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Review of the Midnatsol
Cruise Date: September 2011
Booking: Cruise Line
Cabin number: 7D
Cabin category: (optional)
This is one one of the most comfortable ships we have ever been on.
The common areas are beautiful. We did not anticipate an experience this good.
The cruise is not like anything else we have experienced. Because it makes so many stops both crew and passengers constantly change. While they offer many excursions there is not the 'group' feeling that you get on other lines.
Most of the passengers are European so there is an interesting diversity. The scenery is better than anything you can imagine.
We joined the ship in Kirkenes and sailed south to Bergen. While Hurtigruten offers package deals we booked everything independently and actually did save.
There were kids on portions of our leg and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves and there are play areas for small kids.
There are a few cabins on deck 7 that are slightly larger than the others .. it is evident on the ships on line diagram .. it is worth it to arrange your trip to get one of them. There are HUGE porthole windows in those cabins that offer a terrific view of the passing scenery. We chose a cabin on the port side and while much of the cruise has magnificent scenery on both sides of the ship the port side on the south bound cruise offered a view of each village the ship stopped in. I would assume the same is true on starboard side on northbound voyages.
The food is excellent and abundant however do not expect the usual 'feed them every hour' that you might experience on other lines. Dinner is a single entree choice and on our cruise fish was served all but two nights. They will accommodate you if you are averse to fish - I am but chose to skip the main course rather than ask for an alternative. Breakfast and lunch are open seating and there are two seatings in the evening but I never saw the dining room full.
Forget the coffee deal unless you want to have a cup in your hand throughout the voyage.
We took the North Cape excursion and enjoyed it .. the best was the Sea Eagle excursion as it says in the description it is 2 hours you will remember for a long time.
The cabin is small but not cramped. (see above) we were told to bring a wash cloth but it is not needed HOWEVER the soap is liquid and there is no shampoo so think about packing those items.
There is a 24 hour cafe BUT prices will take your breath away. Best to get off when ship stops and get snack etc at nearby convenience stores.
Norway is a brutally beautiful country and while the US has many areas that might resemble it there is nothing like it.
In Bergen the ships docks quite a distance from town so arrange to have the bus drop you at the hotel you have chosen or the airport. Nothing in Scandinavia is 'reasonable' but compared to taxis the buses are a bargain. There is a bus service from Kirkenes airport to the ship and vice versa .. use it.
I have never been as relaxed nor enjoyed a cruise more than I did this one.
The Hurtigruten people on the ship are excellent BUT I found that many of the selling agents are not as knowledgeable about many of the things curious travelers want to know. So check other reviews to see if there are legitimate answers to your questions.
There is an information center with all the details you could ask for about excursions and where the ship is going and they do make occasional announcements about things to see. Just remember this is kind of like being a passenger on a FedEx flight. The multiple stops delivering and accepting small cargo is what the line is about the passengers are a nice way to get additional money for it. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed in the beauty of the landscape the impressiveness of the ship and the comfort of the entire voyage.
Whatever you do do NOT miss the Norway in a Nutshell through Flam. It was unquestionably the highlight of the trip.
Another tip .. if I had to do it again I would skip the southern portion of the trip either joining the ship in Trondheim or leaving it. You can get train, plane, bus and rental car transportation from Trondheim and while the southern coast has much to see the real majesty is in the north.
Another tip is SAS flight to/or from Kirkenes is great. Oslo airport is super convenient and very easy to use and no surprise Kirkenes airport is tiny. My research showed the flight operate on time more than 90+% of the time and is coordinated to meet up with Hurtigruten schedule. The bus trip is around 20 minutes so you arrive at the the ship OR the airport with plenty of time. Also booking direct with SAS is cheaper than booking with Hurtigruten. Of course you bear the risk IF the flight misses the ship HOWEVER it is doubtful Hurtigruten would leave you on your own .. probably 80% of the flight is Hurtigruten passengers.
If you are considering this as a way to see Norway at her best I would definitely recommend it.
One final note: if anyone from Hurtigruten management reads this .. the marketing of this ship and the description and sales experience is sadly lacking. Many of the sales agents have never even been on one of the ships! While it may seem as perfunctory as selling an airline or train ticket it is not. This trip was so much more than we expected based on what we read in the brochures and saw on line. There are so many ways today to flatter the experience that simply have been missed. Like videos of cabins and more about the relaxed and independent feel of the experience. Little is really planned so passengers should do their homework about what they do want to see and/or do. There is no real package so do it yourself and never stop asking the sales agents questions.
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