Hurtigruten (literally The fast route) is a ferry line along Norway's jagged coastline. It is sometimes called the world's most beautiful sea voyage. Originally, Hurtigruten was used as a means of transportation for passengers, goods and mail along the coast of Norway. The ships still transport a limited amount of cargo, but today the ships resemble cruise ships more closely than the original coastal steamers.
The voyage is a simple way of combining lodging, eating, and transportation. Unlike many other cruise ferries, Hurtigruten is not a place for drinking and partying. A one way travel takes 6-7 days, while the round-trip takes 12. This contrasts Norway-in-a-Nutshell tours which are 2-3 days. It's also possible to purchase off-&-on tickets. Port stops vary in length. They can be as short as 5 minutes and up to 5-6 hours.
A museum, including parts and one whole, prior versions of the ship Finnmarken, sits in one port, Stokmarknes, which explains the history of the line.
Some ports livelihood revolve around the daily arrival and departure of these ships (at all hours of day and night).
Hurtigruten is quite expensive; a full round trip from Bergen to Kirkenes and back will at cheapest cost almost 10 000 Norwegian kroner/person (€ 1200, US$1600) in the lowest season in a cabin with shared bathroom and without window. The per person price means that there will be many passengers in your party; if you're using the cabin yourself it costs more. If you're traveling in the summer season the price will be doubled, if you want a "nicer" cabin with window, add an additional 30-100% to the price. The best suite in the middle of the summer costs 72000 kr/person. On the upside, the ships are very clean and anti-social behavior, noise etc. are practically non existent on board.
However it is possible to join the voyage only for part of the voyage. The cost for a such voyage is calculated partly for the distances traveled, and for the cabins. If you would like to cut the cost. This can therefore be done by only traveling during daytime, or stay onboard only one night. Most ships are capable of carrying cars (typically 40-50, excepting the two oldest ships). This could make possibilities for an interesting round-trip.
The dress code on the ship is casual, but remember to bring warm clothes if you want to walk on the deck. In northern Norway the temperatures can sink to +10°C in the middle of the summer, in the winter the temperatures are more likely than not -20°C or less. The wind from the Atlantic and the Arctic Sea will make it even colder.
The southern end stop for Hurtigruten is Bergen. The northern stop is Kirkenes, by the Norwegian-Russian border. It is possible to embark the ship on all ports the ship calls.
Visiting the ship
If you simply want to see what the ship looks like on the inside, go to the ship in the port and say that you want to visit the ship. You'll be given a temporary "port guest" ticket and you can eat and buy souvenirs on the ship. But do remember to get out of the ship before it leaves, the tickets are checked whenever embarking and disembarking so you can't simply sneak out in the next port.
The Trollfjord, a recently completed (2002?) 16K ton class ferry in Bergen
Hurtigruten call these ports, listed from south to north:
Hurtigruten - 11 day Voyage Guide (Nature - history - culture - legends), Bodø, Norway, ☎ +47 922 72 878, . 24/7. A 422 page illustrated voyage guide book, giving step-by-step guiding for the entire journey. Includes maps, pictures, illustrations, special subject reports on i.e. vikings, lapps, underwater landslides, trade along the coast in old days. Highly recommended by several critics on www.amazon.co.uk. Available in bookstores, online and onboard the ships. NOK 398 ISBN 9788299720632 (German) ISBN 9788299720649 (English) ISNB 9788299720625 (Norwegian)NOK 398. (N6716.0,E01408.0)
Hurtigruten 11 day Voyage Guide, Bodø, Norway, ☎ +47 922 72 878, . 422 page voyage guide book (soft and wide cover for old-style laptop book reading) with a day-by-day and hour-by-hour description on everything you see and lots of things you don't see from the ship (such as shipwrecks, reefs, historical events, underwater tunnels etc). The book is descriptive and illustrated with photos, maps, city walks in the major ports, and feature articles on relevant subjects such as the modern energy industry, the trade along the coast in the old days, historical events, world war II history, lapp culture and so on. ISBN 978829720632 (German), ISBN 9788299720649 (English) and ISBN 9788299720649 (Norwegian). NOK 398.
Aside from the cafeteria the ship's restaurant serves up-scale buffet breakfast (135 kr), lunch (285 kr) and dinner (395 kr).
The ships themselves are very safe and it is unlikely that anything bad will happen on board. Sea-sickness: yes, it is possible. A number of reaches are exposed to the full force of the Atlantic.
Drive back in a car. A full roundtrip Bergen-Bergen with ship one way, driving one way, would require two weeks.