Hurtigruten - What a cruise!
To us, this trip is Norway! A fantastic cruise along Norways long and gorgeous coastline from Bergen in the South up to Kirkenes in the North - and/or back if you like.
The trip is packed with a lot of Norway´s hightlights: Bergen, Trondheim, Ålesund, Geirangerfjord, Lofoten, Trollfjord (the narrowest fjord, in summer), Tromsø, Hammerfest, North Cape ... just to mention a few.
In addtion to enjoying the landscape Hurtigruten offers excursions every day with a different program in summer and winter, from sightseeing tours in cities to Viking dinners or dogsledding.
We have travelled with Hurtigruten 4 times so far, different parts and in different seasons and the (again) next tour is booked already.
* Bergen -> Trondheim in August MS Nordkapp
* Trondheim -> Finsness in July MS Kong Harald
* Trondheim -> Tromsø in September MS Lofoten
* Tromsø -> Kirkenes, in May 2015 MS Lofoten
* Bergen -> Ålesund, book for May MS Verstålen
It should be mentioned though, that the interior of the boats reminded us very much of the 80ies: It was for sure modern at that time...
And yes, the cabins are rather small (of course depending on boat & category) and the food & service is good, but a bit robust usually.
And last but not least, we were among the youngest passengers on board during most trips. That might be linked to costs for such a trip, so the average Hurtigruten traveller is well in his or her 60ies.
The beautiful landscape, stops at bigger and smaller cities, the very relaxing atmosphere and the activities and excursions offered make you forget about all that!
So simply RELAX - read, write, play cards, sleep, enjoy coffee or wine or whiskey (or both - the bar is well equipped) and go on excursions if you fancy that.
Very recommended, because soo charming: Travel with the MS Lofoten.
Hurtigruten´s fleet has different boats, most of them built in the 90ies and similar to the one you see on the big picture.
But, there are two, MS Vesterålen and specially MS Lofoten (built in 1964), that are older and much smaller. For our last two trips we picked the MS Lofoten, for the first time because we just were curious how that would feel. And second time: because we simply loved it!
They have kept the original style of the boat, the standard is simple, but that makes it very charming and gives it a private atmosphere. We felt like on a "real" post boat, not a cruise, being together with classmates on a school trip. The saloons are small and cosy, the staff was very friendly and helpful.
MS Lofoten also has an oldfashioned crane, so you can follow the loading and unloading of goods that are still transported by Hurtigruten to various harbours.
Besides the excursions we had some additional activities ongoing on board: polar-baptism when we crossed the polar circle (well...) and invitation from the captain to the bridge where he explained everything about how to navigate this boat.
So guess on which boat we are travelling in April from Tromsø to Kirkenes....?
Facts and figures around the tour
You can book the whole tour from Bergen to Kirkenes and back (about 6 days/per way), but also just parts of it (what we usually do). Boats leave every day from the different harbours. Taking a car on board is often possible. By booking just a 2-or 3 days trip you can integrate the cruise into your holidays and combine it with other acitvities. Or take Hurtigruten to go to the North instead of driving.
All the bigger cities on the way have airports, so to get back to Oslo is easy.
Hurtigruten travels the whole year round. Different acitivities in summer and winter.
When starting from Bergen you can take the Bergensbanen from Oslo to get there (also very recommended!).
As everything in Norway the trip on Hurtigruten is costly and counts up (food, excursion etc.). Take a shorter trip, eat in the canteen instead of the restaurant, bring a bottle of wine etc. But the trip itself as well as the excursions are worth the money.
Trip to the swash at Bodø
We love trying out new activities whenever possible.
That is why we also went for the speed boat trip to "Saltstraumen" (the worlds strongest swash they say) in Bodø, which lasts for 2 hours or so.
We were met directly at the Hurtigruten pier, where the organizers alreday waited for us with all kinds of equipement ready to be put on: Huge water and windproof "diving suits", boots and googles. We got some basic instructions and off we went!
First out of the Bodø harbour with a nice view on the city and then with a bit more speed to the swash. On the way we saw 2 big eagles, impressive mountain formations and got good explanations about the geography in that region. Apparently of huge geological meaning... *yawn*.
After "dancing" around the impressive swash we got back to the harbour, back on board the Hurtigruten with course North, towards the Lofoten islands.
Check out the different activities on Hurtigruten´s website. There is also dogsledging in the North, kayakking in Trondheim, excursion to the biggest glacier in Norway etc.
Update from 2015: Travelling with MS Lofoten from Tromsø to Kirkenes
North Cape - once more please!
Yes, we have been there before, but as it is a kind of magical place plus the weather was very good, off we went! And it was as great as the last time but with even less people but more rendeers on the way.
It had been a peaceful and quiet journey until Friday afternoon second day, just half an hour before the dinner.
A fishermen from the region we were just passing was supposed to explain about fishing in general and preparing of fish for interested people. He was brought to the Hurtigruten-boat by another RIB-boat. This went as planned even though he gets on board while the boat is going. Little action for the spectators I guess.
But when the RIB-boat left to get back to the mainland, it was hit by a strong wave the wrong way and the driver went overboard right into the ice cold water (4 degrees)!
Luckily the crew of Hurtigruten noticed that immediately, stopped the boat and lowered one of the rescue vessels to the water within a few minutes.
That was quite a shock and some people seriously thought was just an emergency exercise. But it was NOT! The guy was picked up safely and brought onto Hurtigturen to warm up.
The fish-show actually took place, by a young fellow who did it for the first time, pretty nervous, but he did a good job.
Further on to Murmansk
As Murmansk is kind of "around the corner" and we have been to Russia several times before, we were curious about this remote place on the Kola-peninsula and booked a weekend-trip.
How it was? ...interesting to say the least, falling apart to be more precise. Still: we had a nice driver, a great city guide, enjoyed Russian reindeer and Pelmeni and got a private guided tour in the first atomic icebreaker.
So what do you want more?
As we had enjoyed the first time on the MS Lofoten so very much, we of course had to do the last missing part of the Hurtigruten trip (Tromsø -> Kirkenes) with it.
Same simple cabin as last time (separate beds, no window, no privat bathroom, no nothing), same cosy salons, an aperitif every late afternoon for all guest in the polar bear salon - meaning: as charming as last time!
We left Tromsø in best weather, cold but with sunshine. We headed then towards the north enjoying first the view on the Ishavskatedralen and the Tromsø bridge, later on the Lyngen-Alps and dozends of small islands, simply a great start of the trip.
And already now, just about one month after time change (and the equinox), it doesn´t really get dark any longer here in the north.
The next day started pretty early as the Hurtigruten ship arrived at Hammerfest already at 5.15 am; and as it was one of the places in the north we hadn´t been so far, we just had to get up. We took a short walk through empty streets with nothing just us and the sun coming over the mountains.
Highlights (difficult to only a few here)
Leaving Bergen and going through all the islands north
Into the Geirangerfjord (in the summer only)
Going through the Lofoten, including the xy
Going around the North Cape from the seaside (you dont see a lot, it´s about the feel)
Enjoying a cognac or two in the bar while seeing the landscape slowly going by...
Our extra tip
Take the Bergensbahn from Oslo to Bergen (if you start in Bergen, that is)
Take an excursion here and there
Get of the boat in the various cities, would be a real shame to miss them
Good to know
The characters of the various ships are quite different so it´s worthwile to check them out on the net in beforehand
Hurtigruten has a new, rather comprehensive intranet page, check it out: hurtigruten.no
Click on the map to get to the larger, interactive one at Hurtigruten.no