A Classic Voyage on a Classic Ship

Hurtigruten’s fleet includes 2 older ships, the MS Lofoten (built 1964) and the MS Nordstjernen (1954). Both have been extensively refurbished and they are now used on the Norwegian Coastal route and in the Arctic waters around Spitsbergen respectively. Hurtigruten have made a feature of the age and style of these ships. Despite modernisation in 2000, MS Nordstjernen still retains the aura of an old Atlantic ship. Her classic wooden interiors combined with modern comforts create an extraordinary atmosphere. She may not offer the same luxury as The Orient Express, but she certainly rivals it when it comes to grace and beauty. Meanwhile, during MS Lofoten’s refurbishment in 2003,her classic style and informal atmosphere was retained, inspiring genuine nostalgia amongst her passengers. With unique lounges and panoramic decks, this ‘old lady’ is simply incomparable. The cabins are plain, but very cosy.

These ships appeal to those who seek a classic, authentic experience, including many people who have spent a career at sea.

Project Travel recently (September 2017) had a customer who took the 11 night Classic Round Trip Norwegian Coastal Voyage (from Bergen to northern Norway and back again) on the MS Lofoten. While they experienced the Classic style and service of an older ship, their activities are available to anyone taking a Classic Round Voyage.

We really enjoyed this holiday. Your choice of cabin was excellent we were delighted to find we even  had a shower! Actually having visited the Hurtigruten ship ” Nordnorge” when she was docked along side, we were very glad we had chosen the MS Lofoten. This smaller ship is so friendly and you feel as if you are on a ship not a luxury hotel ! The food is excellent and all the staff very friendly and helpful. We met quite a number of people who had made numerous voyages on this ship! 

Regards our choice of the MS Lofoten, my husband and I always choose the slightly unusual, the country hotel, the little remote gite when in France, etc. We do not really like smart modern hotels so this would reflect our enthusiasm for the old ship. We found most people on board thought like us, and there was a good mix of nationalities … Norwegian, German, French, Swiss, Belgian, Dutch, Scottish, English and only very few Americans. The few that were there were keen walkers or outdoor enthusiasts. 

This ship is not suitable for those who want a “cruise” with all the comforts that that entails! I know one or two people who would not enjoy it! They want luxury, cabin with balconies, evening entertainment, swimming pools, etc. We loved it because you felt you were on a real ship, it went close to the coast, up fiords too small for bigger boats. My husband even had a chance to visit the engine room and the tour leader, Captain and other staff were friendly and helpful.

As you know, we did a number of excursions and enjoyed all of them. 

The Hike to the Sheiling  was a beautiful walk on an island. We went ashore in a tender and were met by an enthusiastic guide who was most friendly and very interesting telling us all about life past and present on the island, the flora and fauna and all about the Summer farm or Sheiling. We walked up a track alongside a little river with trees on the mountain side in beautiful Autumn colours . The climb was gradual and when we arrived at the farm we were welcomed by a lady who had drinks of juice and a snack for us. The lovely old grass roofed wooden huts had been preserved and are now used as little camping cabins (privately owned but open for us to look inside…very neat and I would love to stay in one!). This walk is ideal for anyone who enjoys walking but does not want to climb up a high mountain! We saw the mountain hike here and it looked very steep!

We also did the Hike at Tromso. We were bussed over the famous bridge to go up in a cable car. Again our guide was excellent, it was on rough tracks and quite a steep climb up to the top of the peak overlooking Tromso. It was obviously a popular hike and the path was well trodden. The guide showed and told us about the various berries and flowers we saw…..this also had the benefit of allowing slower walkers to catch up! A tactful way of waiting! It was an interesting and worthwhile hike but definitely needed good walking boots and a reasonable level of fitness.

Sami Culture: This was an evening trip, we were taken by bus up to a wooden hall where a man and his wife in their Sami traditional dress were waiting to welcome us. We sat on benches covered with reindeer skins (very soft and warm)  and they gave us a most interesting talk about their beliefs and way of life, showing us various items, answering questions and chatting with us (a small group of 6) . We tried some of their traditional food and drink and listened to the “Yoik ”  Actually though this doesn’t sound very exciting everyone agreed it was a  very good evening … and as we came out we were lucky to see the northern lights…in a clear dark night sky!

Sea Eagle Safari: My husband went on this excursion and really enjoyed it, he said they saw sea eagles close up as the skipper of the little boat they went on, threw fish for the seagulls, when they came down then the sea eagles also came. He came back delighted with this experience.

Lofoten by Horse This was a ride in the dark!  Which actually made it good fun…..the leader had a headlamp on her hat and there was a bit of twilight reflected off the sea. Later the moon came out. The ponies were quiet and very sure footed and the guide helpful and competent . Personally I would have liked a longer and more adventurous ride (several of our group had not ridden before) but I did enjoy it especially riding along the beach. There unfortunately was a long bus journey (50 mins or more each way) which meant we only had about a one hour ride….I had thought we would be riding for maybe 2 hours and going a bit further ….we were mainly around the farm, local beach and harbour, with a very short trot in the farm arena or ménage. However I must add the other 5 ladies who went all thought it was great and certainly quite long and fast enough!! So you can’t please everyone!

The midnight concert in Tromso: You recommended this and I agree with you, we both thoroughly enjoyed it. An excellent evening and well worth going to.

Bergtatt Marble Mine: We nearly missed this one as enough people had not booked to go, however the tour leader said as it was the first time the MS Lofoten had done the trip he would try and negotiate for 15 to go instead of the necessary 20. He succeeded and also came himself making the numbers up to the 15 required. It was excellent and everyone was agreed on this. We set off in a bus with a tour guide he gave a most interesting talk about the area and Norway in general as we drove. We stopped for a short walk to view the seashore and a new bridge before continuing to the mine. Here we had a fantastic boat trip through the old mine which is now semi flooded with water…. it is gently lit with coloured lights to show the rock formations; at the far end we disembarked to drink a glass of crystal clear water from the rock and look at some slabs of the white and the coloured marble. The mine guide gave us a little talk about the marble and how it is formed. Then we returned by boat to have “miner’s” soup and “flat” bread! This was followed by a video about the mine, when it was started and how it has evolved. The Marble mined today is used as a dust in the production of paper for glossy magazines! As demand for this is falling due to the internet (less magazines) they are now using the dug out chambers for protection for data. The large chamber we were in is also used for concerts!  After the mine tour we continued by bus to meet the Lofoten at Molde. This proved to be a big bonus as the passage from Kristainsund where we left the ship to there was through open water and very rough! Luckily we missed that!!  Though expensive this was an excellent excursion.

All your travel arrangements worked well. We enjoyed our time in Bergen and had our evening meal in the Fish Market … great fun, very lively and busy little restaurant serving excellent fish. We also took the funicular train and had a lovely walk at the top. Bergen is an interesting city and we enjoyed exploring it.”

Many thanks to Ms KE, Northern Ireland, for providing us with such a detailed account of her trip.

Image credit: Andreas Dorfer, Hurtigruten guest

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