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A friend and I are discussing Hurtigruten as we'd both like to see some of Norway. From what I've been reading, it really isn't that similar to a main stream cruise line. Could someone explain the similarities and differences?

TYIA.

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Hurtigruten's Coastal Express ships are working ships. The line was originally set up (120 years ago) as a way to reach the Northernmost part of Norway in the winter, when it was impossible to go by land. Today, although this necessity is not as pressing (there are roads and airport), Hurtigruten is still a passenger/cargo transport line. A ship leaves Bergen everyday to go to the Northernmost part of Norway (Kirkenes, near the russian border) and back, stopping at 34 ports along the way. There is a stop about every 4/5 hours, day and night. The ports visited during the night on the Northbound voyage are visited during the day in the Southbound voyage, so both ways are different.

 

Because of that, the ship is always close to the coast line, cruising most of the time between the islands and the coast, going through (and not around) the Lofoten Islands for instance. You can experience the landscape and the lights at every moment. The map on this blog is quite explicit I think :

http://arctique-antarctique-hurtigruten.blogspot.fr/p/pourquoi.html

(the text is in French but the maps don't need translation I think. "Nordkapp" is one of Hurtigruten's ships). If you want to see the best of Norway has to offer in landscape and nature, I believe it is really the best option. From April 15th to September 15th the ships go into the Geirangerfjord (one of the most beautiful fjord in Norway). In the winter you can experience the Northern Lights. In the summer you can enjoy the midnight sun.

 

The ships are small (usually no more than 200/300 long-term passengers, + of course all the local traffic, Norwegians take the ship from one port to the next as we would take the train - it can provide interesting meetings). There are 11 different ships on the line, with different atmosphere, from the so charming MS Lofoten (build in 1963) to the modern MS Trollfjord and MS Midnatsol (build in the early 2000s). They are seaworthy boats, but warm, confortable and cozy. The cabins are a bit on the small side, but also confortable. The atmosphere on board is very casual and relaxed.

 

There is little to none animation on board, the show is outside, the landscape, the lights, the colors. You can enjoy it either from the outside decks, or from inside lounges. The recent ships have wonderful panorama lounge with floor to ceiling glass panels. The food is good.

 

The stops in the port of calls vary in duration from 15 minutes (in some small towns) to several hours for the main cities (Alesund, Trondheim, Tromso...) which allows for some visits. There is also a wide range of excursion set up if you want to see more of Norway from the inside. They are usually of good quality, but you have to pay for them on top of your cruise.

 

I love this trip. I have been there 4 times already (once in the spring and three times in the winter), and I'm booked for the next one next september. If you are a nature or landscape lovers, if you want to discover Norway's hidden gems and see places that no other cruise ship go to, at times no other cruise ship go, if you have a bit of a contemplative mind, then go for it. But I've seen people disappointed because they expected an experience close to that of another cruise ship, so it's a good thing to know what to expect.

 

If you are interested I have some trips stories and pictures on my blog :

February 2013 starts here (and still not finished, oops) : http://voyageterremer.blogspot.com/2013/02/bergen-le-depart.html

March 2012 starts here : http://voyageterremer.blogspot.com/2012/03/oslo-bergen-en-train-pour-changer.html

And Christmas 2010 starts here (with text in French only, but hopefully evocative pictures) : http://voyageterremer.blogspot.com/2010/12/bergen.html

 

If you have any other questions I'll be happy to try and answer. There are other Hurtigruten afficionados on this board as well! ;)

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If you travel with Hurtigruten you are basically hitching a lift on Norway's coastal delivery system. The ships are comfortable but don't offer a cruise in the usual meaning of the word. For example, there's no show in a theatre each night. If you want a show then you look out from the ship at the landscape and the sky.

 

In recent years Hurtigruten have increased their excursions offering and it's possible to visit interesting places ashore during the voyage. Some can be accomplished in port, on others you start the excursion in one port and rejoin the ship at the next.

 

The voyage ('cruise') is a 24 hour a day operation which means that some ports are visited during the night. If you want to see all of the ports during daylight hours, and the stops in some amount to just a few minutes, then you need to do the whole round trip as the northbound night ports are visited in the day going south and vice-versa.

 

Having done just part of the round trip previously, we're going back for the rest next week.

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I, too, have taken the round trip voyage - on the Midnatsol - last December/January and absolutely loved the experience. I've also taken many traditional cruises on mass market cruise lines and loved them, but for different reasons.

 

Read the Hurtigruten reviews posted on CruiseCritic - people who expected a traditional cruise, were disappointed with Hurtigruten. You will read complaints that the ship stopped at port in the middle of the night, or for only 10-15 minutes. These people did not realize they were traveling on a ferry that also offers cabins for tourists. There are complaints about the entertainment (there is no entertainment expect for a singer/piano player in the bar area). The primary entertainment is the scenery - which is incredible. Day or night, there was always something magnificent to look at. Passengers who understand what Hurtigruten has to offer, and who want to see remote areas of Norway, love the trip.

 

We were pleasantly surprised with our accommodations. The Midnatsol is one of the newer ships and has two hot tubs. Every evening we sat there for hours and watched the beautiful scenery pass by. the dining room is quite pretty, the service good, and we liked the food. If you want food between meals, there's a small cafeteria with a variety of items. There's a well stocked gift shop, and several public areas. And there's ample deck areas for viewing the scenery. since even the largest ships are not that large, places were rarely crowded.

 

So, I'd say, based on my experience on the Midnatsol, there are some similarities to a mass market cruise line - nice dining room, gift shop, and pleasantly appointed public spaces. and there are major differences - food is not available 24 hours a day, scenery is available 24 hours a day, and there's a wonderful mixture of international travelers who value nature. I can't wait to do the trip again in another season.

Edited by RSF Cruiser

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Thank you all 3 of you! Your explanations were just what I was looking for, and somewhat what I expected. I will definitely plan to take a round trip cruise in the future...now I have to decide at what time of year!

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now I have to decide at what time of year!

Ah, big question! :p

I have done my first trip at the beginning of spring (second half of April) and I thought it was a great period for a first trip. You don't get the midnight sun (nor the Northern lights) but in the North the nights are already very short (not even completely dark) and you have very long days so you can enjoy a lot of the landscape. Also, it is spring in the South, but still looking like winter in the North, with snow on the mountains, so you get two seasons for the price of one. It is a bit less crowded (and a bit cheaper) than summer but you still get to enter the Geirangerfjord.

Then my next three trips were in the winter, because I've become addicted to the Northern Lights and to the incredible winter lights... And my next trip will be in the fall. The problem with this trip, if you enjoy it the first time, you will want to come back again, at another period. All my trips have been different.

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Hi SarniaLo,

There are some comments in the river cruising forum right now about Tom Harper cruises, (a new company) with some negative comments about Hurtigruten...Also, I looked at your blog, unfortunately my French is rather rusty (from classes 40 years ago!) but I am currently taking a conversational French course in prep for a trip I'm making to Paris in December! You've given me a lot to think about concerning when to go...thank you!

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There are some comments in the river cruising forum right now about Tom Harper cruises, (a new company) with some negative comments about Hurtigruten...

Along which lines? As previously mentionned by RSF Cruiser, pretty often people who have negative comments about Hurtigruten are people who were not fully aware of how Hurtigruten is different from a a more "traditional" cruise. I understand it is not a trip to everybody's taste, and it's good to know what to expect.

Also, I looked at your blog, unfortunately my French is rather rusty (from classes 40 years ago!) !

The trip reports for March 2012 and February 2013 (the latest being still not finished...) have text both in French and English.

I wish you a great trip in Paris! How long will you be there?

Edited by SarniaLo

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I had just realized your post is bilingual! Thank you. Will be in Paris for a week on a river cruise that goes to Rouen and back.

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I had just realized your post is bilingual! Thank you. Will be in Paris for a week on a river cruise that goes to Rouen and back.

And you can use Google Translate for earlier posts that are in only French.

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We've been to Norway 3 times, all on large cruise ships. The scenery was magnificent and the spring/summer weather was beautiful. The problem for us was that so many places we would like to see close up (like the Lofoten Islands), were viewed from over 10 miles away. Also, we were only able to visit the tourist hotspots, where, if we took an excursion, we were taken to overcrowded shops, selling mostly touristy things. We have also become a bit bored by the "dress to impress" evenings on cruise ships.

We often hop on some of the many island supply ships that ply the Western and Northern Islands of Scotland and love the ever-changing scenery that the larger cruise ships can never reach. We love the hustle and bustle of the local people and traffic at the island ports and the relaxed, easy-going life on board these little ships.

From what the Hurtigruten regulars on here say, a trip with Hurtigruten will be similar in many ways and we are so looking forward to our journey on the Nordnorge in February/March. If we see the Northern Lights, it will be great, but we see this as an amazing adventure into the unknown (for us), at a time of year we have never sailed before. I'm perfectly happy to get out of bed in the middle of the night to watch the ship dock at a small port or to see the scenery pass by in moonlight.

Edited by BORDER REIVER

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Thanks, all. It sounds definitely like something I'd love to do, unfortunately it may have to wait for 2015 or maybe late 2014. Meanwhile, I'll continue to read these boards.

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Hurtigruten is definitely not a cruise but it's brilliant in it's own way. We Sailed Jan/Feb 2012 on the Richard With, Bergen to Bergen 12 day sailing. The scenery is fantastic, the remoteness is such a different experience and of course seeing the Northern Lights is a great experience. Do go full board as I think people went a little hungry during the days ( as paying for lunch was exy ) and be prepared on the odd bouncy night on board. This is one of our favorite hols ever and hope to do it again one day.

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I am a Hurtigruten novice with only 3 winter return trips under my belt. I have met passengers with 5,10 and even 30 plus trips taken. Be warned once you go you will want to return. I know I do want another trip subject to the classic ships still being in service.

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Hurtigruten gets into your blood. I have done six star cruise lines, however hurtigruten up and down the Norrway coastline is far and above the experience you will feel on any cruise line. The ships stop at the most remote villages/ports and you feel part of Norway. In a way I hope that they do not get more ships that cruise up there. River cruising in Europe is starting to be way too crowded when you have to go through four ships to get to your ship.

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You were all so encouraging that my friend and I have reserved a spot on the Richard With for late November into December and are very excited! We wanted the midnitsol but dates just didn't work. We are flying in to Oslo and staying overnight, following day going on the train to Bergen. Flights to and from Bergen, or even Oslo, seem to be very complicated from the US! Any other on ship tips? Favorite excursions? Thank you.

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You were all so encouraging that my friend and I have reserved a spot on the Richard With for late November into December and are very excited! We wanted the midnitsol but dates just didn't work. We are flying in to Oslo and staying overnight, following day going on the train to Bergen. Flights to and from Bergen, or even Oslo, seem to be very complicated from the US! Any other on ship tips? Favorite excursions? Thank you.

 

Glad you decided to try Hurtigruten!

 

We flew from the US (San Diego - Dallas - Heathrow - Oslo) and took the 8:00 AM train to Bergen. For the return train ride, we did the overnight train with a sleeper compartment, and transferred trains in central Oslo for the airport. We then had about a three or four hour layover at the airport for our flight back to the US (Oslo-Heathrow-San Diego). The train got to the airport a bit too late to catch the 7:30-ish AM flights, so we had to get a flight out of Oslo around 11:30 AM. Plenty of time for last minute shopping, especially for candy...

 

I realize you didn't ask for information on traveling between Bergen and Oslo, but thought our experience might be helpful :-) Let me know if you have any questions... the train web sight is pretty easy, although, if I remember correctly, it wouldn't accept American credit cards, so our Norwegian friends had to make our reservations.

 

Doing the return to Oslo this way gave us another day for sightseeing in Bergen, and getting to the Oslo airport was really simple.

 

We are big walkers, so we walked from the Hurtigruten dock to the train station - there was a long line for taxis. Also, there are lockers at the Bergen train station to store your luggage, and we then had another day in Bergen after the boat returned.

 

What kind of excursions are you interested in? The Hurtigruten reviews on cruisecritic have lots of good information. My favorite excursion was the dog sled ride in Kirkenes - we got to tour the ice hotel, walk around the grounds and see the reindeer, and ride the dog sled. We also did the Viking Feast - it was cute and enjoyable, but I don't think I'd do that one again. We also did the midnight concert at the Arctic Cathedral - loved it. In the rest of the ports we walked around town and loved it.

Edited by RSF Cruiser

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Thank you RSF! My friend is coming from San Francisco and I from Boston. What airline did you fly? Wo took the package from Hurtigruten for the day we arrive in Oslo...we will have to look into taking the train back to Oslo on our own. Complicating things is we want to then fly to Amsterdam for a Rhine River Christmas market cruise to Basel, then go home. Cost for air might be too, too much.

Interesting comment from you on the Viking feast...is it worth it for us to do just this one time? I talked to a Hurtigruten rep at a travel show recently and he recommended that and some others. I've done sled dogs elsewhere and may skip that but will definitely look into your other suggestions.

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We flew American/British Air between San Diego and Heathrow, and I forget which airline we had to Oslo - SAS? We made the reservations through the AA website. Not sure how it will work with one of you on the west coast, and the other on the east coast. Two of the people in our party came from New Jersey and they flew United non-stop to Oslo.

 

I guess it depends what you like if the Viking Feast is worth it. There were six of us including two Norwegians, and everyone had a nice time. The dinner is a re-enactment of a Viking feast, so it has a Disney-like feel to it. The food was good and interesting, and our "hosts" were gracious, so it's probably worth doing once. I was the least keen on our group about going.

 

We had previously done a dog sledding trip in Juno, Alaska, and the experience in Kirkenes was different. First off, we got to the dogs by bus and not a helicopter. The ride was during twilight since the sun was not above the horizon - made for interesting views as we rode around the frozen lake. I was interested in seeing the ice hotel and really enjoy sled rides. There's also a sled ride in Tromso, but it got cancelled for our trip - not enough snow or something like that. I don't know how that excursion compares, but there isn't an ice hotel there.

 

Oh, and we went to the ice sculpture display in Svolvaer. It's right at the dock and very interesting.

 

Hurtigruten provided a guide book and maps while on the trip. There are lots of interesting walks in each of the ports, even if you have only a few minutes. We had the advantage of traveling with two Norwegians who were familiar with some of the ports. Most Norwegians speak English and the people in the communities were very friendly and gave us directions. Plus the staff on the boat are pretty good.

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Thanks again...will definitely look into the sledding and ice palace, and the Arctic cathedral. It turns out we will probably fly in and out of Amsterdam but fly to Oslo, then back to Amsterdam...My area has quite a few Norwegians due to the fishing industry, but no direct flights...thank you for your advice.

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Flights to and from Bergen, or even Oslo, seem to be very complicated from the US!

 

I'm not sure why you call them "very complicated"--obviously you have a reason. Most flights connect in Copenhagen, and there are direct flights there from many U.S. cities.

 

It is probably easier to fly into Oslo than into Bergen--and both cities have a lot to offer.

 

Now all I have to do is book a Hurtigruten voyage. (I've been to Norway maybe a dozen times, mostly visiting friends, but never took the trip. Soon, though...)

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Glad this thread is still active. I've been looking at this voyage for at least ten years. Hoping for perhaps 2015. My mom did it in the 70's, and I've wanted to ever since.

 

I've always thought about spring, because of the long days, but wondering about late September, early October. Don't really want cold weather, but have been to Alaska so I know how that goes.

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Hi Wendy...

I read all your postings on the Oceania CC site...only 2 weeks until my Riviera cruise...

My friend and I booked a Hurtigruten cruise leaving Bergen on Dec. 1...we're looking for the northern lights and figure the whole cruise will be so, so different from O or other cruise lines...it will be an adventure. I've got all my air booked (flying to Amsterdam for a Rhine cruise after the H cruise!) and am very excited. I'm not really interested in cold either, especially since our NE weather has been awful this year, but, as I said...an adventure!

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Friends of mine took the trip in the fall, and there wasn't much snow in the mountains. They thought spring would have been better - snow in the mountains, daylight and night, and warmer temps

 

Thought I'd pass on the observation. I've been to Norway in the summer and winter. Took Hurtigruten only in Dec-Jan and hope to do it again some March or April.

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Hi Wendy...

I read all your postings on the Oceania CC site...only 2 weeks until my Riviera cruise...

My friend and I booked a Hurtigruten cruise leaving Bergen on Dec. 1...we're looking for the northern lights and figure the whole cruise will be so, so different from O or other cruise lines...it will be an adventure. I've got all my air booked (flying to Amsterdam for a Rhine cruise after the H cruise!) and am very excited. I'm not really interested in cold either, especially since our NE weather has been awful this year, but, as I said...an adventure!

 

Hi! I'm sure you'll have a great trip on riviera.

 

I've only ever been to Norway in November, that was a land trip, but we drove as far north as Lillehammer and over to Alesund and Geiranger. The countryside was beautiful--gold and green. But the weather was chilly.

 

I'm sure it will be an adventure, and you can't really predict what kind of weather you will have.

 

I've always thought of doing it in May, a shoulder season. But that may not suit us right now, so will have to think about September. Perhaps next year. This September we're going back to French Polynesia on the Paul Gauguin.

 

As much as I would love to see the Northern Lights, I don't think that kind of trip is for us. As for snow, don't ever want to see it again!

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