Fram Cruise Review by jonikal
- Sail Date: September 2018
- Destination: Arctic
Unfortunately, instead, it turned out to be a huge disappointment as ice conditions prevented the Fram from its planned itinerary.
While we were understandably disappointed at the NW PASSAGE cancellation due to the prevailing ice conditions, it was the TOTAL failure on the part of Hurtigruten US to keep us informed prior to the voyage that we found unacceptable. Especially since it was known to Hurtigruten that the passage had been blocked to shipping for the entire 2018 transit season. Not only that, but the alternate sailing areas considered for us, such as Lancaster Sound, Bellot Strait and Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay were also known to be ice-bound. The Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Charlottetown was unable to enter Lancaster Sound on Sept 6, 2018, due to heavy ice conditions. (See Nunatsiaq News dated Sept 7, 2018)
In our case we checked cruisecritic’s FRAM roll call where there was a link to a Facebook posting by Hurtigruten, reporting the NW passage would not be passable due to ice conditions. That was the first indication we had that there was a problem - approximately 10 days before our departure for Montreal. We are not regular users of Facebook and it was only by chance we found this.
We immediately phoned the Hurtigruten US office in Seattle and were told that there was an eblast being prepared for all the east bound pax that would be sent out “within minutes.” This email never arrived. The day before we were scheduled to fly to Montreal , we once again phoned Hurtigruten and the rep provided little additional info. When I expressed our frustration and disappointment with Hurtigruten's lack of customer service, we were told that it was the “Norwegian way” !
The failure to inform passengers many weeks ahead of the sailing that no transits of the NW passage had been possible at all this year was a big PR failure and disservice to those on this itinerary.
In sum: Not once did we receive any information either by phone or via email from Hurtigruten US that we would not be going through the NW Passage. All the info we gathered was as a result of our own efforts.
By contrast, we have nothing but praise for the ship’s crew. The expedition team made heroic efforts to make the alternate itinerary less of a disappointment. They were dealing with a significant number of angry passengers and were unfailingly diplomatic in their responses despite the harsh comments and a tense atmosphere. The ship’s entire crew is a great credit to the company with their good spirits, excellent service and great attitude despite the long hours and heavy schedules they contend with. Their additional burden in dealing with many unhappy customers deserves our admiration and gratitude.
In order for Hurtigruten to expand its marketing of expedition style itineraries, they will need to overhaul their currently ineffective communications program to improve customer relations; to include a fair compensation to passengers for the cost of a failed itinerary and for the total failure of keeping passengers informed in a timely manner giving them options as to whether to proceed with the voyage or not.