I found the Hurtigruten voyage to be a major, over-priced disappointment. I am well traveled, having been to dozens of countries. I have I felt so ripped off and disgusted with trip or destination in general.
Below please find excerpts from a letter I just faxed to Norwegian Coastal Voyage in New York. But in the letter, I forgot to mention the poor food safety practices I saw aboard the ship: many items on the breakfast and lunch buffet were sitting out on various counters, without any temperature control or sneeze guards. Just hundreds of people standing right over top of much of the food. Two of Hurtigruten's ships had the Norwalk virus aboard, but amazingly we managed to avoid it on our ship. The height of my disgust was reached when I witnessed an elderly passenger digging deep in his nose while waiting outside the dining room for the doors to be opened...luckily I made it in the dining room before "nose-picking Ned", and I did NOT go back for seconds. Ok, Hurtigruten can't control "Nasty Ned", but still....UGGGGGGGGGH!
IF, despite my letter below, you have your heart set on dropping a lot of money for a bad "cruise", then I would strongly recommend that you only take the voyage northbound. I had the bad fortune of taking the roundtrip, and the southbound part of it was a TOTAL waste of time. In the couple of ports I had an interest in seeing, we were there during dinner hour, so instead of missing another wonderful (HA!) meal (ok, the reindeer was good, but how many days can they serve it? Almost as many days as they serve fish)and exploring yet another dismal town, we had to stay aboard in order to have something to eat.
In my opinion, the nicest part of the journey was from Bergen to Trondheim, maybe as far as Tromso. After that, it is a big fat bust. All the little towns you stop in are completely devoid of anything interesting. Most of them only have one, maybe two tiny convenient store type grocery stores, a bar, maybe a restaurant, and of course a church or two. Many of these towns you had 30 minutes to visit, which was about 20 minutes more than you'll need. I took the Hurtigruten because I *thought* these little towns would be charming and interesting, instead they were depressing and left me wondering how in the hell anyone can live there. There is a reason Norwegians have a high rate of suicide, and I'm just glad I made it out of northern Norway without hanging myself from a lamppost. Though in Kirkenes, I did hear what sounded to be a gunshot, and I could just imagine the gleam in the undertaker's eye. He probably was able to get the hell out of there and go to Greece with what he would make on that poor bas-tard's funeral.
Consider yourself warned: Take any cruise line other than Hurtigruten, one that actually treats you like you're on a cruise ship, for less money, and one that only stops at the larger, more interesting ports of Bergen, Trondheim, and Tromso. The small "towns" are not worth the effort it takes to walk down the gangway!
Additionally, Norway is ridiculously expensive, for everyone, but especially for those of us that have to convert Norwegian charges into dollars. Be prepared to pay TRIPLE the price you would expect to pay. I live in Hawaii, and that is saying something people!
To Whom It May Concern:
I boarded the Trollfjord on June 3rd, and took it round trip in and out of Bergen.
I was initially going to settle for a cabin on the car deck, but your sales rep adamantly said that this deck could be noisy and uncomfortable. So, I took the bait and upgraded to an outside cabin on deck 6 at a substantial extra cost. While onboard, I saw how the car deck was nicely separated from the cabins on deck 3. Apparently your sales staff is very well trained at up-selling, even if they are not honest about who’s best interest they are looking out for.
I boarded the Trollfjord with full knowledge that this vessel was a ferry, not a cruise ship. This, despite being charged the highest price I’ve ever paid for any cruise….by far.
I found the cabin to be tolerable, but certainly nothing to compare with a cruise of similar length I took aboard Celebrity in South America, for the same amount of days. On that cruise I had a beautiful outside cabin with a balcony, and a queen bed. On the Trollfjord, bunk beds, and not even a TV.
The first day on board, I was appalled and shocked to see that we had to pay approximately $50 to drink water at dinner. I can’t believe your company had the audacity to charge for water, especially in light of what I paid to be on this “cruise” to begin with. On a subsequent night, our dinner companions said that they refused to pay this fee, that they would just drink the “lesser” treated water. The “tap” water was never presented as an option to passengers, but at dinner our table mates appeared to be brought the same exact water as we were, but they were smart enough to not pay $50 for the privilege of drinking recycled sea water.
The food became a running joke at our table. Given that you’re charging premium cruise prices, the food was a major disappointment. Only occasionally did something warrant being called “very good”. “Excellent” was not a word I ever heard on board in describing the food. Or the cruise for that matter. The chef’s ability to “recycle” dinner entrée’s onto the next day’s lunch buffet became a running joke at our table. One of our table mates was a CPA from the UK, and we always could laugh about how the “accountants are happy that the food costs are being held down for the day”.
The breakfast buffets totally lacked any imagination, as the only change I saw was a couple of days fried eggs were put out for the masses. One day the fried eggs were stone cold, and once again, my dinner companions even mentioned their cold eggs at dinner that night. I personally got a fried egg that was covered with black grill residue on it’s underneath. When I brought it to the attention of the female dining room supervisor, she said “oh, that’s not dirt or anything”. I said “I have worked in restaurants for many years, and cleaned many grills, this is from a dirty grill”.
It was more than apparent that the Hurtigruten’s main purpose was to nickel and dime it’s “customers”. I can’t believe that iced tea or punch was not available at lunch or dinner. Coffee was never offered by the dining room staff. Someone at Hurtigruten even had the bright idea (gall) to charge passengers for a bridge tour. On every other cruise I’ve ever been on, this would be free. However, we did take to calling the captain “Captain Invisible”, we assumed that he stayed out of sight so that only people that paid for a bridge tour would have the privilege of laying eyes on him, for in 12 days we never saw him.
It was several days before we discovered that you could actually “request” something else for dinner other than the ONE entrée that was offered. However, my table mate requested a salad one evening, it came without salad dressing. When she asked for some, she was asked “did you REQUEST” salad dressing??” The server then brought a dish of PESTO sauce for her salad. When our table mate didn’t want that, she was at last at least brought a dish of mayonnaise.
This “cruise” was about the biggest rip-off I’ve ever been a victim of. Once again, despite the premium price paid, the onboard “entertainment” consisted of going to the top deck with towels and pots and pans, and banging the pots and waving the towels at another Hurtigruten ship. The “highlight” of the cruise’s entertainment was when people were baptized in the Artic circle by getting ice water poured down their back by the “cruise director”. What a joke. What are you paying a cruise director for? Would it kill someone to organize various games throughout the day, at various locations? On other cruises, these activities appear to happen at little or no cost to the cruise line, so even the money grubbing Hurtigruten folks should be able to do this.
I prebooked two shore excursions. The first one was the Geiranger to Molde. It was by far the highlight of the trip. My only complaint here was the excessive time spent stopped at a bridge overlooking a steam, and the “lunch” we had at the tourist trap. We spent an hour at the “lunch” spot which consisted of, at most, two slices of ham and a lettuce leaf on a ordinary roll. Our group then had 45 minutes left to sit outside and wait for the tour to continue. The “lunch” could stand to be more substantial, and the time there should be shorter. I would have much rather spent that hour in Molde, billed as the Panorama City. But unfortunately, given the scheduled arrival of our tour back in Molde, we saw almost nothing there.
The second shore excursion I took was to the Svartisen Glacier. While this had the potential to be an enjoyable excursion, we were only taken as far as the restaurant across the lake. My partner and I hiked around the lake to get close to the glacier, but we were only allotted an hour at the glacier. Though we hiked as fast as we could, we were a bit late coming back to the restaurant, only to have the bus come and pick us and a woman up that also ended up hiking back with us. I did NOT pay to be taken to a restaurant/gift shop across the lake. It was obvious the bus could have taken us MUCH closer to the glacier, but it did not. Then we left in a hurry on our tour boat, only to be taken to a miserable little “village” with about 6 buildings in it, where we stayed for about 45 minutes. Luckily, there was a little grocery store there where we could exchange, what in some countries would be a month’s salary, for an ice cream bar or snack. So, to recap, we were allowed 60 minutes at the glacier, and then were rushed away to a one salmon town for 45 excruciating and boring minutes, to get raped for an ice cream bar. NICE!
With the exception of about 2 or 3 of the dining room staff, I found most of the “cruise”/ferry staff to be rather surly. Though the woman that approached us when we first boarded was friendly enough, until we hesitated at buying the additional shore excursions she was hawking. In fact, twice the cruise director (Julie or Julia?) lied to me. Once was in Trondheim, when I asked if there were any internet cafes in town, she replied “NO, everyone in Norway has internet at home, so there aren’t any cafes”. Well, I found two locations in Trondheim where I could access the internet. The second time was in Tromso, we encountered her outside the ship as she was herding the passengers who booked excursions toward the buses, I asked her which way to the Polaria. She sent us off in the TOTAL opposite direction, we later assumed she did this because we didn’t pay Hurtigruten to take us the 4 blocks to the Polaria and instead had the sense to walk there ourselves.
To be fair, our table mates, to their astonishment and ours, actually met someone who thought this cruise was nice. I NEVER heard that from anyone. In fact, the common phrases I heard repeatedly, from many different people went something like this: “the food is poor, too much fish, the ship is uninteresting/nothing to do on board, and I actually heard people saying on the southbound leg, “I can’t wait to get off of here!!”
The Trollfjord, as I understand it, is one of your new class of ships. Obviously, though Hurtigruten has been in the ferry business for decades, you are new to the concept of operating a ship on the level of a “cruise”. My free advice to Hurtigruten is to put TV’s in the cabins, quit charging for water, make coffee and tea available at all hours for FREE, and have the long-legged cruise director spend less time hiking up her panty hose and more time actually DIRECTING activities aboard the ship. I bought a deck of cards in one of the ports, and we played cards until I was left with the most precarious grip on my sanity. And that was when I wasn't reading to pass the time.
We were in the land of the midnight sun, so it begs the question: why did the gym have to be closed a couple of times a day? I guess it was so the staff could use it, for I went in there when it was supposed to be closed, and a couple of the dining room waitresses ended up in there with me. The gym should be for the passengers enjoyment and should not be closed during the day at all. Not that I minded sharing it with the crew, it just should not be closed for their benefit!
I wish I had taken ANY other cruise line to visit Norway. Although we shared some laughter on this cruise, it was either at ourselves for being ripped off, or at the poor service and quality we experienced on this ship. I declared that no one should take a “cruise” with a company that has “Hurt” in it’s name. Cause hurt it did.
Given the extremely poor value, coupled with nearly no amenities one would expect on a real cruise, I will dissuade anyone, in person or on the internet, from taking a Hurtigruten ship anywhere!