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Bob Scherago

Age: 70


Number of Cruises: 7

Cruise Line: Norwegian Coastal

Ship: Richard With

Sailing Date: 2010-02-27

Itinerary: Bergen to Kirkenes to Bergen

We took this cruise in late February, and it snowed every day. It was absolutely beautiful. We sailed north, then east, to the Russian Border, stopping at 34 ports; then we reversed the trip, stopping at the same 34 stops on the way back. The scenery is breathtaking, the temperatures were comfortably in the 20s and 30s, and the people of Norway are warm and welcoming.

The food ranged from mediocre to good. Breakfast and lunch were huge buffets, with cold meats and cheese, smoked fish, caviar, fruit and salad. Hot foods, including soups, were never hot. Dinners were three served courses, no choices unless you requested a vegetarian entree. The presentation was nice, and the quality of the food was good, but most entrees were over salted, and drowning in sauces and gravies. Desserts were fair to good. Water was provided by the servers, but coffee and tea were available only after dinner in the lounge. If you wanted anything to eat or drink between meals you had to purchase it from the 24-hour cafeteria.

We chose a Q-category mini-suite, which was a small sitting room with couch, table, and chair, two windows, and a separate bedroom with a full-size cruise-ship-type bed, with room underneath for suitcases.. Other than two larger suites, all other staterooms were tiny with two bunk beds, one of which folded into the wall, and the other made into a couch by day. All bathrooms, including those in the suites, are tiny, but functional.

There were a number of perks associated with the suite: two coffee mugs, which entitled the user to free coffee from the cafeteria 24 hours a day; other stateroom occupants would have to purchase this for NK97 - or $16.00 per person; a TV set and mini-bar - we were able to use the refrigerator; a free tour of the bridge and a special drink - a $13 value pp; a bottle of champagne, a fruit basket, which was refilled twice, and best of all, on disembarkation day other passengers had to vacate their staterooms by 10:00 AM, but those in suites could stay until 2:30, when we arrived in Bergen.

There were few onboard activities - the attraction was the scenery. But there were ceremonies when we crossed the Arctic Circle in both directions, and there was a couple who sang and played instruments in the lounge each night. There were also two hot tubs outside, and an exercise room and sauna.

We had booked our trip through Vantage Travel, who included five excursions. Four were excellent - one was canceled because of icy conditions and fear of an avalanche. (We were reimbursed for that one)

1 - North Cape tour - cancelled
2 - Trondheim - city tour and Trondheim cathedral - don't miss this one.
3 - Kirkenes and the Russian Border - we were fortunate to have a Sami guide - one of Scandinavia's indigenous people - he not only took us to the border and around the town, but shared the history and customs of his people,
4 - Magic Ice - a commercial enterprise, it is a collection of ice sculptures in an old refrigerated warehouse. The highlight was a drink served in a glass made of ice.
5 - City tour of Bodo, including the beautiful Arctic Cathedral.

We booked our tour through Vantage Travel. Please note that I am in no way affiliated with this company, but there were some real benefits to booking through them besides the five included tours. Our group of 47 had a program manager on board, who gave a daily one-hour (or more) lecture on where we were going, as well as Norway and Scandinavian history, geography, and politics. But more than that, in addition to the regular tours, he led a walk in nearly every port where we were docked for more than 45 minutes; some were as early as 7:30 AM, or as late as 10:00 PM, sometimes two a day.

We started in Bergen, where we stayed in a hotel for two nights. We toured the city, as well as Troldhaugen, composer Edvard Grieg's home. We also stayed in Bergen the last night before our flight home.

We met some very nice people, not only in our group, but others taking the cruise, plus some Norwegian day passengers. While the food wasn't up to typical cruise standards, it was plentiful and nicely presented. The ship itself is nice, with artwork all over. The lounges provided nice refuges for reading, games, or socializing. The embarkation and disembarkation in each port was simple, just scanning your key card each way, and the gangplank was easily and quickly deployed so that even in the ports where we stopped for 1/2 hour, one could get off the ship and walk around the pier. Most ports were right in the city, making for a short walk to attractions and shops.

Hurtigruten allows liquor, wine, and beer to be purchased outside and brought aboard for consumption in your cabin; it is very expensive in Norway, but even more so on board. We did purchase a six-pack of beer at one port - it was abut NK 120 - over $20.

In all, we had a fantastic time and are delighted that we were able to take this trip.

I've posted two videos of the trip to You Tube - they can be found at and

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