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Hurtigruten is leasing a historic expedition ship to expand its Arctic operations from next summer.

The MS Nordstjernen, which originally entered service in 1956, is being chartered for a new Svalbard programme of short cruises between June and August.

The ship is leased through Hurtigruten’s wholly owned subsidiary Spitsbergen Travel, enabling holidaymakers to combine a three to four-day voyage with the activities and attractions in and around Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Svalbard.

The aim is to strengthen the company’s position in the region by targeting the growing short breaks market, with MS Nordstjernen in addition to existing vessel MS Fram.

The vessel has undergone an extensive upgrade in accordance with Norway’s Directorate for Cultural Heritage.

Hurtigruten chief executive, Daniel Skjeldam, said: “This is a strategic investment for the future. MS Nordstjernen completes the range of services we offer in Svalbard.

“Over a long weekend you can experience the spectacular Longyearbyen and sailing along the north-western coast with a product that only we offer.”

He added: “Svalbard and Spitsbergen Travel are integral to the success of the group.

“We are already the principal tour operator on the archipelago, and are now further strengthening this position.

“We have every confidence that MS Nordstjernen will be an unmitigated success with its expeditions to Svalbard.”

Prices start at £927 for a six-day trip departing on June 11 including transfers, one night in a hotel in Spitsbergen on half board basis, a full board cruise, plus all hikes and landings. Flights cost from an additional £5