program.
Expanding brand awareness in Canada
While the launch of MS Roald Amundsen has garnered much attention, Hurtigruten isn’t exactly a household name in Canada. PAX spoke to John Downey, Hurtigruten’s president in the Americas about the company’s plans to turn that around.
“In Canada, our first step is to offer bilingual collateral, which we are currently developing," said Downey. “The travel agent distribution channel is critical for us, and we are committed to help our Canadian travel partners and guests understand the product we are offering.”
Part of that team is Kristin Erz, a business development consultant who is based in Toronto, and Seattle-based Storm Tussey-Haverly, vice president of marketing.
“We understand that travellers and travel agents from different provinces have different needs, so we will work on creating the right type of assets and support that will reach out and speak to their identifies,” Tussey-Haverly told PAX.
In addition to the bilingual collateral, there will be Canadian-specific promotions, and other trade and consumer initiatives to be announced.
Even with little localized support over the past two years, Hurtigruten has seen organic single-digit growth from Canada. “With the right kind of support, we are hoping to see double, or even triple-digit growth in the future”, said Tussey-Haverly.
Announced during the inaugural event is a booking incentive where travel advisors with new individual or group bookings will be entered to win a cruise for two onboard the MS Roald Amundsen. Agents can log onto Hurtigruten Agents site for marketing materials and training program. Kristin Erz can be reached at email@example.com.
The MS Roald Amundsen will now sail south to Antarctica where she will be officially named. Following her maiden season there, she will return to Vancouver in spring 2020 to offer a full Alaska season.
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