Norwegian Coastal Voyage with Hurtigruten - MS Trollfjord

Date published: 25 Jan 17

14 people found this feature helpful

The gingerbread and the ice

It has to be said that Hurtigruten is a strange animal. Is it a cruise line or a cargo ship? Not really. So is it a ferry or the local water bus? Well not really any one of those, it's all of those and more. Our twelve day classic round trip involved lightning fast pit stops, that would make the Mercedes F1 team proud, to move cargo, pick up a passenger and make up a little lost time in the schedule. There were dead of the night stops in sleepy places, where you could watch the forklift whizz around like a bee on steroids, whilst the Christmas decorations and town lights illuminate the stage. There were times when hundreds of locals popped onto the ship to have their Christmas breakfast, lunch or dinner and make liberal use of the bar. Plus longer stops where we got to know a place a little better or explore further afield.

MS TrollfjordWe chose to journey on MS Trollfjord, where there's a wide choice of accommodation but we chose an expedition suite which was spacious and luxuriously comfortable. Food on board was delicious, plentiful and the lamb shank would comfortably grace the table of any restaurant. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style with masses of choice but dinner is a set menu and a wine is selected for you if you have the wine package. This leads to the somewhat irritating practice of being charged 1NOK (10p) to change to a wine of your choice, even if it is cheaper than the suggested offering. Service is competent but wouldn't rank as 5-star but staff would accommodate reasonable requests.

Back outside, good waterproof outdoor clothes are essential (combined with layered clothing and spikes for your walking boots) there was plenty to see from the ship or on land. Many of the stops have a Bryggan (wharf) of some sorts, the old warehouse district of the city. Whilst Bergan's is very pretty with floor to apex lights to outline their shape, my favourite was Trondheim. Bryggan TrondheimFrom the Gamle Bybro (old town bridge) you can look down the row of colourful 18th and 19th century buildings reflected in the still waters and there is a peace and tranquility about the place. A moment to be savoured with your eyes open and you mouth shut. Turn around and you have Nidaros Domkirke (Cathedral) Scandinavia's largest medieval building and the Archbishops Palace (12th century), this is a beautiful part of the city.

I got a bit of exercise by yomping up the 418 steps to Aksla the viewpoint above Alresund, offering breathtaking views over the city and similar at the Kristiansten Fort at Trondheim. A sure fire way to generate some internal heat to ward off the cold.

Gingerbread busSome destinations are not without their quirkiness either. Outside a bakery in Bodo was an old bus converted into a Christmas Grotto and filled with a city made of Gingerbread. Father Christmas himself was driving this homage to baking and icing skills and oh it smelt so good. In Alesund a centrally heated bench gave chilly bottoms and bags (picture) respite from the cold (dashed clever these Norwegians).

What's the most fun you can have in Svolvaer in 50 mins (time ashore) with your clothes on you may ask? We went to Magic Ice to find out. Set in a former fish freezing plant it has an ice bar where you get your included drink and an amazing selection of ice sculptures to admire, huge fun! Top Tip: Don't let your wife put your ice glass down on the ice table and watch it slide to the floor, yes Linda it's you I'm talking to.

A dog sled ride is one of the many excursions offered on this cruise and Kirkenes was blessed with a heavy snowfall the night before we arrived. The dogs couldn't have been more excited to see us if they'd won the dog bone lottery. Jumping up and down and barking wildly, they weren't bothered by the minus 12C temperatures and were raring to get going. Two to a sled, musher on the platform behind us and off we went, far smoother and more exhilarating than I'd imagined. The scenery was picture postcard perfect as we passed snow dusted trees and mountains all reflected in the still waters of the Fjord, mush, mush! See video for a taster.

It's billed in some of the literature as the most beautiful voyage in the world, but at this time of the year when there is so little daylight you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a stretch, unless your idea of beauty is a black cat in a darkened cellar. Then you open your mind up to what beauty can be and marvel at the snow dusted mountains that flank the ship, the moody clouds that blanket the sky. With the sun reluctant to peek it's head above the horizon, this strange light seems to suck the colour out of the world and you're presented with a land in magnificent monochrome. Northern LightsAt times there is a strange blue or blue/grey light that, combined with the snow, paints a unique canvas. On other occasions the sky is as black as a tar pit, but as your night vision adjusts there's just enough light for the snow covered mountains to appear. They glow with a faint luminescence that makes them look like eerie ghosts, looming over the town, quite spooky really. Even a little light is enough to reveal the breathtaking scenery of Vesteralen, an excursion not to be missed. Then the Northern Lights appear and illuminate the sky with strange glowing ribbons that seem to writhe across the sky in white and shades of green and red. Put this all together and you've explored a very different world and it's quite, well beautiful!

My thanks to fellow passenger Geoff W Trigg for allowing me to reproduce his picture of the Northern Lights (my attempts were rubbish).

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Hurtigruten

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Other Members' Thoughts - 17 Comment(s)

  • applegroupie
    almost 2 years ago
    @Derek-Andrews "On the return trip there is a city coach tour you can go on", is this in Trondheim? Is this a hop on hop off bus or a proper coach? We did the hop on hop off in Trondheim when we did the fjords cruise.
  • Derek-Andrews
    almost 2 years ago
    On the return trip there is a city coach tour you can go on. It is about a 20 minute well posted walk. For Alesand the boat docks only a matter of metres from the town centre so no transport is needed. For Bergen again you are not far from the centra and as this is the start and end of the journey there is no organised coach other that hotel and airport transfers. Thomso again the boat docks a meter of metres from downtown. They do however run coaches over to the night time concert in the cathedral.
  • applegroupie
    almost 2 years ago
    Thanks Steve, more questions. Was the ship very warm in the public lounges? Were there shuttles from port into town in the larger ports such as Bergen, Trondheim, Alesund and Bergen if I don't want to walk?
  • coolonespa
    almost 2 years ago
    Thanks applegroupie I'm glad you enjoyed it & found it useful. When we arrived at the dog sled venue they checked out what we wereare wearing and would have provided us with suitable attire (but you still need your own layers underneath). They thought our gear was good enough. so we didn't need it. We went in December.
  • applegroupie
    almost 2 years ago
    Excellent review Steve especially the penultimate paragraph re sighting of the Northern Lights! Were you supplied with special waterproof clothing to wear on the dog sled ride? Did you go in December or early January?
  • coolonespa
    over 2 years ago
    Thanks yorkshirecat. There are a number of talks by the tour manager, captain, chef demonstrations etc. but there isn't a continuous flow of entertainment. There are some great observation areas though, where he could watch the comings and goings at the ports but to get the full value from this you would probably be better doing the journey when there were more daylight hours and he would be able to see the magnificent scenery. There were a number of excursions which where coach based, so required less mobility. We did have a few people on the trip with mobility issues and they seemed to enjoy it, choosing their ventures off the ship with care. I'd suggest you give Hurtigruten a ring and get them to advise you on which ship/excursions would be suitable for your husband, when I spoke to them they were very helpful.
  • yorkshirecat
    over 2 years ago
    Thanks for a really interesting article, Steve. I'd love to do this cruise but it doesn't sound like my partner would cope. He's not very mobile and would most likely have to stay on board while I go off exploring. Is there much for him to do during the day?
  • coolonespa
    over 2 years ago
    Planes and boats and trains......heaven.
  • Derek-Andrews
    over 2 years ago
    Another option although I have not done it , but have spoken to someone who has, is to take the Flam railway one the way back down. We were going to try it but The Hurtigruten rep said this is a summer activity.
  • coolonespa
    over 2 years ago
    Thanks cwyatt1, I'm glad you enjoyed my article. There's no doubt that you can spend many pleasant hours just sitting in one of the lounges or a suite and just watch the comings and goings from the ship. Often the ones in the middle of the night where the most interesting, trying to work out what was in the bundles on the pallets (some of them looked like wrapped bodies but I think they were Christmas Trees). What with that and the Northern Lights I had to remind myself often that I did need to sleep at some point :-)
  • coolonespa
    over 2 years ago
    I'm glad you enjoyed your trip Stuart_6 and there are definitely many ways to do this journey. A fair number on our cruise did it one way, whilst others broke their journey at some of the bigger ports, stayed a couple of nights and then picked up the next ship to continue their journey. Tromsø seemed a particular favourite to do this.
  • cwyatt1
    over 2 years ago
    I really enjoyed your article Steve and heartily agree with your commentary. We have been on a Hurtigruten cruise twice and really loved both holidays. We went away mid-October both times and had a surprisingly warm holiday first time round, with amazing views of the Northern Lights, but had thick unseasonable snow during the second trip, and very limited sightings of the Northern Lights.
    We booked the same suite on the same ship for both holidays, which overlooked the exit doors, and were fascinated by the amazing range of different passengers and cargo that joined and left the ship (among them a massive delivery of toilet rolls at one small village, and a large funeral party joining at another village, which also included the coffin transported on a sidecar and motorbike!)
    We met some very interesting travellers on the trips and still keep in contact with some of them.
    I would definitely recommend this to others and we are already planning a return trip in a couple of years. time.
  • Stuart_6
    over 2 years ago
    My wife and son and I made the full round trip last March (over Easter) and I thoroughly enjoyed it (an alterative is only top go one way and fly the other, although the day time port calls are mostly different) . The shore excursions are expensive though so we only made the North Cape trip, which I can recommend. We also opted for the wine package with a different bottle each night chosen to suit the food, which was good too.
  • coolonespa
    over 2 years ago
    Thanks Gail. I'm tempted to do this again in the Spring, they say May is magnificent and I'm sure it would be quite a different experience.
  • Timetraveller
    over 2 years ago
    Brilliant report Steve. Really makes me want to try this cruise! We did a similar itinerary in August on a Princess ship and saw some of the places you mentioned. The Trollfjord was in Honningsvag when we were there and our tour guide told us that we could go onboard to have a look if we wished but our lunch beckoned and then the Trollfjord sailed!
  • coolonespa
    over 2 years ago
    Thanks Derek and for all the pre cruise tips. You can read Derek's view on his cruise at http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review?id=163110
  • Derek-Andrews
    over 2 years ago
    Excellent report Steve. We went on the same cruise last February. Going at this time of year does allow you to see more of the superb scenery in daylight. As you say the Trollfjord is not a true cruise ship but we were very well looked after and the food was excellent. Trondheim is a great place to see and the Cathedral is breathtaking. We did like the North Cape and visiting the Tromso church midnight concert were our highlights.
    Glad we were able to recommend this voyage to you Steve.

    Derek