I've been "hurtigrutening" twice this year, once in March and again in August, both times on M/S Finnmarken, both times with a friend. On both occasions we had an absolutely great time. Our outside cabin on deck 3 was comfortable, with plenty of room for 2 adults and storage space - let's face it, all you do is sleep there so why want more space? It also had a decent size window. On the first trip our cabin was on the Port side and the second time on the Starboard side, and I can't say we noticed any difference in the noise levels when in port during the night. These ships are, after all, very well insulated.
We particularly like deck 3 as there is no walkway outside as on deck 5 so we felt it was more private, even though the cabins on deck 5 have tinted windows.
The food was excellent and more than plentiful, so much so that we asked for half portions at dinner and found these more than adequate. The kitchen was also very good in catering to my allergy, making sure I had an acceptable alternative whenever necessary. We treated ourselves to the wine deal on the second trip. This gave us a bottle of wine to drink at dinner each day, and every day the wine was excellent and tailored to the meal. There was no obligation to finish it at one meal, and the waiting staff would always leave the cork for us to take any remaining wine to drink later in the evening, or even to save for lunch the next day.
One of the advantages of M/S Finnmarken is that she has an outside pool and 2 jacuzzis on deck 7. These are fabulous :-) Even in March when it was -10 I went in. Sitting in a lovely warm jacuzzi in the brilliant sunshine watching snow-covered mountains go by is glorious. In summer the mountains were green and it was considerably warmer, but still glorious. The pool, although small is lovely too. It uses, I believe, filtered sea water which feels like silk to swim in.
Generally the ship is very clean and comfortable, with plenty of room for everyone so it never felt crowded. The staff in particular deserve a special mention for their unfailing good humour and helpfulness whatever the situation. They were lovely and looked after us so very well.
Over the two trips we took most of the excursions available, and found them all excellent. We particularly enjoyed the March snowmobile trip in Kirkanes, and the August River trip to the Russian border, both organised by Barents Safari. Our August excursion to the Svartisen Glacier was also brilliant - we saw sea eagles as well. Also the Taste of Vesteralen which includes a visit to the lovely medieval Trondenes church. Svolvaer and the Lofoten islands were magnificent too.
If you decide not to go on any Nordkapp trip when the ship calls in at Honningsvag, go for a wander in the town - the ship docks practically on the main street. There's a very good gift shop on the left as you leave the ship, and if you go just a few yards further and turn left, on the far right-hand corner you will find a little shop run by a Sami lady called Berit. This shop is full of lovely Sami-made reindeer hats, bags, and purses, and all sorts of things made from reindeer antler and bone. My friend and I acquired quite a lot here including a fabulous bone needle case. The shop takes cash only, but there is an ATM machine on the main street.
What we didn't expect on the August trip was to see the Northern Lights! It had been a glorious day with a magnificent sunset and we'd been on the Lofoten Island excursion, not getting back to the ship until 10.00 pm. No sooner had I got in to the old pj's when the tannoy announced "Northern Lights off the port side"!!! I grabbed a jumper and dashed up to deck 8. At first there were only a few green streaks, and then as we watched these built up in to a great swathe of green light with hints of red sweeping across the sky. Breathtaking!
A plea here. Please DON'T try to photograph the northern lights with your little camera and particularly NOT with flash. You WON'T get a picture - all you'll do is annoy the hell out of everyone who's jut trying to watch. To photograph the Northern Lights you need a very advanced camera with a very long exposure, preferably on a tripod. So if you're not equipped with the right photographic gear, just watch with your eyes - the Lights are quite unforgettable.
Will I take this trip again? You bet I will.