We, 2 ladies of 42 and 72, embarked at Bergen on the Kong Harald. The choice of ship was determined by the sailing date most convenient to us rather than by any reasoned choice. I suspect the newer boats of the fleet are all very similar. The only bad part of the whole holiday was the check in at the Bergen terminal, situated in a bleak desert of port installations. We were able to check in our luggage at the airport for delivery to our cabins. We arrived on the airport bus at 1pm to be met by one woman who showed no interest in this group of travelers, merely telling us we could not check in until 4pm and our cabins would not be available until 6pm. We had to ask for a map of Bergen and then follow this to the city center (10 minutes away). We saw a tourist "train" and did that ride, which meant we saw all there was to see and we still had time to visit the Hanseatic Museum and wander round the market, before going to check in. Look at a weather forecast and take appropriate clothing; if there is food offered on the plane eat it as lunch because you will be appalled at the prices! There is plenty to eat in the market, particularly fish, fruit and cakes and that would be cheaper than a restaurant.
We got our cabin at 6pm, on Deck 3 N grade. This seems to be the best option, outside with a good sized window, small, but perfectly adequate, with enough hanging space and drawers. The shower room is also small with basic toiletries. Everything was spotlessly clean and serviced each day. The temperature control was efficient, the beds comfortable. One folded up to make a settee.
The first night was an open buffet, dinner is usually in 2 sittings with a set menu. We were able to change our sitting and also ensure my daughter's dietary problem was dealt with. Throughout the food was plentiful; breakfast had everything anyone could want; cold meats, cheese, eggs, sausages, fruit, cereals etc. etc. Lunch was always a cold buffet, again plentiful, with a "hot " option, fresh fruit and mousse type desserts. The dinners were 3 courses, soup, meat or fish and vegetables and a dessert. These helpings were not large and some men were a bit disgruntled. The service was slow and sometimes the food had got lukewarm by the time it arrived. The solution is to eat well at lunch time!
On the first evening we were invited to an information session (in English) that went on, and on.. but did put us well in the picture. It was given by the Tour Manager who is crucial to your enjoyment as she organizes everything apart from the "hotel" services and the actual sailing of the boat. We were invited to buy a coffee mug that we could fill 24 hours a day free of charge. Unless you need constant coffee don't bother as there is coffee and tea at all 3 meals. There is also a 24 hour cafe for the odd (small) cup if you want one at a cost of about £1.80 Also think hard about the bottled water deal; this is pricey when you can drink tap water safely and fill your own bottles. Alcohol is horrendously pricey, so if you must drink then you need to look at the wine deal, but most people followed the example of the Norwegians and stuck to jugs of tap water which were willingly provided.
The brochure makes clear this is not a traditional cruise ship,and there isn't much to do except watch the scenery. There is TV mostly in Norwegian, but also CNN, in the lounges, and some light music in the evenings and a VERY small library. Each cabin has blankets for sitting on deck; we had one wonderful evening watching the ship go through a narrow fjord then out to a tremendous sun set and rainbow. The full cruise is not a holiday for small children who will soon be fed up of the basic games facilities; perhaps just 1 or 2 nights on board would be an adventure. Because of this you need to be clear whether this is the holiday for you and study the excursions carefully. It is cheaper to buy them in advance at the time of booking the holiday 'tho' extra ones will be advertised on board. It is possible to be self-reliant in the larger towns, eg Trondheim or Tromso, but the length of stay is limited and you will see more on the organized excursions where a coach will whisk you from one site to the next, making a tour of the city while doing so. Some of the excursions deliver you back to a different port so that you have been able to see more of the scenery. If you are ashore at a mealtime you are fed so you don't miss out! These excursions add to the cost of the holiday but are well organized and designed to show you as much as possible. Guiding is professional and in English. You may be in a group that also has another language but the guides are proficient in both and you get to meet new people. We went to a Viking feast on the Lofoten Islands and were the only Brits. The Germans insisted in looking after us and were thereafter people we talked to and sat with. Each day you can pick-up a detailed itinerary (in English) which helps you plan your time. The boat runs to a strict timetable and does not wait for anyone, as one person found out!
We had a wonderful holiday; even so we were both glad we were only taking the one-way trip. The food was getting monotonous and we had read all our books so sitting on deck was less and less enticing. We saw a rich variety of scenery, wild life and ways of life; we met people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world, including the indigenous Sami family who welcomed us to their town and showed us their traditional lifestyle they are trying hard to maintain and pass-on while earning a living in the modern world. We admired those who live in Northern Norway and realized that Tourism is as valid an industry as any other in its contribution to GNP. Norway takes tourism seriously and has pride in offering a good service. This particular holiday requires efficient organization and strict timing; we got both. But perhaps a little humor occasionally would lighten the atmosphere.
We ended up in Oslo for a very short stay which made us want to go back! Our rosy view may be partly influenced by the lovely weather we experienced; sitting watching rain might get boring!