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88 Hurtigruten Baltic Sea Cruise Reviews

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
Hurtigruten is an excellent informal cruise experience on a working ship plying the ports north of Bergen to almost Russia. Most of the journey is sheltered from rough sea by a line of islands. The weather is unpredictable and we were ... Read More
Hurtigruten is an excellent informal cruise experience on a working ship plying the ports north of Bergen to almost Russia. Most of the journey is sheltered from rough sea by a line of islands. The weather is unpredictable and we were lucky. The temperature at the North Cape was warmer than England. We had about 300 passengers, mostly very friendly retired people from England,some Norwegians (their pensioners have a discount), some Germans, French , Australians and USA. Many were very keen on unusual birds, such as sea eagles.( we saw them). The more experienced travellers used the cruise websites for booking the cruise because the Hurtigruten sales office can be difficult to engage and the websites can offer better prices. The ship stops several times a day, including the night. The night stops on the north journey are visited in the daylight in the south journey.There are lots of expensive excursions. We could book them the previous night once we knew the weather forecast. We were lucky at the North Cape excursion because there are few clear days each year and there was one when we visited it. The midnight musical concert at Tromso was excellent too. The shipping line is thoughtful in offering transport from the airport to the ship for passengers and luggage. Unfortunately there was a problem when we arrived at Bergen airport when one person checked all the ship's luggage. It took about an hour to check in our luggage. The coach transport worked well,taking us to the ship. Hurtigren offer several 'special offers' once you arrive. You can buy drinking water at meal time for about £22. Ignore that. They offer free ordinary water at meal time. They also offer a wine deal when they will give you an appropriate wine each day for £350. They could be useful if you can afford a bottle a day because the cheapest bottle was about £35. Few took this offer. They also offered a coffee deal when you paid about £30 ( I am guessing) for a mug and the coffee could be replenished in the cafeteria anytime. Since you have free coffee each meal time we thought was this was sufficient. The cabins are tiny but cleverly arranged with one bed which folds into the wall and the other bed converts to a seat. The food is good with a a buffet breakfast and lunch and with a served dinner at 6.30pm or 8.30pm. The emphasis was on fish dishes. Anything alcoholic was very expensive in Norway. In fact everything was expensive in Norway. However we could bring alcohol into our cabins. The experienced travellers took advantage of buying duty free oportunities at the Bergen Airport as we arrived. We liked the idea of offering duty free at arrival. We signed up for a lecture series about Norway held in the ship conference room. This was an hour lecture each day about different aspects of Norwegian life. These were interesting and the lecturer could advise us about anything. This was an easy way of meeting fellow travellers because we changed our dinner seats to chat to different individuals each night. We knew that we had a hotel room at the end of the holiday, the Neptun. This was fine although the bedroom was small. Many of us from the ship were booked there. We had an excellent dinner at the Pascal bistro at the hotel. We can recomend that. The breakfast was good too. The pleasant surprise was that Hurtigruten provided us with transport from the hotel to the airport. This was our first cruise. It was lovely.   Read Less
Sail Date September 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
Hurtigruten—the largest cruise line you never heard of. Norwegian owned and operated, the line owns a fleet of 16 cruise ships, most of which travel up and down the west coast of Norway. The line also offer cruises to Greenland and ... Read More
Hurtigruten—the largest cruise line you never heard of. Norwegian owned and operated, the line owns a fleet of 16 cruise ships, most of which travel up and down the west coast of Norway. The line also offer cruises to Greenland and Antarctica. Our Cruise We took one of the 12-day Norwegian coastal cruises that both started and ended in Bergen, Norway, stopping about 30 times along the way. Most stops were of short duration, with no passengers exiting. There were about 10 longer stops where, at prices ranging from $40 to about $200 per person, we could take and "excursion" to see various attractions. One that we took, and the best by far, involved a fast, open air pontoon-like boat ride to a remote location to view sea eagles. Taking these excursions can easily add $500 to $1,000 per person or more to your cruise cost. There is very little to do on the ship except eat and sit around (inside or outside) enjoying the scenery, so you more or less have to take some of the excursions. The scenery varies from breathtakingly beautiful (fiords, mountains, farms, forests, small villages) to downright boring (barren hills, rocks and crags, not unlike the surface of the moon). The small villages and farming areas are quite picturesque. In addition to the excursion information furnished to passengers when they sign up for the cruise, there is a daily schedule of excursions, scenery sightings and shipboard activities (principally eating) posted by the tour director's desk, and copies are available for passengers to take. Our cruise began on September 1st and ended on September 12th. This was early enough in the season for us to enjoy unusually good weather. (We saw rain only three times, with only one of longer duration.) For the first three days, as we traveled northward, it was warm enough for passengers to sit on the open top deck in shirt sleeves. At "Nord Cap" (North Cape), the northernmost land point in Europe, the temperatures had dropped to the low forties, and a fierce wind created a wind chill factor much colder. It was surprising to us to see how modern and developed even the small villages are in terms of urban amenities and services—even at the top of the world in Kirkenes. The larger cities are like any other large city in Europe. There were many nationalities aboard the ship, but the passengers were overwhelmingly European, including Norwegians, Swedes, Germans and English. Announcements over the ship PA system (which were irritatingly frequent) were given in three languages—Norwegian, German and English. We encountered very few Americans on the ship (about 10), and at the dinner meal (the only meal served restaurant style; breakfast and lunch were served buffet), we were seated by ourselves at our reserved table.. Our Ship Our cruise was aboard the MS Midnatsol (Midnight Sun), the newest vessel (2003) in the Hurtigruten fleet. It is attractively decorated, with much use of wood in walls, floors and furniture, and in a style akin to updated art deco. The ship was kept spotlessly clean. It was easy to learn the layout and to get around in, with elevators and stairs between decks both fore and aft. The public areas are located on decks 5, 8 and 9. The dining room, gift shop and fast food restaurant are on deck 5. Deck 8 has an open lounge in the front, with windows extending up to the ceiling in deck 9. Three-quarters of deck 9 is an outside deck with chaise lounges, a bar and two jacuzzis. There is a larger bar and lounge on deck 8, with live entertainment after about 7 PM. Deck 8 also has a self-service coffee/tea bar—at five bucks a cup! At the start of the cruise passengers are offered an opportunity to purchase a "coffee/tea deal," where for one price you get a Hurtigruten metal mug and all the coffee or tea you want at the self-service bar for the duration of the cruise. We bought it, but I don't remember the cost. Unfortunately, the coffee was virtually undrinkable (somewhere between snake venom and battery acid), so I ended up with just a high-priced mug. My wife made out: she drank lots of tea from the large assortment of tea brands available at the self-service bar. Our cabin (inside; no windows; the cheapest) was small but very efficient. It included one fulltime single bunk style bed and a sofa that converted into a second bunk style bed. Both were hard but comfortable. There was a mirrored ladies make-up station, a small TV with 8 cable channels, a closet and other storage. The shower was small but quite adequate, except for its propensity to oscillate between hot and cold. For $350 more we could have had the same cabin with a window, but we decided against it because we knew from prior cruises you spend so little time in your cabin. Eating on the Ship The food we ate was in stark contrast to the sumptuous fare we had on an Oceania cruise to the Caribbean two years ago. Norwegian food, like the Norwegians themselves, is hardy. There was heavy emphasis on seafood and (usually seasoned) boiled potatoes at nearly every meal. Cold cuts, cheeses, pickled fish and beets and regular pickles were featured at breakfast and lunch, which were served buffet style. There was also coffee and tea available. The coffee was fresh made and very good, unlike the coffee at the self-service bar. Various mostly forgettable desserts were available with lunch and dinner. To my great disappointment, pastries were never served, even at breakfast. The dining room is decorated like the rest of the ship, with neo-art deco furnishings. The silver service is spartan, usually only four or five pieces. The tables are covered with attractive oilcloth tablecloths, with heavy paper napkins. Hardy. Both lunch and dinner have two seatings, with reserved seats at both. Tables are assigned by table number, and we always sat at the same table. Water in a spring-capped bottle is served at lunch and dinner, if you had purchased the "water deal" at the start of the cruise. There is also free water available, but you would have to wait for refills. A "wine deal" was also available at the start of the cruise, whereby you would receive one bottle of wine at each dinner, specially picked by the head chef to accompany the menu. We passed on that deal since my wife doesn't drink wine. I probably wouldn't have purchased it anyway because of the high cost. On the wine menu, prices started at $65 per bottle and ranged on up to about $115 per bottle. I don't believe these were particularly premium wines, either. Only the dinner meal is served by the staff, restaurant style. But even then they work the tables in order, starting at the first table with each course. At breakfast and lunch you serve yourself and the staff merely cleans up or takes special orders for the bar. I should say here that the staff were nearly all very friendly and accommodating, and most could speak Norwegian, German and English. One peculiar and unsavory practice at each meal occurred when you were through eating. The waiter or waitress would scrape any leftover food off your plate onto another dirty plate while standing at your table. As with other cruises and tours we have taken with people from other countries, we were again amused and entertained by the European custom of eating with both handknife in the right and fork in the left—making it seem to take twice the effort. No doubt Europeans are just as amused at our style of eating. Costs No comment on our cruise would be complete without a note about the high costs in Norway. To start with, our Bergen hotel (the Neptune) which we stayed in two nights, one each at the beginning and end of the cruise, cost $300 a night! It was in the process of being redecorated, but not really upgraded. I would compare it to an older Holiday Inn Express. We understand that the cost of living in Norway is among the highest in the world. Believe it. After checking in to our hotel we went for a walk abound Bergen, a truly beautiful city. We stopped at a cafe with outdoor seating overlooking the bay and fish market (a big tourist attraction). I had a hamburger and beer and my wife had a small pizza and a coke. Total cost: $85! Welcome to Norway. My wife looked at some gorgeous knit sweaters, but at $300 and up we had to pass. As might be expected, costs on the ship are even higher. For example, at one dinner we ordered Pepsis at $7.20 each, and at another meal I ordered a local beer which cost over $8. One of the reasons for the high costs is Norway's sales tax, which is 25% on almost everything! Conclusion Despite any negative comments above, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. If we had to do it again, we would probably take the 7-day instead of the 12-day cruise. One of the factors that influenced us to go for the 12-day cruise was the very high cost of our airfare—almost $2,700. This cost would have been the same with either cruise. Moreover, we would have had the added cost of airfare and associated costs from Kirkenes to Bergen if we had taken the 7-day cruise. We had to take a three-legged 24-hour flight as it was (Bergen to Amsterdam to Detroit to Denver) just to keep the fare under $2,700. Another leg would have made it even worse. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We just completed the 7 day north bound trip up the coast of Norway on the Trollford (June 11, 2007 departure). It was a beautiful voyage. The weather was as good as it could be. Mostly partly cloudy with some scattered showers. Nothing ... Read More
We just completed the 7 day north bound trip up the coast of Norway on the Trollford (June 11, 2007 departure). It was a beautiful voyage. The weather was as good as it could be. Mostly partly cloudy with some scattered showers. Nothing that interfered with any of our port stops or shore excursions. All in all it was a great voyage with spectacular views. I would highly recommend it although I wouldn't recommend doing the full up and back. Mainly because it can get boring. There is no other entertainment than the scenery and various port stops. After a while it becomes redundant. Although I have to admit that the scenery does change as you go north and it is very interesting. And the port stops can be interesting if for no other reason than to take a 15 minute walk ashore. We found that having a good book to read is a must. Here are some of our observations of the ship and Hurtigruten. Reservations -- Dealing directly with Hurtigruten on the phone worked fine for us. There seems to be a loss of information by the reservation agents and what really happens on the cruise. We wanted the early seating for dinner, 6 pm. When we requested this on the phone we were told that it would be done at check in at the dock. Wrong. Early seating can be done on the phone and when we showed up at the dock we had been pre-assigned late seating which we then had to change onboard. Also when we first inquired about pre-paying for shore excursions we were told that we would do that on board. Wrong. Although you can do it on board, and everyone seemed to get what they wanted, you can do it over the phone before departure. It was only after we pressed the issue on the phone did the agent go seek out the right information. Embarkation -- I would recommend that you get to Bergen a day early. The ship doesn't allow boarding until after 4 pm so you have plenty of time to walk the town. It is worth walking it for a day. Check in was efficient and our luggage met us in our room. In our case we had Hurtigruten book our hotel for one night in Bergen, the Radisson SAS is the one they used, and the hotel sent our luggage to the ship where it met us in our room. The Room -- We had a standard outside room, category N. It was small but very well laid out. The twin beds fold down and one is usually set up as a couch during the day. At night you just fold it down and the bedding is set up so you are ready to sleep. There was adequate storage and a small make up table. The two of us never felt cramped. The bathroom is small but very efficient. The shower is not small and the best part is that the bathroom floor is heated. The other cruise lines should install heated floors. What a great thing north of the Arctic Circle. Although they don't show it in any of their brochures there is a hair dryer in the bathroom and a 110V shaver outlet. Dining -- There are two dining facilities on board. The main dining room is for the cruise passengers who have booked the one week or two week trip. It operates pretty much like any cruise ship dining room. There is early and late dinner seating with assigned tables and breakfast and lunch open seating buffets. At dinner you are given what the cook is cooking. No choice, just an appetizer, entrEe and dessert as the meal of the day. You can request a substitute if you have a problem with the main course but you have to do it by noon of that day. All in all the food was pretty good although it all has a Norwegian style to it. So you get a lot of fish. They do serve a delicious Reindeer dinner one night. The service can be slow at times. The other dining facility is the cafe. You can get simple meals here any time of the day but they are not free. Unlike the main dining room you pay for what you want here. The dollar value being what it is you pay a lot. A medium sized cup of soda is $6. A cup of coffee is $5. The cafe is the dining facility that the passengers who get on and off the ship at various ports and only stay a day or two on board use. The Hurtigruten ships are like luxurious ferries that behave like a cruise ship. In addition to the cruise passengers they delivers freight to various ports and cars drive on and off at different stops in addition to short term passengers getting on and off. Entertainment and Shore Excursions -- On board the only entertainment is a nightclub singer and keyboard player at night. The main entertainment is the scenery and the little towns you pass and dock at. It is ever changing and very beautiful. But like I said at the top it does exhaust itself by day 5 or 6. The shore excursions are varied and interesting. We did two of them. We did the drive from Geiranger Fjord to Molde. A fascinating 6 hour trip across the mountains of Norway. The ship left us off at the end of Geiranger Fjord and we drove to Molde where we picked up the ship again. Saw beautiful scenery and had dinner in Molde while waiting for the ship. We also did the trip to North Cape from Honningsvag. This is a must. Its quite exhilarating to stand on the northern most point in Europe. There is a spectacular monument there and a gigantic visitors center. Disembarkation -- We disembarked at Kirkenes. This is the north end of the cruise. We had previously made SAS reservations to Oslo. The only flight is at 11:30 am and disembarkation was at 10:15 am. Hurtigruten assured us that by using their transfer we would make it on time and we did. All went smoothly. Other ship amenities -- There are two hot tubs on board. No pool. There is a small gym with 5 or 6 exercise machines and of course there are saunas. It's not necessary to buy the water on board. The best bet is to buy one bottle ashore and then just refill it from your bathroom tap. It is purified and drinkable. The best spot for viewing on board is the two levels of panorama rooms at the bow. People just sit there all day and watch the scenery go by. You can sit outside on deck 9, and many did, but even though the weather may be clear it can be pretty chilly. There are 4 internet accessible computers on board, for a fee, but the internet connection was down during our whole trip. They print and send to you a daily program of activities and port stops so you always know what's happening. All in all it was a good trip. The Norwegian coast is fascinating and Hurtegruten does a good job. The staff was adequate although not real friendly at times but we did like it. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Our holiday began by flying from Stansted airport in Essex, England and arriving at our starting departure point of Tromso in Norway's Arctic Circle. The flight was around 3.5 hours. The date is June 3rd, 2008. And the weather looks ... Read More
Our holiday began by flying from Stansted airport in Essex, England and arriving at our starting departure point of Tromso in Norway's Arctic Circle. The flight was around 3.5 hours. The date is June 3rd, 2008. And the weather looks surprisingly good! We had a choice of beginning our tour from the most Northerly point, close to the Russian Border at Kirkenes, however, we began in the City of Tromso. Remember, this is Summer and above the Arctic Circle, you have the best of the sunshine, - that is 24 hours a day, the sun isn't going to set! (Don't forget, Winter tours mean the opposite, 24 hour darkness!). It's an odd feeling waiting for sunset that never happens and having the difficulty in telling yourself why you should retire to bed, after all, it is approaching 1.30am! Luckily the windows on board have shutters and the port holes have 'black-outs' but for the first night at least, this is not going to be easy! The Cruise Liner ( in this case, the MS Finnmarken) also serves as a lifeline to those people who live in such remote areas and this becomes their post-ship, their ferry and a means of moving essential provisions along the inlets and fjords. For the first night it is additionally difficult to sleep as you feel that every couple of hours, the boat is about to dock, - and it does, sometimes for no more than 15 minutes, - not completely without noise especially if you have a cabin close to the thrusters or the rope lines. But you will get used to it, I assure you. The cruise makes it's way South through inlet and passageway, fjord and achapeligos, bordered by snow peaked mountains, sapphire blue Arctic seas and persistent sunshine. The sea has a very strange calm, rippleless effect as though it's made of syrup, - I'm told, it's cold - really cold and that's how the sea is up in the Arctic. Very unusual and the majority of the passengers found it equally bizarre yet somehow weirdly hypnotic!!. As the Cruise meets different ports of call, various interesting excursions are on offer, being sold on board or you can pre-book before you go. I'd wait and purchase on board, as you really need to see where you are, as some areas may not be what you imagine and some excursions could be ruined by bad weather. No matter where you are, however, this country is beautiful from start to finish, sometimes very mountainous, sometimes extremely remote, many times - amazing, you're spoilt for choice. If you love sea and mountains then this is a cruise for you, we had some magnificently good weather with continuous blue skies. But, I was told that this wasn't the norm and the high temperatures are not to be expected. Take a couple of warm and dry waterproof garments - and please, please take your sun tan lotion. It's not easy to get hold of it and it's hell expensive. Don't be caught out, when the sun shines, it's hot!!! The cruise travels further south and passes the Arctic Circle between Ornes and Nesna. This area is very remote! Surprisingly there are some large and well established communities above the Arctic Circle, which at first seems to beg the question, why would anyone want to live here? - but they do and on reflection, I would love to as well. But I would have difficulties in 24 hour darkness I think :-). As we travel more south and reach Trondheim, the sun lies gently upon the horizon but still does not set. A permanent sunset of gold and tangerine seas for 90 minutes - what a feast for the eyes! Trondheim was a lovely city yet I do prefer the smaller towns and settlements and it seems that every place no matter how small or large, has it's own magnificent display of suspension bridges crossing the fjords, dotted beneath by canary yellow, sky blue and rust red weatherboard housing .. this is Norway! Of all the towns and villages we visited on our cruise I must highlight a few of my favorites. Tromso with it's magnificent Arctic Cathedral and Mountain backdrop, Sandnessjoen - a lovely town of weatherboard houses and a quaint typical Scandinavian 'flavor' high street. Kristiansund, just south of Trondheim is a most beautifully positioned and colorful town perched on several islands upon a deep inlet and Molde, one of the most stunning places on out tour, in my opinion anyway. This resembles Geneva or maybe Montreaux by a fjord backdrop with a Ski resort in winter and a Jazz festival during the warm summer months. A must to visit and I would always return to Molde - a five star resort. We finally after 4 days at sea, arrive in our destination town of Bergen. I truly believe that we were all shocked as the ship came up the fjord and approached Bergen in the distance. Imagine, the temperature was close to 28 Celsius, high 80's fahrenheit and the sea was shimmering with an array of colored yachts and power boats circling the ship. Along the coastline, hundreds of people sun bathing on the beaches - yeh, beaches, and the high tree lined slopes are dotted with hotels, multi colored housing, villas and a glorious mountain backdrop. You would honestly think that you were in Monte Carlo or Ventimiglia, not Bergen in Norway. They call it the 'Rainy City' and we were ever so fortunate - you won't be disappointed however, come rain or shine - or blizzard - this is a wonderful place. Full of history, full of interest and bars and restaurants galore, - this would be my true home from home for sure. Bergen - What a surprise finale... One must do, if nothing else in Bergen, take a funicular rail trip on the Floibanen, 320 meters above the town, a great trip, and you can walk back down if you wish. Of course there's the area of Bryggen, UNESCO world heritage listed, by the Wharf front and the famous and interesting Fishmarket area. Some much to do. The Cruise is operated by the Norwegian company, Hurtigruten, who know how to look after you. The staff are friendly and our thanks and compliments are made to everyone of the staff who worked so hard to ensure that our holiday was perfect. In fact, this was my Honeymoon, and I couldn't have wished for a more romantic setting. Good points: Excellent Cruise and Company, Great food and very comfortable. Most beautiful country and highly recommended to all, YOUNG AND OLD!! Negatives: Highly expensive country with a high cost of living. Examples of cost as at June 2008, on board or off the ship, very little difference... Cup of Coffee: 26 NOK (Norwegian Kronner), = £2.50, apx. US$5 A standard 40ml glass of Beer: 59 NOK, = £5.80, apx. US$11.50 A Bottle of Cote du Rhone Wine: 320 NOK = £29, apx. US$55. Take-Away Margaritta Pizza for 2: 240 NOK = £22, apx. US$42 Hotel Standard Breakfast for 1: 160 NOK = £15, apx. US$28 Two course 3 Tapas meal & Beer for 1: 350NOK = £33/ US$64 But despite this, a very worth while, once in a lifetime opportunity to see a very unspoilt part of the natural world in which we live. Before it's too late, may be?! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
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
My mother and I did the Northbound trip from Bergen to Kirkenes with Hurtigruten in the second week of May. We had a great time overall, and I would definitely recommend it to others. That said, if you're looking for a cruise ship ... Read More
My mother and I did the Northbound trip from Bergen to Kirkenes with Hurtigruten in the second week of May. We had a great time overall, and I would definitely recommend it to others. That said, if you're looking for a cruise ship with racquetball courts or bingo or organized community-building activities, then Hurtigruten is not for you. This is a cruise for people who love great scenery, like to organize their own activities for the most part, and don't want or need a lot of pampering. Since we're that type of person, we both loved it. Our ship was the MS Richard With (pronounced Rickard Veet), and our cabin was on the stern side of deck 5, which is the promenade deck. We had asked for an outside double cabin on the side away from the car/freight loading bay (to avoid noise during night dockings, thanks to another reviewer on this site) and one deck away from the promenade. However, being on the promenade deck wasn't too bad; the windows are fairly reflective, so people can't see in unless they stop and get close to look, which didn't happen, and the noise level was acceptable—and being on deck 5 made it easier for my mother to get outside to smoke. The ship works on bow thrusters, so there's less engine noise near the stern. We asked ahead for a shower stool for my mother, which we received, and special meals because one of us has an allergy and the other is diabetic. They did all right with the food requirements, though better at dinner for the allergy than with the buffet during the day, which I didn't get much help with. The food was largely Norwegian specialties (lots of fish/seafood and potatoes), and was very good. I especially enjoyed the breakfast buffet. We took advantage of three of the shore excursions during the five main days of our trip (they advertise it as a week, but the first day is just the evening and the last day you leave the ship in the morning and have to be out of your cabin by 8 a.m.). The Hurtigruten website was somewhat misleading about the excursions, offering a 10% discount if you booked three or more excursions in advance. When I booked three I was told that the policy was to give a 10% discount on every excursion AFTER the third, so I wouldn't get any reduction in price. That annoyed me. We eventually decided to book a fourth excursion from the set listed as available during early May, and then were told that it wasn't actually available until June, another mistake on the website. Do talk to their people at the toll free number and hash out the details before you book. Of the excursions we took, I would recommend two of the three. The Geirangerfjord is indeed one of the most beautiful places on earth. We saw it from the water on our way in on the big ship, and the excursion gave you good views from land (after a very brief ferry to the dock). My regret is that we didn't get to see the famous Seven Sisters waterfall from the water because we were lined up below decks for the excursion, but we did get to see it from above later on, some distance away. The bus trip takes you up and down some scary mountain roads, plus a ferry ride across another fjord, and our tour guide was informative and easy to understand (there were different buses for people who spoke German, English, and French). You meet the ship back in Ålesund a few hours later. The other excursion we especially enjoyed was the birdwatching safari. In May, nesting season is going on for puffins, kittiwakes, gannets, shags and razorbills, and some others I've forgotten (my mother is the birder). To get to the bird islands, which are above the Arctic Circle, you take a bus across a mountainous and arctic island—we saw some reindeer from the road, and a sea eagle—and then a small boat. They'll offer you arctic suits, but if your clothing is warm and wind-tight you won't need them. Although there's a small cabin on the boat, almost everyone stayed outside, standing against the railings, to see the birds. The excursion we were disappointed by was the Svartisen Glacier one. We transferred to a smaller boat (this one with inside seating) to make our way up a shallower fjord, and then there was either a 5-minute bus ride or a 15-minute walk to a restaurant with a view of the glacier. You don't come nearer to the ice than seeing it from across a lake. The landscape was interesting and enjoyable, but it's not really a glacier excursion. On the way back to the big ship we stopped in a fishing village with some old abandoned buildings from the eighteenth century and some uninspiring ones from the mid-twentieth. There are times during the trip when the ship is docked for longer than an hour, and when you can leave to explore the town (signing out and in with your room key card). We did so in Trondheim and Tromsø, and were glad we did. You should be aware, though, that most stores and some museums in Norway will be closed on Sundays and Mondays, and plan accordingly. We did our trip just at the beginning of Arctic summer, and therefore of the midnight sun. The curtains on the window in our cabin had good backing and I brought a sleep mask to keep light out while sleeping, and that worked pretty well. We went through the narrow and exciting Trollfjord in the late evening, and the dusky light made it very mysterious and splendid-looking. We had also used Hurtigruten to book hotels in Oslo and Bergen, so we could do sightseeing days in both those cities, one before and one after the cruise. It was slightly more expensive than searching for hotels in good locations ourselves, but worth it for the time and effort saved. And we had them book us both the plane tickets from Kirkenes to Oslo and train tickets from Oslo to Bergen. All the arrangements worked out smoothly. I strongly recommend doing the train trip as opposed to flying to Bergen; it's very scenic, as it moves from gentle farmland up to a mountain plateau still buried in snow in May, then back down to the coast. Overall, a grand experience! 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
This cruise was very different from the cruises I've taken on HAL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The ship was comfortable, but offered almost no entertainment. Entertainment is provided by the ports and the views from your cabin ... Read More
This cruise was very different from the cruises I've taken on HAL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The ship was comfortable, but offered almost no entertainment. Entertainment is provided by the ports and the views from your cabin window or from the decks. There is a free bus from the area near the fish market in Bergen to the Hurtigruten pier. We took advantage of it. Boarding was a breeze. Large bag was checked, and I rolled my rolling back pack. We were told that our cabins would not be ready until about 4 PM, but we were welcome in the public areas. Actually, our cabins were available by 2:30 PM, which was fifteen minutes after we boarded. Shipboard announcements are done in Norwegian, German and English. Most of the passengers on this cruise were people who speak English as a first language. Three meals per day are provided, with two seatings for dinner. There are no formal nights at all, but most folks "cleaned up" for dinner every night. That might mean a clean shirt with the third wearing of the TravelSmith slacks, but it was fine. Food was not really very interesting to me, as I am a vegetarian. There was a lot of caviar and herring available, even at breakfast, and lots of other fish, too. If you are hungry between meals, there is a place to purchase snacks, salads, sandwiches and desserts, at rather high prices, even for Norway. Alcohol was extremely expensive on board. A glass of house wine, from a box, was about $12. Beer was about $10. We had purchased a box of Australian shiraz in Stavanger, and carried it aboard. We shared this wine before dinner and, sometimes, after dinner, and felt as though we saved a considerable amount of money. One evening, there was an entertaining event. We had crossed the arctic circle that day, and we were initiated by "King Neptune" that evening. The costumed ship employee inserted several cubes of ice down our backs, and we were given a certificate, signed by the captain, verifying our crossing. The certificate was dated for the wrong date. The ports were very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the music museum in Trondheim, and the Nordcapp experience. I would recommend this cruise, but not for those who wish to relax and be waited upon. This one is for those who want a "soft" adventure. Read Less
Sail Date September 2005
5 of us (all from Switzerland) sailed on the Nordnorge from Bergen to Kirkenes in mid June 2002. We were delighted with the boarding process which was really easy. Our luggage was taken from us at the dock and we went straight to our ... Read More
5 of us (all from Switzerland) sailed on the Nordnorge from Bergen to Kirkenes in mid June 2002. We were delighted with the boarding process which was really easy. Our luggage was taken from us at the dock and we went straight to our cabins. We then sorted out dinner reservations and were able to secure a table for the group, without other people assigned to it, by opting for the second sitting (7.30pm I seem to remember). The Hurtigruten is a working line, and everything went like clockwork. Loading finished on time and we sailed on time, enjoying the view from the observation lounge of the archipelago as we left Bergen. The cabins, for junior suites, were small but adequate. We had a sitting area, bathroom with shower (bathroom was really small!) and a comfortable king size bed with nice duvets. Everything was spotless. One member of our group has a single cabin - which was in fact a standard double - and she found this really small. If two people had been in it, with both beds down (one folded up in the daytime, and for single use) then there was really no room to move! The only other comment about our cabin is that the window was really high up and you could only see out of it if you stood up. Too bad - it would have been lovely had it been lower! The meals on the ship are typically Norwegian - very copious. (Would suite Americans I suppose but for European travellers servings were rather large!) Breakfast and lunch were buffets with loads of fresh seafood and, to my husband's delight, make-it-yourself waffles at breakfast. Food at dinner was served - the waiters did morning duty as cabin cleaners and were mostly all charming young Norwegian students - and quite bland. Potatoes came with everything!! As I said, this is a working ship. It makes something like 36 port calls from Bergen to Kirkenes, transporting all sorts of things including people. We had been warned that we might hear noise in the night as cargo was loaded and un-loaded. In fact we heard nothing and slept like babies!! But, being a working ship, people keep getting on and off and there seems to be no policy to stop the young from sleeping anywhere on the ship - including the nice swivel chairs in the Observation lounge!! I found this rather tacky. Our itinerary was great. We stopped at Trondheim and took a ship-organised excursion to visit a museum of musical instruments, which was fascinating. We also cruised the Geiranger Fjord - truly beautiful scenery. I think this was added as part of the attraction for foreigners as the ship didn't seem to stop anywhere or load and unload. We stopped at other little (and I mean little!) towns and then sailed to the Lofoten Islands. These are truly spectacular and we enjoyed the couple of hours in port. Another tour we took was at the North Cape, which is Europe's most northerly point. We were bused to the Cape where we had time to see a really good film on it and walk around. We also visited a Sami (Lapp) encampment. I could have done without this as, like American Indian pueblos, it is quite depressing and you hate to see the Sami being exploited as a tourist destination. We were on board on June 21st, way into the Artic Circle, and experienced the sun circling around us instead of setting. Really impressive!! In sum, we all enjoyed the trip. It is not a luxury ship by any means, but it is comfortable (A/C works perfectly in the cabins) and the scenery is fabulous! Read Less
Sail Date June 2002
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