I just returned from the Hutigruten cruise on MS Fram from Halifax to New York 4/22-30. 

I loved the small ship  and the concept of Hurtigruten in general. They are not luxury, but this ship is one of their premium ships, holds about 250 guests and is able to get up close and personal with the lesser traveled small ports. I liked our room (505, Arctic Superior F on deck 5) similar in size as the regular ocean view rooms on Crystal. The real suites are a bit small as well. I think the largest is still less than 400 square feet, although they were laid out nicely and did not feel cramped, had a private balcony facing aft. Just be aware that if your guests are used to large suites on the luxury lines these are quite small by comparison.

I was surprised at how great the food was, lots of variety on the breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, some days had a theme, so we experienced French, Filipino, Greek, etc. A few nights they had "seated dinner" which meant we dined at a specific table and had the same dining companions on each of those nights. However, on those seated dinner nights they had set menus. You did not get to order off a menu of choices, this was a set menu, brought to us course by course. The only night I was not as thrilled was the vegetarian night…starters and soup were fabulous, but the main course and desert were a bit out of my comfort zone. They did post the menus on the bulletin board each of those mornings, so if you wanted to make arrangements for something different that would need to be done in advance, not on the fly that night. They are also able to accommodate most dietary needs/restrictions.

Traditional entertainment was not offered, although they definitely kept us as busy as we wanted to be with a variety of lectures and presentations each day. Several times we were outside looking for birds and marine life. I learned so much on this cruise, mostly about history and geography, even ecology, but lots of way cool stuff.

They also do not offer traditional “sightseeing” shore excursions on their core product cruises. They are an expedition company, so excursions revolve more around the natural experiences of wildlife viewing, hiking, etc. often departing ship by their polarcircle boats or smaller boats. Each destination offers their own unique experiences, so definitely need to qualify the travelers for any of their products.  One expedition that really caught my attention is the option to camp one night on the ice in Antarctica. They took us down to the belly of ship to show us the tents and other gear used for that, and equipment used on other types of expeditions.

I talked with two different couples (one in their 80s, the other just retired in their 60s) that had previously been on the Norway cruise and had enjoyed it better than our itinerary.  Unfortunately, our itinerary was quite a challenge due to being in these ports pre-season. There were very limited options for alternative sightseeing tours, shops, etc. since many places were not open for the season yet, which starts in May.  For that reason, I would be cautious in suggesting “transition” cruises to guests, without making them firmly aware of the off-season port visits, just in case.

All in all it was a great experience. I am definitely a fan and would love to travel with them again, especially their Spitsbergen and/or Iceland programs or even Antarctica.

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