By Kathleen Tucker, President and Founder
Editor's Note: Hurtigruten is saying farewell to Finnmarken -- at least for a year and a half. The expedition line has signed off on an 18-month charter, with an option for an 18-month extension. The 15,530-ton, 639-passenger ship is being chartered to Boskalis Australia Pty Limited, a global provider of dredging and maritime infrastructure services. Finnmarken will provide marine construction support (carry supplies) on the Gorgon project in Western Australia, which involves the development of a natural gas plant. More here.
Hurtigruten, one of cruising's most unique lines, specializes in voyages that feature Norway's dramatically beautiful coastline and fjords while emphasizing a truly Norwegian experience. Many of the ships in the Hurtigruten fleet are working cargo ships, passenger and car ferries, and short-cruise vessels (some other ships, such as the new Fram, are built for cruise trips and actually venture far beyond Norway's coastline to places like Antarctica and Greenland).
The typical Norwegian coastal six-night voyage starts in Bergen heading north along the coast and ends in Kirkenes, above the Artic Circle, just a short distance from the Russian border. Those wanting a longer 11-night itinerary can stay onboard for the southbound return voyage which stops at many of the same ports but at different times of day, allowing for additional excursions.
As a working cargo ship, most days will include several short stops to unload and load cargo, passengers and cars, along with one or two longer stops in the larger ports, where shore excursions or independent explorations are possible. Even some of the shorter stops afford the time for a fun experience, such as seeing ice sculpture at the Magic Ice Gallery in the port of Svolvaer. For the entire voyage, you're within sight of land, and much of the cruise experience is simply enjoying the ever-changing scenery as you pass by charming fishing villages, lighthouses, and of course, the beautiful Norwegian fjords.
This is a good choice for those who want more of a Norwegian experience while visiting Norway, those who have enjoyed cruising in Alaska and are looking for a similar type of cruise with a European flavor, or those who like expedition-type cruises with an emphasis on local scenery and nature.
The onboard currency is the Norwegian kroner (NOK); check out xe.com
for the latest conversion rates. Purchases, excursions and voluntary tips are billed to your account in NOK.
Finnmarken Fellow Passengers
On our cruise, the passengers were mostly European, with the largest contingent of Germans, followed by Scandinavians (primarily Norwegian and Danish), British, Italians and French. A handful of Americans also sailed on this cruise. The average cruise passenger was well traveled and ranged in age from 50 to 80; however, there were younger folks onboard, and a wider range of ages with the primarily Norwegian ferry passengers (some of whom were traveling with small children).
Hurtigruten ships offer a good value for solo travelers, with a relatively small single supplement of about 25 percent more on standard cabins during high season in May through August (less on some cabin categories off season).
Members of AARP and passengers 67 or older are entitled to discounts ranging from $100 - $150 per cabin.
Finnmarken Dress Code
Dress is casual and comfortable, as befits the cruise experience. On our cruise in late September, sweaters and warm pants (cords, wool and jeans) were the norm. You'll also want to bring a fleece, windbreaker or jacket, raingear, and of course, comfortable walking shoes. If you are trying to pack light, the following are good options: waterproof jackets that have zip out fleece liners or outerwear that you can layer, such as a sweater, fleece and windbreaker. The weather was much milder than we had anticipated on our late September cruise, even north of the Arctic Circle, due to the Gulf Stream off the coast of Norway. (During summer months, plan as if you were going to Alaska by bringing lots of layers that are easily adaptable to weather changes.)
About half of the passengers dressed up a bit for dinner, but they still wore more dressy-casual attire than cocktail or evening wear, and there are no formal nights. Make sure to save room in your suitcase for a beautiful handmade Norwegian sweater to take home!
There is a non-tipping policy on all Hurtigruten ships. However, if you believe an individual crew member deserves a tip for extra service, you may tip that person at your own discretion.
My husband and I have never taken a cruise because we have no interest in being on a huge ship with thousands of people, Vegas-type floor shows, all-you-can-eat Midnight Buffets, large numbers of partying, art auctions and dressing for dinner. I ...continue
12 night Classic round trip voyage, Bergen to Kirkenes to Bergen March 17th 2014 to March 28th 2014 Cabin 557
I accompanied my parents on this voyage, they had done the same trip in 2008 in June. i was therefore very well ...continue
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When you say the word "cruise," one typically thinks of a BIG cruise ship that holds anywhere from 2000 to 6000 guests and features Broadway style entertainment and lavish midnight buffets.
But Hurtigruten truly walks away from this kind ...continue