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Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

Denver, CO
Level Contributor
12 posts
1 review
Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

It's been so helpful to read all the postings here! I still have 3 questions I haven't seen in my reading and would appreciate any replies.

1) I'm about to commit to the 12-day coastal voyage this February. Originally I wanted a smaller ship (e.g., Kong Harald and her sisters), because I'll be traveling by myself and would welcome the opportunity to make connections with fellow passengers. I thought fewer people would make this easier (I am a mild introvert). However, I'm also looking forward to watching the scenery and the northern lights every waking moment. When I saw the photographs of the two-story-high windows on the Midnatsol and the Trollfjord, suddenly the other ships' panoramic lounges looked a bit inadequate. Can anyone give me a sense of how much you can see out of the smaller ships' lounge windows and/or comment on whether you think it's worth the somewhat higher price to book on a large ship, given my wish to see *everything,* all the time?

2) Re: the social aspect, is there anything on the ships along the lines of message boards through which people with similar interests or backgrounds can connect with one another?

3) I've read several suggestions that if you want wine or beer on the trip, it's more economical (and permissible) to bring your own. Any ideas for where in Bergen would be handy to purchase wine before boarding?

Many thanks for any help you can give.

Oslo
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17,392 posts
94 reviews
1. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

Re 3) Wine retailing in Norway is controlled by a government agency called "Vinmonopolet", outlets in Valkendorfsgate in the centre.

Scotland
Level Contributor
85 posts
2. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

I am presuming you have already eliminated the even smaller “traditional” ships (Lofoten and Nordstjernen) as possibilities (perhaps because of being un-stabilized ships, some cabins with limited facilities or whatever) even though they carry considerably fewer people? However these ships are sometimes rather popular with older German speaking groups, which can be a problem if you are as linguistically challenged as I am.

I’d say the ships of the Kong Harald type don’t have any noticeable disadvantage regarding panorama lounge window views compared with the very newest ships.

I have not been aware of message boards used by individuals (as opposed to a place for couriers’ notices when there has been a large escorted tour group on board). But I have mostly travelled alone on these ships myself, and have experienced as much sociability as I wanted. For a start you can ask to be allocated a table with, or immediately adjacent to, other English speakers for the set place dinners. (Note that dinner on the first night in Bergen is a “free-seating” buffet as people are boarding at different times, and breakfast and most lunches are “free-seating”.)

Around the ship, an opening remark like “Is this your first time in Norway” or “ . . . on Hurtigruten” can be the start of new friendships. Going out on deck also affords a very good opportunity to start a conversation, whether about cameras and taking photos, or just commenting on the dockside activity at the smaller ports of call. And remember when you get to Kirkenes there will be many new people doing only the southbound voyage coming aboard. By then you will be the helpful expert on all things Hurtigruten!

Bear in mind that for legal reasons, alcoholic drinks not purchased on the ship cannot be consumed in public areas (including the restaurant), only in your cabin.

Scunthorpe, United...
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1,734 posts
77 reviews
3. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

cohouser,

Welcome to TA.

I would echo mooselet's question about the traditional vessels. They are small, friendly and intimate and it's diffcult not to socialise on board. These vessels certainly are popular with Germans (older and younger) but in our experience on six trips some of them are reluctant to display what they see as their inadequate English and prove to be reasonably fluent when spoken to in English! We are still in contact with people we met on Hurtigruten who came from Australia, Austria, France, Germany, UK and USA.

However it does depend on the experience you want. The traditional ships are a totally different experience to the new hotels with propellors. If you are wanting to sit inside and look out of the window you need a newer vessel. If you want to get outside (admittedly bracing in February but we have done it in March) and really see Norway's coast you would do better on MS Lofoten.

I do not think there is likely to be much difference in level of sociability on New Generation and Millennium vessels, they are all big and impersonal. Is there a difference in price between the two? I thought it depended on cabin grade.

I have seen noticeboards on older vessels used in the way you mention, how successful they are as a means of contact I do not know. Talking to the guide or reception may give you ideas. Quite a good way of opening conversations is in the buffet queue, perhaps with a 'what's that?'.

On the subject of alcohol I would simply say stay dry. We do in Scandinavia - we would never enjoy drinking because we would be pricing each mouthful. It does us good, too! And the first drink back home is bliss!

Michael

Scunthorpe, United...
Level Contributor
1,734 posts
77 reviews
4. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

cohouser,

Welcome to TA.

I would echo mooselet's question about the traditional vessels. They are small, friendly and intimate and it's diffcult not to socialise on board. These vessels certainly are popular with Germans (older and younger) but in our experience on six trips some of them are reluctant to display what they see as their inadequate English and prove to be reasonably fluent when spoken to in English! We are still in contact with people we met on Hurtigruten who came from Australia, Austria, France, Germany, UK and USA.

However it does depend on the experience you want. The traditional ships are a totally different experience to the new hotels with propellors. If you are wanting to sit inside and look out of the window you need a newer vessel. If you want to get outside (admittedly bracing in February but we have done it in March) and really see Norway's coast you would do better on MS Lofoten.

I do not think there is likely to be much difference in level of sociability on New Generation and Millennium vessels, they are all big and impersonal. Is there a difference in price between the two? I thought it depended on cabin grade.

I have seen noticeboards on older vessels used in the way you mention, how successful they are as a means of contact I do not know. Talking to the guide or reception may give you ideas. Quite a good way of opening conversations is in the buffet queue, perhaps with a 'what's that?'.

On the subject of alcohol I would simply say stay dry. We do in Scandinavia - we would never enjoy drinking because we would be pricing each mouthful. It does us good, too! And the first drink back home is bliss!

Michael

Bournemouth, Dorset
Level Contributor
223 posts
5 reviews
5. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

Try the Vesteralen. A little larger than the traditional ships but not a 'hotel with propellers'.

We travelled on her and her sister ship Narvik and found them an ideal size.

Most of our day was spent in the lounges to the front of the ship. Excellant view of the sea ahead and access to the forward deck for photos etc. many people come in there and we have made friends from both europe and the USA. Being a smaller ship as other posters have said you stand a good chance of meeting your fellow travellers on a regular basis if you wish.

We have also travelled on mid generation ships. Whilst there are larger windows there are proportionately more people wishing to look out of them .

Whatever your choice you will have a marvellous time. Just keep warm with layers of clothes as the heat gradient between in and outside can be very steep!!

Denver, CO
Level Contributor
12 posts
1 review
6. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

Thanks, all, for your welcome to the TA and your thoughtful replies. You've caused me to give second thoughts to the smaller ships.

Vipa, the reason I didn't consider the Lofoten was that I couldn't find any interior photos of it, and I did want to get a sense of the environment. Do you know where I might find any photos?

Mooselet, I have now checked out the photos of the Vesteralen -- don't know why I didn't before -- and I like its character. However, you mentioned that from the forward lounge there's a "good view of the sea ahead"; I'm wondering if it's also possible to get a good look at the fjords' side walls, all the way up, without craning one's neck or switching seats.

I can spend inordinately long hours watching scenery, northern lights, etc. I usually have to be dragged away from contemplating thunderheads and ocean waves. I'm not a couch potato and would be outside as long as possible at every opportunity, but I can imagine that the cold could force me indoors before I was ready to quit watching. That's why I'm so focused on the size of the windows.

So... if anyone can give me a greater sense of the ease of seeing the sights out the windows of the smaller or the midsize ships, I would much appreciate it.

Scunthorpe, United...
Level Contributor
1,734 posts
77 reviews
7. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

cohouser,

Here are a few pics of Lofoten:

http://tinyurl.com/59xq34

If you browse round that site you will find other information. Possibly the best cabins on Lofoten are the 400s.

Nordstjernen is smaller, older and has even more character than Lofoten but is very limited on shelter outside.

Vesterålen (which is a mid-generation ship) may be a possibility, although I think it has little of the charm of the old ships with few of the facilities of the new. Outside shelter is poor. However the retrofitted panorama lounge on these vessels (the railway coach thing bolted on top midships) give quite good views on both sides.

I am pleased to hear that you may consider traditional ships, but whatever you choose be absolutely sure it is what you want. Search on Hurtigruten in the Norway forum here and you will find several posts that may help. The difference in experiences between old and new is really very, very great. I have met several people who having been on new ships would much rather have been on an old one. I have never met a person on an old ship who regretted it as most have chosen that type on purpose, but I am sure there are many people who would hate it if they booked on an old ship without doing their research.

Denver, CO
Level Contributor
12 posts
1 review
8. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

Thank you so much, Wasleys, for the photos of the Lofoten and the link to your website. Hugely helpful. You've nudged me further in the direction of the small-ship experience.

I hate to ask you still more questions, but if you have the time and inclination, would you tell me the sorts of things that were mentioned by people who went on the larger ships and regretted it? And more specifics about why the people who choose the smaller ships do so? I get it about the small ones not being hotels with propellers, and about the greater intimacy with fellow passengers -- but is there more you can tell me?

Also, you brought up a point I hadn't thought about, i.e., sheltered viewing spaces outside. On the Lofoten, are there a reasonable number of such areas?

Thanks in advance for your hand-holding as I try to make this momentous (only slightly kidding) decision. I doubt I'll have the chance to do this trip over so would really like to find the best choice for myself the first time.

Scotland
Level Contributor
85 posts
9. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

Cohouser, check your personal messages where I have sent you links to some temporary photo sets, as well as related info.

Scunthorpe, United...
Level Contributor
1,734 posts
77 reviews
10. Re: Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage Feb. 09

cohouser,

People who have expressed disappointment with the newer vessels (and by those I mean both the New Generation and Millennium ships) have in my experience done so mainly because they found them boring and not in line with their expectations of the trip. One problem is that many travel agents seem to push their clients towards them because they think the higher levels of facilities are what the clients want whereas they may seek a different sort of experience. Perhaps at its simplest is the difference between all mod cons and romance!

As you will know Hurtigruten is a working service calling at many ports, however from its inception it has been seen as a tourist service and the number of tourists carried has increased as time has passed. It is still important for freight, especially to some of the smaller places in the north but the number of local passengers is now small apart from a few stages. In recent years the introduction of the newer ships has led to increased on-board facilities and many people see the newer ships as offering something more akin to a cruise (although often people expecting the full cruise experience have been disappointed). The traditional ships offer more of the experience of a journey on a working boat.

I have been onto most of the newer ships at some time (but will never travel on them) and these are the impressions I have of them. They are large with lifts and grand staircases, they really are like a large hotel. You board them via a ramp and go to a reception desk. Cargo is handled by forklifts. They have large, plush lounges with very large windows to let you see what’s happening outside and a range of other facilities including a gift shop. I have not been in the cabins but imagine they have a reasonable amount of room in them. There is a large outside viewing area at the rear protected by a perspex screen which I suspect would be hard to see through once it is wet and would do little to cut draughts. Otherwise outside viewing seems limited. You do not get near the bridge (although trips will doubtless be available) and will have little chance of contact with bridge officers. I suspect that many of he passengers are there because it is one of the things that tourists do and they can tick it off their list of ‘must-sees’. I do not know how busy February will be but I have a feeling they may be fairly quiet and devoid of passengers; that might be a bit spooky.

The traditional ships are from a different age altogether. They are small with simple stairways. You board via a narrow gangway and go to the purser’s desk. Cargo is handled by derrick. They have rather old fashioned lounges which could be described as small and cosy but with rather limited outside views. There are no ‘facilities’ apart from a bar and the gift shop is a display in the cafeteria. Cabins are variable but all are comfortable if basic. You can usually go onto the bridge wings from where you will get very good forward views, will be able to see (and maybe freely go) into the bridge. You will be able to chat with the bridge officers. I will make more comments on viewing below. Most, if not all, of the passengers (several of who may have made multiple trips - the record we’ve found was 20!) will be there because they want to see Norway from the old fashioned Hurtigruten. Maybe it’s nostalgia, or romantic notions about seafaring in days gone by, or just being part of something different that may soon disappear.

My wife and I made one trip on Narvik which is very similar to Vesterålen. At that time traditional vessels were only available in winter and we wanted to do the trip in spring. We would not go on a mid-generation ship again for reasons which are probably obvious now. It was medium size, ferry type interior and facilities, ramp, reception desk and generally neither plush nor cosy. The panorama lounge on top gave good views. Outside viewing was limited with a large unprotected rear platform and a front platform in front of the lounge - to avoid the worst of the slipstream you had to go right out to the front.

To return to outside viewing on traditional ships. Nordstjernen is a marvellous old ship with incredible character. The bridge wings are good (the trick is to get on the lee side of the bridge, though you may have to choose between wind and sun) and there is some shelter at the rear otherwise there is relatively little. That is why on our last trip our hearts said Nortdstjernen but, because we aim to be outside a lot, our heads said Lofoten. Lofoten has bridge wings. There are a couple of covered veranda type structures where you can get protection from the elements. Additionally there are a number of places where you can get out of the wind. In the end though it may be a compromise between shelter and view. Not having sailed on a newer ship I cannot be sure but I imagine that Lofoten would have the advantage on outside shelter.

Do not underestimate the cold. We have been in March and spent a lot of time outside but we were very well wrapped up. Much will depend on combination of ship/wind speeds and directions. In a head wind on a dull day you will freeze, with a following wind on a sunny day you may roast.

We should perhaps mention motion. The larger the ship the less severe it is likely to be and if you are a bad sailor you may want to factor that into the equation. Having said that there is relatively little time on the open sea except in the far north. Neither of us cope with motion well and we have had a few rough sections, however we deal with it by going to bed and it has never been a problem.

It is a momentous decision. It’s not cheap, it may be your only chance and it is easy to get it wrong. In the end I suppose the choice is between modern/plush and traditional/cosy, but it’s a decision only you can make.