Avid watchers of nature programmes and aspiring polar scientists can enjoy a new type of cruise with Hurtigruten next year, when they double their capacity to Antarctica, making them the largest and most diverse provider of active travels to and in the deep South.
The MS Midnatsol, currently operating on the Norwegian coastal route, will head south to Antarctica and operate with an enhanced entertainment programme, including an interactive science lab & dedicated programme for younger guests.
While the MS Fram will continue to operate from Ushuaia, with sailings including the Falkland Islands and South Orkney Islands, from September 2016 the Midnatsol will set sail from Punta Arenas to explore the Chilean Fjords, Strait of Magellan & Cape Horn – all before the incredible spectacle that will greet passengers in Antarctica.
“This is an important strategic choice for Hurtigruten. We are positioning ourselves even stronger in the growing exploration market. The company is a leading, responsible player in sustainable travel. With the modern and flexible MS Midnatsol we meet the growing global demand for active nature-based experiences with an attractive product”, says Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten.
The two ships will offer very different personalities and experiences. Operating with a capacity of 500 passengers, the Midnatsol is more than double the size of her sister ship the MS Fram and will be the largest passenger vessel to offer landings in Antarctica. She will also offer a softer style of adventure cruise, while the Fram will appeal to more adventurous travellers.
Those who have always fancied themselves as a polar scientist can experiment in a new interactive ‘science laboratory’, where they can participate in field experiments such as examining a 3 million year-old piece of ice through a microscope or studying meteors found on shore. They can also enjoy a series of lectures from the team of on-board scientists.
There will be a whole array of other activities on-board including film and photography workshops, wine-tasting sessions, barbecues and polar film festivals.
For the first time, Hurtigruten will also be offering a product to appeal to families. Teenagers will be kept busy with the new ‘Young Explorers’ programme. The content is quite scientific, but presented in a lively and fun manner, so they will learn while having a good time.
MS Midnatsol will undergo some adjustments prior to the Antarctica sailings, but is already well equipped for polar operations. The ship has an ice class 1C, helipad, a redundant propulsion system and will be equipped with a customized oil retention system.
While many cruises to this part of the world offer a very visual experience, with no landings included, the Hurtigruten experience is truly interactive. Go kayaking or snorkeling through the pristine waters or try hiking & snowshoeing on your own polar expedition. There is even the chance to sleep out on deck under the polar skies.
Of course no trip to this part of the world would be complete without a close encounter with the locals! With no permanent human inhabitants in Antarctica, expect to see an array of birds, dolphins, seals, whales and of course, thousands of penguins.
Meanwhile, the smaller, more intimate MS Fram will continue to offer a more adult-focused program and remains the perfect choice for more adventurous travelers as her size ensures she can travel further south than her sister ship, visiting places that very few people ever get to see. In fact she offers no less than 40 unique landing sites in Antarctica.
The Fram will also offer more challenging and extreme excursions than the Midnatsol, such as longer and harder hikes and a brand new skiing expedition across the Antarctic Peninsula.
Close to 28 000 tourists traveled to Antarctica in the 2013/2014 season, and the market for active nature-based adventures to exotic destinations is seeing significant growth. Through this latest move, Hurtigruten has consolidated its position as the world’s leading operator in sustainable travel in the Arctic and Antarctica.
They operate the only ships to focus completely on polar itineraries. Unlike other operations, the ship, Captain and crew do not deploy to the Mediterranean or South Pacific during the summer months, creating an exclusive level of dedicated expertise not found anywhere else.
From September 2016 to April 2017 the MS Midnatsol will operate a total of 16 departures, 10 of these to Antarctica. Prices start from £1,016 for the ‘Cultural contrasts – Through North Atlantic to Africa’, departing on 16 September 2016 (based on two sharing an inside cabin on full board basis). Antarctica itineraries start from £3,535 for the ‘Southern Hemisphere Adventure’ in an inside cabin on full board basis, departing on 1 March 2017. The price includes return flights from Santiago-Punta Arenas. International flights arrangements are offered at a supplement.