As Hurtigruten likes to remind its passengers, the real entertainment onboard its ships is the incredible landscape it sails past, and passengers shouldn't expect any form of all-singing or dancing evening shows. There is no theatre on the ship, and evening entertainment varies between sailings. Any that do take place -- sometimes a jazz band, pianist or singer -- take place in the Explorer Lounge on deck seven, where guests can also watch out for the northern lights in winter as they listen.
Lectures are occasionally held, depending on the voyage, but these are rare and small presentations given by crew members about local traditions or wildlife are more likely. The crew also tend to put on different activities and performances depending on the section of voyage and the season. In summer, the ship will sometimes venture down the famous Trollfjord at night, which is known for its narrow entry and steep sides. If so, the crew often dress up and recant a mythical tale about the fjord, and later serve up “Troll soup” at midnight.
Meanwhile, if guests happen to be on the section of a sailing when Kong Harald crosses the Arctic Circle, they are likely to be treated to a special ceremony performed by the captain out on deck, which largely involves having ice cubes dropped on your head as you kneel forwards.
Other activities include an option to spend the night sleeping outside, under the stars, for 385 NOK. Thermal sleeping bags and beds are provided, as well as a snack bag, containing a treat and water. Like many of the activities though, this is weather -- and season -- dependent, and it's worth checking with guest services once onboard as to whether this is available during your voyage.
Excursions are offered with each port, but these also vary according to the season. There are no free trips, although passengers are welcome to depart the ship and wander around the ports at their own leisure.
Kong Harald is a small ship and as such has only one bar and a café, with alcohol served in both.
Multe Café (Deck 7): The Multe (meaning cloudberry) Café on deck seven is the pinnacle of the ship's homage to Norwegian culture. Stepping into it feels like walking into a Norwegian dollhouse, with its long striped rugs, cosy white wooden benches, and rocking chairs complete with sheepskin seat covers. The walls, which are a pale grey and mimic the wooden clapboard style houses which dot the Norwegian landscape, are decorated with small tapestries, clocks, and wooden shelves with kitsch pottery and china on them. There are even doilies on the small round tables which dot the room. Rather than cosy and cluttered though, it feels chic and light -- helped by the line of windows down each side. The café offers snacks -- wraps, sandwiches and pastries -- as well as coffees and soft drinks. It also has ice cream with some unusual offerings, including fish and beer flavours -- both rather disgusting, but which each seem to be a prerequisite of any Kong Harald voyage.
Explorer Lounge (Deck 7): In front of the café is the Explorer Lounge, which has floor to ceiling windows, offering a panorama of the consistently breath-taking scenery that rolls out before the ship. By day, it is perfect for curling up with a book or playing cards while still taking in the scenery -- each window has a large office style leather chair, with small tables dotted between. By night, it becomes the favoured hangout for many guests, with dimmed lights to allow them to keep an eye out for shooting stars or for the northern lights. Dark green carpets and wooden furniture help give it a bar-feel, but the turquoise upholstery on the mini sofas and arm chairs that are dotted around help lift the décor, making it just as much a day-time venue.
There are no pools on the Kong Harald.
The ship has three decks on which guests can sit and enjoy the scenery. Deck seven is the uppermost deck, and ideal for watching the night sky, while deck six has two Jacuzzis, on the outside space at the rear of the ship. Deck five also has a promenade area.
The ship has limited services. The library that it did offer on deck four has now been replaced by a conference/lecture room. Next to this is the large onboard shop, which is open plan, and sits alongside guest services. It offers a wide range of goods -- from warm Helly Hansen winter coats and fleeces and t-shirts to postcards, fridge magnets and key rings. There is also a range of jewellery, as well as local produce.
No room service is offered for any of the cabin grades. There is a laundry service however, which operates on a self-serve basis. Guests wanting to use the facilities must purchase a token for 25 NOK for the washing machine. The dryer is free. Kong Harald has no internet café, but it has now upgraded its Wi-Fi, meaning much faster connection -- unless a large number of people are all trying to connect at once. For the most part it remains impressively quick. The downside of course, is that this costs. All passengers are given an hour’s free Wi-Fi (one device at a time) and are able to log out and back in again to gain maximum usage. Those wanting longer will need to purchase a package. There are a number of options: One day costs 50 NOK, three days 125 NOK, five days 200 NOK, while a round-trip sailing is 400 NOK.
There is no onboard spa, but the ship does have a gym -- albeit a small one. Equipment is limited, with just two cycling machines, a running machine and cross-trainer available, as well as weights. The machines all face the windows -- although it does have a slightly obstructed view, as there are lifeboats below. But it means gym enthusiasts can still keep fit without missing the spectacular views of the Norwegian coastline.
Children are welcome onboard but most families found on the ship tend to be Norwegians travelling for a few ports. There are no facilities for children or teens, with no kids clubs or teenage hangouts. Children are able to accompany parents on all excursions though, while dinner menus can be adapted on request.
* May require additional fees