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5 Ways Cruising on a Norwegian Ferry Is Different From Regular Cruising

I recently took a four-day trip down the coast of Norway on the Havila Polaris. Polaris is a Norwegian Coastal Ferry built in 2023.

Havila has four ships – Havila Capella, Castor, Pollux and Polaris.

All the Havila ships have been built between 2021 and 2023. They sail along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes and back.

They make “Eco-Friendly” Voyages. The ships are LNG and battery-powered, unlike the majority of conventional cruise ships.

Emma cruises views from Havila Polaris
Emma Cruises – Norway Views

Last year I cruised on a similar itinerary with the traditional cruise line Fred Olsen.

The trip was VERY different to cruising on a regular cruise and in this post, I’ll explain why.

#1 Port Stops

On a regular cruise ship, you visit one – or maybe two ports per day at most.

On Havila Polaris we visited 6, 7 or 8 different places, staying for between 15 minutes and a couple of hours.

This suited me perfectly. It was cold when I sailed in February, and a couple of hours was more than enough to be outside.

On the journey North and South, the ship visits the same stops, so if you do a longer trip and stay onboard you will visit most places twice.

The views from the Havila Polaris as she sailed in and out of these small coastal communities was absolutely stunning.

On my Fred Olsen Northern Lights Traditional cruise, I visited five ports during my time onboard. The shortest stay was four hours, and the longest, eight hours.

#2 Food

On a normal cruise, all your main meals are included. You can eat breakfast, lunch, dinner – and snacks in between, at no extra cost. It is all included in the cruise fare.

On Havila you can buy an additional meal package which means all your meals are included in the main restaurant or cafe.

This is what I chose to do, but you can “pay as you go” for food if you prefer.

As on most traditional Cruises, all meals were included on my Fred Olsen trip. As Fred Olsen is a traditional cruise line, we had set dining, eating at the same times each day.

Find out more about the Fred Olsen Traditional Cruise experience below. I didn’t often eat in their main dining room – I was too seasick…

#3 People Onboard

On a regular cruise, most guests are on for the same amount of time.

On Havila Coastal Voyages some guests are doing the full 12 days – and some are just onboard for a couple of hours.

I chose to take a four-day trip, from Tromsø in the North down to Bergen in the South

Havila Polaris Coastal route Norwegian coast
Image – Havila Voyages

On Fred Olsen, the people I embarked the ship with in Newcastle were the same people who I enjoyed the whole of the trip with. You can’t get off or embark halfway through the week.

#4 Flexibility of Itinerary

On a regular cruise, you have to go through a terminal and security every time you get on or off.

On this ship, you walk down the gangway and off – it’s SO easy. (They do scan your cruise card like on a regular cruise ship.)

We were able to have a friend join us for breakfast on the ship one day – you certainly can’t do that on a regular cruise ship!

You can bring your own food and drinks onboard too. On cruise ships, there are many restrictions about food and drinks you can bring onboard.

On Havila Voyages you can bring on anything you like, except alcohol.

Emma cruises -Norway - Snow Havila Polaris
Stocking up on Pepsi Max for the journey.

On a traditional Fred Olsen Northern Lights cruise, the itinerary is set. There is no flexibility in this (unless of course, the cruise line decides to change a port for some reason.)

#5 Entertainment

On a regular cruise, you’ll find theatre shows, live music, game shows and more.

The cruise lines have an App, or a paper daily schedule so that you don’t miss anything you would like to see.

On a coastal ferry, the entertainment is – THE NORWEGIAN COAST!

I didn’t miss the traditional entertainment for a second. Looking at the views and walking around the decks in the snow is plenty entertaining enough…

View from Havila Polaris Norway

When I sailed with Fred Olsen, they offered the normal cruise line entertainment – shows, music, trivia quizzes etc.

Before You Go

Packing the correct gear for a trip like this is essential! Find out what I took with me here:

Essentials I Packed For a Norwegian Coastal Cruise in Winter

Find out about the very different trip I took to see the Northern Lights with a traditional British Cruiseline here:

I Cruised Through ROUGH SEAS to Find The Northern Lights

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.