The northern cruise industry is sailing into deeply troublesome waters as the peak season for the Arctic voyages is only a few months away.
Passengers are canceling tours in fear and uncertainty. Others are currently prevented from embarking as planes are grounded and national borders temporarily closed for international tourist-oriented travelers.
Hurtigruten, the largest cruise operator above the Arctic Circle, now says all operations are temporarily suspended.
“We care about our role in the global society. That is why we are now taking these monumental steps to follow up on our continued commitment to take all appropriate actions to combat the spread of COVID-19,” says Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten.
Continuing to sail with empty ships would likely have meant a huge loss of income for the company.
Hurtigruten’s expedition cruise operations are paused until April 28, while the daily cruises from Bergen to Kirkenes along the coast of Norway are suspended through April 19, the company informs.
Two of Hurtigruten’s 19 ships will continue to sail, however, but in a different capacity.
“In cooperation with the Norwegian government, we will deploy two of our ships in an amended domestic schedule, bringing critical supplies and goods to local communities on the Norwegian coast at this time of crisis,” Skjeldam says.
How the coronavirus outbreak and global restrictions on travel will influence the spring and summer season for cruises to the high Arctic remains to see.
For Svalbard, the most popular waters in European Arctic, the season starts in late April. Hurtigruten’s first voyage to Longyearbyen leaves Bergen on April 23 and is still listed on the company’s portal as valid.
The first voyage leaving port and arriving back to port in Longyearbyen is on May 5.
Poseidon Expeditions has the first departure from Longyearbyen on May 31, while Lindblad Expeditions‘ brand new ship National Geographic Endurance is supposed to have its maiden voyage starting in Longyearbyen on April 2.