During the summer of 2015 Costa neoRomantica has called at completely new destinations in the north, all of which are located within a small radius. A total of eight itineraries will call at Bodø, Narvik, Vesterålen and Lofoten. “That’s exactly how we hope the cruise ships will make use of Northern Norway in the future,” says the Managing Director of CNNS, Erik Joachimsen.
The first of the eight voyages called in March, while the last will call in September. Costa neoRomantica has a capacity of 1670 passengers, which normally includes guests from Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Spain. Costa has not visited three of the ports – Bodø, Narvik and Vesterålen – in recent years, so this is a new experience for the cruise line and the cruise destinations. The longest sailing distance is between Bodø and Narvik, and is only 115 nautical miles.
Grethe Parker, the Cruise Manager in Narvik, is positive about the challenges that all parties are facing. “This itinerary is Northern Norway in a nutshell. The four ports involved complement each other in a perfect way,” she says. “This itinerary also enables the cruise line to perform slow cruising. In this way, the cruise line will save on fuel costs while the passengers get to experience the beautiful scenery in a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.”
Bodø, the southernmost of the four destinations, is in the process of establishing its own cruise network so it will be more united for the Costa calls as well as other calls in the future. Northern Norway’s second largest city had modest 4300 arriving passengers in 2014. However, this will almost quadruple in 2015 to more than 15,500 passengers. Costa neoRomantica alone accounts for around 13,000 of these.
“We’re developing a good structure with clear distribution of responsibilities,” says the Director of Development and Communications at the Port of Bodø, Erlend A. Willumsen. “Good cooperation between all the parties involved – the agent, the shorex providers, the guides and the bus companies – is a virtue of necessity in order to have time for this to work,” says Willumsen.
The Lofoten Islands is by far the most experienced cruise destination of the four ports that Costa will call at on these somewhat special cruises. However, Ole Martin Hammer from the Lofoten Cruise Network, which represents virtually all the providers in Lofoten, is aware that these cruises represent a new challenge for Lofoten. “This gives us new opportunities, in part because the distances between the ports are so short. Consequently, we will be offering overland trips with the possibility to stay overnight in an authentic rorbu (fishermen’s cottage), participate in attractive adventures and enjoy local culinary traditions. Such offers are not available for regular cruise calls that only last for up to eight hours. This provides us an opportunity to cooperate more closely with other ports, and that’s always informative and good for the business,” says Hammer.
In Vesterålen too, where Sortland is the cruise port, a wide variety of shore and sea-based offers will be available. Sortland is known as the “blue town”, with all the houses painted the same pronounced shade of blue. Not far from downtown Sortland, the cruise passengers can experience an authentic siida, a Sami settlement, where Inga and her family are reindeer herders. The famous fishing village of Nyksund, which was abandoned but has now been resettled, is just an hour’s drive from the port and a visit there is a wonderful experience.
MORE CRUISE LINES TO FOLLOW EXAMPLE?
Harriet Willassen, the Chair of the Board of Cruise Northern Norway & Svalbard, is extremely satisfied with Costa’s focus on compact cruises and hopes that the cruise line and providers succeed right from the start. “We hope that in time more cruise lines will do the same and that more of our smaller ports will be added to the itineraries of the larger cruise lines. One of the goals we set when we established our regional cruise network was that the smaller cruise destinations would get more traffic, and it looks like this is now about to happen. Nothing pleases us more than that,” says a proud Chair of the Board.