Hurtigruten is extending the suspension of worldwide sailings until the middle of next month in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The expedition cruise line aims to gradually re-start operations from June 16.

Sailings in Norway are set to resume first after the county started emerging from lockdown by re-opening schools, kindergartens, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers and travel restrictions are gradually lifted.

Ships will operate with reduced capacity to ensure social distancing.

Hurtigruten chief executive Daniel Skjeldam said: “We are two months into what is a truly extraordinary situation. In one way or another, the consequences of the pandemic impact us all.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty in what the next weeks and months will bring.

“However, we do see international restrictions gradually being lifted.

“Step by step, the pandemic is being brought under control. Businesses are re-opening and everyday life is slowly getting back to a degree of normality.

“Gradually restarting operations within Norwegian waters are natural first steps towards a normalisation for us.

“The size and scale of our step by step re-start is dependent on national and international travel restrictions, government support and other external factors outside of our control. But we are eager to welcome guests on board our ships again.”

The company also plans to gradually resume Arctic expedition sailings this summer “in areas where restrictions are lifted – where and when we believe it is safe,” according to Skjeldam.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our crew and guests. We are working closely with all relevant authorities, experts and agencies to ensure a safe and sensible restart of our expedition cruises,” he added.

Hurtigruten imposed strict measures and protocols to combat the spread of the virus before the global outbreak and had no confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 on any ships.

Skjeldam said: “In total, we will implement hundreds of small and larger measures to keep our guests and crew safe and healthy. Some of them are transitory, some will be permanent.

“But from even stricter hygiene protocols to reduced guest capacity to allow social distancing, this will give you a safer voyage without impacting the experience.”

A flexible rebooking policy has been introduced for those due to travel before September 30. They can rebook with a 10% discoubt on any 2020 or 2021 cruise.