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88 Hurtigruten Baltic Sea Cruise Reviews

I had been keen to do the Classic Voyage for its visual attractions, for many years, but was somewhat reluctant about the whole cruising experience. As part of a package to southern Norway in May 2011 I was able to sample 2 days (one ... Read More
I had been keen to do the Classic Voyage for its visual attractions, for many years, but was somewhat reluctant about the whole cruising experience. As part of a package to southern Norway in May 2011 I was able to sample 2 days (one night) aboard Hurtigruten's MS Richard With. That impressive experience, coupled with good prior research, taking advantage of special travel offers and a seasoned traveller's perspective, convinced me to undertake the full 12-day "Classic Voyage", Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen, this time on MS Midnatsol, the line's flagship. I departed Bergen on May 19. This is by far a very favourable review but as in so much of life, very little is perfect. So I am bound to note to readers of this thread that there was one glitch, relating to the on-board non-recognition of a ship-board credit previously guaranteed (see later very positive outcome). Also, as a technical professional looking at the nature of such a working operation, I believe there are some daily passenger-flow issues which might bear some review - particularly with regard to improving meal-time flows - even though that experience was by no means anything other than highly enjoyable. I think readers who are familiar with ship travel and more particularly Hurtigruten's operations and raison d'etre need no deep detailing here of such. I should simply like to reflect on how well I feel the whole experience was made for me. Firstly, and importantly, I feel the fact that these vessels are Scandinavian-crewed (whilst undoubtedly adding to the certainly expensive cost-base) is a very important factor: unfailingly polite and pleasant staff were always keen to answer, with useful insight, questions on the local environments, lifestyles and general shipboard operations. Secondly, and shiptype-specific, I don't think any review substitutes for actual visual impact: these boats are often jokingly referred to as coastal ferries. In fact they appear to be as plush and well-maintained as top cruise liners - merely much smaller. Very well-structured cabin layouts and outside cabins are generally view-favourable, though as in all ships there will be a few restrictions. And some prior research on the company's very informative website helps in that regard, anyway. Thirdly, and vessel-specific, I wish to congratulate the crew of MS Midnatsol on their operational thoroughness. Trying to be both local servant and cruise operation in one is a very tricky operation to balance and allowing for the former coming first, I think, on my assuredly very studious observations, they do - and did - a wonderful job on my cruise in May. And the range of shore excursions (yes, not cheap, but then very little in Norway is, obviously) was both wide-scoped and in my experiences, thoroughly and wonderfully executed. Finally, and most impressively, when a glitch happens for a passenger (see earlier comment) it is comforting to see willing efforts from ship through to administration on shore to help resolve the matter. Mine seemed to me somewhat minor but wonderfully, it ended up being resolved by the UK-based International Sales Manager who was prompt, enthusiastic and informative in his dealings with to my mind at least, a rather minor passenger in the importance chain. So, I would urge anyone who does want something a little different in the way of a cruise in northern coastal Europe, with more localised in-depth experiences, to give Hurtigruten careful consideration. You would be very unlucky to have anything other than a most rewarding voyage and experience - visually and operationally. And special credit to Mr Magne Gjervig (Midnatsol Hotel Manager), Ms Hild Hagen (Midnatsol Tours Manager), Mr Geir Eriksen (Midnatsol Captain) and Mr Karnail Gill (Hurtigruten UK). Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We started and ended in Bergen, NO. sailing for 12 days. Perfect! PEOPLE: varied group of many different nationalities and countries. They were well traveled and most were over 50 years of age. THE SHIP: Our room was well located with ... Read More
We started and ended in Bergen, NO. sailing for 12 days. Perfect! PEOPLE: varied group of many different nationalities and countries. They were well traveled and most were over 50 years of age. THE SHIP: Our room was well located with large window and about mid-ship, level 3: room 336. We were on the same level as we disembarked and one level below the restaurant so we didn't need to use the elevator to go to the dining room. Our room was quiet and there wasn't a lot of traffic past our door. The room was larger than we expected and reasonable. There were black-out curtains so we could sleep in spite of the sunny days and nights. The BATHROOM was a typical ship bathroom and the shower was adequate. Deck 8 was the Panorama area and we spent a lot of time there. usually we could get a good chair. Two COMPUTERS were there as well. We could usually get one to use and they worked at a reasonable speed. There was a LAUNDRY ROOM on our level as well. there was no charge for the washer, dryer and soap! The machines did a nice job cleaning our clothing. THE FOOD: breakfast and lunch were served as buffets. The selection was varied and plentiful. I missed having fresh fruit for breakfast-----there were apples and oranges, but I would have liked more: IE: pineapple, melons. There were a lot of dried fruits, but I prefer the fresh. The Coffee Cup purchase was not necessary. If our weather had been cold and rainy, it may have been beneficial. We felt it was a waste of money! The evening meals were exquisite! They were tasty, and beautifully served. However, there was no coffee served with dessert! We had to leave the dining room to get the coffee afterward. We like to drink our coffee/tea with our dessert. EXCURSIONS: Our first excursion was from Alesund to the Geiranger Fjord. The staff seemed to be inexperienced at managing a large group to go off the boat in a tender. We had to rush to finish our tour and the ship needed to wait for us to return---the case to take a ships' excursion! Our second tour was in Skarsvag to the fishing village. This was a good tour and we learned a lot. The third tour was in Tromso to the Arctic Cathedral to the midnight concert. Loved it! The last tour was to Vesteralen from Harstad. This too was a good tour with lots of information. I would recommend booking several tours just to get off the boat and learn more about the region. It is easy to leave the ship and walk in the little villages, but often we didn't really know what we were seeing. SHIP ACTIVITIES: We knew there wouldn't be a lot of entertainment and that was fine. The saxophone player and the pianist were fine. We expected more information from "Naturalists". It would have been nice to have these on Deck 8 during the day to point out what we were seeing. Our trip into the Trollfjord was incredible! Our captain truly knows how to maneuver the ship! On Deck 8 thee were nice 2-volume coffee table books about the cruise ports. Sadly, there was only 1 volume of the 2 volume set (missing the second book) in English. We loved getting this background to understand better what we were seeing. Extra activities were fun: the men's choir from Trondheim serenading us for breakfast; the fresh prawns from a fisherman; King Neptune Baptism and cod liver oil as we crossed the Arctic Circle just to name a few. ECONOMY: The high prices of everything in Norway were discouraging. We like to go off the ship and enjoy a pastry and coffee in ports. We just weren't comfortable doing this during this cruise. All in all, We had a wonderful trip. I would recommend the Finnmarken on the Hurtigruten Cruise Line as a great experience!   Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Have just returned from our first Hurtigruten voyage and unlike other cruise lines, cannot fault them at all! We were on a 12 day/11 night cruise from Bergen up to Kirkenes and then back down to Bergen on M/S Trollfjord. The scenery was ... Read More
Have just returned from our first Hurtigruten voyage and unlike other cruise lines, cannot fault them at all! We were on a 12 day/11 night cruise from Bergen up to Kirkenes and then back down to Bergen on M/S Trollfjord. The scenery was outstanding and the further north we travelled, with the snow covered mountains, made this holiday magical. It was so interesting to call into all the little ports watching the locals getting off and on; seeing provisions being loaded; and of course going ashore wherever possible. Excursions were on offer but we preferred to do our own thing apart from one up to the Russian border. We treated ourselves to a mini suite which had a limited view obscured by a lifeboat but this was no problem. The suite consisted of a corner seating area, twin beds, fridge, TV as well as a small bathroom with shower, toilet, wash hand basin and hairdryer. The water was always hot and we had the added luxury of a heated floor. Some of the little perks of the mini suite were a bottle of fizz on arrival, fresh fruit every day, complementary thermos mugs (for filling up with tea or coffee), dressing gowns & slippers, kettle etc and a visit to the bridge. The fridge was handy for storing our duty free wine in as cost of drinks on board was astronomical! This was permitted as long as you didn't drink your own alcohol in public areas. The public areas were spacious and there was a large panoramic lounge which was lovely just to sit in and watch the world go by. The dining room again was spacious and breakfast and dinner were buffet style and you could sit where you want. The food was delicious with plenty of choice - the sweets were to die for! Dinner had allocated tables with two sittings, at 6.30pm and 8.00pm and there was a set menu although if you didn't like what was on the menu, there was always an option.Entertainment was virtually nil apart from a singer most nights but this was no problem as there was always plenty to do talking with other guests etc. There was a ceremony up on deck to celebrate crossing the Arctic Circle which was fun; a Russian came aboard with giant crabs for us to see and on another occasion we were given a sample of Norwegian cod liver oil washed down with schnapps! Other useful facilities were a self service launderette and Internet access. A daily news letter was printed which was very helpful and various other leaflets were available too. Of course the highlight of this voyage was the chance to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and our wish was fulfilled on several occasions. This was fantastic despite being woken in the middle of the night to go on deck to see them! I think what we liked most about this holiday compared with other cruises, especially Ocean going ones, was the lack of entertainment; being pestered by waiters all the time trying to sell drinks; not having to dress for dinner in the evenings and to be amongst like minded people interested in everything we saw. I would thoroughly recommend Hurtigruten. We are now looking into going on one of their smaller ships, M/S FRAM, possibly in 2014, either round the British Isles or the Canary Isles/Madeira and the Azores. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
My wife and I took the 12 night round trip cruise from Bergen to Bergen via Kirkenes on MS Nordnorge, departing Bergen on 17 March 2013. Our accommodation in Suite 636 was spacious and comfortable, considering this is a small working ship ... Read More
My wife and I took the 12 night round trip cruise from Bergen to Bergen via Kirkenes on MS Nordnorge, departing Bergen on 17 March 2013. Our accommodation in Suite 636 was spacious and comfortable, considering this is a small working ship and not a large, four star cruise liner. As experienced cruisers on RCCL our overall impression of the cruise was very good. Perhaps the only disappointment was wanting to stay longer at the various ports, due to the sheer magnificence of Norway. However, the cruise itinerary and Hurtigruten marketing information clearly state that this is a different type of cruise experience on a working ship. I find some of the very few negative reviews in this regard to be astounding and unfair to Hurtigruten as one knows what ones in for when booking. That includes the very high prices of food and beverage, which is not a Hurtigruten issue but the reality of Norway. This is not a luxury cruise liner experience. So, if you expect a variety of on-board activities, night life, lengthy port calls, catering to all ages and a continuous gastronomic overindulgence, this is not for you. So, why did we choose this cruise? We wanted something different, adventurous and a chance to meet Norwegians. We are over 50 nature lovers from South Africa, having cruised to many parts of the world, including twice to Alaska and wanted to embark on an adventure to see the Aurora Borealis and the magnificent Norwegian coastline. This was an expensive cruise but well worth it to us. Our entire experience, from arriving at the Hurtigruten terminal in Bergen, way before opening time and being let into the building by a Hurtigruten employee to escape the cold, the staff excellence, the cuisine, the spotless MS Nordnorge, the Norwegian people, the scenery and of course, witnessing a brilliant display of the Aurora Borealis whilst docked at Svolvaer and then for the next couple of hours, make this an unforgettable experience. Yes, expensive, but well worth it to us and highly recommended to the mature, experienced traveller. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Thursday, March 7 Arrived a couple of days earlier so was over jet lag. I was part of a tour group so had some options for the cruise that were included in the price of the "tour." If I ever return (and I hope I will, ... Read More
Thursday, March 7 Arrived a couple of days earlier so was over jet lag. I was part of a tour group so had some options for the cruise that were included in the price of the "tour." If I ever return (and I hope I will, I'll go as an independent traveler. We boarded the ship MS Polarys at 6:00 pm after a day of sightseeing in Bergen. We were on Deck 5 which is the "promenade" deck. Only OV and Inside Cabins, and we had OV. The cabin was actually bigger than we expected, and we were soon unpacked and deposited our large suitcases with Reception to be stored for the duration of the cruise Dinner the first night was a buffet with open seating. Friday, March 8 - 'lesund We settled into our daily routine. Breakfast and lunch were buffets with open seating. Breakfast items included soft and hard boiled eggs, sometimes a fried egg, a variety of cereals, oatmeal, different breads, several kinds of fruit, salad items (lettuce, tomatoes and other similar things), fish, meat and lots of cheese options plus orange juice, apple juice, coffee and tea. Lunch included soup, some hot foods such as cooked fish and potatoes, an assortment of salads and fish and meats and caviar, fruit, many kinds of cheeses, breads and different desserts along with coffee and tea. Dinner was a set menu, and there were two seatings. We had early seating. Dinner began with bread, a starter, then a main course of meat or fish with vegetables, ending with dessert. Coffee and tea were served in one of the lounges after dinner. We stopped long enough this first full day for a walking tour of 'lesund. Dinner: Clipfish bolinhos with ruccola salad, free range chicken with barley risotto and chocolate fondant with pear sorbet. Saturday, March 9 -- Trondheim We took a bus tour with a stop at the Nidaros Cathedral. This was part of our tour package. Entrance to the cathedral was extra, but I paid it. Unfortunately I only had about 15 minutes in the cathedral. Dinner: Cauliflower soup, baked filet of trout with root vegetables and panacotta. Sunday, March 10 - Arctic Circle and Lofoten Islands The big event was crossing the Arctic Circle. King Neptune poured ice down down the back (inside clothing) of anyone who was brave enough. I just watched. Dinner: Selbu Bla on baby-leaf salad with cloudberry syrup, braised ox fillet with vegetable stew and red wine jus, brown betty with caramel sauce. Monday, March 11 - Troms' My friend and I went dog sledding while in port at Tromso on a Hurtigruten excursion, and it was just wonderful. Dinner: Seafood buffet that included reindeer stew. This meal was my only disappointment of the trip, but I did like the reindeer stew. Tuesday, March 12 - Honningsv'g and the North Cape We took a Hurtigruten excursion to the North Cape. Stunning snow covered landscape on our 45-60 minute bus ride. I had seen many photos of North Cape and was not disappointed. It was very windy since the cape is at the top of cliffs that plunge 1000 ft. down to the sea. And very cold. But worth it. Dinner: Green pea soup, grilled stock fish with potato puree and cheesecake. Wednesday, March 13 - Kirkenes which is the turnaround port. We took a bus tour which was included in our tour package to a snow hotel that also had a small reindeer park. We had extra time so we went to the nearby Russian border, and I walked about 10 or 15 ft. past the gate. The guard house was another 200 ft. or so away so I dared not go further. We stopped in Vardo about a hour after we left Kirkenes. Several "crazy" people had a dip in the icy water! I watched from the open deck at the back of the ship. Dinner: Barents salad with seafood and spicy mayonnaise, venison medallions with sauteed vegetables and potato puree, then raspberries with sour cream for dessert. We'd seen very faint Northern Lights one night on the journey north, but they were spectacular this night. It was another experience of being outside on a moving ship and freezing while gazing in amazement at the sky. We were told they were seen another night, but we didn't hear the ship's announcement. Thursday, March 14 - Hammerfest and Troms' We arrived in Tromso at 11:45 p.m. and were whisked away by bus on a Hurtigruten excursion for a midnight concert in the Arctic Cathedral. One woman played the organ and piano, another played several kinds of flute, and one woman with a beautiful soprano voice sang. The concert included traditional Norwegian and Sami pieces as well as one Bach. It was just lovely. Dinner (earlier that night): Aquavit-cured reindeer topside with herb salad, Arctic char with asparagus and potatoes, North Norwegian blueberry parfait. Friday ,March 15 - Vester'len and Lofoten islands I took another Hurtigruten excursion. We got off the ship in Harstad. First, we visited a lovely medieval stone church and then had about a 2 hour drive across the countryside along a couple of lovely fjords. We rejoined the ship two ports later at Sortland. Dinner: Potato and leek soup, steamed haddock roulade with steamed vegetables and baked amandine potatoes and then rhubarb and strawberry soup (which was more like a pudding) with puff pastry and sour cream. Saturday, March 16 - Arctic Circle, Seven Sisters We did not get off the ship again but enjoyed the comforts of being warm and onboard. Today we crossed the Arctic Circle on our way south. Dinner: Viking Wraps with marinated and seasoned smoked salmon, sour cream and lettuce, Classic Pepper Steak with Hasselback potatoes, The Ship's Ice Cream Bombe with fresh fruit. Sunday, March 17 - Trondheim and Kristiansund Dinner: Hurtigruten's classic fish soup with freshly caught fish, BBQ-marinated Pork Neck with root vegetables and lime posset. Monday,March 18 - Bergen, disembarkation Buffet breakfast and lunch. We didn't disembark until 2:30 p.m. but had to be out of our cabins by 10:00 a.m. Disembarkation went well, and we were soon in our hotel for the night before flying home the next day. General Observations First, this was not a traditional cruise. The ship was about 450 ft. long and 65 ft. at the beam. The Hurtigruten ships remain working ships carrying cargo, vehicles and port-to-port passengers. We stopped at 64 ports at all hours with repeats on the way south. Sometimes we were only in port 15 minutes. There was no entertainment except a guy who played the piano and sang in one of the lounges. The voyage is about the scenery, and it was magnificent. Just when I'd think it couldn't get better, it would. The word I kept using was mystical. People gathered day and night in one of several lounges, mostly in a large forward lounge on Deck 7 with big windows. Yes, it was cold -- very cold. But that only added to the experience, plus I went prepared with thermal underwear, heavy socks, snow boots, ski pants, a buff, a knit cap, my new coat lined in fake fur and heavy gloves. I also took disposable hand warmers which I sometimes put underneath the buff on my face. The best buy I made was Yaktrax ice grippers that fit on the bottom of my boots sort of like tire chains. I was still careful walking on the snow and ice, but they gave me good traction. There is nothing formal about these cruises. No dress up clothes needed at all. I first heard of the Norway Coastal Voyages in the mid 1990s and had wanted to go ever since. The trip was worth the wait. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Background information We were four Americans and two Norwegians traveling together. Two of us (Americans), did the round trip, the other four only did the north bound voyage and got off the ship in Kirkenes. The Norwegians had never been ... Read More
Background information We were four Americans and two Norwegians traveling together. Two of us (Americans), did the round trip, the other four only did the north bound voyage and got off the ship in Kirkenes. The Norwegians had never been on any kind of cruise before, although, they had been to many of the ports and either drove or flew to them. The four Americans had been on many previous cruises (Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America, Panama Canal, Alaska), but never on Hurtigruten. Travel to Port of Embarkation Before our voyage, we spent a few days in Oslo, and decided to take the train to Bergen the day before the Midnatsol left Bergen. The train ride was wonderful -- beautiful scenery the entire time. Bergen is a fairly compact town. The taxi line at the train station was fairly long, so we decided to walk to our hotel (Scandic Strand on Strandkaien) which is in the historic wharf area -- it took about 10 minutes. That night we walked over to the Hurtigruten Terminal (took about 10 minutes) to get information on what to do the next day. We learned that we could drop off our bags between 1:00 and about 2:00 or 2:30. Once the ship arrives in port, though, they don't accept luggage until it's time to check in at around 4:00. By the time we checked in, our luggage was waiting for us outside our cabin doors. There was a buffet dinner available the first night. The ship didn't leave Bergen until 10:30 PM. Ship Information The Midnatsol is one of Hurtigruten's newer ships. It has several, beautifully appointed public areas, and a two story viewing lounge in the front of the ship on decks 8 and 9. The gift shop was well stocked with many enticing items to purchase! Prices were the same as any Norwegian land based shop. The ship has a small gym, sauna, and two fantastic Jacuzzis that were kept at a nice and warm temperature. We were in the Jacuzzi every day and loved it. There are two outside deck areas. On deck 6, you can walk completely around the ship. The only problem is deck 6 also has smoking areas, so it's a problem if you are sensitive to cigarette smoke. Deck 9 has three outside sections available to cruisers: the middle section is where various activities take place like fish filleting demonstrations and a visit from King Neptune after crossing the Arctic Circle. The next section has the two Jacuzzis, two outdoor showers, and a "cabana" to hang your jacket and things while in the Jacuzzi. The back section of deck 9 is a large, open space which is great for watching the scenery, and for us, the Northern Lights. There's also heat generated from the smoke stack, so you can warm up a bit if it gets too cold. Stateroom We stayed in an inside cabin, on Deck 7 near the atrium elevators. The cabin was adequate: two twin beds - one bed folded up against the wall if you wanted more floor space, and the other bed could be converted into a sofa. There was a desk, small table, shelves and adequate closet space. The best part about our cabins (708 and 714) was access to the public space in the atrium. There was a bench and several chairs, so that space became our "living room". The wireless internet also reached that area, so we could call home on Skype or surf the internet while watching the scenery through the large floor to ceiling windows. While on the ship we also toured other cabins. The full suites were large and nicely appointed. Dining Breakfast was open seating and a typical Norwegian buffet with eggs, oatmeal, fish, cheese, fruit, breads, jellies, and things of that sort. The main entre selection varied (eggs, pancakes, and some other items), but the rest was the same every day. Lunch was also a buffet, but it varied if it was at a fixed time in your assigned table, or open seating. We found the dining staff to be accommodating -- there were six of us traveling together, and at first we were assigned to different dining times and tables. It was no problem getting us all at one table. Our voyage was pretty full, so they may not always have fixed lunch times. Out of the 12 nights, we had a buffet three times (one of the buffets was a seafood extravaganza with lobster, crab, shrimp, crawfish, mussels, and all kinds of wonderful food), and the other dinners consisted of a three course Norwegian meal of deer, reindeer, pork, beef, chicken, or various kinds of local fish. Coffee and tea were served during breakfast and lunch, but not during dinner. We did buy the Hurtigruten coffee mug, so we were able to have coffee or tea from various places on the ship any time we wanted. I like hot chocolate, so I brought my favorite hot chocolate mix and filled my mug with hot water before going to the Jacuzzi. Activities I had read there are limited activities on Hurtigruten ships other than the fantastic scenery. We were on what was marketed as a New Years Cruise, so several times there were concerts in the lounge on deck 8. They had a pianist, flutist, and several opera singers. Our round trip voyage also overlapped with an opera tour to Oslo, and starting with the southbound stop in Tromso, there were one hour opera concerts just about every day. The library had some board games, jig saw puzzles, reading books, and a TV. There was also a small kids play area on deck 5. At times there were some organized activities such as a fish fillet demonstration, visit from King Neptune with the traditional ladle of ice, and cod liver oil after returning across the Arctic Circle (we got to keep the cute mermaid shaped, Hurtigruten engraved spoon). Entertainment Yes, the main entertainment is the scenery, and it kept us busy most of the time. There was a dance floor in the main bar, and every evening there was a piano player who played a variety of tunes. Port and Shore Excursions We were docked in most ports for too short of a time for excursions. We'd get off the boat and walk a short distance, and then get back on before the boat left. Some of the stops were for longer, and we took several excursions: Viking Feast in Stamsund, Midnight Concert in Tromso, and Dog Sledding in Kirkenes. Our Tromso dog sledding ride was cancelled because of poor weather conditions. The Viking Feast was nice, although a lot of time was spent on the bus. We got off in Stamsund, were driven to the replica of a Viking Hall, where a Viking king, wife, and a couple of slaves fed us a traditional Viking feast, complete with ample quantities of meade. It was a fun evening and as a special bonus, we saw some faint northern lights there. The bus then drove us to Svoaler where we met the boat. The midnight concert was enjoyable, and consisted of an organist/pianist, cellist, and singer. Since we also had free concerts on the ship, it probably wasn't worth the extra money on this voyage to go to the concert. The highlight was the dog sledding in Kirkenes. The excursion is at the same place as the Ice Hotel where they also have some reindeer. We had ample time to tour the Ice Hotel and see the reindeer and puppies. You go for a sled ride around a fairly large lake. We were in Tromso for New Years Eve, and they had the most spectacular fireworks display I have ever seen. The fireworks were everywhere and the best place to see them was on deck 9 of the Midnatsol. They were shot from the ship, and from numerous houses, businesses, and parks throughout the area. It was incredible and a great way to ring in the New Year. I'd definitely go on a New Years voyage with Hurtigruten again! Disembarkation We took the full round trip voyage, so our disembarkation was in Bergen and the process was very easy. We had to have our suitcases placed near the elevators by 10:00 AM and out of our cabins by 10:30 AM. There are plenty of lounge areas, so there was no problem finding a comfortable place to be. Plus, there was always the passing scenery to view from either inside the ship or on deck. Once we got to Bergen at about 2:30 PM, we were called by deck level to disembark. Our suitcases were waiting for us on the conveyor belt. Disembarkation was organized and simple. We collected our suitcases and then walked to the train station where we stored our bags in a locker. There was also the choice to take a charted bus to a hotel, train station, or airport, and taxis were also available. Summary We had pretty high expectations for this trip, and they were definitely exceeded. We'd been to Norway in the summer, so we knew a bit about the geography, but the beauty in the snow was spectacular. The Midnatsol is a beautiful ship, and we thoroughly enjoyed our twelve days on her. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We always wanted to see the Northern lights and we were not disappointed on this trip. Hurtigruten would appear first and foremost to be a ferry company with a cruise element tacked on. the Finnmarken, one of their newer ships is a solid ... Read More
We always wanted to see the Northern lights and we were not disappointed on this trip. Hurtigruten would appear first and foremost to be a ferry company with a cruise element tacked on. the Finnmarken, one of their newer ships is a solid and stable ship; even in open water the ship sailed comfortably, on time (making 32 stops in six days). some of the en route stops were no more than fifteen minutes and as many as four in one night, but this schedule did not interfere with our sleep. docking alongside a snow covered "warehouse" to drop off or pick up was really quite "entertaining". The public interface on board, tour guide, waiters and cabin cleaners all seemed to be Norwegian and with the exception of the tour guide, we found the staff generally cool and a little unwelcoming, but not enough as to spoil our experience. the suite was adequate for its title, but nothing like a suite on a more dedicated cruise ship. problems with no towels and a missing bathrobe required four visits to reception before we got satisfaction. Again this did not detract from our trip other than being mildly irritating. the absence of hot water from out shower took over a day to resolve with the mixer tap eventually being replaced. on our journey, the ship, with 680+ cabins on board had fewer than 200 passengers as we left Bergen, by by nature of a ferry, others came and went along the route. we pondered the thought of the ship being full in season and the impact that might have on service levels. Buffet breakfasts and buffet lunches were fine, yes a lot of fish, but prepared in interesting ways and supported by meat options. fixed, no choice dinners were disappointing and on two occassion, virtually inedible. avoid the wine package and coffee package unless to want to leave the ship £400+ lighter. despite wording to the contrary, people were taking their own alcohol on board but not necessarily consuming it anywhere other than their cabin. we were a little perturbed when weekend revellers joined the boat for the Trondheim / Tromso leg of the journey, determined to have a good time, they were loud and "invasive" in whatever lounge they turned up in, but that is hardly Hurtigruten's issue, we just moved away! So, yes we did see the lights! our shore excursion to dog sled was cancelled due to lack of snow. BEWARE that unless you want to book another excursion you will get a refund but in Kroner. if you then take it back home to exchange it, you'll lose as much as 18% of its value! so the recommendation is too book excursions on board, especially if changing conditions are likely to lead to cancellation. this cruise IS expensive, but relative to the Norwegian cost of living, when compared to cruises elsewhere in Europe, the price is pretty comparable. we enjoyed the cruise, despite the niggles and got to see the lights. we are unlikely to cruise this route again but agreed that we would go back to Alaska with NCL tomorrow if we could. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Last December we went with Hurtigruten on a Norwegian cruise to see the Northern Lights. We had recently been to Norway with Saga, so it was interesting to make comparisons. We booked directly with Hurtigruten in the UK, whereas other ... Read More
Last December we went with Hurtigruten on a Norwegian cruise to see the Northern Lights. We had recently been to Norway with Saga, so it was interesting to make comparisons. We booked directly with Hurtigruten in the UK, whereas other passengers booked through a travel agent for the same price. As we were to experience, Hurtigruten certainly know how to operate ships, but we found their UK travel agency skills to be poor. One example of this was their excursion booking. The Norwegian excursion brochure was sent to us several weeks later than promised and it included pages referring to excursions in Holland! We booked a couple of quite expensive excursions to ensure we weren't disappointed, which we had to pay for immediately. Shortly before the cruise, I phoned Hurtigruten to ask about the dress code for one of the excursions, to be told that it had been cancelled several weeks earlier, but no one had bothered to tell us. It was getting late for us to find an alternative. Others, who waited until they got to Norway, had great difficulty in organising an alternative. While Hurtigruten arranged our Jet2 flight from Gatwick to Tromso, which was convenient, their 737 must have been the most basic in the Boeing catalogue and you have to pay for any meals and drinks! At Gatwick the Hurtigruten welcoming staff hardly seemed to notice us, but once in Norway, everything was well-coordinated with punctual and efficient transfers. The Hurtigruten ships operate more like a coastal bus service than cruise ships, taking goods and locals up and down the coast, so they shouldn't be compared with cruise ships. The ships are clean and comfortable. There's no formal dressing-up, but most passengers still dress smartly for dinner. Bearing in mind we were there to see the Northern Lights, which can appear at any instant, you need to be dressed appropriately to pop out onto the deck in sub-zero temperatures, so tuxedos and long dresses would probably be inappropriate! Meals were generally good, with the buffet supper being significantly the best. We took some pot noodle meals and snacks for our lunches, because on-board meals, not included in our package, were unbelievably expensive. If you like tea and/or coffee, we recommend buying the Hurtigruten mug, which you can then fill free of charge on board. The ship was particularly clean and crew members seemed to be cleaning something all day long. The ship's crew were exceptionally alert at spotting the Northern Lights and told us immediately when they were visible. We believe we were particularly lucky to have Anna Olivier Wallinder as our crew Tour Manager. She went out of her way to ensure that we enjoyed ourselves, organising events on board, coordinating excursions, notifying us of the Northern Lights and paying attention to every detail for our comfort and safety. There was some on-board entertainment, but no shows. For us this was fine. If you have the choice between the North Cape excursion and visiting the Christmas House at Skarsvag, we would recommend Skarsvag. The journey and scenery is much the same as to the North Cape and as well as getting a hot drink and home made pancakes, you will be shown the village, which is one of the remotest places in Europe, where the local statistics will astonish you. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
The MS Lofoten is a lovely old ship (48 years old). The key word here is "old" -- it creaks and rattles a bit, it is faded in parts, it has no stabilisers, it has "no" many things and that is why people choose it. The ... Read More
The MS Lofoten is a lovely old ship (48 years old). The key word here is "old" -- it creaks and rattles a bit, it is faded in parts, it has no stabilisers, it has "no" many things and that is why people choose it. The crew work hard at maintaining it. We found them cleaning the outside windows at 11 pm when we were in one port, and the cleaner on board seemed to be polishing the brass and sweeping spotless floors continuously. Heating on the ship was a bit erratic -- we were either far too hot or a little cold, again it is an old ship thing. The Lofoten is small and that is its greatest asset because provided you make an effort to join in, then you rapidly become part of its small family. I think that in high season with some 350 people on board, it might feel a bit over crowded and certainly the forward lounges (on two levels) could not house everyone if they wanted to see things from the front. There were 16 full-trip passengers plus anything up to 29 short trip port to port passengers and 34 crew - so there was plenty of space. Overall, the cabins are ok. We were lucky with our one which was excellent, those down in the bowels of the ship might feel a bit cramped and some might be noisy but I have no means of comparing these cabins to those on the larger Hurtigruten ships -- they might offer exactly the same experience and this might not be a small ship thing. I did go on a few of the larger ships whilst we were both in port and they were immaculately and tastefully decorated. Do you want to travel in a home or a hotel is really the question you should ask when choosing this ship which offers a "home". The food Dinner was well presented and very good and not over-facing in quantity. Lunch similarly was very good although the vegetarian hot meal option rarely looked (or tasted) inviting. The lunch salad buffet and numerous desserts were superb. Breakfast was ok but only barely so for vegetarians. Alcoholic drinks are ridiculously expensive (a Norway not a Hurtigruten thing) but you can drink your own alcohol in your cabin (absolutely not anywhere else in the ship). Whilst you can get water with your meal, the staff are not allowed to leave a carafe of water on your table unless you have paid 19 NoKr for it and there is no tap or jug of water for you to top up your glass yourself. This seems very peculiar and as a result I felt thirsty during most meals. The company has a policy of moving tourists meal times to accommodate trips (a perfectly reasonable thing) or to accommodate groups coming on board at a port to eat a meal (this seems to be a Norwegian custom) and the subsequent meal times were far too early. When you are going out on a Hurtigruten arrange tour, there is no facility for you to substitute a meal for a packed meal (which you could then eat when you were hungry and at a more appropriate time) and therefore you have to sneakily make something at the table and take it out with you. Ship's Services All ships have an on-board Tour Leader. Ours worked very hard to ensure that our trip went smoothly and that when there were hitches (such as not enough people to run a booked excursion) that an alternative was provided. Our cabin was cleaned promptly and well every morning whilst we were at breakfast. The time of year We chose to go in winter because we wanted to see the snow and the northern lights. We only saw snow up in the far north because Norway was unseasonably warm when we were there and we saw the northern lights on three evenings. Seeing either is a bit of a gamble and we won on this occasion. We understand why people repeat the trip in their "other season" and when time allows, we will do a summer trip. We might go on a larger boat because although it will have more passengers, it will have much more space and therefore might not feel as crowded (as we think the Lofoten might) when it is full. In summary This is not a cruise, it is a trip up and down the Norwegian Coast on a working boat which constantly loads and unloads passengers and freight. If you are looking for a traditional all-comforts cruise experience - do not go on this trip. We had a great 12 days which we thought was good value for money. We travelled with a great bunch of fellow travellers and thought that the service the Hurtigruten staff gave us was excellent. If you want to see pictures of the ship, food and other things related to our Hurtigruten trip, then go to patandpaulharvey.blogspot.com and then go to November 2012 Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
As Cruisers go this was our first trip, & having read reviews first we had a good idea of what to expect, & therefore unlike some reviewers who seemed to travel blind we had no really unexpected problems. We are not lie on the ... Read More
As Cruisers go this was our first trip, & having read reviews first we had a good idea of what to expect, & therefore unlike some reviewers who seemed to travel blind we had no really unexpected problems. We are not lie on the beach & roast types or sit in a floating 5000 bed hotel & not know when or where you are, & Las Vegas style shows no thanks, there thats told you so now you know us. Our booking of the trip was no problem, a 15 minute or so phone call & we were reserved, not the suite I would have liked,( in the end I was glad we didn't get one) but the cabin was outside deck 3 & turned out to be just right. Having received the booking info & brochure & advice about pre booking tours we had plenty of time to bone up on the choices & do just that pre book. The invoice had been paid, but no problem I received an amendment, coughed up the extra & all was set. I did have some questions but a quick phone call & all was answered. I did get worried when the tickets hadn't turned up but a quick call & all was ok. So off we go, Titan Air Charter was quick & simple ( Stansted is Stansted). On arrival in Bergen our transfer was straight forward, our luggage taken care of once on the coach, it would appear at our cabin next so no more humping it around. At the port we sign in & get our Cruise Cards ( needed for access) sit through a 15 minute H&S video & shown how to wear a very fetching bright RED survival suit. Once on board we don't wait long to get to our cabins, what would they be like ( we are virgins don't forget). First impression,just right like Goldilocks not too big, not too small. All you need a loo, a shower,handbasin, plenty of hanging space & cupboards. The single beds were large enough & comfortable with crisp linen & the window a good size. Our luggage turns up & we settle in. And above all the cabin was clean!!!!!!! Its a few hours to go before we sail & we have dinner & exploring to do first. There is no cabin tea & coffee, but what is called a "Coffee Deal" at approx £30 a head you can drink yourself to death on basic coffee & tea for the whole trip. So at £2.50+ a cup you can soon recup ( get it recup) your layout. One deal we didn't go for as we are not surnamed Rothschild or Gates, was the wine deal at approx £400 for a bottle of wine each night for the trip :)- Ok the trip was billed as Northern Lights & sure enough on leaving port that first night we have a good display at around 11.00pm and to be honest as far as we were concerned that was the best display of the trip, not to say that others saw better, but our stamina started to wane after late calls over the intercom for the first few days left us a wee sleepy. We get some pictures of later shows, but these were better picked up by digital cameras than naked eyes, to which they appeared as green blurs. But we did get the chance to see constellations & galaxies hidden by UK lights, revealed by Norwegian darkness. Ok, lets cut this down you're getting bored, we had 4 excursions, Trondheim City Tour with a very knowledgeable guide Anna, a very enjoyable Viking Feast with tasty basic food & a wealth of information, a trip to North Cape again an informative guide & video, & finally a trip to the Russian border, a little disappointing not a lot of Russians or guard towers, just a Russian liquid waste lorry. Now homeward bound, no more lights but a couple of Sea Eagles, Troll Fjord & what I consider the best a pod of 6 Orcas all be bit only seen for 5 minutes,but great. Ok 3 more things, the food & the tour manager,captain & crew The food, well 3 square a day was good, Breakfast was help yourself always porridge, cereals, fruit, yogurt, smoked & pickled fish of at least 6 varieties, & for hot boiled eggs, mini franks & meatballs & variously fried egg & bacon, scrambled eggs,cheese, rolls, bread , toast& other things I have forgotten. Lunch was always a cold table with poached salmon, smoked salmon,gravlax, sild in various sauces, salads, sliced cold meats, cheeses. Plus hot choices always a vegetarian choice , & 2 meat options with rice or potatoes & a vegetable, also sauces to accompany your meal. And to round off, usually 4 or 5 desserts sometimes with ice cream, & always cheese & biscuits plus fruit. Dinner was a fixed 3 course meal which alternated fish & meat more or less, you can get a menu if you go on line I'm not going all through it here. Portions were sufficient, say no more, but nearly always very good. (food is very subjective) being a chef I can appreciate what goes on back of house, & even more so in restricted circumstances. Please DO NOT moan about getting fish every night it's not true, man cannot leave on BURGERS & CHIPS alone. The Tour Manager Eskild Ognes, a very versatile & patient man, with good British sense of humour & learning skills, ( he learnt how to pronounce SAUSAGES in 3 minutes) you needed to be there!!! The Captain,Bridge & Crew although we did not interact that much were always polite & communicative, the waiting/cleaning staff always friendly & helpful. Our voyage ( it's not a strict cruise) was fun, hard work, ( a lot of looking/watching) & eating. Would we go again, YES please. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
1) It's a good choice to cruise North passed 80 degree. North Pole is 90 degree and the trip is still very far from that--realistically speaking. 2) Agreed with previous review(s) that luggage check on board of Fram is at least ... Read More
1) It's a good choice to cruise North passed 80 degree. North Pole is 90 degree and the trip is still very far from that--realistically speaking. 2) Agreed with previous review(s) that luggage check on board of Fram is at least chaotic, even with our flight luggage tags the cabin crew said they could not find our names and could not deliver them!? 3) Any passenger who don't understand English, Norwegian is the other choice of language offered at the introduction. Activity leaders later tried German and French for shore landings^^ Public Announcement System used English, German, Norwegian and in that order. 4) Our duty-free purchase of liquor at Longyearbyen was confiscated upon embarkment in order to sell alcohol during the cruise. 5) Everyone is provided with a wind-breaker which is very helpful. Nearly all the shore landings are wet-landing, and water-proof or rubber boots are essential. 6) Canteen staff are mainly Filipino or Southeast Asians, who also provided one night of entertainment. 7) On board, 45NOK for a liter of bottled water or a single whiskey in the bar. Recommendation: Clear ice can be picked up from the Glacier melting to mix with whisky and other drinks. Activity staff helped with that. 8) Special Cabin guests have free drinks at meals and regular guests need to pay even cold water. 9) Gratuity has been increased to 70NOK per person at our July-August 2012 cruise around Svalbard. 10) Blue whales, Polar bear and Glacier calving can be sighted if lucky. There is no snow-sledge for cruise expectation. 11) Except three served dinners, all breakfast, lunch and dinner are buffet inside a nice restaurant. One ending meal of BBQ on the deck provided the toughest meat ever. 12) Compared with Antarctica, the arctic cruise is much calmer and very little or nearly no sea-sick discomfort for oldies. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We are not regular cruise types. We like small boats and have only cruised before on the Mekong, Brahmaputra, Ganges and Irrawaddy rivers. We originally booked to travel on Hurtigruten's MS Nordstjernen (400 pax capacity) but found ... Read More
We are not regular cruise types. We like small boats and have only cruised before on the Mekong, Brahmaputra, Ganges and Irrawaddy rivers. We originally booked to travel on Hurtigruten's MS Nordstjernen (400 pax capacity) but found ourselves instead on the MS Finnmarken (1000 pax capacity), as the Nordstjernen had been replaced. We weren't happy about this, but there was nothing we could do about it. I was filled with foreboding about cruising with 998 pushy Europeans but I have to say it was a far better experience than I expected. First, it wasn't full. My guess is there were about 600 people on board, but that was enough for us. Secondly, there is lots of deck space so I guess that, even when full, there is enough room for people to disperse. The main thing about Hurtigruten is that it is neither a ferry nor a cruise boat. It hovers somewhere between the two. Consequently, you have the shore excursions and 'cruisy feel' of a cruise, on the one hand, combined with regular stops along the coast that you would associate with a ferry. Some of these stops are very early or very late and because Hurtigruten is primarily a ferry, the sightseeing schedule has to fit around its regular stops. We booked the 6D Southbound cruise, from Kirkenes to Bergen. The 'Breakfast at the North Cape' excursion would have been so much better if it had been at lunchtime; the place was shrouded in mist and we saw next to nothing. This is quite common, according to the people who live there. Other excursions took place at equally odd times (one of the Lofoten options leaves in the late afternoon and gets back after 10.00pm) and we found this all quite tiring. The weather was pretty ordinary throughout our cruise, which put pressure on the internal lounges. The 'towel on the sun-lounger' syndrome was alive and well so if you wanted a seat with a view you needed to get up early and grab a spot. Overall I think it is well run, considering it is trying to be all things to all people. I have two negative comments. First, the dinners are pretty ordinary, compared to the extensive buffet breakfasts and lunches. It is a set menu, with a starter, main course and dessert. Several of the main courses were fish and at least two of the desserts were frozen solid. An improvement would be to offer a choice of main course so that non-fish eaters can have something else. The second gripe is about 'day-trippers'. On several occasions day-trippers went up to the Observation Lounge, where the best seats are located. They would hang around and jump in as soon as a place became available, almost pushing others out of the way. I think certain parts of the ship should be allocated to people who have booked either the 7D Northbound, the 6D Southbound or the 12D round trip. With regard to pricing, we booked a complete package that included all meals. We discovered on board that you can book 'cabin only' and pay for meals as you go. We would have been happy to take up this option as three big meals a day is too much at our age. Apparently this option is detailed somewhere in the small print. We were also told there is an expensive 'alcohol package' and assumed this was the only option. In fact, you can buy wine/beer by the glass and it is no more expensive than anywhere else in Norway. There's also a cafe on board that serves inexpensive hot meals/salads 24 hours a day - but there's no point using this if you have prepaid for all meals! The shore excursions were all good but the guiding varied enormously. Some were great, others would have cured insomnia. A big tick to Craig (related, we think, to Hagrid), who was our larger-than-life guide on the Lofoten Islands tour (Excursion 9B). Another excellent excursion was 10B (Vega Islands). A third highlight, for us, was the Atlantic Road (11C) and the Midnight Concert in Tromso (8C) was really good, but we were pretty knackered by the time we got to bed at 0200 in the morning. In general, we found the staff friendly and helpful and the cabin was way more spacious than I had expected. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We have for many years wanted to undertake the Norwegian Coastal Voyage from Bergen all the way to the Russian Border and back. We also wanted to arrive in Bergen by ship from the UK but alas cheap air fares have caused the demise of the ... Read More
We have for many years wanted to undertake the Norwegian Coastal Voyage from Bergen all the way to the Russian Border and back. We also wanted to arrive in Bergen by ship from the UK but alas cheap air fares have caused the demise of the ferry from Newcastle-on-Tyne-so we flew British Midland from London Heathrow to Bergen (Business Class)-very civilized. As this was to be a very special trip including the celebration of our 40th Wedding Anniversary we opted for the Owners Suite on one of the most recent Hurtigruten ships. There are in fact two owners suite's-we chose the one which has a slightly larger floor plan due to less space devoted to stairways. Firstly we spent a night in Bergen at the Admiral Hotel with lovely views across the harbour to Bryggen before boarding our ship. However when we arrived at the Hurtigruten Terminal to board, we were met by the news that our sailing had ben delayed due to "technical issues"-in fact we ere delayed by 24 hours due to two out of the three bow thrusters having failed, and requiring replacement before sailing. Hurtigruten generously offered to refund 2/12 of our fare in recognition and this cheque for in excess of £3,000 was waiting for us at home on our return. Once on board we were quickly shown to our beautiful suite which consisted of a large double bedroom, a very large lounge with dining table and chairs, 3 seater sofa and two large easy chairs, desk, fully stocked mini-bar and TV, plus a bathroom with full size bath, walk-in shower, WC, underfloor heating, and an entrance lobby with a second WC for "visitors". The best feature of all was a marvellous "terrace" running half the width of the ship with proper ships deck chairs and table. We opted for breakfast being served in our suite daily, with enough left over for lunch-so that we only visited the restaurant once a day-where we were allocated Table 1-by the window with a commanding view of the whole restaurant. Food at dinner was good-with a different fixed no choice menu each evening, charmingly served by mainly Norwegian staff. The only time this arrangement differed was the first evening which was a "free-for-all" buffet which was most unpleasant due to some very aggressive fellow guests helping themselves to as much food as they could possibly eat!! The ship was very well appointed with umpteen different lounges and quiet areas. We only went on a few excursions as we wished to enjoy the luxury of the boat, albeit getting off the boat to visit the numerous ports of call was no problem at all. The midnight concert in Tromso Cathedral was a highlight, with the Midnight Sum shining brightly at 1.30 in the morning.Other excursions included bird watching at the North Cape, the Sea Eagle Safari and the only disappointment being the Lofoten Islands excursion which consisted of being driven by coach around the islands to a rather poor gallery, and to various parking areas full of camper vans from all over Europe. We found all the staff very friendly, especially the lady who ran the gift shop, selling hand made Scandinavian souvenirs and craft items. With the suite came two of the coffee cans which allowed you to unlimited tea and coffee throughout the ship. We had lovely warm sunny weather for the first three days, but further north at Kirkenes it turned very cold (4 degrees centigrade at mid-day in late June) and the sea became very rough for 24 hours. I certainly would not like to venture along this coast in Winter! After arriving back in Bergen we had 3 further nights at the Admiral Hotel which proved to be a comfortable and well located place to stay, before flying back to London Heathrow. Overall a very enjoyable trip, albeit a very expensive one. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
I was so looking forward to this cruise for years, anxiously waiting to experience the midnight sun as we cruised up the Norwegian Coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Food was good, not excellent. Dining room waiters and waitresses were ... Read More
I was so looking forward to this cruise for years, anxiously waiting to experience the midnight sun as we cruised up the Norwegian Coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Food was good, not excellent. Dining room waiters and waitresses were excellent. With one exception, all cruise directors and officers on the ship were unfriendly, at times quite unprofessional and rude. Dining room always opened late with long lines waiting to get in. Disembarkation area was always cramped. Information about what would happen to your baggage at the end of the cruise when one had to go on an excursion was nonexistent to confusing, once you pursued it. Excursions were quite expensive as well as beverages. This is a working boat, carrying cargo and passengers between ports and therefore the cost for the cruise was outrageously high. We have taken numerous other cruises and all our previous experiences were positive. Quite disappointed that this dream cruise of mine was a total disappointment. You can spend your money much better elsewhere even though the idea of midnight sun and northern lights are very appealing. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We Did the Hurtigruten from Kirkenes to Bergen in May, 2012. We had car and drove from Uppsala, Sweden to Kirkenes, about 1500 km. We had seen Geraingerfjord on previous trip to Norway, so we knew we would miss lesund and Gerainger. ... Read More
We Did the Hurtigruten from Kirkenes to Bergen in May, 2012. We had car and drove from Uppsala, Sweden to Kirkenes, about 1500 km. We had seen Geraingerfjord on previous trip to Norway, so we knew we would miss lesund and Gerainger. The Finnmarken is a newer ship and we had 3rd deck cabin. It had two single beds which folded down from the wall. There was ampel storage plus the ship had clothes washers and dryper. Them supplied the soap and softener. Food was average. Plentiful breakfast and lunch bufferts, and sit down finner with no menu choice. Dinner alternated between fish and meat. I understood you cloud request a vegetarian finner at noon . Some of the passagers who were on for the entire 13 day trip complained about lack of variety. Drink prices like every thing in Norway was incredibly expensive. When we drove thru Finland we stocked up on beer, soft drinks and snacks. There was.a small refrigerator in the room. There were about 400 passengers on board. About 10% were English speakers, and the rest from Europe. The ship staff spoke English and announcements were in Norwegian, English and French. The best part of the trip was the scenry. We took the Sea Eagles excursion and it was great. In looking at the timetable, we knew port times would be short. My biggest regret was not having more time in cities like Tromso. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Cruise Review Hurtigruten Nordkapp We sailed on the Nordkapp from May 5 -- May 10 from Kirkenes to Bergen. We were told there were 300 people on board with the ship listed as capable of holding 622. The ship is well appointed and run ... Read More
Cruise Review Hurtigruten Nordkapp We sailed on the Nordkapp from May 5 -- May 10 from Kirkenes to Bergen. We were told there were 300 people on board with the ship listed as capable of holding 622. The ship is well appointed and run with reasonable efficiency. The rooms are small but well thought out. In general we found the scenery disappointing. It should be noted that Hurtigruten -- as a coastal shipping company - makes no effort to enter fjords for scenic purposes with the exception of the Trollfjord, and that was cancelled due to "bad weather" on our voyage. The most famous of the Norwegian Fjords (Geiranger) is often visited by bus and not on the ship except at limited times. Southbound passengers do not have that option at all. We were going southbound and that's what this review applies to. We have been to Millford Sound in New Zealand, and to the amazing Kotor Fjord in Montenegro. With the possible exception of Trollfjord and Geiranger when visited, Hurtigruten offers pleasant scenery (quite good scenery in Lofoten) but not spectacular scenery as is available in New Zealand, the Balkans or Canada/Alaska. Hurtigruten, when they replied to this letter, said that in the summer months they enter Geirangerfjord in the ship. They also described themselves as a "coastal cruise" rather than a "Fjord Cruise". You should check your cruise specifically if you want to see a classic Fjord and be aware of the high probability of weather cancellation. It is possible that by going in early May we didn't get the full benefit of what can be seen due to the presence of snow over most of the first 1/3 of the trip. Fjords are also more spectacular from above than from sea level. We should have done more research before taking the cruise to discover all of this of course. Note that the word fjord in Norwegian has a meaning that's basically "bay", while in english it's more like "bay with steep cliffs". We heard one other passenger saying "his only regret regarding the cruise is that he didn't see any fjords". Ironic. In general if you choose not to go for the full 11 days, you should take the Bergen-Kirkenes journey. It's clear from Hurtigruten's effort (there are 18 Excursions going north and 10 going south) that the southbound journey is an afterthought after the journey north. You might get on at an entry point after Kirkenes if you are going south. The Lofoten islands are worthwhile and the highlight of what we saw. From Kirkenes to Tromso the scenery was unimpressive, and a better southbound cruise might be Tromso to Bergen. We found the endless quest for revenue by Hurtigruten disconcerting. Unique in our cruise experience, they charge for water (19 kr) at dinner. There is no free dinner drink (water, coffee and tea are free at breakfast and lunch). The tour of the bridge is 80 kr -- all other bridge tours we've heard of and seen on cruises are free. Everything on the ship is expensive, but it is Norway. The highly lauded 250 kr drink/cup offer is a good deal, but you should try the coffee first to make sure that it's to your taste (the coffee in the cup is the same as at the first buffet, so you can get a sample). Coffee on the ship is different than anywhere else I've been in the US, Europe, Asia or Africa. The Hurtigruten literature specifically says that there is no tipping. Someone should inform the crew of this. Every single Hurtigruten voucher has a line for a tip. The snack bar and bar upstairs have "tip jars". Further at the "mandatory" disembarkation conference Johan, the cruise director (I don't know if that's his official title) made an impassioned plea for tips. Tour guides for Vantage and Grand Circle also instructed their passengers to tip. The service is competent, but it is devoid of any charm. Most of the crew would clearly prefer a cruise without passengers. In any case the original instruction (Cut and paste from the Hurtigruten 2012 brochure): "Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Voyages has a non-tipping policy. However, if you feel that crew members should be rewarded for providing exceptional service this is entirely at your discretion." The dinners are inventive -- some are good, some are not as good and all are interesting. My wife is a vegetarian, and they handled that well. We asked for early dinner seating, and it turns out that's basically only for the tour company passengers (Grand Circle, Vanguard etc). The breakfast was disappointing (fried eggs in the buffet only once, and scrambled eggs perhaps twice). You can forget about pastry unless you pick it up yourself at one of the local towns. Norway has wonderful bread, but the bread on the ship is not as good as the Norwegian average. We saw a number of people picking up food at the local coop grocery stores which are usually a short walk from the pier. The Wifi is exactly as Hurtigruten says -- present in the lounge but slow. It was operational for most of the voyage and Johan did reset the router immediately when needed and requested. The cell phone service on the Norwegian coast is amazingly good. We had good cell phone conversations, and good smart phone email service the whole way without exception. This supplemented our wifi as needed. The rooms are made up once a day unlike many cruise ships where they are made up twice a a day. We can verify that the lower sheet is not changed throughout a 5 day voyage since it had a stain on it when we first saw it, and it had the same stain every day. On some cruise ships they prepare the room by putting down the beds but not on Hurtigruten. That said the beds are very easy to put in place. The departure from the ship was strange. The cruise director (?) Johan described a complex procedure at the "mandatory" disembarkation briefing which - if followed - would have lead to a peaceful relaxed disembarkation from the ship. The procedure involving waiting to leave the ship until the luggage from your floor was about to get on the conveyor belt. He said announcements would be made and went over them in great detail. In the end, no announcements were made. After all how could they be -- Johann was the first person of any type off the ship and his pleasant red haired assistant was close behind. If you have been on travel excursions (cruises, tours, rail journeys) you will remember seeing the crew greet you as you leave the ship. The crew doesn't do that on the cruise for the simple reason that every member of the crew who can leave the ship leaves the ship before the passengers. The disembarkation and luggage claim was the usual "free for all" although it must be said that the luggage delivery at the terminal was fairly quick. I'm still puzzled why Johan described that procedure in detail if there would be no one there to make the announcements. He could have spent even more time talking about tipping instead. Hurtigruten did reply to this letter with the main response being: "We do not operate cruises in the conventional sense as the main purpose of the Hurtigruten is for the ships to operate as working vessels collecting and delivering cargo and passengers (many of the local people using the 'shuttle' service to shop for food and other items) along the coast." Hurtigruten is good if you want a relaxing journey with pleasant scenery. If you want above average or better service and dramatic scenery, you should probably go somewhere else. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We recently returned from a cruise on the Nordkapp, going both north and then south on the ship, beginning and ending in Bergen, Norway. It was a wonderful trip with lots of beautiful scenery. My thoughts on the cruise: next time I will ... Read More
We recently returned from a cruise on the Nordkapp, going both north and then south on the ship, beginning and ending in Bergen, Norway. It was a wonderful trip with lots of beautiful scenery. My thoughts on the cruise: next time I will book a room on deck 3 or 4 in the middle of the ship. We were in a front cabin on deck 5. The outside deck was on deck 5 so there were people walking in front of the stateroom window. When we hit rough seas that cabin had much more movement than other areas of the ship. The rooms are small but clean and adequate. It was fun to stop in all of the little towns but some of the stops were only 15-30 minutes so there was no time to get off the ship. If you want nightlife, shows, casinos then this is NOT the cruise for you. The average age of the people on board was at least 70. The food was good. Buffet breakfast and lunch. Lots of different kinds of fish and lunchmeats and cheeses. Always hard and soft boiled eggs for breakfast. If you like fish and pickled herring then you will love the buffets. Dinner was sit-down....fish one night, meat the next night. We were with a tour group,and the chef was very open to accommodating food restrictions or preferences. Be prepared for very high prices...$10 for a glass of beer or wine with lunch or dinner. Buy the coffee mug for $40 but you get unlimited coffee or tea throughout the day. Otherwise you have to pay for each cup you might want during the day. The prices for the cruises the ship offers seem a little pricey. We went to the midnight concert (well worth the cost $70pp) and took the ATV ride to the Russian Border(lots of fun!). The best part was going through the Troll Fjord. Breathtaking!!!! I would recommend this cruise to anyone wanting to see beautiful,scenery and who does not care for large cruise ships with lots of people. Bring along books to read. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Traveling to the arctic circle and seeing the Norwegian Fjords has always been one of our travel wishes and we were attracted to the Hurtigruten air inclusive offer from Newark to Bergen including all transfers and a night in a very nice ... Read More
Traveling to the arctic circle and seeing the Norwegian Fjords has always been one of our travel wishes and we were attracted to the Hurtigruten air inclusive offer from Newark to Bergen including all transfers and a night in a very nice centrally located Bergen Hotel. Even adding the RT air from Atlanta to Newark, the cost was a bargain. The SAS flights to Bergen on SAS was enjoyable. We booked a 12 day trip to northern Norway, through the arctic circle all the way to Kirkenes to see the snow hotel. There were some interesting stops along the way to take in breathtaking views from above Geirangerfjord, do some sightseeing in Trondheim, Hammerfest and some other picturesque coastal towns and even a moving midnight concert in a beautiful large modern church. Hurtigruten goes to some length to point out that this adventure is not a cruise in the strictest sense but a coastal voyage. Passengers, although well attended to by a professional and accommodating crew and staff are only one aspect of this enterprise. The ship is also a ferry taking on day trippers and cargo. It is possible to use it as a car ferry too. Some passengers booked only half the voyage and then fly back to Bergen. The cabins are tiny by American standards but adequate and who wants to be in a room anyway when there is an ever-changing magnificent landscape to be seen at all hours of the day. April is a great time to sail the Norwegian coast; no summer crowds and the lighting is beautiful. The ship has very attractive lounges, bars, and other spaces including an area with floor to two story ceiling panoramic windows at the bow for watching the magnificent mountain scenery. The ship passes through narrow waterways and for most of the way the coasts on either side are always visible. Some of the ports are visited briefly and it is not possible to get off the ship but it is still fun to watch all the activity in this newly prosperous country (thanks to oil drilling off the Norway coast). The trip included full board. Buffet breakfasts and lunches would satisfy any traveller as long as you like seafood. There was always wonderfully prepared and tasty fresh fish and all kinds of cold appetizers such as herring, smoked white fish and salmon. The desserts were to die for. There are a few hokey shipboard activities that were fun like the Norwegian fishermen spring ritual involving cutting out the tongues of cod fish and the christening of passengers as the ship passed into the arctic circle (including being doused with ice water by Neptune and taking a swig of cod liver oil) and a demo on shrimp expert peeling. All of which were much more fun than a Las Vegas type cruise show any time. I must mention that the Hurtigruten line is very diligent and helpful. We had a very early flight out of Bergen arranged by them and the regular airport service was not available on Sunday morning. We were prepared to pay our own way by taxi to the airport (not a cheap ride). When we arrived at the airport, the cab driver gave us a voucher to sign since unknown to us, Hurtigruten made the arrangements. That says it all Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Since this was our first cruise ever, our experience may be different from some seasoned cruise travelers who may have different expectations of what a cruise is. As travelers we are fairly independent, like making arrangements for ... Read More
Since this was our first cruise ever, our experience may be different from some seasoned cruise travelers who may have different expectations of what a cruise is. As travelers we are fairly independent, like making arrangements for ourselves, and tend not to do bus-tours or group travel. We selected this cruise because we wanted to see the Northern Lights and this cruise provided the benefit of seeing gorgeous scenery in case the Lights didn't happen. We weren't in it for the ship, so a gussied-up ferry suited us well. For those of you who are deciding if a Hurtigruten cruise is for you, let me start by saying what it is NOT: uber-luxurious. There is no casino. The main entertainment was one guy playing an electric piano singing songs of the 50s - 90s in a mix of English and Norwegian each evening in the bar. There are two hot tubs on deck, a sauna and a very small workout room. There's reliable wifi near the internet cafe and they had 4 slow-ish computers for free usage. The Midnatsol holds 'only' 1000 people. I'd say 90% of the people on board (as cruisers, those not just using the boat as local transportation) were retired. It was mainly a mix of people from Germany, Norway, and the UK with a few North Americans. It's not cheap on board or on land in Norway - if you haven't been before, prepare for sticker shock. It's much more expensive than you think possible. A sandwich lunch for two with soft drink or bottled water is easily $50. All that being said, our cruise on the Midnatsol was absolutely wonderful. The staff were friendly and aimed to please. Even when disgruntled used-to-luxe cruisers complained ("the dinner portions are too small" was a gripe we heard from a couple of men) the staff smiled, apologized and brought a second plate of 1,000 calories for them. Breakfast and lunch are buffet and open seating, dinner is plated and served at your assigned table at either 6:30 or 8:30. The head waitress very pleasantly switched our seating time for the other one when we asked. Food at breakfast included eggs, potatoes, sliced meats, cheeses, smoked fish of at least 3 or more types, fruit, 3 juices, coffee, tea, homemade hot chocolate, rolls and several types of homemade breads, cinnamon rolls, and more I'm forgetting. Lunch included homemade soup, fresh green salads, pasta and bean salads, breads, sliced meats and cheeses, smoked fish, two or three hot entrees (some recycled from the night before but it worked), a hot vegetable or two, potatoes, fruit and at least 4 different types of homemade desserts. Our last evening was a seafood buffet banquet with shrimp, prawns, lobster, crayfish, mussels, crab, fish and more cooked several ways. Almost overwhelming and all delicious. Again, breakfast and lunch were buffet style so you could have as much or as little as you wanted. You won't go hungry and you won't be starved for choice. There was a reliance on cream sauces and dairy desserts at dinner, so the lactose-challenged should be aware, but vegetarians were well catered to and I overheard people asking for special requests at the reception desk that sounded like they wouldn't be a problem. Fish was served about every other evening. They had a decent wine menu (if you don't mind taking out a second mortgage on your house to pay for it). You could also buy a wine package for the trip. Our cabin was a mini-suite, and we were glad we spent the extra for it. Big marble bathroom, plenty of closet/storage space, mini-fridge, coffee & tea making facilities + two free all-you-can drink mugs, fruit+wine basket, television in the room, and a tour of the bridge. We were on deck 6, which was the promenade deck, meaning that people could see in the room, so be aware of that. We could control the temp in our cabin and the bathroom had underfloor heating. Bar soap, shampoo, lotion, shower cap, washcloth were all included, not sure they are included for smaller rooms. The shore excursions (we did 4) were all worth the money and very well organized. If you go in winter, don't miss the dog-sledding. It was a real highlight. The ship also provided fun diversions like the Arctic Circle contest and ceremony with King Neptune; fish chowder for the hardy souls up on deck at 11PM one night watching the Northern Lights dancing; a free lecture by an on-board astronomer for all passengers; and a local saxophonist playing up on deck. If you get seasick, bring something for it. The ship does have stabilizers but there are are times when you're out in the open sea and you will definitely feel it. We were lucky enough to see the Lights 5 nights of our 6 night trip. As amazing as they are, the scenery going by was just as spectacular. I wish we'd gone for the full round trip instead of just the north-bound journey, because you get to see all the sights during the day on the south-bound trip that you missed at night going northbound. Guess we'll have to go back! We'd definitely travel with Hurtigruten again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We sailed from Bergen to Tromso, and were disappointed with our Hurtigruten experience. The food was very average and extremely over priced for the quality. The cabins were nice enough, although as a couple you stay in separate single ... Read More
We sailed from Bergen to Tromso, and were disappointed with our Hurtigruten experience. The food was very average and extremely over priced for the quality. The cabins were nice enough, although as a couple you stay in separate single beds unless you go for a deluxe cabin. The staff were not very helpful. Trying to book the trip to begin with was very difficult on the Hurtigruten website and we ended up having to call them from Australia to try to book the trip, the whole process took about 45 minutes on an international call. We were given incorrect information regarding meals on the boat, which the staff on the ship would not help rectify once we were there, and when we complained we were given the email address of head office and told to email them rather than speak to anyone on the actual boat! The port docking times were usually short (1 hour or less) with the occasional 3 hour stop. We stopped in Trondheim from 6am until midday - there is nothing open in Trondheim before 9am - not even McDonalds. The age group on our ship was very specific- all seniors, it seems the boat definitely caters for a specific demographic. The scenery on the trip was lovely, although difficult to see due to extreme weather conditions. We found the scenery on the train from Oslo to Bergen to be just as beautiful. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
MS Finnmarken is one of Hurtigruten's newer vessels and exceeded our expectations in terms of space, cleanliness and food quality. We'd never cruised before and didn't want to have to dress up for dinner, etc, and this ship ... Read More
MS Finnmarken is one of Hurtigruten's newer vessels and exceeded our expectations in terms of space, cleanliness and food quality. We'd never cruised before and didn't want to have to dress up for dinner, etc, and this ship fitted the bill. It's a working ferry, catering for the local population wishing to travel from one port to another as well as tourists and the shp called at over 30 ports although some stops were too short to disembark or they were in the middle of the night. We flew from Gatwick to Bergen to join the ship and took the Classic Round Voyage to Kirkenes and back, taking 12 days in all. When we arrived at Bergen we were ushered on to a coach for the pre-paid transfer to the ship. The checking-in procedure took quite a time as there was so many of us and once we got into the waiting area we had to hang around for an hour before we could go on board but once that happened our bags were outside our door. Cabins: We were pleasantly surprised at the size of our standard outside cabin which was on the highest deck. The porthole was large and rectangular with curtains and a blind. The two single beds can be folded during the day, one completely against the wall and the other converts into a seat but as there was still enough room to manoeuvre we kept them both down as beds. The cabin had a fridge and a TV, despite being told neither were provided, there was plenty of storage space including a double wardrobe, lots of shelving, a large space under the fridge for cases, and a desk with 2 electrical sockets. Two pillows, a duvet and blanket for each bed were provided. The bathroom contained an excellent shower, toilet and basin with double cabinet over. Liquid soap/shampoo dispensers were in the shower cubicle and over the basin, there's a small washing line and waste bin, and the bathroom has underfloor heating so underwear dried quickly. Food and Drink: The food was excellent. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style with plenty of choice and you can sit where you like. Dinner is a set menu which is displayed outside the dining room at breakfast time. If you don't like the look of any of the three courses all you have to do is mention it to the staff and they will do their best to provide an alternative. Pick up their interesting booklet which should be on the table outside the dining room called "Coastal Flavours". This lays out the menu for each day and the history behind it. The food at dinner is cordon bleu style and absolutely delicious. Although there's a lot of fish, there's also meat so plenty of variety. As we were half board we weren't entitled to attend lunch but one day when the sea was due to be very rough we asked if we could swap dinner for lunch and there was no problem at all. Alcohol in Norway and on the ship is extremely expensive. Fortunately, Hurtigruten is probably the only cruise line which allows passengers to take alcohol on board so we had our full duty-free allowance with us! If you like tea and coffee it's a good idea to purchase their "coffee deal". For £28 you get a thermal Hurtigruten mug which you can fill with tea or coffee 24/7. It sounds a lot but when you pay £4 per cup it's a good deal over 12 days. On-Board Entertainment: Not a lot. Most evenings there was either a pianist or singer in one of the bars but as we're never interested in evening socialising it didn't bother us. Fitness Activities: There's a well equipped gym and sauna on board. There's also a swimming pool on the open deck which my husband braved and a hot tub which he enjoyed leaping into after emerging from the pool. It wasn't so good coming out of the hot tub though into the arctic winds! Excursions: It's advisable to pre-book excursions because as well as guaranteeing a place on a trip you want to experience, it's also cheaper than waiting until you're on board. We did dog sledding in Tromso, in what turned out to be a blizzard! Although we enjoyed it, I wouldn't recommend this if you have any sort of back problem because going over bumpy ground on a wooden sled isn't a comfortable experience! The huskies are amazing dogs and can't wait to take off and make a terrible row when they're excited and about to start running. We also visited the North Cape (recommended), the Snow Hotel at Kirkenes near the Russian border which is a very odd place. There are 22 bedrooms but you'd have to be mad to want to stay there. The toilet and washing facilities are in another building which would put a lot of people off, not to mention the obvious low temperature. On-Board Information: The Tour Manager did a wonderful job of telling us what was happening every day. Information sheets were available every afternoon outlining the programme for the following day. The sheets detailed the times we were due to arrive at and depart from various ports, any interesting information on the sights we passed, and when we were due to sail on stretches of open sea (important to know when to have the pills and wrist bands available!) We sailed in March which is the worst month for rough seas so we were told! On the first day we picked up free booklets on the available excursions and the routes we were sailing. These were very interesting and worthwhile having. In addition to written information the Tour Manager made various announcements over the intercom during the day so we didn't miss anything. He spoke Norwegian, English and German fluently and could have made a living out of being a stand-up comedian. The Northern Lights: We didn't really see them, despite being in the right place at one of the best times according to the experts. We couldn't see any change in the colour of the sky although when people took long exposures there was green in the picture so I suppose the lights were there. We had a ceremony each time we crossed the Arctic Circle but I won't go into details as I don't want to spoil the surprise!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
As we are getting married in the Caribbean in November, we decided we would try a small cruise with our twin 3 year olds. It was their first flight and cruise, and our first cruise. Having read the reviews beforehand we knew what to ... Read More
As we are getting married in the Caribbean in November, we decided we would try a small cruise with our twin 3 year olds. It was their first flight and cruise, and our first cruise. Having read the reviews beforehand we knew what to expect in terms of it being a working ship and not a luxury cruise. Departure from Manchester could have been problematic as Jet2 thought it prudent to sit a family of us with two very young children at the end of each aisle seat x 4. Fortunately for us and for the rest of the passengers a very helpful couple swopped seats and prevented a noisy journey. We were allocated Level 2 Port Side which was a little noisy but on balance the other decks may have suffered from people outside cabin windows with cameras for the northern lights. Cabins are small but you are not expected to be spending a lot of time in them but rather sitting in the public areas reading, knitting or surfing the internet and meeting other passengers. Food presentation and quality were excellent, the waiters were pleasant and helpful, ships crew overall accommodating. Restaurant Manager very good at changing our late sitting to an earlier one for the children's benefit. The Northern lights were observed every night we were on ship so it is fair to say we were lucky in terms of weather (no snow, rain, fog etc.) bright and sunny. Tea/coffee deal 250 krona, but the cafe was open 24 hours for refill so a good idea. Not really sure why people would object to using the handwash as this is for everyone's benefit to avoid illness. The childrens play area was also most welcome as there are no facilities really for children on board. Three or four static pc's on board for internet use (free of charge) or you can use the library/bar area for free wifi. No problems there. Radisson Blue Manageress very good - chatted with us in reception and gave us free orange juice whilst we waited for the bus to the airport. Receptionist also prompt and efficient in changing our room when we found we had been allocated two rooms on different floors! Radisson breakfast excellent. Tromso - The number 26 bus from Pepe's Pizza (round the corner) took us outside the cable car, cost 28 krona approx, cable car 300 krona for a family ticket. Ask for a street map from the receptionist at the hotel. Supermarkets do not sell wine and spirits and you have to visit a government shop to purchase. Overall a very pleasant experience as we met some lovely people from the Yorkshire Dales, Southport and Newcastle and we all got into the spirit of the holiday. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Food: no choice . Acceptable but not very inspiring. Very poor service from an argumentative waiter who told us we should eat what we were given. Couldn't cope with a request for "no fish" Wine at about £45 a bottle in ... Read More
Food: no choice . Acceptable but not very inspiring. Very poor service from an argumentative waiter who told us we should eat what we were given. Couldn't cope with a request for "no fish" Wine at about £45 a bottle in the "wine package" was rather pricey. The little cafe was lovely - but expensive. Safety : On at least 12 occasions we had to walk on treacherous surfaces - often carrying and wheeling luggage. Walking up to the midnight concert at Tromso was on snow and ice up a steep path. Some of the party were on sticks. Security: Very little - a suitcase was taken from a passemger and rifled. It would have been very easy to get on and off our ship. Lifeboat drill :A good talk- how sensible to have lifejackets at muster stations rather than in cabins. Radisson Blu Hotel Tromso : excellent - put the Midnatsol in the shade! Flights: We spent an extra three and a half hours getting to Tromso because of snow on the runway....... On the return we waited for over an hour to start checking in due to malfunctioning computers and lack of staff - appalling. Trips We got stuck in a coach behind one that had gone off the road and never made it to the North Cape. The cable car ride to the mountain restaurant for a meal cost £75 pp and didn't include a glass of wine with the uninspiring food and watery coffee. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
The organisation was superb and I could not fault it. It is a warm and cosy ship and spotlessly clean. The cabin was meant for two people but I had paid for single occupancy and it was therefore just the right size - it would have been ... Read More
The organisation was superb and I could not fault it. It is a warm and cosy ship and spotlessly clean. The cabin was meant for two people but I had paid for single occupancy and it was therefore just the right size - it would have been cramped for two. The boat stopped at many ports because it is a working boat and nightimes could be really noisy with cars/cargo being unloaded . If you are thinking that a cruise on this boat is like being on a 'normal' cruise ship you would be wrong. Think- posh ferry instead and then set off with a sense of adventure with many like-minded people and you will have an amazing time. No entertainment, loud music, casinos etc, but lots of wonderful scenery and a totally realxing experience. if you are travelling in the winter- do not under-estimate how cold it can be - it had been -35 degrees at one point at the North Cape previous to our visit. We were very lucky with bearable temperatures- four layers of clothing- and we saw the Northern Lights! For anyone for whom photography is a must- I would advise them to spend a couple of nights in Tromso before boarding and catch a tour with one of the guides who will take you to the best place to view the spectacle. Taking photos on board a moving boat is more difficult even with a tripod but I still managed to get some good shots. I had read many articles on the best settings for my camera but the following gave me fantastic shots - use a wide angle lens set on the widest aperture, ISO daylight, and set on infinity. I used TV mode because the light changed so quickly it would not have been possible to keep up with changing the shutter speed. Also- take heat pads to go inside your gloves as your fingers can get frozen on deck in a matter of minutes. The Northern Lights are really elusive and are not always in bright colours as only the camera lens and not the lens in our eyes can always see the colour. So if you spot big trails of what looks like white moving cloud at night, take a photo! If the 'clouds' are green, it is actually the Northern Lights! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Voyages in Search of the Northern Lights If your main purpose for travelling with Hurtigruten, is to see the Northern Lights, you could be in for a big disappointment. Hurtigruten provide a well oiled transportation system, linking the ... Read More
Voyages in Search of the Northern Lights If your main purpose for travelling with Hurtigruten, is to see the Northern Lights, you could be in for a big disappointment. Hurtigruten provide a well oiled transportation system, linking the many coastal villages and towns, throughout mid and north Norway. The shipping line is efficient, almost to obsession and makes it clear from the start, not to compare its smaller vessels, with the larger, traditional cruise ships. We stayed in an N class cabin, which was extremely comfortable, well designed, with a large outside window, definitely a plus, on the 11 night, round trip. The weather in Feb, can be variable, often changing minute by minute, the scenery is breathtaking, numerous stops on the way, allow you to sample the many Norwegian delights. As always, the unwritten travellers code applies, your attitude will dictate the mood of your fellow guests, crew and your overall experience. The Ship.............. Depends entirely on your requirements, we sailed on Polarlys, a ship, midway between the much smaller traditional vessel the Lofoten and the larger Midnatsol. You need to think carefully, if you are prone to sea sickness, stick to the larger ships with stabilisers. Hurtigruten under- play the chance of rough seas, believe me there are a number of open sea stretches, which if you are unlucky, will test your sea legs. The Polarlys rode the rough well, but did rock around a fair bit! I am an average sailor and coped by taking Stugeron and lying down, but this can be inconvenient, if your set evening meal, corresponds with heavy swell. Cabins.............. For a trip like this, an outside cabin is a must, the cheaper L class cabins can be a lottery, with small portholes and restricted views, the package is normally half board, a false economy, when you find out, just how expensive, extras work out on ship. N class cabins, although more expensive, work out better value in the end, with picture windows and the benefit of full board. We travelled in cabin N317, on deck 3, near reception, proving a very good choice. We had absolutely no complaints, all to a very high standard. If you do not travel well, choose the pull down bed adjacent the window and sleep with head facing forward. Meals............. Hard to fault, well thought out, with plenty of choice at breakfast and lunch. There are two sittings, to the set table, set evening meal, with no choice, except on the sea food buffet evening , vegetarians can pre arrange their requirements. On embarkation, you are advised which sitting you are on, normally 18.15 or 20.15. Some couples, might not find the arrangements satisfactory, but if you go in a larger group, as we were, things can be more relaxed. British travellers are in the minority, but thankfully, most Europeans speak some English, much to their credit! One disappointment, is the ridiculous cost of alcohol, which rather precludes drinking with your meal, the waiters were clearly embarrassed, at trying to sell, very poor wine, at anything from £40-£70 a bottle and beer at around £6 a half pint. We purchased ships, filtered water, at approx £2 a bottle most evenings. This appeared at odds with the policy of providing water with breakfast and lunchtime f.o.c. In my opinion, Hurtigruten could be making a big mistake. Not withstanding the general high cost of alcohol in Norway, ships charges were outrageous. Budgets................. The basic N class, 11 night round trip, is good value, if you are contemplating this voyage, it is a no-brainer, to cut the experience short. North bound from Bergen, allows plenty of time for excursions, South bound is extremely restricted. The costs however, can start to escalate, once on board and it takes a strong will, to contain expenses. Although you would expect a certain mark up , nothing prepares you for the Norwegian cost of living, compared with the UK, like for like, almost everything, is approx 3 times, the price. Excursions............. Do not be pressured into pre-booking excursions, the Hurtigruten experience, is more about travelling, on a day to day, passenger ferry, visiting the 31 ports of call. Hurtigruten, in fairness, have tried to accommodate the cruise fraternity, but have to work to a tight schedule, some of the excursions, as previous reviewers have pointed out, are very rushed, but Hurtigruten are not in the cruise ship business and probably shouldn't even try. One excursion, which I would not have missed (its not advertised in the book, but arranged locally, ask the tour guide on ship.) is to the fishing village of Skarsvag, on day 6, of the northbound voyage, from the port of Honningsvag. While all your fellow guests are being herded to 71 degrees north, you will experience a real Norwegian fishing village, a very humbling experience, I might add and not what you would expect. To Conclude.............. We wouldn't have missed this trip for the world, it was a privilege, in nearly all respects it fulfilled a dream, we did see the Northern Lights and shall never forget them. Travelling with friends, , allowed us to share the experience. We have travelled extensively and would place this trip at the very top. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
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