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Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

In cooperation with: Visit Norway
Tucson, Arizona
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Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

We just got back from a two week trip to Norway. The second half of the trip was a Northbound journey on the Hurtigruten. Pictures can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/gp/91205047@N00/68Y511

Our ship was the MS Nordkapp which is part of the contemporary line of ships. It was the perfect choice for us, not too big and not too small. But, keep in mind that this is a working ship and not a "cruise". Service is not a top priority.

Rooms:

We were lucky enough to book a Junior sweet on the 6th deck which was great. It is basically the size of two rooms with an extra couch, chair, queen bed and mini fridge. Since we had a lot of people traveling with us, our cabin was the place for daily happy hours (Yes, we brought our own booze). Please note that all 5th floor cabins (including the two most expensive suites) have to put up with people walking and standing in front of their windows all the time.

Food:

- Breakfasts were your standard full Norwegian buffets. There were always hot food choices as well as 2 to 3 kinds of cereal. As with all breakfasts we had in Norway the bread and jam were superb. There is no assigned seating for breakfasts. Note that the buffet was kind of chaotic since most people didn't like to wait in lines for their turn.

- Lunches were overall average. There were more salad options and lunch meat options than at other meals. Also, there was always a soup option that was pretty good. However, the other hot choices were average at best in my opinion. My wife and I had soup and salad and made roast beef sandwiches on more than one occasion. They did have pretty tasty desert options from ice cream to mousse to cake. Once again, there is no assigned seating and the buffet can be chaotic.

- Dinners were both hit and miss. For our 6 nights we had 2 buffet dinners (1st and last nights) and 4 set 3 course meals. The buffet the first night was probably the worst meal on the ship. The last buffet was very popular because it was a seafood and shellfish buffet. Of the 4 set meals, three were excellent and one (reindeer steak and brussel sprouts) was not very good. The dinner menu is typically posted prior to lunch so that you can see what they are serving. There were two seatings for dinner on our trip and seating was assigned prior to boarding the ship in Bergen (on the upper floor where you board the ship. Line up EARLY for the best tables)

- Finally, be prepared to guard your used plates if you get up but want to re-use them. The only example of fast service we saw on the ship was in the dining room when plates were cleared immediately after you "looked" like you were done.

Excursions:

- We went on two excursions (Sea Safari at Bodo & the Bird Safari at Honningsvag) and both were very fun.

- Sea Safari: This excursion is billed as a trip to see Sea Eagles and the famous tides at Saltstraumen. We did see eagles at a distance and the tides were more interesting than I expected. All this is done in a Zodiac where you straddle a cushion (imagine riding a horse) while you are decked out in a full jumpsuit provided for you. We had perfectly calm weather so the zodiac trip was a lot of fun although it started to get uncomfortable after about an hour. I could imagine the trip being pretty darn uncomfortable in medium to bad weather so keep that in mind.

- Bird Safari: This excursion involves about a 45 minute bus ride and about 1.5 hours on a small boat. On the bus, you see some interesting houses and most likely reindeer (~1500 are "ranched" on the island). The bird preserve is spectacular. The small island is very picturesque to begin with but coupled with 100's of thousands of birds, it is quite the site. We saw sea eagles up close (at least 6 were seen at one time), Puffin, Ganats, Razor Bills, Guillemots and may more birds. This is a must do excursion for bird and animal lovers. The boat does rock a bit so you may want to take precautions if you are prone to motion sickness. Note: that the North Cape excursion is at the same time so you can only do one. We had beautiful weather while the North Cape people couldn't see their hands in front of their faces due to the fog which made their trip just about pointless.

Scenery:

- The Geiranger Fjord is stunning. The weather was perfect for us which of course helped. The Southbound trip doesn't go into Geiranger

- The Troll Fjord is pretty neat. Very narrow fjord and the boat turns around on a dime at the end. You hit this at around 11:30PM Northbound but much earlier in the day Southbound

- For you photographers, late evening light (9PM to Midnight) was phenomenal and much better than early morning light (although early morning is probably 4AM to 6AM and I honestly didn't get up that early). It is some of the best light I have seen and is great for picture taking. I had both a wide angle (18mm to 50mm) and zoom (70mm - 300mm) lens for all photos.

- We were surprised that we didn't see more wildlife from the boat. Sea gulls were basically the only bird seen regular and apparently a porpoise was spotted behind the boat one day. But, compared to some other coastal seas (California, Alaska, Baja) this one is devoid of wildlife. Over fishing has reduced bird populations by 70% in some areas so other marine life must be impacted as well.

Boat Logistics:

- I already warned people about 5th floor rooms and the blocked view. Also, note that 6th floor rooms under the lounge are prone to the "nightclub" noise from the one man electrical band that plays at least until midnight. Plus, some 6th floor rooms view is the orange lifeboats. So, book in advance to get the room you want.

- The sun deck on the back of the 7th deck is THE place to be and was always crowded. We preferred to hang outside on the 5th deck so we could walk around and see all sides of the ship based on the scenery. Chairs are available on both decks but the 5th deck is the ONLY place you can be up front and be outside.

- The weather was great for us but there is still boat motion on a ship this size especially the farther north you go out of the protection of islands. Bring precautions with you if you are prone to motion sickness just in case. We didn't need any however.

- You can check in early in Bergen (4PM for 6PM boarding) and drop off your luggage. It will be outside your cabin when you get on board.

- Smoking is allowed on all outside decks. Since many guests smoke and almost all the crew did, it was hard to escape the smell. The biggest disappointment was seeing many of the crew walk out of their way to flick their butts over the side into the water as opposed to putting them in the ashtray next to where they were smoking.

Ports of Call:

- There are at least 4 ports of call everyday northbound. If the ship arrives late at a port of call, they will still leave on-time and just reduce the overall time at that port

- Some towns are very picturesque (Alesund, Skjerjoy, Honoy, Honningsvag, Svolvaer, Trondheim)

- Some towns are plain and more industrial and like the real Norway (Bodo, Rorvik, Vadso, Kirkenes)

- The longest stops are in Trondheim and Tromso. Trondheim is lots to see but Tromso was very disappointing (The polaria is worth a stop however to see the bearded seals)

Lots of info here, but feel free to ask any questions that I haven't addressed.

171 replies to this topic
Connecticut
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1. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

Thanks for your interesting, practical and detailed trip report. I had different weather and I have different interests but still managed to enjoy myself thoroughly. I am more interested in people and how they live so all the ports were interesting in that respect.

Tromso, in my opinion was quite picturesque. We road a local bus to the Arctic Cathedral and from there walked about 1/2 mile to the cable car and a wonderful view of Tromso.

Kirkeness turned out to be much more than I expected. They have a nice shopping street, a small mall and a lovely Lutheran Church that is worth a visit for its carved and painted altarpiece and needlework equivalents of stained glass windows.

I'll have to agree that the food was hit or miss with the breakfasts being quite good. I settled into a lunch of salad surrounded by all kinds of fish but others made up their own open-faced sandwiches that were works of art. My favorite dinner was the reindeer and brussel sprouts. My least favorite was the whale meat but I wouldn't have missed it. It was definitely part of the 'experience'.

Your photos are fabulous.

Hopefully, with more trip reports, people who are considering the Hurtigruten will be able to make an informed decision.

Barbara

Bournemouth, Dorset
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2. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

Thank you for a very informative and fair posting. I agree if you know what to expect by doing thorough research and make preparation e.g. take some games ,playing cards and good books for 'amusement' it is a marvellous voyage.

Agree with your comments on the bird safari. It does take good sea legs. I just sat tight on one of the lockers in the prow and hung on tight. You do need a zoom lens to get pictures like yours though. Those little puffins are really camera shy critters!! Did manage to get one fair shot though.

Looks like you had lovely weather (unlike us in June 2005!). Could you please arrange something similar for our trip September as we are keen hobby photographers as well. Thanks for the tip on evening light I know it changes with season but all the same. If we can get shots half as good as yours I will be over the moon.

cleveland ohio
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3. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

Thank you for your informative report. Your photos are wonderful. My husband and I and five friends are taking the roundtrip cruise on the Finnmarken in early September. We were wondering if we could [and how] do the Geiranger to Molde and/or the North Cape tour[s] privately in our own van rather than take to ship' tour. We had success with this on a cruise together in the Baltic a few years ago. Do you or any others have any opinion, advice or experience on this?

Europe
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4. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

@ dunnboat54:

We were on the Finnmarken as well. A GREAT experience!

It is not possible to visit the North Cap on your own: access only by an authorised coach (protected area); the bus -ride to N.C. from the port of call is approx. 45 minutes.

Enjoy!

Linnen

Seattle, Washington
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5. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

-I made the southbound Hurtigruten trip aboard "Polarlys" in early July. Its a little smaller than some other Hurtigruten ships. SAS Air was diverted to Lakselv as Kirkenes landing was prevented by weather. "Polarlys" left Kirkenes on time and seven of us missed it but picked it up after good ol' SAS fed us, bussed us fast across Finnmark from Lakselv to Tana Bru, (a stunning interior trip) then cabbed us (at SAS expense still) to Batsfjord where Havly rooming house obligingly opened for us, warmed us with coffee, then cabbed us to the quay when "Polarlys" docked.

-We missed the first 8+ hours out of Kirkenes plus Vardo and Vadso but were mollified by passengers reporting low fog, humble scenery and rough seas which made them sick in the part we missed.

-The stunning road trip through Finnmark was made better yet by interesting and friendly locals bound for Vadso whom took us under their collective wing and gave a great narrative of the area as we rolled along in the Arctic sun for a few hours. I'm from Seattle, and so many Norwegians have visited that an accidental backcountry trip through a remote part of a faraway land soon became a happy exercise in revealing Seattle-Norway connections, some of them very direct.

-"Polarlys" held hot dinner for us, and it was welcome and good: broiled char and vegetables after soup. Dinners were very good to my taste, some superb and the rest merely good. Table service aboard "Polarlys" was fast and cheerful reliably on the six-day trip. I noticed crew throughout the trip cleaning both interior and exterior surfaces already clean to the eye, perhaps to reduce any chance of a cruiseship-type virus. I'm not aware of anyone on this trip having suffered from any Norwalk/Norovirus ailment.

-My inside cabin on deck three in the rear had perhaps a little more port load/unload noise from the car/machinery decks below than cabins higher & further forward, but it was muted enough always to allow peaceful all-night sleep for me, a fairly light sleeper. The occasional vibration or bump coming through the structure soon became just another feature of the many port stops. My cabin was near the rear thrusters and I expected them to be more of a noise disturbance than they were. They were simply a temporary and easily ignored feature of the numerous port stops and not a disturbance to me even though my cabin was more exposed to their rumblings than most other cabins. (I-384)

-The only glitch for me was very brief: a stopped up toilet drainpipe when the cabin next door put something down their unit and stopped up our common outlet. No overflow, just no effective flush. A repairman put it right quickly, and its repair didn't require cabin entry, just opening a wall panel in the hall.

-The small fitness room near the saunas had an exercise cycle and a treadmill, both placed laterally to the ship. This resulted on occasion to treadmilling downhill then uphill as the ship rolled a bit, an unexpected but fun & tolerable quirk.

-The crew were always open to passenger questions, and I saw one particularly tactful receptionist handle a verbally abusive (and nearly assaultive) tourist very well, preserving the aplomb of both as well as humanly possible without kowtowing. Kudos to the receptionist for her tact, for sticking up for herself, and further for doing so without being offensive. Thats a tough wire to walk.

-The Hurtigruten trip was a fine experience and I hope to return and ride it the other direction someday, aboard "Polarlys" if possible. It provided a comfortable , well-fed and secure experience of the coast and just where someone might want to explore further another day, and the trip stands in its own right as a fine way to travel the Norwegian coast.

NZ
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6. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

Pubpersona - thank you for your report of your southbound voyage. It was good to hear that you enjoyed the trip.

We are considering doing the southbound trip, just the section from Svolvaer to Trondheim. I would appreciate any further advise and comments you may have, including:

What were some of the other highlights for you?

Were you able to get off and explore at any of the stops on the route we intend doing?

As I am not a good sailor, can you tell me if you encountered any rough sea.

We are trying to decide whether to continue to Bergen, instead of finishing at Trondheim. Do you think it would be worth doing this - is the scenery on this stretch very much different to what we will have seen already.

Seattle, Washington
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7. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

-jumpinjack1: In my humble opinion the Svolvaer-Trondheim leg of the southbound express route is one of the best parts of the southbound trip assuming weather clear enough to see the surrounding landscape. The trip down Raftsundet & into Trollfjord just south of Stokmarknes shortly before Svolvaer is unforgettable as well. You are truly in the hall of the mountain king in Raftsundet and Trollfjord.

-From Svolvaer to Trondheim has the dramatic Seven Sisters peaks near Sandessjoen enroute, a long row of large, worn peaks with intriguing topography interspersed with worn valleys. The southbound stop at Trondheim allows a few hours to ramble the town, but if you're staying you'll see things at a relaxed pace. Many continuing the southbound cruise will take a bus or walk up to Nidaros Cathedral from the Hurtigruten wharf-absolutely worth the trip in whatever mode its done.

-If continuing to Bergen you'll see busy Kristiansund in late afternoon and Molde & Alesund at night. Alesund's intriguing layout would be better viewed in day but the southbound Hurtigruten goes through at night unfortunately.

Best to you

Bournemouth, Dorset
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8. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

Agree that Rafsundet and Trollfjord are breathtaking but you would have to embark at Stockmarknes on the southbound leg to experience them. Also the vessels do not go down Trollfjord all season (probably only May to ?October) for safety reasons.

If you were intending to go from Trondheim to Oslo I found the railway journey very picturesque but found the Oslo to Bergen rail journey more exciting. If you could fit both journeys in perhaps with a stay in Oslo between you would get the best of all things.

NZ
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9. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

Thanks for the responses.

We are starting our trip in Bergen - Norway in a Nutshell and another day in Bergen. Then flying to Trondheim to visit friends for a couple of days. From there we thought of doing the Hurtigruten & Arctic Circle tour - over night train, bus and ferry to Svolvaer. Stay one night in Svolvaer and return to Trondheim by Hurtigruten. So it looks like we wont be able to inlcude Raftsundet and Trollfjord, unfortunately.

It sounds like we won't see very much on the Trondheim to Bergen leg as the towns are visited at night. What about the scenery through the day - is it worth continuing to Bergen for this - or is it similar to the earlier parts of the journey?

Has anyone else done this Arctic rip and can offer more comments?

NZ
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10. Re: Hurtigruten (Norway Coastal Steamer) Review

correction: *trip

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