Fram Cruise Review by Winfred Vaughan
- Sail Date: September 2018
- Destination: Canada & New England
The North West Passage was in fact already closed, and no cruise ship navigated it in 2018 at all due to the heavy build-up of ice, which is not unusual. Hurtigruten's East to West cruise through the Passage had already been abandoned, but we were NOT informed. Instead the port of embarkation was changed from the West to the North East, involving an 18 hour journey from Montreal by air, with several stops, finally arriving in a fifty seater old turbo-prop at Pond Inlet, close to the Magnetic North Pole, where we boarded from an open inflatable dinghy in the Arctic Ocean at 10.30 at night !
Next day we were at last informed that the North West Passage was closed. Instead of being told the truth about the abandonment of the East to West cruise, we were misled into joining the ship where we became hostages, trapped in the Arctic with no possible means of returning to civilisation. Hurtigruten's sole intent had been to prevent us from exercising our cancellation rights under the contract.
Now being at the WRONG end of the North West Passage, even if there had been no ice, there would simply not have been enough time to go down 1200 miles of the Passage and return back up it again before we were due to go home. The journey was supposed to be one-way through the Passage, NOT a return journey.
So we ended up sailing around doing nothing in mid ocean for five days, and finally went on a very boring sail down the coast of Greenland - I did not need to spend in excess of £20,000 for what amounted to little more than a seaside jaunt aboard the Skylark from Brighton !
Hurtigruten's behaviour has been arrogant. They have admitted liability by making derisory offers of compensation which are totally unacceptable. A major complaint has been the refusal to respond to my communications; all I ever get is a lot of boilerplate hype about how they value my feedback, but never any individual response. It was even worse on the ship, where the senior representative refused to discuss anyone's complaints by sitting down to talk in a civilised fashion one-to-one. All she ever did was to make public announcements and then scurry away to hide.
My main gripe is that Hurtigruten's brochure is full of re-assurance about how well equipped the ship was to navigate "treacherous waters", but there was never any suggestion that it involved any risk of ice making navigation impossible, despite hundreds of people throughout history having perished in the ice. If there had been any warnings at all, I would never have risked all that money for nothing.
I will never go on a Hurtigruten cruise again and would caution anyone thinking of doing so to be very careful, especially those thinking of joining the maiden voyage of the new Roald Amundsen through the North West Passage in 2019, the advertisements for which still do not mention any risks of ice closing the route. You go at your peril.