It is with some trepidation that my departure date for the Roald Amundsen cruise to Antarctica, Chilean Fjords and the Falklands approached (Feb.2020). This was due to some pretty horrendous reviews (see Cruise Critic) that the ship received in its maiden voyages particularly to Greenland, Canada and the Northwest Passage. My fears were only alleviated when much improved reviews began to come out of the trips from Antarctica. I had also contacted Hurtigruten myself with my concerns and received a letter from them saying how they had addressed the issues of criticism put forth by previous passengers. And I must say Hurtigruten were on the ball in most aspects! This was my third Hurtigruten expedition and it was everything that I had hoped for and then some! The Amundsen is a fantastic ship with soft décor and beautiful Nordic touches. The facilities would rival any large cruise ship and in fact were better than many! The cabin, I upgrade to an Expedition Suite, was spacious, the beds to die for and the bathroom probably one of the largest on any cruise that I have been on. My only complaint was the measly size of the bath towels! A definite disappointment!
Being a Suite passenger, I was able to eat either in the Main restaurant, the Aune, or the Lindstrom without any extra charge. The food, although obviously a very subjective topic, was not to my taste, too much fish, seafood, wild boar, venison although you are able to get a decent chicken breast if asked. The service, while excellent, felt very rushed in both restaurants as if they wanted to clear you away to set up for breakfast. A quiet word with the serving staff did slow them down in the Lindstrom though. The menu in the Lindstrom stays the same for 7 days which is fine if you eat there on occasion, but as a Suite passenger it became rather monotonous especially when you are as picky as I am! It would be nice to have the menu rotated more as I ended up eating chicken breasts most of the voyage. Freidheim was excellent with lovely international bites. Again, had the menu been more extensive, I would have eaten there more often. The Pilipino serving staff and crew were some of the best that I have ever had on a cruise, always willing to do anything for you.
People need to understand that the Hurtigruten lines are not like your average cruise as there is not laid on entertainment although there are a few fun evenings. If that is what people are looking for, they will be disappointed. However, if you wish to be educated, involved in science and truly learn about the sites where you will visit then the Amundsen and indeed all of the Hurtigruten ships will not disappoint. The Expedition Team are truly inspirational and will leave you wanting more. They offer not only fantastic lectures throughout the day on the sites, wildlife, geography all by graduates and experts in their fields, but they map out and lead the landings and are there to answer any of your questions. They are what make these cruises out of this world. The dress code is casual which also makes for a very comfortable and friendly atmosphere on board.
Antarctica should be on the “bucket list” for everyone. It is surreal in all aspects and it is very hard to describe except to say that going there is worth every penny spent and the long hours getting there. What let my expedition down was the fact that there was one convention on board; a group of 200 Australian health care professionals (doctors, nurses, dentists) and a group of very boisterous Travel Agents for the U.S.A. Had I known these large groups would have been on board, I certainly would have changed my date of departure. Not only were they cliquey, they had a tendency to overpower the facilities making it was difficult and uncomfortable for others to use. The lecture hall was frequently closed to paying passengers while meetings were held which, in effect, meant that time for our lectures was less. Their numbers also increased the people on the expedition boats meaning that there was a greater length of time having to wait to go ashore. The travel agents frequently liked to mention how cheap they got their trip and how “grandmother” got to go for nothing! This did not sit well with people like myself who had spent over £20,000 for the privilege! I understand that this has now happened on several Hurtigruten ships so you may want to check before booking if there are to be any conventions on board.
This sailing was the last of the season and unfortunately while there were only a few cases of Coronavirus in the world when we left, during the cruise everything changed! We found ourselves not being allowed to disembark at the end of the expedition as the ports began to close. It was after some time that the crew managed to get us to disembark off the Falklands so we had an extended trip. Every one of the team from the waiters, to stewards to crew to Expedition Team and Officers kept us well posted, entertained, cleaned, well fed and watered during what was quite a stressful time for many. I actually enjoyed it! Thank you Hurtigruten. Unfortunately we were repatriated via a very small charter plane which made the journey from Stanley to Santiago horrendous. However, the LATHAM flight back Santiago to London was via a Dreamliner so I could almost forgive the claustrophobic flight from the Falklands.
Hurtigruten has worked very hard to implement changes and rectify poor feedback from the initial cruises on the Amundsen. There still needs to be some changes like the shop could stock more items rather than just looking like an expensive “duty free” store. Books on the areas travelled to and/or Polar exploration and history, sweets and snacks wouldn’t go amiss. The clothes were beautiful but quite expensive. This lack of variety could be because the shop is rented out and does not have anything to do with Hurtigruten. I know on their other ships, the shop inventory is much better. The main auditorium now has screens on most walls so that wherever you sit, you will have a good view. The presentations are also screened in your suites and cabins. The check-in process was quite efficient where you checked in on the deck where your cabin was. However, after a very long day and early flight from Santiago, the very long queue to see the medical team to turn in your medical declaration was not nice!
The organising into expedition teams was efficient as we were given a group “name”. Each group was then called in turn to board the zodiacs. Again, it was a shame that there was a large convention on board which led to more groups obviously leading to a longer wait. However, the whole operation was smooth, people being loaded as others were being “disinfected” and unloaded. They made sure each group was rotated in order to leave early.
Except for the small points that have been made above, the Roald Amundsen is one of the best ships that I have been on. However, as it is billed as an Expedition ship, it carries more passengers than it should. People also need to do their research and really need to understand the concept of Hurtigruten. Some on board didn’t and were sure to let everyone know! I am looking forward to my next Hurtigruten expedition once this crazy world settles!
Large spacious Suite with great balcony! The beds are excellent, so good it is hard to get out of them in the morning! Good size bathroom and very large shower. Go for a Suite if you can!