MS Nordstjernen -- the name meaning North Star -- is the smallest and oldest ship in the Hurtigruten fleet. The 104-passenger vessel was launched in 1956 as part of the Norwegian-owned line's coastal voyage fleet used to transport passengers and goods along the stretch of coastline between Bergen and Kirkenes. The vessel was extensively modernized in 2000 to join the Hurtigruten Svalbard brand, which is the longest running tour operator in Arctic Norway, originally formed in 1989 as Spitsbergen Travel.
MS Nordstjernen is a classic workmanlike vessel that is geared for expedition sailings and Arctic exploration in the Svalbard archipelago. Constructed at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Germany, despite modernization the ship will appeal to fans of classic-style vessels as it regains the bygone atmosphere on an old Atlantic ship, with interiors featuring extensive brass, wood and the ship's original artwork.
The cabins, situated across three decks, lack luxuries and are purely designed to be practical and provide a cozy place to rest and sleep after a busy day focused on sightseeing. Inside cabins, range from a small 53 square feet to 107 square feet, with the larger accommodations sleeping up to three people. Many of these cabins have bunk beds and wash basins, with shared bathroom facilities in the outside hallway. Others have separate beds, including a sofa that can be configured as a bed. Inside cabins are also available with their own bathroom.
Outside cabins measure between 53 square feet to 139 square feet and they all have ensuite bathrooms. Beds are mix of bunks and separate beds. These cabins have porthole windows and there are no balcony cabins. The ship does not have any accessible cabins or elevators.
Public areas include a dining room and bar, cafe, lounge and a library. There is an open seating arrangement in the dining room with a buffet served for breakfast and lunch. Dinner varies between buffets, set meals and barbecues and dietary requirements can be catered for if advised in advance.
Life onboard MS Nordstjernen is focused on relaxation and discovery, and unlike conventional cruises there is no entertainment. Sailings are accompanied by experienced guides and they talk about topics such as biology, history, and geology at the landings throughout the course of the trip, rather than lecture onboard.
It should be noted that that there is no Wi-Fi onboard and internet is only available while at port in Longyearbyen.
As an older ship that originally sailed along Norway's scenic coastal route, the vessel has spacious outdoor areas. The Explorer Deck, situated aft on the top deck, is a perfect vantage point to look for polar bears, walruses, whales, and other Arctic birdlife. There are also covered deck areas situated lower down on the four-deck vessel. For optimum indoor viewing the Panorama Lounge is situated at the front the top deck.
During the Arctic summer season, from May through August, the ship sails on two near identical round-trip five-night itineraries out of Longyearbyen, Svalbard. The Spitsbergen Adventurer sailing, from Wednesday to Monday, includes one pre-night stay at a hotel in Longyearbyen and the Sunday to Friday itinerary includes a pre- and post-cruise hotel night. Both itineraries tour the island of Spitsbergen under the long daylight hours of the Midnight Sun and feature a visit to Ny-Alesund, a former mining town and one of the world's most northerly settlements.
The ship is 2,191 gross tons and carries 104 passengers at full occupancy with 50 crew.