The History of Hurtigruten Group
Close to 130 years of experience taking explorers to pristine and remote places. From sailings along the west coast of Norway to expeditions world wide.
Our DNA and Heritage
In the late 19th century, the 780-mile coastline from Bergen to Kirkenes was a busy route for transportation of goods and people, operated by all types of vessels. But services were unreliable, infrequent and ships rarely sailed at night, making a journey between north and south a long and hard one.
The authorities wanted to improve the situation and invited shipping companies to submit tenders for operating an express route between Trondheim and Tromsø, or Hammerfest, depending on the season. At that time there were only 28 lighthouses north of Trondheim, making nighttime sailing very risky. But the owner of a newly formed company showed an interest in the route despite the hazards.
This man was Richard With from Stokmarknes in northern Norway. In 1893, Captain Richard With’s steamer, DS Vesteraalen, was brought into service along the coast of Norway, and a regular sea link was established. The service offered weekly departures, at first from Trondheim to Hammerfest and later from Bergen to Kirkenes, the latter in only seven days. With named this important connection “hurtigruten,” - "the fast route".
However, Richard With's eagerness to explore did not stop at the Norwegian coast. His ambitions were significantly higher. As early as 1896, he transported a prefabricated hotel from the mainland to Svalbard. He placed it outside Longyearbyen on what is still called “Hotellneset” ("Hotel Point"). The same year, Richard With established the "Sportsman's route" from Hammerfest on mainland Norway to Svalbard, serviced by the steamer DS Lofoten. Its captain was Otto Sverdrup, who later became Fridtjof Nansen's legendary commander of the polar vessel Fram. This marks the beginning of Hurtigruten's adventurous and unique explorer operations.
Expansion and Global Growth
Over the years our company has grown steadily, adding more both more ships and more destinations to the portfolio. In March 2006 Hurtigruten Group ASA was formed from the merger between Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskap (TFDS) and Richard With’s Ofotens og Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab (OVDS), the two previous operators of the Hurtigruten service. Twelve months later the merged entity assumed the name Hurtigruten ASA and in 2012, the company headquarters moved from Narvik to Tromsø.
In October 2014, the British private equity firm TDR Capital purchased a majority ownership of Hurtigruten ASA. The legal form of the company was then changed from ASA to AS in 2015, as the company was delisted from Oslo Stock Exchange.
The Road Ahead
Today our destinations are no longer limited to Spitsbergen but take modern- day adventure travelers to the world’s most spectacular destinations on our Planet, from the High North to the Antarctica in the south.
As of 2021, Hurtigruten AS decided to split up the various parts of the business and is known as Hurtigruten Group with headquarters in Oslo and London. While the international expedition cruise initiative is separated into Hurtigruten Expeditions, Hurtigruten Norway continues to operate the scheduled traffic between Bergen and Kirkenes. Hurtigruten Svalbard, offering land-based adventures on the spectacular Artic archipelago, and Hurtigruten Foundation, which was established in 2015, are also entities within the Hurtigruten Group.
Hurtigruten Norway’ s seven coastal ships still carry freight and guests along the coast of Norway- which Hurtigruten has operated since the start in 1893. The full round trip lasts 12 days and is of many called “the world’s most beautiful voyage”. But what started as a local transportation company in 1893, now also operates a fleet of custom-built expedition cruise ships, exploring over 250 destinations in 30 countries worldwide.
In 2019 we launched the world’s first hybrid powered cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen, and since then two more have come along. Sustainability has been at the heart of our operations ever since we started and being responsible is more than what we do- it’s who we are. It’s the backbone of our business, it is a part of our DNA and our road ahead.