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Trip Report MS Nordnorge Sep 25-Oct 5, 2016

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What: Hurtigruten MS Nordnorge Expedition Voyage

Where: Coast of Norway, Bergen to Trondheim

When: Sep 25 to Oct 5, 2016

Who: Maria 53 yo solo traveler

Experience: Very. This was my 18th cruise, first on Hurtigruten.

 

I'd had my heart set on seeing Norway and the fjords along the way. A Norwegian friend of mine Knut told me "You want Hurtigruten." I have Knut to thank for the BEST vacation I've had in my life. I've taken many, many vacations. This one just topped all. One big caveat though....I realize my experience will not be everyone's. If you just sit on the ship and don't do excursions, you might be bored. I did EVERYTHING I could, attended every lecture, topside point of interest, did as many excursions as humanly possible, actively ENGAGED and met and talked with people and shared those experiences with many new friends. I ran myself ragged and it was worth every second.

 

But let's start at the beginning. The cruise industry in America is huge. And Americans have an idea of what a cruise is like. And even for those who have cruised many times, as I have, throw most of it out the window when it comes to Hurtigruten. I did my research and knew this and was happy to do it. If you can only do high end or require constant pampering and nonstop entertaining and pizza and chicken fingers, this is not for you! And I do sail high end, but you can't pigeon hole me. I can go both ways. LOL

 

Food

 

I loved the food. I am not a picky eater. I ate and tried everything, no matter how unusual. If you take this approach you will love it.

 

Breakfast and lunch was buffet style. At certain hours it was a little crowded but here on board, as in most of Europe, you just ask if a seat is free at a table someone is already sitting at! With this approach, I always found a spot and made new friends while I was at it. It was a nonissue for me. But if you're loathe to ask and need your own table, well, you might wait a bit.

There were many, many choices, some unusual and I loved trying new things. What you won't find, thank goodness, is chicken fingers, pizza and other things that many American centric cruises have. There were vegetarian options. The breads I found delicious.

 

Except for the first night, dinner is a set time and table. There were 2 seatings on my sailing. Dinner is a 3 course set menu, which is posted ahead of time. Portions are small but beautifully plated. Again, you're best off if you can eat what's put in front of you. However, I did talk to the restaurant manager on how they handled people not liking what was offered. She said they can and do make something else. So if you see something you don't like or are allergic to on the menu, they can make a substitution. I did find a vegetarian on board and she said she told them when she booked and then once again when she boarded and that she felt her dinners were wonderful, varied and beautifully done. I love that they source everything locally. They'd list the farm/ranch/area the meat/fish, etc was from.

 

When I first read cruise critic about Hurtigruten I was confused as there was much angst about paying for water and coffee. Tap water is FREE folks and I drank tap water in Copenhagen, my previous stop before Norway, and I drank it all through Norway. The water is delicious. Yes you pay for bottled water. I bought exactly two bottles first day so I'd have the empty bottles to refill with tap water when I went hiking! I asked for and received carafes of tap water at every meal. It wasn't a big deal. For breakfast and lunch, there is a coffee machine, self serve. For dinner, they have you go upstairs to a bar/lounge for FREE coffee after dinner. I think this is more to clear the dining room to reset for next seating. It's true that between meals, you would buy/pay for coffee. And I did if I wanted it. These two things are really nonissues for me.

 

Passengers

 

Passengers on the cruise were mostly German but with people from all over the world, including the US, Norway, Holland, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, the UK and Spain to name a few. Decidedly skewed to older, maybe 50'ish and up? I'm terrible with telling age. But the numbers mean nothing. The fitness level of older passengers was astounding. I had two 70 something folks hiking with me, one from the UK and one from Germany, who could outlast me hands down!! I did see some younger families making the trip between towns.

 

The ports and excursions

 

I sailed from Bergen northbound to Kirkenes, then southbound to Trondheim. Many people do one way northbound or southbound. On traditional cruises you sail to a spot, are there 1/2 day or all day, then you sail overnight somewhere else.

 

Hurtigruten sails pretty much the same route all the time, much like our trains or busses would, with a set time schedule. They ARE still a coastal ferry, transporting people and goods up and down the coast. Norwegians use it to get between to cities, often driving the car aboard. You aren't required to book a cabin for short trips. So yes, on occasion you see someone asleep in a lounge. But how is that different than me falling asleep in the lounge? LOL Many stops are 15 minutes and they do make stops through the night. Watching the cars drive on and the forklifts offload and onload cargo in those brief stops is amazing!!

People who only use the ship as a ferry have to buy food and aren't eating in the dining room we have, but in a cafeteria. But I saw many bring their own snacks, etc.

 

For the short stops, 15 to 30 mins, sometimes I'd get off to just walk around for a few minutes. It was the longer stops that offered excursions. So there were often excursions where you got off at one port, did your activity and then the bus took you to the next port to meet up with the ship. As one who usually books excursions separately from a traditional cruise ship, I can say there's NO WAY you could do this on a Hurtigruten cruise. But I loved every excursion I did. Yes they were pricey but they added immeasurably to my trip!! If you don't do excursions, you miss out on so much, much like Alaska!

 

The scenery is out of a magazine. It's all so incredibly beautiful and when the sun shines a certain way, it's breathtaking. I took lots of photo and video. Sunrises, sunsets, all beautiful.

 

I did a hike to a shielig in Hjorunfjord, little town called Urke. Loved it.

Walked around Alesund on my own for a short stop.

In Trondheim I did a mountain hike. Fantastic

In Bodo I did the Saltstraumen RIB safari. Lots of fun!

I became a Blue Nose during the Arctic circle northbound crossing ceremony! I was properly baptised! It was hilarous!

I did a Viking Feast in Stamsund.

I did another hike in Tromso.

I visited the North Cape and also a Sami family.

I did a King Crab expedition in Kirkenes and gorged myself on freshly steamed crab legs and claws!

I visited the witches memorial in Vardo.

I did a hike in Hammerfest and attended a midnight concert back in Tromso.

I did a Sea Eagle Safari and hiked in Lofoten in the dark with headlamps.

I did a lovely walk in Bronnysund.

 

I did it all and absolutely LOVED EVERY MINUTE of it!

 

On Solo traveling

I wanted to talk about solo traveling.

I find it interesting that the only people that made any sort of remark or exclamation about me being alone had been American. "Oh you're the one traveling ALONE!" LOL

I may have been alone on this trip but I've never felt lonely. Ever.

In Copenhagen and Bergen I had my Airbnb hosts to talk to. I had the shared table dinner in Copenhagen. Talking to the nice kid at the bar in Copenhagen.

On the ship I've made many new friends and acquaintances. They're from Holland, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, England, Italy, Spain.

And we've had so many lovely conversations, shared laughs and outright glee and excitement. We've bonded over experiences.

Sometimes there are language issues but more often than not it doesn't matter. In fact it's funny to laugh at. On one hike my lovely German friend was saying there were "baer." I said, "Oh, there are bears here!?" Well "baer" is the German word for berry....she was just saying she saw lots of berries! I couldn't stop laughing at myself and it was a very funny moment.

So...I'm not alone, not really. I make a point to reach out and be friendly and always find folks who respond in kind.

 

 

Weather

 

We had picture perfect fall weather, daytime highs of 50's, pushing 60 to nighttime lows 35 to 40. Only cloudy days were at Hammerfest. As the ship moves of course it's windy and thats' what you really need your layers for. I got it right for once! LOL I had a wool snug fitting underlayer, a second zipped layer with a hood and a third layer being a wind proof water proof anorak with a hood. I had a hat and gloves and a scarf. When hiking, most came off. While on deck you needed them all. Only once did I really need my heavy coat to use as my third layer and that was on North Cape and only because of the wind. I also wore my over the pants thin windproof pants that day.

 

The ship sails in protected waters 90% of the time. The ocean is like glass most of the time with very little noticeable ship movement. There are several hour spots to overnight where we have the brunt of the Barent Sea. This of course caused some pretty good movement of the ship in those affected the waters. I love feeling the ship move so I was ok.

 

 

The Aurora Borealis

 

I would be amiss if I did not talk about the northern lights all on it's own. We got to see Lady Aurora 5 NIGHTS!!! It was incredible and one of the highlights of my life watching them!

I was saying watching the sky through the camera felt like looking at some of those incredible hubble telescope photos.

To the naked eye however they're not colorful. A fellow traveler and I have been trying to come up with eloquent descriptions of the Aurora to the naked eye. It goes something like this.

Imagine a brightly lit moon. Now imagine wispy, serpentine, misty clouds suddenly appearing. And imagine they are backlit by the moon. It can appear as foggy airplane entrails or as the lovely folding panels of white. They appear, intensify in density and disappear. But again it's looking like back lit clouds against a black sky. Every so often you may see a faint prism of color but it's ephemeral just as the lights are.

They come in bursts. The entire sky was filled with these ghostly spectres,appearing and disappearing at will. But to the naked eye is all smoky whitish and grey but just as lovely as the spectacular camera images.

It's truly magical to watch!

 

The Expedition Team

Lastly, my voyage would definitely NOT have been the same without the most excellent expedition team of Tone, Giske, Rebecka and Tom. These four really made this trip incredibly special. There were lectures on fjord formation and strand flat formation, arctic birds. Up on deck they would do "points of interest" on places we were passing. They entertained us with stories, songs, history, art. As far as "entertainment", Tone's storytelling was wonderful. The gatherings they did almost nightly were very informative, and always included learning a new Norwegian word, seeing a slideshow on Norwegian art presented with Norwegian music. I learned about Norwegian explorers, Amundsen, Nansen and Sverdrup to name a few. I gained appreciation for the Fram expeditions. They went on hikes with us. These four truly added so much to this voyage!!

 

I loved this trip so much and I hope others do too! I'm happy to answer any questions.

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Absolutely loved your comments. Interesting about the tap water, I never saw any at dinner on my coastal cruise 2 years ago. Shall check it out in May on my next cruise. When I was on board there were only 4 Americans, mostly German and Norwegian folks. I agree about solo travel...off to Sicily next week for this solo traveler. Marleton...down the shore, right?

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Absolutely loved your comments. Interesting about the tap water, I never saw any at dinner on my coastal cruise 2 years ago. Shall check it out in May on my next cruise. When I was on board there were only 4 Americans, mostly German and Norwegian folks. I agree about solo travel...off to Sicily next week for this solo traveler. Marleton...down the shore, right?

 

Hi Barrheadlass!

 

When they came around asking if you wanted water, I asked for tap water and another table mate and I had carafes of it!

 

Marlton is about 1 hour west of the shore, closer to Philadelphia.

 

Enjoy Sicily!

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Thanks for your very complete review. Another solo traveler here, and your experience mirrored much of mine in May 2015 on the Trollfjord (although I did the round trip from Bergen). We of course did not get any northern lights. I also did AirBnB in Bergen, and in Oslo on my trip, and enjoyed the train trip between these two cities both ways.

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Thank you for the wonderful trip report. It is very detailed and helpful. My question is: were you on a regular coastal cruise that Hurtigruten starts every day from Bergen or on one of the special "expedition" cruises that they run occasionally? I understand from their website that I can sign up for many excursions on any of the cruises, but it is not clear if on-board activities that you mention are regularly available. Do I need to find one of their special cruises?

 

Thanks for your help.

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Loved reading your trip report. We are going in September next year so will be very similar I hope. Did you book your excursions prior to sailing or whilst on board? Thank you

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Hi Maria. Thank you for the great review. I too travel solo mostly, but went on Hurtigruten in 2005 with my brother. It was a fantastic trip but at the time I thought I would not ever be able to return to Norway. Happily, I am now planning to go back in June 2018 by myself and am considering combining a road trip with Hurtigruten by sea. Does Hurtigruten always charge double for a solo traveler on the Bergen-Kirkenes route in the summer? I have seen some lower single supplements for winter sailings but not summer. Does anyone have experience with the single supplements?

 

~Nancy

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Hi Maria. Thank you for the great review. I too travel solo mostly, but went on Hurtigruten in 2005 with my brother. It was a fantastic trip but at the time I thought I would not ever be able to return to Norway. Happily, I am now planning to go back in June 2018 by myself and am considering combining a road trip with Hurtigruten by sea. Does Hurtigruten always charge double for a solo traveler on the Bergen-Kirkenes route in the summer? I have seen some lower single supplements for winter sailings but not summer. Does anyone have experience with the single supplements?

 

~Nancy

I went on the round trip coastal voyage over New Years a few years ago, and there was no single supplement.

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Thanks RSF Cruiser. That's fantastic not to have any supplement at all! I'm suspecting that going in June may not offer such a great deal. I'm prepared to book well in advance if necessary to get a better price. I guess I'll just call my travel agent on Monday to see what she can find out.

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Thank you for the wonderful trip report. It is very detailed and helpful. My question is: were you on a regular coastal cruise that Hurtigruten starts every day from Bergen or on one of the special "expedition" cruises that they run occasionally? I understand from their website that I can sign up for many excursions on any of the cruises, but it is not clear if on-board activities that you mention are regularly available. Do I need to find one of their special cruises?

 

Thanks for your help.

 

I'm sorry for the delay in replying. I don't always check the boards every day and they won't notify me unless I'm here often!

 

I did an expedition cruise. They have special expedition teams, 4 on my ship, that really made it special for me. I'm not sure if they are available on other voyages. I highly recommend the expedition cruises...they don't run occasionally, just on specific ships. They are talking about make it system wide. It's easy to know which ships are expedition ships from the website.

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Loved reading your trip report. We are going in September next year so will be very similar I hope. Did you book your excursions prior to sailing or whilst on board? Thank you

 

I booked many ahead of time, but also booked more when on board. I wished I would have waited for all of them since she gave me a 10% discount since I booked 5 onboard.

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Hi Maria. Thank you for the great review. I too travel solo mostly, but went on Hurtigruten in 2005 with my brother. It was a fantastic trip but at the time I thought I would not ever be able to return to Norway. Happily, I am now planning to go back in June 2018 by myself and am considering combining a road trip with Hurtigruten by sea. Does Hurtigruten always charge double for a solo traveler on the Bergen-Kirkenes route in the summer? I have seen some lower single supplements for winter sailings but not summer. Does anyone have experience with the single supplements?

 

~Nancy

 

If you book within 60 days the single supplement was waived. I think this is common. I did not pay a single supplement because of this. However, they DO charge single supplements otherwise. I do often see single supplement waiver specials coming up though for certain sailings.

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Thanks for your very complete review. Another solo traveler here, and your experience mirrored much of mine in May 2015 on the Trollfjord (although I did the round trip from Bergen). We of course did not get any northern lights. I also did AirBnB in Bergen, and in Oslo on my trip, and enjoyed the train trip between these two cities both ways.

 

Hi Splinter -

 

I'm wondering if you can tell me what airline you flew? We are also in San Diego and are planning a trip for Summer 2016. From what I've seen, it looks like British Airways has the better pricing.

 

Thanks!

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Hi Splinter -

 

I'm wondering if you can tell me what airline you flew? We are also in San Diego and are planning a trip for Summer 2016. From what I've seen, it looks like British Airways has the better pricing.

 

Thanks!

 

I flew Lufthansa from Newark to Copenhagen, SAS Copenhagen to Bergen, SAS Trondheim to Oslo, Lufthansa Oslo to Philadelphia. Just see who is cheapest at the time and offering the best routes.

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Take a look at Norwegian.com

Also if you want to do a stop in Iceland, Iceland Air has special rates.

We are flying to Stockholm via Norwegian, and home via Iceland Air.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

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I booked many ahead of time, but also booked more when on board. I wished I would have waited for all of them since she gave me a 10% discount since I booked 5 onboard.

 

The danger with waiting and booking on board is that the excursion you want may be sold out. Watching it depart without you is not a good feeling.

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If you book within 60 days the single supplement was waived. I think this is common. I did not pay a single supplement because of this. However, they DO charge single supplements otherwise. I do often see single supplement waiver specials coming up though for certain sailings.

 

Thanks....hmmmm.....60 days out would be tough since I want to use airline miles to get to Oslo (from San Francisco). I guess I'll just have to decide if I

want to go ahead and wait to 60 days out and then pay for the flight or just dive in and pay the supplement! I love traveling solo but it can sure get expensive!:eek:

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Thanks....hmmmm.....60 days out would be tough since I want to use airline miles to get to Oslo (from San Francisco). I guess I'll just have to decide if I

want to go ahead and wait to 60 days out and then pay for the flight or just dive in and pay the supplement! I love traveling solo but it can sure get expensive!:eek:

 

I pick vacation dates 24 weeks ahead of time to assure my time. Once I have a date, I then went on to find out what sailings coincided with my vacation. I didn't decide until closer where I was going!

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Hi Splinter -

 

I'm wondering if you can tell me what airline you flew? We are also in San Diego and are planning a trip for Summer 2016. From what I've seen, it looks like British Airways has the better pricing.

 

Thanks!

 

I took Norwegian Air. Flew from LAX to Oslo and back for nearly 1/2 what I would have had to pay for Delta, United, SAS, etc. Non-stop polar flight, very nice plane and good service. Of course you have to drive up to LAX, but even counting the cost for this and off-airport parking, it saved me a lot of money. Flew to Oslo on a Wednesday (arriving on Thursday) and returned on a Sunday. Check them out.

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