Hurtigruten's expedition cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen was named after a colossal figure from the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration who became the first explorer to reach the South Pole and to sail the Northwest Passage.
And at least in terms of size, MS Roald Amundsen is colossal: built in 2019, the 11-deck, 20,890-ton ship can carry 530 passengers (500 in Antarctica, to meet IAATO regulations) and boasts many features tailor-made for expedition cruising, such as a state-of-the-art Science Center, a fleet of inflatable boats and kayaks, and a spacious mud room. While not an icebreaker, MS Roald Amundsen has a PC6 ice-class designation, so it can push through the sea ice when sailing in polar destinations.
MS Roald Amundsen is also a colossally stylish ship. Its interior décor embodies the Scandinavian concept of hygge -- comfort and coziness -- with granite, birch and pale wood finishes as well as soft woolen blankets in the cabins. While the vibe onboard the ship skews informal, MS Roald Amundsen exudes elegance. It also has many features that wouldn't be out of place on a luxury ship, including three restaurants, a sauna, an infinity pool and a roomy Exploration Lounge that successfully balances comfortable spaces and commanding views of the surrounding scenery.
Yet MS Roald Amundsen's size also means that it stands on a different tier than most expedition ships, lacking the ultra-intimate environment and small-group camaraderie of smaller vessels. Expedition landings are coordinated in rotating groups; the system is effective, but also means that some days you might not be going ashore until noon or much later in the day. On the other hand, non-expedition shore excursions are plentiful and feature smaller groups, more in line with a luxury cruise experience than a mainstream one.
The ship also emphasizes its environmental credentials. Power from two enormous banks of batteries saves around 20 percent on fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The use of the batteries means the ship is exceptionally quiet -- and the dynamic positioning system means that neither passengers nor marine life are disturbed by the clanking of an anchor chain. There's no single-use plastic aboard MS Roald Amundsen and the use of paper is kept to a minimum.
Owing to its size and passenger capacity for an expedition ship, MS Roald Amundsen can often feel like a hybrid between an expedition ship and a classic cruise ship. The 57-foot LED screen in the ship's atrium spans seven decks and is billed as the tallest at sea; it would fit right in on flashier mainstream ships.
But the true heart of MS Roald Amundsen is found in Deck 6, where the Science Center is located. Decorated with maps, replica animal skulls, and interactive screens, this is the hotspot for expedition and scientific activity aboard the vessel. Deck 6 also houses the ship's two main restaurants -- Aune and Fredheim -- and both boast amazing views. The onboard shop and reception desk are also on this deck.
Deck 3 features the Expedition Launch mud room and tender pit as well as a small medical center, while the ship's 265 cabins are distributed among decks 4-5 and 7-9. Aside from cabins, Deck 7 also houses the gym and wellness center (spa) and the ship's forward Observation Deck, while Deck 9 is where you'll find Lindstrøm, the ship's upscale restaurant.
In lieu of a traditional pool deck, MS Roald Amundsen features an infinity pool, a pair of hot tubs and a bar at the aft of the ship on Deck 10. The Sauna and the spacious Expedition Lounge make up the rest of the public spaces on this deck. Deck 11 offers a jogging track and an aft Observation Deck.
Roald Amundsen has three main cabin categories with a total of 13 sub-categories, ranging from 160 to 515 square feet: Polar Outside cabins have large picture windows; Arctic Superior cabins, in which three of the five sub-categories have balcony; and Expedition Suites, of which there are six sub-categories. All rooms are outside-facing and 50% of the cabins have a balcony.
The Roald Amundsen and Olav Bjaaland suites on Deck 8 are the best and largest accommodations on the ship. Their most impressive feature is having a privileged vantage point at the front of the ship, providing sweeping forward views. Among the rooms to avoid, there are 12 Polar Outside cabins designated as RS subcategory (six on Deck 4 and six on Deck 5) that are about 20% smaller than the other cabins in this category throughout the ship. They also happen to be located closer to the atrium on their respective decks.
Food aboard MS Roald Amundsen is overall solid, with plenty of variety on offer. The main dining room is Aune, serving buffet-style breakfast and lunch with an a la carte dinner option. Fredheim sits opposite Aune on Deck 6 and is the go-to place for casual meals like burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes. Lindstrøm is where food gets fancy aboard MS Roald Amundsen and is reserved for passengers sailing on suites (although other passengers can dine here for €25 per person).
Given the size and passenger capacity of the ship, Aune's buffet can get a little crowded at times. Service in Fredheim, on the other hand, tends to be a bit slower as it is considerably less staffed than the other two restaurants.
House wine and beer are included with all meals, while wine bottles and premium drinks are available for a fee. Snacking food is not available between meals, but you can find cookies at the bars on the pool deck and in the Explorer Lounge, by the tea and coffee facilities.
Two dining rooms: Aune and Fredheim
House wine and beer with meals
Use of the gym and sauna
Daily expedition landings and inflatable boat tours when the ship is in "expedition" locations like Antarctica
One tour a day when the ship is in regular ports
Filtered water and water bottle to keep
Helly Hansen shell jacket to keep
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cookies all day
Muck boots and walking sticks to borrow
All enrichment lectures and citizen science activities
Pre-cruise hotel and transfer to ship
Some expedition activities, like kayaking and camping on the ice
Dining in Lindstrom (€25 per person, unless sailing on a suite)
MS Roald Amundsen attracts passengers from a variety of countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Norway, Germany and France. All announcements aboard the ship are done in English and German, although not all staff members speak the latter language. Most passengers are mature, active and inquisitive. Couples are the norm, as there aren't any single cabins, although Hurtigruten will periodically offer promotions that reduce or eliminate single supplements.
There are no specific LGBTQ+ meet-ups aboard MS Roald Amundsen, but Hurtigruten passengers are usually cultured, so LGBTQ+ travelers will encounter a welcoming environment.
The vibe on board is friendly and unpretentious; it's easy to strike up conversations with fellow passengers on tenders or shore excursions, at the restaurants, or on the observation decks.
On our Alaska sailing, the ship had a higher percentage of North American passengers, and many were also Hurtigruten first timers. The European passengers seemed to feel more at home (all prices are in Euros aboard MS Roald Amundsen) and many were repeat customers.
Passengers with limited mobility will have no problems getting around the ship, but will encounter difficulties participating in certain expedition activities, such as kayak tours, wet landings, hikes and other physically demanding activities. There are a few steps on the tender pit to access the inflatable boats and tenders, but the ship's staff is always on hand to assist passengers in getting on and off these vessels.
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Five Days in Antarctica: whales, penguins and seals, oh my!