Great trip - shame about the set menu
This was my second time with Hurtigruten so I had some idea what to expect having previously done the 6 day north bound journey 3yrs ago with a friend on the Nordnorge. We travelled at half term so knew the ship would be busy. The flights and trip were organised by Hurtigruten. We flew KLM from Leeds Bradford to Bergen via Amsterdam. We arrived in Bergen early evening and were directed to the coach that ferried people to the ship. Check in was straight forward. Our hand luggage was not screeed and unlike last time - we didn't go to safety drill before we got on the ship. We'd booked an outside Artic Superior cabin on deck 7. It was smaller than what you would expect on a cruise ship but then we knew that Hurtigruten ships aren't cruise ships. The bathroom was a reasonable size with a heated tile floor - so doubled as a dry room as well. The ship is larger than the Nordnorge. There is a double deck observation lounge - a great place to sit and watch with wonderful Norwegian scenery as the ship weaves its way to the many ports of call along the coast and fjords. Most of the calls are for 15-30 mins so no real time to get off but every day it stays 2-3 hrs in one port. On the journey North in winter its Alesund, Trondheim, Bodo, Tromso and Honnsingvag. The ship is generally protected by the many islands and is only in open water a few times - it was very windy and thus very choppy when we were in open waters and the ship moved around quite a bit. There is no formal entertainment on the ship but there is an expedition team who provide information about the tours and give you an insight in to the flora and fauna of Norway, the way of life and its Viking past. The excursions range in cost from hiking with the expedition team for 750 Norwegian Kroner to Snowmobiling in the polar night for 3590 NOK. We did the 3KM coastal walk in Bodo. Very pleasant and found out more about the impact of the gulf stream, the viking past and watched 2 sea eagles dance in the sky and who were nesting on a nearby island. In Tromso we took the city tour that included a snowy trip up the cable car - very misty but we enjoyed the experience, visited the Arctic Cathedral and Polaria where we watched some seals being fed. On my previous trip I did the the Meet the Vikings trip while in the Lofeten Islands the dog sledding whilst at Tromso and really enjoyed both. Norway is a very expensive country to visit - so be prepared to spend more than you would in the UK. The drinks are deliberately expensive in Norway - a bottle of wine is nearly 50 and a pint of beer around 10 on the ship and not much cheaper anywhere else. The Food - I think this is one area where Hurtigruten need to improve - not so much the quality but the fact that the menu is fixed in the evening. No choice. Whilst we did have some excellent meals we also had some whose calorific value must have been less than 400! I chose a vegetarian menu this time as I knew how much trouble it was to try to change what meat you would be served at the evening meal. My husband was not impressed. And as someone who normally chooses to eat all the meals I can in the MDR on a cruise ship I found the buffet breakfast and lunch a bit of a nightmare. There was ample choice - I just hate been in the bun fight. Northern Lights - whilst the UK was basking in 20 degree C we were on a lumpy sea in very overcast weather - not a problem as we loved the scenery and would have like to see more snow. The crew keep you informed at to the chance of seeing the NL and we were blessed as on the night we left Tromso the heaven's cleared and the lights appeared . Quite a display - though my husband thought they would look like the ones in the photos - despite being told by the expedition team that digital camera capture more of the lights than the human eye. I am delighted that I have managed to see them twice now. So would I recommend Hurtigruten - If you choose Hurtigruten then be realistic. It is a ferry and postal service as well as taking you on a cruise. It works to a strict time table. It doesn't chase the lights - the lights are either there and visible or not as it continues on its journey. The evening meal food doesn't compare to a reasonable cruise ship cuisine - but it is fresh and purchased everyday to highlight the region you are in. If you have more time then Fred Olsen, Cunard, P&O and Maritime cruise to the arctic circle - they spend more time in Alesund, Trondheim and usually overnight in Tromso. The food will be better with more choice and the drinks more in line with what you expect to pay. Our journey back from Kirkenes took over 12 hours - Kirkenes to Oslo, Oslo to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Leeds Bradford. If you can get direct flights back to the UK then go for it. Would I go Hurtigruten again? - yes I would, but for the Midnight sun, and arrange it so I meet the ship at Trondheim or Bodo
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