Tuesday, 27 January 2015
I for one love to know the little details of adventures (where you slept, what you ate…) , so as such, here is some of the nitty gritty about our journey on the Hurtigruten. Bear in mind this is my only real cruise experience so you expert cruisers out there can just roll your eyes knowingly at my observations.
We have 'full board' - which means access to more food than is possibly healthy - breakfast and lunch are full buffets, in fact lunch even has a whole dessert buffet with it. Dinner is a set menu of a three course meal of local Norwegian produce (lots of seafood) and specialties, which unfortunately does not appeal at all to the kids but it's not like they are starving that's for sure. Jon is certainly enjoying these unique dinners although I'm sure he wishes he was surrounded by like minded diners as opposed to his own low-brow family. The vegetarian alternatives are ok - nothing amazing - like the kids, I prefer the buffet where there are lots of options. We often see the dinner from the previous night on the lunch buffet. After day 2 I skipped a meal a day and felt much better for it.
The drinks situation is a bit weird - you get breakfast drinks (juice, hot chocolate, milk etc) for free, then only tea or coffee for lunch (no water, no juice), then for dinner you are supposed to pay for all liquids including water. If you want you can buy a water 'package' for the entire journey for about $60 (each!) which allows you two bottles of water at dinner each night. We're not doing that. Nor are we doing the 'wine package' for about a billion dollars for the entire trip.
Our cabin is surprisingly spacious - it's probably 1/2 to 1/3 bigger than the 4 berths on the Spirit of Tasmania (my only other 'cruising' experience) and importantly it has wardrobes for all our stuff so it doesn't get too out of hand in there. We mostly hang around on the observation deck but occasionally we group down there and watch some tv together. Bear in mind those photos above are after 5 days of occupancy - although our cabin does get 'serviced' every day. The beds fold up of course and one of them is a couch. We tend to leave the other bottom bunk down as the 'daybed'.
The Hurtigruten company has a boat departing each day from Bergen, and we selected the Finnmarken ship because it is the biggest of the fleet and has a pool and spa on deck which we have used a few times already. We have generally had it all to ourselves.
Most of the cabins are two berth, we are in the only section which is four berth and subsequently we don't seem to have anyone around us - which is good as the kids have great fun swinging from the bunks and making lots of loud noise..
Amusingly our cabin was very close to the ship's laundry - and since the flashy industrial machines and dryers were all free, we've never been so clean! Our normal routine was to put a load on a night when we went to bed, then move it do the dryer on our way back from being hauled out of bed to see the northern lights.
I recon the cruise is about 1/2 to 2/3 full, mostly of English, German and Norwegian tourists with some Australians sprinkled around. The UK English are the most obvious, nattering away loudly about inane topics - but there's no-one really obnoxious on board - oh - except for the passenger who took it upon themselves to boot Zali and Jett out of the gym where they were doing some rowing. There are approximately 3 children and 2 babies on board in total I recon - but although it's not designed for children, ours are having a great time roaming free around the boat or relaxing in the cabin with the tv. They'd be happy to never leave the ship. The fact that the cruise isn't full means it's spacious everywhere - plenty of room to relax and enjoy the view in the good seats, or find an entire quiet corner (or deck) for yourself. It's easy to just sit and admire the view for hours (or until it gets dark - which ever comes first!)
There is free wifi on board, which although it is slow and unreliable, is very useful and that's how I've been able to post regularly (you're welcome).
And so, would we recommend it ? Well it was a really cool experience. We did it in winter because that's when we are here. I'd recommend everyone else do this journey in summer - you wouldn't see the northern lights but you'd see everything else that we missed in the dark! I'd certainly like to come back to the Lofoton islands in summer sometime - maybe taking the boat from Trondhiem to Svolvær would be the best plan for us next time. I have to admit that cruising feels a little restrictive - you aren't in port long enough to do anything except for the ship's excursions which are really expensive as I mentioned - if you could afford to do everything they offered it would be great.