Just returned, review as promised:
Some general information about DH & I for reference: we are in our mid to late 50’s, reside in Louisiana, are avid travelers who have visited more than 80 countries, on all 7 continents, and have taken 30+ cruises, including expedition type cruises. This was our first sailing with Hurtigruten. This was a new ship, and was on it’s third sailing.
I will give bullet points first, then a daily overview farther below, and will try to be as detailed as possible.
Ship – the ship is lovely with clean lines and Norwegian furniture, simple and elegant. There are water bottle filling stations on every floor. The rooms are understated and come across beautifully. Almost half of Deck 6 is dedicated to the Science Center which is very underused space. The ship is kept very warm, and being in the Arctic we saw many passengers walking around in shorts and tshirts. The cabin temperature cannot be fully controlled, but only controlled to a few degrees cooler or warmer than the overall ship temperature, resulting in our cabin being too hot for us for the duration of the voyage.
Cabin – the cabin décor is beautiful. We had an XT Arctic Superior, outside cabin with balcony, which was perfect for us. Colors are pale woods and putty colors accented with charcoal. The bed was extremely comfortable, but the double comforters are far too hot for the temperature the ship keeps. There are 4 pillows. The trash can has 3 recycle bins, and there is another bin in the bathroom. The storage is a thin coat & shoe/boot closet with metal pegs and a shoe dryer system. The closet has 6 hangers and 2 shelves on the left side, and additional hanging space on right (no hangers though) and 2 shelves, plus shelf with safe that will hold a small lap top. Then there is a shelving system with 2 upper cabinets with a coffee pot in the left one; below there are 4 drawers on the left (1 contains a large blow dryer which I removed and placed elsewhere), then there is 1 drawer on the right that contains coffee and tea setups, and a lower cabinet holding the fridge with minibar (charge applies). There is a shelf here, and 2 thin shelves in the center, and space for 3 wine bottles. We were given gifts of some chocolate pieces, and 2 refillable Hurtigruten water bottles. Full length mirror on wall, and 2 bath robes provided for use plus slippers. In the main part of the room was a small desk and chair with mirror over, and phone on the wall, and 2 thin shelves on wall. There are 2 thin nightstands with drawer. There are 6 wall plugs of the 2 round pin style. 4 wall pegs for hanging garments. 2 reading lights. 2 sitting chairs, 1 with footstool, table between, lamp, wall mount large TV with thin shelf below. The bathroom was small but functional, with a decent size glass shower, a shelf under the sink, 2 hanging pegs, shelf beside the sink, and then 2 thin shelves attached to the wall. The products are by Arctic Pure and feature Handwash and Moisturizer next to sink, and Hair/Body Gel and Conditioner in shower; there is no bar soap. Our balcony was rather deep, and had 2 adjustable mesh chairs and a small table.
Food – this area was a huge fail for us. Every single meal, breakfast, lunch & dinner, every single day was served buffet style in the Aune Main Dining Room. We are not fans of buffet style, but can accept it at breakfast and lunch when necessary. Several guests complained and were told that there were many Chinese on board and they preferred buffet. The food was good in taste, although often could use some salt and pepper or lacked seasoning, but was heavy on Asian offerings (dumplings, congi, etc). As the Chinese guests would often sit in your seat if you left the table, one person on your party had to stay to “protect the table” while the other person went for food at the buffet; this resulted in us never sharing a meal together as one person would be up getting food and one sitting down. A huge disappointment. Although dinner was served buffet the entire cruise, dining times were assigned to 6pm and 8pm, and they stuck to this. There are 2 other dining rooms, but both involve a charge to dine there, unless you are in a suite.
Internet – the internet onboard worked from boarding on Sunday afternoon to late on Monday night, and then was out for the rest of the cruise. It was included at no additional charge.
Announcements – were made in English, German, French and Chinese. The Chinese announcements were often made multiple times, with one announcement being given 7 times from 7:15pm to 7:50pm on Tuesday evening.
Daily Program – delivered every evening after 12 midnight for following day, so we only saw it when we woke up the day of.
Excursions – were not well organized, information not provided during excursion, were very boring in content. Possibly because ship is new.
Passenger makeup – of the 520 passengers, 177 were Chinese, 38 American, 46 UK, 18 Swiss, 56 German, 13 Japanese, and the rest “a bit of everything”.
Overall – the itinerary was pretty with shores of upper Norway and Svalbard being attractive, but hardly any time off of ship and not much to see. For the most part a very slow and dull itinerary. While there were several bird sightings, the only other wildlife was 1 arctic fox, 2 reindeer and a group of walrus. The lectures were not provided early in the sailing when we had much down time, but were provided late in the sailing when guests were busy. There is no other entertainment, so you’ll want to prepare with books to read, although the TV offered a good movie selection.
On Friday, July 19, 2019, we flew from the US, arriving in Tromso, Norway on Saturday mid-day, on Lufthansa, with no travel issues along the way. We stayed 1 night in the Clarion Collection Hotel With in Tromso, the room was of good size and clean, and included a decent dinner, and breakfast the next morning. Tromso is a charming city, with an active harbor front area. We walked from town across the bridge and over to the Arctic Cathedral.
On Sunday, July 21, around 1:30pm, we took a cab to the MS Roald Amundsen, docked about 15 minutes ride from town, and boarded immediately with no delay and no lines. We were told the room was not ready, but could leave our luggage and tour the ship. Most passengers were on the pre-cruise tour that was scheduled to arrive at the pier around 3pm. We toured the ship, took some photos and had a coffee and light snack in the lounge. We were surprised to see many dirty cups and glasses sitting in the seating areas near the pool, and the Explorer Lounge (main lounge). Our room was ready at 2:35pm, and we gathered our luggage and took it to the room, unpacked and settled in. Our room was an Arctic Superior XT, outside cabin with balcony, on Deck 7 and was very nice.
The weather was 75 degrees (all temps in Fahrenheit) and sunny. We collected our red expedition jackets in the Science Center on Deck 6. We liked the style, and they are more like light weight jackets, wind and water repellant, which we were happy with. We checked out the Science Center while there, and it is very large and appears to be well stocked, but didn’t connect with the staff. We noted that each time we entered the Science Center during the cruise, we were asked “Can I help you?” by someone working there, but as we didn’t really have a specific question, we would reply “just looking around” and the conversation would end. The expedition staff seemed to be on computers and laptops, or moving around or talking with other expedition members.
There was an open seating buffet dinner, and then a Mandatory Safety Drill, which was scheduled to start at 8:30pm, but began at 9:15pm, and ended at 9:50pm. Many of the passengers were quite tired by then from travel.
Monday, July 22, We woke up to find our Daily Program outside our door, which was delivered after 11pm the night before. Boat Group Patches and Rubber Boots for landings were to be distributed, beginning at 8:30am, as your group number was called. This required you to first go to Science Center on Deck 6 and locate your group number on the postings, ours was Group 5. Our group was called around 9:30am, and then we went to Deck 5 to try on boots, and receive our Patches, and then to Deck 3 to collect our boots.
We arrived in Honningsvag at 10am, and were able to disembark at 10:30am. Weather was 74 degrees and sunny. Most passengers went on a ship excursion to the North Cape. DH and I went on a walk through town, and then a hike up the mountain overlooking the town, shopped a bit and back on board. We were excited to see 2 reindeer strolling through town. This town is small, with 1 main street, and an attractive church, and is cute. Lunch was served from 12:30-1:30pm, buffet style. All On Board was 3:45pm. There was a Captain’s Welcome for English & German guests at 5:30pm, where the staff was introduced and a glass of champagne was provided, it lasted about 30 minutes. No lectures from the Expedition Staff were scheduled today. The internet on the ship went out late on Monday night, and stayed out for the duration of the sailing.
Tuesday, July 23, this was a sea day, with 1 scenic cruising by expedition boat trip. 64 degrees and partly cloudy. At 9:30am there was a Mandatory Expedition Boat safety briefing, which lasted until 10:15am, where we were given instruction on RIB boats, shore regulations, and so on involving an expedition cruise. We arrived in the harbor at Bjornoya at 11:30am. At 2pm our group had a 1 hour “expedition boat trip” which amounted to a scenic cruise in the inflatable boat to view birds perched on the sides of rocks, and a ship wreck on the beach (no landing). Our boat did not contain any expedition staff, only the boat driver, and no information was given during our outing. This was the only activity of the day. No lectures from the Expedition Staff were scheduled today.
Wednesday, July 24. 40 degrees and overcast. At 10am there was an informational briefing about the landing and outings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. We arrived in the harbor at Burgerbukta at 12 noon. Our group was scheduled for a 3:30p 1 hour Landing, and a 4:30pm 1 hour Scenic Cruising. Our landing occurred at 4:10pm, and consisted of a walk down a sandy beach and up to a point to view a glacier. The scenic cruising took place directly afterwards, and consisted of sailing near the glacier and some larger pieces of floating ice; again, no expedition staff on boat, only driver, and no information given. These 2 activities, which did not begin for our group until after 4pm, were the only activities scheduled for the day. 1 lecture from Expedition Staff on “Arctic Seabirds” scheduled for 6:30pm, but we were not able to attend as we did not get back on board until 6:45pm, and then had to get ready and go to dinner.
Thursday, July 25. 45 degrees and mostly sunny. At 9am we arrived into the tiny research town of Ny Alesund, and were able to get off the ship at 9:30am, with all aboard being 3:15pm. We walked through the town, visited the museum, visited the shop, took some photos. The ship offered a guided walk through town for our group at 11:15am, which I took, lasting for about 45 minutes, and which I would rate as average and slow. I took several laps around the town to stretch my legs from so much time spent on the ship. There were 2 lectures scheduled for today, 9:30am “Spitsbergen, postcards through time, geology of Spitsbergen”, and 5:30pm “Polar Bear”. At 9:30pm there was a talk on “information about tomorrow” given, which was actually information on turning in boots, collecting passports, and disembarkation proceedings.
Friday, July 26. This was a rather weird day in it’s schedule, as you’ll see later. At 9am we approached a walrus haul and were able to watch walrus from the ship with binoculars or high powered camera equipment, there was also an Arctic Fox in this location. At 10:30am was a lecture on “MS Roald Amundsen Engine and Technical Features”. From 11am-3pm, guests needed to return their boots and their boat group patches, and pick up their passports. At 3:30pm, lecture “Walruses and Seals”, at 4:30pm lecture “Ocean Giants: whales of Svalbard”; although we needed to nap during this time to prepare to be up all night. We also needed to pack this day, as we had to be out of our rooms by 6pm, and our accounts were closed at 8pm. We packed up and were out of our rooms by 5:45pm, turned in our luggage, and went to dinner. We arrived in Longyearbyen, and were able to be off the ship beginning at 8:30pm. There was a shuttle to the Svalbard Museum, but we chose to take the 20 minute walk to stretch our legs. Everything else in town was closed, so afterwards we went to the Svalbar, for a couple of local beers, and returned to the ship on the last shuttle at 11:15pm. We were directed to make ourselves comfortable in the crowded Explorer Lounge, where all the passengers awaited their shuttles to the airport, ours was scheduled for 2:50am. We spent the next few hours passing time, or trying unsuccessfully to nap. Our shuttle to the airport was at 2:50am on Saturday, with our included flight to Oslo scheduled for 4:10am, which departed at 4:45am and arrived in Oslo about 7:30am. This sailing included flights from Longyearbyen to Oslo, and the ship had scheduled 4 flights for passengers, at 2:25am, 3:25am, 4:05am, and 4:10am.