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. One-way travel takes 5 days (6 nights northbound or 5 nights soundbound), and the round-trip takes 10 days (11 nights). This contrasts with Norway-in-a-Nutshell tours which are 2-3 days. It's also possible to purchase off-and-on tickets. Port stops vary in length. They can be as short as 5 minutes and up to 6 hours.
A museum, including parts of prior versions and one complete ship, the Finnmarken, may be found in the port Stokmarknes. The museum explains the history of the line.
The livelihood of the residents of some ports revolve around the daily arrival and departure of these ships (at all hours of the 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 a window. The per person price assumes there is more than one person in your party; if you're using the cabin by yourself the price goes up. If you're traveling in the summer season the price will be doubled; if you want a "nicer" cabin with a window, add an additional 30-100% to the price. The best suite in the middle of the summer costs 72000 kroner per 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 by the distances traveled, and whether you desire a cabin (which is required for trips of more than 24 hours). If you want to cut costs, you could stay on board less than 24 hours and just use deck chairs rather than a cabin. Most ships are capable of carrying cars (typically 40-50, excepting the two oldest ships). Combining short trips on board with a rental car that travels with you creates interesting possibilities for a 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.
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.
Hurtigruten call these ports, listed from south to north:
On each boat there is a souvenir shop.
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.