MS Nordlys: Exploring Finnmark’s coast by sea
The MS Nordlys is one of 11 similar but not identical ships operated by Hurtigruten, all following the same route from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. A ship departs Bergen every day, and we chose the Nordlys solely on the basis of timing – this was the ship that was calling in Tromsø on its northbound voyage on the day we wanted to leave. And as all the ships have similar facilities, that’s not a bad way to choose.
The Nordlys is one of the older ships, having been built in 1994, but was extensively remodelled just a few years ago. She can accommodate 622 passengers but when we were on board there must have been far fewer than this, especially on the return leg from Kirkenes to Tromsø. Some will be locals, travelling from town to town along the coast and maybe only staying on board for a matter of hours. But most, judging by our experience, will be tourists using the ship as a cruise vessel, which indeed it resembles, although facilities are fairly limited and may disappoint avid cruise fans. If however you simply want to relax, see the coastline and visit some otherwise hard to reach places in Europe’s far north, this is a great way to go.
There is a range of cabins available, from simple two-berth inside ones to mini suites. We opted for the cheapest inside cabin, with two beds, one of which converted to a sofa during the day. It was small, naturally, but was fine for our purposes, although I think if I were doing a longer voyage I would pay the extra for an outside cabin and maybe a little more space.
We had reasonable storage space (and helpfully your bags, once emptied, can be taken to a separate luggage room rather than left to clutter up the cabin). The small bathroom had a very good shower, hair-dryer, sufficient towels and lovely under-floor heating. Specific cabins are only allocated on boarding by the way – you choose the category but can’t choose the deck or position on that deck. We were on deck three and towards the back, but the ship is large enough that location doesn’t make a huge amount of difference, and there are two lifts so you can easily travel between the decks.
There are several public spaces and with so few passengers on board we always found somewhere to sit, whether we wanted to watch the scenery, catch up with emails (there is free wifi but only on the two decks where these public spaces are located), read a book, have a drink ... Our favourite spot for all but the last of these was the Orion lounge at the front of the top deck (deck seven), where large windows offer a wonderful view (during the limited daylight hours). There is also a bar on this deck, where we enjoyed a nightcap each evening despite the appalling singing and only a little better playing of the resident pianist! The other main deck for public spaces is four, where the restaurant is located, along with a small informal self-service café, shop, children’s play room, a few PCs for general use, and another large bar – although perhaps because the ship was relatively empty, we never saw anyone serving there and it was used mainly just as a place to sit. A small room opening off this was used for the safety briefings, which took place after leaving each major port and were “compulsory” for all those who had just boarded (although I have no idea how if at all this was enforced!) The same room was used for a couple of film shows but we didn’t go to those.
All in all we had a pleasant, relaxing voyage, interspersed with the excitement of excursions. The latter are quite pricy, by the way, but of course you can always just go ashore and explore by yourself, as we did in Hammerfest. There is more information about the various places we visited in my Things to Do tips.
Meanwhile my next tip is about the meals onboard the Nordlys