Sitting in the Tilbury Cruise Terminal in early March 2020, I balanced a lightly crumpled ‘health’ form on my knee and checked the box indicating that I had no symptoms of continuous fever or cough.
Attentive staff armed with temperature guns gradually crept through the rows of seated guests as we waited to board Hurtigruten’s brand new ship, MS Fridtjof Nansen.
The 530-passenger expedition ship is named after the Norwegian explorer and scientist, best known for leading the first team through the interior of Greenland in 1888.
Its engine runs on battery and diesel, eliminating 30% of the fuel, and there is no single-use plastic on board. It’s an expedition trip for the adventurous and even academic cruiser – natural history and geography lectures take place on board – but also a voyage for the environmentally conscious cruiser.
Every part of the ship makes you feel like you can play your part as an explorer and scientist, from the onboard science center, art and activity rooms to the Explorer lounge adorned with ancient maps up front .
We were on one of Fridtjof Nansen‘s three showcase cruises around the British Isles – there are three more crossings scheduled for May next year – for five nights from London to Liverpool, due to a stopover in Portsmouth, Portland, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Man, with an emphasis on local history and conservation.
We were greeted in the ship’s atrium by one of the largest LED screens at sea, which is 17.5 meters high, crosses seven bridges and shows footage of fjords and waterfalls. My cabin was spacious and in line with Hurtigruten’s commitment to avoid single-use plastic, each passenger received their own refillable water bottle.
Our first stop was Portsmouth, and the ship’s RIBs made for a much more exciting arrival than I had ever had when visiting the city as a child. In more remote areas, they are used for wildlife viewing trips off the coasts of Iceland, Canada and Norway.
We have exceeded 65,000 tonnes HMS Queen Elizabeth who set the theme for the day’s activities which included a visit to Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory and the Marie rose Shipwreck of the Tudor.
Waste collection and conservation
Our second stop was a day of sailing along the coast to Portland, technically an island but linked to Weymouth by the 18 mile long Chesil Beach. Armed with trash pickers, we were split into groups, one heading to Chesil for a beach cleanup, ours making a short drive to Weymouth for a conservation walk around its RSPB nature reserve.
I fished for food wrap from hedges and a bottle of vodka from a stream, and felt like I made a little difference rather than buying a fridge magnet and a € 7 Coffee.
After these two invigorating days on the English coast, the ship’s food was a welcome and warm treat with typical Norwegian dishes of delicious quality.
Lounge areas, a spa and a gym were also on board as well as an outdoor jacuzzi, clearly neglected during this trip.
The Irish Sea and English weather proved too difficult for this expedition vessel and we were unable to dock at the Isles of Scilly or the Isle of Man due to the 13ft high waves. We arrived in Liverpool a day early and took the extra time to explore the historic UK port city.
MS Fridtjof Nansen is a step towards an emissions-free cruise and in stark contrast to my previous experiences, such as aboard the world’s largest cruise ship, the Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the seas, in 2016. That extravagant maiden trip to the Bahamas, the same week Donald Trump was elected president, was resplendent with jaw-dropping launch shows and extravagance.
If this was the cruise industry at its most forgiving, my time on Hurtigruten’s new ship was the start of her journey to self-awareness and climate awareness.
Four-day British Isles cruise from £ 637 per person in May 2022, Hurtigruten.co.uk