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Trip Report: Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Cruise

Trip Report: Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Cruise

Dec 9th, 2018, 10:15 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report: Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Cruise

I was going to be working in Oslo the first week of November, and wanted to go somewhere relatively close to Oslo for four or five days beforehand to help me get over the brutal 12-hour time change and jet-lag from traveling from Hawaii. I’ve done a lot of traveling in Europe and this would be my fourth time in Oslo and other areas of Norway. Earlier this year, I visited Prague (with day trips, including one into Germany), London, and N. Ireland. I’ve been throughout Italy, and have visited Paris, Amsterdam, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden ... Of course, there were still lots of places to choose from, but none of the ones I considered made my heart go pitter-pat.

Then ... prowling around the Internet, I learned about Hurtigruten coastal cruises. The main attraction was that it seemed likely that I’d see the Northern Lights. That’s high on my bucket list. But I’m not a big lover of cruises, and the thought of bitter cold temps, accompanied by lots of wind when on deck, sounded miserable. (To put things in perspective, tonight the low will be 66 degrees F. That’s due to a cold spell, and the weatherman is warning people to bundle up and bring out extra blankets. Brrrr...

But thanks to some encouragement on this forum—and my desire to experience the Northern Lights—I decided to go for it. Gardyloo suggested I fly west—through Tokyo—and stop in Narita. GREAT suggestion. We spent three nights at the Hedistar Hotel in Narita. We chose it because it would be walking distance to the temple and other attractions. It was surprisingly inexpensive (under $80 US/night – including breakfast). We were also walking distance to a big mall that had an awesome food court. We loved the yakitori and the dumplings were some of the best ever. There was a wonderful bakery and coffee shop that served “siphon coffee.”

The hotel room was small, but it was fine for us. But I hated the breakfasts.



breakfast! Yuck.


I’m sure they were fine, but fish, miso soup, curry, stir-fry vegetables, creamed rice, and traditional Japanese breakfast items are not my idea of breakfast. But I was adventurous and tried quite a few of the unidentifiable items. Most of them were “okay,” but not anything I particularly liked. The dried plums were among the most disgusting things I have ever eaten. They tasted like pure salt dipped in bitterness. YUCK! The western items were scrambled eggs that seemed only half cooked, fried chicken nuggets, meatballs, salad, and hot dogs. There was toast and cereal, too, but I was avoiding most carbs. At least I liked the coffee!

The Narita temple/shrine complex was fantastic, and the setting was so beautiful.


Narita





Narita


Narita

I spent the entire day there, and could have stayed longer. There was so much to see. Thanks, Gardyloo!

We hired a guide through Narita Rainbow tours to show us Tokyo. It was a GREAT way to do it. Everything about the experience was perfect and we didn’t need to think or stress about getting around. We were picked up at our hotel and a guide took us (by subway) to the sights we chose in Tokyo. In one long day, we could only get a taste of Tokyo. We visited the beautiful gardens at the Emperor’s Palace, the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, did some shopping, had a nice lunch, and visited the Owl Café. I LOVED the Owl Café. It’s just incredible to be able to pet owls —and a sweet, gentle capybara.





Tokyo Owl Cafe

I had a good time in Tokyo and would have liked to stay at least a couple more days.

Next stop ... Bergen via Japan Air (booked with AA FF miles). We’d been to Bergen several times before (and loved it) so we had already seen the tourist highlights. We didn’t do much, other than wander around the wharf and stroll some of the atmospheric side streets.



Bergen

We stayed at the First Marin Hotel which we liked. It had lots of charm, a good location, and an awesome breakfast!

The next day, we took the shuttle bus to the Hurtigruten terminal to board the Kong Harald. We had thought it was close by and had considered walking. WRONG! It was about a twenty-minute drive. Check-in was quick and easy and we sat in a lounge until our cabin was ready. This was a bit of a last-minute trip. We booked it only a few weeks before sailing and the only category available was the mid-level, which was fine for us. We had a large porthole. We felt it was a great value at $1,225 USD pp (dbl occ.).

The cabin was basic, but perfectly fine. Like everything else about this cruise, there is no pretentiousness, no attempt to be glitzy or glamorous. The only entertainment is the scenery, conversation, and a daily lecture. No TV, movies, skating rinks, rock walls, comedy club, midnight buffets, karaoke, shuffleboard, putt-putt golf, live music, dancing, shows, bingo, or other activities that I avoid like the plague on other cruises. For the “party” crowd, there was a lounge open quite late where they could drink and listen to recorded music.

I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I would call it my favorite trip—and I’ve done a LOT of traveling. The scenery was breathtaking. We chose the 7-day cruise, sailing north, from Bergen to Kirkenes. The views were always beautiful, but on the second day, the reflections of the snow-capped mountains in the water were unbelievable. I never would have thought reflections could look like that.



Hurtigruten Coastal Cruise


Hurtigruten Coastal Cruise



Another highlight occurred when perfect conditions allowed the captain to sail into an incredibly narrow fjord on a starry, moonlit night. He shown a light against the fjord walls, which were quite close. It was magical. Brilliant pink and orange, long sunsets were also very special.



I believe there were 22 stops. Most of them were 15 – 30 minutes, with no opportunity to get off the ship. The first time we stopped in the middle of the night, the noise and shaking was loud enough to wake the dead. The noise laughed at my ear plugs. But subsequent mid-night stops were much quieter. I either slept through them, or woke, and fell immediately back to sleep.

There were a couple of one-hour stops, during which we got off the ship and took a short walk around the town. But each day offered a stop of approximately three hours, during which you could go off on your own to explore, or join a shore excursion. In Urke, there was a well-marked route with picture postcard views.

In Trondheim, we skipped the guided tours and with the help of a map, walked to the Nidaros Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Scandinavia. It was quite impressive, and we were lucky enough to be there while the choir was rehearsing. It was truly heavenly. Then we crossed the Old Town Bridge and wandered through the quaint old town area, where I took lots of photos.

In Tromsø, we walked to Polaria, the museum dedicated to the polar region. The building itself is awesome; it looks like falling dominoes, and there were great views from there. The museum was pleasant, but not great. There was a small, but very nice aquarium, and seals were fed and trained while we watched. There were several displays about the effects of climate change. The main thing to do was to watch two large-screen movies about the region and the Northern Lights. Walking on the main street, we noticed a man following us. It was quite cold and he wasn’t wearing a coat. We got a definite bad vibe and went into a shop. He stayed outside, staring at us through the window. We told a salesman what was happening, and that we were concerned. The salesman went out at yelled at the man, asking him why he was following us, and telling him to stop. That did the trick. We didn’t see him again. No big deal, but a little disconcerting.

At two of the stops we joined a guided hike, led by a member of the ship’s “Expedition Team.” These hikes were the highlights of an amazing trip. The hikes were rated as “Level 4,” which is quite strenuous. I thought they wouldn’t really be that challenging, considering that it was an official ship excursion. WRONG!

These hikes were seriously demanding. Being in our 60s, DH and I were the oldest in the groups of 8 – 10 hikers. We climbed steep slopes (by my standards) and when there were actual paths (which there usually were NOT) they were icy or snow-covered. We were given crampons which worked well. And ... did I mention that it was FREEZING? During the first hike, we wore so many layers of clothes that with all the exertion, we sweated through five or six layers (including two pairs of thermal underwear) soaking the inside of our coats! But OMG, the views were MAGNIFICENT. My only complaint was that we had to maintain a very brisk pace in order to complete the hike and get back to the ship on time. “WOW” is barely adequate.





























The daily lectures (i.e., “A History of the Vikings,” “The Northern Lights,” ...) were entertaining. There were plenty of extra comfy chairs indoors, in front of huge windows, where you could watch the scenery go by. But more often, I stood on the deck where I could get better photos.

Most of the people we encountered were German or English. There were quite a few Japanese, as well, but only a handful of Americans (or those willing to admit it!). There was a wide range of ages, but no children. There was assigned seating in the dining room and two seating times. (We had no problem changing ours to the early seating that we preferred.) We were seated at a table for two, close enough to those on either side of us, to have wonderful conversations. The staff and passengers we encountered spoke excellent English.

The ship has a “no tipping policy,” although there was a bowl where one could leave a tip anonymously outside the dining room. The service in the restaurant was excellent. It couldn’t have been better if the wait staff had been working for tips. The Maitre ‘d was phenomenal. She was personable and efficient. She jotted down my dietary requests (i.e., no sugar, no fish, no reindeer) and regularly checked to be sure everything was perfect – and it was.

I loved the food. Breakfasts and lunches were buffets. The array of fresh-baked breads and pastries was awesome. Rather than enumerate everything that was served, I’ll just say I can’t imagine anyone not being satisfied with the quality and the choices. The butter and some of the cheeses were from local farms. The soups served at lunch were consistent fantastic. Lunch options were extensive and both hot and cold. I don’t eat desserts, but there were always four or five options that looked amazing, and everyone said they tasted as good as they looked. Much of the food was locally sourced. One evening, there was a note on our table, stating that the fish being served had been caught and brought onboard that morning. The shrimp was sourced locally, and was touted as the best shrimp in the world. I didn’t eat it because I feel guilty eating things that are staring up at me—and these still had their heads on.

At dinner, there was a set menu. Each night there was a vegetarian, fish, and meat option for those who did not want whatever was being served. Every meal was delicious. There was one dinner served buffet-style. They were fanatical about using hand sanitizers when entering and leaving the dining room, and it must have worked, because even with the extreme temperatures, we did not get sick, nor encounter anyone else who did.

Wait. What about those Northern Lights? They were the reason I did this cruise. We never saw them. They appeared faintly one night—and we slept through them! Another night, when conditions were at their best ... it snowed. But we had such a fantastic trip and felt so happy, satiated, and relaxed, we couldn’t have been happier.

I wished we had opted for the 11-day, roundtrip itinerary instead of the 7-day cruise. There’s a chance I might work in Oslo again in early. If that happens, I will definitely consider doing this cruise again—in the opposite direction.

Tusen takk for all the help and suggestions!
Songdoc is offline  
Dec 9th, 2018, 10:58 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2007
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I would have never thought about going on the Hurtigrouten trip in late fall or winter.
But your pictures show such a beautiful sight of Norway with those snow-capped mountains.
And that photo with the light house at sunset is just unbelievably beautiful.

I am thinking about doing this trip later next year with a friend who has serious mobility issues.. wheelchair, no steps, etc.
Not asking for a medical assessment, but would you say that even if you had not been able to leave the ship for those further-away expeditions and hikes, would you still say that you saw a lot or enough of the scenery just from watching from the ship?
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Dec 9th, 2018, 11:02 PM
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Fantastic, helpful report, love those photos, I might even consider this one day
Such useful detail, thank you....


....but, just checking on the facilities...bathroom?.....

Last edited by Adelaidean; Dec 9th, 2018 at 11:06 PM. Reason: Added something...
Adelaidean is online now  
Dec 9th, 2018, 11:38 PM
  #4  
 
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I have only been on Hurtigruten in late autumn or winter. I am so glad you enjoyed it Songdoc - and as for the Northern Lights - you've got an excuse to go again! (Even though there are some fabulous places in canada and Alaska which also cater to Light hunnting).
That Japanese breakfast would have been offf putting for me too.

Adelaidean all the cabins on the more modern ships have their own bathroom. Tiny and perfectly formed in manycases but what more do you need? I think Lofoten is the only ship which still has some bathroomless cabins. The newest biggest ships have hot tubs (sadly) and the newest expedition ships are hybrid powered, with pools. But those are aimed at Svalbard and Antartica.
hetismij2 is offline  
Dec 9th, 2018, 11:53 PM
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“Adelaidean all the cabins on the more modern ships have their own bathroom”
good to know, I need my loo and shower nearby...
Adelaidean is online now  
Dec 10th, 2018, 04:11 AM
  #6  
 
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Cowboy

in return for your advice about Bavaria.

Norway :

We never go at any time other than February. It is a winter wonderland (usually) and in summer the weather can be very good as it was this year but nowhere near as assured as Sicily.

We were booked to go to Tromso and Senja this coming February but Norwegian air cancelled our flight without rhyme or reason, It also took 10 days to receive a full refund.

The daylight at this time of year is around 3 hours but you see 2 hours of stunning twilight. The sort of light that lingers for minutes closer to the equator. In Northern Norway the light is incredible for long periods.

Tenleratures near ear the coast are usually around -5oC due to the North Atlantic Drift, inland you will experience -30oC. The glacial coastline is some of the most stunning in the world and if you are up for reasonable hikes then most of the peaks are 3000ft which is comfortable for many.

Hurtigruten isn’t a single cruise line. It has a number of ships which keep to a very tight schedule up and down the coast of Norway, 24 hours a day. Most stops are 15 minutes but in some larger towns it can be 2 hours.

Their service was (and is) effectively the Norwegian coastal post service with posh facilities.
It’s easy to stage a journies with them stay in one town for any period and then pick up the next ship.

I can’t recommend this trip enough.
BritishCaicos is offline  
Dec 10th, 2018, 07:07 AM
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That trip has been on my 'maybe' list for a while. Thanks to your report it is now on my 'definite' list. Did you shoot those reflection shots from the boat?
isabel is offline  
Dec 10th, 2018, 07:16 AM
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BritishCaicos - thank you very much!
That's really helpful and food for thought.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Dec 11th, 2018, 10:06 PM
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Sorry I haven't been able to respond. I managed to climb snowy mountains and walk icy streets without any difficulty. Came home and broke my toe in my living room!

<would you say that even if you had not been able to leave the ship for those further-away expeditions and hikes, would you still say that you saw a lot or enough of the scenery just from watching from the ship?>

Cowboy: Yes. A couple we got friendly with didn't do any excursions. They barely left the ship and they had a wonderful time. Lots of people spent their time reading or playing cards in front of huge windows as the scenery sailed by. But if your friend would be bored by that, and would prefer movies, shows, bingo, etc ... then this is not the cruise for them.

Isabel: Yes, the photos of the reflections were all taken from the deck of the ship. It was as we pulling into a port and was breathtaking.

Thanks to all for the nice comments!
Songdoc is offline  
Dec 12th, 2018, 01:19 PM
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Ouch.. hope your toe is getting better.
And thanks for the update.
Not having the typical Carnival Cruise 24/7 entertainment on board would be no problem.. but rather a blessing ;-)
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Dec 12th, 2018, 02:11 PM
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Thanks for the report! I have enjoyed Narita and a Hurtigruten cruise too, although not on the same trip. I was also on the Kong Harald, but had a cabin with a window. Since I didn't spend much time in the cabin it didn't make much difference.
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 12th, 2018, 02:20 PM
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We took a Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes in August and highly reommend the experience. We did our own walking tours of the towns and really enjoyed the food which I didn’t expect. We would take it again.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Dec 13th, 2018, 05:07 AM
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Songdoc! Hello, how lovely to see you popping up here. I often recommend your great Trip Reports on the Australian & New Zealand forums.

I’ve enjoyed reading about this cruise enormously- thanks so much.

All the best to you both.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2018, 07:49 PM
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Thanks for a great report from Hurtigruten. As a Norwegian myself, I have heard a lot of stories about how this ferry can bring you on some fantastic trips. After all, and please note that I am biased, but Norway got the most spectacular nature that you can ever find in this world.

Sad to see that they can’t serve a proper breakfast though.
peppapig is offline  
Dec 13th, 2018, 07:49 PM
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<Not having the typical Carnival Cruise 24/7 entertainment on board would be no problem.. but rather a blessing ;-)>

Cowboy: HA! I completely agree. But right now, my sister is on a Carnival cruise, and I have no doubt that she and her husband will participate in every game and activity, and will be at the karaoke, comedy club, disco, the talent show, and every other show, as they have when they sailed before. They will have a suite with a walk-in closet that is necessary to fit all the changes of clothes they will bring. They love all of that and would be bored stiff after ten minutes of watching scenery go by. Different strokes ...

Bokhara2: How nice hearing from you! Thanks for those kind words. I hope things are good in your world.
Songdoc is offline  
Dec 13th, 2018, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by peppapig View Post
Thanks for a great report from Hurtigruten. As a Norwegian myself, I have heard a lot of stories about how this ferry can bring you on some fantastic trips. After all, and please note that I am biased, but Norway got the most spectacular nature that you can ever find in this world.

Sad to see that they can’t serve a proper breakfast though.

What do you mean by "not a proper breakfast"? Have travelled with Hurtigruten two times, never noticed breakfast wasn't "proper".
menachem is offline  
Dec 13th, 2018, 09:14 PM
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I think peppapig was confused. The questionable breakfasts were in Japan. The breakfasts on the Hurtigruten cruise were FANTASTIC!
Songdoc is offline  
Dec 16th, 2018, 07:36 AM
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Thank you so much Songdoc for an absolutely beautiful trip report. Two quick questions:
1. my husband has been diagnosed with a Parkinsons type neurological disorder and at times can be shaky on his feet. Do you think this would be an issue on a Hurtigruten ship? How likely would we be to encounter rough seas in June?
2. If you only had 4 nights for the ship/cruise part of things where would you start and end?

Thanks so much
lauramsgarden is offline  
Dec 16th, 2018, 03:20 PM
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Hi lauramsgarden: Thanks for the nice comment!

1) I had read that the sea could be quite choppy in the winter, so I packed Dramamine. The first night we had some serious rock and roll in the middle of the night. I was in bed and it didn't bother me. The rest of the time the seas seemed calm. I never needed the Dramamine. I don't know what to say about June. I would guess the seas would be calmer, but that's just a guess on my part.

2) with only four nights, I would suggest you start in Bergen. I think it was on day-2 (sailing north from Bergen) that I saw those incredible reflections. The best hiking was further north, but that's not what you're looking for. I would very much like to see Lofoten and that would require sailing south. (We stopped there, heading north, but it was in the evening.) If that is something that interests you (and that your husband would be able to do) that might influence your decision.
Songdoc is offline  
Dec 17th, 2018, 11:32 AM
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Just a tip: check out the sailing schedule on the hurtigruten.no site. That way you can work out what the arrivals/departures are, at every port. This really helped me in planning, second time round.
menachem is offline  

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