We are considering a one way cruise on the west coast of Norway via Hurtigruten going either north or south for April of 2022 and we would appreciate learning from anyone who has taken one of these trips. Our main question is which way to go, but other thoughts and advice are very welcome.
We have never been on a regular cruise ship so can’t compare but we enjoyed Hurtigruten. We took the northbound route on the Trollfjord.
. We flew to Oslo and spent a few days, then flew to Bergen where we spent two nights before embarking. Look carefully at the itinerary and the length of time in each port. The ship’s focus is delivering goods and local residents to the ports along the coast not to be “ a cruise ship.” Some stops are short, others are much longer. Look at Alesund in particular. We literally ran around this charming town.
However, we both enjoyed the whole experience. I would like to take the southern route too. When we went there were mostly Scandinavian, Northern European and passengers from the U.K. Citizens of the US were less than 10%. We liked this mix of fellow travelers. The food was delicious. We had an assigned table for two. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, dinner was served. Many Scandinavian foods which we enjoyed.
We disembarked at the top of Norway next to Russia and flew out of Kirkenes to Oslo where we changed planes to fly to Stockholm.
I haven't made that trip. I planned to do some point-to-point segments on Hurtigruten last year but hadn't decided on the details when it became clear 2020 was a dead loss. In case it's helpful, here's some information I uncovered during my 2019 research:
There's supposed to be an additional company sailing the coast this year, Havila Kystruten. I haven't checked on whether that has happened yet.
Hurtigruten has a variety of ships, some older than others. Cabin comfort might vary. Larger ships may have broader food options. Oldest ships might not have glassed-in viewing lounges, which is important for viewing scenery without having to be out on deck (and cold).
Many stops are in the middle of the night, and if you have a cabin lower in the ship, you may be awakened by noise accompanying movement of cargo. If any of the ships are small enough they don't carry vehicles (I don't know about this), there would be less noise from lower decks.
Southbound sailings are supposedly cheaper. I saw a reference to a $400 difference somewhere.
There may also be senior discounts.
It used to be the case that fares were lower on the Norwegian website: https://www.hurtigruten.no/havn-til-havn#/
The passage into the Trollfjord (between Risoyhamn and Svolvaer) may be more likely to happen on the southbound itinerary. If a northbound ships enters that fjord, it would happen in the middle of the night.
The trip into the Geiranger fjord appears to be only on the northbound itinerary (there are two arrival times in Alesund northbound). I believe the Geiranger detour is only included in summer sailings.
The timing of the port stops varies greatly between the northbound and southbound sailings. Of the towns with stops long enough to allow debarking and walking around, which are most important to you? Which sailing gives you the most useful time in those places? It appears that the northbound sailings may be optimized for sightseeing in several of the key ports, whereas the southbound sailings may just be scheduled as necessary to get the ship back to Bergen so it can turn around. For example, based on the schedules I pulled in 2019, the Trondheim stop is from 6:30 to 9:45 AM southbound but from 10 AM to 1:15 PM northbound. Bodo is 2:30 AM to 3:45 AM southbound vs. 12:40 to 3 PM northbound. The Tromso port call is from 11:45 PM to 1:30 AM southbound and from 2:15 to 6:30 PM northbound. On the other hand, the southbound run is better if your focus is Svolvaer: 6:30 to 8:30 PM vs. just 9 to 10 PM northbound.
For sailings outside mid-summer, later sunrise and earlier sunset could affect how much scenery you see.
Edited to add: Suki mentioned Alesund. I am most excited about the architecture there, and the short port calls are the reason I've pretty much decided to do the trip in segments with some overnight stays rather than staying on the ship straight through. I probably won't do the entire itinerary.
One thing prior to this: From this summer on Hurtigruten will get competition on this state-owned transport way.
Havila is the new player with whom company Hurtigruten is now operating the Hurtigrute (the state route). Their ships are new built.
Back to question on Hurtigruten:
One main difference between the two directions does not appear when you travel in April. In summer and autumn sailing plan (does not match calendar summer) the ships on north bound get into the west fjords.
Another main difference is which highlights you will pass at which day / night time and which additional excursions you are looking for. This is the main reason why you can book the round trip because the landscape will never get boring and also what is presented as sailing day highlights.
I have taken several smaller trips (port-to-port) including car or as pedestrian including some days and nights on board.
If you provide some more details what you hope / look I may have more detailed advice for you.
Thanks acraven for posting my web page.
We are considering booking on Havila for next summer. I'd like to know if anyone has traveled on one of their ships? Any information would be helpful.
Patricia, I don't think you'll find anyone here who's been on a Havila ship. I'm not sure they had even started sailing by the time US residents were blocked from entering Norway.
My wife and I took the Hurtigruten Northbound on the Trollifjord from Bergen to Kirkenes in mid May 2018. We decided to just do a one-way trip and disembarked in Kirkenes. We rented a car in Kirkenes and spent the weekend driving around the area to the Russian border and then to Finland. It was a really interesting trip being able to see 24 hour daylight the entire time while in Kirkenes. We then flew back to Oslo and then rented another car and drove throughout Norway before ending back in Oslo. We took the RS Scandinavian trip the next week. Hurtigruten is a fabulous line. While it is true that the main focus is delivering supplies up and down the Norwegian coast, the staff provided a lot of educational information. The food was great and the experience was worth it.
We went through the Trollfjord when it was dark but not the middle of the night as stated earlier. They used floodlights so we could see it well.
We loved our Hurtigruten experience!