Hurtigruten cruise excursions – Insider tips and advice

by Jan 28, 2014Norway

A guide to planning your Hurtigruten cruise excursions on cruise up the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes.

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.

Hurtigruten Cruise Excursion in Alesund

Although the Alesund Fjellstoua viewpoint is offered as part of one Hurtigruten cruise excursion, we walked. And we were glad we did. It is a moderately strenuous 30 minutes to climb through residential neighborhoods to the top where we spent as much time as we wanted — taking in the views of town, shown above, before strolling back down, wandering around town, and then strolling back to our ship. (When we were there, the stairs directly up the mountain were closed for reconstruction.)

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.

Trondenes church in Harstad Hurtigruten Cruise Excursion

The 13th century Trondenes Church in Harstad is part of the Taste of Vesteralan Hurtigruten cruise excursion and definitely worth seeing.

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.

Hurtigruten Cruise Excursions Lofoten Islands Viking Feast

On the Lofotr Viking Feast, we are greeted at the door of a replica Viking chief’s longhouse. Inside, we were treated to a Viking feast that is a re-enactment with storytelling and acting. Leg of locally raised lamb and vegetables along with glasses filled with mead were served. Mead is called “the drink of the gods” and is made from honey and herbs.

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.

HITT Tip: To learn more about Hurtigruten cruises and ensure your trip and planning goes as smoothly and enjoyably as possible, be sure to read our entire Hurtigruten series.  Hurtigruten Cruises: Travel Booking Tips; Hurtigruten Cabins: Differences, Details; Food and Drink on Hurtigruten Cruises in Norway; and Hurtigruten Video Tour – Planning Your Next Trip. Remember that many things change from year-to-year. 

Hurtigruten Cruise Excursions North Cape

Incredible views from the North Cape … billed as the “northernmost point in mainland Europe” although it really isn’t. Still, it’s darn close, and we’re not going to quibble over a few kilometers one way or another. Those who went on this excursion told us the trip and the view were outstanding.

HITT City Guides: You will want to spend at least 48 hours exploring Bergen — your ending or beginning point for many Hurtigruten cruise options. We’ve made it as easy as possible for you with detailed information and links to transportation, hotel, key sites and attractions, information centers, maps and discount cards.

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) 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 from Kirkenes to the Russian border and a souvenir shop? Why? (2 hours, 30 minutes) “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) 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), 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.

HITT Tip: We recommend acquiring your favorite brand of travel guidebook prior to departure. Even if you don’t have time to study it before the trip, you will use it – as we used ours daily – as an extremely helpful guide for each town with maps, store information, history and walks, as well as really honest assessments about the value of visiting something, plus little historical bits. Hurtigruten of course promotes everything as being fabulous – sometimes it is and sometimes it’s just so-so, like in any town, so use your own judgment wisely.

  • The Dog Sledding adventure in Tromso (3 hours, 30 minutes) 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), 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.
Hurtigruten cruise excursions taste of vesterland

A fun and whacky moment on the Taste of Vesteralan excursion as our bus crosses over the bridge into Sortland at the same time the Hurtigruten ferry sails below … with crew and passengers all waving furiously from the bow.

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!

Hurtigruten cruise excursions view you don't want to see

If you are late getting back to the boat — even a few seconds late — this is a view of your Hurtigruten ferry  you will see. And trust us, you don’t want this view! On the plus side, you won’t be the first to, literally, miss the boat, and there are folks willing to help you get to the next port of call by plane, taxi, bus, or … but it will cost you. Our friend, Marius, enjoyed a personal tour of the Norwegian coast by taxi, even visiting the taxi driver’s home. It sounded fabulous, albeit expensive.

HITT Tip: Do take the time to download maps or other travel information prior to boarding the ship since Internet access onboard is iffy – at best – at least at the time of our writing. However, if needed, you can dash into cafes and some hotels for a quick download when you are in ports. More on that in another story.

You might also be interested in reading:

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