Hurtigruten, passengers - Travel tips from Konditori 100

Hurtigruten began carrying passengers already on the first trip in 1893, from Trondheim to Hammerfest. The name Hurtigruten can be translated 'the fast line', which was one main purpose when it started. Earlier a trip from Trondheim to Tromsø could take 3 days in the summertime and up to eight days during winter. When Hurtigruten started the trip was made in slightly over two days.

Passenger and tourist traffic was nothing new when Hurtigruten started. The shipping companies Bergenske and Nordenfjeldske had cooperated with tourist traffic since 1879, initially using their coastal routes but later also with dedicated tourist routes. In the 1890s the companies distibuted up to 40.000 folders in english, french and german.

The company Vesteraalske began with summertime tourist traffic to Svalbard in 1896, where they had built a hotel for 30 guests. In 1897 and 1898 there were about 60 tourists per summer. Other tourist trips were also tested.

Through the years the ships in Hurtigruten grew. The first ship, S/S Vesteraalen, could in 1893 take 200 passengers and had cabins for 40. In 1910 S/S Midnatsol was taken in use, with cabins for 132 passengers and also a lounge under the bridge.

Passengers were divided in three classes, as normal in ship traffic in those days. When S/S Finmarken came into traffic in 1912, she was almost twice the size of S/S Vesteraalen - and ¾ of the passenger area was used for the 1st class passengers.

In 1938 almost 300.000 passengers travelled with Hurtigruten. The number of passengers grew slowly to over 569.000 in 1962. Increasing competition from air traffic has led to a decrease of passengers since then, down to 270.000 in 1992. Investments in larger ships, with higher standard, from 1990 has led to a new increase in passengers.

Most of the tourists travel with Hurtigruten in the summer. Some travel from Bergen to Kirkenes or the other way, some travel shorter distances, and some travel the whole route. In 1997 306.000 passengers made the whole or half the route.

Typical for the tourists are their interest in the coming to the ports.

Visiting a port
In Sortland more people met m/s Richard With than in other ports during my trip.

When I recognized fellow tourists I was reminded about those who went by bus from Harstad, and were waiting to get back aboard.

And then I saw another reason for the many people waiting for the ship.

Another typical for tourists are their participation at excursions and their interest in local products. Like to the glacier Sortisen,

and around Kirkenes,

and other places:

Hurtigruten is not ships with lots of action. Well, you can participate in all the excursions and you can get ashore in all ports, but there will still be plenty of time to just relax. To read, eat, sleep, talk to fellow tourists, and take photographs.

Most tourists are elder people, but there are some younger ones too. No matter the ages, it is easy to find several to have a chat with now and then. During the trip you get lots of common things to talk about, and some people you learn to know better than others.

Aboard these ships it is easy to eat a bit too much. There is plenty of food and desserts, and if that's not enough there are places aboard and at the ports where you can buy chocolate like Firkløver, soft-drink like Solo, soft-ice and other healthy things.

That is one reason to take walks on the decks. Some tourists take daily walks, one or more rounds. Others take walks to enjoy the view, take photographs, and maybe be a bit annoyed when suddenly being photographed.

The most common interest all Hurtigruten tourists have, are their desire to visit the norwegian coast with its wonderful nature. It is beautiful, amazing, breathtaking et cetera, no matter if you are in a crowd on the deck - or alone with your thoughts.


Local passengers
The local passengers are dominant during most of the year. The number of local passengers have risen with the introduction of the new ships, too. From 253.000 passengers in 1990 to 354.000 in 1997.

There are different kinds of local passengers, in a way. Mainly there are the 'normal' local passengers, travelling from one place to another with the ship as a transport vehicle. Then there are the conference passengers on the newer ships, who splits their time in the conference rooms and the rest of the ship. And then there are school classes on outings - a kind of passengers who for me and most passengers liven up the ships positively.

Among the elder school children I met a girl on her way home for a short visit. Now and then she doesn't get a seat on a plane, so she travels with Hurtigruten instead - which means a trip taking 16 hours each way. She got aboard shortly before 4 in the morning, and should get off around half past 8 in the evening. Added to that, the time to get to the ship in the morning and from the ship to her home in the evening... I don't envy her.

Leaving the ship
I almost went the whole trip from Bergen and back, and during the ten days I met a number of nice fellow passengers. Some of them were travelling back and forth too, while others travelled one way or just shorter trips. As usual after a holiday trip, I have lots of nice memories and some regrets that I didn't talk more to more people I met and exchanged adresses with more of them than I did.

Some people I had pleasant conversations with about common things, some gave me interesting facts like life in other countries and travel tips, and a few gave me new dreams.

Probably I will meet more of the Hurtigruten passengers in the future. Maybe I'll meet you there!?

2000-08-05. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss ©. Prod: AG Informice