Live Footage of Norwegian Cruise Ship Hurtigruten becomes TV Sensation

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The Hurtigruten MMS Nordnorge cruise ship approaches Honningsvag June 21, 2011. Worn out by a fast-paced life and faster-paced television shows but lack a vacation budget? Take a five-day cruise along Norway's scenic fjords, all free and streamed live on Norwegian public television. For 8,040 minutes straight -- including all the boring bits -- viewers can follow the Hurtigruten MMS Nordnorge cruise ship and its roughly 670 passengers and crew as the vessel steams north along Norway's jagged coastline. The minute-by-minute coverage started on Thursday and included all on-board announcements and views from 11 cameras focusing on the spectacular fjords, boat traffic around the ship, officers on the bridge and the mostly elderly passengers strolling the decks and taking in the scenery. Picture taken June 21. (REUTERS/Scanpix)

Imagine this if you can:

A cruise ship sails along the coast for six days streaming live footage. Suddenly a nation becomes obsessed and the footage breaks ratings records.

Sound unreal? Well, it happened this past week.

Live video footage of the Hurtigruten cruise ship sailing for six days through the fjords along the coast of Norway mesmerized Norwegians so much last week that it blasted through ratings records in the country.

That's right! The fjord trip entitled Hurtigruten - Minute by Minute, broadcast by Norway's NRK, was watched by 2.54 million Norwegians. That's more than half the country's population (which stands at around 4.8 million).

Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg even tweeted: This is Norway at its absolute best.

Billed as the world's longest TV program, the MS Nord-Norge sailed 1,460 nautical miles along the coast with a crew of 22 and 11 cameras capturing the journey. They also filmed the ship from other vessels and from cameras in the ports where it docked. The voyage was streamed live on the NRK2 website for 134 hours straight.

Highlights included spectacular fjords, midnight sun, and genuine Norwegian scenery on the route from the southwest city of Bergen to Kirkenes.

The ship left Bergen on Thursday June 16 and docked in Norway's northernmost point, a town on the Russian border called Kirkenes where the sun doesn't set in the summer. Queen Sonja was there to welcome the ship into the arctic port on Wednesday.

The sensational popularity of the show, which inspired spontaneous gatherings and flag-waving along the ship's route, seems to have surprised just about everyone.

Nobody expected the trip to be quite this successful, said Rune Moeklebust, project leader for the program at NRK. The show seems to have evoked national pride in a country that is enamored with nature.

Moeklebust added that his team wanted to describe a journey and make the viewers feel like they were onboard the ship. There is something special about this route, with which many Norwegians have a strong relationship.

The voyage's highest ratings came when the ship sailed into the Trollfjord in Lofoten for the midnight sun.

Here's a look at some of the footage:

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