Sail Date: September 2018
To participate in Hurtigruten's "Ultimate Voyage - Through the Northwest Passage - in the Wake of the Great Explorers" aboard the MS Fram. AGAINST TRAVELLING WITH HURTIGRUTEN For over 100 years, Hurtigruten have ... Read More
To participate in Hurtigruten's "Ultimate Voyage - Through the Northwest Passage - in the Wake of the Great Explorers" aboard the MS Fram. AGAINST TRAVELLING WITH HURTIGRUTEN For over 100 years, Hurtigruten have provided an excellent coastal ferry service along the coast of Norway and from our own experience, we would agree. But over recent years, they have expanded to operating adventure cruises, particularly to both Arctic and Antarctic waters, under the slogan "World Leader in Exploration Travel". With this we would NOT agree, after our recent experience aboard Hurtigruten's MS Fram, when we should have sailed eastwards from Cambridge Bay in Arctic Canada through the Northwest (NW) Passage, in the "Wake of the Great Explorers" - but we didn't!! And the way that Hurtigruten has handled this extreme disappointment has destroyed our faith in Hurtigruten, and any belief we had that it was an honourable company who put the well-being of its clients above its 'bottom line'. In the summer of 2018, Hurtigruten ran two cruises in the NW Passage. The first, starting from West Greenland in late August, should have sailed westwards through the passage to Cambridge Bay in Canada, arriving there on September 10th. The second should have left Cambridge Bay on September 10th, sailing eastwards through the passage and on to West Greenland, arriving there on September 24th. The first cruise made only a slight incursion into the passage; the later cruise didn’t even enter the passage, and the most westerly it got was Pond Inlet, just north of Baffin Island. We had booked on the second (later) cruise when it was first advertised through Reader Offers Limited (ROL), a ‘supplier’ to Hurtigruten, in February 2017. It was not an inexpensive cruise (£20,000 for two passengers), but with a long standing interest in Canadian Arctic explorations (particularly the 1846 failed expedition of Sir John Franklin and subsequent expeditions to investigate its fate - especially as the wrecks of the expedition ships Erebus and Terror had been located recently in 2014 and 2016 respectively), we felt this cost was warranted. And the Hurtigrten/ROL prospectus hardly hinted at any likelihood of failure! On the evening before we left home on this adventure, we received an e-mail (dated September 5th) from Hurtigruten via ROL to inform us that the port of our embarkation on the MS Fram would be changed (to where not specified) because of ‘ice conditions in the Victoria and James Ross Straits are such that no ordinary ship can sail through the area’ - but no indication that the whole of our itinerary through the NW Passage would be abandoned. Even when we reached Montreal, at a meeting with the Expedition Team at the hotel on the evening of September 8th (when our port of embarkation was revealed to be Pond Inlet near the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage) - but again with no indication that our NW Passage itinerary was to be completely aborted! Once on board the MS Fram on September 10th, we got some more quantitative information on the ice conditions in the Northwest Passage - but it took until September 13th before the Expedition Team finally confirmed there was no hope of us sailing into the NW Passage. So this essential and major element of our itinerary was finally abandoned, and we sailed to West Greenland for some extra days there. The above timescale aspects are important. If we were charitable, we might have considered Hurtigruten’s slowness in accepting their NW Passage itinerary would have to be abandoned was due to a naïve hope that a timely change in ice conditions would arise, showing a lack of knowledge and experience in cruising in the Canadian arctic waters - after all, their proposed cruises of the Fram in the Canadian Arctic were hailed as ‘maiden voyages’! But as we gained more knowledge of the circumstances, we began to realise that a more likely explanation was a carefully choreographed and cynical attempt to get us aboard the Fram in a duplicitous move to avoid cancellation before the start of the holiday - which under both Hurtigruten and ROL terms and conditions would have entitled us to a full refund of our holiday costs!! Further evidence of this interpretation is given by the situation of the preceding (westwards) cruise of the Fram, where passengers were informed on 3rd September that ice conditions in the NW Passage would not allow their transit to Cambridge Bay - an admission that would have allowed our trip to be cancelled well in advance of our leaving home! Moreover, the ice information came from the official Ice Charts of the Canadian Coastguard, which indicated from the end of July that the NW Passage could not be navigated due to sea ice, and from which it is abundantly clear that there was no remote possibility of fulfilling the Fram’s itinerary through the passage for either the westbound or eastbound cruises. Indeed, this impossibility was demonstrated to other (and earlier) transits by passenger ships: the Vavilov, Akademik Ioffe, Bremer, Boreal, Soleal, and Oceanic Adventurer, all of whom cancelled their arrival at Cambridge Bay before the cancellation by the Fram on 4th September. Indeed, no tourist ships traversed the NW Passage at all in the summer season of 2018. And that includes ships who would have been assisted by following a Canadian ice-breaker, an artifice not afforded to the class 1B only ice-strengthened MS Fram. On 29th October, we received our next communication of substance from Hurtigruten (the second of only two), again via ROL. This document was again profuse in apologies for the changes to our cruise itinerary, and offered us a cash reimbursement of approximately 50% of what we’d paid ROL, plus the offer of a further 50% off a holiday in 2019, to be selected from a small range of future Hurtigruten cruises. This latter aspect is of little interest to us, as it involves a further 50% payment from us, and at present we are also disinclined ever to travel with Hurtigruten again!! So for us what Hurtigruten’s offer boils down to was to reduce our holiday from “the Ultimate Voyage - Through the NW Passage - in the Wake of the Great Explorers” to essentially an eight day cruise along the West Coast of Greenland for just under £10,000 for the two of us if we‘d accepted Hurtigruten’s ‘reimbursement’ of 29th October. Whereas if Hurtigruten had had the honesty to cancel this ‘Ultimate Voyage’ before it started, and given us a full refund (as then due under their terms and conditions), we could have used our £20,000 to book a future 18 day holiday from Reykjavik to Western Greenland, and still have about £10,000 to spare!! And we might have admired Hurtigruten’s moral stance to look after their clients, and retained some respect for the self-styled “World Leader in Expedition Travel”. We don’t dispute Hurtigruten’s decision not to traverse the Northwest Passage. But we are angered by their tardy response to sea ice conditions, and we are now certainly convinced that the failure of Hurtigruten/ROL to face the facts in the public domain in August (that the Northwest Passage was a ‘no go’ area for passenger ships in 2018) and to persist with our Fram cruise when they could have cancelled before our start, was a shabby treatment to keep a large proportion of our money!! So after Hurtigruten’s moral failure, we are now pursuing redress under Hurtigruten’s legal responsibilities, in particular under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992. We now note in the summer of 2019, Hurtigruten/ROL are again offering two cruises through the Northwest Passage from/to Cambridge Bay to/from West Greenland, on the MS Fram. In addition, they are also offering a full transit of the Passage, starting from Halifax (Nova Scotia) to Nome (Alaska), on their new ship, the Roald Amundsen. Again, their prospectuses for these voyages are couched in glowing and enthusiastic terms, with little hint that they could be aborted. They even advise “you will be sailing amazing straits … and hopefully enough ice to make it for excellent wildlife spotting” - they should be careful for what they wish!! We shall observe the progress of these journeys with interest, to see if Hurtigruten have learned anything from their aborted cruises on the Fram in 2018. Please be aware that we found the on board staff to be delightful, and we had no complaints regarding the ship's catering and house management (although the lecture room situation was unsuitable) - our sole complaint is with Hurtigruten Management and the way they aborted the cruise through the NW Passage with derisory compensation. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
We were particularly interested in the kayaking and camping opportunities which were heavily advertised in the brochure and a major selling point for the trip. Although these were optional activities, the wording and photographs suggested ... Read More
We were particularly interested in the kayaking and camping opportunities which were heavily advertised in the brochure and a major selling point for the trip. Although these were optional activities, the wording and photographs suggested that the only reason you might not be able to participate would be inclement weather. On the cruise, a meeting was arranged to present these activities and we were informed that only 3 groups of 12 kayakers would be organised. As the activity would obviously be oversubscribed, a list would be posted outside the meeting and a 'draw' made to select participants. There would be no camping due to 'staffing issues'. Nothing more was announced until the day before the kayaking when a list of 36 names was posted on a noticeboard. 18 of these were members of a Chinese party who, we were told, had 'special status' due to them being 'around the world' customers. The remaining 18 places were heavily oversubscribed and so many passengers did not get to kayak. With over 200 passengers on the Fram this was a very poor ratio for an activity which was so heavily promoted in the cruise brochure. I wrote to Hurtigruten regarding this issue and finally received a reply pointing out that kayaking and camping were cancelled on this trip due to bad weather. When I pointed out that the the weather had been glorious and the kayaking actually went ahead they eventually sent a very short reply stating that passenger safety was the most important consideration! I still don't know if they simply sent me a stock answer or whether the ship had given them incorrect information. Either way, the matter was dealt with in a very disappointing manner. So, Antarctica and South Georgia are wonderful destinations but if you want to kayak, camp, hike or carry out any of the advertised activities be very careful booking with Hurtigruten. There are other excellent companies out there! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
First let me say it should tell you something that I'm posting this 3 years later. That's how disappointing this cruise was. Second, Antarctica is incredible, this cruise line does get you there, and it's worth going - ... Read More
First let me say it should tell you something that I'm posting this 3 years later. That's how disappointing this cruise was. Second, Antarctica is incredible, this cruise line does get you there, and it's worth going - despite the incredible disappointment of the cruise company to deliver a quality safe experience in my opinion. And it is all about the hospitality in this case. If you want to just go on an expedition cruise and not care about food, towels, coffee, comfort... then sure. This is fine. But for the price and with just a little effort they could do so much better. People save their whole livest to get to Antarctica. Why not make an effort. The basics: The ship is fine. I am more concerned with seaworthy and safety in this case. However, the common area is pathetically sad. It's like a small bad lounge in a drab little Euro-hotel. Bad coffee. Stale cookies. It all feels like an uninviting afterthought. Just one aspect of failed hospitality effort that never really brought the cruise together nor made one feel welcomed. The food was terrible. Which at first I figured we were at the end of the world and supplies were limited. But when we explored Ushuaia we found plenty of fresh produce, good coffee, pastries... at reasonable prices. Clearly Hurtigruten could have sourced better. There were literally fights in the dining area. Over what I can't even imagine. All the food tasted like hospital food. Really sad. There is nothing that says luxury at all. The towels were small, worn, scratchy and scarce. Yes we went to an amazing place and got to go on an incredible adventure. I'll always cherish that. But they could have done so much better with the slightest awareness of hospitality. At one point, wanting to create an experience for myself and friends we made on the trip, I paid our guide to pluck a piece of calved glacier ice from the water. I created a moment in the bar where we chiseled-off a piece of that prehistoric ice that contained compressed air bubbles from millennia ago. When you poured a liquor over it you could hear those bubble effervesce. Simple. Magical. Special. Not vaguely in the awareness of our host. Lastly, be warned that if there's a medical emergency, your cruise is ruined. Too much to explain here, but research it. We were told that the cruise before ours lost 4 days for and emergency evacuation. One is supposed to have a doctor's note to go on this adventure. On several occasions we saw people put into very precarious positions by the crew. (Many of which kind of came off as junior-college level awkward dolts. The geologist was frankly weird and rude). These situations could have easily resulted in a crisis. For just one example: a clearly overweight, out of shape, knee brace person with cane teetering on the edge of a portable aluminum stair case while trying to get out of a heavily rocking raft in rubber boots onto a very slippery rocky shore with crashing waves. We actually did have a medical emergency that could have ruined our journey. A man that had several prior hip / knee surgeries fell on the boat. But thankfully there happened to be an anesthesiologist and a surgeon on board. And we were told his wife, having been through so many surgeries, provided critical assistance. Without all of that good fortune we would have ad to go to South Shetlands (if I recall) and wait for good weather and airlift. The ship is required to sit in port until weather clears enough for the plane to leave. Overall, we're thrilled we got to go. We loved it. It was worth the risk. But we make the most or any experience. The places we got to see were truly once in a lifetime. And the austere beauty of this other worldly place is unrivaled. It's just too bad that this company doesn't interested in making a sincere effort to make it special. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2013
We sailed the Polar Circle itinerary Feb. 1 2013. The Antarctica scenery, wildlife, and landscape are spectacular and the itinerary met our every expectation and more. The ship public spaces are clean and in good repair with a very nice ... Read More
We sailed the Polar Circle itinerary Feb. 1 2013. The Antarctica scenery, wildlife, and landscape are spectacular and the itinerary met our every expectation and more. The ship public spaces are clean and in good repair with a very nice observation lounge/bar on Deck 5, good space around the lecture rooms and coffee bar on Deck 4, and good outside space for observation when weather permits. There are very nice saunas for men and women and two outdoor hottubs. There is a small but adequate fitness area with treadmills and and weight equipment. It is usually not crowded and easy to access but there is no drinking water and towels are on a different floor. We purchased return air from Buenos Aries to Ushuaia embarkation point and airport transfers in Ushuaia. The flight down and embarkation was without incident but the dis-embarkation and return flight were poorly handled. We were told to board a bus at 7:45 am for a two hour city tour and transfer to the airport. We got on the bus, it drove to a parking lot at the end of the pier, parked, and we were told we had 2 hours free time for whatever we wanted to do. The ship told us nothing about walking around the town and few were prepared for a walking tour. We were fortunate that the weather turned out well or it would have been two hours sitting on the bus. The return flight was scheduled for 12:30 pm and was delayed an hour. It is 3 1/2 hours. Hurtigruten made no provision for lunch and told us nothing about the lack of lunch. Communications from Hurtigruten before the cruise were limited and terse. Our final cruise documents had to be emailed because we still had not received them a week before our flight departed. We received a notice that a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park, which was included in the package that we purchased, would no longer be included and we would have to pay an extra $105 pp to take it. We got this straightened out but the messages from Hurtigruten were flip to terse and showed little respect for us. This lack of communication continued throughout the trip. Ships officers dined in the dining room but seldom said hello or engaged with passengers. The expedition leader was not visible on the ship at all. Expedition team members seldom interacted with passengers on board outside of their lectures. Daily programs were fragmentary and not very descriptive of what shore excursions would be. The shore excursions are included in the price and there were about a dozen in different places. Most were short walks, some difficult, with good views of penguin colonies and landscape. Safety during landings in the Polarcircle boats were a priority for the expedition team and were conducted safely under sometimes difficult conditions. We had suite 638, one of the highest category suites on the ship. There was a spacious balcony. The suite itself was very spacious but not as conveniently appointed as we have seen on other lines. There was not much storage for this size cabin and the bathroom was very small and without the finishes and amenities that we have seen in suites on other lines. This is an expedition ship and you are constantly changing into and out of shore landing gear but there was no accommodation in the room for the gear or for drying wet landing apparel. Amenities were better than other cabins on board but much less than we have seen in lower category suites on other lines. The restaurant and hotel staff were friendly and helpful but there did not seem to be enough staff to meet needs in a timely fashion. The waiters started clearing tables well before people were finished and once they started clearing it was difficult to get service. Eight of our 12 evening meals were buffet. The served dinners were fixed menu with one option for the entree. Lunch and dinner buffets were heavy on starches and pasta. Salads were available but vegetables were limited. We found the food quality to be mediocre and often less than well prepared. Wine and beer are available for meals but expensive. Our cabin rate included wine and beer with meals and the servers were trained to recognize this without issues about charges. There is coffee, tea, and some pastries available at no charge during the day but no other food available between meals. The crew did two evening talent shows that were fun. Movies were available some nights but no other entertainment. There are limited itineraries that sail below the Antarctic Circle and MV Fram will have to be considered if you want that itinerary but be aware of the shortcomings of this company and vessel. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2008
I selected Fram because she was a new ship. Actually, she is very well engineered, but the interior is terrible, old fashioned and cheap. The cabins are the worst I have ever seen on any cruise ship. Small and poorly decorated, worse than ... Read More
I selected Fram because she was a new ship. Actually, she is very well engineered, but the interior is terrible, old fashioned and cheap. The cabins are the worst I have ever seen on any cruise ship. Small and poorly decorated, worse than your average overnight Ferry. There is nothing else to do on this ship entertainmentwise. It is very boring! The bar prices are outrageous and the drinks are rather poor (they use cheap wine and poor ingredients, but the bar prices are the highest you can imagine). The worst thing was the disgusting Norwegian-style cuisine. They seemed never to have heard of finesse, taste, spices and choice. It was basically the same boring selection every day. Soups were generally avoid of taste, there was no vegetarian choice on the buffet, pasta and vegetables were generally overcooked and prepared without any spices nor finesse. I have never experienced such bad food anywhere in the world. Did you ever wonder why there is no Norwegian restaurant in your neighborhood? Well, here´s why: their cuisine is uneatable for our taste buds. You just wonder why they force their crappy Norwegian food on international guests going to Antarctica? Do they want you to experience how poorly the early explorers had to live down there? Come on board Fram and experience yourself! Well, having said all the bad things about this ship (and I would never go on Fram or any other Hurtigruten ship again) there were some good points. Lectures were excellent, given by a great team of experienced staff. The landings in Antarctica were great and so was the scenery. Next time I chose a different ship, though. Read Less
Fram Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 2.0 0.0
Public Rooms 3.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 2.0 0.0
Family 1.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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