Ms Spitsbergen at the Dock in Svolvær, Norway
Hurtigruten selected Svolvær in the Lofoten Islands for the christening of its newest expedition ship the ms Spitsbergen. This tiny town of fewer than 5000 residents was ideal for the naming celebration because it represents many of the characteristics of future cruises on the ms Spitsbergen. Svolvær and the Lofoten Islands are north of the Arctic Circle and feature spectacular scenery, the midnight sun, and opportunities for unique experiences.
During the ms Spitsbergen's first year, she sails Hurtigruten's coastal voyage route between Bergen and Kirkenes, making her first voyage from Bergen on July 24, 2016. However, the new ship was refurbished as an expedition ship, so the ms Spitsbergen will also visit the Arctic for polar expeditions. This is particularly appropriate since the ship was named after the largest island in the Svalbard Archipelago, one of the world's northernmost inhabited areas. The island of Spitsbergen is also where Hurtigruten’s founder, Richard With, first started expedition tourism in the Arctic in 1896.
Although Hurtigruten is best known for its year-round classic voyage between Bergen and Kirkenes, the exploration travel company is now expanding more into expedition cruising. Hurtigruten has signed a letter of intent with Norwegian ship Kleven for the construction of up to four new explorer ships. The order for delivery in 2018 and 2019 is a move to meet growing demand for adventure travel from travelers around the globe.
This photo shows the guests gathering on the dock next to the ms Spitsbergen, awaiting the official naming of the ship by her Godmother, Cecilie Skog, who is a Norwegian explorer and adventurer. Cecilie has stood on the peak of the highest mountain of every continent (the "Seven Summits") and participated in expeditions to the North Pole and South Pole, Mount Everest, Antarctica, and Greenland.
The next three photos were taken the day of the christening celebration in Svolvær when the town's population grew significantly. Three Hurtigruten ships--the ms Spitsbergen, the ms Midnatsol, and the ms Richard With--were in port for the event, and many travel partners of Hurtigruten came to town to celebrate with the company. The weather was overcast, but not raining. Too bad it wasn't sunny like the last time I visited Svolvær three years earlier.
Svolvær, Norway in the Lofoten Islands
Svolvær sits in a gorgeous location in the Lofoten Islands. This photo was taken from the ms Spitsbergen, which was at the dock of the fishing village. Guests sailing both northbound and southbound on the Hurtigruten ships get this view when they are docked in Svolvær.
Guests arriving on Hurtigruten ships in Svolvær can explore the town on their own or choose from some exciting shore excursions such as mountain hiking, fishing, horseback riding, zipping across the sea in a rigid inflatable boat (RIB), or taking a ride in an excursion boat to see sea eagles.
Crowd at the Hurtigruten ms Spitsbergen Christening in Svolvær
Not all of the guests at the christening of the ms Spitsbergen gathered on the dock in Svolvær. Some gathered on the roof of the town's tallest hotel, where this photo was taken. Many others crowded around the huge video screen and stage built in the town square, especially for the naming event. It was a festive atmosphere since many vendors had food tents set up around the square. After all the speeches were given and the Godmother broke the bottle of champagne against the hull, a popular Norwegian rock band, Violet Road, performed on the stage. I think Norwegians from all over western Norway were there for the gala celebration!
Hurtigruten ms Spitsbergen Expedition Ship Itineraries
The ms Spitsbergen was all decked out in colorful flags for her christening day. In 2016 and part of 2017, the new ship sails Hurtigruten's coastal route between Bergen and Kirkenes. The ms Spitsbergen follows the same route as the ms Lofoten, Hurtigruten's oldest ship. Since these two ships are small, they can stop at ports inaccessible to Hurtigruten's larger ships. In addition, the ms Spitsbergen has no port stops at night.
After the 2016/2017 season traveling along the coast of Norway, the ms Spitsbergen alternates between the Norwegian coast and polar expeditions. Starting in May 2017, guests can sail on the ms Spitsbergen to Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe and the Shetland Islands, as well as to Arctic Canada. The Canadian voyages include a stopover at Anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage site where the first Vikings' settlements were discovered in 1960.
In 2017/2018, ms Spitsbergen voyages along the Norwegian coast operate as expedition ships with expedition teams, the best choice for those who want to explore the coast in an active way.