Built in 1996 and taking up to 622 passengers (458 berthed), 11,386-ton Nordkapp (which means "North Cape") is just one ship in a fleet of 11 operating a daily service, known locally as "Hurtigruten" ("fast route"). It links Bergen, Norway, to some 35 ports along the Norwegian coast as far north as Kirkenes, a mining town near the Russian border. Nordkapp and its fleetmates transport cargo, vehicles and passengers, some making short port-to-port voyages and others enjoying a low-key cruise.
The ship's main public spaces are of a high standard and feature artwork created by Norwegian artists to showcase the country's coastal culture. The highest passenger deck provides a large wraparound forward-facing lounge and a big-window cocktail bar midship. The principal public room deck houses a cocktail lounge, a library-cum-card room and a long starboard side gallery lounge that connects the public rooms and main restaurant.
Three daily meals are included for full one-way (Bergen-to-Kirkenes) and roundtrip passengers, while the short interport passengers pay for their meals separately or use the 24-hour cafeteria. Service by the Norwegian staff ranges from friendly to efficient. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style with a wide choice of Norwegian and European dishes. Dinner is served from a set three-course menu at reserved tables. Special diet requests are best handled with advance notice.
Other amenities include a fitness room, Internet cafe, children's play area, video arcade, souvenir shop and self-service laundry.
The cabins, spread over four decks, are functional and mostly light-filled outsides with twin beds that fold up or become sofas during the day. Ten are labeled suites, but they're actually one-room spaces, each with a lounge area and more light coming through the big windows. The least expensive are three blocks of insides. Amenities include telephones, radios, automated wake-up calls, good drawer and closet space, tiled showers and hair dryers.
Fellow passengers are mostly Europeans with some Americans traveling independently or in organized groups. Tipping is not expected, though many who spend a week or more aboard may tip the restaurant staff when the service warrants.