So we come to the end of what has been a trip of a lifetime, sailing up the coast of Norway in the Hurtigruten, the lifeline of the Norwegian coastline.
We’ve ushered in 2014 with the Northern lights, and the days following have been calm, slow and relaxing, we’ve seen what we came for and now we can take a breather and recharge the batteries for the year to come ahead.
This particular post is more of a review of the Hurtigruten experience – when deciding to book, we struggled to find a great deal of information reviewing the ship/ voyage, so if you’re interested in doing this (And I do recommend it), here’s what you should expect!
1) This is not a standard cruise. It has elements of a cruise (i.e. the propensity to stuff one’s self silly at mealtimes) but that’s about where the similarities end. Entertainment comes in the form of a lone singer in the bar post dinner. The scenery is what you’re here to see and there are a lot of places set up for you to look outside. Standing outside also makes a nice, albeit chilly, change.
2) If you come in the winter, expect to spend an awful lot of time adding and removing layers. Sometimes in the middle of the night. Make the most of daylight hours as in the depths of winter, there are very very few of these and you don’t want to miss a second of it asleep. Which the constant dark will make you want to do.
3) The cabins are small, comfortable but small. We didn’t spend an awful lot of time in ours, but it was entirely adequate. If you want a view, look through the deck plans and pick a deck that doesn’t have the observation desk outside for light-spotters obstructing your view and taking a peak in your cabin.
4) Food at mealtimes is plentiful. Breakfasts and lunches are buffets with a 3-course set dinner at a set table. Expect a lot of fish. And seafood in general. Vegetarians will find options limited and you may find yourself eating the same thing often. Desserts are utterly fantastic and the selection of crab and lobster kept me very happy indeed.
5) Norway is expensive. I expect you already know that, but it is. Come prepared for this, bring snacks if you like something in the afternoons and you can drink alcohol you’ve brought on board in your cabin so a glass of wine before dinner is entirely achievable without breaking the bank.
6) Excursions can be short, and again these are pricey. Do the things you most want to do – in our case, this was Dog sledging in Tromso, trip to the fishing village of Skarsvag (marred by bad weather unfortunately, we did not see/learn as much as I had wanted), Snow hotel in Kirkenes for me & snow-mobiling in Kirkenes for the hubby and the Midnight concert in the Arctic cathedral. I would do any of these again – but my particular favourite was the dog sledging. I could have played with those puppies all day long!
6) Choose your ship carefully. We’re in the mid-range ships, not the largest in fleet but has all the usual amenities, and more importantly for me, is fitted with stabilisers. The seas can be rough and if you need some time to find your sea legs, you’ll want a ship that can handle the rolls a bit better. It really depends what you’re after – reviews suggest the MS Lofoten has an old world charm to it, hard to come by on the newer models, but personally (And it’s entirely my own view) I like the modern amenities. This ship (The MS Kong Harald) has wifi, enabling endless social media gloating over the lights and ensuring we keep in touch with the world outside.
Would I come again? Yes, most definitely. The scenery is magical, we’ve met some great people to share a game or two of cards with to pass the time and eaten enough seafood to keep the most ardent seafood lover happy.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiences traversing the Norwegian seas, drop me a line if I can provide any more information!