Hurtigruten (formerly known as the Norwegian Coastal Voyage), has been popular for many, many years with their unique Norwegian fjord cruises shuttling up and down the coast.
As smaller working ships, they have been able to cruise into all the smaller fjords and are a completely different take on cruising – away from all the glitz and glamour instead focusing on the destination and beautiful scenery. However, they have since branched out into the competitive market of expedition cruising, and I went on board MS Maud in Belfast to understand how they do it.
The MS Maud only carries around 550 passengers (although in Antarctica it’s capped at 500), so in the context of cruising, it’s a very small ship. Having once been part of its traditional Norwegian fleet, it was converted to an expedition ship around 10 years ago, and there are still hallmarks of its previous life as the Midnatsol. As an expedition ship, it has to have space for the zodiacs, as well as more storage for food – something which can be brought on every day in the Norweigan Fjords.
Even though it’s small, it still has a choice of dining options (including one a-la-carte which is included for suite guests), of course, a lecture room where invited guests speak, a science lab and a huge observation lounge.
There are a number of different cabin types onboard. The Polar inside/outsides are similar sizes (although they did concede these are only generally booked on the Antarctic cruises when they are near capacity). Above is a mini-suite which has a little seating area, but remember its former life and it should be no surprise that none of the cabins or suites are expansive. There are plenty of places to sit onboard though – with a large observation lounge, and when the weather is nice a large area on deck (where a helicopter can land).
One of the biggest attractions onboard is the Observation Lounge, split over two levels, complete with its own small bar in the corner and stage which they occasionally use for live music (although entertainment isn’t really part of the experience, especially on an expedition cruise). The lounge is a great place just to sit and watch the world go by. There is also a library, a science lab and a lecture theatre – so there is always something happening onboard.
Currently, MS Maud is travelling around the UK and is soon to be heading up to Iceland and Greenland for the summer. Although, it’s still an expedition cruise. So what makes an expedition cruise? There are a few things, the use of zodiacs (instead of tenders), smaller ports (or no port at all) and a team of expedition leaders onboard, lecturers or specialist presenters (such as scientists). It’s really for those who want to experience a destination, learn about where they are going to in a less formal, relaxed style.
For all small ship cruises, including that of Hurtigruten’s traditional Norwegian Coastal Voyage and it’s Expedition Cruises, contact us on 01442 8798787, or email firstname.lastname@example.org