Cruising to the End of the Earth

Greenland aboard Norwegian Coastal Voyages’ new Fram

By: Ginger Dingus

This is the first Image
Passengers on Norwegian Coastal
Voyage’s Fram explore the village of
Ukkusissat, Greenland.
When I discovered that my Norwegian Coastal Voyage cruise would include such shore activities as a search for musk ox, a hike to see sled dogs and a traditional lunch of Arctic whale blubber, I realized that my cruising horizons had expanded beyond the ordinary.My late-June cruise aboard the line’s newest vessel, the Fram, took me to the top of the world, to Greenland. The world’s largest island, 85 percent of Greenland is covered by the polar icecap. That ice in the form of spectacular icebergs, glaciers or the icecap itself is precisely what lures most travelers north of the Arctic Circle.

Tourists also come to Greenland to discover the effects of global warming, a topic covered during days at sea by the Fram’s six expedition leaders. Each was an expert on a different topic, ranging from polar ice, flora and local culture to Inuit hunting and fishing traditions. Their lectures were delivered in at least three languages, (including English), adding a much-appreciated educational aspect to our voyage in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

The 318-passenger Fram is Norwegian Coastal Voyage’s first purpose-built expedition ship. It’s also the line’s most luxurious ship, boasting 39 suites of which six have aft-facing balconies.

The suites, ranging from 183 to 291 square feet, plus a 420-square-foot Grand Suite, are the type of stateroom familiar to experienced American cruisers. They feature a sitting area, TV, windows with a view and, something we usually take for granted, a queen-size bed. The remaining cabins (a tight 118 to 140 square feet) have two (or four) single beds that fold against the wall during the day, similar to cabins on some European river vessels.

Dining takes place in the Imaq restaurant, an attractive space surrounded by picture windows on three sides. The room itself is an indication of the real focus of the Fram, which is to explore nature’s most beautiful and remote areas; dining is secondary. Dress is casual and most meals are buffets, with a few dinners served at assigned tables.

The food is of a high quality, though, geared to the tastes of northern Europeans who, at least in Greenland, make up 90 percent of the passengers. The menu favors fish, seafood, reindeer, beef, fresh veggies and delicious breads and cheeses.

Though by no means a resort-style ship, the Fram features amenities found only on the line’s newer ships, including two outdoor whirlpools, a gym with an ocean view, large men’s and women’s saunas and an Internet cafe. Another highlight is the lovely bar and observation lounge with unobstructed views through floor-to-ceiling windows.

For snacking, there is a self-service bistro offering coffee, tea and cakes without extra charge. This differs from the coastal vessels in Norway, which have pay-as-you-go cafes open to both cruise passengers wanting between-meal treats and backpackers who come aboard for brief port-to-port transportation. Clients aboard the Fram also won’t see day-trippers everyone onboard is there for the full cruise.

Those accustomed to the Norwegian voyages will also be surprised to learn the Fram does not carry freight between ports. Instead of cargo and cars, five Polar Cirkel boats are stowed in the hold. The boats are similar to Zodiacs but are sturdier and have relatively comfortable bench seats. They whisk passengers to shore when the ship is anchored out, which was every port but one on my trip. Even with an eight-passenger capacity, the transfers were the quickest and most well organized I can remember on an expedition cruise.

Once the Fram completes her inaugural summer in the Arctic, she sails south to the opposite end of the earth, to Antarctica.


The 12,700-ton, 318-passenger Fram was christened in Oslo in May. Three Greenland itineraries of seven to 14 nights are offered through mid-September. Fares for U.S. passengers include economy air (a one-class Boeing 757-200) between Baltimore and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, on Air Greenland, a flight introduced in May. Rates for a seven-night cruise begin at $4,001, per person, double, for an interior cabin; $7,178, per person, in a junior suite.

From Sept. 18-Nov. 23, the Fram undertakes an epic 66-night journey from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Segments of this cruise are also available. The ship offers Antarctica itineraries from late November through February 2008.

In Europe, Norwegian Coastal Voyage is known as Hurtegruten, meaning “fast route” in Norwegian. To avoid confusion, advise clients that onboard the Fram, the line uses the name Hurtegruten. All onboard purchases are billed in Norwegian kroner.