MS Kong Harald
The 622-passenger MS Kong Harald, part of Hurtigruten's Norwegian coastal fleet, just emerged from a renovation in 2016. The ship has a sleek, modern Scandinavian look, with interiors incorporating plenty of slate and natural woods. The Coastal Kitchen — serving sustainably sourced cuisine from the region — is a new addition, as is as a cozy bakery with house-made pastries and ice cream. Already a favorite: the Explorer Bar, where you can order from a collection of Norwegian spirits and curl up by a roaring fire.
What We Love
The Food: The breakfast and lunch buffets are a delight with a half-dozen different types of marinated herring, smoked salmon, local cheeses, North Sea fish, and shellfish, plus several berry-based sauces. Don’t fret: You can also get bacon and eggs, salads, and other homespun fare too.
The Scenery: The best views from within are in the spiffed-up lounges and the aft-positioned restaurant on the same deck.
Best Known For
Shore Excursions: There is no shortage of options in this department. Depending on the season, you can ride a dog sled, go bird-watching, or cycle against a backdrop of fjords. On the cultural side, you can attend a concert in an Arctic cathedral, sign up for a walking tour of Alesund’s Art Nouveau district, or partake in a hearty ethnic Viking feast.
Year-Round Cruises: Hurtigruten ships leave daily from Bergen, so once you set your heart on a Norwegian coastal cruise, you have just to pick the season: summer (for the midnight sun), winter (for the Northern Lights), or an in-between time, during which the north and the south sometimes experience different seasons.
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Who It's Best For
Nature Buffs: Norway's shoreline and seascapes are absolutely stunning, from the gentle, rolling landscapes in the south to the jagged, heavily indented coast up north.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Unpredictable Weather: The weather varies considerably from day to day and region to region. Arrive expecting any kind of weather, and pack accordingly.
It Can Get Crowded: Though lesser known to Americans, these cruises are a hit with Europeans. In the height of summer, backpackers arrive in droves using the ship as a ferry to get to a remote port or out to the Lofoten Islands.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.