We just completed the 7 day north bound trip up the coast of Norway on the Trollford (June 11, 2007 departure). It was a beautiful voyage. The weather was as good as it could be. Mostly partly cloudy with some scattered showers. Nothing that interfered with any of our port stops or shore excursions. All in all it was a great voyage with spectacular views. I would highly recommend it although I wouldn't recommend doing the full up and back. Mainly because it can get boring. There is no other entertainment than the scenery and various port stops. After a while it becomes redundant. Although I have to admit that the scenery does change as you go north and it is very interesting. And the port stops can be interesting if for no other reason than to take a 15 minute walk ashore. We found that having a good book to read is a must. Here are some of our observations of the ship and Hurtigruten.
Reservations -- Dealing directly with Hurtigruten on the phone worked fine for us. There seems to be a loss of information by the reservation agents and what really happens on the cruise. We wanted the early seating for dinner, 6 pm. When we requested this on the phone we were told that it would be done at check in at the dock. Wrong. Early seating can be done on the phone and when we showed up at the dock we had been pre-assigned late seating which we then had to change onboard. Also when we first inquired about pre-paying for shore excursions we were told that we would do that on board. Wrong. Although you can do it on board, and everyone seemed to get what they wanted, you can do it over the phone before departure. It was only after we pressed the issue on the phone did the agent go seek out the right information.
Embarkation -- I would recommend that you get to Bergen a day early. The ship doesn't allow boarding until after 4 pm so you have plenty of time to walk the town. It is worth walking it for a day. Check in was efficient and our luggage met us in our room. In our case we had Hurtigruten book our hotel for one night in Bergen, the Radisson SAS is the one they used, and the hotel sent our luggage to the ship where it met us in our room.
The Room -- We had a standard outside room, category N. It was small but very well laid out. The twin beds fold down and one is usually set up as a couch during the day. At night you just fold it down and the bedding is set up so you are ready to sleep. There was adequate storage and a small make up table. The two of us never felt cramped. The bathroom is small but very efficient. The shower is not small and the best part is that the bathroom floor is heated. The other cruise lines should install heated floors. What a great thing north of the Arctic Circle. Although they don't show it in any of their brochures there is a hair dryer in the bathroom and a 110V shaver outlet.
Dining -- There are two dining facilities on board. The main dining room is for the cruise passengers who have booked the one week or two week trip. It operates pretty much like any cruise ship dining room. There is early and late dinner seating with assigned tables and breakfast and lunch open seating buffets. At dinner you are given what the cook is cooking. No choice, just an appetizer, entrée and dessert as the meal of the day. You can request a substitute if you have a problem with the main course but you have to do it by noon of that day. All in all the food was pretty good although it all has a Norwegian style to it. So you get a lot of fish. They do serve a delicious Reindeer dinner one night. The service can be slow at times. The other dining facility is the café. You can get simple meals here any time of the day but they are not free. Unlike the main dining room you pay for what you want here. The dollar value being what it is you pay a lot. A medium sized cup of soda is $6. A cup of coffee is $5. The cafe is the dining facility that the passengers who get on and off the ship at various ports and only stay a day or two on board use. The Hurtigruten ships are like luxurious ferries that behave like a cruise ship. In addition to the cruise passengers they delivers freight to various ports and cars drive on and off at different stops in addition to short term passengers getting on and off.
Entertainment and Shore Excursions -- On board the only entertainment is a nightclub singer and keyboard player at night. The main entertainment is the scenery and the little towns you pass and dock at. It is ever changing and very beautiful. But like I said at the top it does exhaust itself by day 5 or 6. The shore excursions are varied and interesting. We did two of them. We did the drive from Geiranger Fjord to Molde. A fascinating 6 hour trip across the mountains of Norway. The ship left us off at the end of Geiranger Fjord and we drove to Molde where we picked up the ship again. Saw beautiful scenery and had dinner in Molde while waiting for the ship. We also did the trip to North Cape from Honningsvag. This is a must. Its quite exhilarating to stand on the northern most point in Europe. There is a spectacular monument there and a gigantic visitors center.
Disembarkation -- We disembarked at Kirkenes. This is the north end of the cruise. We had previously made SAS reservations to Oslo. The only flight is at 11:30 am and disembarkation was at 10:15 am. Hurtigruten assured us that by using their transfer we would make it on time and we did. All went smoothly.
Other ship amenities -- There are two hot tubs on board. No pool. There is a small gym with 5 or 6 exercise machines and of course there are saunas. It's not necessary to buy the water on board. The best bet is to buy one bottle ashore and then just refill it from your bathroom tap. It is purified and drinkable. The best spot for viewing on board is the two levels of panorama rooms at the bow. People just sit there all day and watch the scenery go by. You can sit outside on deck 9, and many did, but even though the weather may be clear it can be pretty chilly. There are 4 internet accessible computers on board, for a fee, but the internet connection was down during our whole trip. They print and send to you a daily program of activities and port stops so you always know what's happening.
All in all it was a good trip. The Norwegian coast is fascinating and Hurtegruten does a good job. The staff was adequate although not real friendly at times but we did like it.