There are a large number of shore excursions available (46 in the winter months alone) which change depending on time of year. There is a useful booklet at the shore ex desk that gives full details of what's on offer. They are generally of a high quality, though some could do with a tweak or two to make them even better. The guides both on and off the ship are excellent -- all speak perfect English and have great knowledge. Most people take advantage of these excursions, as this trip is very much about what you see and do on land, rather than the ship itself. Reservations must be made ahead of time and none are included.
In terms of what's available, the variety is huge and it would be tough to try them all. During the winter season, they include a snowmobile safari (both day and night), husky sledding, skiing, snow shoeing, ice dipping in Vardo, king crab fishing and a night in the Snowhotel in Kirkenes.
* May require additional fees
If you're after the northern lights, the best period to spot them is fall through to early March (the winter and spring equinoxes), and for many passengers this is the main reason they are on this voyage. (Hurtigruten even offers a Northern Lights Promise: For anyone on the full 11-day Coastal Voyage, if you don't spot them, Hurtigruten will offer you another five-day cruise for free.) The ship has a "Northern Lights Button" on every in-cabin phone, which, if you keep on, will alert you at any time, day or night, they become visible.
In the summer, the excursions are more about the fjords, farm visits, city tours, cycling and sea kayaking.
Excursions available year-round are the midnight concert at the Arctic Cathedral, horse riding in the Lofoten Islands, sea eagle spotting, rigid inflatable boat safaris and hikes with the guides.
Unlike on big ship cruises, these shore excursions do not run "half day" or "full day" but will run for as long as the ship is in port, or you join the ship at another port (such as the snow mobile safari and horse riding).
Many of Hurtigruten's shore excursions require a certain level of mobility, and some passengers might not be able to participate as a result. The line grades them on a scale of one to four to give people an idea how active they really are. The sea eagle safari is on a regular boat (not a RIB) and would be suitable for someone with mobility issues. Most bus excursions are also accessible, as the buses have wheelchair lifts.
There are no family-friendly specific excursions, but more are perfectly suited for kids, ages 6 and older.
In all ports, you are docked in the center of town, so you can just head off exploring on your own -- many stops have small museums almost adjacent to the port. (But beware: Some stops are just for 15 minutes!)
In theory, there's a heck of a lot of wildlife out there, but a lot of it is shy (wolverine) or well-camouflaged (Artic fox, Arctic hare, Arctic tern, etc.), so don't expect this to be one long nature fest. It's more of a scenic cruise. However, you should be able to spot reindeer and, occasionally, moose.
Having said that, the confluence of the Arctic waters and the Gulf Stream attracts some big marine wildlife, including blue whales, humpbacks, orcas, pilot, fin and minkes as well as dolphins and seals. The ship will slow down or stop if the captain spies any marine life.
It's worth bringing a good pair of binoculars, a camera with a zoom and a tripod.
There are two lecture theaters in the Kompass area toward the front of the ship on Deck 4 (just beyond Reception and the shops). Here the shore ex team describes the shore excursions, gives tips on wildlife spotting, offers fun facts about Norway, teaches you Norwegian words and also announces the finalists and winner of the photography exhibition.
There is always one lecture in English and another in German, depending on passenger demographic onboard.
The ship has a multimedia center on Deck 4 that has three main features: a virtual reality area, a huge TV showing mainly videos about the shore excursions and a large iPad-style touch-screen desk that tells you where all the Hurtigruten ships are at that moment with details about destinations.
The line offers a fun (extra-fee) cooking class that teaches people how to marinate salmon (295 NOK or about $35), which you get to eat afterward.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
There is no entertainment in the classic cruise ship sense of the word. During the day, if you are not on an excursion, you'll find plenty to divert you in the multimedia center including board games. Or check out your next shore excursion in virtual reality.
When the ship crosses the Arctic Circle between Ornes and Bodo, there is a "Baptism Ceremony," which involves a blessing with ice down the back, some cloudberry liquor and the Norwegian version of Poseidon makes an appearance. There is also a competition to guess when the ship crosses the Arctic Circle and the nearest guess gets the flag from the ship.
Southbound, there is a ceremony with a few words from the shore excursion team followed by Champagne (for the ladies) and cod liver oil for the men.
The only bar onboard Richard With is the Panorama Bar on Deck 7, situated at the front and the top of the ship. During the day, it is mainly used by passengers for wildlife watching; by night the bar opens and it is popular for a nightcap.
There is no pool, but there are two hot tubs on Deck 6 at the back of the ship. Deck 7, at the back, is your best bet for sunbathing. Deck 5, which wraps around the ship promenade-style, is used for wildlife and landscape watching.
Reception is on Deck 4, though it temporarily decamps to Deck 3 (the gangway) when in port. On Deck 4 you will also find the shore excursions desk and a shop selling essentials, sodas and water, logo goods, postcards and good quality Helly Hansen outdoor gear, as well as a photo booth to print out images.
Adjoining here are the two lecture theaters.
Wi-Fi is 60 NOK (about $10) for one day; 155 NOK (about $20) for three days, 245 NOK (about $30) for five days and 485 NOK (about $55) for the entire journey. It is fast and reliable.
A self-serve laundry is on Deck 3. You'll need two tokens (30 NOK (about $5) each) per wash, but the detergent ( dispensed automatically) and the dryers are free to use.
The ship boasts a multimedia center, the centerpiece of which is a giant screen that shows highlights of the shore excursions throughout the day. There is also an interactive touch-screen table (a bit like a giant iPad), where you can find out information about ports and excursions and where in the world all the Hurtigruten ships are at that moment. There is also a virtual reality area, which is not functional yet, but when it is, will allow you to slip on a headset and "try out" the shore excursions. The area is full of tables and chairs, most with power sockets. There are two TVs on one wall. A tea and coffee area is set up for Select and Platinum fare cruisers.
MS Richard With does not have a spa; however, it has two hot tubs at the back of the ship on Deck 6 and a small sauna on Deck 2, at the front.
There is a decent-sized fitness center (for a ship this size) at the rear of Deck 7, with two treadmills, a rowing machine, two bikes, a step machine, weights and mats. Everything is free to use, but there are no classes.
Deck 5 acts as a Promenade Deck and could conceivably be used as a jogging track, though you'll annoy the photographers.
Richard With is not geared toward kids (none of the Hurtigruten ships are), and there is no kids programing onboard nor a kids' club. When sailing with a lot of children (mainly in the summer months), a room may be put aside as a play area, but this is purely on an ad-hoc basis. In the same way, expedition leaders may tailor their lectures toward children on some occasions.
But with so many amazing things to see and do on land -- and on the water -- this ship is ideal for a family with inquisitive kids, particularly if they are into wildlife and nature. Plus, the crew love kids and spoil them, as there are generally so few onboard.
There are no interconnecting cabins, but there are a number of rooms that sleep three people, and the suites all sleep four people on a sofa bed. There is also no kids' menu onboard, but the chef is always happy to whip up a pasta dish or a burger for a picky child.