This was our fourth cruise but first on Hurtigruten. We were looking for a less hectic and more relaxed experience. The cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes was all that we had hoped for and more. From wonderful food, to efficient staff, to friendly fellow passengers to the absolutely stunning scenery, we were very happy with the experience and sad to leave the ship in Kirkenes. Follow the suggested packing list even for summer cruises. We needed our hats, gloves, waterproof jackets and wool socks.
Embarkation in Bergen was quick and easy. We got to the terminal about 4 pm, dropped off our luggage (no waiting in any lines!) and took the escalator upstairs for the safety briefing and video. We boarded the ship, hung out in the cafeteria area on deck 4 for a little while, then stopped by the expedition desk to sign up for the Meet the Vikings excursion. When I'd tried to book it over the phone, I was told it was full but that additional places would be available once on board the ship, which thankfully was the case. Our cabin was ready before 6 pm so we unpacked, explored the ship, and had a nice dinner in the main dining room. The first night is a buffet with open seating. The other evenings are set meal times but we found the dining room staff to be very helpful and flexible in changing your dinner seating or table number.
We took four excursions and found them all to be excellent value - Geiranger with Trollstigen pass, Meet the Vikings, the North Cape, and Sami Culture. You can book them by phone before you travel but it was easy to add Meet the Vikings and the North Cape once we were on board. The expedition team's materials on the excursions is much better than the information on the web, which we often found confusing and lacking in key details. The information you receive on board the ship clearly tells you when the excursion departs, from which port, and where you reembark. The expedition team held several talks in English and German about flora and fauna in the area, polar explorers, etc which we found very interesting.
We got off at many stops even if we weren't taking excursions to wander around, take pictures and visit some amazing museums and cathedrals. Sights are very walkable from where the ship docked but we did use the public bus system in Tromso to get to the Arctic Cathedral. Simply buy your tickets from the tourist information office located a block from the port. The staff there will tell you which bus numbers stop at the cathedral and where the bus stops are located.
As noted by others, English speakers are in the minority but announcements are made in Norwegian, English and German and we never had a problem with communication. We met some very nice people during our first excursion and at dinner our second evening. The small size of the ship lends itself to interactions with other passengers. And it feels like a family.
The US website doesn't have as much information as I would have liked so one quick clarification on the wine package. The package gives you a bottle of wine at dinner each night which can be split with other passengers. Husband and wife can share the bottle so only one needs to get the wine package, not both. If you have an excursion that includes dinner, you can pick up the bottle early and drink it in your cabin.
The only negative was disembarking in Kirkenes. It wa absolute chaos getting off the ship and onto the buses going to the airport. The ship docked 15 minutes late and passengers scrambled and pushed to get on the airport buses and then to check in at the airport. Unnecessary stress as we all made it with time to spare. I had booked the airport transfer by phone before we boarded and did not have a voucher or ticket which confused the driver. (I had asked both at the ship's reception and the excursion desk and was told I didn't need a ticket). Luckily I had printed off the invoice for the entire cruise so he accepted that. In retrospect I should have just booked the transfer on board the ship and then I would have had a physical ticket for the bus. But the rest of the trip was so spectacular that this was a tiny blip in an otherwise wonderful experience.
Deck 6, starboard aft which meant we were away from the noise of loading and unloading cars and people. Two single beds, one of which folds into a couch. Large window and unobstructed view. Easy access to the large open deck on the back of the ship. Enough space to put everything away although the shower is small.
Beautiful art nouveau buildings. The Nordlys only stopped for a short time but still enough to walk into town, take pictures and re board the ship.
The cathedral is well worth the walk. Check out the top floor of the Army Museum which has a great exhibition on resistance to the German occupation. Free admission.