The Independent

Is a Hurtigrute­n cruise really worth the effort?

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Q We are considerin­g taking a Hurtigrute­n cruise along the Norwegian coast next year, flying from Gatwick and picking up the boat at Bergen. I know it’s not a traditiona­l cruise as such, and that you are aboard a working boat that carries goods to the various ports of call. Some of the reviews we have looked at

indicate that it can be crowded and that the additional expenses for drinks and excursions are high.

Val S

A I unreserved­ly commend Hurtigrute­n – the coastal ferry that connects Norwegian communitie­s between the fine city of Bergen and the Arctic, terminatin­g at Kirkenes just short of the Russian border.

With daily departures heading north and south between 34 coastal communitie­s, it is an essential social service as well as a clockwork testament to endurance.

But while Hurtigrute­n is part of the Norwegian psyche, the transport aspect is getting less and less important as airlines and better roads accelerate journeys. So for a couple of decades, spare capacity has been sold off cheaply to holidaymak­ers who want to cover long stretches of the voyage. It is extremely comfortabl­e and well run, with buffets that deflect the high cost of nearly everything in Norway. If you wish to drink, two words of advice: duty free (which convenient­ly is available on arrival at Bergen airport) in your cabin.

The three-day stretch between Bergen and Tromso, de facto capital of the Norwegian Arctic, is an excellent introducti­on – but having had a couple of voyages, I recommend the whole thing, especially the Arctic arc across the top of Norway. Excursions are expensive, but local transport is available or simply walk around – a joy in the enticing cities of Alesund and Trondheim.

For about the price of three good meals a day in Norway, you get three good meals a day plus six nights in a comfortabl­e cabin and 1,500 miles of travel. And I have never felt remotely crowded.

The only question: when to go? I can be specific: late February/early March or late October/early November. There is enough daylight to give plenty of time to enjoy the coastal spectacula­r as you drift past, and enough night to make it very likely you will experience the northern lights.

Finally, build in a 24- or 48-hour stop in Bergen at the start of your trip: it is an exceptiona­lly beautiful city in a superb setting.

Email your questions to s@hols.tv or tweet @simoncalde­r

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 ??  ?? T he coasta l ferry is part of the Norwegian psyche and great va l ue (Simon Ca l der)
T he coasta l ferry is part of the Norwegian psyche and great va l ue (Simon Ca l der)

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