We chose Hurtigruten because we wanted to see Norway's coast & spectacular scenery in detail as one part of our Norwegian holiday. We chose the Nordlys because it fit with our schedule but also because it was an "expedition" ship with more active-oriented excursions available. The scenery itself was 4-5 stars while the ship and onboard experience was 2-3.
The best part of the journey was traveling through fjords large and small as well as the number of sea days where you could simply relax while looking out a window or sitting on the rear deck as the ship worked its way along the coast while making numerous stops at small towns. We also thoroughly enjoyed the variety of excursions, especially the hiking and bicycling activities that we took part in.
For those who like lots of activities and options when traveling, the Nordlys does not fit the bill. While there were 1-2 informational sessions or narratives of the scenery each day, there was no entertainment, no music (live or recorded) in the bar or lounge, no bingo or games organized by a cruise director, no pool, no sauna (it was out of order, and also 1/3 of the gym equipment was non-functional), etc. If you like reading, playing cards or table games with friends/family, or a cruise with lots of sea days to do nothing, then Nordlys may be a good option.
There is one main dining room for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is a separate a la carte that functions much like a specialty restaurant and is extra. Breakfast and lunch buffets were always crowded each day and we always had to wait for a table unless arriving very early or coming at the end when the food was picked over and not being replenished. Because of the crowded dining room, we often had to sit with non-talkative strangers or they would be placed at our table by the staff. There is one seating for dinner at which you are assigned a table and the meal is one option only (mostly fish). Dinner was a rushed affair and served like being at a sit-down banquet with courses coming quickly after each other.
There is a cafeteria/snack bar option, which wasn't cheap but wasn't terrible considering how expensive Norway is in general. We didn't get the wine package but I was told by another passenger it was a good value and you got one bottle each day to drink. Wines by the glass ranged from $10-20+ and beer was $8. The water package was cheaper compared to buying it at $5/bottle but not really a generous package because you only get one bottle of water for lunch and a second bottle for dinner.
The most disappointing thing for us was the lack of true hospitality on board. The crew typically did not say hello or greet you when passing in the ship - even the officers ignored us without even a smile - and the service staff seemed so rushed all the time. No one asked us about the food, the stay, the journey, etc. And the staff was minimally helpful when called upon for assistance. When we had trouble logging on to the wifi and asked at the front desk about it, we were pointed to instructions taped to the counter instead of the agent offering to help or at least say, "I'd be glad to show you how; here's some information..."
I disagree with others who say not to compare Hurtigruten to mainstream cruise lines. Both types offer sea-based options to visit Norway; services like a cruise card to make purchases on board; off-ship excursions; beverage packages; and active marketing for passengers to take future cruises (two nights in a row there was a continuous loop video about their new ship serving Antarctica). It is true that Hurtigruten is unique, different, and sometimes charming. However, it's still a cruise and the company is actively pursuing cruisers who want to visit Norway. The difference is that Hurtigruten's ships are built for servicing coastal towns, delivering cars, cargo, mail, and day travelers. In other words, they were designed with a different purpose in mind and for a different era of travel.
As a value, I think Hurtigruten offers much less compared to traditional cruises, particularly because of the limited food & beverage, lack of premium-ness, or above & beyond service that cruise lines typically provide. While I wouldn't rule out a future Hurtigruten cruise or completely not recommend it to a friend, I would research other options available, too.
The cabin itself - we were in Arctic Superior - was very small and felt equivalent to a roadside three-star motel. The bathroom is tiny, and I think some people would have trouble taking a shower. The cabin's two twin beds configured in an L shape. Hurtigruten would not provide cabin information in advance. The literature I read indicated that some Arctic Superior rooms were configured to be able to have one double bed instead. On board I asked about changing to a cabin like this but was told none of the rooms were configurable to a double bed unless I wanted a small suite for an extra $650/night. The superior cabins had no visibly superior amenities, such as premium linens, better mattresses, turndown, etc.