Part of Hurtigruten’s coastal fleet, the 622-passenger MS Nordkapp offers a number of bucket-list adventures. The ship’s name translates to the North Cape, the northernmost location on mainland Norway, and the closest point to the North Pole. If you’re crossing the Arctic Circle for the first time, expect to be initiated into King Neptune’s ritual: a dose of ice water down the back. In the spring of 2016, the ship will undergo a major refit, returning to service with an Arctic-themed contemporary look and a new bar in the Panorama Lounge.
What We Love
The Food: Norwegian buffets are highly distinctive, offering local delicacies such as marinated fish (usually herring) served with a half-dozen types of sauces and sweet cheeses. Fish fresh from the North Sea is also a treat, as are the lunchtime barbecues that take place outdoors.
Best Known For
Variable Weather: At certain times of the year, because of the length of the north-south route, you may be experience spring in the south but winter in the north; or late summer in the south and fall in the north. All seasons have their positive attributes — as well as their negatives. Long, dark winter nights can have a sobering effect but they're also the best setting for the spectacular Northern Lights.
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Who It's Best For
Adventurers Who Want to Stay in Their Comfort Zone: Traditionally, the Norwegian coastal routes are the perfect voyages for nature lovers who don't want to the experience culture shock of being in a totally different environment (The food isn't too exotic, and most Norwegians speak English well). That's not to say that these cruises aren't exciting: The ship's revamped programming includes lectures and excursions led by an expedition team.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Dinner Is a Set Menu: Dinner is a fixed menu on MS Nordkapp, unless you've made special dietary requests in advance. The ship also offers à la carte choices now as an alternative, though they will cost extra.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.