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Kong Harald (II)

Kong Harald is seen entering the port of Alesund in Norway at the 10th of june 2015.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, tourism to Norway became very popular and because the financial problems of the mid 1980's were over, people were also able to get there. Cruises were not so regular as today, so the best way to see the fjords was by the ships of the Hurtig Ruten, sailed by the two companies Troms Fylkes D/S and Ofotens og Vesteraalens D/S. Two independent companies, but closely working together and using the same shipcolours within Hurtig Ruten. The only difference in appearance was the funnel, that was in the colours of the original companies.

Hurtig Ruten is the old lifeline of the villages and town at the Norwegian coast and dates back to 1893. Many villages were only reachable by boat and for the supply of goods and mail as well as travels by people the line was the most important route in Norway, dubbed the 'Highway 1'. But when tourism grew around 1990, the company still had the old mailboats in service and those were not very suitable for a larger amount of passengers, next to the traditional ferryservice. To cope with the growth, the combined company ordered a series of six larger vessels, measuring just over 11.000 tons, that were designed with the growing traffic in mind and would be comfortable enough for cruisepassengers too. Those were called 'De Nye Skipene', translated as 'the new ships' or the new generation.

Kong Harald meeting up with Disney Cruise Line's Disney Magic at Alesund. they share the same colours...

The fist of the new ships to enter service was Kong Harald, named after the King of Norway, Harald V. She is the second ship to bear the name, as between 1890 and 1920 another ship sailed under the name, that time named after King Harald IV. The new ship measures 11.204 tons and has a lenght of 121,80 meters and a width of 19,20 meters. Her draft is a maximum of 4,70 meters.  Driven by two propellers that are powered by two six-cyliner diesel engines the ship can reach a speed of 18 knots. Not the fastest cruiseship around, but keep in mind that in the Norwegian fjords that speed is adequate enough. In her capacitynumbers you can see that she cannot be seen as a normal cruiseliner, as she can carry up to 460 passengers in 230 cabins, 201 deckpassengers and those are catered for by 59 crewmembers. Next to this, she also has a cardeck where 50 private cars can find a parkinglot.

Kong Harald was launched traditionally at the 28th of november 1992 from the Volkswerft Stralsund in the Norwegian town of Stralsund and she had been built there under yardnumber 101. At the 25th of june 1993, the ship was named in Stralsund by Hjordis Opseth, wife of Kjell Opseth, the Norwegian secretary of transport. The same day, the ship was delivered to her owners, Troms Fylkes D/S. After her, five more ships in the class were built, at several wharves in Norway. The two next ships were also built at Stralsund, Richard With for Ofotens og Vesteraalens D/S in 1993 and Nordlys for Troms Fylkes D/S in 1994. In 1995 Polarlys followed from the Ulstein Verft in Ulsteinvik for Troms Fylkes D/S and Kvaerner Kleven in Ulsteinvik delivered the last two ships of the class to Ofotens og Vesteraalens D/S. In 1996 Nordkapp and in 1997 Nordnorge.

The ship is technically a ferry but is used for cruises also. But she is not meant for mass market and so she does not have all facilities aboard we expect from modern cruiseliners. She has a restaurant, a bistro and a bar, of course, next to a souvenirshop, several lounges and a great panoramalounge at her highest deck, deck seven. There also is a small gym and spa-area aboard. Her interiours are mostly done in Royal Blue, due to her Royal name-giver.

At the sixth of july of 1993, the ship sailed her first roundtrip voyage leaving Bergen for Kirkenes along the Norwegian coast, calling at the 34 ports visited during the journey. This takes around 13 days, to Kirkenes seven and then back. Thirty-four ports in 13 days sounds staggering, but port-visits are mostly just to roll-on and roll-off goods, cars and passengers and can be completed in just under twenty minutes. This way, at several days eight or more ports can be visited. So, as a cruisepassenger, you are not able to get off in every port visited. There are of course ports where the ships will stay longer, but the standard route is not a cruise. That said, you sail almost through every fjord thinkable and as the Norwegian fjords can be seen as one of the most beautifull regions in the world, the shorter port visits do not have to be a problem. Next to the normal route, the ships of Hurtig Ruten also undertake true cruises, lowering the passengernumbers because then there are no deckpassengers aboard.

Kong Harald has a very steady life in Norway, just a few problems have spoiled her fun a bit. At the 4th of march 2013, the ship grounded close to the Trollfjord, but was able to free herself when the tide rose. Two years later, at the 1st of febuary of 2015 and sailing between Honningsvag and Kirkenes, she was hit by a monsterwave and because of this, one passenger was injured lightly. On the bridge and in one cabin at deck 5 windows were smashed and the ship returned to the port of Honningsvag ad the rest of the voyage was cancelled. After repairs in Harstad, the ship returned to service.   

 

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