After an amazing time at the Kirkenes Snowhotel Saturday (which I’ll do a full write-up on later), we’ve come to what I was hoping would be the truly epic part of our journey, 6 days aboard Hurtigruten’s MS Nordnorge. Well, that hasn’t come to pass, and as a result of a few different things, we’re altering our schedule.
First, the issues: I mentioned in my first post that during our drive to the airport Thursday we got a call from a Hurtigruten agent telling us there had been a schedule change in the sailing due to a “mechanical” issue, and that we were losing a day off the journey, and all stops between Tromso and Bergen (which, incidentally, is most of the stops). They’d offered $100 OBC/pp and a hotel in Bergen for both nights we were there to try and make up for it, so we went in hoping for the best. My attitude was basically; things happen, mechanical issues arise, we’ll roll with it and have fun anyway. Unfortunately, that’s not how things have ended up, and we’re only 22 hours in.
After boarding yesterday, we were in our welcome briefing when we found out what the “mechanical” issue was. Turns out, the Norwegian Maritime Authority wasn’t completely happy with the refurbishment done back in November, and required an additional fire door installed on the car deck. Talking to someone else today, it sounds like Hurtigruten’s just been waiting on a shipyard slot to open up so they can get it done, and one suddenly opened up on the 30th, which is what prompted the last minute change in itinerary. Yea, that changes things. Nothing broke, nothing failed, the ship simply wasn’t up to code and Hurtigruten’s known that they’d have to make a change like this for some time, they just didn’t know when. Unfortunately, the people on board this week are the unlucky recipients of that. I’d say there was considerable anger in the briefing room yesterday when people learned the real reason, and rightfully so.
To make matters worse, it’s been incredibly windy since we left port, with gale force winds hitting last night. As a result, the ship has had to skip a couple of planned ports between Kirkenes and Tromso, including the one that would have allowed us to do the excursion we were really looking forward to, the midnight snowmobile trip in search of the northern lights. Now obviously the weather’s not anyone’s fault. That happens on cruises everywhere from time to time, but the rolling of this small ship is making it a pretty uncomfortable sailing, especially for Jen, so we’ve decided to move on and debark the ship tomorrow in Tromso so we can actually see some towns in coastal Norway. If we had to stay on the ship with zero stops to allow us to get on land for a bit to get away from the motion of the windy seas, it’d end up being a pretty miserable 5 days.
So what are the new plans?
- Debark tonight in Tromso, and spend Tuesday and half of Wednesday sightseeing
- Catch a plane to Trondheim Wednesday night, spend all day Thursday sightseeing
- On Friday morning, catch a flight to Bergen to sightsee and get ready for our currently scheduled train back to Oslo
So there you have it, our Norwegian adventure takes a turn that will hopefully get us on the right track. Hurtigruten’s already offered everyone on board a refund of 4 days, but at this point we’re requesting the entire fare back. Losing most of what we flew all this way to see for a problem that shouldn’t have existed to begin with just doesn’t sit well with me.
From a travel agent point of view, we were both very much looking forward to not only using this trip as a vacation, but also as a way to learn firsthand about a new segment we were excited to sell. At this point, I’m not keen on the way this has been handled, including promises made about OBC that we have yet to see, and hotels we have no confirmation of. Talking to other passengers is yielding some similar stories, including no confirmation on promised flight changes as of yet. Not that it means much, but at this point the only thing left to salvage my opinion of the line is going to be how they end up handling this.
Bottom line: This is a mess of their own doing, and making it right goes a long way with your customers.