Helen and I embarked in a sunny but windy Liverpool, where staff were ready and waiting to carry out the enhanced health and safety measures, from health questionnaires to temperature checks. Once on board we were encouraged to regularly wash our hands, hand sanitiser was placed at every entrance and exit to public spaces, and the food was served to us at the buffet restaurants - small but sensible measures, which all guests happily followed. Everyone was eager to be on board, ready to relax and enjoy the ship, and keen to forget about the news developing in the outside world.
Upon leaving Liverpool we had a day at sea, the perfect opportunity to experience everything the ship has to offer. The Scandinavian-inspired interiors feature neutral tones, oak woods and plenty of soft furnishings, creating a comfortable and relaxing environment. The staterooms are well appointed and inviting, perfect for relaxing after a long day hiking, kayaking, penguin watching or cruising in the zodiacs.
However, it is definitely worth upgrading a category or two if you can, as the size difference is noticeable - especially with the suites, some of which feature a private hot tub on the balcony. The ship also offers the ability to live stream lectures to your room, allowing you to relax in your armchair whilst preparing for tomorrow's activities or reliving the excitement of your day ashore.
The Explorer Lounge, located on Deck 10 with 180-degree views, is filled with plenty of comfortable chairs to sit and watch the world go by whilst listening to the piano, and there is also a great viewing platform at the front of the ship on Deck 7. This area is enclosed by glass, perfect for spotting polar bears in the Arctic, though we didn't find many of those in the Irish Sea!
However, there was a team on board from ORCA leading a search for marine life, who were successful in spotting bottlenose dolphins throughout the trip, though somehow we managed to miss them every time! Feeling a little disheartened we cheered ourselves up with a well-deserved visit to one of the two hot tubs aft of Deck 10, followed by a visit to the panoramic sauna with views out to sea.
Fridtjof Nansen is the sister ship to Roald Amundsen, both with state-of-the-art technology and with the aim of bringing a sense of luxury to Hurtigruten's fleet, complementing 125 years of expedition experience and with a real focus on sustainability. Both ships are designed to have as little impact as possible on the pristine environments they visit, with hybrid engines that cut fuel consumption by 20% and reduce CO2 emissions by more than 3,000 tonnes a year.
Further to this, they have established the Hurtigruten Foundation, funded by onboard activities and donations, which focuses on conserving the world's polar bear population, fighting against marine and plastic pollution, and running local and global projects in the destinations they explore. One of their more creative ways for guests to help with this is their 'Greenstay programme'; by hanging the Greenstay sign on your door, you can signal that your room does not need cleaning that day, saving energy, power, detergent and water. The money saved is then donated to the Hurtigruten Foundation.
As the days went by we became luckier and luckier with the weather, which was perfect by the time we reached the ports of Fowey and Dartmouth on the south coast. Both are notorious for ships not being able call in due to the weather, but as Nansen holds only 530 guests (500 in Antarctica) we sailed right into the heart of the town and docked only a 30-second tender away. We took advantage of the sunshine on long walks with the expedition team, enabling us to visit as many heritage sites as possible.
The expedition staff were fantastic; you could tell they were well versed in their areas of expertise and used to the unpredictability of expedition cruising, with a real passion for their jobs. The team was friendly and always happy to have a conversation with you, often to be found in the ship's hub, the Science Centre on Deck 6, chatting away with fellow guests about the day's events.
Now, it wouldn't be a cruise without food. Nansen has three restaurants on board, first of which is their main restaurant Aune, which serves a buffet breakfast and lunch, then a small à la carte menu in the evenings. Fredheim is an informal, relaxed dining option, with open seating and a variety of dishes, from dumplings to burgers to crepes. Lindstrøm is the ship's speciality restaurant (free for suite guests and a small cover charge to pay for other categories), a more indulgent and intimate affair. Aune and Lindstrøm have two seatings, and you will be assigned one for your entire trip, so make sure to put in an early request if you have a preference.
MS Fridtjof Nansen is perfect for those who enjoy expedition cruising in a relaxed, informal and comfortable environment. With a dedication to enrichment, education and sustainability, keenly focused on preserving the destinations they visit, you will no doubt return home with a wealth of knowledge and some fantastic stories to tell.