Food on the MS Lofoten
From experience we know that Norway is expensive – very very expensive and hence we chose to go for the Full Board option when booking our tickets. This means that for 12 days we get as much food as we can eat, three times a day with tea / coffee included after every meal. Whilst this does not equate with the 24 hour food offer on major cruise ships, I can assure you that what is on offer on the Lofoten is more than sufficient.
If you chose not to buy the full board package but to buy meals as and when you eat them, the prices will put you off eating too many. In the restaurant, Breakfast costs 135 kr, lunch 285 kr and dinner 395 kr. At 8.92 Kr to the £ or 6.963 to the $, if you bought every meal at the door, it would cost around £1000 ($1500) per person for the whole 12 day trip.
Hurtigruten describe the food onboard as (unsurprisingly) “Norwegian. All inclusive meals are served in the one restaurant. Breakfast is buffet style and lunch is the famous "Cold Table" while dinner is a no choice 3 course menu. There is also a cafe serving snacks, drinks 24 hrs”
The cafe serves less formal food
and typical of what is on offer there is:
Meat ball sandwich 65 NoKr
Smoked Trout sandwich 59 NoKr
Baguette with shrimp salad 59 NoKr
Ciabatta with chicken curry salad 68 NoKr
Today’s sandwich 52 NoKr
Pasta Bolognese 115 NoKr
Baked Trout 145 NoKr
Fish and Chips 95 NoKr
and lots more.
The most expensive dish is “Ship’s Pizza at 175 NoKr”, I have no idea how large it is.
For those eating in the restaurant, the usual meal times are: breakfast from 07.30 to 10.00 hours (open sitting – you can sit anywhere you want); lunch from 13.00 hours (open sitting); dinner from 19.00 hours (set seating) – when you first board the boat you are allocated a table for dinner and expected to sit at that table for all future dinners. During high season sailings (the summer) all boats have a number of sittings for dinner. Low season is usually a different matter. Because we were as few as 16 on this trip, we all ate together, we all sat at window tables and we chose to ignore our specified seat if finishing a conversation required this.
Meal times (particularly lunch) move around a bit to accommodate activities and the needs of the staff and twice on this trip, lunch has been on offer from 11 am.
From a passenger’s perspective, this does not work if you are going out on a trip since you may then have breakfast at 8 am, lunch at 11 am and evening meal at 7 pm. We unofficially solved this problem by making a sandwich at the lunch table at taking it with us using plastic bags a fellow passenger had to put them in.
On another occasion we had breakfast at 7 am, lunch at 1 pm and our evening meal at 5.30 pm because they wanted to serve another group coming on board for a meal at 7.30 pm.
Our comments about poor timing and the short gap followed by the long gap between meals was responded to by “take some fruit with you then”. They could do better here because we got the distinct impression that we were being moved to suit them and not us. We all accept that sometimes changes are required for operational reasons but this was handled badly, particularly so when we saw that the dining room was only half full at our normal later meal time and that our tables were empty.
The published winter dinner menu (hidden away within their website) is:
|Clip fish bolinhos with ruccola salad |
Free range chicken with barley risotto
Chocolate fondant with pear sorbet
|Cauliflower soup with shreds of cured ham |
Baked fillet of trout with root vegetable
Panacotta made with Norwegian thick milk
|Selbu Blå on baby-leaf salad with coludberry syrup |
Braised ox fillet with vegetable stew and red wine jus
Brown Betty with caramel sauce
|Tromsø||Green pea soup with bacon and cream |
Grilled stock fish with potato purée, Port salsa and bacon
Cheese cake served with forest berry compote
|Nordkapp||North Cape buffet |
Seafood dominates, and often we serve king crabs.
reindeer meat when it is available.
|Kirkenes||Barents salad with delicious seafood and spicy mayonnaise |
Venison medallions with sautéed vegetable, potato purée and wild game sauce with blueberries
Raspberries with sour cream
|Hammerfest||Aquavit-cured reindeer topside with herb salad |
Arctic char with asparagus, Roswald potatoes and hollandaise sause
North Norwegian blueberry parfait
|Vesterålen||Potato and leek soup with croutons and truffle oil |
Steamed haddock roulade with sautéed vegetables, tomato jus and baked amandine potatoes
Rhubarb and strawberry soup with puff pastry and sour cream
|Helgeland||Viking wraps with marinated, seasoned and smoked salmon, sour cream and lettuce |
Classic pepper steak with Hasselback potatoes and pepper sauce
The ship's ice cream bombe with fresh fruit salad
Hurtigruten's classic fish soup with freshly caught fish
and they seem to be sticking to the menu (more or less) and what can be expected the next day is published late every evening.
I would describe the food quality as varying from very good to adequate and presentation as usually superb.
Whilst they do offer a vegetarian option at every lunch time, it is usually a bit lacking in imagination (I have been offered a pasta based dish 5 times so far and once it was just the vegetables which every one else could have) and so doubling up on the excellent salad range is the best choice although getting sufficient protein is difficult. Vegans would be challenged and those on a special diet might have significant difficulties. Breakfast choice includes something hot (always for meat eaters, not very often for vegetarians) plus the usual Scandinavian range. Bread is very good and tastes and smells fresh.
The choice of five deserts at lunchtime is bad news for waistlines (it would be rude not to try them all).
The evening meal is superbly presented and for me (a vegetarian) there is always some variation on the main theme offered. If you are looking for thousands of calories at each meal you will not get it and that is quite welcome as far as I am concerned.
And so a partial gallery of the food offered is:
Lunch Buffet: Salad / Meat / etc
Lunch - Nameless Vegetarian Alternative
Lunch Sirloin Steak
Blue Cheese Starter
Mash, Tomatoes, Mushroom main
Aubergine and assorted vegetables main
Baked mushrooms, pear in a beetroot jus main
Fish Buffer Dinner
Clip Fish starter
Free Range Chicken Barley Risotto
Fish cause delays
Today we have called in at 6 ports as we head south. The first at Honningsvag caused a timing problem which took the rest of the day to recover from. A 30 minute stop was allowed for in the schedule but 45 crates of fish in ice were waiting on the quayside for shipment south and as the Captain put it “fish do not wait for the next boat” and this made us late for most of the rest of the day even though the waiting time at each subsequent port was shortened in order to try to catch up.
As the sun comes up at around 10 am (well, it does not really do this because we are in the area of 24 hour darkness)
we get lots of low clouds hanging over the sea
and snow coming in from the west.
As we come into the port, we pass a Liquefied Natural Gas
terminal and we are summoned on deck for a lecture (with
free chilli flavoured coffee) as the lure.
The LNG is exported on ships. If you are particularly keen to learn about LNG in Norway, then here will tell you more than you want to know.
Hammerfest (stop 4) seems to be a delightful little town (The Northern most town in Norway)
and we had a reduced stop of 45 minutes there as part of the catch up process.
The port is the usual centre of town quayside and a group of warehouses.
And even before the gang plank is down, they have started to take on fresh water (they do so every two days) and whilst we are going into town, there is a lot more fish to
load including a very large Halibut (about 1 metre long)which is contained within
this package. They are all stored on deck because the hold is full. Outside the temperature is –3C so this cargo will keep well until it gets to its destination.
Adjacent to the quayside is The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Club (which is neither Royal nor Ancient nor a club but a museum) and also a rather good local museum (go up to the main street, then right up the hill about 400metres) we chose to go to an art gallery which had some lovely (and expensive) and also less than lovely art for sale, then for a walk around town to get a breath of air.
City manhole covers have the emblem of a Polar Bear on them,
the high street looks nice with the Christmas lights on
there is an interestingly light park with a tree which has been decorated with homemade cards covered in plastic. I do not know if this is just a local custom or done for some specific reason.
The main church in town is rather spectacular
and inside, the stained glass seen from the inside is rather superb.
The Sun sets (although it never really got up) as we leave.
Having set out to sea and just about to go for lunch, we are told that a safety exercise is about to be carried out during which a coastguard helicopter will rendezvous with the stern of the ship whilst we are steaming out of Hammerfest and practice lowering and lifting firemen and others (not us more’s the pity). And so, lunch is delayed whilst:
we try to find a place from where we can get a good view of the helicopter coming towards us
hovering over the stern
and then lowering someone down
followed by lowering a stretcher
and then practicing winching someone back up.
Three ports further on was Tromso.
We arrive on time at 2345 and immediately get onto a coach to go to the Cathedral for a midnight concert. This is probably the most famous of all of the excursions Hurtigruten offer for travellers.
The Cathedral is a most striking building clearly visible in
the darkness as we sail in (its design is reminiscent of the fish drying racks of the region). We immediately board a coach and drive to the cathedral which takes all of 5 minutes and
we can see our ship from there on the other side of the
river. The cathedral is just as striking close up as it is from
afar and the inside is pretty amazing as well. The organ in particular impresses me as one perfectly designed to fit the space.
The concert consisted of three musicians (singer, pianist, cello) playing 13 pieces of music which ranged from extremely haunting and beautiful Norwegian folk tunes to more well known pieces. The acoustics were superb and it was a very enjoyable hour.