There isn't entertainment as such on MS Nordnorge because this isn't that kind of cruise, but the schedule is packed with enrichment offerings which all have entertainment value too. If you're lucky enough to see them during your voyage then the Northern Lights (best visible from October to early April) is one of nature's most mesmerising shows and doesn't cost a penny to watch. There's also a very entertaining ceremony held on the northbound voyage when the ship crosses the Arctic Circle. 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!
Many of the excursions are on the expensive side, but worth it if you're not planning to come back to these ports any time soon. There are some amazing excursions on offer, and the Expedition Team will ensure that you get the best from these quality tours and trips. Expect the available excursions to change depending on the season -- for example, you won't be able to do husky dog-sledding, cross-country skiing or a snowmobile safari by late spring/summer, and in the winter there aren't any kayaking trips offered.
Walking tours in ports are the cheapest option -- the two-hour Art Nouveau walk in Alesund, for example, is one of the cheapest excursions at £36 per person. While a snowmobile trip into the polar night sits at the other end of the cost spectrum at £340. But there really is something to suit every interest and pocket, from cycling to RIB safaris to Viking feasts to bird-watching.
Due to the shortness of time in port, some excursions involve disembarking in one town, then hopping on a tour and meeting the ship at the next port. The Arctic snowmobile trip is a perfect example of this. You can watch MS Nordnorge leave in one port and then see it coming in at the next.
Expedition cruises on Nordnorge are all about getting closer to nature, so the itineraries allow plenty of opportunities to see and experience the native wildlife, including rare sea eagles, herds of grazing reindeer, puffins and much more. Exciting excursions, such as whale spotting, husky dog-sledding, bird-watching safaris and fishing trips, are also likely to appeal to those interested in the wildlife of coastal Norway and the Arctic circle, and are supported by the Expedition Team lectures onboard. Binoculars are sold in the onboard shop, and are provided free of charge to Platinum fare guests.
The Expedition Team deliver insightful lectures and talks to enhance voyages on Nordnorge. None are too long (some might just show a short film), but they are all interesting and entertaining, and you will come away having learned something. Each lecture is held twice -- once in English and once in German. Examples of subject matter include the Northern Lights, the Norwegian way of life, how the Fjords were made, the Vikings, polar expeditions, and the Sami way of life. The team can also be found on deck pointing out and explaining any special points of interest that the ship passes.
If you like a spot of food tasting then you'll be pleased to know that the chef is often on top deck with samples of local specialities for you to try (no extra cost). The fish cakes, pea soup and dried lamb shoulder are all delicious.
These hikes are guided by the Expedition Team (led by an Expedition Leader) and are a real selling point of cruises on MS Nordnorge, 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. Some are more challenging and longer in duration than others, but most require a good level of fitness as there are usually plenty of stairs and steep inclines to be climbed. Remember, sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are essential. The Expedition Team are well prepared with flasks of tea and coffee (as well as biscuits), which they serve 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.
Hiking passes can be bought before departure or onboard. If you're certain you want to do the hikes then it's best to pre-book as a maximum of twenty are allowed in the group and they have been known to sell out. The hiking pass (£142.50) lasts for a six-day voyage on which there is a minimum of four hikes offered (six during summer and autumn). Alternatively (and if the hiking passes haven't sold out), hikes can be bought individually onboard.
While the Brygga bistro (deck 4) and Multe bakery (deck 7) do serve alcohol and have some seating, neither can really be described as a bar or lounge.
Explorer Lounge (Deck 7): This is the only real bar and lounge onboard, and it sits at the front of the ship, covering half the available top deck space. With a large fake fire at its heart and huge panoramic windows, it's an appealing place to relax or socialise over a glass of wine, beer or coffee.
Planted in prime position in front of the angled floor to ceiling windows are plush, 360-degree swivel chairs, which offer passengers an amazing view of the quick-changing scenery. It's no surprise that these seats are extremely popular and it's often hard to find one available. If you really want one, you probably have to get up very early and sit there for the day.
This bar also has a fine grand piano -- which is available for passenger use.
Nordnorge has more useable outdoor space than you'd expect on such a small ship. There are two hot tubs at the back of deck 6, and deck 5 has a wraparound promenade. It takes a brisk three minutes to walk a lap, and many passengers can be found circumnavigating this deck again and again, taking in the varying views from each aspect of the ship. Deck 7 has a large sun deck as well as a heated seated area for chillier days. Food tasting sessions and informal lectures are held on the sun deck regularly.
The Reception desk (called the Kompass) can be found mid-ship on deck 4 and is staffed 24-hours. Most other services are close-by, including the adjacent expedition desk (which doubles up as the excursions desk). The ship's Expedition Leader provides advice on excursions and issues daily programmes and news bulletins.
The Kompass sells a small range of essential toiletries (including sea sickness pills), and the open-plan boutique next door stocks clothes (Norwegian jackets, woollen jumpers, 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.
USB ports can be found in a seating area adjacent to the Kompass, as well as at the back of the Multe Bakery on deck 7. Also at the back of the Multe Bakery is a small bookcase stacked with books, board games and a few toys for younger children.
A self-service launderette can be found on deck 3. Tokens are bought at the Kompass and £3 will cover you for the washing machine as well as the drier.
Wi-Fi access is good and inexpensive. Codes are bought at the Kompass and £18 will buy you five days of premium Wi-Fi, which will cover two devices.
There's a hospital on deck 2 for emergencies.
For such a small ship it's astonishing there are any spa or fitness amenities, but Nordnorge manages to squeeze some onboard. Deck 2 has two small saunas (open 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.) -- 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. And the aforementioned twin hot tubs are a great place to relax in the open air.
The gym (called the Fitness Room) is on top deck in the centre of the ship, behind the bakery. It’s small but has a superb view, and for its size manages to squeeze in an impressive array of equipment including a static bike, two running machines, a rowing machine, some steps and a large selection of weights.
The Nordnorge isn't geared towards children -- that said, the ship welcomes the children that do sail (which increase in number during the school holidays), and there are interconnecting rooms and rooms that sleep three available. There are no children's facilities (bar a large bucket of toys and a selection of board games on top deck) and some passengers have complained that the recent refurbishment got rid of the playroom. However, there's plenty of activity on the ship in terms of engaging lectures, the ever-changing scenery, an ice-cream parlour, hot tub and regular food-tastings -- all of which might appeal to older children.