Not what was implied by the promo material
R. Sutherland | September 14, 2023 | Hurtigruten | MS Kong Harald
My wife and I went on the Alaska and Inside Passage cruise in July 2023.
We had cruised with Hurtigruten three times before so knew the standard of the ships, cabins, food etc and they didn’t disappoint and we deliberately avoid other cruise lines that specialise in’ all you can drink’ packages and evening variety shows. The talks given by the various specialists on board were entertainment enough.
Apart from spectacular scenery it was heavily implied that sightings of native wildlife including bears, sea otters, eagles, various seabirds, whales, dolphins and porpoises as well as numerous types of smaller wildlife would be a regular occurrence. This turned out to be untrue.
We had a five hour flight delay from Heathrow to Vancouver so lost our night out in Vancouver. The next day, after an 04.30 start they flew us to Nome in Alaska, an old gold mining town with lots of interesting relics from the goldrush days to see but instead we were bussed straight from airport to ship. The ship then sat in port for two hours. No explanation was offered and when someone complained they were told not to worry as there ‘wasn’t much to see anyway’ – not what it said in the brochure.
After the ship left Nome we stopped off at two very isolated islands where, amongst other things there were ruins of very early indigenous inhabitants houses to see. No tour or guide was offered, we were left to roam and didn’t see any sign of such ruins.
As for wildlife, during 18 days we saw one sea-otter (briefly), three bears (at some distance) and plenty of eagles, oh, and a squirrel – mustn’t forget him. We also saw whales but from the ship whilst cruising so mostly best part of a mile away usually. There were seabirds about but there are numerous places in the UK were you will see them in greater numbers.
We took several ‘optional excursions’ at considerable extra expense but the one we really wanted to do, although it was £400+ each extra, was called ‘Bears of Annan’ but we couldn’t book it as due to local restrictions there were only 30 places allocated to our ship so we had to enter a lottery. We didn’t win so couldn’t go.
At one small village called Chignik we were told if we went left after getting ashore we could walk to a salmon stream so, hoping to see bears and eagles fishing for salmon off we and many others went. After about a mile we were turned back by members of the ‘expedition crew’ because there bears about! Yes, that’s what we want to see, ‘but you don’t want it to be the last thing you see’ they said. No, that’s why I paid thousands of pounds to Hurtigruten to see them safely but no provision for that had been made. We were given doughnuts as compensation for our disappointment – I hate doughnuts.
It went on pretty much like that for 18 days – lots of ‘keep your eyes peeled for’ this, that and somethings else. No promises made you see so when nothing shows up they didn’t say it would.
We have two sets of friends of have separately been on trips to Alaska and they can’t understand how we saw so little when they had been surrounded by wildlife regularly so it’s not just that wildlife is unpredictable.
So, if you want to see Alaskan wildlife it can be done much less expensively and much more successfully with, it seems, anyone other than Hurtigruten.
I have, of course, put my complaints to them but true form (they have a terrible reputation for customer service) they haven’t bothered to answer.
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