Norway Summer Cruise Coastal Voyages on Hurtigruten
Nearly every day of the year a Hurtigruten ship leaves Bergen to cruise through the fjords, continuing up along the entire western seaboard of Norway. Not only is it a working ship – it was originally introduced in 1893 as a postal service and linking northern and southern Norway – but it is also one of the classic ways for visitors to see the stunning Norwegian coastline.
The name means ‘fast route’ but it still takes 6 nights to reach its northernmost destination, the small town of Kirkenes just 8km from the Russian border, where it turns around and takes 5 nights to head south. You can opt to take a one way journey north or south, or experience the full round trip. The ship stops at over 30 ports along the way, some for just a few minutes, others for several hours. Ports stopped at by day on the way north are visited by night on the way south, so those on the full Round voyage don’t see the same ports twice.
All along the route Hurtigruten offers a variety of optional excursions, dependant on the season. In Summer these include walking tours of the cities, visits to local museums or other attractions, bird watching (including a sea eagle safari), pony trekking and fishing.
The Midnight Sun
Among the attractions of the Summer Coastal Voyage is experiencing the Midnight Sun. Between mid May and late July, once the ship crosses the Arctic Circle, the sun never quite dips below the horizon. It is an odd experience to sit on deck at midnight and still be able to read a book or view the local scenery. While it can confuse your body clock somewhat, it does also mean there is plenty of time to see and do everything you want on the voyage!
Life On Board
So, what exactly is life like on board a Hurtigruten ship? As the company says: “The emphasis on board is on relaxation and getting away from the commercial entertainment which is so often a part of conventional cruises. Our aim is to get closer to unique environments and share the experience with fellow passengers.”
Project Travel describes it as: casual, comfortable, relaxed, friendly. The ships are big enough for you to find your own space, but small enough to get to know your fellow passengers if you want. Their size also means they can visit smaller villages and towns, and get into fjords and inlets, that larger cruise ships pass on by. In 2016 Hurtigruten extended their ‘Explorer’ experience to 7 of their Norwegian ships and now have full-time Expedition Teams on board. They present additional lectures about the culture and nature of Norway and will take you out on specialist excursions not available on other ships.
The Norwegians tend not to do frills and flounces. This extends to the cabins on the ships which are practical, clean and comfortable with small en suite bathrooms with showers. Cabins are roughly classified as Inside (no window), Outside with Limited View (perhaps a lifeboat will block part of your window or porthole) or Outside with Good View. Within these categories are other sub-divisions based on window type, bed number and type or cabin size. You can opt for larger suites too, but to be honest you will spend so little time in your cabin it’s probably not worth worrying about it.
During the Summer cruise voyage it’s all about the scenery and Hurtigruten have put their focus on the public areas of the ship. The grand Panorama lounges have floor to ceiling windows and comfortable seating where you will spend literally hours just watching the amazing scenery drift by – each scene a picture postcard in itself. The ships – there are 11 in the fleet in total – also feature a formal dining room, cafe restaurant, lounges and bars. Several ships had their public areas completely refurbished during 2016 and now feature comfortable Nordic style, homely furnishings. Others have on-deck Jacuzzis and small gyms on board. There’s even an older ship that allows you to experience life on board as it was in the 1950s. Project Travel will always try to plan your trip on a ship suitable for you.
Dining on a Classic Voyage (North, South or Round Trip) is on a full board basis. Breakfast is always buffet style with plenty of choice for Norwegian or European breakfast tastes. Dinner is usually a set menu served in the restaurant while lunches are usually buffet style. Snacks may be purchased in the on-board cafeteria.
In recent years considerable emphasis has been on “Norway’s Coastal Kitchen” throughout the fleet. This means the focus of the cuisine is on fresh food from local produce, sourced as the ship stops in local ports. Naturally, seafood features regularly, but there are plenty of options for vegetarians and meat lovers too. Special dietary requirements can be accommodated with advance notice. Menus feature a range of traditional and modern recipes.
When it comes to refreshments, the same prices you find on shore apply on board the ship; i.e. expensive! A bottle of house wine starts at about €45. Many passengers enjoy a glass or two with their dinner and the bottle is put aside for them to finish the next night. A beer or wine package for 2 people can be purchased in advance, but both people must choose the same tipple.
Make Summer 2017 the year you choose to explore Norway on a Hurtigruten coastal voyage. Give Project Travel a call on 01 – 210 8391 and we will arrange the entire package for you, priced in Euro, to include return flights and any nights required before or after the voyage to fit in with scheduled airlines. We can also extend your holiday with additional nights in Norway.
Image credit: Hurtigruten