Having booked the Hurtigruten Tour with the operators in London, I was disappointed with the level of information I had been provided with,even after requesting details and switched my booking across to Thomas Cook to continue. They were far more helpful but still got little information out of the staff booking at Head Office. As a first time traveller on this cruise line I had no idea how to dress,what we would eat,cabins, ports of call and tour guide information on board. However, as it was for my husbands 50th Birthday I booked it and I felt it essential I write this guide to impress to other travellers how different the experience on board is compared with the initial view of Hurtigruten's capability to organise tours. Perhaps I just got hold of the wrong booking operator!
Hurtigruten staff and Polarys crew are the friendliest you could want to meet and i would encourage everyone to do this tour of the Arctic for an amazing experience at Wintertime.
For anyone wishing to travel here are the FACTS;
You are met at the airport by an operative of Hurtigruten and taken by bus to the ship. The ship docks and you carry your luggage on board to check in. It works like a ferry so you take your luggage to your apartment and you can then go back to the town until the ship leaves. It blow its horn to tell you it's departing and you get time to board.
Basic but comfortable and warm. We had 2 beds in ours with a porthole window. A basic hairdryer and room for clothes and cases in the cupboards. No mini bars, no toilettries other than a soap/shower dispenser on the wall but towels are changed daily. There is no room service but you can take food from the restaurant to the room if you do not want to attend for dinner.
The ship is warm and you just need a cardigan for walking around. The Polarys has the most amazing lounge which is darkened during the day so you can sit and gaze out at the snow covered fjords. Some of the regulars sleep up here when they board for short journeys so its peaceful, calming and tranquil. Even my 22 year old son enjoy sitting with his walkman looking out at the weather, mountains and views.
There is a lounge also where a duo sang for all of our 3 nights, they also show films here sometimes and on one evening brought on board Arctic Crabs which we all ran outside to see.
There is a wash room down by the pursers office where you can dry clothes after coming back from excursions. Relatively cheap to do this and better than leaving them in the cabin.
They make announcements regularly so you do not miss the Northern Lights. They inform you about highlights on the ship and the tour guide was wonderful and informative.
The ship stops in ports up and down the fjords some for 15 minutes, others for 2 hours. You can disembark at any port as long as you are back on board for sailing times. If you miss the ferry it goes without you! Some places we would have loved to have stayed longer but as it is an essential ferry making scheduled stops it gave us the opportunity to visit places we can now return to.
Serves a vast selection of food and if you are full board on ship you are provided with breakfast and dinner. Although they offer you are coffee deal you actually get coffee at breakfast and are offered it again after dinner up in the lounge so we didn't think it was worth paying the extra for this and saved it for soft drinks for the kids. Also when you get off in port you tend to buy coffee as its so cold on land you need respite and warmth! There is also a shop on board and a canteen style restaurant where you can buy burgers, food etc if you are hungry lunchtime as well. To be honest we had so much food morning and evening the kids managed on crisps and snacks and saved us money!
He has his own little area where you can book additional trips. He arranges for films to be shown, he gives lectures on Arctic life and generally you see him around ship if you need advice. Some of our trips were cancelled due to weather conditions and he advises of new tours, or refunds in KRONER what you cannot attend. He was friendly, helpful and made our trip really nice. Every tour has a guide to take you on your way and make sure you do not miss the ferry back.
We bought boots, hats, good quality jackets, undergarments and socks. We also bought ski trousers. At the dogsledding you are provided with boots, gloves, outerwear and blankers (if going to Tromso). You do not need to go mad as you can dry all your clothing on board if it gets wet and you have time in between ports to do this.
A nice town with some lovely hotels and of course during our visit it was dark the whole time. We stayed at the Bryggen Clarion which is located right on the waters edge and is medium priced compared to some of the others. The rooms are large, nice showers, hairdryers and good hearty breakfast. It was all pleasantly decorated for Christmas and staff were helpful. In TROMSO you can go on for excursions and we decided to go for the dog sledding option. We were picked up from the boat with our cases and then after the tour dropped back at the airport for our flights home. A wonderful experience with Arctic Pathfinders booked via Hurtigruten. 300 huskies desperate to pull sleighs. Afterwards a lovely hot soup and reindeer stew in a sami tent.
The town has a lovely church to visit and a high street, shops and you can get around in a couple of hours.
This was the highlight of our tour and I wished we could stay longer. You can visit the snow hotel, reindeer farm and husky ride and the journey through to the centre is lovely with snow covered hills all along the way. Most enjoyable only too short a time. I would re-visit this town as we did not get time to stop in town and go on the dog sledding.
Another pretty town with the Polar Bear museum which is worth visiting. We looked around the town and went into the indoor centre (the size of a small Debenhams) where the locals were drinking coffee and carrying on life in the Arctic. This is the Northernmost town in the Arctic and interesting to see in winter when its dark all day. We arrived at 11.45 and it felt like 6pm..Cold, snowing and full of glowing lights.