We booked this cruise in the heat of August, and as the date approached and we experienced record cold and snow in the Washington, DC, area, we asked ourselves, "Are we crazy?"
We flew to Bergen on February 27th, and stayed in a hotel there for two nights, touring the city, and Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg's summer home, studio, and museum. We boarded the Richard With two days later, and set sail for the north coast of Norway, then eastward to the Russian border. Along the way we stopped at 34 ports, day and night. Then we turned around and sailed back to Bergen, stopping at the same 34 ports; those visited at night northbound were daytime stops southbound, and vice-versa.
I must add here that we booked our trip through a Boston travel company, which provided air arrangements, the hotel stay in Bergen before and after the cruise, and a program manager/guide, who traveled with the 47 of us, presented a daily one-hour lecture on ports visited, Norwegian and Scandinavian history, politics, and geography, led optional walks in nearly every port, and attended to all our needs. We also had five Hurtigruten shore excursions included in the price.
Our mini-suite was adequate, a sitting area, and a typical cruise ship double bed, a dressing table, closets, and other storage. Benefits of paying extra for the suite included a mini-bar (we used the refrigerator for fresh fruit and beer that we bought ashore), TV set, champagne on boarding, a fruit basket which was refilled twice, a tour of the bridge (normally NK80) and a drink afterward, and membership in the coffee club. Unlike typical cruse ships, meals are buffet breakfast and lunch, and fixed served dinners. Any food in between mealtimes, including coffee, is available only in the cafeteria, and at a price. Having the coffee club membership allowed us to fill our coffee cups anytime, 24 hours, in the cafeteria, which is usually used by the day passengers. The other perk of having a suite allowed us to stay in our cabin on disembarkation day until the ship docked around 2:30PM; all other passengers had to vacate their cabins at 10:00AM.