This is not a cruise, it is a journey on a ship that has a job to do and takes passengers in comfort and style.
We were allocated cabin 432 which was a starboard outside cabin, forward of the reception area. It turned out to be an excellent location, being close to the lifts and reception and did not suffer from engine noise or noise during docking (except when the bow thrusters were used)
It was a cabin, not a stateroom but it was big enough for the two of us and contained everything we needed. The bunks were very comfortable and it was no trouble to convert one from a settee to a bed. Bathroom facilities were good and the heated floor a bonus. A good tip is to have luggage stored in the luggage room to give more space in the cabin although some cases would fit under the bunk. Storage space is a little limited but we coped.
The cabin was serviced daily, to a high standard
Fixtures and fittings used throughout the ship are of a very high standard and contemporary artworks can be found everywhere. The Observation Lounge is especially impressive, although all the lounges are comfortable places to relax. Although the ship was quite full, there was always somewhere to sit. Public areas were spotlessly clean.
We were half-board so had a chance to use the cafe as well as the restaurant, which we used for breakfast and dinner.
Breakfast was a typical Scandinavian buffet. There was a good choice of items both hot and cold.
Most days we had lunch in the cafe. Soup was available every day as well as a range of hot dishes and sandwiches, cakes etc. The food was tasty, well presented and reasonably priced. We had one buffet lunch in the restaurant. This cost 295 Norwegian Krona per person and we thought it was value for money, although not something we wanted to do every day.
There was no choice at dinner but an alternative was available if notice was given or if you were vegetarian or followed a special diet. A "menu" showing the dishes for the voyage was available so you knew what would be served for each evening.
The food was excellent. Dishes reflected the cuisine of the areas passed through on the voyage. There were two buffets, one in Bergen before departure and one, the evening before arrival in Kirkenes. There was a very good choice of items, both hot and cold. For the rest of the voyage, main courses alternated between fish and meat but all were delicious and beautifully presented. We considered the food to be equal to, if not better than, that provided on "traditional" cruises and indeed better than most.
We did not buy wine with dinner, like all alcohol in Norway it was very expensive although a wine package is available which can reduce the price a little. We did purchase two coffee and tea packages (an insulated, lidded mug) that cost 250 Kr per package but gave "free" access to coffee and tea throughout the voyage. We considered this good value as we were doing the 12 day voyage and the package paid for itself after 3 days, (The mugs were helpful in warming hands when on deck!)
At a safety briefing we were told that the entertainment is the landscape and the Northern Lights and this proved to be the case - when the weather permitted, we were on deck either watching the awesome scenery or waiting for and watching the Northern Lights.
During the day there were some activities laid on, ranging from ceremonies to celebrate entering and leaving the Arctic Circle to fish preparation. There were lectures on local culture and history and for part of the journey, a duo played after dinner.
Port and Shore Excursions
In all, the ship stops at 77 ports during the voyage. Ports visited during the day going north are generally visited at night on the return journey. Stops vary from 15 minutes to 6 hours.
We didn't buy any town based excursions, preferring to walk round ourselves but the excursions didn't seem excessively priced. We did go to North Cape, the Russian Border and a midnight concert in the Arctic Cathedral. The arrangements for each of these were very good. It should be remembered that excursions can be cancelled because of bad weather.
Professional and friendly
Cabins had to be vacated by 10:00 am for a n arrival in Bergen at 2:30 pm but there was room to sit with hand luggage in lounges etc. Disembarkation was well organised and took less than 15 minutes. A nice touch was being seen off the ship by the Captain.
It had been our dream to see the Northern lights and to take the Hurtigruten to Kirkenes - the voyage exceeded what we expected.