29th May 2018: What’s life on board a Hurtigruten cruise really like? Carla, Travel Specialist at our Taunton branch, was invited aboard Hurtigruten's MS Fram cruise ship to discover the stunning east coast of Canada and Northern America. Carla shares with us what she got up to and advises as to who would be best suited to try a Hurtigruten cruise for themselves.
Day 1 – Departure Day
Flying with Air Canada (who were a fantastic airline), our journey began with a direct flight to Halifax. Entertainment, food and service were brilliant. The flight was made all-the-more comfortable as we were allocated seats in the ‘preferred section’ which gave us more legroom with no added charge. In total, the flight duration is around 6 hours 50mins.
Upon arrival, we were met by our private transfer and taken to the 4* Delta Halifax hotel which is near Argyle Street; a lively and popular street filled with bars, restaurants and shopping opportunities. Nova Scotia or 'New Scotland' was fantastic. That evening, our hotel was holding a function, it was great to see so many people around including men in their finest attire, donning kilts celebrating with their friends.
After a quick freshen-up and bag drop, we settled into the restaurant for dinner and enjoyed some delicious seafood. Following this, we decided walk from the hotel to Argyle Street where we came across a bar with outdoor seating playing some local music, a fantastic fun and a great way to welcome us to Canada.
Day 2 - Sightseeing in and around Halifax
After breakfast, we met our tour guide and made our way to Peggy's Cove which is about an hour’s scenic drive from Halifax. It was a bright sunny day and Peggy's Cove was beautiful. A small fishing village with picture postcard views. We learned more about the history of the area and even met an ill-fated lobster at the local restaurant. Seafood is in abundance here and much cheaper than we find in the UK.
After some free time to take photos and walk around in the sun, we hopped back on the coach back to Halifax for our city tour. As Halifax is a smaller city so our tour was brief yet informative and we managed to see lots of attractions such as Halifax port, city park and some of Halifax's oldest buildings and streets. The tour finished with a walk around the city’s famous star-shaped Citadel; completed in 1856, it is now run and protected by Canada Parks. Overall, I’d highly recommend a trip here my own personal highlight was our time spent at Peggy’s Cove; a must-visit in my opinion.
It was time to board our Hurtigruten ship the MS Fram, and begin our Explorer Voyage. First impressions of the ship were great. Although smaller than many of the ‘big name’ cruise ships (just 230 passengers), the ship was cosy and comfortable with lots of places to read a good book or admire the views.
My cabin had a picture window and was located on Deck 5 (out of 8) so a great position for all facilities and getting out on deck. For dinner, we enjoyed a buffet which offered plenty of choice and very fresh local food. After dinner, it was up to the lounge for a well-earned glass of wine and a presentation/ introduction from all of the crew onboard.
Day 3 – At Sea
Being my first ever cruise, I was apprehensive as to what I should expect, especially what entertainment would be on board. I needn't have been worried there was plenty to occupy us. The MS Fram has a 9-strong expedition team with experts in a wide range of fields and were free to attending throughout the cruise.
During our time on board we were invited up to the bridge by the captain where we had the opportunity to learn more about his role on board and ask questions. Whilst chatting (and with the best view in the house!) I spotted some spouts of water in the distance… We quickly realised we were seeing humpback whales and dolphins splashing around in their natural environment. This was a huge highlight of the trip for me and such a surprise that one of the days at sea would be one of the best of the whole trip!
Day 4 – St. Johns and Newfoundland
Today I attended a lecture on the effects of plastic on the environment and was pleasantly surprised to learn that Hurtigruten is committed to ending the use of single plastic by the end of July this year. In fact, we were reminded throughout the whole trip that Hurtigruten is committed to not having an adverse effect on any of the destinations they visit which was very encouraging.
We disembarked around lunchtime and were greeted by a lovely local lady who greets all cruise ships with her Newfoundland dog - Odessa! After lots of fuss we headed to the bus which was to take us on our first excursion, a trip to Signal Hill. Here we were treated to wonderful views of the harbour and St John's. From here, we hiked a very pretty trail down the hill back into town for a walk around ending the trip in an Irish bar. Many Newfoundlander's are of Irish descent, so this seemed fitting.
Day 5 - St. Pierre et Michelon
St. Pierre et Michelon are French-owned islands where you can experience a little bit of French flare during your stay. Euros are the local currency here and I was reliably informed that the local dialect is more Parisian-French as opposed to Canadian-French.
These quaint, pretty islands would be beautiful in the summer and a great relaxing place for weekend breaks if you lived nearby. Our excursion today was a bus tour of the island with stops at its highest points to take in the views. Although quieter than the summer months, it was easy to see this port would be lovely and lively with plenty to explore in warmer climates.
Day 6 - Louisbourg
As can sometimes happen on a cruise, we were unable to dock at Louisbourg due to adverse weather. When this happens, you will often stay on board the ship as was the case during my cruise. The staff on on-board were incredibly efficient in changing the day’s schedule to add in more activities on board. During this time, I attended a lecture about Antarctica which was truly fascinating. The lecture involved a whole host of beautiful photography and a wealth of first-hand knowledge about the area and its native wildlife.
Our evening meal was something a little different too; a vegetarian set menu. One thing Hurtigruten is great at, is educating. The information I learned that evening will stay with me; if all of us meat-eaters gave it up for just one day a week, it would reduce our carbon footprint dramatically.
One thing to mention about Hurtigruten, is that the dress code throughout the ship is casual. There are zero formal nights and few people change for dinner. For some, this may be unusual but, in my opinion, it made the cruise very relaxed and enjoyable. It made the focus on the destinations and experiences all-the-more prominent.
Day 7 – At Sea
Today we were guided to different areas of the ship which contain real artefacts from the original Fram Antarctica expedition. The expedition staff really brought to life what it would have been like for the explorers trying to navigate the treacherous, freezing waters around them.
After lunch, I decided to take advantage of the downtime by sitting in the quiet lounge and catching up on my book. In my opinion, the panoramic lounge is the hub of the ship, quiet and relaxing throughout the day and then a bit more lively in the evenings especially after dinner.
The friendly barman, Sherman, had memorised my name and favourite drink by day two and was so lovely. In fact, all of the serving staff were so friendly and helpful. The staff on board were a highlight in themselves.
Disembarkation – Boston
After breakfast, we disembarked the MS Fram in Portland, Maine. Whilst waiting for our transfer to collect us, we had a brief walk around the port which has some amazing independent boutique shops, delis, restaurants and more. A friendly Boston local picked us up and drove us the 1.5 hours onto Boston. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday and there was a great buzz about the city. We completed our site visit at the 4* Sheraton Boston Hotel which is a large hotel in a great location and attached to the Prudential Centre which holds lots of events and is an attraction in itself.
Across the road from the hotel is a restaurant called Summer Shack - fantastic staff and food! Burgers & beers were enjoyed all round.
Following a freshen up at the Sheraton, we travelled a few blocks to the City Tap House Restaurant for dinner and ended up watching the Red Sox baseball game followed by some basketball from the Celtics; what a great atmosphere!
Boston is really passionate about sport, so the city is sure to be lots of fun on game days.
Day 9 – Goodbye Boston
The last day was quite possibly one of the busiest day of the trip!
We were up early and a walk through the convention centre to a street where we collected by one of Boston's famous duck tours! We boarded our 'duck' (replica of WWII's amphibious landing vehicles) and listened to the tour guide, who happened to be a teacher by day, born and bred in Boston.
As we were guided around the city, the driver pointed out famous sights such as the Freedom Trail and Quincy Market. The tour was lots of fun (especially when it goes from bus - boat) and a fantastic way to start a city break in Boston as it gives you a quick overview of the city and what there is to see and do. After the duck tour, we headed back to the Prudential Centre and took a lift up 52 floors to its famous Skywalk and rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views.
If you're a fan of nature, photography, history, preserving our planet and enjoying your holiday with like-minded people, Hurtigruten may well be for you. Hurtigruten's friendly and knowledgeable staff encompass so much more that first anticipated to the enjoyment of your cruise. Not only do you learn a great deal about the destinations you are cruising to, you're also welcomed and encouraged to learn even more about the landscape and mission Hurtigruten is pushing for a more sustainable cruising industry.