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New ship makes inaugural visit: Roald Amundsen set to return
The cruise ship sails south to Vancouver, British Columbia, in the Tongass Narrows near U.S. Coast Guard Base Ketchikan. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

On the morning of Sept. 25, a sleek, red, white and black cruise ship floated up to Ketchikan's Berth 2.

On the sidewalks, pedestrians gazed up at the 550-passenger, 459-foot vessel that was making its first visit to Ketchikan.

Two sharply dressed jewelry store workers stood outside of their shop smiling. This would be the only cruise ship in port that day.

"Come give us all your money!" one of them shouted at the ship, laughing.

After the ship was tied up at the dock, its passengers disembarked, all wearing the same heavy red jackets and fluorescent green hoods. They had just spent 16 days aboard the ship, coming from Nome. Before Nome, the ship had traveled the Northwest Passage, stopping in Greenland and other small port towns along the way.

Two red-coated passengers said Ketchikan was the largest port the ship had called at. Robert Elm of Canada and his companion had been with the ship since Greenland.

The ship became the first hybrid cruise ship to traverse the Northwest Passage this summer.

Fittingly, the name of the ship is the same as the Norwegian explorer who's credited as leading the first sea expedition of the Northwest Passage, Roald Amundsen.

Elm said the ship focused more on education, and held lectures with marine biologists and other scientists. He said the talks were both in English and German, as half the passengers were German.

Elm enjoyed that the vessel’s bow was open to the passengers — unlike on many cruise ships. He recounted being at the base of the Hubbard Glacier and being able to walk out on the bow and take it all in. He said a highlight of the journey was in Dutch Harbor when the ship was surrounded by 15 humpback whales.

During an event aboard the ship that day, City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen presented Captain Kai Albrigtsen with a plaque commemorating the inaugural Ketchikan visit of the ship that was built at the Kleven Shipyard in Norway and launched in February 2018.

Sivertsen asked if the ship used an ice cutter during the voyage. Albrigtsen replied that it did for a short stretch on the first half of the Northwest Passage.

The ship is equipped with a fleet of zodiacs — inflatable, easily maneuverable skiffs. The company uses them in shore excursions. At each port of call one expedition is available to each passenger; it's included in the price of the ticket. Elm said passengers pay about $1,000 a day.

The equipment, guides and resources for most of these expeditions are all provided by the ship itself. However, in Alaska waters, the ship was unable to deploy its zodiacs because of federal regulations. Albrigtsen said the company is working on a solution, that could include renting watercraft from local businesses.

The ship has four Rolls Royce diesel engines that average 720 revolutions per minute. One engine is never used, and is only for emergencies according to First Engineer Daniel Ebeltoft.

Inside the spotless engine room, Ebeltof said the four engines are operated in two sets, and the sets can be sealed off from one another in case of a fire.

The ship also has a battery bank that's approximately 20 feet long, 10 feet high and three feet wide. The batteries supplement power to the engines and are also continuously charged by the engines. In an emergency scenario, the batteries can power the ship without the engines for up to a half hour.

In the engine room, Ebeltoft brought out a cup of treated wastewater — all gray water from shower drains and toilets — and it was clear. He did not drink it though, as he said it still contained chlorine and smelled badly.

Hurtigruten, the company that owns the Roald Amundsen, has announced that it banned all single use plastics on the ship. Each stateroom was equipped with glass cups, instead of plastic ones.

However, Elm's companion said it depends on what you mean by single use plastics.

"Would you consider plastic wrap that you put over food single use?" she asked.

Hurtigruten plans to use dead fish as a fuel source for six of its ships by 2021. This fuel source is called liquefied biogas, a renewable energy source that is produced when organic wastes such as fish decompose.

Currently, the ship is on its way to Chile, for scheduled cruises between South America and Antarctica.

The Roald Amundson is slated to become a regular staple in northern waters, as well, running and back and forth through the Northwest Passage and up and down the northwest coast of the U.S. and Canada.

The ship is scheduled to call on Ketchikan about eight times next summer.