The fleet of Hurtigruten vessels plying the world-famous Norwegian coastal route varies enormously. Here's what you need to know about each of them.
One of the most popular ways for foreigners to see Norway is by taking the full 12-day coastal voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes and back.
Daily departures call at a dazzling array of destinations – from large cities to tiny fishing villages – throughout the epic 12-day journey. When booking your trip you have to choose between one of 12 ships, each with a different selection of amenities.
Which ship in the Hurtigruten fleet is right for you?
Which one is right for you depends on your expectations. For example, if relaxation and enjoying the views are your primary goal, you should look towards the smaller, older ships with less facilities.
If you want something more like a traditional cruise and/or you're travelling with young children, the newer ships are bigger, filled with more facilities, and offer additional activities for all the family.
Best for kids: Finnmarken
Best for maritime enthusiasts: Lofoten, Vesterålen
Best general experience: Kong Harald, Nordkapp, Polarlys, Richard With
To help you choose, we've outlined what you can expect to find on each vessel. We'll be adding to this page over time as we personally experience more of the ships, so do check back before you book!
Known for its art deco style, distinctive bow, and swimming pool and hot tub on deck, the MS Finnmarken is one of the biggest and most popular Hurtigruten ships.
It can accommodate up to 919 passengers, and has a number of programmes to help keep the relatively high capacity of guests entertained: the Young Explorer programme for children aged 7-13 and a series of lectures and evening gatherings with the Expedition Team.
A unique aspect to Finnmarken's history is its use from 2010 to 2012 as a floating hotel in Australia. The vessel was home to workers on the Greater Gorgon gas fields project near Barrow Island. The ship was painted all white and the car decks were converted into laundries and changing rooms.
MS Kong Harald
Refurbished in 2016 to feature a modern, Arctic-inspired interior, the MS Kong Harald is a good mid-range choice. Onboard facilities include three different restaurants, a bakery and ice cream bar, sauna, fitness room and two hot tubs.
The ship named after the current monarch of Norway can accommodate up to 590 passengers. The Expedition Team hold lectures and events to teach you about the unique landscapes and wildlife you'll be seeing on the journey.
The oldest and most distinctive ship in the fleet offers a completely different experience from the other Hurtigruten ships.
The MS Lofoten is a floating museum and those who sail on it can experience a special program of activities that enhance the maritime experience and the original 1960s spirit.
The ship's authentic maritime style takes centre stage with other facilities limited to a panorama lounge, two sun decks, a restaurant, shop and a cafe/bar. Guests can also expect special four-course meals.
However, choosing to sail on the MS Lofoten is not for everyone. The cheaper rooms have shared bathrooms and the limited facilities won't suit people who are expecting a traditional cruise.
However, the journeys aboard this vessel are generally the cheapest available and are the perfect choice for anyone looking for an authentic experience and those with a genuine interest in maritime history.
Built in 2003, the Midnatsol is the fourth ship to bear the name, which means ‘midnight sun' in Norwegian. As the name suggests, the vessel sails along the coastal route from May to September.
For the rest of the year, it serves routes in other parts of the world. One of the reasons for this is its designation as an ice class 1C ship. The Midnatsol is equipped with advanced technology perfectly suited for expedition voyages in Antarctica, which it began in 2016.
Twenty episodes of the NRK series Hurtigruten 365 were set aboard the vessel in 2004. With capacity for 970 passengers it was one of the biggest ships in the fleet and as such is also home to the Young Explorers (Antarctica only) and Expedition Team programmes.
Named after one of Europe's northernmost points, the MS Nordkapp was refurbished in 2016 and now includes a modern, Arctic-inspired interior with three different restaurants, a bakery and ice cream bar, sauna, fitness room, and two hot tubs on deck.
In the same family of vessels as the Kong Harald and Richard With, the MS Nordlys is scheduled for a full refurbishment during 2019. Currently the name and interiors are inspired by Norway's magical northern lights.
The refurbishment will see the common areas get a makeover, new cabin classes added, and a new bakery and ice-cream bar joining the lounges and bar on the top floor.
At the time of writing, the MS Nordlys has a passenger capacity of 590 and an Expedition Team provide a programme of education on board.
Named simply after Northern Norway, the MS Nordnorge can welcome up to 590 passengers. A 2016 refurbishment saw the lounges and bars get a refresh, and a larger open-plan shop, a new bakery and ice-cream bar added.
The vessel is also home to an Expedition Team providing educational activities throughout the duration of the coastal voyage. Two outdoor hot tubs are available for guests.
Named after the Arctic polar light, the MS Polarlys is another of the Hurtigruten ships that received a makeover in 2016. The refurbishment made room for up to 619 passengers and refreshed the common areas with an Arctic-inspired look.
Guests aboard the Polarlys can make use of the Expedition Team to learn more about the coastline, wildlife and other natural features depending on the season.
MS Richard With
Named after the company's founder, the MS Richard With received a major upgrade at the end of 2018 positioning it as one of the most desirable ships in the fleet.
Every passenger cabin has been upgraded, the main restaurant now has full floor-to-ceiling windows, while a bakery and ice-cream bar, larger gym and upgraded sauna, new hot tubs, two new lecture halls and a new lounge are among the other upgrades.
With a guest capacity of 590, the ship also plays host to an Expedition Team who give informative lectures and hold other activities depending on the season.
The interior of the MS Trollfjord makes extensive use of Norwegian wood and stone, giving it a different feel to many of the other ships in the fleet. The spacious, two-storey panorama lounge above the bow is the place to be on board.
Named after one of northern Norway's most spectacular fjord, the Trollfjord can welcome up to 822 guests and is home to an Expedition Team who host informative lectures and other activities depending on the season.
The vessel serves dual-purpose as an important research ship for the Norwegian Institute of Water Research (NIVA). Every 15 minutes, the scientific station in the pump room sends valuable environmental data on salinity, temperature, algae, particles, and so on to NIVA so they can continue their important oceanographic research.
From September to May the MS Spitsbergen forms part of the coastal fleet, but for the rest of the year it takes guests to Svalbard and other polar regions.
Because of its polar capabilities the ship is built to a high technical standard with excellent manoeuvrability, and features an ocean-themed palette throughout its public areas and cabins.
For the coastal voyage the Spitsbergen can welcome 335, making it one of the smallest in the fleet. That doesn't mean it's short on facilities though. You can expect lounges, a bar, bistro, shop, sauna, sun deck, fitness room and a hot tub.
The smallest ship in the fleet aside from the MS Lofoten, a trip on the MS Vesterålen is best suited to those who want to enjoy the best the Norwegian coastline has to offer and who have an interest in ships and maritime traditions.
That's because the MS Vesterålen offers passengers an authentic heritage experience with a programme of teaching that covers the maritime operations, logistics, and hotel operations of the vessel. Evening talks feature different crew members talking about their roles aboard.
Read more: MS Vesterålen ship tour and review
The vessel itself is a real one-of-a-kind in the fleet. Its sister ships have long since been retired and the many modifications and refurbishments made over the years have given the Vesterålen an unusual layout, yet one that will be of interest to shipping enthusiasts.
Although passenger numbers are limited, facilities including the bright and spacious lounges, bar, cafe, fitness room, and generous art collection throughout the ship help to ensure there's enough to keep you occupied.
The Vesterålen is due for refurbishment in late 2018. The panorama lounge is to be extended, guest cabins upgraded, and public areas such as the lounges and cafes given a makeover.
The retired ships
Many ships have carried the Hurtigruten name over the years. One of the most famous now forms part of the Hurtigruten museum in the company's spiritual home of Stokmarknes on the Vesterålen archipelago.
The next generation
Norway is leading the world towards a future maritime industry that will be silent and emission-free. For one thing, the Norwegian fjords will be heavily restricted as a zero-emissions zone from 2025.
After marking their 125th anniversary by being the first cruise line to ban single-use plastic, 2019 will bring two further green milestones for Hurtigruten.
The brand new MS Roald Amundsen is being custom-built for sustainable polar operations, and will be the world's first hybrid-electric powered cruise ship.
Meanwhile, a major upgrade project begins to replace diesel engines with battery technology and gas engines on many existing vessels. These vessels will also be the first cruise ships in the world to run on liquefied biogas (LBG).
Which is your favourite, and why? Whether you prefer the historic charm of the MS Lofoten or the modern facilities of the newer vessels, why not share this article on Pinterest so others can find it? We've got just the pin for you: