Cruise passengers return as cruising sets course for recovery

Small ships are leading a return to cruising, writes Carolyn Beasley

As the MS Finnmarken glides between towering cliffs in Norway’s Geiranger Fjord, the silence is punctuated by the blast of a ship’s horn. The friendly honk comes from the currently immobile MS Nordkapp, and its skeleton crew waves and cheers jubilantly for their sister ship as she triumphantly enters the spectacular waterway.

Daniel Skeldam, CEO of cruise company Hurtigruten is onboard the freshly refurbished Finnmarken and via a live video feed, those of us watching can feel the genuine emotion in this moment. On June 16, Finnmarken had sailed from Bergen with 200 paying passengers on board, the first ocean cruise to depart since Covid-19 effectively shut down the industry.

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The comeback of ocean cruising is far from business as usual, and the 127-year-old company Hurtigruten is running its ships at around 50 per cent passenger capacity, allowing genuine social distancing. Boarding is subject to enhanced health screening, with high-tech screens instantaneously testing temperatures of passengers and crew before and during the cruise. Buffets are gone, and passengers use their phones and a QR code to consult menus. Following Norwegian health authority guidelines, face masks are not mandatory.

Norway has a long history of brave sailors and excellent seamanship. @Hurtigruten (SS Finnmarken) passing north of @Lyngenfjord makes me proud! pic.twitter.com/7nStcahs31

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