Almost all excursions in Norway, are included, but the majority of those consist of hikes, kayaking and paddleboarding. There are optional extras, such as dog-sledding and cross-country ski-ing, which come with a hefty price tag, so budget accordingly.
In Norway, the Expedition Team guides (led by an Expedition leader) Expedition Hikes and are a real selling point of cruises on MS Maud, embracing the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv (being outdoors and connecting with nature). They're relaxed but physically challenging and will take you to remote places you would never find by yourself, allowing you to see Norway through native eyes. There are always two options -- a regular hike and an extended hike, which are more challenging and longer in duration than others, but all require a good level of fitness as there are usually plenty of stairs and steep inclines to be climbed.
Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are essential, but the ship provides you with a very nice branded waterproof jacket in bright red, so you don't need to pack that. The Expedition Team are well prepared with refreshments (biscuits and drinks) which are served halfway through every hike -- a nice touch. It's worth noting that the hikes tend to be more challenging on the northbound voyage than the southbound one.
Expedition cruises on Maud are all about getting closer to nature, so the itineraries allow plenty of opportunities to see and experience the native wildlife. In Norway this might include spotting rare sea eagles, herds of grazing reindeer, puffins and many more. Exciting excursions, such as whale spotting, bird watching safaris and fishing trips, are also likely to appeal to those interested in the wildlife of coastal Norway and the Arctic Circle. Expedition Team lectures onboard support these excursions.
Several of the Expedition Team are specialists in different aspects of wildlife watching, whether that be ornithology or whale watching, and they are always available to help out with spotting. You'll often find them on Decks 9 or 6 during the day at specific times; or they will give tips and advice at the nightly lectures ("Tiny Talks").
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Mother Nature is the main provider of entertainment on Maud's sailings, and whilst Deck 8's lounge does have a piano and dance floor, there's rarely anyone making use of either. However, on expedition sailings, there are talks from the excellent expedition team members which might cover huskies, geology, photography tips, the Northern Lights, storytelling and many other topics.
On the northbound Norway coastal voyage, a 'Crossing the Arctic Circle' ceremony is held on the top deck. It involves the captain and chief engineer "baptising" passengers by ladling icy-cold water down their necks. You don't have to do it, but those brave enough get a free glass of mead afterwards. Of course, those who don't fancy the chilly baptism will have fun watching other passengers suffer!
The Expedition Team delivers insightful lectures and talks to enhance voyages on Maud, held either in the ship's 200-seat amphitheatre on Deck 5 or on the main theater (Decks 8 & 9). None are too long (some might just show a film), but they are all interesting and entertaining, and you will come away having learned something.
The Expedition Team can also be found on deck pointing out wildlife and explaining any special points of interest that the ship passes. There's even a Science Lab on Deck 8, complete with microscopes to analyse samples, such as krill -- the staple diet of both penguins and whales. The blue whale can eat up to four tonnes of this small, prawn-like crustacean a day.
There are other daily activities on offer, for example painting and knitting, which you need to sign up to participate in.
Explorer Bar (Deck 8): This is the ship's main bar and is split across two sides of the ship, there's no real difference except that the port side has more of a feel of a drawing room, and the starboard side has more of a café vibe. They serve everything here from beer to wine to shots to cocktails to soft drinks, hot and cold, and a selection of yummy cookies.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 8): This is the main and two-tier observation lounge where lectures, quizzes and the few non-lecture shows are held. Drinks must be ordered from the Explorer Bar because the lounge doesn't have its own bar. What it does have, however, are comfy leather chairs and an outstanding view, thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Library (Deck 8): This is possibly the nicest public place on the ship -- more a posh drawing room than a lounge -- which feels more sedate and refined than the more bustling two-tier Panorama Lounge. It's a great spot to sit and watch the world go by, with or without a pair of binoculars.
Deck 9 Bar: This is only a small bar, but it's got a great vibe, thanks to its inside location right next to the al fresco seating area on the top deck. It's got limited bar stool space, and most passengers come here to get a drink to take either outside or into the mezzanine level of the Panorama Lounge.
Maud has more useable outdoor space than you'd expect on such a small ship. Its two hot tubs have a prime location (and offer great views) in the centre of the top deck (Deck 9) and are next to an al fresco seating area complete with sofas, chairs and tables, as well as heaters to warm it up on colder days. Deck 6 has a wraparound promenade, where a brisk three-minute walk equals a lap. Many passengers can be found circumnavigating this deck again and again, hoping to spot whales or albatrosses or just to enjoy the extraordinary Arctic landscape.
The Reception desk can be found midship on Deck 4 at the base of the ship's five-deck atrium which also has an elevator. Reception is staffed 24 hours.
The Expedition Desk can be found next to the library on Deck 8, and the ship's Expedition Team provides advice on excursions (which can be booked here) and issues daily programmes and news bulletins.
On Deck 7 you will find the ship's itinerary posted on the walls either side of the elevators, which include port arrival and departure times, any itinerary changes and information of excursions and facts about the places the ship visits.
Maud's shop can be found midship on Deck 5 and is a rather smart-looking boutique. It sells a small range of essential toiletries as well as stocking clothes (woollen jumpers, waterproof jackets, gloves, hats, etc.) as well as lovely (if expensive) trinket/gift items. You can also buy the same Arctic Pure Cloudberry & Birch and Sea Buckthorn Birch toiletries found in your cabin, if you wish to take the scent of your trip back home with you.
There's a medical centre on Deck 3 for emergencies -- it's a good size and even has an X-ray machine.
For such a small ship, it's astonishing that there are any spa or fitness amenities, but Maud manages to squeeze some onboard. Deck 9 has two saunas -- one for men and one for the ladies. Be warned, the Norwegians aren't shy about stripping off, but feel free to keep your swimming costume on. In the two outdoor Jacuzzis, however, swimming costumes are obligatory.
The gym is next to the sauna at the front of the ship. Considering its size, it's pretty well-equipped with two static bikes, a running machine, three weight machines and a large selection of dumbbells. And for passengers who dislike an indoor gym, the alternative is the promenade deck three floors below for walking or running laps.
Editor's note: Both the gym and saunas will be refurbished as part of the ship's overall 2023 refurbishment.
Maud isn't geared toward children -- that said, the ship welcomes the children that do sail (which increase in number during the school holidays), and interconnecting rooms and cabins that sleep three or four people are available too. There are no children's facilities -- although there is a Science Lab complete with microscopes and specimens relevant to the voyage.
There are plenty of other distractions onboard for youngsters, including engaging lectures, the ever-changing scenery and hot tubs -- all of which might appeal to older children.