Norwegian cruise and expedition operator Hurtigruten Wednesday became the first ocean cruise line to resume service, launching a 34-port 12-day trip along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Three more of the line's ships will set sail over the next week, and its expedition cruises will resume in July.
Since mid-March, no new cruises have sailed in any of the usual cruise markets, and most lines are now not expecting to operate before winter. Many of those lines still have ships anchored off ports or private islands with an estimated 42,000 crew unable to return home and in many cases not being paid.
Hurtigruten says it is taking all possible precautions on its ships; in a statement it said "In close cooperation with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and other experts, we've taken our extremely strict existing health and safety procedures and introduced additional new measures. We have been working rigorously to ensure all voyages are safe for both guests and crew -- and at the same time ensure that everyone can fully enjoy their voyage."
The first ship out, MS Finnmarken, will have only 200 passengers aboard; normally it can take 628. The first months of cruises will be limited to Norwegians and Swedes; more countries will become eligible as their infection rates drop, but the company says it is not likely to allow Brits or Americans until "likely early 2021."