Once you get your Hurtigruten cruise along the coast of Norway booked, it’s time to start thinking about what Hurtigruten cruise excursions you may want to add on – or if you can do some on your own.
Thus, here is some advice about excursions to make your Norwegian travel adventure even better. Remember, this is based on our Hurtigruten cruise experience in November 2014, i.e. late fall with cold weather, and based on speaking to a few others before, during and after. We learned by doing, and we hope you can also learn from our personal experiences:
Hurtigruten cruise excursions planning options
Like a regular cruise line, the Hurtigruten cruise ferries do have shore and city excursions that cover everything from city walking tours and bus trips to museums to a dinner at a Viking museum or dog sledding. Your booking agent will likely tell you to have to book their excursions at least 14 days before departure. Which you must do if you book through the Hurtigruten agency. Space available, however, you can actually book excursions on the ship for the same price up to as little as a few hours or 24 hours before the excursion takes place. The risk is, your dream Hurtigruten cruise excursion will be full if you are traveling during the busy season, so take that into consideration.
You will however get a much better idea of what an excursion entails once you are on the ship. The brochure descriptions are short and don’t often tell you a lot about what to expect (“we will experience history, beautiful scenery and a selection of breath-taking sights.” … Oh, that’s helpful. …) Once on board, there is a slide show presentation about each excursion with more details and great photos. Caveat: Their job with this presentation is of course to “sell” excursions, so all that is described gloriously may be less (or more!) so depending on your personal tastes.
If you are physically able, most of the city and museum tours are within walking distance since the ships always dock right in town – or pretty close. Some of the city museum outings entail boarding a bus to go a mile or so – not worth the money or effort in our opinion. We are active, independent types, and we found we could walk to many of these places – and stretching out our legs ashore felt pretty good. Plus, it gave us the chance to see the town. Just drop into the tourist office in the port to get any information you may need, and then off you go! On the ship, you will also get a map of each town the day before you arrive as well as a short list of a few key sights to help in preparation.
Some of the better Hurtigruten cruise excursions are the ones where you leave the ship at a certain port, travel by bus to your destination/s, and then meet the ship at a port farther along the coast. These are often not places you would otherwise see. So only you can weigh their importance to you and your personal interests.
Popular Hurtigruten cruise excursions
Here, some information about a few popular Hurtigruten cruise excursions (prices are per person and approximate based on the exchange rate at the time of writing):
- The North Cape trip (nearly 3 hours, 30 minutes – 990 NOK/USD $135) is extremely popular but other than the awesome view of the cliffs once you get there, it’s a long bus ride with a souvenir shop and a movie. So how badly do you want to see Europe’s (allegedly) northernmost point (Sssh! This is not really true. Do a little research for the real scoop). Still, those on our cruise who went were quite impressed with the 1,000-foot cliffs and big photo-op globe, as well as the scenery from the bus.
- The bus ride to the Russian border and a souvenir shop? Why? (2 hours, 30 minutes – 420 NOK/USD $56) “They didn’t even sell anything good,” said somebody on our ship who went.
- The Midnight Concert at Tromso’s gorgeous Arctic Cathedral (nearly 2 hours – 480 NOK/USD $65) is certainly most amazing and well worth the experience, partly because the cathedral is awe-inspiring in its construction and acoustics. We did realize however that the hoopla about a midnight concert is only because, well, that’s when the ship is there!
- We enjoyed the Lofotr Viking Feast (nearly 3 hours – 930 NOK/USD $125), getting off in Stamsund and reboarding in Svolvaer and found the re-enacting of a holiday meal at a chieftain’s home quite entertaining — worth the time and money. (It didn’t hurt that there were Northern Lights over the museum when we left!) We have read critiques that said it was overcrowded and the meal terrible. This is not a gourmet meal, but a basic Viking meal with roast lamb, carrots, potatoes, bread and the like. So expectations must be kept in check. In the fall, one downside was the darkness during the bus ride, thus limiting scenery views.
- The Dog Sledding adventure in Tromso (3 hours, 30 minutes – 1350 NOK/USD $180) didn’t pull us in since you just rode along on the sleds, but everybody who went just raved about the entire excursion, including the dogs, the trees, the twilight, rushing through the trees on a sled, and the indeed breath-taking adventure of it all. This one is popular, albeit expensive too, so book early.
- While onboard, we booked the Taste of Vesteralan (4 hours, 15 minutes – 690 NOK/USD $92), getting off in Harstad and rejoining the boat in Sortland. It was promoted as being named “the best value” by past passengers. Actually, we found the best part was a museum and a medieval church just around the corner on the Trondenes Peninsula from where the ship docks – but the ship is not in port long enough to get there on your own. The other part that was memorable? Reuniting with the Hurtigruten ship just before Sortland! The excursion bus driver works the return timing so he is driving over a bridge precisely when the ship is coming toward and under it. And of course the cruise director has called everybody out on deck to be waving sheets, towels and anything they could find (Were those boxer shorts we saw??). The parts between the beginning and the end was nice enough if you didn’t have another chance to see inland scenery, but wasn’t something we’d write home about.
One note: Many excursions are not offered in the fall and winter, so we missed out on some great-sounding adventures.
A Hurtigruten cruise is indeed a dream adventure. Taking the time to read about and plan your Hurtigruten cruise excursions will make the adventure even better.
One final caution regarding DIY travel tours ashore: When they warn you to be back on time, those dang Norwegians mean it! If you are doing your own thing in town, you must re-board on time – or you may miss the ship and need to find your own way to the next port (which can be quite expensive depending on the departure you miss). Yes, they do not count noses and wait for you – and, yes, one of our cruise mates took the picture below to prove it. This is not, repeat not, a photo you want to have of your ship!