The Roald Amundsen is a beautiful ship, and I greatly enjoyed my cruise from Tromso to Longbyearen. That said, there were a few glitches that Hurtigruten needs to focus on.
When I checked in, they had no record of me in the cabin I purchased ten months earlier. I booked a specific cabin (a suite) because I liked the location on the ship. In the last three months before the cruise, I had at least three conversations with Hurtigruten staff, who all acknowledged I was in the cabin I had chosen. The staff gave me a bigger room with a larger balcony, but that misses the point. What if that larger suite had not been available? Where would they have put me? When a guy books a specific cabin ten months in advance there should be no changes to that cabin without agreement in advance from the passenger.
The Lindstrom dining room served great meals, but there was a problem here as well. Suite guests were supposed to be able to eat at Lindstrom every night. After I got checked in, I was told that they just figured out that they could not accommodate all the suite guests in a single, staggered sitting. This is a simple math problem – if you can’t figure out they you cannot accommodate all the suite passengers, then Hurtigruten should not be advertising meals in the Lindstrom dining room every night. So, we were only allowed to have dinner there every other night (half the nights of the cruise). That is a big drawback given the quality of the other dining choices. I felt a bit ripped off by not being able to eat there every night. We did eat breakfast there every morning and those meals and the alternate-day dinners in Lindstrom were all excellent. My compliments to Rona the head waitress, master-of-all.
Hurtigruten also advertised that room service was available on the Amundsen from 0700 – 2300. On my first night I called down to get something to eat about 9:30 pm, as my body adjusted to all the time changes. The receptionist indicated that “room service was not available at this moment.” Okay, I said, what “moment” will it be available. I was then told it dining room service was only available during the hours that the restaurants are open. Again, this is at odds with what Hurtigruten was advertising aboard the Amundsen and that should never be the case.
A second restaurant on board, also complimentary to suite guests, was the Fredheim. We ate here most nights that we could not eat in Lindstrom. They had a small selection (burgers, fish burgers, dumplings, quesadillas) but all was very good.
The third restaurant, where we had a few lunches, was Aune. They had some great halibut one day, and I got a very decent daily salad there, but otherwise the fare left much to be desired. And this is really the only option for non-suite guests to eat, who all paid quite a bit for this cruise. If Hurtigruten wants to be in the luxury cruise business they need to do much better on the food they provide. They did have quite a bit of Asian fare, and all the Chinese aboard seemed satisfied. I have not been on all that many cruises but never in the past have I chosen to eat dinners from a lackluster buffet.
Hurtigruten views their cruises as expeditionary cruises, and that is undoubtedly part of the reason they don’t worry about giving everyone a sit-down dinner every night. On my Arctic cruise, they had zodiacs they went out and some guests opted to go out in kayaks. This was all nice but a few bugs in the scheduling.
I have been to Antarctica and Greenland on cruises so I am used to having internet outages. But on this cruise, even when we pulled in to Longbyearen on last day, we had to leave our cabins six hours before the buses would take us to our charter flight back and they did not have their internet working all this time that we were sitting around. Strangely, they did not have a working ship-intranet, so even though they told us to look at daily schedules on our TVs, they did not have the technology to provide the daily planners when they were outside of internet range (most of the whole trip).
I would also have liked for the Captain to take us closer to glaciers and sea ice. This is a brand new ship built for expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica. We should have been able to pull closer. I have been on much larger ships in Antarctica and Greenland and those ships were able to navigate closer to glaciers.
The cabin staff we had was excellent. The dining staff in Lindstrom and Fredheim was topnotch. And Ciselle, head of reception, came through when we needed her most.
The Amundsen is a fantastic ship throughout. There is a great sauna with floor to ceiling window looking out at ocean. However, the gym was pretty sparse and should get a couple ellipticals to supplement the few treadmills.
We took this cruise to see the rugged beauty of the Arctic and were not disappointed. Our upgraded room could not have been better. Dinners in Lindstrom were excellent, though they had the same menu each night. Hurtigruten needs to work out a few bugs, some major and some minor. I give the overall cruise a B+/A- ; had I not been in a great suite with at least limited access to the Lindstrom dining room this rating would be lower.