My husband, 2 yr old son and I just returned from a 12-day Norway voyage on Hurtigruten’s Richard With.
Cabins – We splurged and booked a mini-suite so we’d have more room with our son, and this gave us more than enough room to move around. You can request a crib at check-in if you need one (they will only fit in a suite), though rental is hefty at $25 per day. We decided to share a bed. Our mini-suite was well laid out, with a curtained off area containing a comfy queen bed. This allowed us to put our son to bed, and still have the main area to enjoy the evenings together. Suites have a TV and minibar which was handy for milk and other snacks for our son. A lovely fruit basket was provided to us when we boarded in Bergen, and was refreshed again in Kirkenes. We were also given Hurtigruten coffee mugs, allowing us access to coffee/tea at no charge 24/7 throughout the voyage which was handy and saved us some money.
We had cabin 636 which we felt was one of the best located on the entire ship (640 is just as well located and significantly larger). We were below the quiet outdoor deck area and on the starboard side, so we didn’t hear any loading/unloading of people, cars or cargo which took place on the port side at each stop.
Announcements – Announcements are frequently made over the sound system in Norwegian, English and German (for our southbound voyage they added Italian) which we could hear clearly in our cabin even with the speaker on our phone turned off. We were worried they would wake our son during naps or after bedtime, but the ship generates enough white noise of its own so it wasn’t a problem.
Cruising with a toddler – Hurtigruten cruises are not really targeted for families with children, meaning there is no babysitting, organized activities or kids meals provided. We knew this in advance and planned accordingly, and made sure we brought along our own books, toys, craft supplies, DVD player and snacks. The ship does have a nice play room with a play house, slide, and a big bin full of toys and Lego duplo blocks, so this was where we spent a lot of our time on board. There were only two other families traveling with kids for the full 12 day voyage but they were infants. But many other toddlers and young children came and went for shorter periods throughout the voyage so there was always someone new for our son to play with in the play room. Keeping our 2 yr old busy took some creativity on our part, but he loved being on the ship.
Ports – With a toddler, we were often headed off first to the local playground. The best playgrounds for preschoolers were often located in daycares which are open for use when the kids aren’t using them. In one of the ports, daycare staff welcomed our son to join a class of kids. The older kids immediately played host to my son and made him feel comfortable and welcome. These playgrounds turned out to be highlights of our trip – not only did our son get to blow off steam, but we had the opportunity to meet many Norwegian children and to chat with fellow parents and daycare workers who were unbelievably friendly and welcoming.
Excursions – We prefer to venture out on our own, so we only participated in one excursion in Trondheim to the Folk Museum in the northwest of the city. We really enjoyed this outing. My husband and I enjoyed the different buildings and our son loved running around and visiting with the resident pigs, cows, rabbit and sheep.
Meals – Breakfasts and lunches were always buffet style with open seating in the dining room. Being Norway, fish was obviously a feature of every meal, but there was a lot of selection, including vegetarian and meat options, and the quality of food was excellent. Dinner was a combination of buffet and set meals, some open seating and some at assigned tables. We preferred the buffet meals because of the wider selection of foods, but the set menus were good too. On set menu nights, one appetizer, one main course and one dessert were available and the food was delicious. My husband is allergic to fish and seafood, and I don’t eat meat, so our server always provided us with an alternate meal on nights where they were required. Our son would usually eat the same thing as us at dinner but on nights when there wasn’t anything to his taste, the chef would whip up some spagetti bolognese or fried rice. One night we purchased a pizza from the café and brought it to the dining room for him to eat, and on a few occasions we asked for bread in the dining room and whipped him up a peanut butter sandwich (we always bring along a jar just in case).
Traveling with Hurtigruten is not like traditional cruising – there are no organized activites (aside from organized shore excursions you could purchase), no entertainment (aside from a duo singing with a keyboard in the 7th floor lounge in the evenings). If you are looking for a super luxurious experience and midnight buffets, this is not the cruise for you. But if you are looking to experience gorgeous scenery, lovely people, good food and comfortable surroundings, Hurtigruten is it.
We’ve traveled on the Oasis of the Seas and other large cruise ships, but we enjoyed this experience much more. We found this to be far more personal and allowed us to visit small towns the larger ships would never be able to access.