Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
RSF Cruiser

Hurtigruten Northern Lights Cruise Question

Recommended Posts

I'm planning to take a Hurtigruten coastal cruise in Dec 2012 or January 2013 to hopefully see the northern lights. I've done a fair amount of web surfing, and it looks like Hurtigruten leaves just about every day from Bergen on various ships. The ships vary in age, size, facilities, and accommodations. I'm trying to decide what ship to go on.

 

My questions:

1. For those of you who have taken a Hurtigruten Norway Coastal Cruise, what ship were you on and what are your thoughts about the ship?

2. If you've been on several Hurtigruten ships, what comparisons, pros/cons can you make?

3. Do you think it makes any difference what ship we go on?

4. And really, the main question is: Do you recommend we pick our departure date based on the ship? If so, which ship/ships do you recommend and why?

 

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everyone who has cruised has their favorite ship, but here are our thoughts on Hurtigruten:

 

We have been on just two winter Bergen to Bergen trips and did not see any winter light displays.

 

Both trips were on the Finnmarken. One of the larger ships of the fleet.

 

Both costal cruises were very enjoyable as in our opinon the scenery is why we took the trip. Just remember this not your "typical" cruise from San Diego down to Mexico and back. This is a working ship that stops at points along the way to pickup and drop of people and freight. Some of the stops are just a few minutes (less than 15 min) and others are long enough to take a Hurtigruten sponsered tour . A few are long enough to get off the ship and walk around a town for an hour - just do not be late as they do not wait. Sometimes the ship can not get into port due to sea and or weather conditions.

 

On both of our trips three meals a day were included in our fare. Lots of fresh seafood. Anything extra - snack or soda, beer can be purchased $$$$ from the small onboard cafe.

 

The majority of pasengers were from northern europe and Germany. Very few Americans on our trips.

 

Will attempt to anser any question(s).

 

Bruton Branch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Everyone who has cruised has their favorite ship, but here are our thoughts on Hurtigruten:

 

We have been on just two winter Bergen to Bergen trips and did not see any winter light displays.

 

Both trips were on the Finnmarken. One of the larger ships of the fleet.

 

Both costal cruises were very enjoyable as in our opinon the scenery is why we took the trip. Just remember this not your "typical" cruise from San Diego down to Mexico and back. This is a working ship that stops at points along the way to pickup and drop of people and freight. Some of the stops are just a few minutes (less than 15 min) and others are long enough to take a Hurtigruten sponsered tour . A few are long enough to get off the ship and walk around a town for an hour - just do not be late as they do not wait. Sometimes the ship can not get into port due to sea and or weather conditions.

 

On both of our trips three meals a day were included in our fare. Lots of fresh seafood. Anything extra - snack or soda, beer can be purchased $$$$ from the small onboard cafe.

 

The majority of pasengers were from northern europe and Germany. Very few Americans on our trips.

 

Will attempt to anser any question(s).

 

Bruton Branch

 

Thanks for the reply. We've been on ferries in Norway - although not on Hurtigruten or for over night. The longest ferry ride we were on was from Bodo to Lofoten in the summer. Hurtigruten has 11 different ships that do the coastal route, and they range in size from a few hundred passengers to almost 1000, and the oldest was built in 1965 I think, and the newest in 2003. So I'm wondering how the experience changes, if at all, with the different ships. Does it feel crowded on the larger ships? Are the older ships in good repair - meaning not run down, inviting dining room and other public spaces?

 

I just checked the Hurtigruten web site and it doesn't look like they use the Finnmarken any more; at least I do not see it listed. I spoke with a Hurtigruten agent and he suggested the newer ships (Midnastol and Trollfjord) since the rooms are about 20% larger and there's a small exercise room. I expect to spend most of my time on deck or in the lounges so I can see the scenery, so maybe the size of the room doesn't matter as much. My travel plans are pretty flexible, so if the ship makes a difference, then I'd start on that date.

 

I'm guessing since you took the trip twice in the winter, it was a great experience. That's what I'm hoping for - fantastic scenery, interesting people, and hopefully the northern lights.

 

Yes, I've been on many Mexico cruises out of San Diego, and no, that is not the experience I'm looking for. I'll be going on this trip with my daughter as a pre-Antarctica trip on the MS Fram - thought we could see if we like Hurtigruten on a less expensive trip, visit some friends in Norway at the same time, and then earn a repeater discount for Antarctica :-)

 

Thoughts? And thanks for your reply.

 

Willa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have sailed on the Trollfjord and would definetly choose her again (or her "sister" Midnatsol). Huge lounges and lots of vantage points. Not a "cruise", but an incredible experience. USA residents are in the minority, we met lots of terrific people and English was one of 4 official languages used.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have done the Coastal voyage twice. The first time in April 2006, on board the MS Lofoten, one of the oldest ship of the fleet (build in 1965 or so). Being sailors, and interested in maritime history, we actually choose the departure date to have this ship, since we wanted a more "authentic" experience and we didn't regret that choice for one minute. The ship is old in age but quite modern inside, since it has been renovated in the early 2000s. The cabins are confortable and clean and everything inside feels recent in quality, but with a real "soul", the public rooms are warm and cozy (a bit like a british gentleman's club). And you get a real feel that she is a working boat since all the merchandise is loaded and unloaded with a crane, which makes an interesting watching at every stop. I'm not an engine expert, but I would say the engine are maybe less powerful than the new ships. I heard that the MS Lofoten had some engine trouble once during the last winter. Also, there are no lateral propeller (not sure this is the right word in English), which makes it more difficult to dock, particularly when there is a lot of wind, but we were also very interested in watching the way the captain was using ropes (and sometimes anchor) to maneuver the ship for docking. The upside of this is that the engine noise is always kept to a minimum when in the cabin. The ship is also smaller, and thus carry less people, so it's more peaceful. I had a lot of trouble finding pictures of the inside of the boat, so if you are interested, I put up some pictures on my website : http://hurtigruten.terremer.net/lofoten/index.htm (it is in French only, and some other parts of the website have to be redone, but if you click on the red stars, you will see pictures of various part of the ship). Most of the public rooms (restaurant, lounges) are on the same deck so moving inside the ship is easy. But there are no special "facilities" such as a gym or a spa. The food is the same on all ships (and very good!).

 

The second time was aboard the MS Polarlys, build in the mid-90s, during last Christmas holidays, and the boat hold true to her name since we saw the northern lights five nights in a row. We ended up on this boat because this time our limiting factor was the departure date (we wanted to spend both Christmas and New Year's Eve on board). It's much bigger (and more crowded) and I personnaly enjoyed it less because it has less "soul" in it. The thing that I really liked was the great panoramic lounge with windows from floor to ceiling. MS Lofoten's "panoramic" lounge only has smallish windows. The cabin was of the same level of confort, maybe a bit bigger, but since we were only there to sleep, it didn't really matter to us. The big trouble was the strong noise of the lateral propellers that we could hear everytime the ship made a stop (and keep in mind there are stops days and nights, sometimes several times per night, and the noise would wake us up sometimes). The noise is reduced probably at the rear of the ship (we had a cabin near the front). The ship also has stabilizer, contrary to the MS Lofoten, so she will be much more stable in rough weather. This is however an issue only on a small part of the journey, since most of the trip is in sheltered water. On this ship you don't feel so much that you are on a working ship. Also, you have free wifi access on this boat (and no internet access at all on the MS Lofoten).

 

I personnaly wouldn't choose the MS Trollfjord or the Midnatsol, they are way too big (and crowded) for my taste, but all in all, the choice depends on what you are looking for during this trip. For a winter trip, you might expect to spend more time inside the ship, and perhaps some rough weather, so maybe a newer ship will be more confortable. But the old ships will give you a unique experience, if you are sensitive to their spirit. When I go again (because I will definitely go again, it's an addictive experience), it will be on one of the old ships.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much, SarniaLo - your information is exactly what I am looking for. I realize every decision has tradeoffs, I want others' experiences (likes, dislikes, and why) to decide what will be best for us. Our dates are flexible, so we can choose based on ship - I just need more personal descriptions of experiences onboard to decide what will work best for us. I have a pretty good idea of what to expect during the cruise re scenery etc - just don't know how much a difference the actual boat will make.

 

The MS Lofoten looks beautiful and certainly allayed any concerns about being rundown! And it certainly does have character and beauty.

 

From a previous post I read your blog - thanks so much for sharing your experiences with others.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Must fully agree with SarniaLo about the Lofoten. Went on her last month for the first time and have already booked to go back in January. I also have been on the Nordstjernen in 2010 which is even older. The selling point for me with the Lofoten over the Nordstjernen is that she has an extra lounge. Please correct me if I am wrong but I was told on the larger ships all meals are buffet style, whereas dinner on the old ships are waiter/waitress service. If you want the older smaller ships book them before its too late. I don't think they will not be around in a few years mores the pity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Please correct me if I am wrong but I was told on the larger ships all meals are buffet style, whereas dinner on the old ships are waiter/waitress service.

I'm sorry but I do have to correct you! ;) Dinner on all Hurtigruten ships are the same kind (fixed three-course menu, sitting down at the same table, waiter service).

I also fear that the older ships will not be around much longer, really hope I'm wrong, because I want to go back on the MS Lofoten, and it probably won't be until early 2013.

 

RSF Cruiser I remember now we had other discussions about Hurtigruten's Fram and pointing you to my blog, I'm not sure what the policy is here about "advertising" one's own websites so I hope it was not too much from me, but I feel that pictures are worth much more than my words! ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SarniaLo - thanks so much for your blog link - I bookmarked it and will read all of the Norway and Antarctica postings! I find it so helpful to read personal accounts about others' experiences for places I plan on going to - just gives me a better feel for the place. The facts and descriptions on "official" travel web sites are great for the facts; I just also want to know about peoples' experiences. That's why I love CruiseCritic so much!

Edited by RSF Cruiser

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are Booked on the Trolliford South Bound 6 days July 30th

This will be a new experiance for us as we have always sailed on the larger cruise ships

After we get off in Bergan we will take the train to Oslo fly to Copenhagen for anouter cruise to the baltics

My wife thinks that we have taken on to much at one time I am sure the Trolliford will be vary restfull b/4 we go to the Baltic's

 

Jost about 100 days away

 

Every one out there have a happy Passover & Easter

 

STUR DAYTON,OHIO

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm sorry but I do have to correct you! ;) Dinner on all Hurtigruten ships are the same kind (fixed three-course menu, sitting down at the same table, waiter service).

I also fear that the older ships will not be around much longer, really hope I'm wrong, because I want to go back on the MS Lofoten, and it probably won't be until early 2013.

 

RSF Cruiser I remember now we had other discussions about Hurtigruten's Fram and pointing you to my blog, I'm not sure what the policy is here about "advertising" one's own websites so I hope it was not too much from me, but I feel that pictures are worth much more than my words! ;)

 

SarniaLo thanks for the information - I was fed (no pun intended) incorrect information when on the Lofoten. I am pleased to hear dinner is waiter/waitress service on the newer ships as I intend doing a summer trip on one once the old ships are no longer in service. It was suggested on the Nordstjernen last year that both she and the Lofoten would only last until the end of 2011, however its good to see they are both in the schedules through to the end of December 2012.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dinner is not invariably waiter service, and can be a buffet meal, depending on what other pressures there are on the staff, and whether the ship is at a port at dinner time. I didn't keep records, but certainly 24 and 25 December 2010 dinner on Lofoten was a buffet (and a splendid one at that).

 

We have done the round trip both on Lofoten and Nordstjernen, and would willingly go back on either. They are extremely friendly, and you get more chance to get to know people.

 

They had a system where if the Northern Lights appeared during the night, you could be woken up, if you opted for this in advance. Over the last Christmas period, the lights appeared at 2am one morning! I don't know whether this system operates on the larger ships.

 

If you would rather travel on something a bit more like Fram, then opt for one of the newer ships. They are more like a "cruise" experience (though they carry lots of freight beween ports). They have bigger lounges, but they also carry a lot more passengers. Remember that a lot of local passengers will be in the lounges overnight, so the passenger complement could be a lot higher than the 500 or so cabin only passengers that Fram restricts herself to. About the same number of German speaking people as English speaking will probably be on for the full trip.

 

Whichever type of ship you choose, this is a wonderful trip. You will be going at a time when days are short, and there will be snow and ice about. Good practice for the Antarctic, you might think, but when we went down there (on Fram!) this February, it was the end of their summer season, and ice was not a huge problem.

 

Fram in Antarctica was a very good experience. You cannot guarantee the weather, but they do their utmost to find somewhere you can land. We were extremely lucky compared with what we've heard about other trips/other ships. Landings are very well organised, and the expedition staff were good. The only down side that we found was that bar prices on board are very high, so you need to consider buying spirits/wines (if required - to drink in your cabin only) before boarding, or just work on the basis that if the trip is worth paying a large amount for, then the drink is, too! Our view at the end of the trip was that it far surpassed all of our expectations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dinner is not invariably waiter service, and can be a buffet meal, depending on what other pressures there are on the staff, and whether the ship is at a port at dinner time. I didn't keep records, but certainly 24 and 25 December 2010 dinner on Lofoten was a buffet (and a splendid one at that).

 

We have done the round trip both on Lofoten and Nordstjernen, and would willingly go back on either. They are extremely friendly, and you get more chance to get to know people.

 

It looks like you traveled late December. Was the darkness much of an issue? I generally do a lot of research before a trip and for the Northern Lights one I've made a matrix of the times in port, sunrise, sunset, and noon sun position, and even though we will be above the arctic circle much of the time, it looks like we will have at least dusk each day. Is that true?

 

Thanks everyone, you're experiences are really helpful!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dinner is not invariably waiter service, and can be a buffet meal, depending on what other pressures there are on the staff, and whether the ship is at a port at dinner time. I didn't keep records, but certainly 24 and 25 December 2010 dinner on Lofoten was a buffet (and a splendid one at that).

Yes this is right, dinner can be buffet meal sometimes, but the situation is similar on the older ships and newer ships, there is no particular differences between ships regarding dinner arrangements, as you say it depends mostly on the day's specifics. I was on the MS Polarlys at the same time you were on the Lofoten and we did have buffet dinner for Christmas as well. But most of the dinners were seating/waiter service style.

I fully agree with you also about MS Fram in Antarctica.

 

Regarding the darkness in December, during the Christmas voyage we had some "daylight" every day even above the arctic circle. The sun doesn't come out but you can still see its light, pretty much like a long-lasting dawn followed by a similarly long sunset. At the northernmost point we had this light from around 10 am to around 2 pm. There is enough light to see quite well outside, and the colours in the sky and on the snowy mountains are stunning (however this is true only when the sky is clear. If you have clouds, then the "day" is much darker). And when night really falls, you can see the Northern Lights right away (we have seen some as early as 4.30pm).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Regarding the darkness in December, during the Christmas voyage we had some "daylight" every day even above the arctic circle. The sun doesn't come out but you can still see its light, pretty much like a long-lasting dawn followed by a similarly long sunset. At the northernmost point we had this light from around 10 am to around 2 pm. There is enough light to see quite well outside, and the colours in the sky and on the snowy mountains are stunning (however this is true only when the sky is clear. If you have clouds, then the "day" is much darker). And when night really falls, you can see the Northern Lights right away (we have seen some as early as 4.30pm).

 

Fabulous! That's what I thought, but then I started to doubt myself thinking it might be darkness for 24 hours+. When I saw the sun's placement at noon, even though it is below the horizon, it seemed as though there would still be some lightness and potentially beautiful colors in the sky - I just love seeing the sky at sunset and sunrise.

 

I'm getting ready to look at some more of your blog postings - I may ask you some more questions there - you have been a wonderful help - merci!

Edited by RSF Cruiser

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SarniaLo - I just went through all of your 2010 and 2011 Norway blog postings. Your pictures are beautiful. We, too, spent three days in Lofoten in the summer of 2009, and can't wait to see it in the winter - I thought Lofoten was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. The approach by ferry looked like a movie set.

 

Thank you so much for including your blog link.

Edited by RSF Cruiser

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
SarniaLo - I just went through all of your 2010 and 2011 Norway blog postings. Your pictures are beautiful. We, too, spent three days in Lofoten in the summer of 2009, and can't wait to see it in the winter - I thought Lofoten was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. The approach by ferry looked like a movie set.

Thank you so much for your comments on my pictures.

 

Regarding Lofoten, it is good that you have already been there, because during winter the Hurtigruten ship is in Lofoten only during the night and you miss a lot of the scenery, unfortunately. However, since we had nice weather (ie little wind) we were able to be outside at the bow during the crossing of the Raftsundet (very narrow passage between Lofoten and Vesteraalen) and it was quite a magical experience, even at night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, indeed, you do not get a lot of daylight at the end of December. It is a sort of twilight that lasts for up to 4 hours in the far north. The colours within that twilight are something different themselves, and as has been said, on a clear day, the Northern Lights can come out to play very early.

 

Even where the sun does not manage to show itself, you can get some really good sunset effects.

 

The 1990s built ships are most like the Fram, around 480 passengers in cabins, but the total they can take at any one time is 691. We love the old, much smaller ones, because you get so much more of a feeling of being part of a proper working ship. The menus are the same on all of them, though they may not have the same dish on the same day as you.

 

Sorry, one error I put in about Fram was her passenger complement. This is only 300 in the Antarctic (there were about 280 on board on our trip, plus expedition staff, etc.). When there are only 100 people at a time allowed ashore, it is good to have a small number. As I said, shore excursions were well organised, in small groups. If your group is off the ship in the first batch on day 1, you will be in the last batch on day 2 - they are kept in strict order so everyone gets a fair deal - no scrabbling at gangways or doors required.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We too are looking into the Northern Lights cruise on Hurtigruten.

Has anyone done the Photography or Astronomy Cruise.

We would like to go to the Glass igloos at Hotel Kakslauttanen afterwords.

 

 

:rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My wife and I are booked on Lofoten, August 6, 12 day passage. Like SarniaLo we like the "intimate" feeling of a relatively small ship. We are booked into cabin 400! Liked seeing SarniaLo's pictures.

 

Will be staying at the Bergen hostel, "Montana", 15 minutes by bus from town. 2 bed private room with toilet and shower, plus small breakfast for the 2 of us is 820NOK.

 

No one has commented on ship excursions. I'm thinking of Russian border and possibly Lofoten islands. Any reccomendations? and why?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi CaptnKen, We have just returned from Scandinavia where we took the Polarlys from Bergen to Bergen and other than the two ships you mentioned most of the other ships are all exactly the same in size as Polarlys, but may change in configuration of some of their state rooms. There are 2 much older ships, one of which is going to be retired very soon, and these do not have stabilizers, so beware if sea sickness is an issue.

About the Finnmarken, they have rented her out to an Australian mining company for use as accommodation, because it is so scarce on the west coast of Australia. So she is no longer being used, but the Midnatsol and Trollfjord are bigger, take more passengers and therefore have more suites, hot tubs etc. All ships call into the same ports and you are always passing one along the way and their presence is heralded by the tooting of the ships horn and sometimes waving of white napkins on the deck!!!!

I can honestly say I have never met a happier crew than on Polarlys and from the Captain down everyone was wonderful, visible and easily approached. I could thoroughly recommend this ship I think some of the other ships in this range of ships also have hot tubs so if that is something you might be interested in, especially in winter, then ask about those ships.

Most of the passengers on our trip in March were Germans, but there was an Advantage group from USA, 7 Brits, 3 Australians (us and one other gentleman) then a few French, Italian and a few from Scandinavia.

Polarlys and this trip amongst the Norwegian Fjords was everything we were hoping for and more. You will loooooove it

Hope that helps and if you have any other questions, please dont hesitate to ask

Cheers, Wendy and David

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just posted a new thread asking about cloud cover for a mid Feb Hurtigruten cruise. Is that why you failed to see lights? MWT is offereing a lights focused cruise on the Finnmarken for Feb.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I just posted a new thread asking about cloud cover for a mid Feb Hurtigruten cruise. Is that why you failed to see lights? MWT is offereing a lights focused cruise on the Finnmarken for Feb.

Several of our Norway trips have been in February and, like most places, the weather changes from day-to-day. The aurora forecast/appearance is also variable. I must say that most of the time we've had clear arctic skies or limited cloud. Sometimes a few clouds make the experience even better.

 

These photos were taken between February/April 2012 and the lights were seen on several nights although not in these photos but it will hopefully give you a better idea of the different skies.

 

a. Alta (Marco Polo)

b. Arctic (Finnmarken)

c. Tromsø (Boudicca)

More photos

 

7384686808_04efed7c16.jpg

 

7409029872_777ed41e13.jpg

 

6823425022_414f8aaba1.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We did the trip from Kirkenes to Bergen in September this year on the Nordnorge. We were fortunate enough to get a great deal on a mini suite which was great. There is not a lot to do on these ships besides eat and read. One of the ports we were in for only 10 minutes (if that) so you cannot always get off in each port. We did see the northern lights twice while on board. The first night of the cruise they appeared (during dinner) and we were quite excited because that was the main reason we were on the cruise. 2 nights later the appeared again around 9.30 pm and were out until 12.00 and they were spectacular. There were only about 20 of us on the top deck around midnight and that is when the most amazing display happened. The entire sky seemed to be one huge curtain waving in the breeze, greens to purples, such an amazing sight, and when it was over a huge cheer went up from all up top.

As to the cruise we found it to be good although some of the wait staff (a couple of men in particular) were very disinterested. We would come in to breakfast or lunch and one of the men in particular could be seen making himself a cup of coffee and then wandering down the back to look at the scenery, you were offered one drink and then he would just walk past the tables looking straight ahead so as not to catch anyone's eye and certainly not to clear any plates. There was also a younger man who was almost as bad.

The viewing areas were really good and it was nice to sit and read and look at the scenery but if you are an active person this cruise probably isn't for you. We had a good time and were happy we did it but we would not do it again and were glad we only did one way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • SAIL-AWAY GIVEAWAY - Enter for a chance to win a $3,000 Norwegian Cruise Line Gift Card
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...