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46 Hurtigruten Baltic Sea Cruise Reviews

The travel arrangements were fine and as travellers who usually book everything independently, it was good to discover that Hurtigruten seem to have everything down to a fine art. They also give you plenty of information before you leave ... Read More
The travel arrangements were fine and as travellers who usually book everything independently, it was good to discover that Hurtigruten seem to have everything down to a fine art. They also give you plenty of information before you leave home. We arrived on time at the ship, MS Richard With, where our cabin was ready for our occupation immediately. The cabins are small but very comfortable and have everything you need. It was very clean. The shower room was tiny and if you were a large person you might find the shower difficult. Luckily this was not the case for us. Food was generally of a high standard and we found the staff in the dining room pleasant and helpful. We had booked breakfast and dinner only, thinking we might be off the boat some days. When we were on board we had light snacks from the cafe area, which were very good indeed. The "coffee" deal is worth doing. You buy a thermos mug and then refill with tea or coffee of your choice at any time of day or night. After a couple of days it will pay for itself. We spent a lot of time out on the deck (in chilly February)with a hot drink in hand. I think the excursions are expensive generally, but then Norway is expensive. So we took off on our own when there was time to walk around a stopping place. It is worth doing some homework before you go so that you use the time wisely. The one exception was booking to go dog sledding in Tromso (the evening excursion post disembarking) which was fabulous. We experienced the northern lights from the ship in the Lofotens and again from our husky drawn sled near Tromso. Both times it was magical. Especially as the other nights had been cloudy and snowy and we didn't think the skies would clear, but they did. Out on deck at night it is eiry but wonderful. The water was like a mill pond in the shelter of the fjords and the snow made it easy to see the landscape, dotted with the lights from the fisherman's cottages on the water's edge as we glided by. Heading north you only see the Lofoten Islands at night and though this was beautiful, I would have liked longer here. The southbound journey brings you back during the day. Another time I think I'd make a stop here. All the crew are friendly, polite and welcoming, and they all seem to speak English really well. The tour guide and his assistant seemed to be working very hard all the time but were never without smiles. They provide a daily itinerary that lists the ports to be stopped at, the excursions available, and the sights to be passed along the way. We were sorry to leave the ship but Hurtigruten had booked us into a very comfortable hotel in Tromso, which was 2 minutes walk from the boat and itself on the water front. The return journey home was easy and uneventful. Again Hurtigruten had covered everything in terms of transfers and connections. I think this would be of particular comfort to a lone or first time traveller. They have it down to a fine art. Well organized trip. Lovely clean and comfortable ship. Stupendous scenery. I would just love to go again... and take a bit longer over it. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We traveled with Vantage on the Grand Norwegian Coastal Voyage September 1 15, 2011. Our ship was the MS Nordlys which was severely damaged by fire the day after we departed the ship. Two crew members were tragically killed during the ... Read More
We traveled with Vantage on the Grand Norwegian Coastal Voyage September 1 15, 2011. Our ship was the MS Nordlys which was severely damaged by fire the day after we departed the ship. Two crew members were tragically killed during the blaze. What a sad memory at the end of a wonderful adventure. We have traveled with Vantage in the past. In 2007 we did Imperial Russian Waterways, Moscow and St. Petersburg with Vantage and had a wonderful experience. FLIGHTS Since we live near Boston, we expected to travel direct to Europe from Boston. Such was not the case. Vantage arranged for us to travel to Dulles, Copenhagen, and Bergen. This added to our travel time, especially on our return. We will never again come through Dulles from Europe with hopes of making an on time connection. Copenhagen is a very large and busy airport and the walk to our connecting flight was very long. Anyone with the slightest problem walking should ask for help. A Vantage rep met us in Dulles at the start of the trip to be sure we were all set with boarding passes, etc. It was a nice touch. WEATHER - We traveled September 1 15. The temperatures were in the 50s and 60s during the day and probably down to the high 40s at night. Our first few days in Bergen were very rainy. We were told this was very normal. It became sunnier as we traveled north. Sturdy shoes, umbrellas, and water repellant wind breakers were best. Appropriate layering for wind, on deck, rain, and varying temperatures kept us plenty warm and dry. THE HOTEL - We arrived at the Bergen airport right on time and were met by Eva Stiegler, our Vantage Program Manager. She was brought up in Bergen. Her English was flawless. Our luggage was whisked away to the bus, we exchanged some money and off we went. The Radisson Blu Norge Hotel was perfectly situated close to everything. Our luggage was unloaded from the bus for us and delivered to our rooms. The rooms were clean and bright and a good size with desk and easy chair, 2 single beds, a coffee maker and iron and ironing board. The furniture was a little dated but well cared for. Free wifi was available. Breakfast was a large buffet with all kinds of choices from meats and cheeses to an egg station to fruits, cereals, juices and coffee and tea. Delicious. We had dinner in the hotel with our group of 49. The menu was preset white asparagus soup, chicken with mushroom, and apple cake with ice cream and coffee also a free glass of beverage, wine, soda, etc. Throughout the trip, Eva would arrange for any diet accommodation from allergies to likes and dislikes. The only down side to the hotel location was the large amount of street noise into the early morning hours. Eva distributed earplugs to us so we could sleep. Evidently there are nightclubs nearby and both their music and customers extend to outside. We were so tired that nothing would have disturbed our sleep but when up, we did hear the noise and Im sure some people are disturbed by the it. BERGEN - Bergen is a wonderful city. We wish we had planned the pre-extension here. Not only is the city beautiful, but there is so much more to see than we originally thought. The funicular, fish market, and countless historic buildings and museums could easily use several days. THE SHIP - The Nordlys far exceeded our expectations. It was beautifully maintained and all the public rooms were lovely. The dcor had lots of brass colored metal, Norwegian art and tasteful colors. The dining room was large. At dinner we had an area reserved for Vantage so we didnt have to struggle to find a place to sit. Large windows gave a great view as we sailed along. Linen tablecloths gave an air of formality to the room and made meals a special occasion. Our room was small but very efficient. It was a category U cabin on deck 6. Our traveling companions were on deck 5 which was the promenade deck. They wish they did not have passengers walking outside their cabin. The cabins themselves were identical. The 2 single beds were perpendicular to each other and one made a sofa during the day and the other folded up against the wall. The beds were comfortable. The cover was a duvet. There were 2 wool blankets in the closet - great for sitting on deck. There was sufficient closet space. There were about a dozen hangers but we always bring extras. The closet rods go front to back in rather than left to right which may finding things slightly more difficult. The bathroom is small. I thought the shower was much smaller than on large cruise ships and the floor was always wet. Heat in the bathroom was in the floor so it helped the water evaporate. There are no facecloths and bars of soap are not provided. There is a dispenser of liquid soap at the sink and a combo of liquid soap/shampoo/conditioner in the shower. There is a hair dryer in the bathroom. I would suggest bringing your own soap, shampoo, and conditioner. It was chilly on deck. There were chairs and lounge chairs for sitting. A small area on each side was protected by glass and was heated. One side was reserved for smokers. There are plenty of public rooms with great windows. On the top deck there was entertainment in the bar every evening. We had 2 talented female musicians from Bulgaria who sange and played keyboard, violin and saxophone. There was no wireless internet service available on the Nordlys. There were 3 computers for passenger use which was so slow we were not charged to use it. I believe this varies by ship. There were 2 washers and 2 dryers available. It cost about $4.00 to do a load of wash including the soap which was automatically dispensed by the washer. The dryers were free. The staff was wonderful and friendly. FOOD AND DRINK The food was very good. Breakfast and lunch were always buffet. Breakfast included coffee, tea, juices, fruits, cereals, meats, cheeses, hard or soft boiled eggs, bacon or sausage, all kinds of bread, fish, and a hot special daily fried eggs, pancakes, etc. Lunch always included a soup which was delicious, salads, meats, fish, stone crabs, cray fish, mussels, shrimp, cheeses, fruit, and one or two hot entrees. Dessert had many fancy jellos, fruit, cakes and fruit and custard sauces. Dinner was a set menu posted daily. Most nights the main course was fish. Eva made arrangements for anyone who had special likes or dislikes or allergies to be accommodated. We had arctic char, salmon, pollack, reindeer, chicken, and cod. One evening there was a seafood buffet which included cold water lobster, king crab, salmon, scallops, shrimp, and a multitude of other choices. Sauces and vegetables were also very tasty. Small boiled potatoes were often served. Desserts were fine not amazing and included cakes, puddings, and ice cream. Dinner coffee was served in one of the forward observation rooms. This made it easier for the crew to get ready for the second serving of dinner. There was a full wine and drink menu on the table at lunch and dinner. Drinks were very expensive. Except during meals there was a charge for coffee. A coffee deal is offered. For about $40 you can buy a coffee cup which is refillable in the coffee shop whenever you want it. We each bought one but I thought the coffee was deplorable and seldom drank it although it could also be used for tea. Eva took us to liquor stores to buy wine which we kept in our rooms. We werent supposed to bring our own wine into the dining room or public spaces but we usually filed our coffee cups with wine and walked into the dining rooms. A box of wine in the state liquor stores cost about $80. Sometimes at lunch we would put some crackers and cheese into a plastic baggie and save it for cocktail hour in the afternoon. VANTAGE AND THE TRIP As I said before our Program Manager Eve was wonderful. At the beginning of the trip she talked about what to expect and about the optional tours offered by the ship. We went to the midnight concert at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromso and the Sea Eagle tour. We love both. I cant speak to any of the others. However, Eva did provide previous passenger ratings so we had some idea of which ones were enjoyed most. She gave us talks on Norwegian history, life in Norway, trolls, and the Norse Gods. She gave us tastes of Norwegian pastry, candy, Aquavitt and chocolate. She showed us movies about heavy water, the Amundsen expedition to the South Pole, Max Manus (Norwegian WW II resistor) and Cool and Crazy. She arranged a pizza party on our last night in Bergen. Every town we visited we had a walk of the area. Her knowledge of each town and its history was amazing. She offered us her computer if we needed to make contact back home. Wireless was available to her. I cant go into every town and tour we had but they were all great. I loved Trondheim. The tour to the North Kapp was amazing. We were luck enough to have perfect weather and could see forever! The tour to the Rokenes Farm in Harstad was memorable. Enroute we stopped at an ancient chapel and had a moment of silence in honor of 9/11 (we were there on that day.). We even saw some Northern lights. They were minimal and very pale in color but even a hint of them was more than we expected. The ship celebrated our crossing of the Arctic Circle and the Trollfjord with fun events. In between town and stops the scenery was lovely either the sun shining on the fjords and villages or the rain and clouds hanging over the tree and mountain tops and glaciers. It was all lovely. We toured with an amazing group of travelers. There wasnt any one of us who complained. We all liked each other and helped those who needed assistance. Wed do the trip again in a minute! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
My husband, 2 yr old son and I just returned from a 12-day Norway voyage on Hurtigruten's Richard With. Cabins - We splurged and booked a mini-suite so we'd have more room with our son, and this gave us more than enough ... Read More
My husband, 2 yr old son and I just returned from a 12-day Norway voyage on Hurtigruten's Richard With. Cabins - We splurged and booked a mini-suite so we'd have more room with our son, and this gave us more than enough room to move around. You can request a crib at check-in if you need one (they will only fit in a suite), though rental is hefty at $25 per day. We decided to share a bed. Our mini-suite was well laid out, with a curtained off area containing a comfy queen bed. This allowed us to put our son to bed, and still have the main area to enjoy the evenings together. Suites have a TV and minibar which was handy for milk and other snacks for our son. A lovely fruit basket was provided to us when we boarded in Bergen, and was refreshed again in Kirkenes. We were also given Hurtigruten coffee mugs, allowing us access to coffee/tea at no charge 24/7 throughout the voyage which was handy and saved us some money. We had cabin 636 which we felt was one of the best located on the entire ship (640 is just as well located and significantly larger). We were below the quiet outdoor deck area and on the starboard side, so we didn't hear any loading/unloading of people, cars or cargo which took place on the port side at each stop. Announcements - Announcements are frequently made over the sound system in Norwegian, English and German (for our southbound voyage they added Italian) which we could hear clearly in our cabin even with the speaker on our phone turned off. We were worried they would wake our son during naps or after bedtime, but the ship generates enough white noise of its own so it wasn't a problem. Cruising with a toddler - Hurtigruten cruises are not really targeted for families with children, meaning there is no babysitting, organized activities or kids meals provided. We knew this in advance and planned accordingly, and made sure we brought along our own books, toys, craft supplies, DVD player and snacks. The ship does have a nice play room with a play house, slide, and a big bin full of toys and Lego duplo blocks, so this was where we spent a lot of our time on board. There were only two other families traveling with kids for the full 12 day voyage but they were infants. But many other toddlers and young children came and went for shorter periods throughout the voyage so there was always someone new for our son to play with in the play room. Keeping our 2 yr old busy took some creativity on our part, but he loved being on the ship. Ports - With a toddler, we were often headed off first to the local playground. The best playgrounds for preschoolers were often located in daycares which are open for use when the kids aren't using them. In one of the ports, daycare staff welcomed our son to join a class of kids. The older kids immediately played host to my son and made him feel comfortable and welcome. These playgrounds turned out to be highlights of our trip - not only did our son get to blow off steam, but we had the opportunity to meet many Norwegian children and to chat with fellow parents and daycare workers who were unbelievably friendly and welcoming. Excursions - We prefer to venture out on our own, so we only participated in one excursion in Trondheim to the Folk Museum in the northwest of the city. We really enjoyed this outing. My husband and I enjoyed the different buildings and our son loved running around and visiting with the resident pigs, cows, rabbit and sheep. Meals - Breakfasts and lunches were always buffet style with open seating in the dining room. Being Norway, fish was obviously a feature of every meal, but there was a lot of selection, including vegetarian and meat options, and the quality of food was excellent. Dinner was a combination of buffet and set meals, some open seating and some at assigned tables. We preferred the buffet meals because of the wider selection of foods, but the set menus were good too. On set menu nights, one appetizer, one main course and one dessert were available and the food was delicious. My husband is allergic to fish and seafood, and I don't eat meat, so our server always provided us with an alternate meal on nights where they were required. Our son would usually eat the same thing as us at dinner but on nights when there wasn't anything to his taste, the chef would whip up some spagetti bolognese or fried rice. One night we purchased a pizza from the cafe and brought it to the dining room for him to eat, and on a few occasions we asked for bread in the dining room and whipped him up a peanut butter sandwich (we always bring along a jar just in case). Traveling with Hurtigruten is not like traditional cruising - there are no organized activites (aside from organized shore excursions you could purchase), no entertainment (aside from a duo singing with a keyboard in the 7th floor lounge in the evenings). If you are looking for a super luxurious experience and midnight buffets, this is not the cruise for you. But if you are looking to experience gorgeous scenery, lovely people, good food and comfortable surroundings, Hurtigruten is it. We've traveled on the Oasis of the Seas and other large cruise ships, but we enjoyed this experience much more. We found this to be far more personal and allowed us to visit small towns the larger ships would never be able to access. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We booked our Hurtigruten cruise with our local travel agent and about 2 weeks before departure, our travel documents arrived. We booked the 12 day round trip from Bergen - Kirkenes - Bergen. Our trip started in Oslo. We spent a day of ... Read More
We booked our Hurtigruten cruise with our local travel agent and about 2 weeks before departure, our travel documents arrived. We booked the 12 day round trip from Bergen - Kirkenes - Bergen. Our trip started in Oslo. We spent a day of sightseeing but wish we had allowed 2 or 3 days for Oslo. The next morning, took a morning train, the Norway in a Nutshell. This is highly recommended with beautiful scenery seen by trains, boat and bus. It takes all day and we were so glad we did it. We arrived in Bergen in the evening and spent the next day and a half sightseeing. Around 3PM we arrived at the Hurtigruten terminal to board the Nordkapp. After checking our large suitcases we were directed to a large waiting room. After not too long of a wait, we were allowed to board and were told our cabins would not be ready until around 6PM. We were able to get into the cabin and drop off our carry on luggage right before the dinner buffet. We met a lovely couple from Australia and had dinner with them. Our first cabin did not have enough shelves for our clothes, plus a window that was about 2 feet deep, so not too good for seeing out. So after about 5 days were allowed to upgrade to a cabin on the 6th Deck which was really great. The beds are really comfortable and there was plenty of room for our larger suitcases. In case you do not want to keep the large suitcases in your cabin, there is a storage room where you can take them to. The ship has a tour director who announces upcoming ports and things of interest to see. There was a large panorama lounge on the 7th Deck for relaxing and seeing the scenery or for reading. There are buffets for breakfast and lunch, with a set time for dinner. If you do not like a lot of fish (like me) you can ask for a vegetarian meal, as long as you let them know by noon. Each meal had an appetizer, main course and dessert. We never went hungry! We booked three excursions. The first was a Geiranger excursion. The Nordkapp went down the Geiranger Fjord, then we disembarked by tender to the small town of Geiranger. We then boarded a bus that went up into the mountains, where we were able to look down and see our ship heading back to Alesund to pick us up. The scenery was beautiful, with a lot of sheep in the meadows. The second excursion was to the North Cape. At Honningsvag, we boarded a bus that took us through very unusual scenery. We saw a lot of reindeer on the mountain sides. After stopping at the North Cape visitor center, we took a lot of photos. That day the weather was very cold and windy. We then headed to a Sami camp and took photos of a Sami with his reindeer. There was a small souvenir shop there. Our third excursion was a tour of the Lofoten Islands. They are very beautiful with dried fish hanging on people's homes. Also, there are large racks where the villages can dry their fish. Every day, there are Hurtigruten ships leaving Bergen to make the round trip to Kirkenes and back to Bergen. It stops at 34 ports going north, and 34 ports going south. What ports are made during the night, are usually made during the day time on the trip back. Some ports are only for 15 minutes, some 30 minutes, and a few are 2 or 3 hours or more. The ship blows it's horn 5 minutes before leaving. The entertainment is the scenery which is always changing. I took loads of pictures of lighthouses, some are very beautiful, and some are really small. Most people were either out on the decks or in the Panorama Lounge. There was one guitar player in the evening that was really good. There is a small Cafe if anyone would be hungry. It is also for the locals who board the ship from port to port. The Gift shop was small, but held a lot of items and there were always sales going on. There is an internet room, but the connections are really slow. It took us 40 minutes to log on and write one email while we were in Kirkenes! There is also a small kid's play room. Getting off the ship, even if it is for 30 minutes or less and just watching the cargo being loaded and unloaded is very interesting. We saw farm implements, potting soil, frozen fish and even kitchen cabinets! Disembarkation is like most cruise ships, we had to leave our luggage outside our cabin by 9AM, and be out of our cabin by 10AM. So we just stayed in the Panorama Lounge until the ship reached Bergen. Then, we were dismissed by our cabin deck, which we were one of the first. We then caught a taxi to our Bed and Breakfast. This was a great trip and highly recommend it to anyone who does not need to be pampered every day and can be independent. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
As first time cruisers we deliberately went for short trip from Bergen to Tromso. There was a bit of unnecessary queuing at Bergen to get on, but otherwise eveything went like clockwork. I can't fault the ship - friendly and ... Read More
As first time cruisers we deliberately went for short trip from Bergen to Tromso. There was a bit of unnecessary queuing at Bergen to get on, but otherwise eveything went like clockwork. I can't fault the ship - friendly and helpful staff, clean, comfortable and no pressure to do anything. We're not ones for entertainment, preferring to relax and chat, and this trip was ideal. We loved the fact that it stopped in lots of places, even if not for long enough to get off at all of them, and some were nightime stops so we had to choose between sleep or seeing another place. The constant stops also meant people coming and going, including locals. We went on a couple of trips off the ship, to the Viking Museum on the Lofoten Islands and dog sledding at Tromso, both of which were great. The former was a real adventure as the wind and driving snow was so bad the coach driver wasn't sure if he could get back to the ship. We even tried reindeer stew which was pretty tasty (sorry Rudolf!) Food on the ship was good, but not huge choice. We love fish, but if you didn't it could be a problem. One thing I was worried about was sea sickness, but the ship was stable, even during a Force 8 gale. Most of the trip is in sheltered waters, but it does occasionally go out into the wilder seas. We choose one of the bigger, newer ships as we heard the older ones do not cope nearly so well in the storms. Our hope was to see the northern lights but the weather was not good, and at times there was so much cloud and blizzards we couldn't see anything from the ship - but we can't blame anyone for that. Would definitely recommend it and are now planning to do the next leg from Tromso to Kirkenes to try to see the lights and also to return during the summer. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
On January 29th 2011 we went on the Hurtigruten Classic Round Voyage sailing from Bergen to Kirkenes and back to Bergen.We booked direct with Hurtigruten by phone. They did offer flights and transfers from Gatwick, but we booked ... Read More
On January 29th 2011 we went on the Hurtigruten Classic Round Voyage sailing from Bergen to Kirkenes and back to Bergen.We booked direct with Hurtigruten by phone. They did offer flights and transfers from Gatwick, but we booked independently online with Norwegian Airlines and saved over £600. When we arrived in Bergen we boarded the Hurtigruten bus and paid for our fare. It took us to the Hurtigruten Terminal where we had to wait for the Trollfjord to return. When all the passengers had disembarked we were allowed to go aboard. We were aware this was not your regular cruise ship, but you would never have guessed it as it was much better than the previous cruise ship we went on. We were in cabin 706 on deck 7 in a small corridor that led to the Bridge. The cabin had a very large window, a most comfortable large bed adequate drawer and wardrobe space and a shower/toilet. Very comfortable and warm. The toilet had underfloor heating. We set sail at 10pm that night and started our journey northward. As it was dark we didn't see anything until the next morning when we drew the curtains and saw some beautiful scenery. We stopped at 34 ports , some for 2-3 hours some of the smaller ones for just 15 mins. The announcements were made when we were about to stop in 3 different languages. The dining room was large and breakfast was a buffet style as was the lunch. In the evening we had our set tables and were served by a very obliging team of waiters and waitresses. Nothing was too much for them. The breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon,sausages, fried potatoes,meats, cheeses, fish, cereals, porridge, fruit and lovely bread rolls, marmalade and jam. Tea and coffee was self service. Lunches were again buffet style with a selection of different salads, hot and cold meats, fish, soup, pate, vegetables and the most mouthwatering desserts you can ever imagine with a choice of up to 6/7 items. Dinner was a little bit more formal with some very good food, although we did not eat the reindeer meat offered.(Kept thinking about Rudolph!) We were offered an alternative by the ever helpful staff. This was a very relaxing cruise for us sitting about doing nothing, looking at the wonderful scenery that passed by, occasionally reading. There were quite a few passengers cruising and a number of passengers that were using the ship as a ferry to get to different ports. The embarking and disembarking at the ports was done with great precision and the ship docked at all the ports on time. As we went through the Arctic Circle we all were given a Hurtigruten woolly hat which was needed as the weather started to get colder and more snow was seen. The best thing about this cruise was you were not badgered to spend any extra money as you are on regular cruise ships, and not pushed to go on any excursions..it was your choice. There was no 'standing on ceremony' every night in the Dining room. People were dressed casual tidy and smart (Leave the jewels at home !) The Northern Lights came out 4 times as we sailed North of Tromso.The scenery was spectacular. The ship was brilliant as was the crew. The only problem (which was soon put right when we stopped at a port) was that they ran out of Teabags !!! possibly due to the high number of British people on board. I can honestly say this was the best cruise we have been on, and would love to return to Hurtigruten and visit Greenland to see the Polar Bears... Thank you Hurtigruten and the crew of the Trollfjord for making out cruise so memorable. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Not many reviews have been written on the ships belonging to the Norwegian Hurtigruten company, so it was with some little ignorance and trepidation that we booked our Arctic Highlights 4-day cruise in an attempt to witness the often ... Read More
Not many reviews have been written on the ships belonging to the Norwegian Hurtigruten company, so it was with some little ignorance and trepidation that we booked our Arctic Highlights 4-day cruise in an attempt to witness the often elusive Northern Lights. We'd read that the Nordlys was commissioned in 1994, had a capacity of 475 passengers and that it was a working ferry."Hmmm" we thought, "back to basics then, a bit of an old tub". Well, how wrong our perceptions were. The Nordlys (and Hurtigruten) was refreshingly honest without the unsubstantiated marketing hype that has proceeded our cruises with Celebrity, P+O, Cunard et al. We'll run through some basics which may help in developing a more accurate picture of what to expect than we were party to. We flew out from Heathrow (at 07.30) with SAS to Oslo, coupled with another 2hr transfer flight to our embarkation port of Tromso. The H'row / Oslo flight offered us no complimentary beverages at all so be prepared for a 2 hours of no grub. For some reason on the internal transfer flights you are offered soft drinks, tea and coffee. We were met at Tromso airport by a Hurtigruten rep and very efficiently herded on to the coach transfer to our ship at the port. Being a working ferry, it was like waiting for a bus - and it was blooming cold. After about 25 minutes the boat pulled in and the chaotic check-in commenced, carrying our own luggage over the snow and ice, up the gangway to a very small reception desk for check-in. Not an impressive start but where did it say we would be waited on hand foot and finger? It didn't. But, the crew were very obliging and polite in helping us all out and this was generally the theme throughout our cruise. Our cabins were not ready immediately but we waited in the lounge to be informed, which was about an hour. The cabin itself was small - very small - and equipped with 2 single beds (one was the lower half of a bunk bed, where the top bunk was folded against the wall, the other was a sofa bed). The bathroom was small but, in fact, not that much smaller than the one we endured on our recent Azura cruise and the shower was 10 times better! The beds were quite firm (well Lynne said uncomfortably hard). Our cabin (note -not hyped up a Stateroom)was positioned on the 3rd deck and about two thirds down towards the aft. This meant you had fairly constant engine noise and other mechanical noises as the ship manouvred and docked throughout the day and night - remember it's a working ferry. We were half board and enjoyed a fairly substantial buffet breakfast of typical European fayre comprising cold meats, cheeses, fruit, cereal, rolls and bread, fruit juice etc together with some cooked items for us Brits. No queues, no fighting for tables, carrying your tray for miles. All very pleasant and freshly prepared and replenished. For lunch and snacks there is a small cafe but be warned of the prices - £4 for half litre of water, £5 for a coffee, £7 for a baguette. Ouch! The evening meals were taken at designated tables at either 6.30pm or 8.30pm. It was very re-assuring to be greeted by a supervisor at the door insisting on the use of a hand sanitisor. We enjoyed such things as fresh soup, freshly prepared fish (pollock, salmon, cod) and venison steak all presented from a set menu. One evening saw us tucking into a wonderful fresh seafood buffet including salmon, king crab, lobster, mussels, king prawns, cod etc. Indeed, the food generally was more than a match for the "exquisite and sumptuous 5-star gourmet fayre" Celebrity would have you believe you are in for. But another "Ouch" - £8 per glass of house wine. The decor is what you would call "traditional" with much use of wood (not veneer, P+O) brass and glass. The seating areas are comfortable with 2 bars, a very good observation lounge at the bow and a quiet area with library. And - BLISS - not a shred of that awfull intrusive piped music. No art auction. No constant announcements of yet another opportunity to part with your cash. Hooray, just the sound of gentle chatter. Hurtigruten offer excursions and they seem to be pretty well run, if not a little pricey. But again, they don't wax lyrical about them in a glossy brochure and there is no hard sell. We went to the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes and it was facinating as well as informative throughout. And all at minus 15 degrees too. There's little in the way of entertainment save learning how to tie knots and being introduced to freshly caught king crabs. Yes, we saw the Northern Lights - twice - and sightings are relayed over the ship's tannoy. You can also arrange to be phoned in your cabin if it's during the sleeping hours. But, don't go out in your nightey!! So, to recap, this is a no frills, honest to goodness cruise in a jolly hostile but very picturesque environment. Be sure to take your camera as the snow clad fjords present a marvellous outlook. It's a working vessel so there is some disturbance but it's certainly not intrusive. The staff and the whole ambience on board is one of helpfulness and welcoming. There are no pretentious promises that fail to live up to expectations. Indeed, this may even undersell itself. What a refreshingly welcome change. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Oslo-Tromso 0915-1100 (Flight) £30 Tromso-Tronheim 0130-0615 (3 sleeps later) £200 (Inc Breakfast) Trondheim-Oslo 0930-1020 (Flight) £40 Right, this is all about the best trip I have ever taken. If you want scenery then ... Read More
Oslo-Tromso 0915-1100 (Flight) £30 Tromso-Tronheim 0130-0615 (3 sleeps later) £200 (Inc Breakfast) Trondheim-Oslo 0930-1020 (Flight) £40 Right, this is all about the best trip I have ever taken. If you want scenery then this is the best in the world, I am not joking! This trip is what I would call the "Lofoten" cruise. Every corner you take is another picture. Tromso is great to see the Northern lights and go up the cable car for great views of the city. The Artic church is very nice. (Oh, if you need to taste the best sandwich ever visit the bakery in front of the old church in the center of town. Also, do not leave Tromso without trying "Mack" beer, the Worlds most northern brewery.) I was supposed to get off at Bodo to get the train to Trondheim, but the cruise was so darn good, I begged to stay on board. Must see and do's in Trondheim, The cathedral and the crown jewels. Also take a walk over the old bridge. If your young go to a bar called "Down Town" The staff were great and very helpful with information on important facts. Rooms were comfy, my room 350 had all I needed (inc sockets) Book it, and you wont regret it, that is a promise! Take a spare battery for the camera! Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
we spent 6 days out of a 2 week trip on the soutbound voyage of the midnatsol from kirkenes to bergen (note- we got on in kirkenes). this was the first cruise for my family, which includes 2 daughters ages 13 and 17. i was very anxious ... Read More
we spent 6 days out of a 2 week trip on the soutbound voyage of the midnatsol from kirkenes to bergen (note- we got on in kirkenes). this was the first cruise for my family, which includes 2 daughters ages 13 and 17. i was very anxious about them having enough to do, about seasickness and about the food- but i needn't have worried about any of it- it was a fantastic experience for all of us. the scenery was spectacular, the ship was well appointed, i loved the frequent stops, the food was interesting and there was always something for everyone, and we had 2 wonderful excursions. a few other points: -the folks on board are mostly older- not sure why exactly. it is a great cruise if your mobility is handicapped because you can just sit and watch and be amazed- but i think it's great for families too. my daughters didn't make any friends which was a slight disappointment -the folks on board seemed to keep to themselves more than i'm used to with fellow travelers. also, many tables for meals seat 2 or 4 so you may not have to sit with anyone at meals. for us this was ok. -it's a casual ship- not dressing for dinner (loved that) -the food is european, with buffets for breakfast and lunch and a served set meal for dinner. the quality and presentation far exceeded my expectations. i also liked it that this cruise is not focused hugely on food, with midnight buffets etc. my daughters loved trying antelope and reindeer and other local cuisines. -it's more casual with service as well- between meals folks clean up their dishes etc. which again i liked -we did 2 excursions: the vega archipelago and the lofoten islands. the lofoton islands tour was by bus, and a bit long but interesting. vega was by boat and bus and is not to be missed. one down side of excursions i s they are held during the few extended and prime time port visits. we rarely visited towns where shops were open, which was a bit frustrating sometimes, but we loved seeing so many ports even for 15 minutes. -the weather, visibility and sea conditions for us were wonderful. i'm not sure if this is the norm or not for this time of the year, but no one experienced seasickness and there was good visibility for the majority of the time -norway is expensive, so additional snacks, beverages and alcohol can add up, but none of these things are necessary to purchase- there's plenty of food and water is served with every meal (i read some reviews that said you had to pay for water which is not true). there are also typically convenience stores close to ports so you can always pick up beverages and snacks -the size of this ship seemed perfect to me- you grew to know the staff and know your way around the ship. some of the public spaces were lovely. there was always room everywhere we wanted to sit. -be prepared for cool weather and lots of intermittent rain. the weather reports didn't sufficiently prepare us for the chilly weather, which was in the 60-70 range. -we had 2 adjacent double outside cabins which were small but perfectly sufficient. i might have chosen on interior quad with hindsight; we weren't in our room that much i can't say enough really about how spectacular the scenery was throughout the journey. it was often right up close, and even the most remote and desolate seeming landscapes always had a few red houses tucked in... i would highly recommend this trip to anyone that enjoys experiencing other cultures, loves watching magnificent views and is happy sitting and reading or occupying themselves (vs. being entertained). we spent time before the trip in copenhagen, and after in bergen, oslo and gothenberg, so we had some more cultural and urban experiences as well. this was our best family vacation yet- i hope other enjoy it! kirkenes- recommend staying at the thon hotel, but nothing much to do there as far as i can tell! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
We bordered at Kirkenes and embarked at Bergen. Before driving on board the luggage was taken off the car and brought to the cabin by ship staff. It is not possible to go to the car after it has been left on the small car deck, approx 20 ... Read More
We bordered at Kirkenes and embarked at Bergen. Before driving on board the luggage was taken off the car and brought to the cabin by ship staff. It is not possible to go to the car after it has been left on the small car deck, approx 20 cars are accommodated. The cabins are small but sufficient. However, there is no minibar but the bars on board are very helpful and offer ice cubes. Wine and spirits are very expensive on board. Restaurants and other places on board are very nice. Staff is over all helpful and pleasant. At booking we were informed that the price included gratuities but in fact the staff expect tipping. Envelopes marked "tips" are available at several places and at the end of the trip several envelopes were discreetly passed to "favourites". Excursions are very well organized and if the weather is fine, good opportunities for sceneries. The guides speak excellent languages at least English,German and French and are in general very professional. The Norwegian coastline is very beautiful, probably the nicest in the world.The ship stops at 33 ports, very often for 15 minutes only. In other ports a little longer and it is possible to take a short walk.Hurtigruten is basically a passenger ferry and approx. 50% of the passengers are on board between a few ports only. Our journey took place at the end of July and in the middle of the summer. But the weather was unreliable, sometimes nice with warm sunbathing at sundeck but most of the time foggy and rainy. Finally, trip can be recommended. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
The world's most beautiful voyage is how the Hurtigruten cruise line bills the coastal voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes. They are so right! We were on the Midnatsol the same time as karoggra who posted a review titled, Best scenic ... Read More
The world's most beautiful voyage is how the Hurtigruten cruise line bills the coastal voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes. They are so right! We were on the Midnatsol the same time as karoggra who posted a review titled, Best scenic cruise in the world. The voyage is rarely on open sea so you have scenery on both sides of the ship most of the trip. My husband and I were traveling on a tour arranged by travel agency so we had a pickup from our hotel to the dock. We arrived about 6 p.m. after an all day Norway in a Nutshell® tour. Check-in took seconds and we boarded with our carry-on bags. The cabin cards were handed to us as we entered the covered walkway to deck 6. The deck 6 entrance is only used at Bergen. Our bags were waiting at the entrance to our cabin. Since we were doing a round-trip and started at the home port, baggage handling was done by the ship crew. Ship: We had an starboard outside cabin on deck 4. It was 2 cabins away from the atrium where the elevators are located. All the traffic on and off the ship on the voyage takes place on deck 4 by the elevators so it was very handy. The ship has its own gangway which opens up on the side of the side. Stand on deck 5 and watch the gangway open sometime. It is very interesting. There are two other openings in the side of the ship further down for cargo and cars. The ship doesn't have to rely on port gangways which take time. The ship is very efficient getting in and out of ports. Some stops were for only 15 minutes. I learned how they did that visiting the bridge. The cargo hold is designed for pallets so the forklift trucks would be whipping around on the dock unloading or loading. At Stamsund, we had over an hour stay so while we were out walking around the village, the forklift operators were unloading mattresses and building supplies. There is another elevator near the back of the ship serving decks 4 - 8. It is handy for those in the stern of the ship. Public restrooms are available near the dining room on deck 5 and near the main elevators on deck 5 and 8. There is a conference area on deck 5 which is used for presentations or conferences. It is not an entertainment venue. We did have three slide presentations on the ship: The Royal Family, National Day and National Costumes. We are onboard for National Day, May 17. There was a parade around deck 9 with flags, banners, and national costumes. Cabin: Our cabin was very functional. We had a cabin with one twin bed under the window and one perpendicular to it. The bed under the window made into a sofa during the day. The beds are hard but still comfortable. The covers are duvets with a quilted liner. It was too hot for me so I just used the sheet. There was one extra pillow in the room and we asked for another. There are two wool blankets to use on the outside decks. Yes, we needed the blanket when lounging topside some days. You receive one bath towel and one hand towel to start. If you want a clean towel, leave it on the floor. There are no washcloths. I bought a few with me. There is a mounted container of hand soap/shampoo by the sink and in the shower area. To save room packing, I used Twitter @HurtigrutenASA to find out that there was a dryer in the bathroom. There is. The cabin has desk area with small mirrored cubbies on either size of the big mirror. There is a plug by the mirror which we used to charge the camera batteries and iPad. You will need a converter and adapter for the European style plug. The hanging closet had two sections (his and hers) with 5 hangers in each section. The clothes hang front to back rather than side by side. There were two sections of shelving in the main closet and two more big shelves by the desk. The suitcases fit under the bed. The bathroom was very functional and I liked it better than some of the US market ships I have been on. There is a step up to the bathroom. There is a small step down to the shower. It is designed to have an angle to allow more room. The curtain is long enough to keep the water in the shower area. The shower head can be kept mounted on the pole or used as a hand-held. There is a retractable clothes line. The floor can be heated with the switch on the wall outside the bathroom. There is a big wall cabinet with shelves for all your toiletries. I still had space in it after stowing everything. There is a towel bar by the sink with wall mounted cup holders. I found out that the inside cabins do have TV as well as the suites. No TV in the outside cabins. It was not missed. The telephone has some radio stations that you can listen to. There are 4 washing machines on deck 4 close to the rear elevator. You purchase a token from reception and they give you the soap. The dryer is free. There are posted instructions in English. The machines are labelled in Norwegian. We did two loads for about $10. What to do: If you take the round trip cruise you will receive a 130-page book with colored photos and an explanation of what you will see broken down by days. It is a great resource to read about what you are seeing along the way. The Tour Director does make announcements as described in three languages, English is always the second one. She gave us a heads up to what scenic wonder was coming our way so we could get to observation lounges or the correct side of the ship. You can turn off the announcements on the phone in your cabin. As mentioned, there are many lounges without any waiters to bother you about drinks. If you want a drink, you go to the bar and get it yourself. There was a tray for self-busing of cups and glasses in most lounges. We liked the forward lounges on deck 8 and 9 and the library on deck 8. The library has games and some English language books left by passengers. The deck 8 and 9 lounges have windows on three sides so you had a great view of the scenery. Deck 9 lounge is actually open to deck 8 lounge. It does get a little warm up there so we preferred deck 8. Deck 9 had three major sections, the inside lounge, the outside deck with glass walls to protect from the wind and the back deck. We liked to lounge in the back. The chairs are not loungers so if you want to put your feet up, use another chair. There are many teak round tables and matching chairs near the doorway on deck 9. The smokers were usually in this area. Food: I was more impressed with the food than other reviewers. The food presentation at dinner was very impressive. Two chef teams took over the buffet area (in the center of the room) to dish up the food. One did the sauce, one plated the entree and sides and another added the garnishes. We received a booklet with the menus for the trip so we knew what night we would have the reindeer or the salmon. I am not a great fish eater but I did enjoy the meals. Granted the breakfast and lunch buffets didn't vary much but they had a different hot breakfast item daily and hot lunch items. I discovered the hot oatmeal and added dried fruit and granola stuff to it. There was soft and hardboiled eggs very morning. I liked the whole grain breads. They did have a breakfast pasty item each day. They had a 6-slice toaster if you wanted toast. We learned to grab juice and water from the machine and stake out a table for the open seating breakfast. Than we headed to the buffet to stock up. Keep in mind the buffet is designed for the European market so expect cheese and cold cuts on the breakfast menu. Where else can you have cottage cheese and herring for breakfast. My husband was delighted with the 4-5 cheese selections at breakfast and lunch. He reports that they were mostly soft, all delicious, but no cheddar. You won't find tacos, pizza, or hamburgers on the menu. If you want french fries, go to the snack bar and pay for them. The soups were excellent. I like smooth cream soups and these were excellent. Who knew asparagus soup could taste so good. The desserts were good and don't miss out on the slab ice cream at lunch. I didn't discover that until day 4! Coffee: The coffee came out of one of the machines where you press a button and you get a cup of coffee. It is strong! I would have a cup with breakfast and than take another cup out to the lounge. Coffee was not provided at the table for dinner. The coffee machine is located on deck 8 by the bar. After dinner you go for coffee. If you want coffee between meals, you pay 25 KOR ($3.85) for a cup. They do have a coffee plan which is good for an entire year! You pay 209 KOR ($32.20 at this time) for a red metal lined mug which allows you to get coffee or tea for the trip. If you were a commuter and traveled frequently, it would be a good deal. We opted not to do that and were fine with the free coffee after meals. Water: Although there are signs on the dining room table for purified water for 19 KOR, we found out that you just ask for tap water and they bring a carafe of water (no ice) to the table. They do that at lunch and dinner. I brought my own water bottle with me which I refilled from the bathroom sink. The water is nice and cold and tastes like bottled water. Tours: We went on the following excursions: (Northbound) Trondheim Folk Museum, Tromsø City Tour (Polaria and Arctic Cathedral), and (Southbound) Tromsø Midnight Concert [the ship arrives at 11:45 p.m.], Lofoten Islands countryside tour, Trondheim City Tour (includes Nidaros Cathedral). We might have gone on more tours but they are not cheap. My husband says, the Folk Museum could have been skipped. I did the Bridge Tour to see the Captain and the Bridge on day 11. I found it very interesting and worthwhile. That is posted in the daily program. Shopping: The gift shop on board has a very nice selection of Norwegian products. We ended up doing most of our souvenir shopping on board. There is a nice gift shop at the Polar Bear Club in Hammerfest right by the dock. By the way the public library is across the street and has free wi-fi. There is a nice gift shop and ice bar in Honningsvåg close to the dock. Internet Access: There are 4 computers on deck 8 by the library. There is a 40 KOR ($6.22) charge per hour of use. I used my iPad and iTouch with the wireless that is available in the public areas. It is satellite so the reception is dependent upon a good signal so don't expect much when in the fjords or when there are mountain ranges on both sides of the ship. The mountains do impact reception. Deck 8 or 9 is the best. There is no coverage in the cabins and deck 5 is not as strong as deck 8. Thanks to the purser who helped me get the wi-fi started on my new iPad. Staff: The staff are great. All are Norwegian and most switch effortlessly from Norwegian to English to German. The staff work 22 days on and then 22 days off including the captain. We did see some new faces over the course of the cruise. There is not a culture of tipping so we didn't have to worry about an add on for tips like most cruises. There is a big wooden bowl by the head waiter's desk at the entrance to the dining room. There is a small sign that it is for TIPS with Thank You in several languages. We left the rest of our Norwegian money in the tip bowl. The staff are helpful, have a ready smile, are efficient but are not fawning. Since the Hurtigruten line does ferry and cargo service besides us tourists, they have some systems that are not the same as a regular cruise line. What you won't see: no towel animals, no nightly program in your room, (pick it up in the announcement area on deck 8), no turn down service, no free between meal snacks, no singers and dancers (singer and keyboard in the lounge deck 8 in the evening), and no rah rah cruise director. What you will find is a comfortable trip in the midst of spectacular scenery with plenty of time to relax and read or look out the window. As Americans, we were in the minority. The prominent groups were Norwegian and German. The weather was good for most of the trip. The last few days were overcast with clouds hiding the mountain tops. We had clear skies for a good part of the trip and enjoyed the midnight sun. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My sister, mom & I had a splendid time aboard MS Polarlys & only wish we had taken the complete journey North & South! All staff was very friendly & helpful. Views from both inside the Panoramic suite & outside on deck ... Read More
My sister, mom & I had a splendid time aboard MS Polarlys & only wish we had taken the complete journey North & South! All staff was very friendly & helpful. Views from both inside the Panoramic suite & outside on deck were breath taking. The variety and freshness of food was exquisite. The price of drinks in particular water and alcohol was in my view very expensive though. Alesund - A very pretty and picturesque town with its characteristic harbour and buildings. Trondheim - We had a very nice walk along the river and caught sight of the beautiful Nidaros cathedral Svolvaer - I would describe this town as the "perfect picture postcard town" it looks very surreal and quite beautiful. Tromso - We enjoyed the Fjellheisen Cable Car experience, the views of the city and surrounding mountains from the top of mount Storsteinen were spectacular and breathtaking. Honningsvag - Was the last town we visited before departing for England the history behind this town was of great interest with its church being the only original building still standing after the 2nd World war! A very enjoyable and memorable holiday. Thank you! Allison Barwell - Warwickshire England Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
I will place emphasis on the cruise portion. With a group reservation the tickets were waiting at the pier and we quickly boarded. Our cabin number was only then provided based on the chosen category. My cabin proved to be a problem ... Read More
I will place emphasis on the cruise portion. With a group reservation the tickets were waiting at the pier and we quickly boarded. Our cabin number was only then provided based on the chosen category. My cabin proved to be a problem because it was next to the loading ramp and by the laundry room. There was little chance to change the cabin as all cabins were booked well ahead.       The Ms. Polarlys is a typical fleet ship with about 550 passengers as well as cargo and ferry service. The ship kept tightly to schedule and stopped at about 34 ports (same group) in each direction on the round trip voyage. Day and night schedule alternated. The departure date was on the Winter Schedule and just before the switch to Summer Schedule. This limited some stops and excursions.       All meals were included with the package. Breakfast and lunch were buffet and open seating. Dinner was a fixed (feature) menu with reserved seating. It would be very costly to purchase the meals on your own. The food was varied and typical Scandinavian with lots of fish but plenty of choices. Reindeer was presented, too. Cruisers with dietary concerns were accepted but the menu was limited.       The cabin was smaller than some ships but fine for me. I had a futon style bed by the window and fold down bed from the wall. There is a small desk. Power is controlled with the room's key card and there is both 220 and limited 110 ac power. Linen/towel service is on demand or weekly bed change. There are no televisions in the cabin. A phone with radio was in each room. For two people, the storage space might be tight. The bathroom was good and water temperature is great. In rough weather there is some water noise. My cabin had a window and seemed close to the sea (on deck 3).       Decks notes: Deck four has the dining room, snack area, Internet room (free for many users), tour desk, bar lounge, child play area, meeting rooms, shop and viewing seats. Deck three is the service desk, laundry and most of the gangway use. Deck five is the boat deck and outside viewing in some sections. Deck seven has the panorama lounge, bar lounge, library and more viewing areas.       Other passengers without cabins, slept on overnight portions, in the viewing lounge and the library. Some children were along but I might not be sure that all tourists would want their children along on this trip. Announcements were usually in four languages as needed: Norwegian, English, German and French. The currency on board is Norwegian Kroner or an arrangement with your credit card. Americans will be frustrated with what we see as high costs and as compared to our money and economy. English is commonly spoken.       The scenery is the prime entertainment. If you take photos, be prepared to shoot through glass (often dirtied by weather) or be dressed to go on the outside decks. The weather will have great effect.       The trip can be very relaxing in most cases with plenty of time to socialize and watch the "world's most beautiful" scenery pass by. Don't expect a fancy, upscale cruise line arrangement. This is a great trip for those who want the adventure and experience. I am sure that I did not tell all here so I may be able to help your questions but do the research, too. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Great trip with Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes with a night pre-cruise in Bergen and one night post-cruise in Oslo. Ship, MS Midnatsol, is one of the newest and largest ships in Hurtigruten's fleet. She had just been in the ... Read More
Great trip with Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes with a night pre-cruise in Bergen and one night post-cruise in Oslo. Ship, MS Midnatsol, is one of the newest and largest ships in Hurtigruten's fleet. She had just been in the dockyard for a minor refurbishment - evidence of newly laid carpets but no obvious remaining jobs to be completed. Ship is elegant and comfortable in the public areas with very interesting art collection. Cabin was a U grade Ocean View with a large porthole. Travelling as a single so one bunk was always kept as a sofa. Limited storage space; would have been a struggle for 2 on an eleven night trip. Single bunk was comfortable with a good reading light. Bathroom typical of most ships; compact but functional but with the added bonus of a heated floor. Dining Ship was not full so single seating in main dining room, breakfast was free seating, other meals were nearly all at your assigned table. Breakfast and lunch were buffet and dinner was generally a set menu. I enjoyed all the set menus and didn't feel the need to ask for a change. (Menu is published in advance and you can request something different if you really don't fancy the set dish). Good blend between fish and meat main courses. Alcohol is very expensive. Tea and coffee is served after lunch and dinner in the lounge, other times you have to purchase hot beverages or purchase the refill cup. I like tea so I took my travel kettle with me. Crew Very proactive Norwegian crew, happy to help and talk about their country. Tips are optional. Travelling Companions For this winter trip few people were using the ship as a ferry most were 'cruising' or onboard for a conference. About 200 were doing the Northbound trip like me, about the same number again doing the round trip. We were joined by a stargazing group of about 100 for the middle section and a conference group for 2 nights. Majority of cruisers were British but with a fair number of German and French speakers. (Excursion to the North Cape had 2 full english speaking buses, one partially full german and one partially full french bus). Weather Generally sunny during the day but cold. At night very cold and with the ships speed and windchill down to equivalent of -25 degC. Layers and a good hat and gloves are a must. Lots of snow falling when leaving Kirkenes so plane had to be deiced and a bit late as a result. Photography Hurtigruten had a professional photographer, Simon, on board for this trip. Simon helped everyone to take better photos but particularly of the Northern Lights which obligingly came out for three consecutive nights. Absolute highlight of the trip. Entertainment Duo played most nights in the lounge but the main draw for this trip was being out on deck watching the sky. Ports 34 Ports are visited on this trip, I explored in Bergen, Alesund, Trondheim, Bodo, Tromso, Honningsvag (for North Cape) and Oslo. Quick Review here since most of the ports aren't in the drop down list. Bergen, have visited twice before so went up the funicular to look over the city in the snow and spent time at the art gallery. Alesund, ship excursion to walk around the town to see the Art Nouveau buildings and the museum. Trodheim, Ship City tour including very beautiful Nidaros cathedral. Bodo, just strolled around the town to stretch my legs. Tromso, Ship city tour including Polaria and Arctic Cathedral. Honningsvag, Ship excursion to snow swept North Cape. Oslo, Munch Museum and shopping. Overall Wonderful trip, Northern Lights were way beyond expectation, Ports were interesting, Food was much better than expected. Would I travel again - yes and I'd like to go in the middle of the winter to see the Arctic Night. Expensive trip even with no single supplement in the winter season but worth every penny. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
We booked this cruise in the heat of August, and as the date approached and we experienced record cold and snow in the Washington, DC, area, we asked ourselves, "Are we crazy?" We flew to Bergen on February 27th, and stayed in ... Read More
We booked this cruise in the heat of August, and as the date approached and we experienced record cold and snow in the Washington, DC, area, we asked ourselves, "Are we crazy?" We flew to Bergen on February 27th, and stayed in a hotel there for two nights, touring the city, and Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg's summer home, studio, and museum. We boarded the Richard With two days later, and set sail for the north coast of Norway, then eastward to the Russian border. Along the way we stopped at 34 ports, day and night. Then we turned around and sailed back to Bergen, stopping at the same 34 ports; those visited at night northbound were daytime stops southbound, and vice-versa. I must add here that we booked our trip through a Boston travel company, which provided air arrangements, the hotel stay in Bergen before and after the cruise, and a program manager/guide, who traveled with the 47 of us, presented a daily one-hour lecture on ports visited, Norwegian and Scandinavian history, politics, and geography, led optional walks in nearly every port, and attended to all our needs. We also had five Hurtigruten shore excursions included in the price. The ship is a working ferry, carrying cargo and cars from port to port, and day passengers as well. So it is not your typical cruise ship. We reserved a mini-suite, category Q. There are eight such mini-suites, plus two suites. All other accommodations are smallish cabins with two bunk beds - one is a couch that folds into a bed, the other is attached to the wall, and is pulled down to sleep on. When both are in the sleep position, there is about 18" between them, and not much more space. All bathrooms are identical - small, but with separate showers. There are 490 berths in all, with the capacity for an additional 200 day passengers, who can be found sleeping overnight in lounges or other public areas. Our mini-suite was adequate, a sitting area, and a typical cruise ship double bed, a dressing table, closets, and other storage. Benefits of paying extra for the suite included a mini-bar (we used the refrigerator for fresh fruit and beer that we bought ashore), TV set, champagne on boarding, a fruit basket which was refilled twice, a tour of the bridge (normally NK80) and a drink afterward, and membership in the coffee club. Unlike typical cruse ships, meals are buffet breakfast and lunch, and fixed served dinners. Any food in between mealtimes, including coffee, is available only in the cafeteria, and at a price. Having the coffee club membership allowed us to fill our coffee cups anytime, 24 hours, in the cafeteria, which is usually used by the day passengers. The other perk of having a suite allowed us to stay in our cabin on disembarkation day until the ship docked around 2:30PM; all other passengers had to vacate their cabins at 10:00AM. Speaking of food, it is plentiful, but not especially gourmet fare. The breakfast and lunch buffets have huge selections of cold meats, smoked fish, three kinds of herring, cheeses, and pate. There are several selections of hot foods, including mutton and cabbage, cod tongue, reindeer stew, and more conventional choices such as turkey cutlets, pork, and fish, both sauteed and sauced. There is also a daily soup at lunch. Dinners are three courses, no choices. One night might be a soup, fish with potatoes and vegetable, and dessert; another night might be seared scallop appetizer, lamb chops, dessert. All soups and most entrees were barely warm, all entrees were over-salted and over-sauced. Desserts were just OK. Service was attentive, but not solicitous. The scenery is the star of this voyage and it was breathtaking! Sailing in the fjords is like nothing I've seen before. Small villages all along the water, with mountains rising behind them. Snow cover everywhere. We encountered an Arctic storm in the Barents Sea, which rocked and rolled the ship for the better part of two days. Walking around was an adventure, and several people suffered from some degree of seasickness. Fortunately, (or unfortunately for our waistlines) my wife and I did not miss a meal. For the most part, though, the journey was quite smooth. Embarking and Disembarking at the various ports was easy - the built-in retractable gangplank made an easy walk ashore, and for security one only had to scan his key card on or off. While the ship is a working cargo ship/ferry, the public spaces are lovely - three lounges, a large outside space, a promenade deck which encircled the entire ship, a library, and an arcade made plenty of room for socializing, reading, playing games, or just watching the scenery. There are also two hot tubs, a small exercise room, and a sauna. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
Having booked the Hurtigruten Tour with the operators in London, I was disappointed with the level of information I had been provided with,even after requesting details and switched my booking across to Thomas Cook to continue. They were ... Read More
Having booked the Hurtigruten Tour with the operators in London, I was disappointed with the level of information I had been provided with,even after requesting details and switched my booking across to Thomas Cook to continue. They were far more helpful but still got little information out of the staff booking at Head Office. As a first time traveller on this cruise line I had no idea how to dress,what we would eat,cabins, ports of call and tour guide information on board. However, as it was for my husbands 50th Birthday I booked it and I felt it essential I write this guide to impress to other travellers how different the experience on board is compared with the initial view of Hurtigruten's capability to organise tours. Perhaps I just got hold of the wrong booking operator! Hurtigruten staff and Polarys crew are the friendliest you could want to meet and i would encourage everyone to do this tour of the Arctic for an amazing experience at Wintertime. For anyone wishing to travel here are the FACTS; You are met at the airport by an operative of Hurtigruten and taken by bus to the ship. The ship docks and you carry your luggage on board to check in. It works like a ferry so you take your luggage to your apartment and you can then go back to the town until the ship leaves. It blow its horn to tell you it's departing and you get time to board. CABINS Basic but comfortable and warm. We had 2 beds in ours with a porthole window. A basic hairdryer and room for clothes and cases in the cupboards. No mini bars, no toilettries other than a soap/shower dispenser on the wall but towels are changed daily. There is no room service but you can take food from the restaurant to the room if you do not want to attend for dinner. ON BOARD The ship is warm and you just need a cardigan for walking around. The Polarys has the most amazing lounge which is darkened during the day so you can sit and gaze out at the snow covered fjords. Some of the regulars sleep up here when they board for short journeys so its peaceful, calming and tranquil. Even my 22 year old son enjoy sitting with his walkman looking out at the weather, mountains and views. There is a lounge also where a duo sang for all of our 3 nights, they also show films here sometimes and on one evening brought on board Arctic Crabs which we all ran outside to see. There is a wash room down by the pursers office where you can dry clothes after coming back from excursions. Relatively cheap to do this and better than leaving them in the cabin. They make announcements regularly so you do not miss the Northern Lights. They inform you about highlights on the ship and the tour guide was wonderful and informative. The ship stops in ports up and down the fjords some for 15 minutes, others for 2 hours. You can disembark at any port as long as you are back on board for sailing times. If you miss the ferry it goes without you! Some places we would have loved to have stayed longer but as it is an essential ferry making scheduled stops it gave us the opportunity to visit places we can now return to. RESTAURANT Serves a vast selection of food and if you are full board on ship you are provided with breakfast and dinner. Although they offer you are coffee deal you actually get coffee at breakfast and are offered it again after dinner up in the lounge so we didn't think it was worth paying the extra for this and saved it for soft drinks for the kids. Also when you get off in port you tend to buy coffee as its so cold on land you need respite and warmth! There is also a shop on board and a canteen style restaurant where you can buy burgers, food etc if you are hungry lunchtime as well. To be honest we had so much food morning and evening the kids managed on crisps and snacks and saved us money! TOUR GUIDE He has his own little area where you can book additional trips. He arranges for films to be shown, he gives lectures on Arctic life and generally you see him around ship if you need advice. Some of our trips were cancelled due to weather conditions and he advises of new tours, or refunds in KRONER what you cannot attend. He was friendly, helpful and made our trip really nice. Every tour has a guide to take you on your way and make sure you do not miss the ferry back. CLOTHING We bought boots, hats, good quality jackets, undergarments and socks. We also bought ski trousers. At the dogsledding you are provided with boots, gloves, outerwear and blankers (if going to Tromso). You do not need to go mad as you can dry all your clothing on board if it gets wet and you have time in between ports to do this. TROMSO A nice town with some lovely hotels and of course during our visit it was dark the whole time. We stayed at the Bryggen Clarion which is located right on the waters edge and is medium priced compared to some of the others. The rooms are large, nice showers, hairdryers and good hearty breakfast. It was all pleasantly decorated for Christmas and staff were helpful. In TROMSO you can go on for excursions and we decided to go for the dog sledding option. We were picked up from the boat with our cases and then after the tour dropped back at the airport for our flights home. A wonderful experience with Arctic Pathfinders booked via Hurtigruten. 300 huskies desperate to pull sleighs. Afterwards a lovely hot soup and reindeer stew in a sami tent. The town has a lovely church to visit and a high street, shops and you can get around in a couple of hours. KIRKENES This was the highlight of our tour and I wished we could stay longer. You can visit the snow hotel, reindeer farm and husky ride and the journey through to the centre is lovely with snow covered hills all along the way. Most enjoyable only too short a time. I would re-visit this town as we did not get time to stop in town and go on the dog sledding. HAMMERFEST Another pretty town with the Polar Bear museum which is worth visiting. We looked around the town and went into the indoor centre (the size of a small Debenhams) where the locals were drinking coffee and carrying on life in the Arctic. This is the Northernmost town in the Arctic and interesting to see in winter when its dark all day. We arrived at 11.45 and it felt like 6pm..Cold, snowing and full of glowing lights. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My sons surprised us with a "Northern Lights" cruise last Christmas and we spent a year almost planning it, we wanted to see the elusive Northern Lights and tried to find out when would be the best time to do this. November was ... Read More
My sons surprised us with a "Northern Lights" cruise last Christmas and we spent a year almost planning it, we wanted to see the elusive Northern Lights and tried to find out when would be the best time to do this. November was recommended so with almost eleven months to wait we opted for the end of November. We booked the round trip from Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen and opted for a Q class cabin, this was on deck 7 of the Midnatsol, the cabin was just right, a very comfortable large double bed with a large porthole so that we could watch the snow capped mountains float by. Adequate storage for clothes and personal belongings, a shower room with an excellent shower and heated floor, we also had a television and a fridge, the television could be tuned to the webcam on the bow of the ship and we could watch where we were sailing....handy for early mornings. Cabins were cleaned everyday with clean towels replaced. All meals were included in the cost, the buffet breakfast was served from 7am to 10am and plenty of choice, from hot and cold dishes, fruit, cereals etc. Lunch also buffet and a very generous selection of hot and cold dishes, the salads were excellent, also the sweets! Lunch was served from 12.30 to 2pm. Dinner was served at 7pm and at your allocated table and was waiter service, the waiters were all friendly and chatted away. Two excursions were included in the price, one a sight seeing tour where we left the ship and rejoined at the next port, a really lovely insight into how the Norwegian people live and work, the tour guide was very good and it was a lovely break from the ship, the second "free" tour was to North Cape and although we enjoyed this it was very dark and felt we missed out on a lot of very beautiful scenery and was really just the wrong time of year for it. We had booked an extra excursion for dog sledding in Tromso but unfortunately due to lack of snow was unable to do this, we did however go to see the huskies, it was very unusual for inadequate snow in November! The Northern Lights remained elusive and no sightings, we were told this was very unusual, and while it was a disapointment we took it as a sign that we are meant to return to this beautiful country. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip, and it was a totally different experience which we would love to repeat someday. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
****17-day Grand Norway Vacation 4/21-5/7/09**** Summary:Fabulous!!!!  The city visits were great.  The train to Bergen wonderful.  The scenery was spectacular every day all day.Overview The voyage is billed as "The Most ... Read More
****17-day Grand Norway Vacation 4/21-5/7/09**** Summary:Fabulous!!!!  The city visits were great.  The train to Bergen wonderful.  The scenery was spectacular every day all day.Overview The voyage is billed as "The Most Beautiful Voyage in the World" and it would be very difficult to take issue with that statement.  Check out the book of that name published by Hurtigruten (ISBN 82-993154-3-1).  It provides detailed maps and descriptions of the voyage.  We bought it on board for about $20. Four of us (2 couples) left Washington Dulles on 4/21/09 for an overnight flight to Frankfort with connection to Oslo from there.  Our flight was delayed for over an hour at Dulles because of weather problems in the New York City airspace through which we were routed.  We arrived in Frankfort about an hour late, but made our connection to Oslo. Travel Note:  When checking in we were given the opportunity to upgrade to Economy Plus on both of the United Airlines transatlantic flights and we upgraded.  It made a tremendous difference.  4 to 5 inches more between seats is very significant! Oslo Found the Flytoget train at the Oslo airport with no problems and took it to the Oslo Central Station.  We used a cab to get to the Thon Stephon hotel.  Because of fatigue we had dinner at the hotel.  Everything is very expensive in Norway.  A hamburger and beer cost about $25.  Hotel was fine.  Breakfast (included) at the hotel was fantastic.  Free internet was available. Because of limited ambulatory capabilities, we took the Oslo Highlights tour from H&M tours.  It was $210 Kr ($30) with the Oslo pass.  We enjoyed the tour very much.  It was just enough for us.  We walked through the Vigeland Sculpture Park, stopped at the site of the new ski lift construction and visited the Viking Museum.  3.5 hours total.  We had lunch at an outside cafe right at the harbor.  We took a trolley to get back to the hotel, but we didn't communicate well enough with the trolley operator and ended up far from our hotel so we took a cab back.  We went to the Grand Cafe for dinner.  Very nice, but very expensive - about $70pp.  Note: the hostess at the Grand Cafe implied we had to check our jackets, but many other patrons didn't.  I think we got hustled for the check fee! Oslo to Bergen Train The train ride was an absolutely wonderful ride with spectacular and varied scenery.  The trip took about 5 hours.  We were in a very comfortable car that included hot drinks.  For some unknown reason, our companions were seated 6 cars back and didn't have the included drinks.  We all booked together - strange. MS Finnmarken We embarked on the MS Finnmarken from Bergen on 4/24/09 and returned to Bergen on 5/5/09. Ship: The Finnmarken is a beautiful, well appointed, well maintained and clean ship. There are lots of different places to hang out on decks 4, 7 and 8. General Internet No wireless capabilities were available.  The internet on board is excruciatingly slow and unreliable.  It costs 60 NOK ($9.00+) for 60 minutes.  You can not plug in a thumb drive, so you can't work off line and then connect and send emails in a blast format.  You must compose and send while connected using your minutes. I was not able to get much done with 60 minutes.  The connection bandwidth is only 256K and is actually slower since the bandwidth is shared. There is free internet access in the library in Kirkenes.  USB ports are available so you can prepare pictures and messages ahead of time. ID Cards At embarkation, we were issued ID cards (no picture taken).  If you wish to use the ID card as an on-board credit card, you must activate the ID by having it linked to a credit card.  This process could be done at the table where they sell wine upon boarding or you could do it later at the reception desk. You must show your ID card when entering the dining room for all meals and for disembarking and re-embarking at each stop.  You must plug an ID card into a socket next to the cabin door to activate the electricity in the cabin.  This becomes problematic if you want to charge camera batteries while you are dining or off the ship since each person needs their ID to dine or leave the ship. Charging batteries The cabin outlets are 230V.  There is one receptacle in the bathroom that can be switched from 230 to 115V for use with a razor or battery charger (Note: this receptacle only has power if the bathroom light is on!).  However, I strongly recommend bringing a converter.  The regular receptacles are round and accept a two prong plug, each prong being a cylinder with rounded tip (normal European receptacles I presume). Note: See ID cards above.  You can, upon request, obtain a special "electricity card" that you can substitute for you ID card to activate the electricity in your cabin.  This will allow you to charge batteries etc. while you are at the restaurant or off the boat. Food and drink: Food As has been reported elsewhere on CC, breakfast and lunch are served buffet style with about a 2.5 hour window for each.  Dinner is served and there may be more than one seating depending on the number of passengers aboard.  Meat and fish alternate as the entrEe for dinner.  The buffets are clearly European in style and content.  There was lots of cold meats and fish available for breakfast and heavy soups and hot entrees for lunch.  We had no complaints. Water program- The water program, described in earlier discussions of Hurtigruten cruises, has been discontinued.  You can buy a bottle of water for 19 NOK (approx $2.85), but our group found the tap water very good.  They also have flavored water for a higher price. We bought a couple of bottles of water from the snack bar so we would have water in the room and take on excursions and then refilled from the tap as needed. You have to ask to get your water glass refilled at all meals.  The staff is always busy so you have to get their attention and ask.  They are always very nice about it.  You can get your own at breakfast and lunch, but it would be awkward to do so at dinner since it is a served meal. Soft Drinks- Expensive!  Aproximately $5 for a .6 liter bottle of Pepsi Max (local version of Diet Pepsi). Alcoholic Drinks: Expensive:  A .6 liter draft beer cost approximately $10!  We did not buy any wine, but many did and I assume it is proportionately expensive. Cabins: We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of space in the "regular" cabins (deck 3).  There are two closets, each with two hang bars running front to back as opposed to the more common left to right (or visa versa depending on your preferences).  Each hanging bar will hold 5 or six garments.  Ample hangers were provided in our cabin.  Lots of shelf space behind doors and lots of open shelf space too. When the two bunks are in the down position for sleeping, there is still about 2 feet of aisle space between the bunks.  This was much more than we had visualized from looking at the pictures on the Hurtigruten web site.  A convenient shelf serves as a night stand and holds the phone.  The beds were comfortable.  Each bed has a duvet and there are two extra blankets in the closet. A large niche under a shelf provided enough room for our large 29" suitcase within which were placed one of our carry-on bags.  Our other carry-on slipped in on top, so we got 3 bags into the space.  Great! DW and I agree that this cabin provides more room then the standard cabins we've enjoyed on HAL.  Of course, there is not an option to have the beds together. Side Trips (Excursions):Geiranger Fjord to Alesund- Not to be missed!  We lucked out with beautiful weather.  It was a real hoot to see your ship sail away without you.  Of course, as we reached the top of the hill for our view of Alesund, there was the Finnmarken sailing back into Alesund!  Absolutely phenomenal scenery throughout the bus trip from Geiranger to Alesund.  We also stopped at a soft ice cream stand for the best soft ice cream I've ever had.North Cape- Also not to be missed!  Again, we were treated to crystal clear skies.  According to the guide, they only get about 15 such days each year!  The scenary from Honningsvag to the cape is gorgeous all the way.  On the way back, we stopped at a Sami home and souvenir stand.  The bus broke down, but the ship waited for us while a new bus was dispatched.  Got to know the guide real well.  Gregor was wonderful.Ice Hotel This excursion because the hotel melted!!!Lofoten We boarded busses in Svolvaer for this side trip.  The weather was not quite as good for this excursion, but we still enjoyed it thoroughly.  We visited a lovely fishing village with a very nice art gallery/gift shop.  We saw a 15-minute slide show of Lofoten scenery through the 4 seasons.  The scenery for the rest of the bus trip to meet our ship in Stamsund was varied and wonderful. Atlantic Road We added this trip when we found out the Ice Hotel was not available.  It was a good decision.  We boarded busses in Kristiansund, drove through the city, got on a ferry to cross the major fjord into Kristiansund.  There is an overland route to where we went, but it would have taken longer.  We stopped at a beautiful old stave church for a guided tour.  After touring through some spectacular valleys we arrive at a restaurant for a traditional dinner of baccalao, made from the dried cod fish we had seen in many places.  It was good, but we don't think we will be searching it out in local restaurants.  After dinner, we traveled over the bridges of the Atlantic Road stopping for pictures at one pull-off.  The rest of the trip was through gorgeous countryside to Molde where we rejoined the ship. For pictures, visit: picasaweb.google.com/rehildenbrand Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
I took a 6-day trip on the Finnmarken from Bergen to Kirkenes at the Russian border at the extreme northern tip of Norway. This is not a conventional cruise as the ship stops at 22 ports to pick up and unload freight and it carries ... Read More
I took a 6-day trip on the Finnmarken from Bergen to Kirkenes at the Russian border at the extreme northern tip of Norway. This is not a conventional cruise as the ship stops at 22 ports to pick up and unload freight and it carries passengers between the smaller ports. The Finnmarken has about 250 cabins in one class. Most of them are comfortable but very small. I travelled alone and there was enough space for me, but I recommend that a couple take a mini-suite which is really just a large cabin. The food is good and copious. Breakfast and lunch are self-service with an enormous choice. Dinner is served but with no choice. In Scandinavian countries the evening meal is the least important meal of the day but it would be nice to have a choice. There are many large comfortable public rooms with where one can have coffee or buy a drink or a snack. There is no entertainment or gambling. The staff is made up of charming, mostly young, attractive Norwegians. There are many excursions. I recommend especially the Geiranger Fjord, the Svartisen Glacier and the North Cape The trip itself is extraordinary because not only does one see some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, but one also sees also the small fishing villages on the the coast and one gets an idea of everyday Norwegian life. There were families with children who seemed to be enjoying themselves and there is a playroom for very young children. The staff is charming but never obsequious. This ship is definitely not for people who are looking for a floating Las Vegas. Except for the size of the cabins and the lack of choice for dinner I found nothing to criticize. I recommend this cruise to people who like nature and are interested in the life in other countries, who want comfort but don't expect extreme luxury. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
I've always wanted to visit Norway and had heard the best way of doing so was on the 'mail boat'. Well the 'boat' far exceeded my expectations and now I want to go back again. We purposely chose to sail in February ... Read More
I've always wanted to visit Norway and had heard the best way of doing so was on the 'mail boat'. Well the 'boat' far exceeded my expectations and now I want to go back again. We purposely chose to sail in February because I wanted to see Norway as I have always imagined it- in snow covered winter conditions. We made our own travel arrangements to Bergen and enjoyed 3 days staying at the Best Western Hotel Hordaheimen before joining the ship. We booked our cruise through the Norwegian office and were very pleased with the simplicity of doing so via email with one telephone call to make payment. MS Nordlys was built in 1994 is one of the fleet sailing the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes. We chose a basic 2-berth inner cabin because it would be near the centre of the ship with less movement in bad weather. The cabin was clean, well maintained and comfortable (I especially like the Norwegian style of bedding). The lack of window was not an issue because we'd come on this voyage to see the scenery and experience the local way of life. We'd been warned that this was a working ship but the comfort, food, and crew were so good we didn't notice. We met several locals using the ship. Parents with new babies who had been to visit Grandparents for the first time, students on the way to college, business people holding meetings and seniors who popped into the cafe during stops in ports. This ship is part of Norway! The food was very good with a lunchtime buffet and set dinner. (the dinner menu is posted at lunchtime and if you don't like what is available you tell the crew and they discuss an alternative). We took the 'water package' where you pay a set amount and are provided with chilled water at each meal. A wine package is also available. Coffee can be expensive but we got round this by buying a Hurtigruten mug which we could fill up as often as we wanted in the cafe or bar. The service was of the usual high Norwegian standard and efficiency without losing any of the friendly atmosphere that existed on board (the only grumbles were a few passengers who would not have been happy anywhere). Communications were excellent. I confess we didn't go on any of the shore excursions but this was because we wanted to stroll around the ports of call at our own pace. Just make sure you return to the ship on time- they are very punctual. There are no children's clubs as such but there is a playroom that was used both by the young passengers and a few locals who visited during port stops. Entertainment was a Norwegian singer onboard and there was also a ceremony for crossing the arctic circle. There were some theme voyages like digital photography on other vessels. We were there to see Norway- its scenery and wildlife, and this is what we did, I think it would have been spoiled by organized entertainment. We arrived back in Bergen right on time and quickly disembarked. I would suggest that you book the bus or a taxi from the ship because there were no taxis available outside the terminal. This is a cruise for people who want to see Norway. It is a time to relax and enjoy being pampered without being subjected to constant 'organized' entertainment. We met several people who had sailed before- one couple were on their eighth trip! MS Nordlys appeared to be a favorite for returning passengers and, with its family atmosphere, I can see why. Are we going to sail again on MS Nordlys? Yes, I've been spoiled and I might also book on MS Fram after recently having the opportunity to visit her in port. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
Northern Lights Festival Bergen to Tromso, Norway January 20 - 29, 2007 I recently returned from a cruise tour to Northern Lights Festival in Tromso, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. A little late posting a review, as I just returned ... Read More
Northern Lights Festival Bergen to Tromso, Norway January 20 - 29, 2007 I recently returned from a cruise tour to Northern Lights Festival in Tromso, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. A little late posting a review, as I just returned from a Panama Canal, which will be the subject of another review when I have time. This review has become longer than planned as I kept thinking of things to add, and I hope it will be of interest to anybody else considering a winter trip to Norway. The Package My package, one of several offered, included one night in Bergen, four on the Norwegian Coastal Voyage (NCV) ship Trollfjord, and three nights in Tromso (normally two nights, but I extended one day). It included round trip air Boston-Bergen-Tromso-Boston., transfers, and one of the ship's meal plans, of which there are several. Mine included three meals a day on the ship, but most of the British (the majority of passengers) were on a breakfast-and-dinner plan. Local one or two-day passengers appear to bring food on board and /or buy from the on-board buffet. The Company The Norwegian name of the company is Hurtigruten, which I am told means "quick journey". The Norwegian Coastal Voyage name seems to be used only in North America - in Europe, including the UK where they market heavily, they use the Norwegian name, and I heard that they soon plan to do the same in North America. However, I'll use NCV for ease of reference in this review. What NCV is not: it is not a cruise line; it is a coastal passenger, car and light cargo shipping company, operating working ships with several cruise ship amenities. A ship departs from Bergen every night for the 11-day round trip to Kirkenes on the east side of the North Cape. In addition to the eleven ships plus spares required to maintain this schedule, NCV dedicates two ships to Antarctica excursions in the southern hemisphere summer (our winter), and they have just added a new ship which will be used for Greenland excursions. The Ship I sailed on the Trollfjord which, like her sister ship Midnatsol, is one of NCV's newest and largest ships. At 15,000 gross tons she is about half the tonnage of the former Renaissance "R" ships, but with about the same number of berths. Therefore, I suspect she becomes a bit crowded during the high summer season, but there certainly wasn't any crowding for this lightly booked journey. I also saw several of the older, smaller ships along the way, but don't know how their amenities compare with the newer ships. My fare was based on "best available cabin" and I was assigned to a Deck 4 aft outside cabin. Cabin is actually a double, but is sold as a single with no single supplement during the winter months. It was small, about 160 square feet, but certainly adequate for short trips. It is essentially just a place to sleep, all I normally want on a ship. If I were to do the full 11-day round trip I would probably opt for a larger, therefore more expensive, cabin on deck 6, 7 or 8. Cabin was tastefully decorated, but don't expect frills like TV, refrigerator, safe, fruit baskets, a selection of toiletries, or bed turndown service, although I understand these amenities are provided in the suites and higher-priced cabins. The bed was comfortable, with a warm duvet and extra blankets, and the bathroom, with shower, completely functional. One nice feature: heated bathroom floors, so you step from shower to warm tile. Also, the individual cabin temperature control was the best I have experienced on any ship. The public areas are on a par with upscale cruise ships, nicely decorated and furnished. Deck 5 forward contains a large conference center with tiered seating and full audio visual facilities, and at least two groups came on board for a day or two to hold conferences. Amidships there are cafes, children's playroom, small shops, and the aforementioned buffet. The comfortable attractive dining room is located aft. Deck 8 offers a two-deck-high forward observation lounge, a great place to watch the scenery go by, especially when it is cold and snowing on deck. This was also the venue for several festival events while docked in Tromso. Deck 8 also includes a large bar and lounge area with a small dance floor (very few people danced), the library, internet cafe, and a snack bar. The aft area of Deck 8 is occupied by the high-end suites and cabins. A singer-keyboard player performed nightly and had a good repertoire Everything was in English, although he is Bulgarian. In addition, I assume because of the festival connection for this trip, there was a soprano and her accompanist who performed on several occasions, everything from opera to old pop songs. I don't think I have heard Abba Dabba Honeymoon since college in the '50s, and certainly never by an operatic soprano! Meals As noted earlier, there were several different meal plans. Regardless of which plan a passenger had, he or she was assigned to a specific table for the whole voyage. There are only a few large tables; most tables are for two or four. I was seated with three very pleasant English ladies. I believe I was one of only two or three single male passengers. Since the ship was at less than one third capacity, there was only a single seating for each meal - normally there are several. Tables were assigned the first evening, although I have heard that on more heavily booked trips tables and sittings are pre-assigned. Breakfast was a buffet with open seating; lunch was also a buffet, but passengers were asked to sit at their assigned tables. I assume this is how the kept track of who was entitled to what. Both breakfast and lunch were a treat for those of us who like fish, featuring a large selection of cold fish, including salmon and herring prepared in every way I can imagine. Each day there was also an additional appetizer, such as shrimp, crabmeat, etc. Dinner was similar to a banquet or Rotary Club lunch ashore with no apparent assignment of waiters to particular tables; waiters teamed up to serve the whole room quickly. Dinner consists of three courses: appetizer, main course, and desert, with no choices. However, the evening menu was posted every morning and if it included something you couldn't eat or didn't like, they would do everything possible to find a suitable substitute, at no extra cost. Portions were generous but not excessive - I don't recall seeing anybody patronizing the buffet or snack bar after dinner. Onboard Expenses As on land in Scandinavia, food appeared quite expensive on board, but drinks didn't seem that much more costly than on a high-end cruise line. I had bar charges ranging from $3.50 to $15, but I'm not sure what they were for since the bill is in Norwegian. Food costs incurred depend, obviously, on which meal plan has been included in the fare. Unlike cruise ships, NCV is very relaxed about passengers bringing food, liquor, beer, soft drinks, etc. on board. They only ask that alcohol brought on board from ashore not be consumed in public rooms, which is understandable. I assume there is a corkage charge for wine carried into the dining room, but didn't check this. Upon boarding passengers are offered the opportunity to buy either a wine plan or a water plan. The former provides a full bottle of wine each evening, selected to compliment that night's meal. This was reasonable if a party can consume a full bottle of wine each evening; it's not practical for most single travelers like me. It was also possible to purchase wine by the glass or by the bottle, which they will keep for you from day to day. The water plan, which is included in the wine plan or purchased separately, provides a full liter glass bottle of water daily, either carbonated or non carbonated. There are no pitchers of water on the tables. The bottled water is produced by the ship's desalination system. It is quite expensive, especially if you're not prepared to drink a whole liter of water with dinner, but the solution is simple: buy one bottle on board or ashore and re-fill it in the cabin (it's the same water). People carried bottles around all the time, including to and from of the dining room, and no one objected. Beer chits were available, but I didn't check this as I'm not a beer drinker. There were also charges for various services such as the internet and even a nominal charge to visit the bridge for a non alcoholic drink with the captain. Tipping, a significant cost on cruise ships, is neither necessary nor expected, although tips for any extra or special services are welcome. All on-board expenses can be charged to the "Cruisecard" issued upon boarding. It is activated as a charge card by simply providing your credit card information the first time you want to charge something to the on-board account. The Trip NCV booked my air travel on Icelandair for the transatlantic and SAS for internal flights in Norway. Normally they use SAS out of Newark, but in my case it was more practical to send me from Boston. I was happy with this, as it avoided my having to get myself to Newark. Icelandair was one of the few international airlines I hadn't flown with, and I was pleased with their friendly, efficient service. All flights were either on time or early, and during this light travel season I had three seats on three of the four segments. Food was noticeably better than average airline fare. The one drawback for some might be that most, if not all, Icelandair transatlantic services involve a change of planes at their hub, Reykjavik. This adds an hour or so to the trip, but personally I welcomed the opportunity to stretch my legs in mid journey. Passport control was in Reykjavik, and this apparently covers all EEC-affiliated countries, as I was never asked for my passport again until starting my return trip from Tromso. The one small glitch on the outbound trip was that NCV did not allow adequate transfer time in Oslo. They insisted that 55 minutes would be enough as my baggage was checked through to Bergen. I was fairly certain, and turned out to be right, that I would still have to clear and re-check my baggage in Oslo to go from an international to an internal flight, just as you must in any U.S. port of entry. I wasn't particularly concerned as there are frequent flights from Oslo to Bergen. I probably could have made my scheduled flight if it hadn't taken 45 minutes to deliver the baggage (handling undoubtedly slowed by a snowstorm), but I had no problem getting on the next flight 50 minutes later. When I arrived in Bergen the transfer service had left, not knowing where I was. Driver had left a message for me at the information desk, and when contacted by phone he said he had had another pickup and it would be an hour before he could get back to the airport. Instead, I opted for the airport bus because the weather was nice - dry and in the 40s - and I knew it was only a couple of blocks from the fish market bus stop to my hotel. Hotel was the Clarion Admiral (one of the Choice Hotels brands). It was created from two waterside storage buildings and has a beautiful view of the harbor. I believe I was the only NCV passenger at this hotel. The included breakfast was much more extensive than those now included by mid priced US hotels and motels. I spent the rest of the day, Sunday, resting up from the overnight flight and reacquainting myself with downtown Bergen, and Monday exploring on foot and doing a little shopping. In the afternoon I visited Bergen's aquarium, which I hadn't done on previous trips, about a 20-minute walk from the town center, a small but interesting attraction. There was no snow on the ground when I arrived in Bergen but by the time I got back to the hotel it was snowing quite heavily, and continued to do so throughout most of the trip. Transfer service picked me up promptly at 5 PM and after a couple of other stops, we went directly to the ship where check-in was the most painless I've experienced. The shore agent simply took our baggage and in my case gave me my stateroom assignment. He then sent us onboard to complete registration at the front desk. By the time I got to my cabin my baggage was there. There are none of the normal formalities that you encounter on an international cruise as this is a Norwegian ship sailing between Norwegian ports in Norwegian waters. This applies to embarkation, disembarkation and intermediate ports of call, where the ship simply pulls up to the wharf and lowers the hydraulically operated passenger and automobile gangways. Passengers then come and go at will, just scanning their Cruisecards each time The cruise director warns you the first day that the ship will not wait for you if you are late; in her words, "If you miss the ship, you'll have to get to the next port on your own by air, road or swimming." So, it's wise to double check the boarding and departure times, as I don't think we ever left a port late. The cruise director was our main contact and served not only as cruise director, but also shore excursion organizer, PA announcer (Norwegian, German and English), and in various other capacities. I was considered part of the British group as my booking had been handled by the NCV London office. Two NCV London representatives came on board as group leaders and functioned as staff assisting the cruise director. It was not necessary to split us into two specific groups as is usually done on a land excursion. Instead of a lifeboat drill, impractical with people embarking and disembarking at every port, the cruise director gave a safety briefing. In case of emergency, passengers are instructed to go to the nearest clearly marked assembly point, where life jackets and further instructions would have been distributed as necessary. The journey north to Tromso included about 20 intermediate ports of call, ranging from as little as 10 minutes to six hours in Trondheim. I won't go into detail about the itinerary and ports - details are available www.coastalvoyage.com. There was also a 10-hour stay in Bodo, not the usual five hours, when the captain decided to skip the two Lofoten Islands ports due to high winds and rough seas in that stretch of open ocean. Shore excursions are offered at the longer calls; I only took a couple - I'm not a very good tourist - and having visited the major ports on summer cruises, was content to disembark and walk around in the snow. Overnight, en route to Bodo, our first major port above the Arctic Circle, the snow changed to heavy rain, which continued throughout the next day. However, it changed back to snow during our final night en route to Tromso, where it continued to snow the rest of my stay, with a few very short letups. Obviously, we didn't see the northern lights. When the captain decided to stay in Bodo until 10 PM instead of 5 PM the cruise director organized an after-dark tour of the city, which I went on. It was still raining, but the visit to Bodo's very modern cathedral was worth the small cost of the excursion. A group of young children were rehearsing for some event and treated us to a short impromptu performance. Upon arrival in Tromso about 40 of us were bused directly to the sled dog center for the "Dog Sledge Safari" we had signed up for. Great fun, with about an hour on the sleds and well worth the $160 cost. I had taken along quite a bit of warm clothing but didn't need to get it out, as we were provided with coveralls, boots, hats, scarves and gloves, and we were wrapped in reindeer skins on the sleds. The sled trip was followed by coffee, tea and cakes around a fire in a typical Sami Lavva (a large teepee-like tent). Learned that the native people prefer to be called Sami, not Laplanders. Next we were taken to our hotels, the Clarion Hotel Bryggen in my case, another pleasant hotel right on the waterfront couple of blocks from the center of town. As in Bergen, an extensive breakfast buffet is included, and it has an excellent, although expensive, restaurant open for lunch and dinner. My time in Tromso was devoted to a couple of festival events and exploring the city on foot. It was hard to believe we were several hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, as the gulf stream moderates the coastal temperatures. It was 24 degrees the morning I left Tromso for home; 10 when I arrived in Boston that night. Interesting places include the ultra modern Arctic Cathedral ( a long walk or short taxi ride across the harbor), the"Polaria" arctic center, short walk from the hotel, and the very modern library in the center of town - great place to relax with a coffee when cold and/or tired of walking. There is also a picturesque, active, old church in the center of town, Lutheran I think. The main street is a pedestrian mall. Sidewalks at most shops are heated, so you don't have to climb over snow banks to go window shopping. There is also a Burger King for those who can't live without American burgers, but I didn't see a McDonalds. Northern Lights Festival This is a week-long music festival celebrating the first sunrise of the new year in late January. It includes many events, ranging from symphony to hard rock. I had booked two events from the ship, so my first task after checking into my hotel was to pick up and pay for tickets. It was from this point that I learned what really nice, considerate people Norwegians are. When I got back to my room later that night I couldn't find my ATM card, which I had used at the ticket office First thing next morning I went back to the ticket office, but nobody had turned it in. I figured it was gone for good, probably under a foot of snow somewhere so I called my bank and cancelled the card. Around 5 PM that evening, the front desk at the hotel called to ask if I had lost a card. They told me it had been turned in at the ticket office. I must have dropped it at the ATM, in a fairly dark area, so nobody noticed it for most of the day. When I asked the ticket lady how she had found me, she replied that she had started calling the hotels NCV uses and found me at the third one she tried. Can you imagine that happening anywhere else? If had trusted human nature a bit longer I could have saved the $10 my bank charged for a replacement card. Unlike the ships' normal itinerary, the Trollfjord remained in Tromso instead of continuing north. Several events were held on board, the first I attended being a small group performing on the ship in the late evening. Quickly found that the hard rock beat wasn't my type of music. I went back to the ship a second night for another Norwegian group, but hadn't purchased an advance ticket, and it was sold out. The second event I attended was a concert by "Tromso Storband" a traditional big band augmented by a couple of additional instruments, for a total of 19 musicians. American jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker was guest soloist. A talented group of musicians and a great performance - I'm sure most of us would have gladly stayed for another hour if the performance had gone on! Attendees at all of the events were mainly Norwegian, all very well dressed, so this is obviously dress-up occasion. USA Bound Return trip was completely uneventful. Departure from Tromso was delayed a bit by airport snow removal and de-icing of the aircraft (it was still snowing), but I still had plenty of time for my Oslo connection with even a little time to check out the duty free ships. Our flight route from Reykjavik to Boston took us over southern Greenland and Labrador on a clear day, impressive even from 40,000 feet. We arrived in Boston a few minutes early, but had to sit for a while because our gate was blocked by a 747. However, once we got to the gate, passport control and customs were quick, so I was able to catch the next bus back to New Hampshire. Would I do this trip again? Probably, as there are several other interesting winter packages and I don't mind cold weather or snow - I wouldn't live in New England if I did. These ships also would be a great way to see the Norwegian fjords in any season if one wanted to break up the voyage with stopovers at the various ports. After all, there's always another ship the next day. The major difference between summer and winter is that the ships go up the Geiranger Fjord in summer. The available overland side trip up to Geiranger is spectacular - I did it on a previous summer cruise - and you still get to see the fjord on the way out. Comments or questions will be welcome either on the NCV board or by e-mail. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
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