Are you planning to go on an expedition cruise? Wondering what you will be needing on board and while exploring the destinations. I embarked on my first-ever expedition cruise with Hurtigruten.
It was packed with loads of fun and adventure in the Arctic region of Norway. I joined the Hurtigruten expedition cruise from Kirkenes, located in the northern part of Norway near the border of Russia, and finished in the scenic town of Trondheim.
Our voyage explored the Arctic region and the Norwegian fjords. On this expedition cruise, I was on board Hurtigruten’s MS Kong Harald, named after the present king of Norway.
On the first leg of our journey, we stayed in Snow Hotel in Kirkenes (YES! complete with the Ice cabins and Ice bar).
What is an Expedition cruise?
As a whole, the Expedition cruise is mainly focused on active ashore excursions to its destinations. It mainly offers a spirit of adventure for the traveller and typically has an off-the-beaten itinerary like cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Why take an Expedition cruise?
In general, going on an expedition cruise can ignite a sense of adventure in the way travel to a destination. It primarily focuses on the destination’s itinerary and activities than your typical floating city-type cruise lines. Expedition cruises are typically small to medium size cruise ships due to the route they take, hence it offers a more personal experience.
Tips on How to Prepare for an Expedition Cruise
Research about the destination
Prior to the invitation of Hurtigruten to join the expedition cruise, I already had my eyes on Norway. This land where once the Vikings lived is one of my dream destinations.
Research is one of the keys for you to learn and appreciate the culture, history, and traditions of the place that you are about to visit. This will also give you a sense of purpose and goals during your trip.
As you go along with your journey, you will be able to check all the awesome things to do and see on your list. Read different blog posts, review websites (e.g. Tripadvisor), e- travel magazines, travel guides, join a reliable online travel community and travel vlogs (video blogs).
Some travellers would prefer to leave it all to chance as they go on their trip. I reckon it’s better that you know at least something about the place even before you go there.
Travel Insurance & Medical card
Safety and protection come first. I never go on a trip without travel insurance. Better to be safe than sorry.
Always check the terms and conditions of your insurance to see if they will cover your activities while you are on the expedition cruise. You might need to pay a little extra if you will be doing extreme sports or activities.
Here in the UK, you can also get an additional health card whenever you travel to any European country. This European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) can help you to access reduced-cost healthcare in Europe in the case of an emergency. You can apply for this card from the NHS website for free.
Exploring one of the coldest regions on the planet is a challenge. Layers of clothing are needed to keep your body well insulated and warm. The types of clothing that you will be using in an expedition cruise can take so much room in your luggage.
Expedition cruise lines like Hurtigruten, encourage their guests to wear comfortable and warm clothing. Sporty and outdoor outfits are entirely accepted.
Invest in a good windproof and waterproof jacket. I use down feather jackets as they are warm yet light, windproof and waterproof. It is easy to pack away whenever I travel, so no more bulky and heavy winter coats.
For the tops, I have a good variety of fleece material, wool blend, and Uniqlo Heattech tops. This will surely give your body an extra layer of insulation. For the trousers, I use the outdoor ski type because these come with a fleece lining and have loads of pockets. For extra insulation for my legs, I use heat retaining tights.
The footwear is another thing you need to invest in; this can make or break you. Safe and reliable footwear can help you to get a grip on the icy conditions in the polar regions.
Good outdoor shoes or boots with deep ridges on the sole (this will give you extra grip on the ground) are ideal. In some scenarios, you will be wearing crampons for safety purposes (be extra careful when you got this on, the pointy ends of the crampons are sharp).
The accessories for this trip will be a scarf, ear muffs or winter headband, hats, gloves and socks. Woollen materials are ideal. However, this might take up some room in your luggage. There are thermal socks that you can use to keep your feet nice and toasty.
As a travel blogger, my gadgets are vital while I’m on the move. My laptop will be one of the top priorities for catching up with my family, social media and email.
Wifi is available on board and at most of the ports. It is also worth checking with your mobile provider to see if they offer a roaming package with data allowance, or get a local sim card in the airport and activate it to get some data allowance.
On this expedition cruise, I prepared my tripod and monopod ready (this will be my official travel buddy to capture the awesome moments).
I took my Olympus Pen camera; This is the same camera I used for the Lofoten image published on the Lonely Planet Magazine front cover. Just make sure all the memory cards are clean and ready to go and all the travel camera lenses are in good condition.
I always have a spare battery with me; it comes in handy when you are out and about exploring. Having heat pads on your pocket will also give you extra insulation and helps your batteries work in freezing conditions.
Action cameras (e.g. GoPro) are really popular at the moment when it comes to capturing all your adventure moments. Action cameras are handy for capturing underwater, active, wet and harsh conditions.
In this expedition cruise, we do have daily excursions where the action cameras will be useful to capture the moments in the vast Arctic region. I also have a spare battery for my GoPro; I strongly suggest that you invest in one.
GoPro accessories are also helpful in capturing your awesome pictures especially if you are taking photos of water and snow. The glare from the water and snow can ruin the photo, camera filters will do the trick. In most of my videos and pictures from Iceland last year I used the GoPro filters from PolarPro.
The power bank is a lifesaver when you are about to run out of battery juice in your gadgets when you are on the road. I use an outdoor (rainproof and dustproof) power bank with a capacity of 7800mAh. A small phone or digital camera battery can hold between 1650mAh – 3200 mAh.
Batteries can easily get drained in cold conditions, so always put a heat pad inside your camera bag.
Always put your travel adaptors on top of your gadget list. Adaptors can sometimes be forgotten because of the chaos of your packing rituals.
Bring an extension cable or a multi-socket adaptor, however, as part of the safety regulations on board this is not encouraged as electrical overloading can cause a significant problem for the ship. If you need to have one, always use it to a minimum load and don’t leave it unattended for a long time.
I always bring different sorts of over-the-counter medicines like pain killers, anti-diarrhoea tablets, anti-allergy tablets etc. For this expedition cruise, I also include in my list the motion sickness tablet. Since the expedition cruise, is typically small to medium ships, it is easy to feel the sea waves.
On this expedition cruise, we explored Norway. Norwegian Krona is the local currency; I’ve already exchanged some Sterling for Krona before my departure.
Always check your destination’s currency. Spare cash on hand will also be handy. All the cruise lines now accept card payments, you can open a tab against your room and settle it on your departure. I use my Wise card when I travel to save me from the Forex fees.
Read more: 7 Helpful First Time Cruise Tips and Hacks
Cruise excursions are available throughout the voyage. If you prefer to have this pre-arranged, you can check the cruise website for any offers or availability. It is advisable to book this in advance as they are selling like hotcakes.
If you are more into an independent expedition of the local area, make sure to make note of the local time and the departure of the ship.
I hope that helped you in preparing for your first expedition cruise! You can check out my Cruise Packing List: What To Pack For A Cruise That You Shouldn’t Forget.
Special thanks to Hurtigruten UK for inviting me to join this fantastic voyage in exploring the Arctic region, Norwegian Fjords and other coastal towns in Norway.