Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

hidden europe Notes

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Readers of hidden europe often ask us about details of the Norwegian coastal voyage. On this page we have gathered together two dozen such questions with our answers. A lot of general information on Hurtigruten is available in brochures. Our focus here is more on the details of life on board.

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Readers of hidden europe often ask us about details of the Norwegian coastal voyage. On this page we have gathered together two dozen such questions with our answers.

Bear in mind that many different ships ply the route, and that vessel specifications vary. Each ship has its own distinctive feel. Here we list a few tips about the details of life on board Hurtigruten ships. The information we give here represents the norm, ie. what you might expect to find on most ships. The details may of course vary from vessel to vessel.

In the notes below, we rely heavily on information supplied to us by hidden europe readers. If your experience on a particular journey differs from what we suggest below, please let us know. It would be helpful to know which vessel you travelled on, at what time of year and between which Norwegian ports.

Where we quote prices, they are in Norwegian kroner. Here are the prevailing exchange rates in September 2014 (see www.xe.com for other currencies and up-to-date rates):

100 kroner = 12.20 euros
100 kroner = 580 Russian roubles
100 kroner = 14.80 Swiss francs
100 kroner = 9.80 sterling
100 kroner = 15.90 US dollars

We also have an introductory note on Hurtigruten, should the level of detail presented here be not quite what you are looking for. Information about the company that manages the Norwegian Coast Voyage is provided in a separate note. See same sample dinner menus served on Hurtigruten boats.

The Norwegian Coastal Voyage Q&A:

1. Will there be lots of on-board announcements during the Norwegian coastal journey by ship with Hurtigruten?

During your journey, there will be announcements about service times in the restaurant, upcoming ports and shore excursions, and passing points of interest. But these tannoy announcements are generally low key and rarely intrusive. Most announcements are made in Norwegian, English, French and German. They can be heard in public areas of the ship and in cabins.

A quiet period is observed between 22.00 and 06.00 during which normally no announcements are made – except of course in the case of an emergency. This allows everyone to get a good night’s sleep.

If you are due to end your journey at a port-of-call during the night, or if you’ve booked a crack-of-dawn shore excursion, make sure that you are up and ready to leave the ship in good time. There will be no announcements to remind you. But you can request a wake-up call.

2. When will we cross the Arctic Circle?

Northbound ships making the Norwegian coastal voyage cross the Arctic Circle around 07.00 on Day 4 of the voyage. So you’ll have to be up bright and early to mark the moment.

Travelling south from Kirkenes to Bergen, you cross the Arctic Circle on the fourth day of the journey, usually about 09.00 in the morning.

3. What time is breakfast on the Hurtigruten ships?

Breakfast in the ship’s restaurant is normally served from 07.00. But bear in mind that the onboard cafeteria is generally open 24 hours a day. If you just want a light breakfast, the ship cafeteria may be the cheaper option (see Question no. 4 for sample prices).

In the restaurant, there is free seating for breakfast and you simply help yourself from the buffet which offers an excellent range of hot and cold dishes. You can nip in and eat pretty quickly so it’s perfectly possible to have breakfast in the restaurant even if you are due to disembark at 08.00. But no-one will force you to rush. You can linger over breakfast in the restaurant until 09.30 or sometimes even later.

If you are not travelling on a package or fare that includes meals, the cost of breakfast in the restaurant is 150 Norwegian kroner.

4. Is there a cafeteria on board?

All ships plying the Norwegian coastal route have a proper restaurant. And every ship also has a cafeteria serving drinks, light meals and snacks. The cafeteria is normally open 24 hours a day. The specific dishes on offer in the ship’s cafeteria may vary from vessel to vessel.

Here are some sample prices in Norwegian kroner (NOK):

For caffeine addicts a special coffee offer is available (see Question no. 6).

5. Can passengers take cars on Hurtigruten?

Yes, you can take your car along for all or part of the Norwegian coastal voyage. This applies on all ships plying the route except for one. The oldest vessel in the fleet, MS Lofoten, does not take cars.

The size of vehicles which may be transported varies according to vessel. By way of example, the MS Vesterålen has a height limit for vehicles of just 190 cm, but that’s unusually low. On most vessels the height limit is 220 cm or higher.

The fee for transport of a car varies according to the length of the journey. The fares we quote below are valid for the whole of 2014.

Short hops, typically for a journey of just a few hours, normally cost 470 Norwegian kroner for a vehicle. Here are some other sample one-way fares in kroner (NOK) for taking cars on longer journeys:

Route Price in kroner
Bergen to Trondheim 940
Bergen to Tromsø 1880
Bergen to Kirkenes 2820
Ålesund to Trondheim 705
Trondheim to Harstad 940
Trondheim to Tromsø 1175
Trondheim to Honnigsvåg 1645
Bodø to Honnigsvåg 940
Svolvær to Tromsø 705
Tromsø to Kirkenes 940

Note that you’ll not have access to the car deck during the voyage. However, if you really need to pick up something from your vehicle during one of the longer port stops, that is usually allowed. But check with the crew before entering the car deck. The loading and unloading of cargo will always take priority.

You will not be able to drive your car on and off the boat at intermediate stops.

6. Do I pay extra for coffee on board? I’ve heard about a coffee offer. What is that?

Coffee and tea are included in the price of all meals in the ship’s restaurant. During breakfast and lunch, hot beverages are there for the taking. At dinner, the arrangement is often a little different. Passengers who have had dinner will normally be invited to move to the panorama deck for complimentary coffee.

If you want coffee, tea or other hot drinks during the day, you’ll have to pay for them. This is of course different from the norm on many cruise ships where passengers can help themselves to free coffee throughout the day.

The going rate for a cup of tea on the Norwegian coastal voyage is 20 kroner. The price of a coffee ranges from 33 kroner for an espresso to 37 kroner for a latte. For regular filter coffee, the price is 35 kroner.

If you need regular shots of coffee, consider the Hurtigruten coffee offer. For a one-off charge of 345 kroner, you get a Hurtigruten mug and then you can top up for free throughout the entire calendar year. So not just on the journey where you buy the mug, but on any Hurtigruten boat at any time this year. It entitles you only to the filter coffee.

Is it worth it? Well, if you are used to specialist continental coffee blends, you’ll find Hurtigruten coffee quite weak. Of course, if you happen to live right by the quayside at a Hurtigruten port-of-call, then there are the makings of a great deal here. Each time a ship pulls in, you can hop aboard with your mug and grab a coffee in the ship’s cafeteria. Do that every day for a year and you’ll be paying less than 1 krone a day for your morning coffee. This must surely be the best coffee bargain in Norway.

7. What is the cost of meals in the ship’s restaurant?

Most cruise packages include meals on board. Travellers making short or long point-to-point journeys also have the option of a fare that includes some or all meals. If you are planning on just paying for meals along the way, bear in mind that prices reflect those prevailing in good restaurants across Norway.

Meals in the main restaurant are normally priced as follows:

  • Breakfast: 150 Norwegian kroner
  • Lunch: 329 Norwegian kroner
  • Dinner: 425 Norwegian kroner

Each ship also has an onboard cafeteria with a good selection of hot and cold drinks, light meals and snacks. In the cafeteria you pay for what you take ( see Question no. 4 for sample prices for the cafeteria).

8. Which credit cards are accepted on Hurtigruten ships?

You can pay on board with MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club and American Express. Norwegian cash is of course also accepted. If you are spending more than just a day on board, it is really worth creating a "cruise card" (for details see Question no. 9).

9. What is a cruise card?

A cruise card allows you to make all your onboard purchases with one card. You can create a cruise card account at your ship’s reception area by showing a valid credit card. Then just show your cruise card whenever you make onboard purchases. It is akin to charging extras to your room account in a hotel. A list of all your purchases with a statement of your account will be delivered to your cabin a few hours prior to arrival at your port of disembarkation. If it all looks fine, that final total on that statement will be charged in a single transaction to your credit card. If you have queries on the statement, have a word with the staff at the ship’s reception.

The cruise card is a no-nonsense cashless way of making onboard purchases. It can be used in the ship’s shop, in the cafeteria and restaurant, and it is a sensible way of paying for shore excursions.

10. What currency is used on board Hurtigruten ships?

All goods and services on the Hurtigruten ships are priced in Norwegian kroner. You can pay on board with credit cards, a cruise card or in cash. If you want to pay cash you’ll need a supply of Norwegian kroner.

Notes in euros, sterling, US dollars and a number of other currencies may be changed into Norwegian kroner at reception on board your ship. You may find more favourable exchange rates by securing Norwegian kroner prior to boarding the ship.

11. What are the arrangements for dinner on the Norwegian coastal voyage?

Dinner is served in the ship’s restaurant. Usually there will be two sittings, typically at 18.30 and 20.15. Normally, it is a set meal of three courses – with no choice at all. Of course, the chef will take into account special dietary requirements if you notify the restaurant staff when you book, but choices will be limited.

On occasions, more commonly on the northbound voyage than when sailing south, you’ll find a dinner buffet rather than the normal three-course meal. This is invariably the case on Day 1 of the journey as the ship leaves Bergen. It is often the case on Day 6 as the ship reaches the northernmost point of the journey, rounding the Nordkinn Peninsula. This is the final evening of the northbound voyage.

The cost of dinner in the restaurant is 425 kroner. Drinks are extra. A glass of house red or white wine is 82 kroner. Draft beer is 69 kroner. See some sample dinner menus and further details.

If you don’t want the set dinner, bear in mind that every ship also has an onboard cafeteria with a good selection of hot and cold drinks, light meals and snacks. In the cafeteria you pay for what you take ( for details see Question no. 4).

12. Is there a dress code on Hurtigruten boats?

Absolutely not! This is not a cruise in the normal sense of the word. Hurtigruten vessels are working boats, and you’ll not find any of the affectations that are so common on modern cruise ships. Most passengers on board dress pretty casually. That applies even at dinner in the restaurant. Our advice is that it is not worth packing a tie or a tiara.

13. What’s the score with electrical applicances on Hurtigruten ships?

No problems there. There are plenty of sockets in cabins and in public areas of the ship. These sockets are 2-pin CEE standard (so of the kind encountered most commonly across continental Europe). Bring adaptors as necessary.

The power supply is 230 volts AC.

14. Is there a laundry on board Hurtigruten ships?

Yes, you’ll find a well-equipped self-service laundry on board. There are washers, driers and irons. You can buy tokens for the washers and driers at the reception for a very reasonable 15 kroner a shot. Washing powder is supplied, so you do not need to bring your own.

These excellent laundry facilities are a great incentive for travellers in remote parts of the Norwegian coast to make a short journey on a Hurtigruten boat. Assuming that machines are available, you’ll have a clean and dry set of clothes within a couple of hours of boarding the boat.

There is no facility for handing in clothes and having them laundered and / or ironed for you.

15. Is lunch served on board?

Lunch is served in the main restaurant on the ship, generally from noon till 14.00. Normally you can just turn up and take a place, but on occasions there may be two separate sittings. There is free seating for lunch so you’ll not be pre-assigned a specific table. The meal takes the form of an open Scandinavian buffet, with a wonderful range of hot and cold dishes, including a choice of soups, salads, fresh fish and meat dishes.

The cost of lunch in the restaurant is 329 kroner. Drinks are extra. A glass of house red or white wine is 82 kroner. Draft beer is 69 kroner.

If you don’t want a full lunch, bear in mind that every ship also has an onboard cafeteria with a good selection of hot and cold drinks, light meals and snacks. In the cafeteria you pay for what you take (for details see Question no. 4).

16. Can I buy newspapers on board my ship on the Norwegian coastal voyage?

Yes. But bear in mind that only Norwegian language daily newspapers are sold on board the vessels that ply the Norwegian coastal route.

If you are a real newshound and feel deprived of your daily fix, you may find foreign-language newspapers are available at larger ports of call along the coast. But of course that depends on the ship stopping during shop opening hours. In that respect the northbound voyage (ie. from Bergen to Kirkenes) has more promising options than the southbound journey. Trondheim, Bodø and Tromsø all have well-timed stops on the northbound cruise which may allow you to pick English or German language newspapers.

17. What is the northernmost point I’ll reach on the Norwegian coastal voyage?

The northernmost portion of the Norwegian coastal voyage is reached as the ship rounds Kinnarodden at the northern tip of the Nordkinn Peninsular. At over 71ºN, this headland is the northernmost extremity of mainland Europe (contrary to popular belief which incorrectly assigns the record to North Cape).

On the northbound voyage, you’ll round Kinnarodden around 18.00 on Day 6 of the journey. Returning south from Kirkenes towards Bergen, you’ll pass Kinnarodden at about 01.00 on Day 2 (so in the early hours of the morning after leaving Kirkenes).

18. Will I see polar bears on the Norwegian coastal voyage?

No! You will be way up north beyond the Arctic Circle, but very far south of the latitudes where polar bears live.

19. Are there shore excursions on Hurtigruten?

There is a very wide choice of shore excursions available on the Norwegian coastal voyage. Naturally these vary from season to season. You can choose from guided sightseeing tours through to more arduous excursions that may take you away from the boat for some hours – in which case you’ll probably cover a leg of the journey by coach and rejoin your vessel at a later port-of-call. This latter point is worth bearing mind. You could well end up missing sections of the coastal voyage for which you have already paid.

Our view is that by far the greatest attraction of the Norwegian coastal voyage is the ship itself and the landscapes through which it passes. This is slow travel at its best. Excursions are, by their very nature, often rather hurried affairs. The company running any particular excursion wants to pack a lot in, and that’s perfectly reasonable given that these organised trips ashore are not cheap. But we do wonder if they disrupt the quiet rhythm of the voyage. This is very much a matter of personal taste, but our advice is to book excursions sparingly.

Here are details of eight sample shore excursions that have been on offer at various times in 2014:

Of course, you can still go ashore at port stops without joining a tour – and many travellers making the coastal voyage find this very rewarding. Some port stops are very brief and you may have time only to have a short wander and perhaps take a picture or two. Others extend to two, three or even four hours – and in those case there’s really time to catch the flavour of a coastal community.

20. Are any concessions made to smokers on board the Hurtigruten ships on the Norwegian coastal voyage?

Very few. Norway has very successfully tackled the health issues surrounding smoking and the number of Norwegians who smoke has dropped markedly over the last two decades.

On Hurtigruten ships, smoking is completely banned in all enclosed public areas and in cabins. Smoking is however tolerated in some open-deck areas. An ashtray on the table is the sign that smoking is allowed.

If you are tempted to indulge in a quick puff in your cabin, bear in mind that there are smoke detectors in every cabin. Try it, and you’ll incur the opprobrium of the ship’s crew and a penalty fee of 1500 Norwegian kroner.

21. Can I make telephone calls from Hurtigruten ships?

You find good network connectivity for most of the coastal voyage route from Bergen to Kirkenes. So if you want to keep in touch with friends and family, it’s a good idea to take your mobile phone along. Of course, you may prefer to savour the isolation and enjoy a few days disconnected from the wider world. If you do use a mobile phone, bear in mind that you’ll generally incur roaming charges if you are not using a Norwegian SIM card.

If you don’t have a mobile phone, you can on most Hurtigruten ships purchase a phone card at reception which will allow you to make a call using the ship to shore phone network. This can be very pricey.

22. Are there telephones in cabins on Hurtigruten ships?

On all larger ships sailing the Norwegian coastal route, there are telephones in every cabin. These are mainly intended for internal calls. So you can call another cabin simply by dialling the cabin number. You can call the ship’s reception desk by dialling 9.

In an emergency, you can call for help from your cabin telephone by pressing the button on your cabin telephone marked with a red cross. On some ships, you’ll find no such button on the phone, and there the way to signal an emergency is to dial 112. On some older vessels (such as the MS Vesterålen), where you may not have a telephone in your cabin, there is often an emergency button in the cabin.

23. How safe are valuables which I take on board?

Some ships, such as the MS Finnmarken, have safes in every cabin. But this is the exception rather than the rule. On every vessel, there is a ship’s safe at reception where valuables may be stored free of charge.

It is worth bearing in mind that ships plying the Norwegian coastal route make many stops at ports large and small along the way. New passengers come aboard at every stop and others leave. Members of the public can and do come aboard at port stops just to take a look around the boat. For many small communities, it is like having a new café come into town every day. Locals will come on board for a coffee. It’s all part of what makes Hurtigruten special. But with people coming and going, it’s wise to be careful about your personal possessions. Cameras, books and laptops left lying around may tempt those without scruples.

24. Is the water on board drinkable?

In a word, yes! The water in your cabin is very palatable and free. You may of course choose to purchase mineral water at shore stops along the way. And you can buy still or sparkling mineral water in the café and restaurants on the ship, but it is not cheap.

A complimentary small bottle of mineral water is served in the restaurant with each bottle of wine purchased and with certain wine packages.

This article was published in hidden europe notes.

About The Authors: hidden europe

hidden europe

and manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

Comments (5)| write a comment

  1. Dave Ansell
    4 December 2014

    I've done 3 complete round trips (Bergen/Kirkenes/Bergen) and you've covered most of the facilities in your Q & A. However, you need to mention the wine & water packages which offer decent discounts for unlimited water with meals (and permit taking the bottle to your cabin) and/or a bottle of wine per day for restaurant consumption. Also, you select dinner sitting and table allocation for the whole trip shortly after boarding at Bergen (in the main lounge/bar). And finally, I found the big new ships quite sterile compared with the oldest (Lofoten) and the midrange (Kong harald, Richard With etc)..
    A final point, the very scenic Geiranger Fiord & Troll Fiord visits only operate in the summer months (hence the earlier departure from Bergen).
    A wonderful voyage - only health issues have prevented me from doing it a 4th time)

  2. Laurence
    6 October 2016

    Is there a hairdryer on MS Richard With Cabin 552 please ?

  3. Sharon Lutman
    2 February 2017

    On the northernmost Hurtigrutin boats traveling from Gamvik to Kirkenes can we board a caravan camper?

  4. Susanne
    10 February 2017

    @Sharon As far as we know, Hurtigruten boats do not take any caravan campers on board (whether it's in the far north or further south).


  5. Olavi Uotila
    6 August 2017

    Can I mail postcards and letters onboard?

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