Havila Capella is a ship on the Norwegian coastal route that provides caters for cruise passengers, local residents travelling as foot passengers and also transports freight. The service is an important part of everyday life for Norwegians, visiting some small and inaccessible towns that can take hours to reach by road. At the same time it offers a scenic journey through the beautiful scenery of the fjords with the chance to experience the spectacle of the northern lights and midnight sun.
Until now the route has been served by Hurtigruten, and Havila Capella is the first new ship in 18 years. In 2018 the Norwegian government split the coastal into three contracts, to run from 2021 to 2030, in order to introduce competition. Newly formed Havila Voyages won one of the contracts and Hurtigruten retained two. Havila Capella is the first of Havila Voyages' four new ships which have impressive eco credentials. With Hurtigruten reducing the size of its fleet many former crew members are now employed by Havila and have extensive experience of the coastal cruise and the passenger and cargo operation.
While the Havila name is new, the family-owned line was founded by long-standing parent company Havila Holding which has subsidiaries in fisheries, offshore shipping and hotels.
There are six categories of cabins, and the entry-level interior cabins start from 207 square feet. The majority of cabins are Seaview Superior, in a twin or double bed configuration with a sofa bed that can accommodate two children or adults. These start at 151 square feet. Other cabins with fixed windows are the Panoramic staterooms. Balcony cabins and Junior Suites have verandas. The ship has accessible interior, Seaview and Balcony cabins. The largest staterooms are the pair of Lighthouse Suites, situated high on Deck 8, which measure 484 square feet with a 161-square-foot balcony. They feature separate living and bedroom areas and the veranda has a hot tub.
The interior decor of Havila Capella has been designed to bring passengers as close as possible to the passing scenery, and as the ship always hugs the coastline there is always something to see. Large panoramic windows have been incorporated into the dining room, lounges and seating areas around the vessel and the gym -- split into two areas at each side of the ship -- boasts the best views of any wellness centre at sea. The top deck observation lounge and bar has reclining chairs and a glass roof to observe the star-studded night sky or the midnight sun during summer months.
The colour scheme in public areas and cabins is inspired by the sea, sky, mountains and glaciers, with a predominantly blue and cream colour palette. There are wave-like patterns on the walls and carpets and even shower screens resemble snow and water. The whole ship feels bright and airy. In the main lounge there are cosy "fireplaces" that make a crackling sound and comfortable chairs and other fixtures in Scandinavian blonde oak wood. Novel touches including dining chairs with a semi-reclining backrest.
Entertainment is low-key to the point of being non-existent, as is the norm with this type of voyage. After days out on deck in what has to be the freshest of air, or taking part in optional activities and shore tours that include hiking, husky dog and reindeer sledding, cycling, kayaking, snowmobiling, fishing and golfing, most passengers head to bed soon after dinner or have a nightcap in the bar. There is a hot tub on the outdoor deck, games and jigsaws in the lounge and talks and films about the area in the conference room. The liveliest thing that happens during the sailing is the ceremony that is held when Havila Capella crosses the Arctic Circle and Njord, the god of the sea and wind, "christens" passengers with ice cold water.
In the main restaurant passengers are allocated tables at the beginning of the cruise and sit as couples or in groups they are travelling with. They are required to book dining times, to stagger the number of passengers in at any one time, and these timings are flexible and can be changed from day to day if required. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served here with dishes freshly cooked to order from the open kitchen in the centre of the room.
A standout feature is the focus on fresh, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients and a menu that changes every three days (aside from always available dishes). Divided into four parts -- flavours of the fjords, polar region, Arctic and archipelago -- the menu is also unusual in featuring a wide range of small tasting plates as opposed to main meal portions. Conversely, passengers can order as many as they want which provides the opportunity to try regional specialities such as king crab, deep-fried cod tongue, reindeer, local cheeses and cold cuts. A dedicated vegetarian menu is also available. In the evening the tasting plates are supplemented by main course dishes.
There is also the 32-seat speciality restaurant, Hildring, which serves the same five-course tasting menu for the duration of the cruise, and changes with the seasons. This venue carries a supplementary fee, apart from suite passengers where it is one of the complimentary perks. There is also a cafe open throughout the day and a bar. The bar menu also features local spirits, beer and cider.
For anyone looking for an all-new ship experience in a contemporary environment Havila Capella is an exciting addition to the coastal route. The cabins have the edge on Hurtigruten in terms of size -- the Havila Superior cabins are 161 square feet and the largest Arctic Superior cabins on Hurtigruten's MS Richard are 139 square feet.
Hurtigruten has a fleet of older ships, with the last full refurbishment on MS Richard, carried out in 2018. The line will appeal to traditionalists and lovers of nostalgia as next year it commemorates its 130th anniversary since the first sailing in July 1893. The line also has more old-style cabins with bunk beds.
Passengers can expect a taste of Norway on both lines, with Havili focusing on a wide range of smaller plates and Hurtigruten offering a more conventional dining experience. The head-to-head competition has seen Hurtigruten announce a new partnership with award-winning Norwegian coastal chefs Astrid Nasslander and Halvar Ellingsen to enhance the menus and it also has a dedicated vegan menu.
Havila Capella, along with its trio of sister ships, was built at the Tersan shipyard in Turkey. It is a hybrid gas-electric powered vessel and incorporates high-tech features to uphold Havila Voyages' sustainable and eco-friendly philosophy. From 2026 it will be a government requirement that any ships sailing into the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord will have to be emission-free. Havila has already achieved that by incorporating what it claims to be the world's largest battery packs -- equivalent to 600 Tesla cars -- into the propulsion system to enable the Havila Capella to sail without noise or emission. When battery power runs low the ship switches to liquefied natural gas (LNG) which is currently the most environmentally friendly marine fuel, and cuts CO2 emissions by around 25 percent. The same technology is being used in the sister ships and the batteries are recharged in ports.
Elsewhere, energy saving features include recycling excess heat from the engine room provide heating onboard the ship and to heat the hot tub. Other initiatives include keycards made from reinforced biodegradable paper rather than plastic. Havila has also shunned the traditional buffet set up for breakfast and lunch and all meals are served to the tables. The line estimates this will cut food waste by more than 60 tons per year.
Havila Capella entered service in December 2021, after the original date was put back due to the pandemic. The second ship, Havila Castor, ilaunched May 2022, and will be followed by sister ships Havila Polaris and Havila Pollux.
The ship sails year-round on the classic Bergen-Kerkenes-Bergen route along the Norwegian coastline with stops at 34 ports along the way. Many of the ports are just brief stops, to allow local foot passengers on and off, and at larger towns, including Bergen, Alesund, Trondheim, Lofoten, Tromso, Honningsvag, and Kerkenes, there are stops of several hours with optional shore excursions or the opportunity for passengers to explore independently. Cruises can be booked as the entire 11-night sailing up and down the coast, as a six-night northbound cruise, five-night southbound sailing or short two- and three day sailings in each direction that take in highlights such as the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord. The three sibling vessels will operate the same itineraries.
Havila Capella and its sister ships are 15,519 gross tons and carry 468 passengers at double occupancy in cabins and 172 foot passengers, with 78 crew.