We had a fantastic trip and loved every moment. Sure it's not an ocean cruise ship, more like a ferry in terms of accommodation, but we knew this before we left and it was all part of the adventure. We knew the cruise was called "Hunting the Light" but had read the reviews before we left and knew that not all trips would see the Northern Lights. However we observed them 5 times on the trip, the first day being Christmas Day - it was amazing and the best Christmas Present ever.
We observed sea eagles on the trip and also minke whales from the front of the ship whilst sailing up one of the many fjords. We took an excursion to the North Cape which was well worth the experience despite it being dark when we got there, (due to the disappearance of the sun for the Arctic Night) to stand there at the top of the Cape felt like a real achievement. However our postcards, which we posted from there, to receive the North Cape stamp, did not arrive until almost two weeks later and the stamp was hardly visible, bit disappointed.
This is a working ferry service which serves the north of Norway therefore passengers should be aware that we made 65 scheduled stops, some for approximately 15 minutes through the day and night, but the captain seemed to do this with the utmost ease and minimal noise. On longer stops you can get off the ship and explore the towns. For some passengers this was disappointing as they were closed for shopping having locked up for the Christmas Holidays, not a problem for us as we strolled the streets and viewed the different Christmas decorations. Our best buy before we left home was a pair of ice spikes for our boots which were invaluable when walking in some of the towns as the paths and roads were very icy.
At Kirkenes, the most southerly point of the trip, we took the dog sledding experience, very exhilarating if not a little whiffy and extremely bumpy, wouldn't have missed it as it was all part of the experience. Friends went on the snowmobiles and were absolutely thrilled that they took another excursion, night snowmobiling a couple of days later which they said was well worth the money. There were plenty of excursions on offer for the cruise, they were expensive, but again we had done our research before leaving home and knew that the cost of most things in Norway would be far more expensive than in the UK. Travelling back south we also took the midnight concert excursion to the Arctic Cathedral in Tromso. It was snowing which really added some ambience to a wonderful Arctic experience.
The tour guide on the Richard With was Anna Olivia Wallinder, what a lovely person. Full of enthusiasm, knowledge and a speaker of many languages. She even coerced passengers into singing in a Christmas Choir, performing to the passengers and crew on Christmas Eve and to a sister ship in dock with us on New Years Eve, another memorable experience. In fact, all of the crew on the Richard With worked very hard, were very helpful and made us feel welcomed.
Cabins were small, we had only 1 wardrobe and not really enough storage space for all our thermal indoor and outerwear, but comfortable and adequate for the journey. However next time I will take some lighter summer wear as well as winter wear as the Richard With indoors was very warm and with the winter clothing on, far too warm to be comfortable (I had to buy a tshirt from the North Cape to wear for a couple of days).
Food in general was good, a bit samey sometimes but I find this on a lot of cruise ships when catering for large numbers, self serve buffet for breakfast and lunch with hot and cold selections and a set meal for dinner, which consisted of three courses of mainly Norwegian dishes. Some meals were not to my taste and the staff were helpful in offering me an alternative. There is no dress code for dinner and most passengers arrived very casual but tidy which created a very relaxed atmosphere, with the exception of New Year's eve where most passengers wore their only "dinner outfit".
We did find the that our internal time clock did get disorientated due to the Arctic night, only about 3 hours twilight at lunch time. But then again we had researched this so weren't totally shocked by the lack of light, but we were extremely grateful and humbled when we saw it again.
Embarkation and disembarkation were reasonably smooth, although there was a short delay before boarding. The terminal missed out by not opening the café as most passengers had arrived a couple of hours earlier and a drink would have been much appreciated. I think there was a machine but instructions were too complicated for us to work out and many of us did not have small amounts (coins) in Norwegian Krona to use.
All in all a fantastic Christmas & New Year Adventure which we would highly recommend for anyone who wants an alternative to an Ocean Cruise, getting dressed up for dinner and having entertainment on board.