A cruise on Nordkapp is all about the excursions and most passengers will do multiple tours. Hurtigruten offers a vast number of extra-fee shore excursions, which change depending on time of year. They are generally all of an excellent quality, with top-notch guides, but some could do with a tweak or two to really lift them. Reservations must be made ahead of time as some are very popular and get sold out quickly. (Our tip is to get the shore excursions book from the desk as soon as you get onboard, read it thoroughly and then make your reservations.)
In the winter look for snowmobile safaris (both day and night), an overnight stay at the Snowhotel in Kirkenes, husky sledding, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing. Summer excursions include fjord sightseeing, farm visits, city tours, cycling and sea kayaking. Year-round options include a midnight concert at the Arctic Cathedral, horse riding, sea eagle spotting, rigid inflatable boat safaris and hikes.
The best time to spot the northern lights is from fall to early March, and for many passengers, this is the main reason they've chosen to cruise. (Hurtigruten offers a Northern Lights Promise for anyone on the full 11-day Coastal Voyage -- if you don't spot them, Hurtigruten will offer you another five-day cruise for free.). The best shore excursions for northern lights spotting are the nighttime snowmobile safari and the Snow Hotel overnight. (On the ship, you'll be alerted to northern lights appearances via a special button on your in-cabin phone.)
Unlike "typical" cruise ship shore excursions, Hurtigruten's tours do not run "half day" or "full day," but instead run for either as long as the ship is in port, or you join the ship at another port.
Note: Many of the shore excursions are quite active and might not be suitable for passengers with mobility restrictions. A few options that should be OK are the sea eagle safari and most of the bus excursions, but always check when booking. Similarly, ask about which tours are appropriate for children; Hurtigruten recommends a minimum age of 6 for most excursions.
For anyone looking for complimentary options, there are four bikes available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the ship is always pretty well docked in the center of town so you can head off exploring on your own. (Just note, some stops are just 15 minutes.)
The beauty of a cruise along the Norwegian coastline is that you never know what you might see -- the confluence of the freezing Artic waters and the Gulf Stream attracts an abundance of migratory species including dolphins, orcas, humpback whales, minke whales and blue whales. Of course, none of this is guaranteed (though you'll pretty much always spot seals), but you up your chances if you do a bit of research and find out the migratory patterns. The good news is, despite sticking to a strict timetable, Hurtigruten captains will always slow or stop the ship for a wildlife encounter.
In terms of more "reliable" wildlife, on land you'll spot reindeer (both wild and tame), sea eagles and moose (though these are on a farm).
Do bring a pair of binoculars and a decent camera with a zoom lens; smartphones are great for landscapes and sunsets, but you'll need a zoom for wildlife. A tripod is also a good investment.
There are two lecture theaters in the Kompass area toward the front of the ship on Deck 4 (just beyond Reception). Here the shore excursions team will talk you through the shore excursions and wildlife spotting, tell you five fun facts about Norway, teach you Norwegian words and also reveal the winners of the onboard photography exhibition. There is always one lecture in English and another in German, depending on passenger demographic onboard.
Hurtigruten also offers a fun (for-fee) onboard cooking class teaching you how to marinate salmon (295 NOK (around $35)), which you get to eat afterward.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
The ship doesn't really go in for entertainment. During the day, it's all about what you're doing onshore or attending lectures, or looking at the wonderful scenery you are sailing past. Those looking for diversions will find a selection of board games, puzzles and cards in the Multe Cafe.
When the ship crosses the Arctic Circle between Ornes and Bodo, there is a "Baptism Ceremony," which involves a blessing with ice down the back, some cloudberry liquor and a Norwegian version of Poseidon makes an appearance. There is also a competition to guess when the ship crosses the Arctic Circle and the nearest guess gets the flag from the ship.
Southbound, there is a ceremony with a few words from the shore excursion team followed by Champagne (for the ladies) and cod liver oil for the men.
You don't come on a Hurtigruten ship for nightlife, and Nordkapp is no exception. There are two bars onboard, but only one is open in the evening. You'll spot a piano, but it is only used over the Christmas period.
Brygga (Deck 4): This serves drinks but is primarily a bistro/deli and is only open during the day.
Panorama Bar (Deck 7): This is open till late and fills up after dinner but not for long, as most people retire to bed early. It takes up the whole of the front of the ship and has large windows all around. There are plenty of seats, a fake fire and a large bar. It's a nice spot for a night cap.
You won't find much outdoor recreation onboard, but there are two hot tubs at the back of the ship on Deck 6. Deck 5 has a promenade, which is mostly used for wildlife viewing, but if the weather is suitable it can double as a jogging track.
Deck 7 acts as a sundeck area in the summer months and more of a lookout area during the winter. There is enclosed seating on both side with heaters; the starboard (right) side is the smoking area.
Reception is on Deck 4, but there are certain ports, including Tromso, when it is housed temporarily on Deck 3, where there is also a luggage store. On Deck 4 you will also find shore excursions, a post office selling post cards and a shop selling a wide selection of Helly Hansen brand outdoor wear, including snow suits, hats and gloves (there are regular sales). You can also pick up logo items, sodas, water, milk, water bottles and a small selection of kids' toys.
There is fast and reliable shipwide Wi-Fi at a cost of 60 NOK (about $7) for one day, 155 NOK (about $20) for three days, 245 NOK (about $30) for five days and 485 NOK (about $55) for the entire journey.
A self-serve laundry is on Deck 3. You'll need a token (30 NOK (about $5)) per wash, but the dryers are free (worth noting that detergent is dispensed automatically, so you don't need to buy that).
Nordkapp does not have a spa; however, it does have two small saunas right at the front of Deck 2, as well as the aforementioned hot tubs at the back of Deck 6.
There is a small fitness room on Deck 7 with two treadmills, two bikes, a rowing machine, weights and mats. Deck 5 acts as a jogging track.
Nordkapp has no kids club, nor is there any scheduled children's programming, but when there are a large number of children onboard (generally during the summer months), the expedition leaders will tailor some of the lectures toward children. Additionally, there are no interconnecting cabins, but there are a number of rooms with three beds in a bunk formation; there are also two suites that can accommodate up to four people.
* May require additional fees