Hurtigruten Unveils 2008-2009 Season of Diversity

A name change – to Hurtigruten from Norwegian Coastal Voyages — is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new developments for this company – as evidenced in a new 106-page brochure outlining its entire portfolio of vacations.  New for 2008 are “Longitudinal World Cruises” sailing between the Arctic and Antarctic in the spring and fall aboard the line’s newest ship, MS Fram.  New Antarctica adventures, including a 17-day program that journeys through the rarely visited Marguerite Bay and a 19-day voyage that highlights the Falkland Islands, have been added to the current roster of three expeditions.  And new escorted vacations couple Russia’s St. Petersburg and Finland’s Helsinki and Sami region with the popular Norwegian Coastal Voyage, plying the fjord-filled Norwegian coast.

In 2008, Hurtigruten’s year-round Norwegian Coastal Voyage, named by Lonely Planet’s “Bluelist” as the “world’s most beautiful voyage,” is supplemented with special on-board themes, the newest being “Bridge Players,” enabling both novice and veteran players to hone their skills with the help of a master instructor.  The line also reprises its “Watercolors and Art” theme cruises; “Harmony at Sea” programs, where passengers transform into concert-performing choral groups; and “Winter Digital Photography,” enabling guests to experiment with the ever-changing and challenging Arctic light.  The Hurtigruten ships sail daily between Bergen and Kirkenes, above the Arctic Circle, calling at 34 ports along Norway’s 1,250-mile coast.  The voyages are available in 12-day roundtrips, seven-day northbound and six-day southbound voyages.  Fares range from $1,299 to $9,999 per person, double, including three meals daily, taxes and port charges.

Hurtigruten has also added a new selection of winter “Northern Lights” voyages, including a nine-day Bergen-Tromsø itinerary from January through March, showcasing both cities and the Lofoten Islands, which may be extended to nine days.

Optional shore excursions include dog sledding and a five-course Arctic gourmet dinner.  A nine-day-day Tromsø-Kirkenes-Tromsø voyage sails entirely above the Arctic Circle in January and February, increasing the chance to see the Northern Lights; and a seven-day Tromsø-Trondheim cruise sails through Norway’s Vesterålen and Lofoten Islands and can be extended with a winter Oslo-by-Rail trip.  Fares range from $1,999 to $2,499.

A new 16-day air-inclusive “Spitsbergen Ultimate Voyage,” aboard the MS Nordstjernan, sails from Bergen to the North Cape, across the North Atlantic and on to the western cost of the Arctic’s Spitsbergen Islands on May 29.  Fares range from $7,399 to $8,399.  Two other offerings are a 12-day itinerary, on the MS Polar Star, with a similar exploration of Spitsbergen, without the Norway portion or North Atlantic transit, at fares of $7,799 to $12,299; and a nine-day “Arctic Adventure” that takes in Oslo before flying to Spitsbergen and a four-day sailing, priced at $6,499 and $6,799.

In Greenland, MS Fram begins a second season of air-inclusive exploration sailings, with PolarCirkel boat landings and excursions and lectures led by expert guides from May through September.  An eight-day program explores the Disko Bay region off the western coast of the country, known for a its indigenous culture, dog sledges and a 24-hour sunlit summer sky; fares are $3,673 to $12,399.  A 15-day “Disko Bay & Thule” itinerary visits the Qaanaaq (Thule) district, first region of Greenland colonized by Inuits from the west and is among the northernmost inhabited places on earth with a population of about 1,000.  Prices range from $8,099 to $21,899.  Another 15-day itinerary, sailing between Reykjavik, Iceland, and the lower eastern, southern and Disko Bay regions of Greenland, costs $6,299 to $16,899.  All fares include roundtrip airfare from the U.S., accommodations in first-class hotels and select cabin categories, all meals and excursions.

Besides the three new Antarctica adventures, travelers can take the shorter 13-day expedition aboard MS Fram that highlights Argentina’s Buenos Aires and Ushuaia; a 19-day voyage coupling Antarctica with Argentina and the Chilean Fjords; or a 21-day sailing to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands; fares range from $5,499 to $18,199.

MS Fram’s 66-day Arctic-to-Antarctica World Cruise, departing Iceland Sept. 23, 2008, taking in dozens of ports in 17 countries, is also available in segments of 11to 18 nights, with prices ranging from $4,199 to $15,499.  The entire journey is priced from $13,999 to $58,399.  A reverse World Cruise sailing that stops in ports on the eastern side of South America, Europe, the Baltic nations and Russia, and ends on May 21in Reykjavik, Iceland, is sold in 11- to 18-day segments.

Other adventurous itineraries include seven-day December “Killer Whale Safari” cruises, visiting Tromsø, Svolvaer and Oslo, and focusing on the Orcas as they breach and hunt; an seven-day “Alta Igloo Hotel” vacations that combine Oslo, a night on a Norwegian Coastal Voyage and a stay in the hotel built entirely from ice and snow — and looming above the Arctic Circle in Lapland.  Fares for these programs range from $2,389 to $2,999 per person, double.

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