Fodor’s Expert Review
Originally a communications and travel link between the villages on Norway’s western coast, Hurtigruten (formerly known in the United States as Norwegian Coastal Voyage) provides an up-close look at the fascinatingly intricate fjords, mountains, and villages that were once isolated and difficult to navigate. The Hurtigruten itineraries are often described as “the world’s most beautiful voyages,” as they provide access to some of the most stunning scenery and the unique cultures of Norway, many of them above the Arctic Circle.Read More
Nine Hurtigruten ships sail year-round on Norwegian coastal express routes. Options include 6-night northbound, 5-night southbound, or 12-night round-trip sailings, calling at 34 ports in each one-way segment. Others spend part of the year on Antarctic and Chilean Fjord itineraries or take trips to Spitsbergen, an island midway between Norway and the North Pole. The MS Fram also makes summer expeditions to Greenland as well as a world cruise. These are also working ships, transferring both cargo and passengers, but the ships have the look and feel of traditional cruise ships. However, Mother Nature is the star of this show. Tour leaders on board all voyages assist with practical, cruise-planning details, but these are not traditional cruises.
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What to Expect on Board
The itinerary is the primary point of emphasis on these cruises, and dining takes a far less prominent role than on cruises for the American market.
There are two dinner seatings, and the three-course dinners allow no individual selection—everyone on a given evening will have the same appetizer, entrée, and dessert. While the line does its best to meet special dietary requirements, all requests for special meals must be made well in advance of departure. There is a 24-hour café, but it is not free. Liquor, wine, and beer, priced in Norwegian kroner, are expensive.
Destination-rich itineraries are the star on all Hurtigruten ships.
Expect no formal splashy entertainment, casinos, shows, cabarets, or nightclubs. In lieu of traditional programming, cruisers can strike up meaningful conversations with interesting fellow passengers, enjoy the pools and hot tubs on younger ships, or simply look up, out, and beyond to appreciate privileged tranquility and beauty.
All ships except MS Lofoten,Nordstjernen, and Vesterålen have a small fitness center on board.
Among the newer ships, Finnmarken has a swimming pool; Midnatsol, Trollfjord, and Fram have hot tubs. There is an Internet café on board all ships except MS Vesterålen, Lofoten,Nordstjernen, and Polar Star. Internet packages can be purchased from reception.
Key cruising tips
Europeans make up the larger number of passengers, but often there’s a minority of Americans. Travelers who find this kind of cruising attractive tend to be independent—comfortable controlling their vacation experience and perfectly content enjoying spectacular scenery and visiting picturesque communities mostly on their own. Families with small kids are few and far between.
Hurtigruten ships are truly casual, with no dress-up nights. Pack clothing suitable for the area and season in which you are traveling. During the day and throughout the voyage, weather fluctuations can occur rather quickly. It is recommended you dress in layers to accommodate the changes in temperature. Should you choose to pack light, all ships reviewed here are equipped with self-service laundry facilities, including irons and ironing boards. Detergent is included in the price.
All contemporary ships and Finnmarken have an unstaffed children’s playroom but no organized activities for kids.
Service can be splendid but also subtle, without many flourishes.
Tipping is neither required nor expected, though it is allowed if you feel you have received particularly good personal service from a crew member.
If you have traveled with Hurtigruten within the last three years and will travel within the next three years, you may receive a 10% discount on your next Norwegian Coastal Voyage or 5% off your next Explorer cruise (Antarctica, Greenland, Spitsbergen, or Europe). This offer is combinable with other discounts, such as those offered for early booking and groups, but you must travel within three years in order to receive the discounted fare.