Long a mainstay on the Norwegian coast, the 500-passenger MS Midnatsol (or Midnight Sun) has ventured out to even farther-flung shores. Starting the latter part of 2016, the Hurtigruten ship will be deployed in Antarctica and the Chilean fjords. This once-sleepy ship will be dialing up the activities, hosting frequent lectures and shuttling passengers on landings with the guidance of an expedition team. She'll be retaining her nature-centric focus and casual, do-as-you-please ambience though, and the programming will be active but not overly vigorous.
What We Love
Stunning Views: The scenery is an important part of the cruise, and the ship delivers on that demand in many different ways: There's a two-deck panoramic lounge that's flooded with natural light, wraparound windows in the aft dining room, and nooks on just about every level where you can peer out from floor-to-ceiling windows.
Best Known For
All-Weather Construction: Built to withstand heavy weather, this ice-strengthened vessel is well suited for ocean voyages to Antarctica and passages through the Chilean fjords, as well as coastal Norway.
Nature- and Landscape-Spotting: The Earth’s most remote continent is noted for its spectacular ice formations and resilient forms of wildlife both on land and in the sea, whether that be penguins, seals, seabirds, or whales. The Norwegian coast is drop-dead gorgeous at all times of the year, with colorfully painted towns and sparsely populated fishing and farming settlements.
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Who It's Best For
Low-Key Adventurers: Though MS Midnatsol explores some of the world's most rugged terrain, these cruises are more moderately paced and less hardcore than those on other expedition ships. There's not a whiff of stuffiness on board either.
Families: On the Antarctica cruises, the Young Explorer's program — complimentary to guests — offers fun, engaging activities that explore polar history and the environment. Kids can even meet the captain and volunteer to help expedition teams set up landing sites.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Food Can Be Inconsistent: Most would say that the lunchtime and continental buffets are the best, breakfasts typical and pleasing, while dinners, a set multi-course meal, range from fair to quite good. Special diets can be accommodated with advance notice.
Standard Cabins Are Hardly Spacious: Most staterooms aren't going to be the type of places where you can spread out your belongings or jump around and turn cartwheels in. For less tight quarters, head to deck eight for almost an entire floor of public spaces, or book one of the Expedition suites.
She May Still Sail Her Old Route: After the 2016 season of Norwegian coastal sailings, the MS Midnatsol will permanently switch over to her new routes, though she may occasionally be rotated back into the coastal fleet on an as-need basis.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.