The itinerary for this cruise to Spitzbergen was excellent. Being quite a small ship (some 900 passengers) we were able to sail between the Norwegian coast and the many coastal islands. Much of the area is almost deserted and the views were terrific for much of the journey, including a memorable visit up Trollfiord, where we seemed to just squeeze through.
Svalbard was magical but we were only able to make one stop (at the tiny scientific settlement of Ny Alesund)as the fiord entrance to our second one (Longyearbyen) was blocked by sea-ice due, apparently, to a particular set of climatic and wind conditions. The weather was reasonably kind; mostly dry with 5 degree C temperatures and moderate winds. The other ports of call in Norway, including Bodoe, Lifoten Islands (a welcome but unexplained last minute addition to the itinerary), Honningswag (for North Cape),Tromso and Bergen were all very attractive. We were pleased that in all cases the ship was moored close to the centres of the towns and, as not particularly agile OAP's we were mostly able to walk round the ports. We rented a car at Bodoe (cheaper for 4 than the tours) and took short but interesting tour at Bergen; otherwise we strolled around.
The service on board was efficient and mostly cheerful and friendly. The reception desk was sometimes not very good; there seemed to be a problem with understanding English for anything but the routine questions. The food was mostly good and occasionally excellent. Wines at £13 a bottle and up were cheaper than on many other cruises.
The evening song and dance shows were severely limited in scope by the facilities. My wife liked the Fourth Dimension trio who performed most evenings in the Coral Lounge, although I found them over amplified. The comedian was worth seeing both his shows; old fashioned material but not rude and quite funny.
We can get bored on 'days at sea' and there were 6 or 7 of these. One of the themes of the cruise was Bridge, and as very modest players we found this excellent. On all days at sea, there was an hours lesson in the morning (one for intermediates and one for beginners) and then about 3 hours of duplicate play in the afternoons. All this was run most efficiently and in a very friendly manner and was an unexpected bonus on the holiday. There were also some port lectures (quite good) and other general lectures (Concorde, Bletchley Park etc) which were reportedly good.
There were some shortcomings. Our cabin (3051) was rather small, and particularly short of drawer space. We managed, but I would not wish to make a long trip (4 weeks or more) in it. The airconditioning did not work at first, but was repaired fairly quickly (change of controller required) when reported. Our friends in the next cabin also had similar trouble, which took longer to fix. Also, quite often, one of the 4 elevators was not working for short periods. Do they do any preventative maintenance?
At these high latitudes, satellite services (television and Internet) suffer badly. I was frustrated by the frequent reference in the Daily Times to 'occasional poor reception' when there was absolutely none for most of the trip.
I found that information on location, weather prospects etc. was poor. There were screens dotted around the main deck purporting to show location but their scale was such as to make the information indecipherable. Weather reports seemed to consist of out of date notices telling us what the actual conditions were the day before, with no hint of any forecasting; important in those climes. The captains daily report at noon was OK if you didn't miss it; it wasn't repeated.
Overall, a lovely, interesting trip, but the ship could be better run.