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24: Behind the Scenes on Hurtigruten

Working aboard the Hurtigruten in Norway

Life in Norway Show Episode 24: We go behind the scenes on the MS Vesterålen to meet some of the people who work for Hurtigruten.

Norway's Hurtigruten famously offers guests a memorable 12-day cruise up and down the Norwegian coastline, but the company's ships also serve dual purpose as a local passenger and cargo service.

In this week's episode, I go behind the scenes on the MS Vesterålen to meet some of the dedicated people who keep the vessel running.

If you haven't seen it yet, you may want to check out the ship review and video tour first. You'll get a feel for the ship and meet Kathia, another employee from the MS Vesterålen.

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On the bridge

I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to visit the bridge, and even more fortunate that the ship's Chief Officer Anders agreed to an interview.

Chief Officer on the bridge of the MS Vesterålen
Chief Officer on the Bridge

The most noticeable thing about the bridge was how dark and how calm it was. Anders talked me through the various dials and screens, and about the challenges and importance of serving the smaller ports along the coastal route.

Bridge of the MS Vesterålen
The very dark bridge

Like many people working aboard, his favourite area to sail is along the coast of Lofoten. I wholeheartedly agree!

Managing the supplies

For the first half of this voyage Stig was the MS Vesterålen's stores manager. He's responsible for ensuring all departments of the ship have all the supplies they need, from beer to toilet paper. He told me how the tough shift pattern of 22 days on, 22 days off, makes sure only the right kind of people stay on board.

“It's a perfect situation because all your colleagues were like your second family. We take care of each other and are very good friends. Hopefully I will be here until I retire. I like the people and the company is always heading forwards doing new things.”

Working with the cargo

There are many more people aside from those on board who work to keep the Hurtigruten operation running smoothly. One of those people is Per Anders Brattgjerd.

Nor-Lines cargo operation at the Trondheim Hurtigruten terminal
Per Anders with some of the cargo

He talked of the challenges of his work, including the winter weather: “We've had a lot of storms along the coast and so there is a lot of cargo here at the terminal. We had an operational meeting with the crew to try and prioritise the bookings.”

It's complex work. Each of the 34 ports of call has its own requirements, and the cargo capacity of each of the 11 ships varies. Remarkably, they manage all of this work using spreadsheets rather than a dedicated IT system.

The tour guides

I met many tour guides on the voyage, all of whom spoke fluent Norwegian, English and German. One of the tours I joined was from Harstad to Sortland, with a stop at Trondenes Church in stunning morning light.

As the rest of the tour group wandered around, I found some quiet time to speak with our guide, Berge Larsson. Rather than ask him about his job, I asked him about the church so you can hear how passionate he is about his job!

Trondenes Church bathed in stunning polar light. The stone church is in Harstad, Norway
Trondenes Church

Overseeing the guest experience

On our very last day I finally found some time to speak with Steinar Olsen, the Hotel Manager on the MS Vesterålen. He is in charge of overseeing all aspects of the guest experience on board. That includes the restaurant and cafe service and everything to do with accommodation.

Steinar has worked for Hurtigruten for 17 years. He told me how much he enjoys the job and manages to balance his working life and family life. He also goes into detail about the kind of people who succeed working in such unique conditions.

Hurtigruten jobs in the future

The company is expanding and building new ships to go on exploration voyages all over the world including all the way down in Antarctica. Steinar says that they need hundreds of new employees over the coming years.

“If you love people then Hurtigruten is the right place for you. You can see on the Hurtigruten website what kind of skills and experience you need.”

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Behind the scenes: Working on Norway's Hurtigruten cruise line

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

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