Built in 1983, the MS Vesteralen is one of the smallest and oldest ships in the Hurtigruten line, but she’s named after the very first Hurtigruten ship, which set sail in 1893, and she is therefore an important part of the fleet. The original Vesteralen was named for a spot just north of the Lofoten Islands, on Norway’s coast, and one of the most beautiful locations in a cruise that is absolutely full of them. Refitted and refurbished most recently in 1995, she’s a compact 356 feet in length, with a passenger capacity of just over 500. Passengers can choose single of double occupancy cabins, including both interior and exterior window-view options, and two different suite sizes, for up to four people. Her cosy décor is accented with stunning Norwegian art, and the spectacular views of the Norwegian coastline that are such an important part of the Hurtigruten cruise experience.
Due to its role as a passenger and cargo ferry as well as a cruise ship, the MS Vesteralen visits an incredible 34 ports in six days, with each visited twice on a 12-day round trip. The northbound and southbound journeys are varied so that a different set of ports are visited during the day on each leg, providing different towns and cities to visit, and different excursions to take part in, depending on whether you’re travelling north to south, or vice versa. There are also different aspects to the trip depending on the time of year, with long summer days the culminating in the advent of the midnight sun at the height of the season, and the hunt for the northern lights in the far north during the winter months.
Dining aboard the MS Vesteralen doesn’t provide variation in terms of where to eat, but the fresh, delicious food offered more than makes up for it. Your morning and midday meals are served buffet-style, with a wide range of dishes at both meals. Start your day off with a choice of yogurt, fruit, and cereal, breads, hot egg dishes, meats and cheeses, and traditional Scandinavian fare such as smoked fish. Lunch menus are similarly varied, with sandwich ingredients, salads, soups, and other hot dishes for hungry passengers.
Dinner is a seated meal with a set menu that varies according to the season, and Hurtigruten chefs take pride in using the freshest local ingredients, many of which are bought daily from suppliers in port. A typical evening meal might include smooth baked brie with cured ham, baked cod with red onion compote and tarragon butter, and chocolate mouse with cloudberries. Passengers with special dietary needs can be accommodated if advance requests are made.
Hurtigruten ships don’t provide glamorous and glitzy entertainment like many cruise lines do, but cruising on the MS Vesteralen is an experience in itself, and the spectacular Norwegian coastline needs no embellishment.
There’s a small library and internet café on board the ship, and three bars and lounges, where you’ll sometimes find live music in the evenings, but on these cruises, the focus really is on the simple pleasures—relaxing inside or out and enjoying the stunning view, drinks and conversation with new friend and old, visiting port towns and cities, and experiencing some of the amazing on-shore excursions that are available on to passengers, such as dog-sledding, guided sight-seeing tours, visits to island fishing villages, and seeing the Norwegian countryside on horseback or snowmobile.