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Ever since their founder, Richard With, sailed his very first journey up the coast of Norway, Hurtigruten has been an essential part of life for many of Hurtigruten's coastal communities.
Over 120 years later, their purpose has changed but there is still an intrinsic link between them and the communities that they visit.
Hurtigruten was established in 1893 by Captain Richard With, as the Norwegian Express Line, with a government contract to supply poorly connected Nordic coastal communities. The waters were badly charted and it was a difficult journey that few other ships were undertaking. Hurtigruten's successful first journey saw it quickly become essential to many communities as a supply, passage and post ship. Where mail from central Norway to Hammerfest used to take three weeks in the summer or up to five months in the winter, with the Hurtigruten ships, it took a mere seven days.
Although Hurtigruten now focuses on tourism, the ships still act as an important means of passage to the local people along the coastline. In fact, they operate uninterrupted every day of the year.
Generations of families work for Hurtigruten and their support and employment acts as the backbone of many remote communities. The company is proud of their community involvement and it is not unusual for young Norwegians to aspire to join the Hurtigruten family. Carina Hansen decided when she was 13 years old that she wanted to work for Hurtigruten and she later pursued this, completing an apprenticeship on board the MS Nordstjernen. She loved her experience saying that “the ship and the crew became like a family and my second home”.
Even with the changing emphasis towards a tourist market, Hurtigruten has not left the community behind. Stopping at 34 ports along the way, Hurtigruten relies on local communities to stock up with fresh food everyday so that they can provide their guests with the best local flavours in their Coastal Kitchen.
Among the local communities, supplying Hurtigruten guests with food as diverse as their coastal landscape is something to be proud of. Take Judith, who happily supplies the ships with local herbs hand-picked directly from her garden and the Nordic wilds in Kabelvag. Hurtigruten are an important customer to local food producers and their chefs love to combine local traditional flavours with a modern twist to create exceptional food for their guests. This is particularly true of the communities in the Svalbard archipelago – with a population of only 2600 people, Hurtigruten's custom is essential to the survival of the region.
Hurtigruten is truly loved by the Norwegian people – but don't worry, the feeling is mutual.
In fact in 2011, NRK, the national broadcasting station, broadcast an 134 hour Hurtigruten journey along the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. The live stream event lasted for 8040 minutes and many tuned in to watch the beautiful coastline slowly roll by, minute by minute.
Although such a program was hardly economically feasible, NRK broadcast it because of their “responsibility towards Norwegian culture” and the coastal communities loved it, welcoming the ship to port with celebrations.
Hurtigruten's ultimate mission is to welcome you to the beautiful country of Norway and what better way to do that than to meet the communities that makes Norway so unique.