I've always wanted to visit Norway and had heard the best way of doing so was on the 'mail boat'. Well the 'boat' far exceeded my expectations and now I want to go back again. We purposely chose to sail in February because I wanted to see Norway as I have always imagined it- in snow covered winter conditions.
We made our own travel arrangements to Bergen and enjoyed 3 days staying at the Best Western Hotel Hordaheimen before joining the ship. We booked our cruise through the Norwegian office and were very pleased with the simplicity of doing so via email with one telephone call to make payment.
MS Nordlys was built in 1994 is one of the fleet sailing the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes. We chose a basic 2-berth inner cabin because it would be near the centre of the ship with less movement in bad weather. The cabin was clean, well maintained and comfortable (I especially like the Norwegian style of bedding). The lack of window was not an issue because we'd come on this voyage to see the scenery and experience the local way of life.
We'd been warned that this was a working ship but the comfort, food, and crew were so good we didn't notice. We met several locals using the ship. Parents with new babies who had been to visit Grandparents for the first time, students on the way to college, business people holding meetings and seniors who popped into the cafe during stops in ports. This ship is part of Norway!
The food was very good with a lunchtime buffet and set dinner. (the dinner menu is posted at lunchtime and if you don't like what is available you tell the crew and they discuss an alternative). We took the 'water package' where you pay a set amount and are provided with chilled water at each meal. A wine package is also available. Coffee can be expensive but we got round this by buying a Hurtigruten mug which we could fill up as often as we wanted in the cafe or bar.
The service was of the usual high Norwegian standard and efficiency without losing any of the friendly atmosphere that existed on board (the only grumbles were a few passengers who would not have been happy anywhere). Communications were excellent.
I confess we didn't go on any of the shore excursions but this was because we wanted to stroll around the ports of call at our own pace. Just make sure you return to the ship on time- they are very punctual.
There are no children's clubs as such but there is a playroom that was used both by the young passengers and a few locals who visited during port stops.
Entertainment was a Norwegian singer onboard and there was also a ceremony for crossing the arctic circle. There were some theme voyages like digital photography on other vessels. We were there to see Norway- its scenery and wildlife, and this is what we did, I think it would have been spoiled by organized entertainment.
We arrived back in Bergen right on time and quickly disembarked. I would suggest that you book the bus or a taxi from the ship because there were no taxis available outside the terminal.
This is a cruise for people who want to see Norway. It is a time to relax and enjoy being pampered without being subjected to constant 'organized' entertainment. We met several people who had sailed before- one couple were on their eighth trip! MS Nordlys appeared to be a favorite for returning passengers and, with its family atmosphere, I can see why.
Are we going to sail again on MS Nordlys? Yes, I've been spoiled and I might also book on MS Fram after recently having the opportunity to visit her in port.