My husband and I, 2 English passengers, had all of our luggage stolen from a Hurtigruten ship after embarking at Bergen for the 12 day round trip. We feel we must highlight the incident and dangers to other current and future international passengers, who will naturally expect in 2014 a certain level of security. Global passengers do not expect when sold a cruise that anyone off the street can board a ship, steal passengers’ suitcases that have been left unsafe in corridors or in unlocked luggage stores and walk off the ship with the suitcases completely unchallenged. There is no security.
Hurtigruten are refusing to replace our stolen possessions, even after admitting that the suitcases were in their care and it is therefore their responsibility to put the situation right, as they were negligent by allowing a visitor to steal the 2 big suitcases and walk past the staff completely unchallenged.
Norway had previously been our favourite country and we had visited 9 times including a previous Hurtigruten round trip voyage 5 years ago. We have had a very stressful last 2 years with a job and house relocation and a sequence of failed attempts to buy a house. I have a brain tumour and my health has been deteriorating. We have got married recently and this was our honeymoon. Knowing Norway and the sailing schedule, we expected a relaxing, beautiful, stress free 12 day voyage.
Imagine our devastation just hours after boarding, when it became apparent that our luggage had been stolen. It seems that Hurtigruten’s poor security procedures had allowed a “visitor” to simply walk onto the ship, take our 2 large suitcases, containing a lot of brand new winter clothing bought specifically for this trip, then walk straight off the ship again without any of the Hurtigruten or Bergen harbour authority staff even questioning him. One of the suitcases was found by a Hurtigruten staff member at a nearby bus stop, it had been ripped open and virtually emptied. We were left with virtually none of our possessions.
We checked in at the Bergen Hurtigruten terminal at around 17.30hrs on Sunday 16th March 2014 and the Hurtigruten staff took our 2 large suitcases. We then proceeded upstairs for the safety video, then boarded the ship on level 5. We expected that our luggage would arrive in the cabin later in the evening. We had dinner and then went to the 9pm information talk by the tour leader. By 21.40hrs our luggage still had not arrived and we phoned reception and were told not to worry as the suitcases were all on the ship and must have been placed outside the wrong cabin. My husband had already looked around the whole ship and all the corridors by this stage and it was clear to us that there was a problem.
The ship set sail on time at 22.30hrs at which point our luggage still had not been found. They had searched the terminal and no cases were found.
The ship turned around, back to Bergen after around 5-10 minutes. It seems an IT worker was returning to his flat from the ship and found 1 of our suitcases, ripped open and mostly empty by the bus stop. The other case was not at the scene. It was only at this point the ship realised that the suitcases had been stolen. The man at Bergen terminal then remembered a man had visited the ship at around 21.00 - 22.00hrs and left with 2 big suitcases, because he remembers saying goodnight to him when he handed back his visitors pass!
The ship do not know where they left the cases for them to be stolen. It could be in the corridor, by the lift, by the reception, as they have no organised system.
We were totally devastated by what had happened. We did not sleep at all that night. The hotel manager the morning after the theft told us not to contact our holiday insurance, because the suitcases were in the care of the ship and they would look after us. We had not left our cabin, as we were so upset and in shock. The Hotel Manager told us to have some lunch and then to get off at Alesund. They gave us some emergency funds to buy the essential items of clothing, such as underwear and thermal base layers for the extremely cold weather conditions of the voyage etc, but as we only had 2 hours in Alesund, a port we are unfamiliar with and we were in such a state we were only able to buy a few items and as the prices in Norway are very, very high, the emergency funds did not buy much.
The Hotel Manager said that he would look into how Hurtigruten would make payment for the other stolen items that we would be unable to replace while in Norway. At his request we gave him a provisional list of stolen items that would need replacing, for him to give to the police when he reported the theft to them in Alesund. On the provisional police report they estimated the losses to be at least 40 000 NOK.
We subsequently had a nightmare 2 weeks of stress and upset which was made worse by Hurtigruten staff. In particular we met with the senior vice president of hotel operations when we were in port in Tromso day 5 on Thursday 20th March 2014. We met him for about 15 minutes just before the ship set sail. He clearly had not prepared for the meeting. His inappropriate opening line was “I gather you have had some bad luck with your luggage”. It was obvious that he had no appreciation of what we had been going through. To describe the incident as bad luck is appalling, given that the theft was only possible through Hurtigruten’s negligent security procedures which allow anyone freely on and off the ship without being challenged. When I corrected his insensitivity he said, “I cannot defend the indefensible”. All questions that we asked him he deferred saying “I’ll have to get back to you on that”. Not the sort of behaviour and responses I would expect from apparently the senior vice president of a large company.
On the morning of 22nd March the Hotel Manager explained to us that the Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations wanted us to provide another list of all the outstanding stolen items that required replacement this time with replacement values, so that Hurtigruten could look into how to pay us for these items. We spent the whole day compiling this list again. The internet on the ship is extremely slow and breaks up, which made it incredibly difficult to try and get replacement costs for some items. Having to spend a whole day doing this is clearly not going to be an enjoyable task to have to do while supposedly on holiday. On most days we had to spend time chasing the Hotel Manager for copies of paperwork, the police crime reference number, the Hurtigruten report, any progress or an update from the police (e.g. had they yet reviewed the CCTV cameras that we were told are present in the Bergen Hurtigruten terminal?) Some of the paperwork Hurtigruten still have not provided.
At 22:00hrs on Saturday 22nd March we were appalled to then be given by the Hotel Manager an email from Senior The Vice President. In the email he wrote that “our policy for lost luggage is £500 per person as outlined in our terms and conditions” He “apologises for the inconvenience”. Again, this email shows no recognition or acknowledgement of the continued upset and distress that we have been caused. I think to describe the event as an “inconvenience” is rather flippant. Again, our luggage is not “lost”, but has been stolen whilst in Hurtigruten’s care through Hurtigruten’s negligence. Despite having requested a list of outstanding items and replacement costs, the Senior Vice President was clearly putting us through more stress and upset and obviously had no intention of even looking at this list. In his email he writes “ we are prepared to offer a further 10 000NOK in addition to the 20 000NOK you have already received from the ship to cover your losses. This is only on production of receipts”. It is incorrect and misleading to say we had already received 20 000 NOK to cover our losses. This money was given as emergency funds by the Hotel Manager for us to buy basic items, such as underwear. From this money we also had to buy 2 new suitcases, which cost more than 3000NOK by themselves. Obviously while 20000NOK is a large sum of money, it does not buy very much in Norway, given the very high prices, particularly for winter clothing and we were only able to replace a small number of our possessions.
We are now left in a position, that even after replacing some items with the emergency money we are still more than a further 30 000NOK out of pocket. This does not take any account of the loss of holiday, time, extreme distress, anger and upset which also needs to be recognised and compensated.
We feel that the easy theft of our suitcases has only been possible because Hurtigruten do not have adequate security measures in place to prevent anyone simply walking on and off the ship with passengers possessions or luggage and as such Hurtigruten are negligent and have failed in their duty to provide sufficient safekeeping of passenger luggage, having received the suitcases into Hurtigruten’s care.
I feel the current outcome is extremely unjust and I ask you to put yourself in our positions……me with a brain tumour and deteriorating health and we have been looking forward to our honeymoon taking a beautiful voyage through our favourite country for potentially the last time together, then within hours of boarding the Hurtigruten ship, we are devastated to find that our luggage has been stolen due to negligent procedures on Hurtigruten’s behalf. We then have to endure 12 days of upset, stress, flippant remarks by a senior vice president, daily battles with the hotel manager to try and get information and answers. We have had to waste time providing documentation for Hurtigruten, yet they have been obstructive to providing us with the necessary paperwork. Despite days of chasing the Hotel Manager, he only provided us with the crime reference number 15 minutes before he got off the ship on Monday 24th March 2014, 3 full days before the end of the voyage. As a result of the theft we are thousands of pounds out of pocket and our honeymoon and holiday have been ruined.
If this had happened to you would you feel that Hurtigruten have handled the situation well and would you be satisfied with their response, because we certainly are not?
Since coming home we have emailed the CEO of Hurtigruten, but to date have not even had an acknowledgement of receipt of our email. Unfortunately bad things do happen occasionally, but the sign of a good company is how they react in these events to put matters right. Hurtigruten comes out extremely badly.
Hurtigruten represents Norwegian heritage, people and country. We were told by the tour leader that Norwegians are compassionate. We have seen no evidence of this. Hurtigruten relies on foreign tourists and if this is how it treats it’s international guests that have paid so much money, it will soon have no guests when this story goes global.
It is unbelievable that in 2014 Hurtigruten have no security measures in place to ensure the safekeeping of its global guests and their possessions. You would think after Norway’s Anders Breivik tragedy that Hurtigruten would have re-evaluated it’s security and risk assessments. At present any visitor is allowed on board completely unchecked. No checks of identity, passport, x ray of person or bags. It would be incredibly easy for a bomb to be left on board.
The Senior Vice President that came on board to briefly meet us in Tromso, said that we should be reassured that they had immediately changed their protocol and that now any visitor leaving the ship with passengers’ suitcases would be challenged!!!! They have completely missed the point.
We spent the entire voyage trying to resolve this travesty. What do you think we should do next? Perhaps you might think this security risk should be notified to the wider travel world, so prospective passengers can make an informed choice?
Review of voyage and ship Nordkapp
If you have stuck with reading this I will now objectively review the voyage and compare it to our previous one. 5 years ago we booked the same 12 day round voyage on Finnmarken. A couple of weeks before departure I phoned customer services to book some excursions. I was shocked to be told that I could not book the excursions, because the voyage had been cancelled, but they could not tell me anything else, as I had booked through a travel agent. Immediately I phoned the travel agent who phoned Hurtigruten who said everything was fine. I made the travel agent phone again and this time Hurtigruten said it was cancelled, as the ship was going into dry dock as an emergency. To cut a long story short, after a lot of inconvenience and bother we rearranged our lives and rescheduled the voyage on another ship in the fleet, the Midnatsol. When we arrived at Bergen airport at 10pm from Gatwick we waited and waited for our prepaid / prebooked transfer that never arrived. We got a taxi to our prebooked overnight hotel. When we went to get our transfer from the hotel to the quay in the afternoon, yes you guessed it, it never turned up. However the hotel reception told us to stay put as the ship was stuck in very rough seas and would not be arriving in Bergen until very late at night or the next morning. We had another night in the hotel and embarked very early the next morning and because of the late schedule all passengers just walked their own luggage on board. I so wish we had done this on the latest voyage. 5 years ago we had booked a mini suite at the front of the ship on promenade deck 6, which Hurtigruten promised us and our travel agent would not have passengers standing in front of. Yes you guessed it again – any cabin on the promenade decks have passengers walking by or at the front have passengers standing in front of your windows or looking in your windows. We therefore moved to a fantastic MG category cabin deck 8 with floor to ceiling windows. This cabin was wonderful, but at the price it should be. The Captain told us that Finnmarken was going in for a planned session in dry dock to have a helicopter pad fitted and they had known about it for months.
No one can deny that the scenery on this voyage is amazing and unfortunately at the moment there is no other way of doing this voyage apart from Hurtigruten. However, Hurtigruten have massively increased their prices and so booking a suite this time was out of the question. This time, even on a 2for1 offer, our tiny, basic outside cabin was £118 per person per night including flights. Remember that whilst reading my factual review and see if you think that is value for money for you, especially compared to what else is available on the market.
Outside Cabin 641 Nordkapp
-sheets never changed for entire 12 day voyage. Housekeeping do not do anything, except empty bin and change small, thin, hard towels. They knock and immediately enter cabin, never waiting for you to answer. The same staff clean the cabin toilets and then serve the dinner in the evening
- awful shower gel and hand wash which is very drying, but also not refilled unless you requested it (was lovely Lux 5 years ago)
- very small cabin with only 2 plug sockets
- extremely small shower room
- well lit and big picture window, which is the same size on all decks
- only 3 hangers in limited wardrobe space due to small cabin size
- cannot get into cabin until 6pm in Bergen, but have to vacate cabin at 10am for Bergen departure at 2.30pm and have to leave suitcases outside cabin night before between 9pm-4am (for anyone to steal some contents or entire suitcase while it docks at other ports during night and allows visitors on board). They tell you that you have to vacate cabins by 10am, despite the ship not arriving in Bergen until 2.30pm, because of the short turn around time and then do not allow embarking passengers on until 6pm – compare this to all other proper cruise ships and this is a joke isn’t it?
- luggage including hand luggage can be left in unlocked luggage room, which anyone can get in to, however they have now kindly put a sign up to say it is at your own risk and at your convenience. Perhaps they should say left at your own risk and for the convenience of others!!!
The food 5 years ago on Midnatsol was fantastic and a highlight of the voyage. From the very first meal on Nordkapp, when we did not know we had had our luggage stolen we commented how poor the food was. The “hot” food is barely lukewarm and would not pass food temperature standards. Food was continually recycled. I do not waste food at home, but I would not serve last night’s haddock cold for lunch, let alone when passengers have paid this amount of money. Every meal was then seen again undisguised at the next meal or even the one after that, Dinner had 2 sittings 6.30 or 8.15pm, but we were given our time, not asked. We had 8.15pm, drinks orders were taken first, then you are served 3 small courses without choice and it was all over by 9.05 or 9.15pm at the latest if you were the last to be served. If you have a food intolerance or dislike etc you can tell them, but expect it to be ignored. My neurologist has banned me from having caffeine, so no chocolate puds or sauces. A blue, plastic sign was put at my place setting to make it clear to staff of special need and to pay attention. Numerous times this was ignored, so on the last night, fed up with complaining, I stuck my big blue, plastic sign in my chocolate pud and left it on the table whilst my husband ate his desert – this was wasted on the stupid waitress who just cleared the table to hasten us out of the restaurant, which was their only priority. Couples and groups are incompletely served, so half of the table will have their meal, whilst the others wait some time. After dinner tea and coffee you have to make yourself on deck 7 mid (restaurant deck 4 aft), but you are only allowed a set time to have it, i.e. 8.15pm dinner allowed 9-10.15pm only. No decaf tea available and the decaf coffee was horrible.
Much of the food we could not eat due to it’s extremely high salt content and it is also very fatty. The buffets at breakfast and lunch were never replenished, even if you asked. Again a definite strategy was noted to cut costs. The buffets were very messy and serving spoons had to be fished out by passengers’ hands, a real hygiene issue. If you wanted a lunch pudding or cheese you had to get it at the beginning of your meal or there were none left.
Breakfast and lunch tea and coffee available in the restaurant was made with lukewarm, frothy water, nicknamed by other guests as tea-o-cino.
At the Captain’s gala dinner the Captain’s table was completely empty and the reverse thrusters were going for the entire meal whilst hovering outside a port – very unpleasant.
However, the Brits’ biggest complaint was that now, unlike 5 years ago, they refuse to serve tap water and you have to pay 25NOK about £2.70 for a 500ml bottle of water and with the amount of salt in the food you need a few bottles. They have also stopped you taking in their own mug from the coffee package deal, in case you are smuggling in water.
The ship was not full, but there was insufficient seating. Dreadful singer/pianist in deck 7 lounge where after dinner coffee available – probably to stop you hanging around and drinking the coffee. In the words of Simon Cowell he certainly made it his own and managed to ruin every smash hit song he sung.
None of them were value for money or great. However you have no alternative way of doing them, as the time in ports is so limited. As we were so depressed and as we felt this was our last time together in Norway we did these trips:
Bodo – sightseeing & Saltstraumen – nice scenic drive, but waste of time seeing tidal current by bus, so would give this a miss. On board price 390 NOK= about £43, 2.25 hours
Tromso – Huskies. We have mushed huskies many times in Finland before. In Tromso you are not allowed to mush yourself, it is very sedate and slow. Some dogs were very slow, so the groups kept bunching up and then we all ended up stopping many times. The scenery was lovely and there was a long, scenic bus drive to get there but unguided. 300 dogs with lots of dog mess and smelly protective suits. £139 UK prebook or 1350NOK on ship
Honningvag – Skarsvag fishing village and Christmas house. Too many passengers and very expensive for what it is – unguided minibus to village then one lady walking you round her tiny fishing village and back to her small house for waffles and glog. 440NOK (£48.50) 3 hours
Kirkenes – Huskies – again not allowed to mush yourself. Faster pace than Tromso, but the sleigh we were on for the 2 of us was the same sleigh used for one in Finland, so very uncomfortable. Much shorter track with a huge stop in the middle waiting for the rest of the group, as it is the same route out, as back, so although in total time it was similar to Tromso, the distance travelled was far less. However with this one you can visit the Snow Hotel and see the 4 reindeer in the distance. For those of you who have done this trip before it is now at a completely different location. £129 2.5 hours or 1250 NOK
Hammerfest – trip cancelled
Tromso midnight concert – very nice, but only 50 minutes, so expensive at £49 booked in England or 480NOK on board
Sea Eagle safari – I personally had difficulty with this, as it is contrived – guaranteed sightings because they feed the eagles every day, so it is learnt behaviour and not natural. This to me will ruin the food chain. £88 2 hours or NOK 850
Ambassador Loyalty Club
Total rip off. The promised 5% discount on further voyages is not allowed if voyage is on 2for1 offers, nor 5% discount off excursions for the same reason (work that one out). We did however get a small bowl of fruit in the cabin on arrival.
Both 5 years ago and on this last voyage we had extremely rough seas out of Bergen overnight. We have done 20+ cruises and never taken seasickness tablets or suffered, but on Hurtigruten ships in rough water you have the feeling of being in a washing machine whilst laying down – very unpleasant. There were quite a few proper sailors amongst the UK passengers on this voyage and they had to lie down and take tablets. Day 2 was also very bad – breakfast time was horrendous, as was late dinner. The crew told us that the previous voyage was the roughest they had ever known in 5 years and they could not dock at many ports.
This is sold as a cruise, but it is not a cruise. It is a ferry pretending to be a cruise and mis-selling to the global cruise market. If you know of another cruise where there is no security of the passengers and their possessions, lukewarm food, buffets not replenished and dishes left completely empty, tap water not provided, sheets not changed for 12 days then I stand corrected. Remember you can have all this for £118 per person per night when it is on a half price special. The Senior Vice President of Hotel operations must be so proud!