Voyages in Search of the Northern Lights
If your main purpose for travelling with Hurtigruten, is to see the Northern Lights, you could be in for a big disappointment.
Hurtigruten provide a well oiled transportation system, linking the many coastal villages and towns, throughout mid and north Norway.
The shipping line is efficient, almost to obsession and makes it clear from the start, not to compare its smaller vessels, with the larger, traditional cruise ships.
We stayed in an N class cabin, which was extremely comfortable, well designed, with a large outside window, definitely a plus, on the 11 night, round trip.
The weather in Feb, can be variable, often changing minute by minute, the scenery is breathtaking, numerous stops on the way, allow you to sample the many Norwegian delights.
As always, the unwritten travellers code applies, your attitude will dictate the mood of your fellow guests, crew and your overall experience.
Depends entirely on your requirements, we sailed on Polarlys, a ship, midway between the much smaller traditional vessel the Lofoten and the larger Midnatsol.
You need to think carefully, if you are prone to sea sickness, stick to the larger ships with stabilisers.
Hurtigruten under- play the chance of rough seas, believe me there are a number of open sea stretches, which if you are unlucky, will test your sea legs.
The Polarlys rode the rough well, but did rock around a fair bit!
I am an average sailor and coped by taking Stugeron and lying down, but this can be inconvenient, if your set evening meal, corresponds with heavy swell.
For a trip like this, an outside cabin is a must, the cheaper L class cabins can be a lottery, with small portholes and restricted views, the package is normally half board, a false economy, when you find out, just how expensive, extras work out on ship.
N class cabins, although more expensive, work out better value in the end, with picture windows and the benefit of full board.
We travelled in cabin N317, on deck 3, near reception, proving a very good choice.
We had absolutely no complaints, all to a very high standard.
If you do not travel well, choose the pull down bed adjacent the window and sleep with head facing forward.
Hard to fault, well thought out, with plenty of choice at breakfast and lunch.
There are two sittings, to the set table, set evening meal, with no choice, except on the sea food buffet evening , vegetarians can pre arrange their requirements. On embarkation, you are advised which sitting you are on, normally 18.15 or 20.15.
Some couples, might not find the arrangements satisfactory, but if you go in a larger group, as we were, things can be more relaxed. British travellers are in the minority, but thankfully, most Europeans speak some English, much to their credit!
One disappointment, is the ridiculous cost of alcohol, which rather precludes drinking with your meal, the waiters were clearly embarrassed, at trying to sell, very poor wine, at anything from Â£40-Â£70 a bottle and beer at around Â£6 a half pint. We purchased ships, filtered water, at approx Â£2 a bottle most evenings. This appeared at odds with the policy of providing water with breakfast and lunchtime f.o.c.
In my opinion, Hurtigruten could be making a big mistake.
Not withstanding the general high cost of alcohol in Norway, ships charges were outrageous.
The basic N class, 11 night round trip, is good value, if you are contemplating this voyage, it is a no-brainer, to cut the experience short.
North bound from Bergen, allows plenty of time for excursions, South bound is extremely restricted.
The costs however, can start to escalate, once on board and it takes a strong will, to contain expenses.
Although you would expect a certain mark up , nothing prepares you for the Norwegian cost of living, compared with the UK, like for like, almost everything, is approx 3 times, the price.
Do not be pressured into pre-booking excursions, the Hurtigruten experience, is more about travelling, on a day to day, passenger ferry, visiting the 31 ports of call. Hurtigruten, in fairness, have tried to accommodate the cruise fraternity, but have to work to a tight schedule, some of the excursions, as previous reviewers have pointed out, are very rushed, but Hurtigruten are not in the cruise ship business and probably shouldn't even try.
One excursion, which I would not have missed (its not advertised in the book, but arranged locally, ask the tour guide on ship.) is to the fishing village of Skarsvag, on day 6, of the northbound voyage, from the port of Honningsvag. While all your fellow guests are being herded to 71 degrees north, you will experience a real Norwegian fishing village, a very humbling experience, I might add and not what you would expect.
We wouldn't have missed this trip for the world, it was a privilege, in nearly all respects it fulfilled a dream, we did see the Northern Lights and shall never forget them.
Travelling with friends, , allowed us to share the experience. We have travelled extensively and would place this trip at the very top.