Sustainable cruising will be “even more important” post-Covid-19 according to the boss of Hurtigruten after the line restarted its operations this week.
New onboard health and hygiene policies were unveiled during a Norwegian coastal voyage from Bergen onboard Finnmarken, carrying around 200 Norwegian and Danish guests.
Speaking onboard the vessel via video call on Wednesday (17 June) chief executive Daniel Skjeldam outlined some of the procedures introduced – including digital dining menus, face scanners for temperature checks and enhanced sanitisation of public areas.
He described how some parts of the ship had been blocked off to help with social distancing and glass screens installed in places where close contact between guests and crew is unavoidable. Extra space has also created around restaurant tables with guests eating at different times to ease crowding.
Skjeldam said from what he had seen so far onboard, guests were abiding by 1m social distancing rules, adding: “nobody is congregating or lining up for anything”.
The ship has a dedicated health and safety officer onboard, while facemasks are not mandatory and worn at the discretion of each passenger.
“Because we are able to socially distance and make sure things are sanitised and not being used by multiple guests, we don’t see the need to make masks a requirement,” Skjeldam added.
He said Hurtigruten’s return to service “does not mean the crisis is over for us or definitely not for cruise in general” but was hopeful of a strong bounce-back.
“I’m certain that small-scale travel will be back faster than mass tourism – especially when it comes to cruising. I believe guests will seek experiences that are more authentic, more sustainable and even more remote than they used to – away from the crowds.”
Skjeldam was asked how Covid-19 and the implementation of new health measures could impact Hurtigruten’s sustainability policy - with the line leading the industry on issues such as single-use plastics.
He said the answer was “twofold” and involved balancing being hygienic and environmentally friendly and predicted growing consumer attitudes towards more sustainable travelling.
“We’re not introducing single-use plastic but we are introducing more single-use items but we can recycle them – like sugar in a small paper bag. We are using a little bit more resources than if we put the sugar in a glass container that could be reused between guests.
"We think sustainability will be even more important post-crisis. People have awakened to seeing ‘oh there are stars over London – I didn’t know that’. Look at the water in Venice – people have seen how important sustainability is and the audience travelling after [Covid] will put even more importance on travelling onboard green cruise ships and with an operator that takes sustainability seriously.”