The first discovery that I made about Hurtigruten is its uniqueness. Not a cruise in the classical sense and not just another Scandinavian ferry – think more in terms of very comfortable passenger ships used by local Norwegians to get from A to B to C and ‘discovered’ by international visitors to Norway.
Hurtigruten is an integral part of Norwegian life and provides a vital link to 34 communities large & small along Norway’s lengthy & spectacular coastline. Founded in 1893, before the development of rail, road & air services Hurtigruten (trans: Rapid journey) provides an almost daily service (351 days of the year) from Bergen to Kirkenes for a seven night voyage calling into 34 ports enroute to deliver and pick up cargo, mail and passengers. Kiwis could liken it to an extended Cream Trip or the postal delivery service in the Marlborough Sounds.
Hurtigruten has enhanced the experience for international visitors with the establishment of a superb shore excursion programme. These are no run of the mill shore excursions with choices such as dog-sledding, snow mobiling, king crab fishing, whale spotting & guided walks. An important tip – book your shorex before you leave to avoid the disappointment of finding that they are fully booked when you board your cruise.
One of the best features of exploring Norway with Hurtigruten is that you get to do it in the company of Norwegians going about their daily lives. Most speak perfect English and are as fascinated about Kiwi lifestyles as we are about theirs. There’s no better way to learn about an upcoming port of call than sharing a coffee on deck with one of the locals. Your fellow international passengers are an eclectic mix too with most coming from Europe and with a love of the destinational aspects of a voyage with Hurtigruten.
What standard are the Hurtigruten ships? I’m often asked this question and it’s hard to qualify in terms of a standard cruise ship. There are no Las Vegas-style showrooms, discos, rock climbing walls, putting greens, shopping arcades or kids’ clubs. Hurtigruten is all about the destination and the experience. The ships are all exceptionally comfortable with a bar, a fine restaurant, relaxing lounges and a variety of comfortable cabins. The cuisine is excellent and features local fresh food and the crew are all Norwegian with a good command of English. Kiwis will be delighted to know that tipping is not required and they even allow you to take your own alcohol on board for consumption in your cabin (other cruiselines please note!).
The ships leave almost every evening from Bergen arriving in Kirkenes seven days later before turning around and heading back to Bergen. You have a choice of taking the northbound or the southbound voyage or combining the two into a thirteen day roundtrip. There are four distinct seasons and each offers something different. Spring & autumn are wonderful months to travel to experience the changing colours and seasons, summer offers almost 24 hours daylight and there’s no better way of viewing the Northern Lights than a winter voyage with Hurtigruten.
There’s no doubt that Hurtigruten offers the Kiwi traveller a travel option that’s quite different. It’s not a cruise in the classical sense – it’s a travel experience and a true sea voyage. It’s an opportunity to meet the locals and it’s a chance to explore a very special part of Scandinavia in the company of some likeminded fellow travellers.