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Wild Norway: unique land animals

The Arctic Circle has some of the most unique wildlife in the world. At Bentours, we want to give all of our guests the chance to see these unusual animals in their natural habitat, and there is no better way to do that than getting up close with a Hurtigruten voyage.

As well as traversing the Classic Coastal Route, Hurtigruten run voyages over the Summer deeper into the Arctic Circle. Here, under the Midnight Sun, guests can spot polar bears, arctic foxes and elks. But what makes these animals so special?

The Polar Bear

Probably one of the most recognised animals in this part of the world is the polar bear. These magnificent bears can weigh between 300–700kg and are the largest species of bear. In the Svalbard archipelago, polar bear sightings from aboard a Hurtigruten ship aren’t unusual as the polar bears outnumber the people! With about 60% of the land mass covered in glaciers, there are approximately 3,000 polar bears to the 2,700 people.

Hop aboard one of the smaller landing ships and have fun on a snow mobile safari or a skiing expedition – our Shore Expeditions are the best chance to see one of these bears up close and personal. At the end of the day though, it is important to remember that as cuddly as they look from a distance, polar bears are wild animals and you should always follow the advice of your specialist guide on any of our Shore Excursions.

The Arctic Fox

These furry critters are perfectly camouflaged in winter with their
snow white fur. In the summer months, their pelage (coat) darkens and they become a little easier for us keen wildlife enthusiasts to lay eyes on! Arctic Fox_WildlifeThey live in the northernmost parts of Norway and build low mounds, eskers, in the Arctic tundra. Interestingly, these mounds will often be used by generations of the same pack of foxes for hundreds of years with many different entrances.

Creeping up on one of these guys is a bit tough due to their incredibly sensitive hearing which they use to locate prey, even with the deadening effect of sound due to the snow. Remember to ask your specialist guides if a den is nearby your snowmobile safari route and you might be able to spot a fox or two.

The Elk

The elk, elg in Norwegian, or moose is one of the easier animals to spot in Norway. There are many elks around the archipelago of Vesterålen, a stop on Hurtigruten’s Coastal Route.

Summer is the best season to spot elk, either from onboard a ship or on one of the coastal excursions. The best time of day to see an elk is during twilight.

The Reindeer

Similar in size to elks, reindeer are an iconic animal of the North. There are about 30,000 reindeer living in Norway with 10,000 in the Svalbard archipelago. These reindeer are closer genetically to the reindeer of the Canadian High Arctic and sometimes one can even spot reindeer with Russian tags, having roamed across the ice to Norway. The reindeer of Svalbard are shorter and fatter, with more white in their fur.

Reindeer are very social animals and live in large herds – they can be seen at Santa’s Village or on a stay in a glass igloo, where they graze in the nearby forest. The majority of the northern reindeer are owned and domesticated by the indigenous Sámi who are traditionally reindeer herders.  Leading the reindeer migration can often be a long and difficult task, as you can see below on the difficult river crossing captured by BBC Earth.

Interestingly, in the height of winter, a reindeer’s coat thickens, so much so that they even grow fur over their antlers.

The White-Tailed Sea Eagle

The White-Tailed Sea Eagle can be easily seen from the Classic Coastal Cruise route with Hurtigruten as their eyries are dotted all along the Norwegian coast. They are the largest European bird of prey, with a wingspan of 2.4m. Like many birds of prey, they are monogamous and remain in their pairs for life; hunting, living and breeding.

It is not uncommon to see such an eagle gliding in the air above your ship, training their keen eyes on the ocean to pick themselves up a seafood meal.

The Puffin

The puffin, with their clown-like faces and colourful beaks, are always popular sightings with everyone – for the Young Explorers to the older guests! Small groups of puffins are often seen in the summertime on the fjords of Svalbard but seeing a lone puffin, floating atop a piece of ice is the goal for many a budding Arctic explorer.

There are puffin colonies around the Vesterålen archipelago that can be seen from aboard a ship or on a puffin safari excursion. They breed in late Spring and will either nest in burrows in the ground, or out among rocky crevices. Around this area, there are usually about 150,000 pairs nesting in the Summertime, where the eggs have been incubated by both parents for around 40–45 days. You can learn more interesting facts about puffins here.

Puffins are a beloved bird in Norway and on the island of Lovund, the 14th of April is a day of celebration as the 200,000 puffins return to the island to nest until mid August.


Norway boasts many other amazing land animals, these are just a few. And of course, the marine life in Norway’s waters is just as unique – keep a eye out for our next Wild Norway post!

All Aboard: MS Polarlys

MS Polarlys was constructed in 1996 as one of the cruise and working ships along the coast of Norway. Today, she still functions as both a working cargo and passenger ship, while also catering to the tourist trade with recently refurbished stylish interiors.

MS Polarlys is one of the four 1990s ships that was the focus of a recent update of decor and interior design, designed by Tillberg Design of Sweden, a world leading maritime architecture and interior design firm.  This design scheme is called the New Arctic Interior and aims to blend traditional maritime materials with modern and fresh finishes, to encourage a relaxed ambience.

The result is maritime timelessness with wooden panelling, finishes in leather, slate and featured fireplaces, kept fresh and young with a selection of modern Norwegian art. The breathtaking coastal landscape of Norway is reflected in the colour scheme throughout the ship, ranging from blue-greens to earthier, woody shades.

Polarlys is the Norwegian word for Polar Light, the name given to the amazing Arctic light phenomenon that occurs in the winter. One effect of this updated decor has been to really open up the space to make the most of the beautiful natural surrounds that the ship sails through. With a large outdoor explorer observation deck and an indoor observation deck equipped with comfortable couches and a bar, there are many opportunities for guests to admire this phenomenon in the right season.

Jacuzzis, restaurants and a range of cabin options ensure that everyone will enjoy their trip aboard the MS Polarlys – whether it is from just one port to another or the length of the Norwegian coastline.

All Aboard: MS Spitsbergen

 

Following in the wake of classic Viking explorer ships, MS Spitsbergen takes guests to the most remote places to discover their inner explorer.

Hurtigruten’s newest ship, the MS Spitsbergen, is named after the island of Spitsbergen in the breathtaking Svalbard archipelago. She is the perfect size to manoeuvre through polar waters and bring guests up close and personal with beautiful landscapes like that of her namesake.

Write your own adventure saga

On MS Spitsbergen, there is an emphasis on learning and discovery beyond the ordinary. Crew are equipped with expert knowledge and there are daily lectures in geology, history and ornithology. The ship has a photo and optics test centre, a media program and many on board facilities to enable you to make the most of the unique regions of the world you will find yourself in while on the ship.

There are also many outdoor activities on offer for those ready to embrace their adventurous side with camping, hiking and kayaking programs. On various trips, guest expedition staff join the crew to treat our guests to a variety of activities and their wealth of knowledge so that you can write your own Viking saga.

What’s in a name?

Spitsbergen is the Arctic crown of Norway, a jewel in the beautiful Svalbard archipelago. Hurtigruten has a long history of travelling from the mainland to this remote area of Norway, where some of the world’s most unique cultures persist. In keeping with Hurtigruten’s important connection with the Norwegian community, this ship was named after a public competition with over 15,000 entries.

“We find MS Spitsbergen to be a very appropriate name as it ties together our history and present-day Hurtigruten,” says Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam. “As early as 1896, Hurtigruten founder and tourism entrepreneur Richard With built a hotel in Spitsbergen and established “The Sports route” with sailings from Hammerfest to Spitsbergen, operated by steamship DS Lofoten. Having built on this heritage, today we are world leading operator of nature-based experiences along the Norwegian coast, in the waters around Antarctica and in the Arctic.”

Expedition cruise at your own pace

Unlike Hurtigruten’s other ships, MS Spitsbergen is not a working ship meaning she does not need to dock at port each night. As a result, guests can spend longer admiring the magnificent fjords and enjoying the daytime activities. From May 2017, guests can sail on MS Spitsbergen to Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe and Shetland Islands, as well as to Arctic Canada. In 2017/2018, MS Spitsbergen will operate expedition style coastal voyages, the ideal choice for those who want to explore the coast in an adventurous way.

spits-2_600x450There is a large observation deck from which guests can look out to the marine life below, including some seldom seen species of birds as well as polar bears and penguins, to name just a few. Deck 6 has a covered observation deck with panoramic windows so that guests can make the most of their gorgeous surrounds, even when relaxing inside. Both the restaurant and bistro also capitalise on the views, so that guests can enjoy beautiful local produce while admiring the environment from which the unique cuisine is derived.

Classic Scandinavian design

spits-1_600x450Although offering many activities for thrill-seeking guests, on the MS Spitsbergen comfort is never sacrificed for adventure. With newly updated interiors, as of 2016, the ship has a fresh colour palette that reflects the ocean surrounds. The design is classically Scandinavian, simple yet comfortable, designed by Tillberg Design of Sweden – the world leader in maritime architecture and interior design. The ship has a number of cabins on offer, catering for all guests, and all the public areas are comfortable and modern.

During her reconstruction in 2016, improvements were made to lower MS Spitsbergen‘s fuel consumption and reduce emissions, meaning she now has a strong environmental profile, in line with Hurtigruten’s ambition to be a world leader in sustainable travel.

 

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Dark vs. Light: cruising in Northern Norway

 

Norway is beautiful all year round, but there are some especially magical and unique moments that are all down to weather. Or more precisely, the light, or as is this case in November to February in northern Norway, the lack thereof.

Deciding when to go on your epic Arctic adventure is a tough one, so we have composed an easy list of some of the highlights of not each season, but the Arctic phenomena of eternal day or eternal night.

Seeing in the Dark

The Polar Night usually spans from November until February up in Spitsbergen while in Tromsø it lasts for about six weeks over the New Year. The Polar Night comes about because of the inclination of the Earth – when Winter comes around, the Northern Hemisphere is the furthest from the sun and so right up at the Earth’s most northerly tip, the light is very limited.

In truth, not all towns are thrown into complete darkness and the further from the North Pole you are, the more the darkness is that of a Polar Twilight. Instead of complete darkness, places like Tromsø have gorgeous sunset-like colours smeared across the sky for hours on end to the south, while to the north, they sky is a deep ocean blue. In Svalbard there is a period of ‘true’ polar night around Christmas, with the islands thrown into complete darkness for a few weeks.

Highlights of the Polar Night:

  • The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are the biggest drawcard of choosing to travel during the Polar Night period – beautiful waves of green, reds and pink light up the sky in nature’s ethereal light show! And with Hurtigruten’s Northern Lights Promise, you are guaranteed to see them from onboard.
  • Experience cultural life with an abundance of events and festivals – there are many festivals on in the winter months such as the Northern Lights Festival in Tromsø in the last week of January; the Tromsø International Film Festival; and for the really active, the Polar Night Half marathon (spikes essential!).
  • Taste delicious and warming local produce – the spawning cod swim in close to shore and feature in many local delicacies, as well as in Hurtigruten’s onboard menus.
  • An abundance of snow adventures – excursions such as dog sledding safaris, snow scooter trips, snow-shoeing, sleigh rides, and the list goes on!
  • All things Christmas – visit one of the many Christmas markets and enjoy classical Norwegian Christmas traditions.

Bath in the Light

In May to August in some parts of Norway, there is very little to no darkness. This is known as the time of the Midnight Sun and presents many wonderful opportunities to travellers. There is no longer enough ice and snow for skiing or sledging up north but instead other wonderful activities are available – without your thick winter jacket on!

Similar to the Polar Night, in the bridging days leading up to complete lightness, the sky is awash with streaks of reds, blues, purples, oranges and it is truly the day that never ends. It is an equally enchanting phenomenon and has inspired artists for years.

“Night was coming on again; the sun just dipped into the sea and rose again, red, refreshed, as if it had been down to drink. I could feel more strangely on those nights than anyone would believe…”

Knut Hamsuns in Pan (1894).

Highlights under the Midnight Sun

  • See wildlife in a different light – the Spring to Summer months are the perfect time to see amazing wildlife, from polar bears in Svalbard, to puffins at the Vesterålen archipelago, to sperm whales all along the Norwegian coast.
  • Cruise into Lofoten – and just try to stop your jaw dropping as you behold the world’s most beautiful archipelago. Photography opportunities abound!
  • Take a midnight hike across a glacier – in Svalbard, where the sun doesn’t set from April until late August, there is an abundance of once-in-a-lifetime excursions to experience. If you’re not afraid of a little cold, you can even take a dip in the ocean.
  • Admire wildflowers blossoming as the tundra comes alive – get out amongst nature on a trekking excursion and marvel at the beautiful colours of summer blooms.
  • Feel the rhythm at one of Norway’s many music festivals – from pop to folk to rock to metal to jazz there are many festivals and cultural events to enjoy. The Olsokdagene is one particularly charming cultural festival. In 1030 C.E., Norway’s first Christian king, St Olav, was killed in battle and so every year on 29 July (and the six days prior) many historical pageants and plays are held.

Embrace your inner explorer all year round

No matter what time of year you visit Norway, onboard a Hurtigruten voyage, you’re guaranteed the chance to embrace your inner explorer!

Introducing Hurtiguten’s newest explorer vessels

We are excited to announce the release of further information on Hurtigruten’s revolutionary new adventure travel ships, sailing from 2019. The MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen will combine cutting-edge maritime construction with timeless Scandinavian interiors and environmentally-sound hybrid technology.

In the name of great explorers

In honour of the Norwegian pioneering tradition, these two ships are to be named after Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, the first man to make it to the South Pole, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who skied the length of Greenland in 1888, respectively. It seems only fitting that these men, innovators of their time, should lend their names to two of the most trailblazing ships of our time. These new vessels will have a huge impact on sustainable travel solutions well into the future.

“I am so thrilled that Bentours and Hurtigruten are in a strategic alliance with shared values and a shared purpose to deliver extraordinary travel experiences,” says Damian Perry, CEO of Cox and Kings, specialist operator of Bentours and GSA of Hurtigruten. “This will truly revolutionise the way people explore.”

Environmentally-friendly innovation

Front runners in sustainable adventure travel, Hurtigruten is using a design created in collaboration between Rolls-Royce and the famous Norwegian yacht designer Espen Øino. The result is interiors with an emphasis on comfort and quality of materials and, as to the ship as a whole, a huge reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Through the use of hybrid electric propulsion technology, the vessels will be able to glide alongside glaciers almost silently. This technology results in a 20% reduction in fuel consumption compared to traditional ships. In total the ships will have a 6400 metric tons reduction in emissions – this is the equivalent to the yearly emissions of over 5500 modern cars!

The natural world – inside and out

The interior of the new vessel takes inspiration from the breathtaking surrounds that the ships will be sailing through, with an emphasis on natural materials mostly sourced from Norway. The simple, clean design is classically Scandinavian and allows the beauty of nature to take centre stage.

“The new vessels will enhance the experience of our customers. Bentours and Hurtigruten together are 100% customer focused and understand travelling to such mesmerising and unique destinations requires that special and tailor-made touch,” says Perry.

Adventure cruises in style

This new class of ships will feature large observation decks, infinity pools and Jacuzzis where guests will be able to relax and embrace the beauty of the nature around them. Six of the ten cabins will be equipped with balconies for those who want to be as close to nature at all times, while two of the cabins will be superior suites.

With a strengthened hull specifically designed for breaching ice, we’re sure the yet to be revealed expedition features will promise the ultimate adventure for guests.

There will be three restaurants with diverse menus reflecting local flavours and a number of bars where guests can relax.

Aboard the MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, guests will enjoy comfort, discover their inner adventurer and keep their conscience clean with the sustainable innovations. And it’s not just us who are excited about these new ships – just last week, the new vessels were listed by GQ as one of the ‘Coolest things in the World’.

At Bentours, we are excited for these Hurtigruten ships to begin sailing in 2019 so that we can help you plan the ultimate holiday adventure!

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