July 4, 2019
(2 p.m. BST) -- The narwhal horn Wayne Brown is holding must be almost two metres long. He waves it around in front of him like a light sabre as he talks, explaining more about the unicorns of the sea.
This isn’t your usual cruise ship scene. But we're not onboard any usual cruise ship. We're on Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen – the world’s first hybrid-powered expedition ship -- aka the first Prius of the sea.
Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam has said that he intended to "change how people perceive expedition cruising" with the launch of the Roald Amundsen. If first impressions are anything to go by, he’s about to achieve his goal.
Here are some of our first impressions on this pioneering new vessel.
The Science Centre & Expedition Launch Room
We're standing with Brown in the ship’s Science Centre. Some of the crew call it the heart of the ship, others call it the brain. Whatever you choose to call it, one thing’s for sure -- it’s a place that’s unmatched onboard any other contemporary cruise ship.
In addition to visiting the Science Centre to learn about the artefacts, such as Brown’s narwhal horn, polar bear skulls and walrus tusks, passengers can visit this place to take part in citizen science experiments alongside genuine research scientists.
One day they can be using powerful polarising microscopes to study krill, the next they can be studying the contents of the live specimen tank.
Passengers can also visit the Science Centre to watch live footage from Roald Amundsen’s underwater Blueye drone, which will regularly be released into the waters around the ship and can reach depths of up to 150 metres.
The Science Centre isn’t the only thing that’s out-of-the-ordinary about the MS Roald Amundsen. In fact, there’s a long list of things that make this ship stand out.
Designed in the same spirit of discovery as the Science Centre, there’s the Expedition Launch room. Featuring race car-red mesh seating and a floor-to-ceiling film screen it looks a little like a Hollywood Studios simulator ride. Its real purpose, however, is to psyche passengers up ahead of their kayaking and explorer boat excursions by showing them footage of where they’re about to go.
While some of the USPs on the ship have been designed to help gear passengers up for exploring the world around them, others have been created to help them wind down afterwards. Such as the huge sauna. Located on Deck 10, it features floor-to-ceiling, entrance-to-exit windows and offers passengers stadium-style views of the landscapes outside.
Then, not quite so unusual for a cruise ship, but more left field for an expedition vessel, there’s the pool deck. Here, a gorgeous infinity pool is flanked by two oversized hot tubs and backed by a bar.
This level of plushness is apparent throughout the vessel. The Roald Amundsen has been dressed in some of the finest natural materials Norway has to offer. Walls are clad in rich slates, bannisters are made from birch and oak, and lighting fixtures are made from brushed brasses and coppers.
Hurtigruten has upped its game with the eateries on MS Roald Amundsen. There are three to choose from. Two of the three are particularly noteworthy. Fredheim is a street-food inspired eatery where passengers sit down at communal bench-style seating to tuck into tortillas, lobster rolls, burgers and crepes. There’s a large plant-based offering on the menu, too, plus a selection of American diner-style shakes.
Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam ate his first meal onboard here, choosing what he described as “an enormous strawberry milkshake” followed by shrimp tortillas.
Next up is the Lindstrom restaurant. Hurtigruten doesn’t like to use the term ‘fine dining’, but this is the ship’s plusher dining space. The entrance way sets the tone for this dining space -- passengers walk in past a table that has a brushed steel trench cut into it that’s filled with ice and Champagne bottles. Beyond this point circular tables are surrounded by crushed velvet chairs topped with luxuriously plump cushions. The menu, meanwhile, features dishes like king crab and fresh-from-the-net salmon.
For suite guests, breakfast and dinner here are included in the price of their trip. Other passengers have to pay extra.
Prized Art Collection
The Lindstrom is also where you’ll find some of the most prized pieces from the ship’s art collection. There are more than 600 works of art on the Roald Amundsen. Most pieces have been sourced from the up-and-coming artists that are supported by Queen Sonja of Norway’s Art Foundation. The canvases in the Lindstrom, however, have been painted by Queen Sonja herself.
There are six different types of suite on Roald Amundsen. The whole of Deck 9 is taken up by them and the corner expedition suites with balconies even come with their own hot tubs.
You don’t need a suite to experience comfort on the Roald Amundsen, though. Every cabin comes with a sitting area that features two sizeable recliner-style chairs. Plus, every cabin comes with a wine rack and a boot warmer -- a little square device with four hoses attached to it that you can insert into your boots to heat them up and dry them if they get damp. The toiletries are non-too-shabby, either. The Arctic Pure range of handwashes and shampoos is scented with ingredients like sea buckthorn and birch.