Review of Northern Lights Cruise With Norway's Hurtigruten Ferry

Updated on September 14, 2019
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I love to travel and explore new places. I hope my articles encourage you to visit them too.

The Northern Lights, Norway
The Northern Lights, Norway | Source

The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights

The eerie lights that dance across the skies of the far north are an amazing sight. Many people have the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights on their must-see bucket list. When I was planning this trip, I chose to travel with Hurtigruten as they seemed to offer the best chance of my catching this natural phenomenon.

Aurora are caused by charged particles from the sun entering the earth’s atmosphere. To see them you need dark skies and a cloudless night. The further north you go, the greater your chance of catching this wonderful light show.

The Aurora Borealis

Have You Seen the Northern Lights?

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Who and What Are Hurtigruten?

Hurtigruten is a Norwegian shipping company that ferries mail, goods, and commuter traffic up and down the coast. The Hurtigruten Norwegian coastal fleet are not primarily tourist boats, although this is a growing part of their business. The ships carry mainly foot traffic with just a few spaces for cars. They stop every few hours in picturesque fiords so that every small settlement can get regular supplies.

Travelling with Hurtigruten is completely different from a traditional cruise. There is no entertainment laid-on and no formal “gala” dinners. You need to be happy with your own company and be prepared for a slow pace of life. You will spend many hours watching nature go by or sitting and reading a book. I recommend you read Northern Lights and Stars with Hurtigruten: A Guide to Hunting the Aurora in Norway before you start your voyage. This will give you a good idea of what to expect and the author gives useful tips of what to take with you to get the most out of your trip.

Winter Cruise in Norway With Hurtigruten

Classic Round Voyage With Flights: 12-days Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen

The most popular option is to take the round trip that starts with a flight from your home country to Bergen. Transfers from Bergen Airport to the ship are included, as is full board. The 12-day cruise takes you up to Kirkenes, north of the Arctic Circle, and then back once more to Bergen. The ferry makes more than 50 stops along this route, most too short for you to go ashore. The ferry operates to a strict timetable and will not wait for you if you return late to the ship.

There are optional walking and coach tours arranged each day for an additional charge, but these are dependent on the weather. Many of the tours meet you at one ferry stop and then catch up and return you to the ferry further along the coast.

North and southbound stops on the Hurtigruten Norwegian coastal ferry.
North and southbound stops on the Hurtigruten Norwegian coastal ferry. | Source

5 Good Things About My Trip With Hurtigruten

  1. The food was excellent. A buffet breakfast and lunch is offered with a fixed seating plan in the evening. The menu for dinner is posted in the morning and if there is anything that you don’t like, tell the staff and they will arrange an alternative for you with no fuss or bother.
  2. The staff were helpful and friendly. All the staff (including cleaning and serving staff) are multi-lingual. They all speak fluent Norwegian, English and German. Many of them also speak at least one other language.
  3. I had a great holiday. I wanted a relaxing experience and that is what I got. I took several books with me to read and finished them all. I enjoyed watching the dramatic scenery and spent many happy hours chatting to other passengers.
  4. The tours were well organized. I went on a couple of walking tours and several coach trips. The tour guides were interesting and I learned a lot about the history and culture of Norway.
  5. Hurtigruten are safety-conscious. They make sure all passengers attend a safety briefing on entering the ship. There are also several practice drills for the staff throughout the voyage.

Ålesund, known for its distinctive Art Nouveau buildings, is one of the ferry stops.
Ålesund, known for its distinctive Art Nouveau buildings, is one of the ferry stops. | Source

3 Bad Things About My Cruise Experience

  1. The weather was dreadful. The 12-days of my trip were marked by hurricane winds, snow blizzards and fog. I was unlucky as the weather was extremely unusual for the time of year. However, be aware that to get the best chance of seeing the Northern lights you will be travelling in winter. Expect the worst and you will be pleasantly surprised when you get calm seas and clear skies.
  2. Rough seas made many of my fellow passengers ill. I’m lucky because I don’t suffer from seasickness. However, for at least 4 days of the journey, more than half the passengers were too ill to eat in the dining room. If you know you are likely to be seasick, remember to take appropriate remedies with you.
  3. Norway is expensive. The cost of my package included all meals, teas and coffees and onboard wi-fi. There is also a pre-pay wine and drinks package available. I recommend you take advantage of these pre-pay options as prices in Norway are not just expensive, they are unbelievably expensive!

Tips for Choosing the Best Cabin

The steadiest part of the ship is its center. If you know you suffer from seasickness then pick a cabin as near as possible to the center of the middle deck. The actual cabin number and deck level will depend on the size of ship. Hurtigruten have a fleet of 11 ships of various sizes. Their website gives a detailed description of each of them together with a deck plan, so you can make the right choice for you.

In general, the larger the cabin, the more you will pay. However, if you sign up for the company’s emailing list, you will be first in line for any special offers. These are mainly early booking discounts and can save you as much as 25%. The cruises are very popular and Hurtigruten told me they never make last minute discounts because they don’t need to.

I suggest you book direct with Hurtigruten rather than via a travel agent. I found their staff to be very helpful and they can answer any queries you may have. You will usually get a better overall package if you book direct e.g. free wi-fi and teas and coffees included.

A typical cabin has two beds which can be folded away to form sofa-type seating.
A typical cabin has two beds which can be folded away to form sofa-type seating. | Source

Food and Eating On-Board

The cost of three meals a day is included, but there is also a café and bar available if you feel the need for a snack. Lunch and dinner are buffet meals and there is a wide choice of hot and cold, meat, fish or vegetarian at all meals.

Dinner is a set menu with allocated seating in a predetermined sitting. There are 6 dinner sittings each evening, so it is a fairly quick turnaround. Coffee is served in the lounge and that is where you can linger and chat to your new-found friends. There is also an a-la-carte option for dinner which costs extra and is served in a separate dining area.

Northern Lights Promise

100%. That’s how sure we are that the spectacular Northern Lights will make an appearance on your 12-day Hurtigruten voyage. If not, we'll give you another voyage for free. That's our promise to you.

If the Northern Lights do not appear, we will give you another 6 or 7-day Classic Voyage FREE OF CHARGE, so your Hurtigruten experience will be one with zero regrets.

The promise is applicable on voyages between 1 October and 31 March. See full terms and conditions.

— Hurtigruten website

Guarantee of Free Cruise if Northern Lights Not Seen

In common with many other tour operators, this holiday comes with a “Northern Lights Promise”. Hurtigruten are so sure you will see the Aurora Borealis in the winter months that they promise to give you a free cruise if you miss out.

I was offered this freebie when the Northern Lights failed to show during my 12-day voyage. However, as with all offers, you need to read the small print before getting excited about a free vacation next winter. The free offer excludes the cost of flights and transfers, the cost of upgrading from an inside cabin to an outer one, and all “extras”. After adding all these together, the cost of my “free” holiday would be not much less than the price of my original package deal.

I had a great holiday even without seeing the Aurora Borealis. However, in the end I decided the money I would need to add to my "free" holiday would be better spent on a holiday to a fresh destination.

How Are the Northern Lights Created?

Further Information

I recommend you book your cruise direct with the ferry company Hurtigruten. You will get the best discounts and special offers by doing this.

For an explanation of the science and the myths associated with the Aurora Borealis take a look at Visit Norway's website.

Comments

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  • Cooking Jam profile image

    Muhammad Abdullah 

    3 months ago

    I have always wanted to see these glowing scenes. Hope to see them one day.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    7 months ago from SW England

    This is a comprehensive guide to travelling to see the Northern Lights. I've done it with a Fred Olsen cruise which was great and we were very lucky with the weather and with seeing the lights too. Even the North Sea was quite calm!

    We also saw the Hurtigruten (referred to by me and my friend as 'hurdy-gurdy'!) boats and they looked good. It's a great idea to travel with the 'service' boats.

    This gives me a yen to go again, as I too like to relax and read. I went with a friend so perhaps I'll take my partner next time, as an excuse for me to go twice!

    The northern lights are certainly a breath-taking, spiritual sight.

    Great hub, Beth, with lots of advice and information.

    Ann

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    7 months ago from UK

    That was close timing. I am pleased to hear that your cruise experience was good in spite of the weather. I think the Viking Cruise problems were caused by a combination of engine failure with the poor weather conditions.

  • Beth Eaglescliffe profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Eaglescliffe 

    7 months ago from UK

    The airlift from the Viking Sky Cruise ship took place just two days before I was due to begin my holiday. My planned vacation crossed the same stretch of sea, but it was too late for me to cancel! However, the calm and experienced Hurtigruten crew ensured that I had a great holiday despite the stormy weather.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    8 months ago from UK

    I have heard of others who have travelled with Hurtigruten and recommended it as a good company to sail with. Having seen passengers recently airlifted off a cruise ship in rough seas off Scandinavia I can see your point about bad weather.

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