Ship-spotters have a rare treat in store on Friday (28 February), when Stornoway is set to become one of the first ports of call for a brand new ‘battery-powered’ expedition cruise ship just launched in Norway.

MS Fridtjof Nansen (pictured) is Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten's second hybrid-powered expedition vessel, sister ship to MS Roald Amundsen. She’s sailing around Britain throughout March on a month-long showcase for the travel industry, which includes visits to nearly every port in the UK and a trade event at London’s Tower Bridge.

But before that programme even begins she is taking a short tour from Bergen in Norway and around the Viking raiding route. Today she’s in Lerwick, sailing on via Kirkwall on Thursday and Stornoway on Friday to reach Belfast on Saturday.

The tour is seen as a ‘shakedown’ cruise, giving the 156 crew and passengers alike a chance to see how the vessel operates and to familiarise themselves with her facilities. It’s likely that the 342 passengers include media, tourism industry representatives and some company executives.

The visit also gives islanders the first opportunity to view the unusually-styled ship, as part of a deliberate campaign to create what the industry calls ‘noise’ across the UK, viewed as potentially the biggest pool of cruise passengers for Hurtigruten.

In a company statement, Hurtigruten said: “We will operate our showcase voyages as modified expedition cruise experiences to put the ship’s onboard and shoreside activities through its paces.”

The company’s UK manager Anthony Daniels told travel industry journal TTG that Hurtigruten “want to engage the market and create awareness around what it means to have a ship like this here in the UK.”

About 1,000 guests will tour the ship on port visits in March, which include the tiny port of Fowey in Cornwall and which build up to London’s Tower Bridge overnight stop on 22 March.

Fridtjof Nansen’s first full-scale port call to Stornoway is already booked for May 2021, but on Friday she’ll receive her maiden visit plaque from Stornoway Port Authority.

The cruise season proper begins for Stornoway in May, with just two ships scheduled for April.