Hurtigruten is creating a separate expedition cruise entity as the Norwegian company prepares for post-Covid expansion.

The  cruise operations are being split into two different units – Hurtigruten Expeditions and Hurtigruten Norway – in the face of “challenges” experienced due to the global pandemic.

The expedition cruises cover more than 250 destinations, ranging from the Northwest Passage, Greenland, Norway, Svalbard, British Isles to the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica.

Asta Lassesen has been appointed chief executive of Hurtigruten’s global expedition cruise operations while group chief executive Daniel Skjeldam continues to oversee the overall 15-ship operation.

The expedition arm will operate a fleet of eight small ships, including new year-round departures from the UK and Germany in 2021, as well as a full Alaska season.

Hurtigruten Norway will consist of seven ships, and operate under a separate entity along the coast of the country serving 34 communities between Bergen and Kirkenes at the Russian border under a yet to be named chief executive.

Skjeldam said: “2020 is a tough year for everyone in the travel industry. But the setback is only temporary.

“For second half of 2021 and beyond, we are seeing a strong demand across all markets and all destinations, including the Norwegian coast, the Arctic and Antarctica.

“The demand reflects our predictions that expedition cruises, with all our advantages such as smaller ships, more flexibility and fewer guests, will prove even more popular post-Covid-19.”

Selected 2022-23 voyages have gone on sale – including Antarctica and the Arctic – with strong global demand reported.

Lassesen said: “As Hurtigruten continues to grow our expedition cruise offering, we will keep doing what we do best – combining almost 130 years of exploration with cutting-edge innovation and our unparalleled commitment to sustainability to deliver unique experiences in some of the world’s most awe-inspiring destinations.

“We go where the big ships can’t, taking you far beyond the ordinary and closer to communities and nature, while exploring the true beauty of our planet in a more sustainable way.”

Skjeldam added: “We have only seen the beginning of what’s to come.

“Hurtigruten sees great demand and equally great opportunities in the expedition cruise segment from 2021 and beyond. This is the growth we are preparing for.

“The Norwegian coast is our home. No one knows Norway like Hurtigruten, and from northern lights, the midnight sun, wildlife and local communities, there is no better way to experience authentic Norway than with Hurtigruten.

“We’ve pioneered the Norwegian coast for more than a century. But the best is yet to come.”