Several shipping companies have named their Hurtigruten ships after Norwegian rulers. The shipping company Nordenfjeldske Dampskibsselskab in particular has had a strong tradition of this. We can mention, for example, NFDS’s ships SS Kong Harald (1890), SS Dronning Maud (1925), MS Håkon Jarl (1952).
MS Kong Harald (1992) originally built and operated by TFDS, today owned by Hurtigruten Coastal AS. MS Kong Olav (1964), originally built for Det Stavangerske Dampskibsselskab, later sold and operated by Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab, and finally OVDS.
However, some express routes have had more royal affiliations than others. When NFDS wanted to buy a new steamship in 1925, they chose to buy a real royal ship. HMY Alexandra had been built as a royal ship for King Edward the 7th of Great Britain in 1908. When NFDS bought the ship, the idea was to use it for international cruisees. The ship was slightly rebuilt to increase passenger capacity, but it was decided to retain the stately shape of the clipper’s bow on the ship, and the royal cabins and lounges. The ship was given a name more appropriate for a Norwegian ship, SS Prins Olav, after King Haakon VII’s only son, and Norway’s crown prince.
After taking passengers to many exotic locations all over the world came the stock market crash of 1929. The world economy was shaking. Suddenly, there weren’t as many people who could afford to go on luxurious cruises, or sleep in cabins fit for kings. In addition, the company had invested heavily during good times with scheduled services to England, the Mediterranean and participation in the Norwegian South America line. Tough priorities were needed.
Nordenfjeldske chose to completely rebuild their former royal cruise ship. The royal cabin and luxurious interior were removed in favour of more vernacular décor. In addition, the steam turbine, which required two chimneys, was replaced with a steam engine, so the ship now needed only one chimney. The Hurtigruten ship SS Prins Olav entered into the coastal express in 1937, completely changed. A former british royal had taken its place in Hurtigrute history.
A monument to Norway’s Transport history: Visit the bridge, engine room and cabins on the Finnmarken express route (1956) in its iconic barley. Feel the atmosphere in the lounges from the steamship Finmarken (1912). Activities for children and families. Hurtigruta’s importance is told in modern exhibitions. Food and drinks are served in the dining room anno 1956. Welcome aboard!
As many as 17 Hurtigruten ships went down during World War 2. Between 1941 and 1944, small boats hired by the shipping companies operated on replacement routes between Tromsø and Kirkenes. Read more about Hurtigruta's war sailors here