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Cruise Ship Information

The MS Nordnorge (literally: Northern Norway) is a Hurtigruten (Norwegian Coastal Express) ship. It was completed in 1997 by Kværner Kleven in Ulsteinvik, Norway, as a sister ship to MS Polarlys and MS Nordkapp. The Nordnorge has a gross tonnage of 11,386, crew capacity of 57, and can carry up to 691 passengers.

Since 2002 the Nordnorge has been employed in Antarctic cruise service during the northern hemisphere winter.

There have been four Hurtigruten ships with the name of Nordnorge, which is Norwegian for "Northern Norway" - the common name of the three northern Norwegian counties.

During 2009 Nordnorge did not operate on the coast of Norway. Very little information about its employment has been released by the owners but it appears that the ship was hired out at the end of 2008 as a hotel ship in the Mediterranean, possibly in Venice.

Atmosphere on board

Built in 1996 and taking up to 622 passengers (458 berthed), 11,386-ton Nordkapp (which means "North Cape") is just one ship in a fleet of 11 operating a daily service, known locally as "Hurtigruten" ("fast route"). It links Bergen, Norway, to some 35 ports along the Norwegian coast as far north as Kirkenes, a mining town near the Russian border. Nordkapp and its fleetmates transport cargo, vehicles and passengers, some making short port-to-port voyages and others enjoying a low-key cruise.

The ship's main public spaces are of a high standard and feature artwork created by Norwegian artists to showcase the country's coastal culture. The highest passenger deck provides a large wraparound forward-facing lounge and a big-window cocktail bar midship. The principal public room deck houses a cocktail lounge, a library-cum-card room and a long starboard side gallery lounge that connects the public rooms and main restaurant.

Three daily meals are included for full one-way (Bergen-to-Kirkenes) and roundtrip passengers, while the short interport passengers pay for their meals separately or use the 24-hour cafeteria. Service by the Norwegian staff ranges from friendly to efficient. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style with a wide choice of Norwegian and European dishes. Dinner is served from a set three-course menu at reserved tables. Special diet requests are best handled with advance notice.

Other amenities include a fitness room, Internet cafe, children's play area, video arcade, souvenir shop and self-service laundry.

The cabins, spread over four decks, are functional and mostly light-filled outsides with twin beds that fold up or become sofas during the day. Ten are labeled suites, but they're actually one-room spaces, each with a lounge area and more light coming through the big windows. The least expensive are three blocks of insides. Amenities include telephones, radios, automated wake-up calls, good drawer and closet space, tiled showers and hair dryers.

Fellow passengers are mostly Europeans with some Americans traveling independently or in organized groups. Tipping is not expected, though many who spend a week or more aboard may tip the restaurant staff when the service warrants.

Family with Kids/Teens

These cruises are not recommended for children. There is a tiny play area, limited essentially to a couple of small structures and wall-mounted, kid-friendly video presentations.

Past Passenger Programs

Nordkapp means "midnight sun," and the ship's decor beautifully embodies this theme. Even staircase landings are tiled in polished marble inlaid sunbursts. Oranges, reds, browns and yellows predominate throughout the ship. From the moment you enter the five-deck atrium, dominated by a stunning 49-ft. painting in "midnight sun colors," you are struck with the warmth and brightness of the interior design. I was also delighted at the large collection of original Norwegian artwork, extremely extensive for a ship this small; it took a couple of days to take it all in. The major public decks are Deck 5 and Deck 8. Deck 5 is dining central, with the main restaurant all the way aft and a 24-hour cafe midship. Deck 5 is also the location of the ship's small gift shop.

Nordkapp has two bars, but one of them is only open during the warmest summer months. The main -- and for most of the year, the one and only -- bar, and its comfy little lounge, are located midship, just forward of the library and Internet cafe and aft of the two-deck observation lounge.

Fitness And Spa

Nordkapp has no pool. In its place a large sun deck functions, weather permitting, as a platform for passengers to recline in lounges to watch the drama of the fjords and islands parading by. There is a sauna and small gym, and many passengers can be found early in the morning circling the ship on Deck 6 at speeds ranging from hare to tortoise to snail.

A number of shore excursions are offered, catering to four languages: Norwegian, English, German and French.

Food & Dining

Looked at from the perspective of American tastes, the most charitable thing that can be said of the cuisine is that it's a work in progress. On the positive side, the breakfast and lunch buffets featured a slew of tasty Norwegian delicacies that would be hard to find in that variety or quality anywhere else in the world. We're talking four or five different varieties and preparations of salmon in a single buffet, moose and reindeer meat, fresh shellfish and smoked seafood and sausages. However, the finishing details were lacking. At breakfast we found not fresh linen but paper napkins the size of those doled out by soda fountain table-top dispensers. And aboard this ship self-service buffet really does mean self-service; don't expect stewards to hover around with carafes of coffee or to help with your tray. Paper napkins were the norm at lunch and dinner as well, though larger than those offered at breakfast.

Dinner was a disappointment. Served at assigned tables in two set seatings, the three nightly courses included a soup or salad to start, a main course and a dessert, but no selection; only one choice for each. Portions are adequate, but not humongous, and the number of courses is fewer than most Americans expect. This is definitely a ship for those who eat to live, rather than live to eat. The fresh seafood and delicious desserts were high points, especially the pastries and fresh berries.

For those who wish a more extensive number and variety of choices, it is possible to order an optional a la carte dinner menu a day in advance. This option, however, carries the stiff extra charge of 350 Kroner (about $55). This menu, which remains fixed throughout the voyage, include choices of a warm salad with king prawns, ragout of scallops "Noilly Prat," and tatar of reindeer fillet for starters; lightly roasted breast of duck, fillet of monkfish or fillet of reindeer as main courses; and cloudberry parfait, chocolate symphony or a cheese plate as dessert courses.

There is also a 24-hour cafe on Deck 5 which serves pre-prepared cafeteria items as well as cooked-to-order pizza, burgers, hot dogs and fries. But prospective passengers should be aware that this cafe is not a free amenity; there is a charge for each item that finds its way to your tray. A burger and fries runs 90 Kroner (about $14) and pizza ranges from 63 to 98 Kroner (about $10 - $15.50) depending on size and toppings.

Entertainment

Hurtigruten aptly states that aboard their ships Mother Nature provides the entertainment. On our sailing there was a lone pianist in the Deck 8 lounge, but the presence of a musician or combo onboard is not 100 percent certain. During shoulder seasons (January - March, October - December), naturalists and historians come aboard to make presentations on subjects ranging from the Northern Lights to Norwegian Christmas traditions.

Fellow Passengers

Nordkapp's destinations of Greenland, polar Norway and Antarctica draw a largely non-North American passenger manifest. On our Greenland sailing, at least half of the passengers onboard were German, with a fair number of Norwegians and other Europeans. Antarctic cruises tend to draw more Americans and Asians. Because many excursions require a good deal of walking and even some uphill trekking, passengers generally are fit adventure-seekers in the 50-and-older age range.

The ship usually operates in at least two languages: English and, depending on the nationality of the bulk of remaining passengers, German, French or Norwegian. All P.A. announcements are given in English and at least one other language, and most lectures are also presented, in separate rooms, in two languages. The majority of the European passengers speak at least a little English in addition to their first language.

Tipping

There is a non-tipping policy on all ships. However, if you feel that individual crew or staff members should be rewarded for providing exceptional service, tipping is at your discretion.

Our recommendation

Very enjoyable cruise, great food, limited entertainment and only one main restaurant.

Note: if you use a credit card, they do ‘hold’ a deposit on the card, in addition to ‘charging’ your room bill at the end. So make sure you have sufficient funds, as it takes 10 working days to clear the holding deposit.

Cabins were small, but comfortable. No tea / coffee making facilities in the room. The coffee onboard I found horrible, so take your own if you are a fussy coffee drinker. The water onboard is drinkable.

If you are not a big fish eater, do make the restaurant manager aware, as most dinners were ‘set’ menu’s, and they will serve you alternative options to fish.

Take sea-sick tablets or wrist bands.

The ship is a ‘working’ ship ie. ferry. So it carries locals/cargo between ports.

It only got ‘light’ after 10am in the morning, and it was dark again by 3pm. The days are very short.

We were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, three nights in a row! We found the best place to view them was on deck 6.