The boss of Hurtigruten has not ruled out sailing ex-UK cruises later this year – but has insisted the UK’s Covid-19 infection rate would need to be lowered.
The Norwegian cruise operator became the first major ocean line to resume operations this week with a coastal voyage from Bergen onboard Finnmarken carrying around 200 Norwegian and Danish guests.
Speaking onboard via video call, chief executive Daniel Skjeldam said as part of Hurtigruten’s sailing restart strategy, cruises would only be available to the nationalities of countries in which the ships are based and neighbours with low Covid infection rates.
From next week three more ships will sail Norwegian coastal routes, while Fridtjof Nansen will operate 15-day cruises exclusively for the German market from Hamburg starting on 26 June.
Next month Roald Amunsden is slated to begin seven and 12-day expedition cruises from Tromso to Svalbard for Norwegian and Danish guests.
Asked when UK travellers may be able to come onboard a Hurtigruten ship, Skjeldam said the line was “monitoring the infection rate in the UK very closely” to see if it could be viable this year.
He predicted that when UK infection levels approached similar lows to those seen in Germany itineraries may take place.
“With the infection rates we see today in the UK, it’s not a situation [for us] to bring nationalities together when homeporting in the UK but I don’t exclude that we will homeport ships in the UK before January 2021, which is our plan at the moment, and sail destinations around the UK," he said.
Skjeldam explained how the line had enjoyed “great success” with its British Isles itineraries in February during the pre-launch of Fridtjof Nansen and a similar approach could be taken.
“It was fantastically well received so that could be the situation. Yes we could accept UK guests onboard our ships to sail out of the UK before January 2021.”
Last week Hurtigruten announced a year-round programme of expedition voyages departing Dover from mid-March 2021.
Skjeldam said that should the Covid-19 pandemic “last way into 2021” the company would “stick to the routine” of only having nationalities with low infections rates together and not mix with guests from other countries.
"I think that when we start sailing from Dover that will be for the UK audience only and [we’ll] not be accepting other nationalities onboard the ships."