I had been keen to do the Classic Voyage for its visual attractions, for many years, but was somewhat reluctant about the whole cruising experience. As part of a package to southern Norway in May 2011 I was able to sample 2 days (one night) aboard Hurtigruten's MS Richard With. That impressive experience, coupled with good prior research, taking advantage of special travel offers and a seasoned traveller's perspective, convinced me to undertake the full 12-day "Classic Voyage", Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen, this time on MS Midnatsol, the line's flagship. I departed Bergen on May 19.
This is by far a very favourable review but as in so much of life, very little is perfect. So I am bound to note to readers of this thread that there was one glitch, relating to the on-board non-recognition of a ship-board credit previously guaranteed (see later very positive outcome). Also, as a technical professional looking at the nature of such a working operation, I believe there are some daily passenger-flow issues which might bear some review - particularly with regard to improving meal-time flows - even though that experience was by no means anything other than highly enjoyable.
I think readers who are familiar with ship travel and more particularly Hurtigruten's operations and raison d'etre need no deep detailing here of such. I should simply like to reflect on how well I feel the whole experience was made for me. Firstly, and importantly, I feel the fact that these vessels are Scandinavian-crewed (whilst undoubtedly adding to the certainly expensive cost-base) is a very important factor: unfailingly polite and pleasant staff were always keen to answer, with useful insight, questions on the local environments, lifestyles and general shipboard operations.
Secondly, and shiptype-specific, I don't think any review substitutes for actual visual impact: these boats are often jokingly referred to as coastal ferries. In fact they appear to be as plush and well-maintained as top cruise liners - merely much smaller. Very well-structured cabin layouts and outside cabins are generally view-favourable, though as in all ships there will be a few restrictions. And some prior research on the company's very informative website helps in that regard, anyway.
Thirdly, and vessel-specific, I wish to congratulate the crew of MS Midnatsol on their operational thoroughness. Trying to be both local servant and cruise operation in one is a very tricky operation to balance and allowing for the former coming first, I think, on my assuredly very studious observations, they do - and did - a wonderful job on my cruise in May. And the range of shore excursions (yes, not cheap, but then very little in Norway is, obviously) was both wide-scoped and in my experiences, thoroughly and wonderfully executed.
Finally, and most impressively, when a glitch happens for a passenger (see earlier comment) it is comforting to see willing efforts from ship through to administration on shore to help resolve the matter. Mine seemed to me somewhat minor but wonderfully, it ended up being resolved by the UK-based International Sales Manager who was prompt, enthusiastic and informative in his dealings with to my mind at least, a rather minor passenger in the importance chain.
So, I would urge anyone who does want something a little different in the way of a cruise in northern coastal Europe, with more localised in-depth experiences, to give Hurtigruten careful consideration. You would be very unlucky to have anything other than a most rewarding voyage and experience - visually and operationally.
And special credit to Mr Magne Gjervig (Midnatsol Hotel Manager), Ms Hild Hagen (Midnatsol Tours Manager), Mr Geir Eriksen (Midnatsol Captain) and Mr Karnail Gill (Hurtigruten UK).