Make no mistake – GLP Worldwide may specialize in small-ship experiences but it delivers over-the-top memories in some of the world’s most captivating destinations. As the wholesaler heads into 2020 and beyond, it’s reminding travel agents that in addition to its diverse portfolio of cruise ship partners, it’s also the main point of contact for Hurtigruten, the Norwegian coastal route that transports cruisers from port to port. We sit down with Alan Law, Director of Sales and Marketing to discuss the company’s new focus, and the increasing popularity of expedition cruising.
1. For agents who are still unfamiliar with the company, can you tell us a bit about it, and which cruise lines you currently sell?
We are a leading Canadian wholesale tour operator specializing in boutique cruise and land tours, with a focus on authentic experiences and destination-immersive itineraries. Our experiences are assembled with Canadian travellers in mind. Pairing exceptional destinations with unique itineraries, our programs are for those who want to stray off the beaten path, without compromising comfort. We partner with lesser-known marine and land operators, the ones that you might only come across if you happened to be in that part of the world.
The cruises we specialize in are small ship experiences; from expedition cruising with Hurtigruten to “the highest rated cruise ships in the world” with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, to private-yacht style cruises with Variety Cruises.
Beyond cruises, we also offer land experiences including a collection of rail journeys, from the Transsiberian Adventure, to The Legendary Silk Road, to the African Explorer through South Africa and Namibia.
2. Expedition cruising has really taken off in the past couple of years – what would you attribute this to?
It is consumer driven. It is travellers’ desire for experiential travel, the desire to connect with their inner explorers. Savvy travellers are looking to travel for a higher purpose. We are looking for experiences built for enthusiasts not simply tourists, programs that will enrich our minds, and tours that will give us a greater appreciation of the regions we’re visiting.
Expedition cruising is attracting travellers who may have never considered a cruise, but they are drawn by the unique nature of the expedition experience and having access to pristine destinations.
As sustainability continues to be one of the most discussed and rapidly growing segments of the travel industry, we as responsible travellers are looking to make a positive impact on our next trip. We are interested in minimizing our carbon footprint, engaging in eco-friendly practices and observing social and environmental responsibilities. Hurtigruten’s expedition team invites guests to join them on Beach cleanup activities as part of its commitment to the environment and sustainable travel.
Sustainable travel goes hand-in-hand with expedition cruising. Expedition cruising is about providing guests with unique experiences in some of the world’s most special places. The future of expedition cruising is directly tied to the future of the planet and the environment, wildlife, and preserving cultural heritage of the places we visit. For this reason, we are selective in choosing our supplier-partners to ensure top quality. Sustainability is a way of life at Hurtigruten. They are the first cruise ships to be fuelled with bio-gas, made from organic waste such as dead fish. They are – literally – powering ships with nature. They are the first cruise line to stop using single-use plastic. And in 2019, they launched the world’s first hybrid-electric expedition ship.
3. How does Hurtigruten fit in to the Expedition space? And what can travellers expect when booking a Hurtigruten Expedition cruise?
Hurtigruten is the world’s largest and leading dedicated expedition cruise line in terms of market share globally, in number of ships, in Antarctica, Greenland, Svalbard, Norway and the Arctic. It has 125 years of experience in year-round operations in polar waters.
To understand Hurtigruten, forget everything you know about traditional cruising and regular cruise lines. Where others are investing in water slides and Broadway shows, Hurtigruten invests in things like green technology and science centres. Where others bring butlers and tuxedos, Hurtigruten brings highly experienced Expedition Teams that will enrich your experience with their extensive knowledge. They offer adventures in off-the-beaten-path, remote places, and has an educational focus and an emphasis on active, immersive, and authentic experiences.
Expedition cruises are led by an expedition team, including biologists, geologists, ornithologists and other experts who present relevant lectures on the vessel’s destinations, and lead hikes and offer guiding ashore. In-depth lectures from our expedition team talks about the wildlife, the culture, destination, climate change, and the history of the areas that you’re traveling. There is a science centre onboard with microscopes; guests can take water samples from the ocean and look at things under the microscope as a hands-on activity.
You’ll have the chance to dine with the expedition team and get to know them and ask your questions more intimately.
Day-to-day scheduling is more flexible on an expedition cruise to take advantage of weather, sea conditions, wildlife sightings, and other unanticipated opportunities.
The Expedition team will head out to a landing site first, and will usually set up a parameter where our guests are able to explore within to ensure the safety of our guests and the wildlife. Guests will have shore landings in small tender boats because a lot of these places that we go to often don’t have a pier. We’ll use those same tender boats to also do expedition cruising.
We’ll cruise around the area looking for icebergs, whales, seals and other wildlife. So you get to experience the destination not only on the shore, but from the water as well.
For Landings, they may be wet or dry landings depending on the landing site. Especially in Antarctica, it is common for our Expedition team to carve some makeshift steps in the ice and snow for our guests to disembark.
The great thing about our ships is that the side of the hull folds down and is at water level to allow the rigid inflatable boats to pull right up for guests to embark.
4. What’s new with Hurtigruten in 2020?
Hurtigruten has been known for over 125 years for the Norwegian Coastal Voyage, or the coastal express, mail ships that carry cargo, passengers and other goods along the coast of Norway. Now, there will be a bigger a shift toward expedition cruising.
• Our itineraries include expedition cruises such as circumnavigations of Iceland that follow the footsteps of the Vikings and visit remote settlements in Greenland, searching for polar bears in Svalbard, the Northwest Passage.
• Our summertime voyages in the Arctic take advantage of the long days under the midnight sun.
• In the fall, the expedition ships are redirected south to the Southern Hemisphere, where we take advantage of the full Antarctic season. As our ships move from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere during fall and spring, they take advantage of incredible destinations along the way, such as Atlantic Canada and the fall foliage of the Eastern Seaboard in the United States, along with Mexico, Central America, and South America itineraries.
• Hurtigruten will have the widest selection of expedition cruises.
• We have expeditions cruises to Antarctica, Alaska, Atlantic Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Northwest Passage, Svalbard, and beyond.
• New Alaska in 2020! Our journeys range from 14-18 days and offer an opportunity to visit smaller ports of call, and more scenic cruising opportunities in the fjords where the large ships can’t get to.
• Starting in 2020 a number of ships will be completely overhauled.
• The Finnmarken, Midnatsol and Trollfjord will be leaving the classic Norway coastal route as of 2021, and will be refurbished top to bottom. They will be converted to hybrid-electric power and will sail our new Expedition Norway itineraries for 2021 onwards. Their names will be MS Otto Sverdrup (formerly Finnmarken), and MS Eirik Raude (formerly Midnatsol). The MS FRAM will be fully refurbished in 2020.
• In 2020, we are also moving to more of an all-inclusive product, which means that there will be beer and wine at mealtimes included, Internet included, and shore excursions (with some exceptions).
5. How can agents book?
Starting in 2021, Hurtigruten’s classic Coastal Voyage will no longer be offered in the Canadian market. But the good news is Canadian travel agents can still book this popular cruise through GLP, their main point of contact moving forward. Due to our strong relationship with the cruise line, we can be considered the go-to for all things Hurtigruten. We have a long working history with the cruise line and are deeply knowledgeable of their product, their clientele, and their high standard of service. In fact, Hurtigruten is such an important part of Norwegian heritage that I had the honour of meeting Queen Sonya of Norway in 2016 as a result of GLP’s strong representation of the product in Canada.
Canadian agents are required to reach out to GLP directly at 1-866-760-1987 or firstname.lastname@example.org for all your Hurtigruten needs. We will work with you to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime cruise experience for your clients.