My wife and I have taken five previous balcony cabin cruises on Princess and Royal Caribbean ships carrying passenger from 2000 to 3500. This Hurtigruten MS Finnmarken trip was our first-time sort-of-cruise on a working ferry freighter ... Read More
My wife and I have taken five previous balcony cabin cruises on Princess and Royal Caribbean ships carrying passenger from 2000 to 3500. This Hurtigruten MS Finnmarken trip was our first-time sort-of-cruise on a working ferry freighter carrying 600 beds. The Finnmarken is the fleet's third largest ship and the only one that offers more that two balcony cabins. That's why we chose it. Still, we didn't expect to get the usual cruise experience on such a small ship without the usual onboard entertainment facilities, Las Vegas type shows and luxury accommodations. We also assumed the food service, quality and array of choices would be acceptable, at best. We were happily surprised all around.
The Finnmarken felt more expansive than it actually was and our cabin, called a suite, was the largest and best appointed room we've ever experienced on previous cruise liners. The entire ship was very clean, tastefully decorated and well maintained with no shabby carpets, fixtures or exposed rust. The staff and crew were all friendly, kind and smartly dressed. English was spoken by everyone, and with a smile. The passing scenery was stunning, even at this rainy time of year, and the ports of call where all interesting to us. We loaded up on the excursions and were not disappointed, mainly because we always personally talk to the guides and asks many questions about daily living and local customs. However, don't expect the usual four to six hour trips. Almost all, except for two, were less than two and a half hours due to the short stays in port. A few were an hour in duration.
Beyond the shore excursions, the trip was very relaxing, but that may have been influenced by our cozy but spacious cabin. Due to the very short winter days, especially in the arctic, and the sway of the small ship, I snoozed much more than I usually do...meaning...I slept through the three Northern Lights sightings!
Things to know: The Hurtigruten online info is not entirely accurate. Luggage handing is included from terminal to cabin and back again. Water is served with every meal so you don't have to buy the expensive water package (which we did). Although we stayed in one of the upscale balcony cabins on board, there was only one AC outlet in the room and two in the bathroom near the ceiling. (It took us six days to find that.) Although the dinners were top-of-the-line, there was only one choice and our off-season trip did not offer a la carte dining. However, the kitchen graciously made take-away sandwiches for us when we asked for them.
An important note here: If you're a drinker and like your wine, expect to pay a minimum of $14 dollars for a single glass on board, or in any Norwegian hotel. Liquor and wine is very expensive in Norway. The coffee is very strong for American taste but adding water made it drinkable for me. And if you like fish, you'll think you died and went to Heaven.
The Norwegian winters tend to have rougher northern seas than usual, so although our ship used stabilizers, the rocking was close to extreme four or five times during the journey. We didn't get sea sick though and the pending rough rides were announced beforehand.
Despite the few short-comings, we didn't want the cruise to end. We made friends on the trip and were all sad to say goodbye. Read Less