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How the Havila Coastal Voyage Is Different Than Other Cruises

A Havila Voyages ship outside the window of a restaurant.

In this Havila Voyage review, I’m going to compare a Havila Coastal Voyage to other cruises. Of course, I might be the world’s worst person to do that, because it’s the only cruise I have ever been on in my life.

Well, that’s not exactly true. In 1994, I spent one night aboard a Hurtigruten ship, also going up the coast of Norway. Oh, and in 1998 Erik and I took a Jiangzi River Cruise in China. There were rats in our cabin and when people threw their empty noodle containers into the river from the upper deck, they would fall past our window.

But that’s another story.

Our summer cruise up the coast of Norway to see the fjords was the main attraction for our mutligeneration trip to Iceland and Norway. Here’s my Havila Voyages review:

Things other cruise ships have that Havila Voyages doesn’t

A screen shows a man in a hot tub aboard Havila Voyages ship Castor
Excursion director Asjay gives the daily presentation, and yes, that’s Erik on screen.
  • Entertainment. No casino, no shows, no cooking classes. The big onboard event is usually a daily presentation by the excursion director about where we’re going next. I only caught a couple of these, but they were interesting if you’re a nerd like me.
A man and a boy sit around a table with windows in the background aboard Havila Voyages
Despite the long face Erik is pulling here at dinner, we loved the table service meals.
  • Buffets or themed restaurants. Part of Havila Voyages’ marketing angle is that they’re a more sustainable cruise option, and one way they demonstrate that is by limiting food waste by skipping the buffet. They also don’t have multiple world cuisines like other cruise lines offer. But the food was delcious and we got plenty of it, even without a buffet.
Four people in a hot tub on board a Havila Voyages ship toat the camera.
We made the most of the jacuzzis on board the Havila Castor.
  • Pool, waterslide, etc. But there are two hot tubs! And of course, this being Norway, a sauna.
  • Spa. Are you seeing a trend here? People aren’t on this ship for amenities.
  • Dress code. Thank goodness!
  • A huge crowd of passengers to visit every port with you. This was one of the things I liked best about Havila; with only 350 passengers on board, we blended into the public in port instead of dominating the places.
  • Sea days. Because Havila is a working ferry and mail boat, there are no days without stops. There are also no days where you don’t see land.

What Havila Voyages has that other cruises don’t

A boy plays with a Nintendo Switch in a cabin on Havila Voyages. Behind him outside a window the Norwegian coast is visible.
The scenery on a Havila Coastal Voyage continues 24/7 even if you’re not ready to look at it.
  • Spectacular scenery every minute of the day and night. Remember how I said “no sea days?” On our seven-day Havila Coastal Voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes, we were never or rarely out of sight of land. Because Norway’s coast is studded with islands and inlets, there was often land on both sides. I had imagined I would have a lot of time on the ship to read or play Scrabble, but in reality, we spent most of our free time gazing out at waterfalls, hamlets, farms and the occasional fishing boat. In summer, you can enjoy the scenery 24/7; in fact, we entered the famous Trollfjord after midnight, with nearly every passenger on deck.
A street with wooden buildings on each side and mountains in the background.
Downtown Svolvaer, Norway, doesn’t have any souvenir stands.
  • The opportunity to see ordinary life, right off the boat. On other cruises, many passengers step off their ships into souvenir markets and bars constructed just for them, while never setting foot in a neighborhood where locals live, eat or work. Whether in a notable city like Trondheim or a tiny town like Svolvaer, every port Havila Voyages stops at is surrounded by “real life” Norway, not just tourist traps. I wished I could have disembarked in every tiny port, even the ones we stopped at at 3 a.m. Unfortunately for me, the crew only lets through passengers disemberk for stops of about 30 minutes or longer.
A bowl of soup with mussels and leeks visible, a meal aboard Havila Voyages
My favorite dish of the entire trip, fish soup (fiskesuppe).
  • Cuisine that reflects the region. When we were shopping for Norway cruises, I read aloud to my family the decription of one ship that had an Italian restaurant, a Mexican restaurant and an Asian restaurant. “Is there a Norwegian restaurant?” Toth asked. There was not. But on Havila, not only is the food mostly Norwegian, they change the menu every few days to reflect the region that you’re passing through — fjords, islands and arctic. There’s a fancy restaurant (Hildring), the regular restaurant (Havrand) and a cafe (Havly).

Those are the things that inspired us to cruise with a company we had never heard of, instead of booking a Norwegian Cruise Lines or Princess Cruise through Costco. In future posts, I’ll share reviews of the food on a Havila Voyage, ports our Havila Voyage stopped at, and Havila’s excursions.

H Bailey

Friday 23rd of February 2024

Hello, thank you very much for your most extensive commentary. We have just learned about Havila, and are considering when and where to go to see northern lights. Did you see them? If so, can you tell me when and where, please? I have seen them in North Norway years ago while on NATO military exercises, but my wife has not seen them and we are trying to figure out a possible trip itinerary.

The Miles Mom

Thursday 29th of February 2024

No, I didn't see the northern lights because we went in summer and it was light out nearly all night.

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