Havila Polaris: Ship Tour and Review

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One of the newest ships sailing the Norwegian coastal route, Havila Polaris is a comfortable way to see the best of Norway. Come on board and take a closer look.

I recently spent 11 nights sailing the full roundtrip voyage on Norway’s coastal route. It’s the second time I have sailed the historic route between Bergen and Kirkenes.

Havila Polaris cruise ship in dock.
Havila Polaris coastal cruise ferry in dock.

Regular readers will have already seen my daily diary from the trip. It was quite the adventure! Winter storms, ice hotels, and northern ligths were just a few of the highlights.

But now, I want to spend a little time talking about the ship, so you can decide if a voyage on Havila Polaris is right for you.

Watch: Havila Polaris Ship Tour

I know many of you prefer to watch rather than read, so I have produced a complete ship tour video. This includes the public areas and a look at some of the different styles of cabin. Enjoy:

If you enjoyed the video, please do read on for more pictures and information.

Introducing Havila Polaris

Havila Polaris is one of four coastal cruise ferries from Havila sailing the Norwegian costal route. Powered by LNG and batteries, they are the newest, greenest ships sailing the coastal route today.

All four Havila ships are essentially the same. That means if you choose to sail Havila Capella, for example, this ship tour and review will still be just as useful.

It’s important to say up front that the Havila Polaris is primarily a working ferry and not a cruise ship, but it does offer a super comfortable experience for cruise passengers.

The design takes a lot of inspiration from cruise ships such as high quality cabins, a fantastic observation lounge, and a choice of lounges and dining venues.

Embarkation and Reception

I boarded in Bergen, which is where roundtrip cruise passengers board. Here you’ll find a terminal where you check-in, but if you are taking a shorter voyage and boarding somewhere else, you’ll likely just walk straight on.

Gangway on Havila Polaris.
Gangway on Havila Polaris.

All embarkation, disembarkation, and port call service apart from in Bergen takes place using the main gangway leading into the reception area on deck 4.

Guests familiar with the coastal route will immediately notice the difference, with an airy atrium and glass elevator taking pride of place.

The main reception is staffed 24/7. There is a small luggage storage room here for passengers who are travelling short distances, or those who have checked out of their cabins prior to departure.

The main stairwell and elevator leads to all floors, so let’s start the tour by going all the way to the top of the ship.

This atrium is a wonderful feature of the ship and helps fill the public areas with natural light. The ship isn’t big so I didn’t use the elevators very often, but I always enjoyed the arrival up on deck 9, with the outside view often contrasting with the warmth inside the ship.

Observation Lounge

Deck 9 is known as the promenade deck, which as the name implies is mainly an outdoor deck. However, at the front of the deck is this wonderful observation lounge and bar, called Havblikk.

Observation Lounge on Havila Polaris.
The observation deck on Havila Polaris features a comfortable indoor lounge and an outdoor walkway.

This room is a light, airy space with fantastic views from almost all seats thanks to the large windows and a raised area in the middle.

When we were sailing, this was the busiest lounge, especially after 2pm when the bar was open. Wines, beers, spirits, coffees, soft drinks, and cocktails are all available here.

In the afternoon, Havblikk also hosts a small snack lounge for passengers with the Havila Gold package. In the evenings, the occasional event took place here including a trivia contest and a live performance by one of the crew.

Promenade – Deck 9

The rest of deck 9 is all outside, beginning with a superb walkway that wraps all the way around the outside of the observation lounge.

You can see the sea underneath this part of the walkway though, so it’s not for those who get a little nervous about these things.

David Nikel in the snow at the back of deck 9 on Havila Polaris coastal cruise ferry in Norway.
Me at the back of the deck 9 promenade.

However I think the view from up here is well worth it. I particularly enjoyed this spot during sail-ins and sailaways, although I was always a little mindful about not standing right in front of someone who had a window seat in the observation lounge!

This outdoor promenade deck continues all the way to the back of the ship. This is a fantastic place for hunting the northern lights, or just soaking up the scenery. Of course, it’s windy out here most of the time, especially when the ship is at sea,so you’ll need to wrap up.

The walkway at the aft of the ship is possibly the best place for landscape photography Dress well and you’ll get some great shots from here including the wake and the flag of Norway.

Spa & Fitness – Decks 7 & 8

Aside from the bridge and two exclusive suites, deck 8 is another outdoor deck. It’s here you’ll find the two hot tubs, open throughout the day as long as sea conditions allow. And yes, people do use them in the winter!

Outdoor bar opposite the hot tubs on Havila Polaris.
Outdoor bar opposite the hot tubs on Havila Polaris.

Near the hot tubs you’ll find an outdoor bar, open for periods throughout the cruise, notably when the Havila Food Stories events take place. When the bar is closed, this is still a great area for watching the world go by in the daytime, or stargazing or northern lights hunting by night.

Just inside, you’ll find two saunas. There’s access doors to these from both the inside and outside parts of the deck. Unfortunately there was an issue with the doors on our voyage so they were out of action for much of the trip.

One floor down on deck 7, you’ll find a selection of premium rooms and inside cabins. Aside from those, there are two separate fitness rooms here, one on either side of the ship.

One is for cardio training and one is for weight training. Both rooms are small but they have good views and were generally very quiet throughout the voyage.

Dining Venues – Deck 6

The majority of the ship’s facilities are located on one main deck, deck 6. First things first, this deck is really well designed, making excellent use of natural light.

The main restaurant on Havila Polaris.
The main restaurant on Havila Polaris makes excellent use of natural light.

Every available window space has comfortable chairs nearby enabling guests to make the most of the scenery.

The Havly Cafe is open until late and serves snacks, drinks including beers and a menu of light meals. This cafe is designed mainly to serve local passengers, although roundtrip cruise passengers can use the area too of course.

I spent a lot of time in here, and not just because one of the coffee machine and cinnamon buns! The ever changing view through the large windows is better than any cafe I’ve been to before. I also chose to order a pizza or a burger in here when the timing for lunch didn’t work out for me, because of a port call or other reasons.

Through the cafe and past this relaxed seating area is the ship’s main restaurant, called Havrand. This large space at the aft of deck 6 is where roundtrip passengers will enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, all served a la carte.

You’ll keep the same table for all three meals throughout your trip. The design of this spacious restaurant means there are plenty of window seats and good views from everywhere else. It’s definitely a pleasant place for three meals a day.

If you fancy a change, there is the cafe but there is also a fine dining restaurant, Hildring. This comes at an extra charge. Suite passengers can also order breakfast in here.

Other Facilities – Deck 6

But there’s more to deck 6 than just the dining venues. Towards the front of the ship, there’s the excursion desk for booking trips and making general enquiries about destinations.

Beside this, a small conference room is used primarily by the expedition team to give daily updates on the voyage, available excursions, and any general information. They also share some small insights into Norwegian culture each day, themed around the current destination.

Conference room on Havila Polaris.
Conference room on Havila Polaris.

Also located here is the ship’s shop. This sells good quality outdoor clothing from leading Norwegian brands, woollen clothing, hats, gloves and slippers, Havila branded items, postcards, mugs, books, gifts and personal items and toiletries that you may have forgotten to bring.

The forward part of deck 6 is taken up by the bow lounge, which I found to be one of the quietest parts of the ship. That’s likely because there were fewer windows here.

Nevertheless, I found it a super relaxing space especially in the evenings. My preferred spot was these comfortable chairs by the crackling fire. Not a real fire, of course, but the crackling sound helped create the illusion!

There’s also jigsaws here and a small area for children, not that you’ll probably encounter too many on board unless it’s the school vacation period.

Seaview Cabin

Now, I know a lot of you reading will be most interested in the passenger accommodation, so let’s get going with that. One thing I do like about the Polaris is that even on one of the cabin decks, deck 5, there’s a comfortable lounge with large windows.

My cabin though was on deck 4, at the very front of the ship. That did mean I felt the movement more, but it also meant I had a differently shaped cabin, with more space.

Guest cabin on Havila Polaris.
Guest cabin on Havila Polaris.

This is one of just two cabins on deck 4 with this configuration. Regular seaview rooms have all the same facilities, but are laid out more like a regular cruise ship cabin.

Speaking of which, the cabins are absolutely up to the standard of a cruise ship, and far better than you’d expect to find on a ferry.

One of the benefits of it being a new ship is that the heating and air conditioning system actually works! That’s something that is rarely the case on older ships, or even in hotels.

Facilities included an in-room kettle, a TV, a fridge which I kept stocked with soft drinks bought from supermarkets ashore – another benefit of travelling on a ferry – and a telephone.

The phone doubled as a loudspeaker for the ship wide announcements including northern lights alerts, but only if you wanted them. This was optional, and a simple button press turned the announcements on and off.

Best of all, the room had plenty of storage space, so it was easy to keep tidy. My suitcase fit under the bed, always a plus.

Other Guest Accommodations

During a quiet port call, the hotel manager was kind enough to let me take a quick look at some of the other grades of cabin that were vacant.

Firstly, I saw one of the Junior Suites, of which there are just 10 on the Havila Polaris. These contain a comfortable living and working area, a bedroom area, and a balcony. The TV can be flipped between the two areas, and there is a slightly bigger bathroom.

Inside cabins are much smaller but still comfortable. The inside cabins are really designed for shorter journeys. Most sleep two, but one of the beds will be a fold-down bed. They are the most economical way to travel.

That being said, there is one more option. There is a port-to-port lounge, designed for passengers travelling relatively short distances but who don’t wish or need to book a cabin. The lounge features reclining chairs, a TV, and a coffee machine.

There is a small laundry on board, which could come in handy for those taking the full roundtrip.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Havila Polaris. If you’re wondering more about the overall expereinces and other available options, check out our article all about the Norwegian coastal route.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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