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A few days on FINNMARKEN 25-29 September 2008

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    A few days on FINNMARKEN 25-29 September 2008

    Previously on “A few days on Finnmarken” . . .

    On the old forum, starting at
    I began an account of a September holiday in Bergen and aboard the MS Finnmarken. The intention was for it to be in more “travel writing” style, which for me inevitably results in it taking a very long time indeed to produce! Indeed, by the end of the last episode, Seagull was only just about to board the ship!
    It all felt rather different because the new Hurtigruten Terminal had not been built the last time she embarked in Bergen – so it is perhaps an appropriate moment in the travelogue to be setting out from the slightly unfamiliar surroundings of this new Forum-home.
    Now read on . . .


    “Luggage service from 1:00pm, Check in from 3:00pm, Boarding from 4:00pm”
    I had already noted that information, prominently displayed on the revolving door of the terminal entrance, while taking a couple of photos on my first afternoon in Bergen. The terminal had been quiet then at around 3:30, clear of the early birds eager to rid themselves of their luggage. Returning now at a little before 4 o’clock I was swiftly provided with boarding card, complete with cabin allocation, and invited to proceed directly to the ship.


      Ascending the escalator I past a large deserted cafeteria area, which I presume must be intended mainly for the people working in the building. Writing this now, many questions occur to me – just how many people do actually work in the terminal building? How many are employed by Hurtigruten? How much space is leased to other tenants? Didn’t Color Line use it – but then wasn’t the Bergen-Hirtshals service discontinued? Not that there would have been much opportunity to chat and ask questions, just someone to swipe the boarding card and remind one about the hand wash procedure before entering the bridge link across to the ship. But apart from remembering to take a few photos before getting the anti-bacterial stuff all over my camera as well as my fingers, my mind was focused on the actual moment of stepping aboard Finnmarken.

      So why was that moment so special and this voyage so different? Simply that I would, from that moment, have been aboard all the current Hurtigruten fleet!

      I don’t quite know how Finnmarken came to be my last hurtigrute. She has always seemed to be rather a popular choice in the U.K. with travel agents and for package holidays. My first “Millennium ship”(as the three newest are usually described here to distinguish from the merely “new”) was Trollfjord, chosen, I suspect, after reading something about the use of natural materials “including polished stone” in the decor, and her vast areas of deck space, clearly indicated on the plan and seeming appropriate for a summer holiday. But then, even before that first round trip voyage took place, I simply fell in love with hurtigruten – the whole concept of the route and the ships that serve it, and was eagerly delving into its history. Deeply regretting having missed so many of the traditional ships, and with some uncertainty then being expressed about Lofoten’s future, I pre-empted the holiday to extend a Swedish visit across via Narvik to Harstad, where I stepped aboard my first hurtigrute, Lofoten, on the 29th of March, 2003. Since then I have been port-to-port, catching up with the other ships with stayovers and changes of direction in complex itineraries, planned by pouring over sailing lists and timetables with an enthusiasm verging on obsession. One that would be immediately recognised and appreciated by the CaptainsVoyage “boy who loved Hurtigruten” and so many of his subsequent “crew”!

      Aside from its significance in my hurtigruten life, I must immediately confess that my first impressions of Finnmarken were less than overwhelming. With the popularity of the ship, and having seen so much written admiringly about its interior decor, I had expected an immediate wow factor at first encounter. There wasn’t, just an overall impression of a rather light but dull cream and beige colour. Over a curved glass fronted railing one can – just about – lean over and peer up or down to glimpse other levels. A plant-like motif of climbing stems, branching and bearing occasional leaves, winds from deck to deck, compromised here and there by utilitarian essentials – I am still wondering what lay behind those cupboard-door-like square hatches.



        Of course one has to make allowance for being deposited on the landing of deck 5, hardly the original intention. It has certainly taken its toll on the light coloured carpet. However, passengers were immediately greeted in a most pleasant manner by a staff member, welcomed aboard, told the time the cabins were expected to be ready, and invited to enjoy the public areas meanwhile; the location of the cafe and lounge on deck 4 was indicated. When, for reasons I’ll explain later, that staff member was temporarily absent, the confused rather lost look on the faces of newly arriving passengers was all too apparent.

        I headed down to explore deck 4. Here what seemed most remarkable to me was its very conventional layout compared to Trollfjord and her sister. On those ships there has been a rethinking of space, and an ingenious placing of the elements we have come to expect in a hurtigrute. But here on Finnmarken, looking along the starboard Coast Arcade from the cafe, I could have been aboard a ship of the 90’s generation.
        The main hall, however, almost throws away the wow factor that many of those earlier ships display here – think of the wonderful painting that Nordkapp has, for example. On Finnmarken the central feature is a curved wall of stained glass which, placed well beyond the previously mentioned railings and “gap”, rather turns its back to the hall.

        From the cafe side you can see how the glass replaces a “solid” wall between cafe and hall.



          You must pick your cafe seat carefully to be able to properly appreciate it, and I immediately acquired a “favourite place” and adopted this charming puffin as “favourite thing”. Although for different reasons, he proved to be as challenging to photograph as his real life counterparts!

          Perhaps the lack of emphasis on the hall’s glass artwork hardly matters in these days of coffee, wine and water deals, all advertised on prominently displayed poster hangings. As the number of newly arriving passengers increased, tables were set up to further encourage purchase of these various options. Later other tables and information stands appeared in connection with some larger groups of tourists from Germany and the USA on courier escorted trips. The hustle and bustle increased as the time came for making restaurant table reservations, while at the excursions reservations desk it was also possible to activate boarding cards as “cruise cards” to further facilitate on-board purchases. I had found a good vantage point to sit and watch all this activity, and it seemed no time at all before the hour when the cabins should become available.


            Indeed as I returned to deck 5, the cords roping off the cabin corridors had been removed, luggage had appeared, and the helpful staff lady was pointing people in the right directions. All except those with cabins on the aft port side deck 5 corridor, which remained firmly out of bounds to all but the comings and goings of several maintenance men, tool kits in hand, their contents soon all too visibly spread out on the floor at the end of the corridor – more or less where my cabin should be. I soon established that there was a plumbing problem! Soon “helpful lady” was having to cope with apologies and explanations to the affected passengers as well as welcoming the still constant stream of new arrivals. Things came to a head when a group of four (who I had already heard complaining a good hour or so earlier about having to wait for their cabins) became increasingly vocal. They were only pacified when “Helpful” tactfully suggested accompanying them to Reception to see if they could be immediately re-allocated; perhaps even upgraded. . .

            She caught my eye, but I indicated with a shrug of a hand and a hint of a commiserating wink, that I needed no such fuss made of me. In fact I had been delighted with my cabin location and was keen to stick with it. So I headed off to explore further, and was soon out on deck photographing the swimming pool. It seemed somehow bizarre with Bergen in the background, and the weather having quite suddenly reverted to a more expected state.

            It was fortunate to have captured this view, , for the pool was soon to be emptied, and so it remained for the rest of my time aboard.



              There is always a buffet in the restaurant on the first evening, and I had already arranged to take this particular meal. It was pleasant sitting in the dining room, looking out on the view of Bergen through the large windows, and feeling even more cosy as the daylight outside faded. Afterwards, returning to deck 5, I found the corridor open and, whatever the issue may have been, was to experience no subsequent cabin problems at all – plumbing or otherwise.

              I rather favour the promenade deck for a cabin location – (Deck 5 in Finnmarken and the 90’s ships, Deck 6 on Trollfjord and Midnatsol) – port side especially. In this preference I am undoubtedly unusual. Many are less than happy with people passing right outside their window, standing around, or, even worse, settling down there on a blue chair on the wider sections of the walkway. And then the thought that they might actually be looking inside. But it is special glass, and you can only see things if placed directly in the window, although yes, you do have to remember that folk can see in if you have the light on and it’s dark outside and you haven’t lowered the blind or drawn the curtain. But for me the overwhelming advantage is the speed of exit to the outdoors when suddenly noticing something especially photogenic. And if you are the kind of person who might, having woken in the middle of the night, fancy popping outside to watch as the ship calls at some small port, or just to gaze out directly at moonlight on waves, these things are accomplished without traipsing along too many stairs and corridors.

              Gaining access to my cabin I performed the now customary rituals – there are photos to be taken of the cabin before things become too untidy. Then, first thing to be unpacked, my travel mascot Sea-troll, who must be positioned and propped up right up against window so he can be seen. Go and observe the effect from outside - looks even more appealing in his Hurtigruten uniform! That should make passing passengers smile. Always have some sort of key card substitute handy so that, without locking oneself out, out the light will remain on. And so on . . .



                It’s dark outside as the last few passengers scurry across the link-bridge. Then the familiar noises of the cargo doors closing, the bridge retracts and separates, the railing gate is secured, and, now undocked, Finnmarken slips away from the quayside bidding Bergen goodbye at twenty-eight minutes past ten precisely.

                In the next episode, Seagull gets the rough but not too uncomfortably rough weather she had been hoping for, enjoys time in Ålesund, and gets acquainted with some fellow passengers . . .


                  Thank you for all the pictures and description of your trip. I really love all the photos of various parts of terminal and ship. They make me really hope that I can make it on the CV cruise next year. Also, your photographs of the cabin are much more helpfull than those on the website (I'd better get something bigger or my wife will kill me for bringing her to Norway in November and sticking her in a single bed).


                    Hello seagull!

                    As always great photos from a nice ship.
                    Seeing your photos I remember my journey abord the Finnmarken in Mars 2007.
                    Thanks again.

                    Best regards Doris


                      Absolutely stunning and great continuation of the post from old board.

                      I enjoyed reading your text and seeing your images, which both holds great quality. This was indeed one of the best Christmas gifts this year.

                      Thank you so much for taking the time and for doing it so well. Look forward to the rest of the story once you are ready!
                      With best regards from Jan-Olav Storli

                      Administrator and Owner of CaptainsVoyage.
                      Main page:

                      Surround yourself with positive, ethical people who are committed to excellence.


                        Well, Doris, there will be more Finnmarken photos to follow which I hope will again revive happy memories of your own journey. But as you have probably guessed from what I have already written it is not Finnmarken but Trollfjord that is actually my favourite of the newest ships, and I know you have a very special voyage of your own planned aboard her in 2009.
                        Also it is Trollfjord that has been suggested for the CV cruise, pilotdane, and I hope a date for that will be fixed before too long – and we should make sure it is at a time that will suit those members like you who are contemplating travel to Norway from so far away.

                        So just in case either of you missed it, it is perhaps appropriate to give the link to a compilation of photos of Trollfjord on the old forum site, which started from:

                        There are several cabin photos included, pilotdane, but before you get too excited at the one of the superior deck 8 cabin, I had better explain that it is a Grand Suite (grade MG) which I merely visited when Trollfjord came to Scotland – only those suites with the balconies at the stern are more expensive! I don’t have any photos of those, or, probably more relevantly, of the grade Q mini-suites.

                        Pakarang, by the time I had paused to look up the above link, the demands of Christmas Lunch intervened (yes, it was a very tasty turkey!), and I returned to find your post. I had been determined to do something major for the new board and as a christmas gift for you, and I am so pleased you enjoyed it. Thank you all for sharing family time today.


                          Dear Seagull, thank you so much for taking me again with you on a Hurtigruten tour. No book can describe it so perfect like you and HJ are doing this in this forum!
                          Lofoten '07 ...... Nordnorge '11


                            Thanks for such appreciative comments Ralf. Now I am starting to get the next episode ready, but there is already quite a lot of it and I haven’t even reached Ålesund yet!
                            Of course there are always distractions to doing anything at this time of year. Also it’s great to see the new board build up, and I find I am reading more of the posts other than my obviously favourite topics than I did before. (Even paused to post a local Scottish topic in Veteran Ships... and I’d only taken those photos just before Christmas! ).


                              The next episode of A few days on Finnmarken is now ready! ( I had intended it as some leisurely reading for you on New Years Day, but became distracted by the amazing images from Crystal Symphony in Antarctica . . .).
                              This may take ten or so posts, so if you happen to see this in the next few minutes just hang on – you will know I’m finished when you see the trailer for next time! (“In the next episode . . . “ etc.)