Jo Kessel boards Hurtguruten’s new expedition ship, Fridtjof Nansen, on a special inaugural sailing in the UK
It’s rare to go on holiday and be the first person to stay in your accommodation.
But as I board Hurtigruten’s newest expedition ship Fridtjof Nansen I am my cabin’s first guest on the ship’s first ever sailing.
It’s a five-night showcase voyage from London to Liverpool and my brand new Arctic Superior balcony stateroom (a double cabin which can sleep four) is impressive. There are bendy bedside reading lights. There’s more storage space than I can fill. And for families there’s an ingenious privacy curtain that can be drawn to turn the TV/sofa-bed area into a separate space.
Too often expedition ships favour functionality over style, but not 530-passenger Nansen, whose staterooms all have an outside view or balcony. Cabin decor is Scandinavian-chic, paying homage to the liner’s Norwegian roots.
Large mirrors give a sense of space and grainy birch furniture (including a knockout floor-to-ceiling headboard) is offset by accents of grey.
In all things green, however, Nansen leads the way.
The words “Hybrid powered” are painted on the ship’s side and Hurtigruten’s chief naturalist John Chardine explains how Nansen (and identical sister ship Roald Amundsen) uses 20% less diesel fuel than other liners.
“It has a big bank of batteries which enable us to save power. It’s the first ship I’ve travelled on where every watt you save, either by switching off lights in cabins or having a shorter shower, means that more electricity can be stored in the batteries and used to power the ship.”
Your clients can make a real difference on Nansen. Each cabin has a recycling bin and a sign to hang to forgo the daily clean. Do this and Hurtigruten donates half a euro to an environmental fund.
Waiters’ uniforms and hairdryer bags in cabins are made from recycled plastic and linen and single-use plastics are banned – instead everyone is gifted a reusable water bottle which can be filled at “Hydration Stations” on each deck.
And the expedition team arranges litter-pickups in port. That’s how I find myself on a nature reserve that is home to herons and terns near Weymouth, aghast at what’s nestling in foliage: tyres, polystyrene, stockings, you name it. Disposing of it is extremely gratifying.
While the next two years will see Nansen sailing expeditions to Antarctica, Greenland (using Reykjavik as a homeport) and Atlantic Canada, it will return to the UK in May 2021, on a 10-day cruise around the British Isles and Faroe Islands.
Expeditions are at the mercy of the weather and high winds deliver us an unexpected sea day instead of docking in the Isles of Scilly. This proves a godsend because Nansen boasts facilities most expedition ships can only dream of: two steaming Jacuzzis, an infinity pool and sauna with a view.
And that’s not all. There’s a large, well-equipped indoor gym and outdoor apparatus lining Deck 10’s wraparound jogging track. I test out the equipment and then treat myself to an Antarctic stone massage in the ship’s Wellness Centre.
“Is the pressure ok?” asks masseuse Janice. It’s divine. After an hour of having hot oily pebbles run over my limbs I feel longer and lighter than I have done for years.
Being active means there’s no need to hold back at mealtimes. Just as well because cuisine in all three of Nansen’s restaurants is excellent.
Aune is the main dining room, with buffets for breakfast and lunch (think smorgasbords of smoked salmon, herring, cheeses and salads) and waiter-served dinners.
For skewers, burgers, King Crab rolls and the like, there’s an informal eatery called Fredheim.
And Lindstrom is its speciality restaurant (there’s a €25 pp supplement) where cuisine is as regal as the artwork by HM Queen Sofia of Norway adorning its walls: potato waffle with egg yolk, crème fraiche and caviar; reindeer with creamy wild game sauce and juniper; berry and white chocolate mousse. It’s sensational – definitely worth paying the extra for.
Five-star food and pampering are a bonus, but at its heart Nansen is an expedition ship and expedition team member Tone Holte shares her excitement about the lectures and workshops on offer.
“You can learn about nature and climate change. You can learn about the history and culture of an area or how to take beautiful photos. Or you can be active in the Science Centre looking at items we find on shore during the cruise.”
My schedule is packed with offerings: dolphin spotting on the observation deck; examining ray’s eggs and an octopus skeleton under the science lab’s microscopes and storytelling sessions.
I attend one in Deck 10’s Explorer Lounge – a sumptuous space for live music and cocktails – and learn all about Fridtjof Nansen, the polar explorer the ship is named after.
The last port is Liverpool – not a typical expedition location but great fun nonetheless. At The Beatles Story exhibition I’m immersed in all things Ringo, Paul, John and George. And on a “Magical Mystery” bus tour I’m taken to Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and the Cavern Club.
But one final adventure awaits. I climb the historic Liver Building and from the top there’s a cracking view, not just of the city but of Fridtjof Nansen moored on the River Mersey below, looking elegant and expedition-ready.
Coronavirus has made this an uncertain climate, not just for cruising but for holidays in general. There will be an end to this pandemic, however, and when normality is resumed Nansen will be the perfect ship for your clients to enjoy what, by then, will be a much longed-for and much-deserved adventure of a lifetime.
Book it: A 10-day cruise around the British Isles and Faroe Islands on Fridtjof Nansen costs from £2,136pp, departing Hamburg 22 May 2021. hurtigruten.co.uk
Watch Jo Kessel’s video detailing the myraid features onboard Fridtjof Nansen here
Smarter: There’s no need for clients to buy the premium drinks package, since as of April good quality house wines, beer and soft drinks are included.
Better: Hurtigruten’s agent site contains everything there is to know about Hurtigruten, and includes training on its ships (hurtigruten.co.uk/agent-web)
Fairer: All clients are asked to adhere to Hurtigruten’s motto: “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures and kill nothing but time.”