Queen Sonja of Norway's art exhibit onboard Hurtigruten's ms Fram

(10:15 a.m. EDT) -- A Hurtigruten shore excursion to a Svalbard ice tunnel inspired Queen Sonja of Norway to embark on a late-in-life journey as a graphic artist.

Now in a partnership with her arts organization, the Queen Sonja Print Award, more than 600 designs created by up-and-coming printmakers as well as established artists -- and even a few from the Queen -- will be showcased on Hurtigruten's 2019 newbuild, Roald Amundsen.

"It will be a floating art exhibition," Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said at a press conference Sunday onboard ms Fram, while the ship was docked in New York.  

The 530-passenger exhibition ship, debuting in May 2019, is already noteworthy for being the first vessel to feature electric hybrid engines. It will be purpose-built to sail in Antarctica and polar waters, including the Northwest Passage.

The art partnership will place graphic prints from emerging artists in the suites and cabins, the ship's three restaurants and the public staircases and corridors. In addition to viewing the art onboard, the line is developing a book about the project and works, which it will place in cabins, Skjeldam said; some artwork also will be available for sale. The line will expand the partnership to its other new Explorer-class ship, Fridtjof Nansen, debuting in summer 2019.

Queen Sonja stood by as the line broadcast a video showing the evolution of her interest in graphic arts. Inspiration began in 2006, after a dog sled ride during a Hurtigruten shore excursion took her to an underground ice tunnel in Svalbard.

Not everyone on the excursion dared to drop down into the tunnel, accessible through a small hole. But the Queen was game, descending into the cavern. There, she marveled at the delicate ice patterns captured by her camera.  

Queen Sonja of Norway's art exhibit onboard Hurtigruten's ms Fram

Challenged by two Norwegian artists, Queen Sonja -- who holds a degree in art history -- turned her photographs into graphic prints that she exhibited to raise money for the Queen Sonja Print Award, an arts monetary prize and residency that's given out every other year.

Two of the Queen's works were on display Sunday. Named Ice Channel 1 and Ice Channel 2, the pieces took close-ups of the ice patterns captured with her camera in the tunnels and rendered them in luscious tones of green and deep blue using a technique called intaglio.

Queen Sonja said she was drawn to the graphic arts not just because it's exciting to see how the print will turn out when it undergoes each process, but also because it's "democratic," meaning that young artists can enter the medium without expensive start-up costs. "This means a lot to me," she said, of the Hurtigruten partnership. 

--By Chris Gray Faust, Managing Editor