Travel advisors should be cautious using inexperienced expedition cruise operators that pilot programs to polar regions, the CEO of Hurtigruten, Daniel Skjeldam believes. In Australia last week, Skjeldam raised concerns about the rapid rise of travel companies that are entering the Arctic and Antarctic cruise market with little, if any, past experience.
“If I was a travel agent I would never send a client on a cruise line who has zero experience in Antarctica,” Hurtigruten’s man-in-charge said.
Speaking exclusively with LATTE, Skjeldam said creating itineraries anywhere in the world is one thing, but delivering them is another.
“The Arctic and Antarctica are very, very different destinations to the rest of the world. In Antarctica there are no native settlements. It’s a very uncharted area.”
Hurtigruten’s operates both MS Midnatsol and MS Fram in Antarctica, making it the largest group operator of travellers to the Southern Continent. Next season – November 2019/March 2020 – the company will have greater capacity for guests with the addition of the brand new hybrid ship, MS Roald Amundsen. The following season will see MS Midnatsol reposition to the Northern Hemisphere – to operate in the Arctic and Norway – and a second new Hurtigruten hybrid ship, MS Fridtjof Nansen, also posted to Antarctica.
“For travel advisors and partners, the fact that Hurtigruten has experience in polar waters for over one hundred years is reassurance for them when they are talking with clients.”
“They are really taking a bet if they choose someone who does not have that experience,” he said without specifically naming names.
“Hurtigruten is a safe bet for advisors. Antarctica is probably the area of the world that we have the most experience. No one has more polar experience,” he told LATTE confidently.
Of the company’s 125 years experience, Hurtigruten has been operating in Antarctic waters since the mid-1990s.
“Advisors are really taking a bet if they choose someone who does not have that level of experience. I think a lot of operators coming into this market who have zero experience are going to find Antarctica tougher than they expected.”
He said a lot of new players in expedition cruising are “underestimating” the destination.
“This is not a landing in a river in Europe. It’s very, very far from it.”
Skjeldam also slammed operators who plan to use helicopters in the region.
“We don’t want to have helicopters. It’s an environmental issue and it’s also an issue for the other guests because a large part of the beauty of the experience is to stand on the ship and see the majesty of Antarctica. If a bloody helicopter comes in and destroys the tranquillity and solitude, as a guest, I would be furious,” he said.
More from Daniel Skjeldam in this week’s LATTE interview. Click here to read on.