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2 Hurtigruten Polarlys Norwegian Fjords Cruise Reviews

In October I was on the round trip Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen Hurtigruten cruise on the MS POLARLYS. Some observations about booking via Hurtigruten US. They are just a booking agent for Hurtigruten Norway and they don’t really know ... Read More
In October I was on the round trip Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen Hurtigruten cruise on the MS POLARLYS. Some observations about booking via Hurtigruten US. They are just a booking agent for Hurtigruten Norway and they don’t really know the details! Some examples, we booked one of the few Arctic Superior rooms with two lower twin beds. We had seen the cabin plan on the website but it wasn’t the same when we arrived. Our assigned cabin had an upper and lower bunk bed. When we complained to the onboard reception manager she said we got what we had paid for! Apparently the cabin plan online was inaccurate. She said she would try to accommodate us but it could cost us more money! As it turned out we had the option of selecting another cabin with two lower beds and we are supposed to request a refund from the US agent because it was a lower class. We’ll see how that works. One of my friends had told our booking agent that he is a vegetarian. Didn’t matter. If you have any dietary restrictions you need to tell the head waiter once you are on board. After doing so, the staff were extremely accommodating. Some answers to questions we had before we embarked. Tap water is served at lunch and dinner. Bottled water has to be purchased. We ordered the wine package which includes two bottles of water at lunch and two bottles at dinner. There is a wine recommendation for each evening’s meal but you do have the option to select a different wine. The package for the 11 nights cost NOK 5885. If you don’t get a package and order individual bottles the prices start at about NOK 445 and up to 995 and higher; the range for a glass of wine was from NOK 95 to 215, with a mid-range for 129 - 135. After the first two meals - which are open seating - you are assigned a table for lunch and dinner. If you have the early dinner seating (6:30) you get the early lunch seating (usually 11:30 - 1:00). The second dinner seating is at 8:00 pm and their lunch starts at 1:30. There were a few minor schedule changes for lunch during the cruise due to the timing of port arrivals/excursions. (Another note about the US booking agent - we had requested a 7 pm dinner seating - they never told us that the choice was either 6:30 or 8:00 pm. Luckily we were happy with the 6:30 selection. They also were not knowledgeable about the wine package.) The cabins are very small. In a cabin with a double bed there is very little room between the end of the bed and the wall - one has to walk sideways. That was in a room where the bed was perpendicular to the window. If you get a cabin where the top of the bed is against the window, there is more space to walk around. The closet is small so it helps that suitcases can easily fit under the beds. Shelf space manageable. Shower water temperature and pressure are great. There was a full size hairdryer with a very long cord. Punctuality is important. Events, departures etc. were precise. However, if a ship arrives later than scheduled at a port, the departure time is not extended. There is a lot of downtime (one of the reasons I was able to write this lengthy review) but there are various short events on board while sailing. There are films and presentations about history, culture, etc. There are Points of Interest where the “Expedition Team” provides information outside on the deck as well as other events on deck. There are very few ‘freebies’. There is even a charge for the ‘sail away’ champagne! The announcements are done in Norwegian, English and German. Some of the tours separated the Norwegian/English, others did not. It depends on the number of individuals on the tours. MEALS: Breakfast and lunch are buffet style and there is a wide variety of hot and cold foods to choose from. Dinner is a set menu of three courses and portions did not leave anyone hungry. We all thought the dinners were excellent. PORTS and EXCURSIONS: Day 2 - glad we took the Taste of Norway tour. The port of Urke only has 53 inhabitants so there isn’t much to do. The fjord is amazing but it would have been better if there was more than one stop for pictures. We heard that the mountain hike group was combined with the shieling “walk” excursion because of the weather. Alesund - we were there at 5 pm and it was raining. Not much to do and not many shops open. Trondheim - arrived on Saturday morning. Nidaros Cathedral does NOT have free tours. It costs 90 NOK but includes a tour. The English tour was at 10 am. The Archbishop’s Palace didn’t open until 11. Others who went on the excursion said it was interesting. They are starting a new excursion in Trondheim on the southbound portion to visit the Cathedral. The southbound arrival in Trondheim is at 6:30 with a 10 a.m. departure. The Cathedral will open early for the tour group - otherwise not enough time to do it on your own if you missed it on the northbound voyage. Tromso - visited Polaria and was there for the seal feeding. Overall it’s comparatively small. Unfortunately the Northern Museum was closed while preparing for a new exhibit….and it was raining so we returned to the ship early. I heard others talking about one of the hiking trips. They said it should have been rated more difficult due to the weather conditions. On the return trip, we attended the midnight concert at the Arctic Cathedral. The performers were amazing! Honningsvag - we took the North Cape excursion. It’s about a 40 minute drive each way and the scenery is nice although, again, we didn’t see any sun. There is a short stop to see a Sami reindeer herder and his reindeer and a tiny Sami gift shop. The North Cape site itself is quite nice. There is a museum with a film and various small exhibits. The time there was adequate. Kirkenes - rain again and the ship was about an hour late arriving so our time there was shorter than expected. The bomb shelter is only open during the summer months. We didn’t walk to the Borderland Museum due to the shortened time schedule. The town center is quite small. Bodo/Salstrumen - we took the bus tour to see the tides, The “tour” through town doesn’t offer much. The bus stops and allows time to walk down under the bridge and take pictures of the tidal whirlpools. A Taste of Vesterlaen - this was worthwhile. As on the other excursions, there is not really much of note going thru the town. The guides pointed out the local school, hospital, senior living, etc. The stops were good - historical church and museum, a beautiful photo stop, a short ferry trip (which the bus went on). There’s a surprise before getting back on board but I won’t spoil it for you! Kristiansund - we took the 4 hr. bus tour along the Atlantic highway and visited the marble mine. the tour was quite expensive - NOK 1776 - but otherwise there is just a long sea day from Trondheim to Bergen. Our group enjoyed the tour of the mine. A unique experience seeing a mine via a boat and ending it with a sit down serving of hot soup. Trolljford - this is amazing. On the northbound voyage, it’s nighttime and on the southbound voyage, it’s daytime. Don’t miss it!! NORTHERN LIGHTS: Yes! Yes! Yes!! We saw them on multiple occasions. After the rain stopped and the skies cleared there were two nights where they were much more visible and active. Surprisingly, they were white/grey with only hints of color. The camera somehow catches the green color!! We stayed at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Bergen after the cruise. It was very convenient for sightseeing and the airport bus (which departs every 10 minutes and cost about NOK 130) was right outside. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Hurtigruten started out as a shipping company that took passengers along, but over the years the passenger business has expanded to become a more important source of business. Nonetheless, Hurtigruten still operates as a shipping company ... Read More
Hurtigruten started out as a shipping company that took passengers along, but over the years the passenger business has expanded to become a more important source of business. Nonetheless, Hurtigruten still operates as a shipping company when it comes to scheduling, selection and length of stops. Charming towns without much trade get stops too short to get off the ship, and even the big ones, like Trondheim, are rushed. Our guide was very upset that two of us were a few minutes "late" getting back to the bus because we were stuck in the cash register line at Trondheim Cathedral. Taking the bus ride, by the way, means no time for independent walking in town. You either walk or you ride, but not both. The most annoying part of the operation, however, is that Hurtigruten's business model means they charge extra for everything but the air you breathe. Want a lanyard to hang your id card on? It's the equivalent of $3.50 US. A coffee cup to use during non-restaurant hours? The equivalent of $30 US. A glass of house wine? $11 US. Water bottle? $3.00 US. No onboard lectures, no explanations of the formation of the fjords, no "free" excursions of any sort, no touor of the ship, officers sit at a separate table from the masses, extra charge to go from the ship to your hotel. Our trip, FYI, went south, from Kirkenes to Bergen. (Kirkenes and the other towns in Finnmark, the far north of Norway, were burned to the ground by the retreating German Army in 1945, which accounts for their somewhat bleak post-war architectural style.) Food was good and ample, cabin was small but adequate, staff was generally friendly but for a few in the dining room who had clearly been on board too long. Hurtigruten has been trying a new "a la carte" dining alternative, at extra cost, since April of this year, but does little promotion of and seems ambivalent about it. The Polarlys goes into drydock in January, 2016. We will see what emerges in this vein. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Polarlys Ratings
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