By Ginger Dingus, Cruise Critic contributor; updated by Bob Jenkins, Cruise Critic contributor
Fram, like other ships in the fleet of Norwegian coastal line Hurtigruten, travels the globe from top to bottom. Launched in May 2007, the ship spends summers cruising around Greenland, mainly north of the Arctic Circle. Then, each fall, Fram takes off on a 66-night odyssey, sailing from the Arctic to the Antarctic. November through February is spent in Antarctica, during the austral summer.
Fitting of a polar expedition ship, Fram (pronounced frahm
) is named after the wooden sailing ship built in 1892 for Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen's North Pole expedition. The original Fram (Norwegian for "forward") completed three trips: to the North Pole under Nansen; to Greenland with Otto Sverdrup; and to the South Pole, an expedition led by Roald Amundsen who reached the pole on December 14, 1911.
From the moment you step onboard this compact ship, you feel as though you've arrived in a polar region. The artwork, created by Arctic-region artists, reflects both the Arctic and Antarctic with photos of those early expeditions, paintings of snow-capped peaks and (from the South Pole) pictures of penguins. The staircase landings sport glass sculptures resembling icebergs, a different color on each deck. Highlights are the model of the Fram sailing ship and the exhibit of Fram artifacts displayed in the arcade hallway leading to and from the dining room. Historic objects are on loan from the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway.
While Fram was constructed to sail on polar expeditions, its owners did not skimp on style. The blonde woods associated with Scandinavia are everywhere: in cabin and public room furniture, decor accents and even stairway railings. Fabric colors are rich: royal blue and brick red with calmer colors for the carpeting.
The onboard atmosphere is decidedly social. The ship has just two main gathering spots for conversation or relaxing, but they tend to be busy with passengers exchanging onshore experiences and gazing at the stunning land- and seascapes. The expedition crewmembers -- a group of scientific experts plus the staffers who handle the logistics of going ashore -- are often available for a chat, and they conclude every enrichment presentation with a question-and-answer session.
Service is average. Because all breakfasts, lunches and many dinners are serve-yourself at the central buffet, the Filipino waitstaff spend most of their time clearing dishes or taking beverage orders, though they are quick to converse with passengers and do remember preferences. On our cruise, the housecleaning staff always offered a greeting to passengers in the corridors but did not ask even that shipboard standard: How was your time ashore?
Embarkation was an awkward process, with long lines of boarding passengers trading passports for photo-ID room cards, then moving to another area to get their souvenir polar parkas, then another place to turn in mandatory health forms. And for those dinners that featured a plated service, rather than the buffet, the staff always seemed confused over who had ordered the alternative entree. But all in all, minor service snafus were nothing compared to the amazing adventure we were having onboard and ashore.
The onboard currency is the Norwegian kroner (NOK); check out xe.com
for the latest conversion rates. Purchases, excursions and tips are billed to your account in NOK.
Fram Fellow Passengers
Fram's destinations of Greenland, polar Norway and Antarctica draw a largely non-North American passenger manifest. On a trip to Antarctica, for instance, about 10 percent of passengers were Norwegians, another 10 percent were from the U.S., and about 25 percent were British, led by a couple of men filling out their birding list. Onboard also were several Germans, some Swiss, Swedes, Russians and Indians. The majority of the European passengers speak English in addition to other languages. Because the excursions require a good deal of walking and even some uphill trekking, passengers generally are fit adventure-seekers in the 45-and-older age range.
The ship usually operates in at least two languages: English and, depending on the nationality of the bulk of remaining passengers, German, French or Norwegian. All P.A. announcements are given in English and at least one other language, and most lectures are also presented, in separate rooms, in two languages.
Fram Dress Code
Casual is key. Being an expedition cruise, dressing for comfort takes priority over being a fashion plate. Bring snow-country clothes you can layer -- remember the waterproof pants, hat, gloves and, if you have them, waterproof calf-high boots. Fram rents these "muck boots" for about $21 for a cruise. Sweaters and slacks or jeans are fine at dinner; even just a sport coat or tie looks out of place in the dining room. All Fram passengers are given a hooded parka to use onboard and bring home as a great souvenir.
The onboard currency is the Norwegian kroner (NOK), and purchases, excursions and tips are billed to your account in NOK. Your cabin key card serves as your charge card.
A gratuity of 80 NOK (about $14.25) per person, per day, is suggested. Toward the end of your voyage, you will receive a form on which you can simply agree to this amount or enter what you wish. No gratuities are added to wine or cocktail purchases, though whatever gratuities you provide are divided among the crew, including bartenders, waitstaff, room stewards, etc.
My husband and I had been on the Hurtigruten FRAM before, on a cruise from Iceland to Spitsbergen. It's a relatively small ship, built in 2007 specifically for cruises to the polar regions. The Fram officially accommodates 318 passengers, but on ...continue
We had always wanted to visit Antarctica and we are so glad we chose the Fram.
Everything was exceptionally well organised - we were most impressed by the attention to detail and safety.
The ship was very comfortable -even in a force 11 storm we ...continue
February 2013 gourmet traveller
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We were on the Hurtigruten Polar Expedition leaving Ushuaia on 1st February 2013, having been inspired to go on it by a group tour of the Fram when she was docked in Portsmouth in 2011. Our favourable impressions of the boat and its cruise programme ...continue