Havila Voyages is the new original on the Hurtigrute: Cruising with MS Havila Castor
All HAVILA CASTOR pictures you can find here under Views of HAVILA CASTOR.
Kick-Off: Bergen and Havila Voyages
The latter is the new company venturing into the mail ship territory with new ships and new product in Norway. That sounds exciting! Norway is worth a trip in itself, and when it’s by ship along its stunning coastline, even more so.
Founded in the 1950s, Havila has its roots in fishing and supplying oil platforms. The business has expanded steadily since then, and in 2019 the family-owned company won a tender to serve the classic mail ship route, alongside Hurtigruten A.S. In 2021 the time had come and with MS Havila Capella the first ship of the new brand Havila Voyages set sail.
Before I set sail today with the sister ship Havila Castor, I have time for the Hanseatic city of Bergen. Besides classics like the old, hanseatic quarter Bryggen with its former merchant account houses and the lively fish market, I visit the Bergen Akvariet.
Here I immerse myself in maritime life up close: From Antarctic penguins, local crabs, sea cucumbers and fish species to fish of the Indian Ocean – the biodiversity is great.
„Boarding“ is finally called at Jekteviksterminalen in the city center. Havila Castor is still being loaded for the 12-day round trip when I board via the glass gangway. Not yet ready are the cabins: These are prepared in Bergen after arrival of the ship by an external company for the new passengers. Therefore, all northbound guests must be patient for 1.5 hours. Time to soak up first impressions in the public areas before heading north out into the dark November seas of the North Atlantic.
Places like Torvik, Nesna, Alesund, Molde and Trondheim lie ahead of me on this section of the Kystruten.
May I? Havila Castor – a newcomer introduces himself
At first, the name takes some getting used to: „Castor“ is known in Germany for the transport of nuclear waste. That doesn’t sound very maritime at first. But Castor is also the name of the second brightest star in the constellation of Gemini, as I find out after a short research. May Havila Castor always shine in her new Atlantic territory – without being a radiant phenomenon like the transports in Germany. She certainly has what it takes, as I discover on board.
While competitor Hurtigruten’s ships have been in service for years and decades for the most part, Havila’s ships are brand new. It is obvious that the focus is on the tourist part of the business and that the ship is less of a provider to remote places in Norway than it used to be. The appealing interior comes across as Scandinavian: wood, warm tones, and subtle paintings on the walls convey a real sense of well-being in the public areas as well as in the cabins.
Deck 6 is the classic promenade deck: All essential areas such as restaurants, café, on-board store and numerous seating areas can be found here. The offer is rounded off on the other decks by sauna, whirlpools and gym. The four-deck-high atrium spans above the reception area and turns the area into a wonder of light and space.
I find my highlight of the ship outside: The bow area of the Castor is freely accessible and offers a fantastic panoramic view of the Norwegian coast, waves and sea. You can’t get more sea than that. Or does it? The spacious Havblikk lounge on deck 9 convinces with a 270° view above the bridge: A highlight day and night.
Awesome views and deep insights
Prima succeeded on board: It does not matter whether I am in the ship or on deck – Norway can not hide from my eyes. Whether in the restaurant, in the lounge or the extensive outdoor areas – everywhere the best view in the first row is granted.
Deep insights into the countryside are offered by the Havila excursion options. From the city walk to the dog sled tour to the whale safari. All this and much more is offered – at Norwegian prices, but the excursion quality I experienced was consistently convincing.
All in view from the bridge
Eivind Lande stands on the Castor Bridge and controls the ultra-modern ship from here. The former captain of the historic MS Lofoten (click here for LOFOTEN-STORY) has recently joined the Havila cruise line.
He still steers the latest generation mail ship safely along its coast. „A technical quantum leap and a challenge“ was the change from oldie to newbie, as he confirms to me. The complex ship can do much more, consumes much less and is much „greener“ overall.
The main pillars include the energy-efficient ship management system with its LNG-powered propulsion in combination with the largest battery packs at sea. These enable emission-free travel of up to four hours. That’s not the world yet, but it’s a very good start. On our voyage, we get to see it demonstrated: The approach to Trondheim is purely electric, silent and vibration-free. To glide into the harbor so quietly and emission-free is something special.
More details about the sustainable new concept of the Havila-Eco-Voyager will be available here.
Classic postal ship route – they know what they are doing
34 ports from Bergen to Kirkenes northbound and 33 on the southbound itinerary: the routing of yesteryear is still the same today and tomorrow. Locals are still transported from port to port, cargo is loaded and unloaded, and sometimes even a car is still carried on the car deck. This concept is contractually fixed with the government of Norway. Thus, the supply of the population is secured and at the same time a tourist cruise product is offered. What is new is the consistently sustainable implementation. Although everything is still very new at Havila, it works amazingly well. It soon becomes clear to me why: there are many familiar crew faces on board that I know from other Hurtigruten ships. They now work here and bring their expertise to the job. This makes it possible to successfully implement the Havila Voyages visions within a short time.
130 years of the Hurtigrute – true sustainability for the anniversary
13 decades is a long time. But instead of being dusty, Havila has watched; watched at the competitor. As I said, many employees come from Hurtigruten A.S. and know where there is potential for development. „Be an ecovoyager“ and „sustainable cruising“ sum up the company’s own strong sustainability ethos: Using as little paper as possible, causing little or no emissions, regional food suppliers with local products, and no buffets in order to limit the amount of waste per guest per day to 70 grams in the medium term. The new ships do the rest: In all areas, the company has moved with the times and implemented feasible measures in a sensible manner. The aim is to significantly reduce the impact of shipping on the environment and to preserve the Norwegian coastal ecosystem for future generations. Havila solves the questions concerning the future of the mailship line with confidence.
A lot has happened since the first ship of the experienced captain Richard With sailed today’s Hurtigruten in 1893. In the anniversary year 2023, this is particularly evident at Havila Voyages with its four newbuilds. What has remained is the core: people, freight and a few postcards are reliably transported to the far north and back. The next 130 years lie ahead – Havila Voyages is on track with a team that is aware of its roots.
At the table: Sustainability consistently implemented
The food concept takes a special approach: the best quality, served fresh and sustainably, without producing any significant waste. Can that work? Havila is therefore taking a new approach to restaurants: buffet adé, the guest sits, orders everything from the menu without exception, and the crew runs. The latter should be paid by the mile – everything is brought to the guest.
The main restaurant for all meals is the „Havrand“ at the stern. Comfortably seated, with again the best view, you miss nothing here: neither on the plate, nor the passing landscape escapes you at the cozy tables. Every three days there is a new menu, thematically dedicated to the respective region traveled. Those who book the „Gold Package“ have a larger selection of meals and drinks – also at the bar – included. All of the dishes I tested were excellent, and the selection of accompanying wines was extensive and of high quality. By the way, the ingredients come from local, Norwegian suppliers whenever possible.
If you prefer something more exclusive and intimate, choose Hildring Fine Dining: exquisite dishes are celebrated in five courses. A culinary highlight for the eyes and the mouth!
Well bedded – the range of cabins
Most of the 179 staterooms in 12 different categories have ocean views and afford wonderful views of the passing scenery. Cabin focus is on the lower decks four and five, while the Lighthouse Suites are perched on deck 8. Since Havila Castor is a barrier-free ship, there are also numerous cabins for guests with physical disabilities that meet their needs.
My attractive Seaview Superior cabin is located on deck 5. Next to the bed, there is a sofa with a small table, a desk area, numerous power outlets along with modern USB charging options and an interactive on-board TV. A kettle for tea and coffee in the cabin rounds out the options. Only the small bathroom comes across as a bit unimaginative. The minimalist sink makes hand-washing just as little of a pleasure as the shower. The latter has no door or curtain: no matter how hard I try, the bathroom floods when I shower. What a pity. On the positive side, however, the underfloor heating radiates cozy warmth and dries the flooding quite quickly.
Goodbye in Trondheim
After three days of travel, it’s time to say goodbye in Trondheim. The city with the famous Nidaros Cathedral is, along with Bergen, Tromso and Kirkenes, the hub of Havila Kystruten. Time has passed much too quickly – with impressive experiences on board and ashore I say goodbye. By the way: „Special guest“ on this trip was Petrus. He gave us a weather at the beginning of November that thoroughly cleared up all prejudices about the gray-wet Norway weather. I almost got a sunburn. But only almost…
„12 days – a thousand memories“ is how Havila herself describes the trip. For me, it has now been three days on board, which has given me a good insight into the new Kystrute. It is 3 days with hundreds of memories. With Havila Voyages and Havila Castor to experience the coast in a “ fast “ new way and even to dive far inland with excursions impresses me more than ever. The new concept and product is really settling in now after the pandemic. I am convinced of Havila’s vision through my own experience: the „new Hurtigrute“ is a success by people for people.
But this Havila voyage has one drawback for me: It is clearly too short and my goal is therefore clear – to get back on board as soon as possible. Then I stay longer and travel further: For a thousand or more memories.
ADVERTISEMENT: SHIPS@SEA traveled at the invitation of Havila Voyages, as well as with the support of the Husare Agency.BACK