Even today, when you sail with Hurtigruten – i.e. the shipping company Hurtigruten, you still clearly feel the history of the coastal route. At least when you, like me, already know it and are also deeply fascinated by it. For me, its ships are central, but in close interaction with Norway’s coastal nature – and not least the continued fact that the coastal route’s ships have an infrastructural function as a freight and passenger service for the coastal communities in Northern and Western Norway.
That is why I have always travelled with Hurtigruten as an “ordinary passenger”, from A to B, and from B to C. I also did that a few weeks ago, when I travelled from Kirkenes to Stokmarknes aboard NORDNORGE. The goal was, in addition to the actual sailing trip on NORDNORGE – to disembark and spend the night in Stokmarknes and then spend three hours at the Hurtigrute Museum (The Norwegian Coastal Express Museum) the following day.
The third highlight of the trip was the continued southbound journey aboard the HAVILA CAPELLA. The first of four newbuildings, Havila Kystruten, the new operator on Hurtigruten, has introduced. I know all the classes of Hurtigruten’s ships on the coastal route today well, so it was from that perspective that I could experience my journey aboard HAVILA CAPELLA for the remaining three days towards Bergen.
Several parallel operators on Hurtigruten are historically common, but with Havila Kystruten’s contract to operate four of the route’s 11 ships, it is the first time that it does not take place in a coordination under the name Hurtigruten.
Havila Kystruten is thus branded independently in the international cruise market. Yes, you can’t get around the fact that both Hurtigruten and Havila Kystruten today are completely dependent on international cruise passengers, who either buy an 11-day package trip Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen – or a six-day either southbound or northbound trip.
But I also heard local travellers refer to the new operator as “Kystruten”, linguistically separate from the name Hurtigruten, which has otherwise always been synonymous with Norway’s state-subsidised passenger and freight route from Kirkenes to Bergen, regardless of which shipping company has been behind the specific ship you have been on board.
That is why I was especially looking forward to experiencing HAVILA CAPELLA, which is not bound by the more than 100 years of shipping company cooperation on Norway’s north and west coast under the Hurtigruten phenomenon, which is also culturally deeply rooted in Norway.
HAVILA CAPELLA is with its 15,519 Gt. a bit larger than NORDNORGE and its two Norwegian-built sisters and three German-built half-sisters (mid-generation), but a bit smaller than two of Hurtigruten’s “Millennium Ships”; TROLLFJORD and MIDNATSOL (today MAUD) and on a level with FINNMARKEN (Today OTTO SVERDRUP.) However, the overall length is only 122.7 metres, i.e., more than 15 meters shorter than FINNMARKEN, but just about a meter wider.
The exterior design, however, makes HAVILA CAPELLA look significantly smaller than both Hurtigruten’s mid-generation and Millennium Ships. HAVILA CAPELLA’s GA lacks Hurtigruten’s two newest classes of ships’ wrap-around promenade/boat decks, which means that there is always a close connection between the inside and outside of the ships. A feature that has also disappeared on most modern mass-market cruise ships.
But HAVILA CAPELLA’s otherwise vast outdoor public deck areas compensate for this lack of connection between interior and exterior from the ship’s lounges and other internal public areas on deck 6. There is thus a Bow Viewpoint at the front of deck 6, just as the wrap-around promenade has been moved up from the boat deck on deck 7 to deck 9, where there is a spectacular, partially overhanging, promenade deck all the way around the Observation Lounge (Havblik Bar & Lounge).
Otherwise, HAVILA CAPELLA shares basic GA principles with Hurtigruten’s two newest classes of coastal passenger ships. That is, cargo deck for pallet goods and cars on deck 2/3, reception and cabins on deck 4. However, deck 5 on HAVILA CAPELLA is also a pure cabin deck, while on the Hurtigruten’s latest coastal ships a pure lounge and restaurant deck, which on HAVILA CAPELLA is placed at level higher up, on deck 6. On the other hand, Hurtigruten’s ships have a much larger proportion of their cabins distributed on the upper decks.
After the modernization of Hurtigruten’s ships, the range of public rooms is effectively the same when you for example compares NORDNORGE with HAVILA CAPELLA. However, Hurtigruten has an additional café alternative for coffee and light meals on the upper passenger deck aft of the observation lounge, which is missing on Havila Kystruten’s ships.
New structural construction methods have enabled spectacularly large window areas in HAVILA CAPELLA’s passenger accommodation. In addition to contributing to a unique and distinct exterior design, in daylight they also create a never-before-seen connection with the sea, coastline and fjord banks that slide by outside.
In daylight, I would describe the interior as “uber-cool-Nordic”. The colours are dull shades of blue and green, which are combined with light wooden surfaces. A large percentage of the furniture is designed for the ship and made in Norway with fabrics, not least wool, produced locally. The ship’s main stairwell has black bulkheads and stainless-steel handrails. The decoration is i.e. large painting held in dark and dramatic colours.
When daylight is gone, which happens early in November on the Norwegian north and west coast, the interior changes significantly in character. A large percentage of the lighting is indirect, something that is also continued in the cabins. And the use of modern LED light sources clearly provides the opportunity to hit a perfect light temperature, which together with the use of wood-like panels creates a fantastically warm and cosy atmosphere in contrast to the darkness and cold outside.
I have to say I am impressed with the interior, especially the lounge deck on deck 6. I didn’t get an instant wow-experience when I came aboard in Stokmarknes via deck 4 in the bottom of the ship’s large atrium. For me, it was a realization – or perhaps rather recognition – that I got after the first day on board of my three-day journey down to Bergen.
Facts – HAVILA CAPELLA
Call sign: LFQY, Fosnavåg, Norway
Type: Coastal passenger and cargo vessel
Owner: Havila Kystruten Operations AS
Operator: Havila Kystruten AS
Shipyard: Tersan Tersanecilik Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S, Turkey
Yard number: 1093
Delivered: April 2021
Ship design: HAV Design (Hayyard 923), Norway
Interior design: OSK Group/Steen Friis Design/Camilla Horn, Denmark
Notation: 1A Passenger ship BIS Battery(Power) BWM(T) Clean(Design) COMF(V-2) E0 Gas fuelled NAUT(AW) Recyclable
Length o.a.: 122.7 m
Length b.p.: 115.2 m
Beam mld.: 21.9 m
Draught (design): 5.2 m
Gross Tonnage: 15,519
Netto tonnage: 5,386
Deadweight: 1,819 t
Passenger cabins: 179
Propulsion: LNG-electric/battery hybrid, Permanent Magnet azimuth-propelled
Sister vessels: HAVILA CASTOR (2022), HAVILA POLARIS (2023) and HAVILA POLLUX (2023)