Enjoying one of the Hurtigruten cruises of any length along the coast of Norway is nothing more than a WOW experience. Service is sublime. Ship personnel are just plain nice – from housekeepers to officers. The ships are small enough to be personal and intimate, but large enough to afford everyone a little space. The food is amazing. Oh, and the scenery impresses you every day since much of it is inaccessible without being on a ship.
Don’t be mistaken: The Hurtigruten (“hurtig” means express, and “ruten” means “routes”) isn’t a hurry-hurry adventure or a “cruise,” in the way most people would understand that. Hurtigruten cruises are completed on a ferry, simply put. The Hurtigruten cruises the Norwegian coast and fjords with working ships that serve the people, villages and businesses from Bergen to Kirkenes, moving people and products every stop along the way. Nevertheless, as the company has evolved since its founding in 1893, it has managed to become a pleasant mix of cruise ship and working vessel.
When getting ready to choose your voyage, get ready for a little study. To help shorten your study process, HI Travel Tales would like to offer a few tips.
Hurtigruten Cruises: Planning Tips
- Sign up on the website for special offers. That’s a no-brainer, of course!
- Although the brochure and the website list certain voyages by name, remember that you can configure any trip you want for any number of days, getting on or off in any town along the way of the 34 ports of call in each direction. HI Travel Tales chose the “Norwegian Discovery” version of the so-called “Classic” voyages. That only means you go all the way from the start in Bergen to the northernmost point of Kirkenes, and then return to Trondheim, almost all the way back down.
- What to remember is that the ports o’ call during the day one way become the ports o’ call during the night the other way. HI Travel Tales found the northbound direction a bit more interesting, overall; however, you can always get off, stay a few days and reboard and continue onward. What you choose will depend on your goal. If your goal, as ours was, is to see the northern lights, then you could get on and off in Tromso since that encompasses the northern sections (i.e. Tromso-Kirkenes-Tromso). We did find the lights three times on our voyage. Click here to see our Northern Lights story..
A Hurtigruten Cruise: Choosing your ship
- Study the ships carefully to be sure you choose one that will satisfy your personal needs. From a sleeping capacity of 149 (Lofoten) to 645 (Midnatsol) they vary greatly in configuration and amenities. We got a chance to visit the Nordnorge while we were cruising on the Midnatsol and found the décor and configuration incredibly warm and intimate. The smallest ships tend to be “local favorites,” we hear, but some of the older ones have quite low ceilings and feel a little dark and, well, old.
- Study the room configurations and placements on the ship diagrams, which are close to reality. Sometimes similar rooms of the same price level can be larger or smaller. Remember that mid-ship rooms may have less movement, and upper rooms (more expensive as a rule) have better views. We suggest the right (starboard) side for a northern voyage since it faces the coastline, but to be honest you don’t spend a lot of time in your room. The exception of course is if you have a suite with huge windows on an upper deck. The views there are spectacular all of the time, to say the least – HI Travel Tales was able to tour several classes of rooms and will offer a story on those with photos and video soon.
- When you are choosing, take a close look so you know if a room has blocked or partial views, for example by lifeboats or other sailing gear. In addition, if you can get a cabin on a deck without a walkway, views will be unobstructed by people or overhangs – more of a concern in nicer weather since people will hang out on the decks more — and thus potentially in front of your window. On our winter voyage, there was very little traffic outside because of the cold weather.
- These are small “cruise” ships – the largest is only 138.5 meters overall in length with sleeping facilities for 628 (Finnmarken) – so on the open-sea stretches you will indeed feel the rocking – sometimes rather dramatically. If you are prone to seasickness, come prepared. Or consider choosing sections with shorter open-sea stretches between villages, or be sure to choose a voyage in less stormy seasons.
The winter voyage on the Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol was fantastic, as we noted in our northern lights story , since it offered a “moving” room where you could stay warm and be alerted when northern lights were occurring. Still, the short daylight hours meant you missed the ability to see a lot of the coastal scenery and fjords, plus you missed the treat of maneuvering through the super narrow Trollfjord in the ship (not allowed in the winter due to the risk of falling rocks). And the cold weather meant that hanging out on the deck enjoying the passing scenery didn’t happen a lot or last very long. We also would loved to have had more time to visit Harstad or Svolvaer, enjoying those areas for their proximity to northern lights viewing or, in warmer weather, lots of magnificent islands and fjords. Guess we just need to do another trip!