Cruises to the Caribbean, South Seas and across the Mediterranean may still be booming, but nowadays more and more people are heading north – to the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Hurtigruten` means `speedy route` in Norwegian, and is the motto of the country`s traditional mail ships which have connected towns the length of Norway`s 2,700-kilometre west coast since 1893. Today, the combined cargo, passenger and cruise ships ply the coastline of Norway, from Bergen to Kirkenes, in six-and-a-halfdays, as well as passing through the vast Trollfjord and Geirangerfjord fiyords in the summer.

As well as ensuring Norwegians up and down the coast get their letters on time, however, the Hurtigmten route has been transformed in recent decades into something entirely new – a tourist attraction of international renown. A survey on the theme of customer satisfaction carried out last season showed that no less than 96 percent of those questioned were highly satisfied` with what they called the `most beautiful sea voyage in the world`. Almost 5,000 passengers took part in the survey – what greater evidence of people`s desire to travel the frozen North could you possibly want?

Arctic habitat

There is a huge amount to discover on the cruises, which offer repeated opportunities to watch the fascinating local fauna in their Arctic habitat, a harsh wilderness dominated by imposing glaciers and strikingly beautiful fjord landscapes. The coming year is a big one in polar history: polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen was bom isoyears ago, and it has been exactly a century since Roald Amundsen conquered the South Pole.

Hurtigruten is also celebrating the two polar heroes, as Captain Richard With founded the Hurtigruten line along the Norwegian coast in 1893, the same year Fridtjof Nansen set off for the Arctic Ocean on his newly-built research ship, Tram. Three years later, the Tram returned from the Arctic and Richard With established a shipping line from Norway to Spitzbergen with the intention of enabling travellers to experience the beauty of the Arctic world in icy reality.

Hurtigruten has been offering sea voyages to the polar regions ever since. This historic connection with polar pioneers Nansen and Amundsen is being celebrated in 2011. On Hurtigruten`s expeditionary voyages aboard the MS Fram along the coasts of Spitzbergen and Greenland, travellers can see the fascinating Arctic summer up close, and together with Seetour Austria, Hurtigruten is offering cruises at attractive special prices from June to August 2011.

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