Hurtigruten, the World’s Greenest Cruise Line Appoints John Downey as its President for the Americas [Interview]


Feb. 17th, 2021

Hurtigruten, the world leader in exploration travel, has appointed John Downey as President for the Americas, based in its Seattle regional headquarters. Downey will be responsible for Hurtigruten’s commercial growth strategy in collaboration with the company’s senior leadership team. 

Downey’s appointment comes at a strategic juncture in Hurtigruten’s growth. Already the recognized leader in polar water travel, Hurtigruten has also now earned the distinction of being the world’s greenest cruise line. 

Garibaldi Glacier/ Alberto Agostini National Park, Chile /Photo Credit: Maximillian Schwarz

Hurtigruten is now building the world’s first hybrid powered fleet of ships, fueling its vessels with waste products, and banning all unnecessary single-use plastic. These innovations have set a high, sustainable industry standard for environmentally conscious expedition cruising, and to the most remote and pristine areas of our planet.       

John Downey, with his extensive, senior-level experience with innovative products and brands, is a strong fit as Hurtigruten builds on 125 years in the industry, with the introduction of the world’s first hybrid ships. 

John Downey as President for the Americas

In addition, because Hurtigruten and Rolls-Royce signed a letter of intent to retrofit up to nine existing ships to run on LNG and battery power, the entire fleet is working toward hybrid totality by 2021. The LOI with Rolls-Royce allows delivering technology, engines, and battery packs for retrofitting for at least six ships (with an option for three more) that will allow for a combination of LNG (liquid natural gas) and battery power.

In addition to reducing emissions by as much as 20% using battery technology, the LNG power technology will contribute to improve air quality in all ports that don’t support shore power.  

Mr. Downey is charged at this time with driving sales and profitability across the U.S., Canada, and South America  

MS Roald Amundsen, Hurtigruten Library

JustLuxe recently interviewed Mr. Downey as he discussed the future of Hurtigruten’s green initiatives:

JustLuxe: Will there be new Hurtigruten sustainability initiatives in 2021 and ongoing?  If so, what are they and when will they be initiated?

Mr. Downey: Sustainability is paramount to us. Hurtigruten currently has a Lead Scientist on staff and we are always working to find ways to improve our business practices so we integrate as many sustainable processes as possible. We are committed to constantly working to integrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially those linked to responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, and more.  

JustLuxe: Hurtigruten is an innovative cruise line —What sustainability strategy will be the most innovative in terms of allowing passengers to be further educated in greater green awareness?  

MS Kong Harald, Hurtigruten / Photo Credit:Christian Huehn

Mr. Downey: We pride ourselves on delivering a guest experience that not only takes our passengers to remote destinations but also is an educational experience, relating to the destination.  While our two hybrid-electric ships are a physical testament to our dedication to reducing our carbon footprint, we find it extremely important to allow our guests to interact and engage with our team of on-board specialists to understand how we can all play a positive part in preserving the areas we explore. Encouraging our guests to learn about pristine and historic environments is the first step as a provision of hands-on experiences that further amplify the importance of sustainability.  

MS Midnatsol, Traveling to Desolation Island, Antarctica, Photo Cred: Susan Kime

JustLuxe: In terms of the global/adventure travel cruise industry, how do you plan to expand brand awareness in places where Hurtigruten is not well-known? 

Mr. Downey: We believe that our partners and guests choose Hurtigruten because we offer an unforgettable product that highlights our commitment to providing an experience that is both educational and sustainable.   Our guests learn about the connectedness of environments, animals, and the human footprint. As we continue to expand global awareness, we focus on bringing the Hurtigruten experience to future explorers through virtual looks at our ships, through seminar-like connections with select captains and will continue to share images and videos from our destinations – new and traditional — to help inspire adventure travel in the future. 

JustLuxe: Might you let us know if there are any newer destinations and privileged access adventures that will be launched in 2021/ 2022?

Hurtigruten Library

Mr. Downey: Our 22/23 sailings are now live. We have some absolutely amazing new editions. We have a circumnavigation of Baffin Island in Arctic Canada, we have expanded our European offerings including the Scottish Isles and the Azores, Scandinavian routes through the Faroe Islands, Sweden & Denmark. We also have adventurous sailings through Central & South America that includes visits along the Chilean Fjords. Lastly, in 21 we are hosting two ships in Antarctica for a full Solar Eclipse sailing that happens only once every 400 years.

JustLuxe: What is the most distant and exciting place you have traveled, on Hurtigruten?  

Mr. Downey: Oh, this is a challenging question. In 2019, I spent time in Greenland & Antarctica on the Roald Amundsen. Both journeys were amazing. In Greenland, I saw a Narwhal which was a fantastic experience and who can resist the excitement of journeying to 70 degrees south and seeing colonies of Penguins and pods of whales. Each trip really brought climate change to life as I experienced the warmest day of the year in both locations.

JustLuxe: 2020 has taken a toll on the cruise/ adventure cruise industry — how will Hurtigruten handle this, again moving into the adventure/tourism field?  Has Hurtirgruten created new cleaning strategies, new testing, and vaccination strategies so those who travel on Hurtigruten feel as safe as possible?    

MS Roald Amundsen, Antarctica, Photo Credit: Dan & Zora Avila

Mr. Downey: Great question. We, as a small ship expedition company are set up to pivot and make changes based on the environment that we are encountering. We do it in our journeys and also in our day-to-day business. We have taken great pride in ensuring that we are developing standards and processes to create a safe and clean environment for all of our guests. We have added a Professor of Medical Microbiology, Orjan Olsvik, to our team. He has significant experience in infection control and will be helping us set up state-of-the-art processes. You can see our most up to date policies here:

As the world moves towards a more sustainable future,  Hurtigruten moves in conjunction, creating a lighter, greener, and in all ways a more sustainable, footprint as it goes.  

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