Living on the MS Lofoten
As I said earlier, we chose to travel on the oldest and least sophisticated ship in the Hurtigruten fleet partly because we are not “big ship people” and partly because this ship was reported to be the most cosy and personal of all of the fleet – we can report that it certainly is.
The specifications of the MS Lofoten are:
By comparison, one the largest ships in the fleet is the MS-Midnatsol and over its 9 decks, it can carry 1000 passengers; has 644 berths; and a tonnage of 16,151. It also can carry up to 45 cars.
We are in cabin 304 on Deck A which is towards the bow. Apparently is was the “Owners Cabin” and hence is more luxurious and spacious than others on board – who the owner was, we do not know.
This has two beds running across the ship (starboard to port) with a fixed table adjacent to one bed;
an outside window which can be opened with some difficulty and also some danger of getting wet in rough weather (not that we experienced any), looking out onto a passage way (which is seldom
the gangway and the cabin porthole (left hand window)
used because it leads to the bow and only the crew can go there and it is also one of the two safety evacuation routes for the cabin) and across that to the sea;
a cupboard / wardrobe;
a desk with two drawers and lots of storage holes, a stool to sit on whilst at the desk.
The shower produces more hot water than you could ever use (and it is very hot) and the WC is standard design and size.
There is no hairdryer (we brought our own) and we also brought our electric travel kettle with us because it is far cheaper than purchasing tea / coffee outside of meal times from the ship. There is no fridge, there is one wall hook for coats etc.
There are three European style two or three pin mains plugs, no air conditioning but manually controlled forced air ventilation, four wall lights and a central ceiling light (none too bright), carpet on the floor and tiles in the shower.
We estimate the cabin is about 11m2 in size and the shower / toilet is about 3 m2 in size – overall it is considerably larger than we had thought it would be. It is wood panelled and certainly not modern in any aspect but that it what you should expect of the Lofoten.
The cabin is cleaned and the beds made on a daily basis, usually whilst we are having breakfast. Fresh towels are obtained by leaving the old ones on the floor in the morning.
I have described the cabin in some detail because when researching this trip, I had trouble in finding out the details I wanted to know and therefore hope that others might find this detail useful.
Close to us on the same deck is a single cabin (302)
which has the same size of porthole. a wash basin but no toilet or shower – it uses the communal one just outside in the corridor.
During winter, the cheapest outside
cabins such as 220 usually have their portholes closed with a metal flap (effectively blocking off all natural light) because of concerns that they might break in rough seas. This is mentioned in the small print within their brochure but the occupant of this cabin failed to notice the small print.
In the above photos, the porthole is behind the Teddy Bear. This is a two berth bunk bed cabin, here the top bunk is folded away and the bottom bunk is being used as a settee.
It has a small desk
and its own shower and toilet. It is small and you would have to be organised and get on well with your fellow roommate in order to enjoy this cabin. You are likely to want to spend a lot of time is the ship’s lounges.
So if you are travelling in winter and want a real outside window, book carefully and do not book the cheapest outside cabins.
The cheapest cabins are internal and down in the bowels of the ship with no outside windows but the thought of spending 12 days in a room with no windows is too depressing to contemplate.
The 500 series cabins have the benefit of a high outside view but the disadvantage of people walking by the windows. The 400 series vary in size and content (some with a wardrobe and some without) but they have large windows which look directly outside. The 100 series are down in the ship’s bowels, and the 200 series to the aft are noisier than those towards the bow. As with all ships, there are good and bad points for every cabin including ours.
General facilities and rooms around the boat are as described and pictured in the Hurtigruten book.
The Bar at the stern of the ship
cafeteria (mainly used by day passengers) and shop
Forward lounge below the Panorama Lounge
Hall outside of the dining room with the famous ship’s Polar Bear skin. This is in fact their second one because the original was stolen recently when the ship was in port. Someone came on board, quickly unfixed it, wrapped it up under their arm and walked off with it.
For passengers, the most important part of the ship is the small Reception Office where the multi lingual tour
manager is based. Every evening we pick up a timetable here for the following day showing port arrival times, ship
passing times and other events plus maps of the major towns we visit. There seems to be a lot of additional material on Norway and some additional Hurtigruten tours which you do not find out about unless you ask. Nothing is given the hard sell.
Sun deck at the stern
On some floors, it is possible to walk around the outside of the ship on three sides but to do a complete circuit you would have to go through doors.
The Lofoten has a washing machine and dryer which is on
Deck 2 at the stern. Passengers can now use it themselves (cost 30KR) rather than arrange via a member of the crew for their washing to be done.
I have no idea how living on the Lofoten compares to the larger vessels other than the impression gained by walking around them. Perhaps Hurtigruten will offer me a free trip so I can find out and comment on it! Some pictures and comments on the MS Nordkapp which we visited a few days earlier can be found here.
Another seven ports
On this seven port day, for us it starts at Port 2 as we leave Harstad (where we have been moored for a number of hours dealing with cargo) with a distant view in the dark of the northern most medieval stone church in Norway at Trondnes (about 1260)
which is some distance away from the ship (although it is around 8 am, the sun is not due to start coming up for another 90 minutes).
It is very much colder now and if you are standing in the wind, it feels really bitter. Many of the mountains are
covered with snow down to quite a low level and going outside takes a lot of preparation in order to remain warm.
The snow makes the position of the tree line along the mountainside very apparent.
When the sun does make a vague attempt at getting up
(it never actually gets over the horizon), it looks really spectacular but very cold.
We stop for 40 minutes in Finnsnes
and a poster on the quayside reminds us to nip into the local supermarket to buy some drinking chocolate.
The town is famous for its graceful bridge which links two of the largest islands in Norway and we sail under it heading north.
The sun was barely up when we arrived at Finnisnes and was barely down when we left about 40 minutes later.
One of the problems we find we are encountering whilst on this trip is that some of the excursions that have been booked are cancelled because they have not reached the minimum number required (difficult on a boat with only 19 passengers) or the weather is wrong. The problem of minimum numbers is (apparently) common to all boats and something you just have to accept when on a winter trip.
We had been hoping to go on a trip where we could have driven Huskies pulling us on a sledge across the snow but there is not enough snow at the lower levels for this to happen. So instead, we are taken to meet Huskies but not drive them at a Sami Husky Farm.
As the moon rises over the mountains, we arrive at Tromso
and get on a bus which takes us some 40 minutes away to the Husky farm. At the farm there are about 200 Huskies
plus a number of pups, all of which we get to meet and they are very friendly (although somewhat smelly) and some are keen to meet us (as are their fleas)
and some have seen it all before and cannot be bothered to get out of bed!
There is no sentiment here, the Husky is a working dog which is bred for work or for racing and they live their lives accordingly.
A modern sledge
its braking system which is a metal plate with sparks which digs into the snow
a harness which they did not let the dogs see that they were showing us because when they see a harness, they think they are about to work and get quite excited.
We also get to see one of the sledges used by the huskies but there is virtually no snow (despite the fact that it is very cold) and so a quick run on a sledge is out of the question.
A surprise then awaits us – a meeting between four slightly bemused grandparents and the Norwegian equivalent of Father Christmas - Villmarknissen.
He does his best to convince us of his provenance and background and then
tells us a good story with a moral about a crow called “Clara Clubfoot”
but we are more interested in the Norwegian approach to Christmas and how children are involved in it. After the story (and receipt of a present from him), we go out to meet his helpers (aka the Goblins) but this time we are in the company of some wide eyed children who have come to meet him.
He had not heard of the tradition (at least a tradition in our household) of leaving a glass of whisky, a mince pie and a carrot outside of your bedroom door on Christmas Eve in order to say thank-you to Father Christmas and Rudolf. We suggested that he put in for a change in working conditions and benefits as soon as possible.
Tonight is the Chef’s special Fish Buffet Night and so a special meal has been put on by the kitchen.
After dinner, there was a slightly bizarre video and presentation on
the Stockfish during which we learnt that it was a delicacy of the Lofoten area. It comes in 15 different grades and is exported all over
the world – grading is done by people with trained noses!.
For those not in the know, most forms of fish can be turned into Stock Fish. Fish are caught, gutted and hung out on
wooden stocks to dry over a period of three months. Cooking seems to involve beating the fish with a hammer and then soaking it and probably a few other things as well. Those who tried the samples given to us described it as fish tasting and stringy!
We are told that the omens (aka solar activity) are getting better for the Aurora Borealis with tonight being graded a 3 and tomorrow night a 4
And we get to see the Aurora – again not like
in the official photographs but better than the night before and my photographs are not great but as someone in the group puts it – “they are your photographs!”