A Hurtigruten Voyage – Tromso to Bergen, the Scenic Sea Route on Ms Richard With

Date published: 03 Nov 16

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Pat Richardson reveals why what was ‘the journey of a lifeline’ for local communities in Norway has become, as well, ‘the journey of a lifetime’ for many leisure travellers from countries worldwide.

BergenHurtigruten translates, from Norwegian, as ‘fast route’ and when the company was founded, back in 1893, it offered exactly that: the fastest way of travelling up and down Norway’s west coast. Transporting people, post, parcels, produce and more, it was a lifeline for ports hard to access by road.

As well - although not the reason for its creation - it was and remains arguably the world’s most beautiful voyage, and features on many a traveller’s bucket list. Today, despite road, rail and air offering viable alternatives, it attracts leisure travellers from many parts of the globe. This is also a journey that rewards repetition, as the scenery, weather, wildlife and birdlife vary from season to season. In summer, north of the Arctic Circle, the Midnight Sun delivers 24 hours of daylight.

Hurtigruten's MS Richard WithTaking the voyage, or just part of it, in whatever month you choose is easy: a ship from Hurtigruten’s fleet leaves Bergen every day of the year on the northbound leg of the 11-night round trip to Kirkenes, making 34 port-calls on the way there and 31 on the way back.

Every ship in that fleet is a working vessel, not a cruise ship, but that shouldn’t put you off – unless, for you, penthouse and balcony suites, butler service, boutiques, speciality restaurants galore, nightly stage shows, a casino and swimming pool complex and a few thousand fellow-passengers are must-haves.

If on the other hand, you’d value the chance to experience the real Norway, on a ship that’s small enough to sail close to its stunningly scenic coastline and into tiny ports for authentic glimpse of local life; and be happy without any of the above big-ship features, then welcome aboard MS Richard With. At 11,205 GRT, with six passenger decks, 215 cabins and fewer than 600 passengers, she has one main and one a la carte restaurant plus a small pay-at-the-counter cafe, two bars, a small library, a fitness room and a sauna. The atmosphere on board is warm, friendly, relaxed, informal and excellent English is spoken.

Nidaros CathedralIn early July, I was welcomed aboard MS Richard With for five nights, sailing from Tromso to Bergen -including a stop at Svolvaer in the Lofoten Islands, to attend the christening of Hurtigruten’s newest ship, MS Spitsbergen. That ceremony was just one of several highlights.

Others included attending a candle-lit Midnight Concert in Tromso’s avant-garde Arctic Cathedral; close encounters with a sea eagle, puffins and dolphins on an exhilarating RIB trip; attending a Crossing the Arctic Circle ceremony on deck, and getting the Certificate to prove it; visiting a remote island to learn about the centuries-old tradition of harvesting down from Eider ducks and making eiderdowns; visiting 11th-Century Nidaros Cathedral in Norway’s former capital, Trondheim; driving ‘on the edge’ along the spectacularly scenic Atlantic Road, which links a succession of small islands in a series of sweeps, curves and arching bridges; and visiting one of Norway’s ancient and atmospheric stave churches atop a softly rounded, pasture-carpeted hill at the edge of a quiet fjord.

Hurtigruten's MS SpitsbergenAn enticing range of excursions like these, plus others which are either tamer or more challenging, are part and parcel (albeit at additional cost) of the famous Norwegian Coastal Voyage. Each one will allow you to experience the real Norway, on land or from the water, up close and personal. And isn’t that precisely what most of us travel to other countries to do?

You also get that experience on board Richard With - and Hurtigruten’s other ships, because you sail in Norwegian waters, call at Norwegian ports and many of your fellow-passengers are Norwegian. Some are on board for just a short hop, to visit or return from visiting family or friends in another coastal town; or perhaps to join a hiking or biking trail; or reach a holiday home. Some will have a car, a bicycle or maybe a kayak with them. Some are travelling alone, others are families with children. As well, you’ll meet passengers from many other countries; and find it easy to make new friends over drinks or lunch or dinner, out on the deck or in the panoramic observation lounge.

TromsoNor does the scenery stop when you’re back on board. These ships access narrow channels and sail closer to land than big cruise ships can. There are no days at sea with nothing to see, but that’s not to say that you won’t spot sea birds and marine life.

And whilst you won’t find all the frills of a cruise ship on this ship, you will find a warm and welcoming atmosphere, good home cooking in the main Polar Restaurant; treats such as king crab, lobster and steak in a la carte Raftsundet Restaurant; and cosy comfort in your cabin or suite.

Isn’t it time you went to sea to see Norway?

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Hurtigruten

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Other Members' Thoughts - 1 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    almost 5 years ago
    For anyone who hasn't done the journey - it can become addictive! We did our first trip and it was so wonderful we felt we couldn't do it again. Two months later we'd booked our second trip. We did six trips, always on the traditional vessels apart from one trip on a 'mid generation' ship, which just wasn't the same.

    For a really traditional experience, you need to be on Lofoten which was built in 1964 or its even older sister. Nordstjernen built in 1956. Sleeping just over 100 people this really is small ship cruising compared with the 'New Generation' ships like Richard With, Kong Harald, NordKapp, Nord Norge... The newer Mllennium ships of Midnatsol and Finnmarken are even bigger and plusher.

    The traditional ships still have gangplanks and everything is loaded by derrick on the front of the ship. There's no fork lift trucks here. You can always tell you are approaching a port when you hear the massive metal deck lids being opened. Until a few years ago, cars were carried - again lifted on by the derrick...

    It is a completely different experience on these two ships, and passengers soon become very protective of 'their ship'. Interestingly the men seem to prefer these ships and when visiting the bigger ships when they cross at Rorvik it is interesting how many of the 'big ship' passengers are heard muttering they'd rather have been on the traditional boat... Standing on the deck wings talking to the crew and watching the scenery is the highlight rather than watching it through a glass window.... Being smaller both ships sail closer to the coast line.

    For anyone interested there is a thread about the different ships and tips for travelling here: