While not entirely new (it was built in 2009), the 335-passenger ship joined the Hurtigruten fleet in May 2016 after a complete refurbishment and is the first of several expedition vessels planned for the over-120-year-old company. Part of the overhaul was to give MS Spitsbergen the ability to handle polar voyages to Greenland, Iceland, and the Arctic. The ship also does the line's iconic itinerary along Norway’s coast between Kirkenes and Bergen.
In an era of over-the-top mega ships, MS Spitsbergen is decidedly no-frills (you won't find Broadway-style shows or crazy waterslides here). What you do get is a simple, modern ship that is a comfortable way to experience the natural beauty of the Arctic.
What We Love
Local Fare: There is a real emphasis on local products on this ship, meaning you'll dine on Arctic Char from Sigerfjord and cloudberries with cream at Norway’s Coastal Kitchen, and sip aquavit or Lyngen Alps vodka at the Panorama Bar.
The Sauna: Yes, the views are lovely from the glass-enclosed Explorer Lounge. But our favorite vista came from the windowed sauna, where our stress melted away as the arctic landscape passed by.
Best Known For
The Norwegian Way: Hurtigruten’s ships have been plying the coast of Norway since 1893 and are part of the country’s culture — this has been the way that many who live in small towns in the fjords have gotten their mail and packages for decades. Scandinavian touches run throughout MS Spitsbergen's contemporary spaces, from the images of coastal landscapes lining the halls to the warm (faux) fireplace. You'll get to experience cultural traditions as well, taking a shot of cod liver oil during the ship-wide celebration while passing the Arctic Circle, for example.
Easygoing Atmosphere: There is no need to pack formal clothing — expedition gear makes a stronger fashion statement here. Also adding to the casual vibe is the fact that vacationers aren’t the only ones on board — Norwegians use Hurtigruten's ships as ferries for transportation down the country's coast.
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Who It's Best For
Explorers of All Kinds: Expedition teams guide you on excursions ranging from low-key walking tours to adventure-packed dog sledding trips, so you can go as rugged as you’d like.
Europhiles: Most passengers on board are Europeans in the 50-70 age range, so you will get to mingle with people of other cultures. It also means you'll listen to multiple versions of the same announcements, usually in Norwegian, German, and English.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Weather Is Temperamental: It can be sunny one minute and a downpour the next, so be prepared for a chance of foggy conditions and low visibility that blocks your view of those iconic fjords. If you go in winter, the cloudy skies mean you’re not guaranteed to see the Northern Lights.
Kayla Becker is a New York City-based contributor to ShermansCruise and the assistant editor for the site.