We choose this cruise primarily to see the Northern Lights. In that respect we were very lucky as the lights appeared on 7 of the 12 nights aboard. We elected to take the round trip which entailed sailing North from Bergen for 6 nights and then the same route back (albeit the time at which we called into the ports on the Southerly return journeyt differed from the outbound journey and therefore gave an opportunity to visit different places in each direction. Our main reason for doing the round trip was to maximise our chance of seeing the Northern Lights. As it turned out we saw the lights on 5 occasions on the Northerly trip but only 2 times on the return but this was probably because we encountered more cloudy conditions on the South bound journey. Apart from the sheer wonder of the Northern Lights the beauty of the Norwegian coastline and the comfort of the ship Polarlys was an added bonus !
We travelled from London via a Hurtigruten charter (operated by Germania). The flights were fairly standard charter airline stuff but being a Hurtigruen charter made it a very seamless embarkation and disembarkation process. Hurtigruten staff met us all at Bergen. all we had to do was collect our baggage at the airport, put it into a Hurtigruten coach and then it was carried onto the ship and put into our cabin. The same seamless process happened on the return and really made the whole process easy and comfortable.
We choose to book a suite because of recommendations from friends and reviews elsewhere and we were very happy with our choice. We also booked a wine package which included a bottle of wine and water each night and unlimited tea and instant coffee (in the coffee shops) during the day (you could also take the wine away to drink in your cabin if you didn't want to finish it during the meal). Be warned, most things, and especially alcohol, are expensive in Norway - a Starbucks coffee is 95 Kroner and a glass of wine is 135-150 Kroner a glass. The prices on or off the ship are much the same. Norway is a very rich country and people are well paid (even in jobs that in other countries are generally lowly paid) but the flip-side is that prices are high for most things and therefore Norwegians probably have a somewhat lower purchasing power than elsewhere.
We booked this cruise many months ahead but these trips appear to be very busy (apparently the Polarlys is currently fully booked until October 2018) and getting our preferred dates was not easy. We wanted to get a cabin on the 6th level where there is no walkway outside the window but settled on Level 5 where there is a narrow walkway past the cabin windows but in the end this was perfectly fine and in fact very convenient when wishing to get out on deck quickly. There were usually at least 2 or 3 excursions going on at each significant stop (over, say, 1.5 hours) which covered everything from horse riding, city walks, dog sledding, visiting a marble mine etc. We are not hugely keen on organised excursions and only went on 2 such excursions during the cruise but found the many small ports that the ship called in at very interesting and easy to just wander around ourselves. Even those ports where we stopped for only a half hour were opportunities to watch the fork lift trucks loading and unloading cargo of all shapes into and out of the ship. Most people who went on these excursions seemed to be very happy with them. Entertainment on the ship was fairly low key consisting of a (usually) daily lecture on some aspect of the cruise or Norway (everything from Norway Myths and Legends to How to navigate via Lighthouses). The few practical events included 'How to filet a salmon' and 'Line dancing' (so something for everyone) as well as various on-deck activities including a ceremony for crossing the Arctic Circle. The public rooms are all decorated in beautiful Scandinavian style and for (I believe) 500 passengers there is plenty of room for just lounging in comfortable chairs and watching the magnificent scenery going by. There was a range of age groups on the cruise but on the whole the greater group was probably in the age 55+. There was a well equipped small gym on the boat (but didn't appear to be much used).
It was, of course, very warm on the ship and generally a t-shirt with maybe a light sweater was perfectly adequate. In March we found the outside temperatures varied quite a bit (as of course they do elsewhere). The coldest spot on our cruise was Kirkeness although this wasn't the most Northerly point we visited. As an example of the variance the town of Trondeheim was -9 degree Celsius North bound with very snowy pavements but 2 degrees above freezing 1 week later. Layered dressing is therefore the best approach. Our cabin phone had an intercom that could be left active all the time so that you hear all the ship announcements and this was also the way that you could be alerted by the crew if during the night the Northern Lights were showing. When you get up from a warm bed in the middle of the night and go out onto a cold deck in the arctic the effectiveness of your warm clothing will be severely tested !
We were delighted with the beauty, cleanliness and order we found all over Norway. Norway is only a small country of 5 million people but they appear to have a genuine desire to minimise their impact on the planet as well as keep their own country clean and unpolluted and we will certainly consider a return trip but probably next time during the summer (when I think the country will look wholly different from its winter guise)
Cabin was very comfortable and (for a ship) very quiet. The bed was very comfotable. The en-suite shower was small but perfectly adequate. We had a small seating area and tea and coffee making facilities. There was plenty of storage space and hanging space was adequate. There was a walkway alongside our (fairly) large cabin window but most people used it to simply walk to and from the viewing platforms on the bow and stern and although we would have preferred a cabin on level 6 (which on this ship had no walkway) we actually had no problem with this either from a noise or privacy perspective.