1. Home
  2. Cruise Destinations
  3. Arctic Cruises
  4. Arctic Cruise Reviews
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We made a booking in November 2016 to travel through the North West Passage with Hurtigruten because of our interest in the history associated with this remote area. We had travelled with Hurtigruten before; doing the classic Norwegian ... Read More
We made a booking in November 2016 to travel through the North West Passage with Hurtigruten because of our interest in the history associated with this remote area. We had travelled with Hurtigruten before; doing the classic Norwegian coastal voyage, and had enjoyed that (apart from eye watering bar prices). The journey booked was titled “The Northwest Passage: In the Wake of Great Explorers – Eastbound” and was planned to travel from Cambridge Bay at the western end of the passage through to Pond Inlet at the eastern end followed by two stops in Greenland that were clearly there as part of repositioning the vessel. The information provided about Fram indicated it was a very capable ship and well suited to travel in difficult polar waters. Hurtigruten’s information also made much of the wildlife to be seen – another key point for us. While in Canada before the cruise we received your e-mail forwarding a communication from Hurtigruten on 5th September advising that our ship, MS Fram would not be able to reach Cambridge Bay. As requested by Hurtigruten, we attended the briefing on the evening of 9th September at the Hotel in Montreal which was hosted by Mario, the Expedition Leader, who was just re-joining the ship after leave and did not appear to be well briefed. He advised that ice conditions were unlike previous years but reassured us that he had a plan B and, if necessary, a plan C. When someone asked if we could cancel our trip and get a refund we were told to join the ship & it would all be sorted out on board. The following day the passengers were taken (in three separate groups) from the hotel and our group was flown to Resolute Bay, where we changed to smaller aircraft and flown to Pond Inlet (the last stop in Canada at the end of the North West Passage according to the original itinerary) where we boarded the ship. Once on the ship there was a fuller briefing by Karin Strand, Field Operations & Expedition Team Manager, who normally appears to work in head office. She seemed to have joined the ship for the two “North West Passage” voyages & we wondered if she had been put on board to provide a “Hurtigruten Head Office message”, as she left the ship with us on 22nd September. At the meeting she advised that the North West Passage was blocked by ice and that we would not be seeing anything of the original itinerary in Canada other than Pond Inlet. We were told that there were other good options including visiting Ellesmere Island. The next day the passengers were taken out to spend some time on an ice berg floating at sea, which was an interesting experience but not what we booked. It also involved lots of waiting around for our turn to use the small rubber boats. There were a good design in that they had steps at the bow and boards at the side but their capacity was small and there were nothing like enough for all passengers to use them at once even though the ship was far from full. The following day we were taken to North Arm on Baffin Island to see some very old rocks which was mildly interesting but not what we booked. That evening Karin finally admitted that Hurtigruten had run out of options given the difficult ice conditions as even Ellesmere Island (where the westbound cruise spent time) was now ice bound. At this point it also emerged that Fram has a limited ice capability (ice class 1B) and the Canadian Ice pilot had refused permission to go further into the ice because of that limitation. I found later that other companies’ ships with a 1A ice class had been allowed to go much further. Karin suggested that the ship headed for Greenland and those present agreed as it was better than going around in small circles getting nowhere. It was quite clear that Hurtigruten needed to go back to Pond Inlet to drop off the local person who had joined the ship 2 days earlier and also the Canadian Ice Pilot. We were given the option of simply dropping off these two people and immediately setting sail for Greenland or stopping and taking a look at Pond Inlet before departing. It was accepted by all that seeing the settlement of Pond Inlet was the better choice. At this point passengers also complained about the lack of the promised lectures activities on board and these started thereafter. This did reveal another weakness of our ship as the lecture theatre had an open back allowing lots of ambient noise in and no staged seating (and a low ceiling) meaning it was impossible to see the screen properly unless sitting right at the front. After slowly crossing Baffin Bay & the Davis Strait for 2 days we visited alternative four sites in Greenland which were scenic & somewhat interesting but not what we booked. I became bored with clambering over rocky barren places. The mood of the passengers became more and more fed up and Monty Python’s “Always look on the bright side of life” was adopted as an informal anthem – enough said! The last 2 planned visits to Ilulissat and Sissimiut went ahead as planned and were enjoyable. I have the following comments: - • No cruise ship has managed to transit the North West Passage this summer ( we believe that 4 ships had planned to go in the short season). • The Cambridge Bay Website stated that the Fram would not be visiting their settlement as far back as 24th August. The website content was subsequently changed and I was left with a clear impression that Hurtigruten had applied pressure to tell the story their way. • Subsequent research showed that the Canadian authorities were issuing ice warnings as early as 20th August and I find it highly improbably that Hurtigruten were not aware of this. • The briefing at the hotel did not make clear the full nature of the change to the itinerary. Ice maps were shown but the captions were not legible at a distance and the implications were not made clear. When someone asked if a refund was possible they were publicly told it was not. It appeared that Hurtigruten simply wanted to get us onto the ship so that further protest would not be possible. Mario could not confirm when asked what wildlife was spotted in Greenland during the westbound voyage which had just completed, which speaks of poor preparation but probably also they knew that little or no wildlife had been seen. • Hurtigruten knew before we travelled to the vessel that we would not be completing the full itinerary and should have offered a refund in line with their terms and conditions. I have included a cut and paste from their terms and conditions here:- “Occasionally we may have to make a significant change to your confirmed arrangements. Significant changes include the following: • Change of UK departure airport. A change from one London airport to another is not considered a major change. London airports are Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City. • Change of your time of departure or return by more than 12 hours. • Change of your flight from a day flight to a night flight if this also includes a change to your departure time of 3 hours or more.† • Change of resort. • Change of holiday accommodation to accommodation of a lower official rating. † For the purposes of the contract night flights are those which depart from the UK between 2200 and 0600 hours or arrive in the UK between 2400 and 0600 hours. If we have to make a significant change or cancel we will notify you as soon as possible and if there is time to do so before departure we will offer you the choice of: (a) (for significant changes) accepting the change and the contract between us will then be varied to incorporate the change; or (b) accepting alternative arrangements altogether (subject to availability) of comparable or higher standard from us (at no extra cost); or (c) if available, accepting an offer of alternative arrangements of a lower standard, with a refund of the price difference between the original arrangements and the alternative arrangements; or (d) withdrawing from the booking completely in which case we will as soon as possible, refund all money paid to us. Passengers must give notice of their decision as soon as reasonably possible and not later than 7 days of being informed of the alteration. If we do not hear from you within 7 days, we will contact you again to request notification of your choice. If you fail to respond again, we will assume that you have chosen to accept the change or alternative booking arrangements.” Had a refund been available we would have taken it and made our own way home . • Hurtigruten’s strategy appeared to be divide and conquer – passengers repeatedly asked for an offer on board but this was refused. We were told each of us would be contacted separately when we returned home & that we would all be fairly dealt with, regardless of our nationality. • During the voyage passengers asked for a conference call to Hurtigruten senior management - this was refused. • Lectures did not start until passengers complained • Preparation for lectures was poor with audio visual not sorted until people were waiting • We paid a great deal of money and did not receive what was promised. We understand that the ship could not go through the ice & that safety is paramount (so much for Hurtigruten’s claims in the brochure which left many people believing that Fram has Ice Breaking capability). However, this is was not a minor change, as the fundamental element, the trip through the North West Passage in the footsteps of the explorers, was completely deleted. We came away with a clear impression that Hurtigruten simply wanted us to get on board ship, so they could try to manage their way through the problem and pay out as little as possible. Hurtigruten’s approach appears to be sly, sneaky, evasive and not in the slightest consumer focussed. • The safety briefing and lifeboat drill didn’t happen for 24 hours • Much was made of the wildlife to be seen when this cruise was advertised but we saw nothing in Canada (I think one person saw a seal) and the birdlife was limited and unremarkable. Initially it was suggested that Greenland was a good substitute but staff were evasive about what we might see in Greenland, despite questions on several occasions. Hurtigruten’s own MS Fram Voyage handbook page 7 highlights the wildlife we could see in Greenland. However, it was eventually admitted that we were too late in the season to see most things, as confirmed by the naturalist experts on the ship. We paused and looked at two “Bird Cliffs” that were completely devoid of birds. We saw no Polar Beas, Narwhal, Walruses, Seals, Musk Oxen, Reindeer, Artic Foxes or Arctic Hares. There were a few, very distant whale sightings. This was also very disappointing, as for many passengers, wildlife was a 2nd major consideration for booking (after seeing the NWP). Not all was bad:- • The staff were generally very good • The food was good (although not as good as it had been on the Norwegian coastal journey a few years ago) • Embarkation at the start of the cruise and disembarkation at the end were handled well • The specialist experts on board were generally good • Bar prices were reasonable We are in discussion with Hurtigruten about refund of monies paid but this proving to be hard work and so we are seeking legal support via our travel insurance. We have lost all confidence in Hurtigruten and have no wish to ever travel with them again. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
Wanted to follow In the “Footsteps of famous explorers through the North West Passage” as the itinerary advertised. I live in the area where Sir John Franklin was born and have followed his story for many years so this would be a trip ... Read More
Wanted to follow In the “Footsteps of famous explorers through the North West Passage” as the itinerary advertised. I live in the area where Sir John Franklin was born and have followed his story for many years so this would be a trip of a lifetime to follow in his wake and also that of other famous mariners. Saw the full,page advert in weekend papers from ROL Cruises who declare themselves to be the leading agents for Hurtigruten. Had sailed with Hurtigruten before (twice) so relied upon them and felt confident they would be honest and truthful. The trip was the most expensive thing I’ve ever purchased (apart from my house). But that was not the case. ROL contacted us on 5/9/18 with a short email saying the departure point for the Fram had changed. No alarm bells rang because with expedition style cruising, slight amendments are sometimes necessary. However upon arrival in Montreal, began to be very suspicious that something major was wrong. At a briefing in the Montreal hotel we were assured “all was going to plan and not to worry”. We were shown a video clip showing a ship crew member having “a wonderful time” but she didn’t disclose that the Fram wasn’t going anywhere near the North West Passage. Another passenger had seen comments on Facebook by travellers who were actually on board who said the ship was just sailing up and down at 8 knots and not proceeding to the planned itinerary but again we were assured by Hurtigruten representatives that all was well. Just get on board they were saying. Once on board of course we were trapped. Then a major change to the itinerary occurred and although we have been raising complaints ever since, ROL and Hurtigruten are stonewalling all the passengers who have joined together in a protest lobby group. I am absolutely sickened by the behaviour from these providers who I trusted with my hard earned cash who I thought were professional and knew what they were doing. It turns out Fram isn’t the type of “ice proof” ship I’d been lead to believe. Reading the brochure is a million miles away from what is provided. I see the same trip is being offered in the next brochure without any warnings of the ice conditions. Negligent and untruthful. Shame. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We joined MS Fram on the !0th of September for a cruise advertised as the Northwest Passage In the Wake of the Great Explorers. As a result of ice conditions only 4 days of the 14 day voyage bore any relationship to the advertised ... Read More
We joined MS Fram on the !0th of September for a cruise advertised as the Northwest Passage In the Wake of the Great Explorers. As a result of ice conditions only 4 days of the 14 day voyage bore any relationship to the advertised itinerary and 3 of those days were in Greenland that was not the main objective in any case. Although Hurtigruten was not responsible for the ice conditions they were responsible for the appalling way in which the disruption was handled. We first heard of a major change at the briefing in Montreal after all passengers had assembled ready to fly north early the following morning. No senior Hurtigruten staff were present and we were given no opportunity to cancel. We were told of plan B but once we were captive on the ship, at the new departure point Pond Inlet, that was not enacted with no explanation. Instead after 3 days sailing in a tight circle we headed off to Greenland. Subsequent investigation made it clear that Hurtigruten must or should have known at least 2 weeks before we left, from the ice condition reports and failure of other boats to get through, that traverse of the Northwest passage was highly unlikely this season. In fact a Cambridge Bay [original departure point] website stated on the 24th of August that the MS Fram would not be visiting in 2018. Needless to say this webpage quickly disappeared after it became widely known. Hurtigruten eventually reluctantly agreed to compensation but this was only to be communicated through individuals’ travel agents after returning home. At no time did the captain address the passengers about the drastic changes and in fact remained aloof throughout the voyage. Subsequently there have been a series of differing compensation offers despite assurances on the boat that we would all be offered the same. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2018
To participate in Hurtigruten's "Ultimate Voyage - Through the Northwest Passage - in the Wake of the Great Explorers" aboard the MS Fram. AGAINST TRAVELLING WITH HURTIGRUTEN For over 100 years, Hurtigruten have ... Read More
To participate in Hurtigruten's "Ultimate Voyage - Through the Northwest Passage - in the Wake of the Great Explorers" aboard the MS Fram. AGAINST TRAVELLING WITH HURTIGRUTEN For over 100 years, Hurtigruten have provided an excellent coastal ferry service along the coast of Norway and from our own experience, we would agree. But over recent years, they have expanded to operating adventure cruises, particularly to both Arctic and Antarctic waters, under the slogan "World Leader in Exploration Travel". With this we would NOT agree, after our recent experience aboard Hurtigruten's MS Fram, when we should have sailed eastwards from Cambridge Bay in Arctic Canada through the Northwest (NW) Passage, in the "Wake of the Great Explorers" - but we didn't!! And the way that Hurtigruten has handled this extreme disappointment has destroyed our faith in Hurtigruten, and any belief we had that it was an honourable company who put the well-being of its clients above its 'bottom line'. In the summer of 2018, Hurtigruten ran two cruises in the NW Passage. The first, starting from West Greenland in late August, should have sailed westwards through the passage to Cambridge Bay in Canada, arriving there on September 10th. The second should have left Cambridge Bay on September 10th, sailing eastwards through the passage and on to West Greenland, arriving there on September 24th. The first cruise made only a slight incursion into the passage; the later cruise didn’t even enter the passage, and the most westerly it got was Pond Inlet, just north of Baffin Island. We had booked on the second (later) cruise when it was first advertised through Reader Offers Limited (ROL), a ‘supplier’ to Hurtigruten, in February 2017. It was not an inexpensive cruise (£20,000 for two passengers), but with a long standing interest in Canadian Arctic explorations (particularly the 1846 failed expedition of Sir John Franklin and subsequent expeditions to investigate its fate - especially as the wrecks of the expedition ships Erebus and Terror had been located recently in 2014 and 2016 respectively), we felt this cost was warranted. And the Hurtigrten/ROL prospectus hardly hinted at any likelihood of failure! On the evening before we left home on this adventure, we received an e-mail (dated September 5th) from Hurtigruten via ROL to inform us that the port of our embarkation on the MS Fram would be changed (to where not specified) because of ‘ice conditions in the Victoria and James Ross Straits are such that no ordinary ship can sail through the area’ - but no indication that the whole of our itinerary through the NW Passage would be abandoned. Even when we reached Montreal, at a meeting with the Expedition Team at the hotel on the evening of September 8th (when our port of embarkation was revealed to be Pond Inlet near the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage) - but again with no indication that our NW Passage itinerary was to be completely aborted! Once on board the MS Fram on September 10th, we got some more quantitative information on the ice conditions in the Northwest Passage - but it took until September 13th before the Expedition Team finally confirmed there was no hope of us sailing into the NW Passage. So this essential and major element of our itinerary was finally abandoned, and we sailed to West Greenland for some extra days there. The above timescale aspects are important. If we were charitable, we might have considered Hurtigruten’s slowness in accepting their NW Passage itinerary would have to be abandoned was due to a naïve hope that a timely change in ice conditions would arise, showing a lack of knowledge and experience in cruising in the Canadian arctic waters - after all, their proposed cruises of the Fram in the Canadian Arctic were hailed as ‘maiden voyages’! But as we gained more knowledge of the circumstances, we began to realise that a more likely explanation was a carefully choreographed and cynical attempt to get us aboard the Fram in a duplicitous move to avoid cancellation before the start of the holiday - which under both Hurtigruten and ROL terms and conditions would have entitled us to a full refund of our holiday costs!! Further evidence of this interpretation is given by the situation of the preceding (westwards) cruise of the Fram, where passengers were informed on 3rd September that ice conditions in the NW Passage would not allow their transit to Cambridge Bay - an admission that would have allowed our trip to be cancelled well in advance of our leaving home! Moreover, the ice information came from the official Ice Charts of the Canadian Coastguard, which indicated from the end of July that the NW Passage could not be navigated due to sea ice, and from which it is abundantly clear that there was no remote possibility of fulfilling the Fram’s itinerary through the passage for either the westbound or eastbound cruises. Indeed, this impossibility was demonstrated to other (and earlier) transits by passenger ships: the Vavilov, Akademik Ioffe, Bremer, Boreal, Soleal, and Oceanic Adventurer, all of whom cancelled their arrival at Cambridge Bay before the cancellation by the Fram on 4th September. Indeed, no tourist ships traversed the NW Passage at all in the summer season of 2018. And that includes ships who would have been assisted by following a Canadian ice-breaker, an artifice not afforded to the class 1B only ice-strengthened MS Fram. On 29th October, we received our next communication of substance from Hurtigruten (the second of only two), again via ROL. This document was again profuse in apologies for the changes to our cruise itinerary, and offered us a cash reimbursement of approximately 50% of what we’d paid ROL, plus the offer of a further 50% off a holiday in 2019, to be selected from a small range of future Hurtigruten cruises. This latter aspect is of little interest to us, as it involves a further 50% payment from us, and at present we are also disinclined ever to travel with Hurtigruten again!! So for us what Hurtigruten’s offer boils down to was to reduce our holiday from “the Ultimate Voyage - Through the NW Passage - in the Wake of the Great Explorers” to essentially an eight day cruise along the West Coast of Greenland for just under £10,000 for the two of us if we‘d accepted Hurtigruten’s ‘reimbursement’ of 29th October. Whereas if Hurtigruten had had the honesty to cancel this ‘Ultimate Voyage’ before it started, and given us a full refund (as then due under their terms and conditions), we could have used our £20,000 to book a future 18 day holiday from Reykjavik to Western Greenland, and still have about £10,000 to spare!! And we might have admired Hurtigruten’s moral stance to look after their clients, and retained some respect for the self-styled “World Leader in Expedition Travel”. We don’t dispute Hurtigruten’s decision not to traverse the Northwest Passage. But we are angered by their tardy response to sea ice conditions, and we are now certainly convinced that the failure of Hurtigruten/ROL to face the facts in the public domain in August (that the Northwest Passage was a ‘no go’ area for passenger ships in 2018) and to persist with our Fram cruise when they could have cancelled before our start, was a shabby treatment to keep a large proportion of our money!! So after Hurtigruten’s moral failure, we are now pursuing redress under Hurtigruten’s legal responsibilities, in particular under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992. We now note in the summer of 2019, Hurtigruten/ROL are again offering two cruises through the Northwest Passage from/to Cambridge Bay to/from West Greenland, on the MS Fram. In addition, they are also offering a full transit of the Passage, starting from Halifax (Nova Scotia) to Nome (Alaska), on their new ship, the Roald Amundsen. Again, their prospectuses for these voyages are couched in glowing and enthusiastic terms, with little hint that they could be aborted. They even advise “you will be sailing amazing straits … and hopefully enough ice to make it for excellent wildlife spotting” - they should be careful for what they wish!! We shall observe the progress of these journeys with interest, to see if Hurtigruten have learned anything from their aborted cruises on the Fram in 2018. Please be aware that we found the on board staff to be delightful, and we had no complaints regarding the ship's catering and house management (although the lecture room situation was unsuitable) - our sole complaint is with Hurtigruten Management and the way they aborted the cruise through the NW Passage with derisory compensation. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
For the first time, in August/September 2018, Hurtigruten ran two cruises to the Canadian Arctic on Fram, advertised as “Northwest Passage - in the wake of the Great Explorers”. The two cruises were mirror images of each other: the ... Read More
For the first time, in August/September 2018, Hurtigruten ran two cruises to the Canadian Arctic on Fram, advertised as “Northwest Passage - in the wake of the Great Explorers”. The two cruises were mirror images of each other: the first was planned to start in Greenland, cross the Davis Straight to Lancaster Sound, cruise through part of the Northwest Passage to Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island, where the passengers would disembark; and the second cruise would embark passengers in Cambridge Bay and take them through the Northwest Passage and on to Greenland. These cruises were not cheap. With associated connecting flights, each UK passenger would pay a minimum of £10,000. Arguably, this was a reasonable cost for this fantastic experience, visiting notable historical sites on a ship “purpose built as an expedition vessel”, and apparently well suited for “the added navigational challenge of ice in the water .... no need to worry, though, … with a 1B ice class, ship-depth sounding database, extractable forward-sounding sonar and iceberg search lights - and the Captain and his crew are experienced in sailing treacherous waters …” Hurtigruten state in their Terms and Conditions that: “If we have to make a significant change or cancel we will notify you as soon as possible and … will offer you [the opportunity to] withdraw from the booking completely in which case we will as soon as possible, refund all money paid …” Despite global warming, the normal state of the Northwest Passage is that it is blocked by ice. In 2016 and 2017, the only cruise ships to successfully traverse the route were accompanied by icebreakers. This information is freely available. In the summer of 2018, the Northwest Passage was blocked by ice, as usual. No cruise ship was able to complete the journey. When the Fram arrived at Lancaster Sound with the first, westbound passengers on 3rd September 2018, she was unable to proceed any further. It is inconceivable that Hurtigruten were not aware of the impossibility of completing the planned itinerary for this group of passengers. Canadian ice forecasts are published and archived. Cruise ships from other companies had already cancelled their visits to Cambridge Bay (see the Cambridge Bay website). The second group of passengers, scheduled for the eastbound cruise, left the UK on 8th September. On 5th September, Hurtigruten dispatched an email stating that the Fram would be “unable to reach Cambridge Bay and the embarkation point for your voyage will be changed.” No mention or offer of cancellation was made. There seemed no reason to assume anything other than that this was a relatively minor change to the itinerary, perhaps changing the embarkation point to somewhere close to Cambridge Bay. As it was, a tortuous journey to northern Baffin Island was arranged for this second group of passengers in order for them to join the Fram. After two days in that area, the Fram sailed to Greenland, some five days earlier than planned, having never entered the Northwest Passage at all. Hurtigruten must have known that they would have to make a “significant change” to the planned itinerary for this second group of passengers before those passengers left the UK. Not only did Hurtigruten know that they had failed the first group of passengers, the Fram was now incorrectly located to achieve anything like the advertised itinerary for the second group. The purpose of the trip, the planned traverse of the Northwest Passage was deleted, and the passengers were taken to a different continent. Passengers were very dissatisfied. The situation was ironically summarised by the Norwegian Captain of the Fram who said, “I appreciate that you have paid for a Rolls Royce and received a Lada.” Complaints to Hurtigruten have resulted in obfuscation, delay, refusal to meet face-to-face and the offer of derisory compensation. Shockingly, having failed to deliver during 2018, Hurtigruten is currently advertising the same, two, mirror image cruises, on the Fram, for August/September 2019, and have “sold out” a new itinerary for a cruise on the MV Roald Amundsen between Alaska and Greenland during the summer of 2019. Passengers who have booked berths on these cruises should beware of the likely deceit, ensure that at least part of their payment is made by credit card, and ensure that they have legal cover as part of their travel insurance. They should be fully aware that no cruise ship has managed to traverse the Northwest Passage without being accompanied by an icebreaker. Neither the Fram nor the Roald Amundsen are icebreakers, whatever the glowing and misleading words used to describe them in Hurtigruten’s brochures. From this experience, in my opinion Hurtigruten should be avoided. I will never travel with them again, and would advise other potential passengers to look elsewhere. There are many other companies running “expedition cruises”. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience; sailing east-bound through the Northwest Passage to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland. Unfortunately, instead, it turned out to be a huge disappointment as ice conditions prevented the ... Read More
This was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience; sailing east-bound through the Northwest Passage to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland. Unfortunately, instead, it turned out to be a huge disappointment as ice conditions prevented the Fram from its planned itinerary. While we were understandably disappointed at the NW PASSAGE cancellation due to the prevailing ice conditions,  it was the TOTAL failure on the part of Hurtigruten US to keep us informed prior to the voyage that we found unacceptable. Especially since it was  known to Hurtigruten that the passage had been blocked to shipping for the entire 2018 transit season.  Not only that, but the alternate sailing areas considered for us,  such as Lancaster Sound, Bellot Strait and Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay were also known to be ice-bound.  The Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Charlottetown was unable to enter Lancaster Sound on Sept 6, 2018, due to heavy ice conditions.  (See Nunatsiaq News dated Sept 7, 2018) In our case we checked cruisecritic’s FRAM roll call where there was a link to a Facebook posting by Hurtigruten, reporting the NW passage would not be passable due to ice conditions. That was the first indication we had that there was a problem - approximately 10 days before our departure for Montreal. We are not regular users of Facebook and it was only by chance we found this. We immediately phoned the Hurtigruten US office in Seattle and were told that there was an eblast being prepared for all the east bound pax that would be sent out “within minutes.” This email never arrived. The day before we were scheduled to fly to Montreal , we once again phoned Hurtigruten and the rep provided little additional info. When I expressed our frustration and disappointment with Hurtigruten's lack of customer service, we were told that it was the “Norwegian way” ! The failure to inform passengers many weeks ahead of the sailing that no transits of the NW passage had been possible at all this year was a big PR failure and disservice to those on this itinerary. In sum: Not once did we receive any information either by phone or via email from Hurtigruten US that we would not be going through the NW Passage. All the info we gathered was as a result of our own efforts. By contrast, we have nothing but praise for the ship’s crew. The expedition team made heroic efforts to make the alternate itinerary less of a disappointment. They were dealing with a significant number of angry passengers and were unfailingly diplomatic in their responses despite the harsh comments and a tense atmosphere.  The ship’s entire crew is a great credit to the company with their good spirits, excellent service and great attitude despite the long hours and heavy schedules they contend with. Their additional burden in dealing with many unhappy customers deserves our admiration and gratitude. In order for Hurtigruten to expand its marketing of expedition style itineraries, they will need to overhaul their currently ineffective communications program to improve customer relations; to include a fair compensation to passengers for the cost of a failed itinerary and for the total failure of keeping passengers informed in a timely manner giving them options as to whether to proceed with the voyage or not.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
What was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime booked 2 years in advance for a special occasion turned into a total disappointment and a waste of money. The purpose of the trip was to travel in the footsteps of the great explorers ... Read More
What was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime booked 2 years in advance for a special occasion turned into a total disappointment and a waste of money. The purpose of the trip was to travel in the footsteps of the great explorers visiting along the way all the historical sites associated with these early explorers, our trip was supposed to start in Cambridge Bay exiting Canada at Pond Inlet before ending in Greenland reversing the itinerary of the earlier westbound trip. 3 days before departure we were told Ice Conditions prevented the ship reaching Cambridge Bay and a new itinerary would be revealed in a briefing in Montreal before we flew to meet the ship. Despite the fact that it became obvious Hurtigruten were aware of the conditions a number of weeks before departure which resulted in this significant deviation to the itinerary they denied passengers the right to cancel or discuss any form of compensation until after the voyage was over. To cut a very long story short despite being assured we were going to the North West Passage we were flown to Pond Inlet, spent 3 days bobbing around this area before abandoning any pretext of attempting any of the NWP and headed for an extended out of season visit to Greenland hence the massive disappointment especially with the way Hurtigruten has dealt with this matter on board and since. On the positive side service staff as always were friendly, helpful and tried their best, although service levels were not at as high a level as my previous trip on Fram. I believe this was because Hurtigruten seem to have cut down on the numbers so the already overworked staff had even more to do. Whilst some passengers might have been satisfied, most given the cost of this trip were not. Hurtigruten have eventually offered some form of compensation, but for a significant number a passengers from around the globe this is not enough. Passengers accept that the journey could not be undertaken because of the Ice conditions, No ship was able to undertake the journey in 2018 and very few have done so in previous years without the help of Icebreakers, so it didn't matter which cruise line you chose this year as the NWP was inaccessible. The issue is not that the voyage could not be undertaken as disappointing as that was, but that Hurtigruten knowing the Ice Conditions a number of weeks before did not offer Cancellation, Compensation or any other alternative but to go on the trip and fight for compensation afterwards. If I was booked on one of the many sold out 2019/20 trips I would be worried and asking plenty of questions of whichever cruise line I have booked with. Finally if you are contemplating a trip like this to the more remote and less travelled areas of the globe, book in the knowledge you could very well be wasting your hard earned money as the trip like ours could be nothing like the original itinerary and turn into a big big disappointment. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
As an experienced cruiser (Europe, South Asia, Middle East, South America, Antarctica, Galapagos Islands etc), my wife and I were thrilled to see advertised early in 2017 a cruise by Hurtigruten through the North West Passage of Canada ... Read More
As an experienced cruiser (Europe, South Asia, Middle East, South America, Antarctica, Galapagos Islands etc), my wife and I were thrilled to see advertised early in 2017 a cruise by Hurtigruten through the North West Passage of Canada finishing in Greenland. Having assessed our financial situation, we made our reservation for the trip, and then saved for the next 18 months or so to ensure that we had sufficient funds to pay the balance. On the evening of the second day in Montreal we, and all the passengers going to Cambridge Bay (the advertised departure point), were brought together by the Cruise Team and told that our departure point for the cruise wouldn’t be Cambridge Bay, but would be Pond Inlet on Baffin Island, as the North West Passage was blocked by ice. Some passengers stated straight away that without the North West Passage on the agenda, there was no interest in the cruise, and wanted to cancel the cruise before it had even started. We were all ‘fobbed off’ by the team saying that Hurtigruten would call each of the cruisers individually on our return to explain and discuss the matter, as some passengers were asking ‘on the spot’ for their money back. So the cruise went ahead and turned out to be wandering around northern Canada and off to Greenland earlier than expected - interesting but NOT what was booked. When we were back at home, we found that Hurtigruten knew three weeks before we sailed that Cambridge Bay was inaccessible due to the failure of the ice to disperse during the summer. The Cambridge Bay website announced on 24th August that FRAM had cancelled the visit. We are still awaiting a full refund of our costs. So far, Hurtigruten has offered a 60% refund - this is insufficient. The ship, cabin, dining and service were all as expected, but without the main purpose of going, it was a pointless cruise. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We've travelled several times before on Fran and have always loved the ship, but we're less enamoured this time. First, the good. The crew are amazing. They work so hard and are so professional. Many do more than one job and ... Read More
We've travelled several times before on Fran and have always loved the ship, but we're less enamoured this time. First, the good. The crew are amazing. They work so hard and are so professional. Many do more than one job and work really long hours, but they are unfailingly cheerful and friendly, welcoming you back like a long lost friend. There were major problems in their cruise (documented elsewhere and not the topic of this review), but the expedition team did their best to give everyone the best experience given the conditions and lack of time/resources to organise landings. Next, the bad. The food. In the past we have rated the food highly. No longer. there was often little choice. Some was frankly inedible, such as the vegetarian set meal one evening . I had the fish alternative- cold and barely cooked. There was too much obvious recycling of food: the 'steam-roasted' ( even I know the difference in cooking!) vegetables a classic example. Steamed one night, heated up by being roasted the next then cold for salad the next. Decent fresh ingredients were just spoilt by being badly cooked. Apart from the bread and pastries - delicious as ever. Now the ugly. The penny-pinching. Little things such as: no tissues in bsthrooms, turning off the coffee machine after lunch, running out of hot chocolate .....to mention a few.. Hurtigruten cruises are not cheap and, quite frankly, we don't expect this level of penny- pinching. It just leaves a bad impression. Please remember that this is an expedition ship NOT a cruise ship.. There is no need to dress up in the evenings and don't expect evening entertainment, swimming pools, organised activities beyond the expedition landings etc. If this is what you want, then this is not the ship for you. Much as we have enjoyed Hurtigruten 's explorer voyages in the past, we will probably look elsewhere in the future. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
I am a USAF military retiree, 20 years active duty (in uniform) and 13 years as a contractor. In effect, 33 years of service to this country’s military. I am at present 67 years old, with a number of health issues including a left knee ... Read More
I am a USAF military retiree, 20 years active duty (in uniform) and 13 years as a contractor. In effect, 33 years of service to this country’s military. I am at present 67 years old, with a number of health issues including a left knee that collapses on me at times and very bad back problems. My wife is 4 years younger, basically in good health with the usual old age ailments. We’re both able to still get around pretty good. Recently, I became interested in the historical search for THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE after watching a cable semi historical series that centered on the British Royal Navy’s Franklin Expedition in the mid 1800’s which tried to find the way through but disappeared and was never heard from again. Amundson finally made it through in the early 1900’s. Some blame “global warming” on causing more ice melt so that a passage exists now in the North American summertime. In more recent years, the historical details of what happened to the 2 Franklin ships and their crews have come to light. I have also watched a number of documentaries on the Franklin Expedition, and my interest began to rise. So, when an opportunity to sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE came up through the French cruise line Ponant, my wife & I booked passage. I was so excited, my wife not so much, but her enthusiasm increased as the cruise drew nearer. The itinerary was: 1)Fly to Paris on Aug 25-26, 2018, overnight in Paris the night of Aug 26th, and then fly on Aug 27th with a Ponant charter fight direct to Kangerlussuag on the west coast of Greenland; 2)Then cruise up the west coast of Greenland, enter THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at its east entrance; 3)Sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE; 4)Exit at the west exit of THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE, and then sail to Nome, Alaska; 5)Disembark the ship(Le Soleal) at Nome and board a charter flight Ponant had said they arranged to Seattle; 6)From Seattle we were on our own to arrange transportation to our home, which we did with American Airlines, to Dallas, and then connected to El Paso, TX. And, then drive 90 miles to our home in Alamogordo, NM reaching it Sept 19, 2018. Yes, a long trip and it cost a bundle, but we figured we could still do it now because waiting was not a good idea because we’re now at the ages where one can get too sick to go or even die. This was also true of most of the other passengers. The first sign of trouble came about 2 weeks before departure. It was a letter on Ponant letter head stationary dated Aug 6th from someone named Emilie Soulte from Ponants headquarters in Marseille France. It informed us that the Ponant advertised included nonstop flight from Paris to Kangerlussuag Greenland would not be nonstop after all, there would be a stopover in Copenhagen where we were told to get our luggage and go to the 2nd flight. As it turned out, neither flight was a charter; the first one was Air France, and the second Greenland Air. This change not only made the trip more arduous, but now we wouldn’t get to Kangerlussuag Greenland until close to midnight. Originally, we were supposed to board the ship between 6-8 pm. Ponants letter dated Aug 6th blamed the change on the Kangerlussuag Airport authorities. This sounded fishy to me, so I contacted the Kangerlussuag airport directly via email, also sending them a copy of Ponants letter. Eventually, I got an email from the Kangerlussuag Airport Manager saying yes they were a small airport that could only handle 1 jet at a time, but he did not know what Ponant was talking about. He clearly suggested in his email that Ponant had not made the air arrangements soon enough and that was the cause of our stopover in Copenhagen. So, Ponant blames the Kangerlussuag airport. The airport manager blames Ponants tardiness. Whom do I believe? No doubt, I believe the Kangerlussuag Airport Manager!! So, we get off at the Kangerlussuag airport, and get on buses which were supposed to take us to a dock to board the ship Le Soleal. Most of the passengers were ecstatic at this point thinking we’d been through the worst of it and we would soon be aboard a luxury ship, The Le Soleal, & get to our cabins, fall on the beds and sleep for a long time. NOooo! By the way, we had seen no Ponant guides anywhere along the way to help us along and answer questions etc. So, the buses drove for a long time on a road that was mostly not paved. We arrive at the “dock” which was really just a small slab of concrete littered with abandoned cargo containers, and there was a little dock area with a rickety wooden gangplank leading to a small ship of questionable integrity. The Le Soleal was anchored out in the bay. Note: most cruise lines are boarded at regular large docks where they are tied down and passengers walk onto the boat in some comfortable way. Anyway, it’s nearly midnight, it’s very cold and windy, and nearly 250 passengers are dumped out of the buses onto this cold concrete slab, and the buses skedaddled (left). No Ponant people around to direct us and tell us what’s going on. Eventually, the boat, which turned out to be a Le Soleal lifeboat, started loading people and left for the ship. Myself & my wife did not make this first boat and where stranded on this rickety gang plank in the cold not knowing anything. The rest of the passengers were waiting on the concrete slab ”dock” in the cold not knowing anything about what’s going on. You’re thinking at this point: why weren’t the passengers allowed to stay in the warm buses and then called to the life boat when it was their turn to load. Nobody seems to know the answer to this. So, you’ve got a bunch of cold uninformed passengers standing on this concrete slab or rickety gang plank while these slow small lifeboats ferry people to the Le Soleal. Not exactly luxury cruising as Ponant advertised. So, eventually my wife & I board a boat and are ferried to the Le Soleal where we were greeted by Captain Patrick Marchesseau. He and the rest of the crew seemed unaware of the conditions his passengers had endured to get from the airport to the ship. I shook his hand and tried to tell him, but he seemed unconcerned and hustled me along, seeming to be more interested in glad handing the next passenger etc. Same was true of the rest of the officer crew who were in a small room behind the captain where they were serving welcoming appetizers and champagne. We went to our cabin, fell on our beds without any unpacking, and slept late into the next morning. The next morning with a good night’s sleep and food in our stomachs the world seemed brighter. We thought now we were through the worst of it. NOooo! At first it seemed all was well. We sailed up the west coast of Greenland making the scheduled stops. Then we crossed Baffin Bay and entered THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at its eastern entrance. Once inside THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at first things went well. But then, at 9:30 pm ships time on Sept 3rd, the captain called all the guests together in this little theater they had and announced that we were not going further west into THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE because the western exit into the Beaufort Sea was blocked with ice. He said that no Canadian Ice Breaker Ship could be spared because they were all being used on cargo ships. Does it seem odd that cargo ships took priority over a cruise ship filled with 250 guests, plus whatever the size of the crew was? Might it be that again Ponant had not coordinated soon enough with the Canadian Coast Guard? I don’t know, I guess the Canadian Coast Guard is the only one that can answer that question. The captain further said that we were going to turn around, cross Baffin Bay to the west coast of Greenland, stopping at “new” places and arriving back in Kangerlussuag (where we started) on Sept 18th the same day we were supposed to arrive in Nome. This point/date is significant, so please note them. Well, the passengers were up in arms. Some passengers had to book 2 years ahead of time. The main purpose of most of the passengers was to sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE, not see scenery, wild life, etc. Most of the passengers were in their 60s and older, so this was their one & only chance to go through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE. One male passenger asked the captain: “Well, if we can’t get through why we don’t just sail straight back to Kangerlussuag instead of floating around Baffin Bay for 15 days?” No, the captain said we’re doing what I said and not arriving in Kangerlussuag until Sept 18th. Another passenger asked: “Why don’t we sail down the east coast of the Canadian Artic where we hadn’t been before?” The Captain said no, we were sailing across Baffin Bay, back to the west coast of Greenland, where we’d just been, and arriving in Kangerlussuag (our point of origin) on Sept 18th. Another passenger asked if there were not any other ice breaker ships available that could get us through, or one that might sail east into the west exit of THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE and then create a passage to get us through to the Beaufort Sea? NO, the captain said. So, we floated around Baffin Bay for 15 days!! Florence, the expedition team’s leader, “invented” places for us to stop over the next 15 days, but they were all the same: barren tundra, made up mostly of large & small rocks, and soft green mossy plants that your foot sank into when stepped on. I fell more than a few times. Another passenger broached a theory to me, which I believe to be correct, that the reason the ship was not going straight back to Kangerlussuag was that if it did then Ponant would have to give us refunds. By floating around Baffin Bay and not arriving back to Kangerlussuag until Sept 18, Ponant could say they gave us the advertised number of days on the ship, and refuse refunds. I believe firmly that this passenger’s theory was correct. And sure enough, a letter arrived to us on Sept 24th from Marseille France (Ponants headquarters) saying there would be no refunds, but they offered a 20% discount on our next sailing with them. What makes them think that we, or most of the other passengers, will ever book with Ponant again??? We will not. I had asked for a full refund. Another female passenger asked if Ponant knew before we left home that we couldn’t get through and just did this charade to prevent giving refunds. Because if they’d done the right & moral thing and cancelled the cruise before we left home, they’d definitely have to give us full refunds. Knowing Ponant the way I do now, I believe this is also a good possibility. As I said Ponant recently sent us a letter denying any (zero) refunds. At the end of this meeting, I was not convinced the captain realized the gravity of the situation of sailing back to Kangerlussuag was for the English speaking passengers—i.e. all the passengers had made plans to go on from Seattle. I was afraid that Ponant would simply book a charter flight back to Paris, dump us all off at the Paris airport, and wash their hands of us. And, yes I believe that is something Ponant would do! Now, flying back to Paris was OK for the French speaking passengers, but it would be terrible for all the English speaking passengers who had made plans to go on from Seattle. I simply wanted to speak with the captain to make sure he understood the plight of the English speaking passengers, but after the announcement he was mobbed and so I decided to wait until the next day. Note: even though this was a French cruise line, only about a third of the passengers were French. Two thirds were English speaking, a lot of Australian and some Americans like my wife & I. So, the first thing I did the next morning was call the customer service desk and ask that an appointment be arranged with me and the captain so I could communicate these concerns. I never got a call back. Later, that day I decided to go up to the bridge and see if I could speak with him there. On the way, I ran into the captain and Florence in a hall way. I told him I wanted to speak to him, but he said he was too busy running the ship and he couldn’t talk to me now. He and Florence literally ran away from me into a restricted part of the ship leading to the bridge where I couldn’t follow. Well, I knew that that day they were allowing ordinary passengers to be on the bridge and watch. Supposedly, there was an ice breaker ship leading us through this part of the trip. So, I entered the passengers’ entrance to the bridge and stood in a place where I could observe everything but not get into the way of the crew. I stood in that spot observing everything including how really busy the captain was. Here's what I observed with my own eyes and ears: The Captain was sitting in a plush chair with a large circular computer screen in front of him. Two crew members to his left was another officer with an identical computer screen, who I assume was his second in command and between them was a person (not an officer) who actually drove the ship. The driver had a joy stick in front of him which I assume controlled the rudder and thus the direction of the ship. On either side of this joy stick there were 2 levers with handles on them which I think controlled the 2 propellers which when pulled towards the driver slowed down or stopped that propeller, and when pushed forward sped up the propeller up to their maximum at fully forward. I assume that if the captain wasn’t at his post the second officer could control the boat from his station. I also saw the alleged ice breaker ship which looked more like a tug boat and was not breaking any ice anyway because there was none to break. I stood there for a whole hour watching everything and there was no ice to break, just small pieces of sea ice floating by. The bridge was calm and the captain did not seem very busy. There was an exit behind the captain which I assumed lead to his office. My plan was to watch when the captain was attempting to leave his chair and go down this exit to his office, and ask him if he had time now. The captain knew I was watching him, and when I briefly looked away, he got up and ran down the exit. I tried to follow, but 2 members of the crew stopped me. It was obvious to me that the captain did not want to talk to me. Why, I don’t know. SO, I resorted to a little subterfuge to get his attention and grant me an audience. And, it worked. I got a call in my cabin from the captain himself requesting a meeting in his office (which is all I wanted in the first place). He sent the Hotel Manager to our cabin, and he escorted my wife and I to the captain’s office. I sat immediately across the desk from him looking him in the eyes. Also present was the ships doctor, I guess to determine if I was crazy. Well, sitting eye to eye with the captain I simply explained my concerns, which is all I wanted to do from the beginning. He told me that Ponant was arranging to have 2 jets at the Kangerlussuag airport. One would take the French passengers to Paris, and the other to take the English speaking passengers to Seattle in time to make all their connections. He asked me if this reassured me, and I said Yes and No. I told him that if this was Silversea cruise line I would have no doubt that they would take care of us properly. But not so with Ponant. I told him I did not trust Ponant at all. He reassured me that what he told me would happen, and the meeting ended. Wow, talk about having to pull teeth. Note: the communication between the French officer crew of the Le Soleal and the English speaking passengers was terrible, and this was what caused most of the problems, distrust, and anger. Most of the English speaking people I talked to were of the opinion that the French always got preference even though they only made up a third of the passengers. Another odd thing happened during one of these “15 floating” days. Usually, in the late afternoon or early evening there would be a briefing in the theater about the next day’s activities. Florence, the head of the expedition team, would usually start these briefs. One day she started the briefing by accusing some supposedly drunken passengers of both malicious mischief and graffiti. Passenger’s expedition boots were kept outside the cabin on a mat there for that purpose. The idea was that way you don’t drag what’s still on your boots from being ashore into your cabin. So, she said that some passengers, who had too much to drink, took some boots and put them into a crew elevator as a prank. She also said that that night some passengers also did 2 instances of graffiti somewhere on the ship. Now I was skeptical of her opinion that it was the passengers that did these 2 pranks. Remember, most of the passengers were 60 or older, fit old people, but old. Is it likely that this age group would do pranks like this? I thought not. This is the type of thing that younger people do. She was sure it was not the crew. The command & officer parts of the French crew were very young. Captain Marchesseau was probably in his 40s. The rest of the French officers were in their 20’s, and the rest of the crew, both the people you see and the people you don’t regularly see, where also very young. She said they had videos from cameras in the areas and were going to identify the culprits. I decide to volunteer my services to review the videos as a service to both the passengers and the crew. So, at the end of the briefings, I went up to Florence and volunteered my services. Surprisingly, she turned me down, and kept walking away from me as I tried to talk to her more. What does that tell you? You be the judge. So, we floated around Baffin Bay near the west coast of Greenland for 15 days, arrived at Kangerlussuag early on Sept 18th, and then flew a charter aircraft Ponant had arranged from the Kangerlussuag airport to Seattle. When we got off the plane in Seattle we were so happy to be back in our own country, the good old USA. Read Less

Find a Cruise

Email me when prices drop