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8 Hurtigruten Polarlys Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

The Hurtigruten Classic Round Voyage with the Northern Lights Promise, 24 March to 4 April 2019 on the ship Polarlys. Did we see the northern lights? That is a good question! Although we had some good daytime weather, the sky was ... Read More
The Hurtigruten Classic Round Voyage with the Northern Lights Promise, 24 March to 4 April 2019 on the ship Polarlys. Did we see the northern lights? That is a good question! Although we had some good daytime weather, the sky was cloudy for the first nine nights. Since Hurtigruten promise that we will see the lights, I predicted to my wife that on the tenth night (2 April), when the forecast was for partly clear skies but we were already well south, we would see something inconclusive and Hurtigruten would claim that we’d seen them. This is exactly what happened. At about 11 pm the public address system announced weak lights. We went up on deck and at first saw nothing. Eventually we decided that a very dim static grey glow above a big bank of cloud must be what they were talking about. Hurtigruten’s “promise” actually says “100%. That’s how sure we are that the spectacular Northern Lights will make an appearance on your 12-day Hurtigruten voyage. If not, we'll give you another voyage for free”; this under a beautiful photograph of green lights. Accordingly, the next morning, since what we saw had been pathetic rather than “spectacular”, we enquired how to go about claiming our free voyage. They said: “No deal, the Captain says you’ve seen the lights”. The Captain refused to see us and no evidence such as a photograph was offered. But we spoke to others of the crew. They were all evasive and one was very rude. Up to this point we’d been quite happy with Hurtigruten over two trips (the other being a very good summer trip in 2014), but this behaviour, betraying a deep dishonesty pervading the company, really upset us. Initially we intended to complain higher up the company. But eventually we decided that we just couldn’t face the hassle. Life is too short and Hurtigruten have clearly briefed their staff thoroughly in their dishonest response. In any case we might well not have taken up the “free” voyage. The small print is very restrictive: only half the round trip (i.e. just 5 or 6 days), make and fund your own travel arrangements to and from the ports one of which will be Kirkenes in the far north, inside cabin, half board, book it within a month of returning, etc. It was not all a disaster and we enjoyed parts of the trip. We saw some fantastic scenery after new snow and enjoyed the food. Being near the equinox, there were around 13 hours of good daylight. But there were other hiccups beyond Hurtigruten’s control. At the start, the ship couldn’t get down to Bergen because of bad weather; so, having flown into Bergen, we had to fly on to Trondheim the same day, not arriving at the boat till well after midnight. The one excursion that we had booked, to the Northcape, was cancelled because of wind and snow. And I felt seasick a couple of times, not seriously but queasy enough to miss several meals! Friends who did the trip a couple of weeks before us also only saw vague white lights. On the other hand, the internet has many accounts of people who had a great time. So, in conclusion, it’s much more of a risk than Hurtigruten claim that you won’t see anything convincing, and don’t believe their dishonest promise that you’ll get a free trip. But you could well get lucky. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Just returned from a 11 day Northern Lights voyage along the Norwegian coast to Kirkenes and back to Bergen - and it was mind blowing. I've returned relaxed, pampered and looking to book another cruise - with Hurtigurten. Never ... Read More
Just returned from a 11 day Northern Lights voyage along the Norwegian coast to Kirkenes and back to Bergen - and it was mind blowing. I've returned relaxed, pampered and looking to book another cruise - with Hurtigurten. Never will I grace Royal Caribbean, or Princess again No casinos, no spas, no entertainment crews - it was education, relaxing and no hard sell. Cabins were basic, clean and well thought out, Bathrooms small and efficient. Staff were incredibly professional and charming Its a working ship, and the dress code was refreshingly casual..no dressing up for dinner. We loved every minute of it and the food was amazing. Fresh, locally sourced, not a french fry, burger, hot dog, pizza or hot dog in site. Excursions were expensive, but worth every penny - and no more expensive than the private ones which you can arrange independently Yes, alcohol is expensive, but this is Norway, and the prices on the ship were cheaper than the mid range hotels in Bergen. Embarkment and disembarkation were incredibly fast - we were in our hotel in less than an hour of leaving our deck - straight into a taxi. Tips - bring a kettle if you don't buy the premium package - learn how to use your camera for photographing the northern lights ( we had 6 nights of this spectacular) - bring a pair of slippers, good books, knitting/craft/watercolours - something to do when you are sailing along do at least 3 expeditions ( we did dog sledging, the ice hotel and the marble mines. All were incredible) Ignore the moaning minnie reviews. There are hundreds of thousand of people who have done this voyage. final words, don't hesitate book it! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We enjoyed our cruise very much. It was very good for the liver as alcohol prices were so high we hardly touched a drop, and given the Norwegian economy, the same can be said for all the excursions. However, having said that, we had ... Read More
We enjoyed our cruise very much. It was very good for the liver as alcohol prices were so high we hardly touched a drop, and given the Norwegian economy, the same can be said for all the excursions. However, having said that, we had wonderful R&R, saw the Northern Lights in all their glory, saw a bit of local life and enjoyed the fabulous scenery. Of the ship itself, the food was amazing, the crew wonderful and overall, it was very comfortable. In particular, we would like to commend the 'reception captain' who was particularly helpful in resolving issues about our cabin. On this issue, we feel that 'polar exterior' cabins with a view of a lifeboat, should be marketed at a separate price. There were also some very entertaining on board lectures etc We have a few (hopefully helpful) comments to make. 1 We did think that the quay side reception was poor.. 2 receptionists took a long time to process at least 3 coachloads of passengers who stood in a queue for up to (in some cases) an hour. Further, in the reception 'lounge' (after check in), there was no water available we heard. 2 The night visit to Trollffyord was very disappointing. A great deal was made of the fact that the ship would shine its lights down the fiord, but in the event, it was deemed that the moon was so good that this was unnecessary. HOWEVER, NO-ONE TOLD THE PASSENGERS!!! Those of us who were waiting on the beam of the ship (very limited space up front) saw absolutely nothing. It would have been nice if the ship had manoeuvred to allow everyone to see, but the most important thing was that there needed to be a commentary by the (otherwise) excellent on board entertainments' team. Bit of a waste of time from our point of view. 3 We found the food delicious but somewhat over salted. One can add but you can not take away! 4 Would like to see better lighting in top lounges Deck 7 (for reading at night). I'm all for dimmed (romantic?) lighting, but it does not suit everyone 5 The so called 'Captain's Dinner' on the penultimate evening (for which some, especially ladies, dressed up) was a bit of a farce. It consisted of 4 officers saying 'Lovely to see you - "cheers" and a quick 'march' round the dining room 'waving' (and no more) at all the tables. To make that occasion in any way worthwhile, we feel the officers should have stopped at individual tables for a few moments' chat. If you bill this sort of event in this way, it needs to be more of an occasion - or not do it. However, the latter would be a great pity. The crew were fun and it would have been nice to have SOME social time with them. 6 It would be good to be able to buy the tea and coffee package on board. 7 I would have liked to have used the Jacuzzi but could not access it as the approach was too icy and there was nowhere to change. 8 It would be nice if the top deck 'cafe' could sell one flavour of sugar free ice cream. We repeat, we enjoyed the trip and felt it was good value for money. We hope the above is helpful. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
see northern lights an cruise the fords did 12 day cruise with full board food was great for fish lovers but im a meat eater they gave me meat every nite at dinner was no problem thou some people didnt ask not much to do on board ... Read More
see northern lights an cruise the fords did 12 day cruise with full board food was great for fish lovers but im a meat eater they gave me meat every nite at dinner was no problem thou some people didnt ask not much to do on board read play cards amuse ur self scenery was great as was weather northern lights were a bit of dissapontment saw sum seems people complained about prices on ship but all of Norway is as for cabin cleaning u needed to put card out to get room cleaned or they did nothing last day is worst u leave room by 10am ship docks 3pm so u just try an kill time did two tours very pricey walked mostly at ports of call pfm309 dining crew was great did best to accomadate u food for the most was warm or cold needs to be hotter they have a nerve charging for tea an coffee Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We chose this cruise for the Northern Lights but mother nature chose not to participate, which is nobodies fault & a chance you take. The disappointing part was the cost of excursions & drinks. We only did 1 excusion as our ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the Northern Lights but mother nature chose not to participate, which is nobodies fault & a chance you take. The disappointing part was the cost of excursions & drinks. We only did 1 excusion as our other was cancelled.Check if your package includes tea & coffee, as a lot didnt have this.Not to mention the hours sitting onboard spent playing cards or reading, as nothing else to do. There were occasional lectures but not regularly. The staff in every area were fantastic, with smiles & ready to answer any questions you may have. We regularly used the walking track on deck 5 & loved that we could at least get some fresh air exercising, however didnt like that our room was on the same deck which we felt limited times our blind could be up. Could not fault the food, smoked salmon is the best we have ever tasted & loved trying local food most days. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose to travel on the Hurtigruten classic round trip 12 day voyage to see the coast of Norway, many ports of call and hopefully the northern lights. We were fully aware that the Ms Polarlys is a working ship but were extremely ... Read More
We chose to travel on the Hurtigruten classic round trip 12 day voyage to see the coast of Norway, many ports of call and hopefully the northern lights. We were fully aware that the Ms Polarlys is a working ship but were extremely underwhelmed by the experience. Virtually all of the times of visits to ports of call were cut short as the ship nearly always arrived late but always left on time? This meant that we were on the ship for very long periods of time. This might have been bearable had there been things to do on board and food and drinks available at affordable prices. This could not have been further from the truth. The ship is essentially a ferry and other than a few on board talks and films there was really nothing else to do. Full board was included with our cruise however be aware that the meals are set menu. In Hurtigruten's case this means set menu with no choice of alternative. We only ate one meal in the main restaurant, it was not to our liking and was of very small portions and clearly concocted as cheaply as possible. That first evening I complained about the lack of choice which was not taken well. I went through the ranks both on board the ship and with Hurtigruten in the UK and Norway, all this took almost 24 hours but the response, although consistent if nothing else was that I either pay NOK220 per person per day to eat in the a la carte restaurant or put up with the set menu. I contacted the cruise agent I had booked my trip with and they paid the supplement for me to have some choice of food and eat in the a la carte restaurant. With the exception of a small handful of staff on board the vast majority are at best indifferent towards the passengers and in many cases down right rude. From moment one we felt like an inconvenience to the crew on board and both the standards and service on board left much to be desired. Most of the crew on board the ship did nothing for the reputation of Norway or it's people and should be ashamed of themselves. Our cabin (524) was okay but the servicing of the cabin was hit and miss and on some days did not happen at all. The cost of everything on board the ship is outrageously expensive and other than the basic meals in the main restaurant this means absolutely everything. It is my opinion that the Hurtigruten philosophy is to charge as much as they can possibly get away with for as little as possible in return. There are other ships now offering similar routes, Hurtigruten did have exclusivity on the Norwegian coastal route up until a couple of years ago but thankfully this is no longer the case. The one and only positive was that after our cruise agent resolving the dining issue the food in the a la carte restaurant was very good and our waitress Mona was fabulous. Needless to say we would absolutely not recommend Hurtigruten to anyone else after our dismal experience on board MS Polarlys for 12 long days! Any ratings I have given I this review for dining relate to the main dining restaurant as this is the included option. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Highly rated on other review sites. Looked unusual and good value at around £100 a day. (2018 prices). Turned out better than expected. All flights and transfers were included. Where else could you stop 66 times in 12 days? The ... Read More
Highly rated on other review sites. Looked unusual and good value at around £100 a day. (2018 prices). Turned out better than expected. All flights and transfers were included. Where else could you stop 66 times in 12 days? The Hutingruten is a working ferry so this allowed us to get a real flavour of Norwegian coastal activities. Several major stops were over 3 hours and since Norwegian towns are not too large it was possible to see all major points on interest by just wandering around. Thanks to some forethought, maps were provided at major stopping points. Extensive organised trips were available and those who went on them gave glowing reports. No problem with the language as all the crew speak English. This ship carried special crew members called an Expedition Team who lead some of the more adventurous trips. Extremely attractive , very knowledgable, and competent in at least 4 languages between them. Lectures, information films and expedition briefings were held throughout the trip - even the Captain explaining the aids to navigation through the many islands (23,000) along the coast. The dress code is very casual, no dressing up at all although you might change for dinner if you would like. No pressure! No caberet (thank goodness) - bring your cards, play games, read books, or talk with other people on the trip. Ladies or gents - bring your knitting or crochet or contribute to the ship's blanket, by making granny squares. Or just sit and admire the ever changing view. Try this trip if food is your thing as much of it is loaded on board freshly every day and reflects the local cuisine in the main evening meal. Buffet breakfast and lunch cater for a wide range of tastes and as much as you can eat. Every meal has been superb. The service cannot be faulted. Most people go teetotal for the trip as alcohol in Norway costs twice as much as in the UK. Mobile phones work without any extra charge; internet access is available on various reasonably priced packages. We saw the Northern Lights! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
I am certain there are many reviews of the Hurtigruten cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes - I will try to provide some more details than I have read online and to give some advice I could have used while traveling. First things first - ... Read More
I am certain there are many reviews of the Hurtigruten cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes - I will try to provide some more details than I have read online and to give some advice I could have used while traveling. First things first - this is an exceptional experience, due to the scenery, the graciousness of the Norwegian people an the staff on board as well as the ease of traveling into some distant regions in comfort. Second - and for some of you this may be important - this is different from other cruises you may have taken on more traditional cruise lines such as I and my wife had taken on Oceania and Regent. If you need the luxury and the larger suites - absolutely need - that these lines offer Hurtigruten will disappoint you. The food and the staff are first class; the suites tiny less than half in size what experienced on Oceania and Regent; there is a very small gym and no entertainment. The open areas are quite large and accommodative of groups, stretching out and otherwise spending little time in your cabin - after all, at it’s heart, the ship is a ferry and there are passengers getting on and off for shorter trips along the way. Third - while the crew and many of the passengers speak English, a significant majority of passengers are Norwegian and German with a majority German. This is not an issue - just a heads up. Some details. • Food - excellent, truly and are picky, my wife’s hobby is cooking and she does not eat red meat. The breakfast buffet is huge - no custom omelets, but everything else - lunch was most usually another large buffet and dinner was a fixed menu, with made for my wife and another traveling companion who did not eat red meat and if you love fish, tell them you do not eat meat. Beer and wine are extra, the wine selection is limited and I would avoid the wine package, you will do better buying wine and beer night by night. If you like beer, try the local lager that translates into Polar Bear. A good deal of the cuisine was modernized Norwegian - cod, what they call stockfish, Arctic char, salmon, reindeer and so on, lots of root vegetables prepared in a superior way to what we see back in the States, Desserts are limited excellent and the Norwegians take cream seriously! One caution - you need to reserve a time, you cannot do it online, and if you are traveling with other people you must make sure you reserve your table with them. It is not a perfect system - they should let you do this online - and we ended up eating at 8:30, later than we would have preferred but it was the only time available to be able to be seated with our friends and even then three other people sat with us. Not a big deal, just a heads up. • Billing - make sure you register your credit card in reception to make sure all your expenses can be paid for with your room key card, from tours to Diet Coke, this greatly simplifies things. When you settle up, if you of not need your kronor you can pay part of your bill in kronor and the rest by credit card - but you have to do this the evening before you leave the ship. • Expense - Norway is a shockingly expensive country if you have not bothered to read about the country before this review. And this cruise is not cheap - but you get what you pay for. After a day or two a small bag of potato chips costing thee bucks and a beet costing twelve is something you do not care about. If you are on a tight budget you can easily avoid extra expenses, especially if you do not drink alcohol. That said, despite your budget, you will miss too much if you do not take tours in certain places, and you will waste money if you take tours you should not, and I will discuss these in a minute. • Staff - the staff is excellent service staff with typical Scandinavian reserve. They are also professionals paid by Norwegian standards - other cruise lines have day to day staff from many countries dominated by poverty and, to our taste, are almost too deferential. The staff on the Hurtigruten could easily be your neighbor or son in law and we found this to be a very pleasant surprise. That said, they do follow their own rules - if you are in your room when the housekeeper comes by, the best you will do is fresh towels, he or she will not come back to do your room. When you are the last to be sitting in the dining room, they will not hesitate to ask you to move to one of the common rooms so the staff can prepare for the next day’s work - and so on. • Line up eating times with people you are traveling with • Rooms - the rooms are beyond small - a large person has to squeeze between the end of the bed and the wall. The bed is quite comfortable. The bathroom is also very, very small, the shower fast and furious - a great shower with no shortage of water as hot as you want it to be. There is a flat panel and satellite TV with a few English language channels, including one or two news channels depending on where you are. Do not plan on spending time in your room, other than for sleep and a nap. And if you save money by getting a cabin without a porthole - they are not large but did let in light - well, good luck to you. • WiFi - the ship has by far the best WiFi - actually the whole country does - and it is very cheap, roughly five or six bucks a day. If you have an international data plan, you will discover Norway’s telecom company has placed cell towers along the fjords and more than half the time we were cruising I could get a signal on my phone and with my own AT&T data plan. • Common areas - there are several common, open areas to relax, look outside hang with groups. A lounge with day food next to the dining room; a larger lounge on the seventh desk with more food and lots of seating; a bar in the front of the chip with dozens and dozens of chairs and tables, a fake fireplace and great views as it is in the front of the shop and glass all around. On one of the decks in the rear of the ship there are portable deck chairs and there is standing room in the front of the ship on deck five, a great place to take in the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen and I have been very lucky to be able to travel to many parts of the US and the world. • Excursions - there are yours available at most stops, and are typically brief as the ship works on a ferry’s schedule. What I write is based on our experiences and those of others we traveled with. Before specifics, be aware, the city tours are, for the most part, unnecessary if you have a tour book or there is a decent discussion online, such as sites in Tromse or Trondheim. And some of the tours or experiences you would normally avoid as they seem to “corny” or “touristy” are actually worth it. So please, read online reviews. The Viking feast - total kitsch, but worth it. Crab Safari - excellent, fun, great guide/fisherman, by far the best crab we have ever eaten, one hour out of the water, and my wife is the crab queen of Baltimore! The River Safari was a hoot and worthwhile. The Sami tour was also worth it but disappointing insofar as there was virtually o discussion of the current life of the Sami - and if you are not interested in indigenous peoples an cultures, you should take a pass. The best tour was the Nordpak tour - a great guide, incredible views, you will never get further north on Continental Europe, our favorite by far. The Russian border your had thumbs up because of the tour of the underground shelter used during the war, a thumbs down because the only thing at the border are order guards. As I wrote earlier, the city tours are hardly worth the expenses • Special experiences - If you sleep through Troll Fjord you missed the whole point of visiting this far side of the world, we did it at night and I will never forget being ten meters away from the side walls of a fjord in the dead of night, just spectacular. Crossing the Arctic Circle (you get a free certificate!). The Nordpak tour was worth the whole trip; eating the special apple pastry prepared on our last night outdoors in the late evening was another highlight (of course there was a charge for this); and overall the impact of the Gulfstream changes your view of the Arctic. Farming in mid-September 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle and on the Nordpak tour you are in a place that never gets below ten degrees Fahrenheit, forty miles inland it can get forty below. • Not so special experiences - the aforementioned city tours and the cities themselves - Alendsun, Tromse and Trondheim are nice, with great coffee and pastries, and some nice shops, but if you have traveled there is nothing that will make you say “wow!”. And please check times - in Trondheim everything but the cathedral was closed until 11:00, the ship was there for but three hours and leaving at noon. Kirkenes is an industrial city destroyed during the war with absolutely nothing to do on your own in the city. We stayed, and did the crab safari, if you do not want to one of the tours, be prepared to move on right after you dock. • Activities - on board there are virtually no activities - there is a sauna, two hot tubs on our ship, both shut down waiting for inspection, and that is about it. • Good coffee - do not laugh, my wife and I get nervous before cruising, what if we do not like the coffee? On board the coffee is more than adequate. • Beauty - there is constant beauty you never tire of - every hour of every day. And a sense of wonder that the sun is shining, you are wearing a light sweater and your 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle - this is mid-September. • Bergen to Kirkenes is enough time for most of us - a six day or so journey - many passengers were doing the round trio, I am glad we did not as the ship stops in places we had already visited. • Northern lights - due to the time of year and cloud cover we never did see the Northern lights. You can download an app to help you predict when you might get a shot at seeing the if you stay up past your bed time! Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Polarlys Ratings
Category Editor Member

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