An Introduction To: Hurtigruten Cruises
January 6, 2016
Hurtigruten are the cruise line that show people the “real” Norway. The Norway that only the locals normally get to experience, certainly nothing you’d be able to see from the deck of a ‘mega’ cruise ship. They started life as a ferry company transporting locals from one village to the next and transporting supplies etc. (in winter the roads are made impassable by snow so most of these villages can only be reached buy ship) but then it occurred to them… “Why not put cabins on the top decks of our ships and show tourists around the Norwegian Fjords whilst we’re at it?” This gives passengers the chance to see smaller towns and cities, local mountainous areas and meet locals who are travelling on the ship as well. It’s a unique experience, a mixture of cruise ship and working ship.
Their ships, unlike main-stream cruise lines, aren’t custom built super liners, they can travel up the fjords to local communities, whilst other cruise lines with larger ships can only stop at Oslo and Bergen. In fact, you can see all the tiny ports that Hurtigruten can visit below – and the limited range that other cruises can reach!
Say’s it all doesn’t it? Not cruising with Hurtigruten is like arranging a trip to London, seeing Big Ben, then going home. Technically you can say you’ve ‘done’ London but there’s so much more to see!
Meet the fleet
There are 12 ships in Hurtigruten’s fleet. As we’ve already mentioned, their ships will be much smaller than ones you’ve travelled on before! Some are as small as 2,600 tons and can only carry between 318 to 1,000 passengers.
You can learn more about the fleet here.
Did you know? The MS Fram is a specialist ice breaking ship, which was custom built to get guests closer to nature and wildlife. She is designed to be able to sail in polar waters whilst maintaining guests’ safety and comfort. Her small size (with room for only 276 guests) means that you get to know your fellow travellers as you embark on the adventure together.
Is there a “typical” Hurtigruten traveller?
Hurtigruten is for those that want to explore! You won’t be visiting spas and basking in sunshine – you’ll be seeing the Northern Lights and having real adventures.
Maybe you’ve cruised before and have become tired of huge cruise ships, or you’ve always like the feel and intimacy of smaller ships, or maybe you’re new to cruising and want a once in a lifetime holiday – then Hurtigruten are for you!
Guests on-board are a mixture of tourists and locals, with guests coming from the US, China, Europe or Australia.
Hurtigruten are keen to immerse you in local culture and you and your fellow travellers will all be those who like to explore, discover nature and try new experiences.
Whilst children are allowed on cruises, there are no set facilities for them. Therefore the cruises are best for couples, groups of friends or families with older children.
We asked our consultant Molly what she thought of her trip on Hurtigruten and here’s what she had to say:
“Hurtigruten is the best way to experience Norway as they operate smaller ships that enable you to cruise right into the heart of local towns. They also offer unique excursions such as dog sledding or fishing for King Crabs in the Barent Sea. One of the best excursions I did was listening to the choir at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromso as the Northern Lights danced outside.”
You can learn more about Molly here.
Décor and atmosphere
Hurtigruten aren’t focussed on luxury, they’re focused on your journey! Hurtigruten are expedition ships and no one can get you to the real Norway the way that they can. Rooms are more basic than those that you may be used to on other lines but they’ll still warm, comfortable and clean! You can have a look at some examples of rooms below:
The small size of ships creates an intimate atmosphere and a real sense of camaraderie between you and your fellow passengers.
The ships also have a lot of wood panelling and plenty of space in the lounges for you to relax in. They remind many people of ships from a bygone era!
Did you know? Hurtigruten is pronounced Hur-tee-roo-tun? The G is silent! (It helps if you sound like the Swedish chef from the Muppets as you say it). You won’t ‘quite’ sound like a local but you’ll be close.
Your entertainment on Hurtigruten isn’t just your on-board experience but your excursions and what you get to see.
There are 34 different ports to visit in Norway or you can travel to Spitsbergen, Greenland, Iceland or Antarctica.
Your excursions are unique, with the chances to go husky sledding or to visit a colony of penguins.
If you love adventure (and you’re crazy and brave enough) then you can try swimming in the ice cold water or even canoeing. If you like exploring local cultures then visit a local Inuit community in Greenland.
If you love nature then you’ll enjoy the chance to go whale spotting or eagle spotting. Have you ever wanted to have a go at rounding up a herd of reindeer? Well now’s your chance! A journey to Svalbard will give you the chance to get within spotting distance of polar bears, and you can also have a go at fishing.
One of the most impressive activities is being able to watch the Northern Lights. Hurtigruten check with NASA to see how likely it is that you’ll see the Northern Lights and you can opt in to receiving a wake up call to let you know if they appear during the night.
You are so likely to see the Northern Lights that Hurtigruten offer you a free 6 night cruise if you don’t see them! (This is on their Bergen to Bergen itinerary which you can look at here!)
Whilst the ships are not as action packed as others, you do still have plenty of things to do on-board! Features include a Jacuzzi or lounge area, as well as a bar to have cocktails at or a piano to listen to music. Guest lecturers or speakers will give talks and they include renowned scholars, astronomers or physicists.
The MS Fram also has a gym and library, and all ships have a shop.
Life on Hurtigruten is laid back, and popular relaxing activities include watching the stunning coastline pass you by… You’ll feel like a real adventurer!
Unlike other ships that give you up to 18 different restaurant choices and a confusing array of dining options, Hurtigruten have simplified all that – and offer one restaurant for you to dine at. You will have a set dining table, which will be confirmed once you get on-board. The meals will vary between buffets, set meals and BBQs, details of which can be found in your daily programme.
Did you know? On the MS Fram, your restaurant is called Imaq. Imaq is the Greenlandic word for Ocean and the restaurant offers scenic views from every table.
Hurtigruten give you the chance to eat the finest Norwegian cuisine and as you might expect for the region, there is an abundant amount of seafood available. There are also some meats that you may not be used to – for example reindeer! But if the thought of eating reindeer bothers you, rest assured that there is also duck, chicken, lamb, beef and the other usual options! If you are a veggie just let them know when you book – as chefs will cater to different dietary needs as well as different tastes.
Did you know? The veggies from Norway are said to taste different to those from anywhere else! They take a very long time to grow, despite the 24 hour sunlight, and are said to have a very particular taste.
Some of our favourites on the menu include the king crab served with caviar and blinis. The menus are also changed seasonally, so expect a warming baked breast of ox in winter and vodka marinated reindeer on the MS Finnmark in summer. Of course, you can just have more conventional dishes of chicken, poached salmon or brownies for dessert – but where is the fun in that?
Tea and coffee is complimentary throughout your cruise. Drinks include many kinds of red, white and rose wine, beer, soft drinks, coffee and water. It’s worth remembering that alcohol is fairly expensive in Norway, but drinks packages will make it cheaper.
On an excursion, you can even get the chance to drink at a bar made from ice!
Did you know? The food is unbelievably fresh on Hurtigruten. It’s usually bought the day you are in port by the chef – for example, Artic Char caught by fishermen at 4am will be served on your plate at 5pm. You wouldn’t get this on any other cruise line!
You will be given a daily planner to let you know what is going on each day and this will include information about your daily meals.
WiFi is available in most public areas and there is an internet café on-board all ships except MS Lofoten.
All ships come with washing machines, dryers and irons. To use them you just need to visit reception and purchase some tokens!
The fleet of ships all have similar services, apart from the MS Fram which additionally has a small library and has rentals on rubber boots, binoculars and walking sticks.
Weather and dress codes
One thing that you obviously need to remember when packing for your Hurtigruten cruise is that you’ll be expecting snow – not sunshine!
It is recommended that you layer your clothes to adapt to the changing temperatures. Make sure you pack rain and windproof clothing, a warm hat, gloves, scarf and thermal clothing. It’s also important to remember some UV sunglasses, as even during winter the reflections on the ice could be harmful to your eyes.
However, if you are visiting Norway in the summer it could be a little bit warmer! Layering of clothes is still recommended, in case the weather turns. You can read more about the different seasons to visit the fiords in here.
When inside the ship, the dress code is very relaxed. You won’t need your Dickie bow! Some guests do chose to dress up a little for dinner, but the choice is down to you.
Staff and gratuities
It is not expected that you will choose to tip staff (we wish that some of the American cruise lines would take note of this!) so there won’t automatically be a service charge per person, per day.
If you do feel like staff deserve a tip, there is a tip box placed in the restaurant for you to put envelopes into.
The official languages on-board are Norwegian and English.
Did you know? The captain and crew often eat with passengers, allowing you to really get to know the boat, its history and those that are helping you travel around Norway!
So there you have it!
If you would like to read some first-hand accounts of trips with Hurtigruten, then read our consultant Emma’s blog here or Molly’s blog here. You can read Kerry’s guide to Norway here, or read about Barbaras’s adventures snowmobiling and polar bear searching in Spitsbergen.
Have you been convinced to cruise with Hurtigruten? Would you like to go on an adventure to visit the Northern Lights? Have a look at some of our Hurtigruten offers here or let us know what you think in the comments below!
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