We took the Norwegian Hurtigrute ( Norwegian Coastal cruises) “Midnatsol”from in Bodø on May 15th and disembarked three days later in Kirkenes on May 18th. The ship can take approximately 650 passengers on full capacity. We were about 500; German, Dutch, Austrian, Canadian, Swedish and Norwegian were among the languages we heard spoken onboard.
It should be said that The Hurtigruten does not classify itself as a cruise liner, but rather a boat, or a postal ship. But, you certainly feel like you’re on a cruise ship!
Boarding: Having taken 13 cruises in the last 10 years, we have been quite spoilt by having our luggage delivered outside our room. Not so on this journey! Make sure you wait for the others to come off before you go on! And you carry your own luggage onboard, up a long staircase. The good side is that there’s no fuss regarding security or getting a cruise card. You simply check in once you’re onboard, and that’s it! They don’t even ask you for an I.D.!
Cabins: There were a few ( read 4 to 6) verandah cabins onboard. We stayed in an outside cabin with a big round window, more than ample for our little journey, as you spend a minimal amount of time in your room anyway. There’s no mini – bar or TV.The room is extremely simple. However, the beds were very comfortable, and the floor in the bathroom/shower was almost too hot for comfort.
Common rooms: There were loads of little lounges on decks 5, 8 and 9. The colours reflected the colours of the midnight sun and the sea: Bright yellow, orange, pink, blue and green. The ship is 8 years old, but certainly doesn’t look it! There are plenty of windows everywhere, so that you can look at the scenery, wherever you are. And believe me, the scenery is well worth watching!!!
Outside decks: In spite of there being one sundeck only, there’s ample space for everyone outside. People can smoke on deck, and that can be a bit annoying to non – smokers. The two Jacuzzis onboard were the closest you’d get to a swimming pool. It was an amazing feeling sitting in the 40 + degrees (Centigrade) jacuzzi on 71 degrees North! Weather: We were so lucky! From we boarded to we disembarked we had 15 - 23 Centigrades and brilliant sunshine!! Amazing! To see the Lofoten alps dressed in snow, with a background of the midnight sun was amazing, even for a Norwegian! We had 23 degrees in Kirkenes when we disembarked, something which happens very rarely that far north.
The itineary: What can I say? The journey goes from Bodø ( north of the arctic circle) through Honningsvåg, the Harbour to the north Cape, and to Kirkenes, right at the Russian border. As I said, we were so lucky with the weather; the sun broke through as we left Bodø, and the further north we came, the better it got, We had brilliant blue skies, no cloud and 24 hour sunshine. Oh yeah, the sun was with us all the way. It was most amazing to go to bed at 2 a.m. and outside was daylight! Lofoten was at its best with the sharp snow-dressed mountains. We were so lucky to be able to take in the extremely narrow Trollfjord, where tea & rum in your own ceramic mug was served at daylight midnight. There really was no time to sleep as there was too much to see!
Food: We opted for the breakfast buffet and dinner included, as we thought lunch was too expensive at 280 kroner per person ( approx $ 45 per person). Dinner is a set menu. We asked at lunchtime the same day what was for dinner, and asked for an alternative dinner if the menu did not suit us ( My husband doesn’t eat fish and I don’t eat pork). On the first day we (I) had an absolutely beautiful seafood starter and (we had) a fantastic sirloin steak, and pea soup and lamb chops the second day. Nobody asks you how you like it; the beef and lamb gets served at medium rare, as it should be! The night before Kirkenes we had the most fantastic fish buffet, with everything from mackerel to King Crab being served ( there was also an alternative for the meat – eaters). The dinners onboard can be compared with any 5* cruise liner!
The breakfasts however, were not much to write home about. The breads were ok, the meats were ok, but if you don’t eat pork, there’s not much to choose between. And at the price of 180 kr pp it might be better to buy yourself something in the cafeteria or ashore.
There’s one shop onboard. It sells Norwegian souvenirs, some jewelry and swimwear ( which I had to buy, I never thought I’d need one on this kind of cruise, but I did!)
Drinks onboard are cheaper than Norwegian bar prices. However, they don’t mind you bringing your own, as long as you’re discreet. We brought our own champagne, and asked for glasses at the bar, which they gave us, no questions asked. We also had ice for our drinks, which we also brought with us. ' People onboard are so friendly, if you just take the initiative. We got to know more people than we managed to keep up with!
All in all this was an absolutely fantastic cruise. I am Norwegian and live in Norway, but I hate the Norwegian climate. I’ve always said that I don’t want to spoil my precious holiday by going on a trip where I might have bad weather. But we were SO lucky and had the most fantastic weather! Prepare yourself for minimal amount of sleep if you travel between May 15th and September 15th! You really need to stay awake to take it all in! Enjoy!!!