Hurtigruten: MS Finnmarken

We have recently returned with a group to Norway sailing on Hurtigruten. We traveled from Bergen up the coast of Norway, across the Arctic Circle, and ending in Kirkenes, the top of Norway.

We were pleasantly surprised with the Hurtigruten voyage. We sailed on the MS Finnmarken, a working ship holding 600 people. The ship made 26 stops in 6 days, often for 20 minutes and other times for several hours in the larger cities. Along with being a cruise ship for tourists, the ship also transports local Norwegians traveling port to port, cars, food, and supplies. Many villages along the coast are not connected by road, only by Hurtigruten.

The Finnmarken is clean and comfortable and reminded us of cruising 15 years ago.  There is no glitz and glamour, just a basic cruise ship. The 8th deck has wrap around windows on the front third of the ship with a lounge where many hours were spent marveling at the scenery.   Announcements are made in 3 languages- Norwegian, German, and English. The crew spoke excellent English.

The food was good.  Typical buffets were offered for breakfast and lunch, with lots of fish to choose from including 4 different kinds of herring and lots of salmon.  The dinner has 2 sittings, 6:30pm and 8:30pm.  There is only one entrée served and it is the local cuisine of the area.  A variety of entrees included lamb, duck, and fish.  If a person did not like the entrée, they could order another meal from their waiter however the wait staff did not promote this.  There is a cafeteria on board with a limited menu for an additional charge.  Ice is never served and you could not find ice anywhere on the ship.

A wifi package is available for purchase and worked throughout the ship including our cabin. Norway has excellent cell phone service and we were never out of range of a cell tower.  There is also free self service laundry on board.

Since there is no tipping on the cruise ship, we found the wait staff and bartenders to be pleasant but not overly friendly or going out of their way when asking for something.

Everything in Norway (not just on the cruise ship) is expensive.  A cup of coffee is $4.00 and local beer or wine is $10.00 on up.

Since the scenery is the destination, there is not a lot to do.  Shore excursions are limited (a choice of 1 or 2 a day) and very expensive.  We ended up booking our own shore excursions with outside vendors at a much reduced cost.

Entertainment did not exist on the ship. Usually after dinner everyone gathered in the lounge to watch the scenery.  Since we traveled in July, one night we watched the sunset at 1:30 am and rise at 1:45am.  It was as bright as 1:30pm in the afternoon.  The crew did perform an Arctic Circle ceremony on deck for first timers which involved ice water and a drinking a shot.

If your clients are looking for beautiful scenery, a relaxing vacation, and immersing themselves in the Norwegian culture, sailing on Hurtigruten is the way to go. It is definitely unlike any other European country we have visited.  Norway is truly one of the most scenic countries in the world and this cruise lived up to its billing as the most beautiful voyage in the world.

Joan Cook

Joan Cook has worked in the travel industry for over 37 years. In 1981 she started sharing her love of travel by opening up Travel Discoveries International in a small town in central Illinois. Her husband John joined the business in 1986 and together they have escorted groups worldwide. Some of Joan’s favorite destinations include riding a camel in Egypt, an elephant in Cambodia, and kayaking north of the Arctic Circle. Other exotic adventures include a safari in Kenya & Tanzania, Cuba, and most recently Russia. Joan also loves European river cruising. In 2016 after selling Travel Discoveries International, Joan started working with the MAST Travel Network as the MAST Exclusive Group Coordinator, setting up group trips for MAST. The MAST travel consortia, currently is made up of over 200 travel agencies.