We have sailed on Hurtigruten’s ms Fram twice. Of the many cruises we have been on, when asked, we always say that our Antarctica trip on Hurtigruten’s Fram was the best by far. What a disappointment then to sail on the Roald ... Read More
We have sailed on Hurtigruten’s ms Fram twice. Of the many cruises we have been on, when asked, we always say that our Antarctica trip on Hurtigruten’s Fram was the best by far. What a disappointment then to sail on the Roald Amundsen. This was a totally unsatisfactory expedition. There are too many passengers for it to operate as an expedition ship. We were told by Tudor Morgan, Expedition Leader, that these new 500 passenger ships were designed to provide “soft” expeditions – less active, slower paced. But there is nothing in the literature, brochures or website that indicates that there is a difference in expeditions. We expected the Roald Amundsen to operate as the Fram does with the possibility of multiple landings in a day and lots of lectures and movies.
The Roald Amundsen is a beautiful ship. It is state-of-the-art but it was not ready for cruising. This was stated by Tudor and by the Captain of the ship. Consequently, many things were not working yet or not working correctly. The hand rails look very stylish. However, you cannot actually hold on to them because the rounded wood part sits atop a metal piece that is sharp when you grab ahold of it.
Our departure from Iceland (we booked back-to-back cruises starting in Iceland and ending in Nome, Alaska) was delayed a day and a port cancelled due to an U.S. Coast Guard inspection that had been scheduled prior to the ship being ready but had to take place prior to sailing into Canada and the U.S.
Because of the U.S. Coast Guard inspection in Reykjavik we missed Heimaey, Iceland. Because of rerouting due to ice, we missed Prince Leopold Island and Ft. Ross. Because of U.S. regulations, we missed Point Barrows, Alaska.
The ship was several years in construction. Hurtigruten had plenty of time to understand the regulations concerning inspections and approvals required for visiting countries ensuring inspections or requirements did not disrupt any planned events. The Captain said that the ship was taken before it was fully ready/finished because it is a very expensive ship and they needed to start paying for their investment. Therefore, we the passengers, were guinea pigs.
The head office was blamed for all electronic mis-workings. We were told that a Norwegian third party was responsible for the internet and workings of the television.
Safety Briefing: We were told the briefing was mandatory. We could not see the demonstration. There were too many people for the Explorer’s Lounge. 500 passengers do not fit into the Lounge if they are required to see something in the middle of the space. The space is designed with obstructions. Everyone crowded into the center and no one else could see. There was only one-person demonstrating as far as we could tell. It would have been helpful to have multiple people in various locations demonstrating the safety equipment.
Following the demonstration, we were told to go to our muster station – the Aune Restaurant. It was stated that our room keys would be scanned – as a way of ensuring that we had all attended. No one took roll. A paper printout of names would have worked.
Medical Forms: Completed medical forms signed by our doctor were mandatory for embarking on the ship. However, no one collected medical forms on either cruise. From Iceland to Greenland - the doctor was not ever available to personally deliver the form to. My husband found someone who said they would take the form and give it to the doctor. But there was no official collection of them. However, on the Northwest Passage trip not only did no one collect the forms but the doctor refused to take them. Several passengers asked Reception when the forms were going to be collected and were told that the Doctor did not want them. Passengers had gone to great lengths (time and expense) to have the forms filled out and signed by their physicians as instructed. Why are your own policies not followed?
I went to see the doctor with bronchitis. The Doctor said I needed antibiotics but the clinic only stocked erythromycin and I am allergic to erythromycin. So, he said he could do nothing for me and sent me on my way telling me to rest.
Disembarkation Day in Greenland: Six of us from the Iceland to Greenland voyage continued on to the NWP trip. We were offered no activities on the day everyone disembarked. We were served lunch and dinner in the Fredheim (a second restaurant). But apart from that the ship was dead. We were not offered the opportunity to join the days’ excursion off the ship. We, however, pressed this issue and eventually we were told we could join the group. Then we were told we could not. Then we were told we could but we probably would not want to because the buses would be crowded, etc. We were strongly discouraged from joining. In the end, we opted not to go. There were absolutely no activities for us on the ship. The newly embarking passengers did not arrive until about midnight.
Ship Services Information: The cabins do not have a book of “Ship’s Services and Information.” It is on the TV once you figure out how to find it. But the listings are incomplete or incorrect. The Announcements section tells you to program the F1 button on your phone in order to hear announcements in your room. This did not function.
There is no information on what services the Wellness Center offers. Restaurants are listed but nowhere does it tell you that there is a charge for eating in the Fredheim restaurant. No menu available for Fredheim nor Lindstrom.
Paperwork says ship’s currency is NOK. On board we are told it is Euro.
The Embassy information is incorrect.
TV and Announcements: The television must be tuned to Channel 1 in order to hear announcements in your room. You cannot hear announcements if watching a movie. You cannot hear announcements if reading the Daily Program on line. No way to hear announcements without TV being on. The rooms are very sound proof (which is a good thing) so you cannot hear announcements being broadcasted in the hallways. You can not hear announcements if you are in the bathroom. You cannot hear announcements if inside the elevator.
None of the News, Sports, etc. channels on the TV worked.
Daily Program is shown on TV alternating between English and German. The languages should be separated. You need to have an English channel and a German channel. It takes too long to wait for the appropriate page to come around again.
If you have the TV on for a while (an hour??) you get a message asking if it should shut down. But there is no way to answer that question. The TV controller does not allow you to move from the default “YES” position. You can not move the button. So, you have to shut down the TV and turn it back on. This also means that you frequently miss announcements because you are unaware that the TV has shut off.
There are cameras on the Bridge showing images off the bow and stern. These live camera images are not broadcast on the TV.
The brochure states that there is an underwater camera that allows you to see marine wildlife. There is no such camera.
Lectures were supposed to be recorded and available for viewing on our TV’s. This did not happen. Considering the problems with seating and viewing lectures in the Auditorium, this would have been welcomed.
Auditorium: Making the auditorium modern and digital seems to have influenced the design rather than functionally. The auditorium is not designed to accommodate 250 (half the ship) at one time and certainly not all 500. It is a very awkward space. Chairs were squeezed in to allow for more seating but there was no leg room. Depending on where you sat you were unable to see the screen. The speaker stands in the middle of the floor space blocking the screens.
People sit in the Science Center area for more seating. The speaker is then forced to walk around the four screens to point things out to all those sitting in different locations when the lecture is shown on all four screens. Lectures take twice as long because the speaker keeps having to repeat themselves as they walk around.
The headset microphones DO NOT WORK. This was ALWAYS a major ordeal. Continually having to fiddle with them or change them. Or the speaker had to stand still in one spot to keep them from cutting out. At one briefing five different headsets were tried.
Each speaker brings his own laptop and it takes two or three people and time to get it to work. Why not hook up one machine (and ensure that it works properly) and just have briefers bring their own flash drives to stick into it.
Lectures: Because of the number of passengers and limited number of expedition team members, there are no lectures on board while landings are being made. This means that there are no activities at all on a landing day during the day. Most lectures were given in English and then separately in German. Sometimes a third time in Norwegian. With only one lecture room and the occasional use of the Exploration Lounge there were not nearly as many lectures as there could have been. All activities stopped between noon and 2 pm – lunch time. Only a couple movies were shown.
Exploration Lounge: The Exploration Lounge was not designed for all 500 passengers to attend any kind of event. It is too small. It has obstructions that prevent a clear view to either end of the room. There are two smaller spaces to the front of the main section. One by the bar. Because there isn’t enough seating in the main section, these side sections fill up for additional seating. But no one can see from there. People stand up and block everyone’s view.
The swivel chairs lined up at the windows each have a very clever little table that swivels back and forth. However, it is a bit fragile and people lean on it to get up. The table tops are now leaning in some direction and anything set on them slides off. If the table top is swiveled off to the side in order to make more space for getting up and down it is then in the way of the next chair. The chairs are very close together for the table top.
No one sits in the lounge chairs at the front windows because you cannot see out. The windows are at an extreme angle and there are railings and other obstructions on the outside that prevent seeing anything.
Science Center: This is a nice idea especially when you are trying to emphasize the expedition theme. However, it is not practical. It was seldom used and is taking up valuable space. The Science Center is being used for overflow seating when the auditorium is full. Which is basically every time there is a briefing.
There is a small reference library and an electronic map that didn’t work.
The Science Center could be put to better use making it another lounge area with tables for playing board games, cards and working on puzzles, etc. Like on the Fram.
We found three boxed games. We finally found the one puzzle on board. Puzzles are perfect for all the down time we had on board. We started the puzzle on a section of a table in the science center because there was no other place. But it kept getting moved back and forth over the time being worked and pieces got lost along the way.
Restaurant: The main dining room is like a small café or cafeteria. Contrary to our documentation, there were no assigned seats only 1st or 2nd seating. People started lining up 30 minutes prior to opening time in order to get a seat. The seating was mostly tables for 2. At breakfast and lunch, you frequently had to stand around and wait for people to leave before you could find an open table.
The staff cannot keep the tables cleared and reset fast enough. The hall is designed for two lanes of traffic not the four or five that actually exist.
The dining room is a madhouse. It is a frenzy of disorder. Absolutely not set up for the number of people the ship carries. It is noisy. The busing stations are in the middle of the dining room causing noise and lots of congestion.
At breakfast, you first come to the toaster, butter and jam, then bread. In order to use the toaster, you have to backtrack and cut into the line. Long lines form at the bread station no matter what meal. The bread line usually goes down the hall past the first set of tables.
The main courses are offered in two location, but no one knows that. The line, which always goes down the hall, blocks the kitchen door. Servers have to work their way through the crowd of people. Several times what they are carrying (dirty dishes, clean dishes, food or drinks) was dropped due to someone bumping into them.
Salads come after the main food. The oil and vinegar came BEFORE the salad. So, people have to try to cut back into the line to put oil and vinegar on their salads.
There is a very poor cheese selection and none at lunch. It was not uncommon for the dining room to run out of dessert and glasses and silverware.
The food was never hot but luke-warm at best. A juice dispenser spigot broke, as well as, one of the water dispensers. Neither were repaired.
Coffee is NOT served at dinner because (we were told by both servers and restaurant manager) “They do not have time.” This is unacceptable. Passengers could get their own coffee from the machines if they were maintained with beans, water and grounds removed. You are not allowed to remove food from the dining room so it is impossible to eat your dinner dessert with a cup of coffee anywhere on the ship.
We had 4 pm snacks in the Lounge during the Iceland to Greenland voyage. There were no snacks on the Northwest Passage voyage. When asked why, the Restaurant Manager stated that it was against U.S. regulations to carry food the distance from the kitchen to the Lounge. This makes no sense. We were NOT in U.S. waters until the last two days of our 24-day voyage.
Elevator: There is no way to tell if an elevator is going up or down. There are no arrows indicating which direction the elevator is traveling. Nor is there any kind of sound indicating that the elevator has arrived.
You can not hear announcements while in the elevator.
The elevator door sensors do not work. We and many others had elevator doors close on us. This problem was not limited to any individual elevator but happened on various occasions in each of the four different elevators. None of the buttons would retract the doors.
Ship Store: The ship’s store does not sell sundries/toiletries. The Store staff refer you to Reception who have a written list of items carried. The items are stored in the back somewhere. Why are they not visible in the store?
The store on the Roald Amundson is selling impractical items – leather handbags, several different brands of designer watches (i.e., Garmin GPS), high end jewelry to include tanzanite and diamonds. There is an entire section of fragrances. Electronics like GoPro. There are Roald Amundsen tee-shirts in red, white or black and a book about the ship. There are four bins full of stuffed animals. But there were no Iceland, Greenland nor Northwest Passage related items for sale at all - no books, patches, pins, post cards, sweatshirts, tee-shirts or souvenirs of any kind.
There was a small assortment of clothing but not long underwear, gloves, socks, winter hats, etc. – items that would have been of use being in the Arctic.
Excursions: We booked our excursions on line. The list of excursions was taped to a wall near the Science Center. We were not told this. We found out the day after boarding the ship that a new excursion had been added but it was already full.
Point Barrows was on the itinerary as a landing. However, because the Hurtigruten rubber boats do not meet U.S. regulations, we were prohibited from going ashore. When did this regulation come into effect? When did Hurtigruten find out? Why were we not notified prior to being told a couple days before?
Expedition Team: Their academic knowledge is outstanding. But they are not good at organization. We were told on several occasions that we would be called by group numbers but no groups were ever called. Crowds of people just showed up at once. People clogged the Exploration Launch area because they arrived when they wanted and stood or sat around. No one prevented this from happening. People crammed into the auditorium as people were trying to exit trying to grab a front row seat.
The staff did nothing to police the crowds attending lecturers. Because seating was so limited in the Auditorium and Lounge, people saved seats for future events sometimes hours ahead of time. There were instances when the saved seats were overlooked (ignored) and someone else sat there. On several occasions this nearly caused an international incident. It may be a cultural thing but it is unacceptable for people to hoard the limited seating.
Gjoa Haven – The Expedition Team stated that they had a cell phone that could call anywhere. We visited Gjoa Haven on Labor Day and when asked if stores would be open and if crafts would be available, the Team didn’t know. They had not remembered that we would be landing on Labor Day. Why did they not call ahead? We understood that all guides, events, activities, etc. offered ashore were the responsibility of the community. However, the Team could have checked prior to our arrival.
There were not enough team members to handle the zodiacs on shore, be part of the various community groups and provide activities on board during a landing day.
Landings: Every landing was an all-day event. Launching would stop at 10 am and not resume until 2 pm. Once resumed we did not go ashore until after 3 pm. That meant that we sat around all day waiting to go ashore with no activities on board the entire time. This was the normal routine.
There were 14 zodiacs but only 9 drivers.
When visiting areas where a local guide was provided, it was customary for an expedition team member to be part of each group. However, because of the number of groups due to the number of passengers, it was not possible for each to have a team member. There were too many groups and not enough team members.
Cambridge Bay – were told that our key cards would be scanned when arriving on shore. That did not happen.
Disembarkation Day in Nome, Alaska: The Nome, Alaska, airport is tiny. The 145 passengers departing on the plane before ours were pushing their way up to the one-lane security operation one at a time when our 130 passengers arrived. We did not fit in the waiting room. There was seating for perhaps 20. It took an extra two hours to get through security and load passengers. Once again this was a surprise to everyone concerned. We arrived in Vancouver at about 10 pm and then had a 45-minute bus ride to the hotel. However, we were served a very nice hot meal on board our chartered Alaska Airlines plane.
Too Many Passengers for an Expedition: The real problem is that the ship CAN NOT accommodate an expedition cruise with 500 people. The Fram, with its 200 passengers in Antarctica, runs perfectly. There is no requirement to stop landings for four hours to accommodate lunch time. Each landing is an all-day event with no activity on board. The Roald Amundsen cannot accommodate 500 people in their public spaces.
If there is an agreement to not put more than 100 or 200 on shore at a time it stands to reason that it will take forever to rotate 500 people on and off shore.
This was very disappointing. Too much dead time. Not enough lectures.
We will never sail on the Roald Amundsen again. Very disappointing. Too many people. Badly designed restaurant. Not enough public space.. Read Less