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MS Vesterålen Ship Tour & Review

MS Vesterålen entering Sortland

A 23-minute guided video tour of the second oldest ship in Hurtigruten's coastal fleet.

Twelve days of diary entries weren't enough it seems! Many people have asked me for a more thorough review of the Hurtigruten vessel the MS Vesterålen, as they're considering a trip but are concerned that it may be too old or lacking in facilities for them.

Watch the tour here

So before I left the ship, one of the tour leaders Kathea offered to give me a tour, which I duly accepted! You can watch the video tour below, or read on for my thoughts about the ship. If you enjoy the tour, don't forget to sign up for the book launch!

Introducing the MS Vesterålen

Many people have asked me about the Vesterålen's suitability as a cruise ship. It's often promoted with ‘no single supplement' deals making it an attractive price point for someone considering a Norwegian coastal cruise. But it's also the second oldest and second smallest ship.

MS Vesterålen in front of a winter Trondheim sunrise

While the MS Lofoten has an obvious attraction as the most historic ship and its programme of ‘working ship' activities, the Vesterålen has neither and also lacks many of the facilities of the newer ships and is seen by many as caught between the gap. Yet I had a great time!

The upsides

If you really are looking for a cruise experience but without the cruise ship pretentiousness or size, then the Vesterålen could be the vessel for you. It's small yet the public areas offer plenty of seating inside, and lots of space for photographs or simply admiring the view out on deck.

Outdoor space on Deck F
Lots of outdoor space on the MS Vesterålen

The panorama lounge is especially appealing for anyone wanting to relax, but have easy access to the outdoor decks when they see something of interest out of the large windows!

The smaller size of the ship means it's also easier to meet people, find those people again, and form better relationships with the crew.

Hurtigruten panorama lounge on the MS Vesterålen
Panorama lounge

When I was on board the restaurant staff double as cleaners and the tour leader's assistant also served in the cafe and shop, so there was plenty of opportunity to get to know people and ask questions.

The downsides

The ship can be noisy and vibrations can be felt throughout the public areas and in some of the cabins. This can be problematic during the frequent nighttime port calls, but many people get used to this after a couple of nights and their sleep improves.

This was the case for me but some people said they slept really well throughout the voyage, bar the first couple of days when we battled through some winter storms.

Mehamn seen from the deck of the MS Vesterålen
Overnight port calls are common

The ship is also a little chilly in places due to its unique design, but bear in mind I did visit during January! Some of the walkways and cabin areas used to be open deck and were added later. While the cabins aren't chilly and have warm air heating, the public hallways can be much cooler. The lounges, restaurant and cafe are fine, however.

The refurbishment

In October 2019 the MS Vesterålen is taking a two-month break from duty to undergo a refurbishment. There will be a small extension to the panorama lounge, some cabin upgrades, and some new furniture and colour schemes in the public areas.

This is definitely needed as the decor is showing its age, but from how the hotel manager described the plans it shouldn't make an impact on the vessel's charms. The biggest upgrade is a completely new engine, required to comply with upcoming maritime fuel legislation.

Should you choose the MS Vesterålen?

You'll have to arrive at the answer to this question yourself! I can tell you that I enjoyed myself and certainly had no regrets about choosing the ship, even after my look around the MS Nordnorge in Trondheim.

It was a lovely ship with a much modern decor throughout the public areas, comfortable lounges and even a couple of hot tubs on deck. There were also noticeably more people on board. I would estimate there were about three times the number on board the MS Nordnorge than there were on board the Vesterålen.

While the newer ships have ice cream bars, bakeries, expanded shops, more expedition teams, a la carte restaurants and so on, many of these facilities require additional payment. If you're not looking to spend a lot of your money on your trip, you may prefer a smaller ship with less facilities, to avoid FOMO. I certainly did!

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MS Vesterålen tour video and full ship review: Find out what this Hurtigruten ship is really like

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About the Author: 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.

6 Comments

  1. Your articles on travelling on the MS Vesteralen couldn’t be more timely for me. I’ll be on the ship sailing from Kirkenes to Bergen beginning March 3/19. Then visiting Norway (Bergen and Oslo) for the remainder of my trip. I’m struggling with deciding whether to bring my full Canadian winter wear (snow boots/parka) or a scaled down version. Weather reports & internet sites don’t provide much help. Any suggestions for me, so that I’m warm but not over packed/overdressed? Many thanks. Looking forward to visiting Norway!

    1. It’s really hard to say as I have no idea what the weather will be like, also you are covering such a huge part of the country so are likely to encounter varying weather throughout your trip. Also it depends what you’re going to be doing – i.e. sticking to indoor attractions or spending a lot of time outside. That said, you’ll need rainproof and windproof outer layers as a priority, then just layer up to keep warm. My recommendation is that it’s better to be overpacked than not have what you need!

      1. Thank you David. I’m realizing that Norway and Canada may have a lot of weather in common. Your comments have been very helpful and I’ll consider a wider range of options when packing. So enjoyed your video of the ship as it confirmed for me the reasons why I chose it! Regards,

  2. We took the Nordlys on the coastal route two years ago, and that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with this extraordinary company. Last summer we circumnavigated Iceland on the Spitzbergen, and we spent December holidays in Antarctica on the Amundson. Just had to cancel our Alaska trip, but from know zi will be traveling with them again when this virus passes. I decided after our first trip with them that I only want big nature travels, and they are experienced and diligent in polar regions. They know it best.

    The staff on ships and land are outstanding, and we are still in touch with many. The people traveling with Hurtigruten tend to be really friendly and genuine. The science staffs are open and knowledgeable, The crews, from housekeeping to zodiac drivers to waiters to captains, are personable and extremely competent. The ships are not large, so your really get to know people.

    If you want hype and glitzy entertainment, this is not the company for you. If you want genuine travel to interesting placers, guided by knowledgeable people, this is it. Oh, and the crew variety shows at the end are truly worth staying up for!

  3. Looking into the future, 2024 family reunion in Tromso – planning to take children and grandchildren, and very interested in the Hurtigruten trip one direction. Are you able to get off at Tromso for the reunion weekend, then get back on and take ship up over the top of Norway / North Cape? Presuming so, what would be the recommended return? Fly out to Oslo?
    Thank you.

    1. You can take the ship from Bergen to Tromsø and then a different one from Tromsø to Kirkenes, you just make two separate bookings. Many Norwegians use the service as a local ferry like this, especially in the north. Lots of people fly back to Oslo from Kirkenes after doing a one-way trip. There are direct flights. Enjoy!

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