Norwegian airways flew us to Oslo from Gatwick, comparable to other European low cost airlines. Over night in the Radisson Blu good and the hotel is practically on the airport apron, a five minute walk, as well as the railway station to get to Oslo. We arrived early afternoon so opted to take to 125 mph train into Oslo, well worth the extra cost, even though you only save 5 minutes on the standard journey. It's amazing how everything is kept running, road, rail and air. No wrong kind of snow or more than 2 cms deep which usually brings the UK to a grinding halt. Every town/city has what we would call Christmas lights and very good they are too, however, they are not Christmas light but winter lights and are switched on at the winter soltise to make the shopping experience more enjoyable during the winter darkness, usually only about 1 to 4 hours of daylight.
All Norwegian airports have auto check-in and baggage drop and the system is very good. A person walking around to spot first time users would be helpful as it does take a little thinking about when first using the system but, after that, future use is a breeze.
Pick up at Kirkenes airport was a little late and the transfer service used is the every day bus service so we had stops along the route to the harbour and Hurtigruten pier.
The ship was waiting for our arrival and we sailed almost immediately after boarding.
The ship is clean and has an open, light and pleasent feeling.
Regarding previous comments about the size of the cabins we found ours to be comfortable enough, especially the bed, and easy to get around. Yes, the space between the end of the bed and the bulkhead is perhaps only about 12 inches but still negotiable, as well as the shower cubicle. (We have had smaller cubicles on Regent ships).
I would suggest that the reviewers who have complained about the size of the spaces are perhaps of a more rotund shape than my wife and I and therefore the cabin design and size cannot be blamed for that.
The food was generally good, I particually liked the smoked and pickled fish choices. We found the hot food was over salted and very buttery, the desserts were especially buttery. Perhaps that is the usual way in the Arctic regions to counteract the cold.
The lectures and the expedition team didn't really impress us, far too basic in information and presentation and terminology used could be better, for example, journey instead of voyage and ship names such as floor instead of deck, wall instead of bulkhead.
A plastic laminated list of shore side alongside onboard terms would be helpful or an information book in the Compass shop area.
We found the cabin cupboard door catches stiff to open and close and noisy.
Magnetic catches and soft closing hinges would solve this.
The soap/shampoo and conditioner dispensers were too high up on the shower bulkhead,(wall), making them awkward to use, lowering them by about a foot would solve this problem. The actual contents are very good along with the hand soap at the sink.
A plastic laminated card showing how to operate the telephone as an alarm and hearing PA broardcasts in the cabin and operation of the cabin heating control would be useful.
This is not an all-inclusive voyage apart from the full board element, with ships water at meal times, everything else has to be paid for except for the sauna, jacuzzi and gym.
All prices are very expensive compared to UK and Lanzarote prices, (we have retired here), we didn't partake of anything on board. Don't be fooled by comments that the bottled water is superior to the ships water produced on board, it is not, I challenge anyone to tell the difference in a blind test. Like everything about the bottled water industry we are being conned wholesale. The bottled water on board is charge to your account.
A good tip, your are allowed to take empty plastic bottles through Norwegian airport security, (yes, I know!) and can therefore be topped up airside and used on board for shore excursions etc using tap water.
Tap water is not inferior to bottled water, that is a marketing scam promulgated by the bottled water companies making profits of 500% or more.
A waiter called Jonas stood out for us, a very pleasant demeanor and more than helpful.
The guy in the Multe bakery and ice cream bar always had a smile and a cheery hello whenever you passed, we always passed, nearly a fiver for a cone with one scoop!
The shore excursions were mostly done in the dark,even city tours with viewpoints???
We only went on one, to Trondheim cathedral, which was included in the IGLU package. It only got light as we came back on board at 1000.
All in all a pleasent enough voyage with some stunning scenery, just unfortuate that we didn't see the Aurora Borealis.
We don't think we would sail with them again for no particular reason than that is has been ticked off the "list".
Apparently, whilst up north of the Arctic circle the Aurora Borealis could be seen in and around Newcastle, UK, just our luck! Virgin trains north next trip?
All in my review