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Havila Capella - Some thoughts on our trip


Flyinby
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My wife and I returned from the round trip on the Capella at the end of February. It was a wonderful trip, and any apprehensions I may have had about Havila (from the few passenger experiences available) completely disappeared.  I'd have gladly stayed on the ship for another round trip.  The winter scenery all up the coast and into the arctic was  amazing, and weather was kind to us, though we went prepared for colder weather than we experienced most of the trip..

 

First, the ship is absolutely beautiful. The Capella looked and smelled like it was brand-new when we boarded. Even when busy, it wasn't crowded as they've allowed a lot more space than ANY cruise ship I've been on. We were always able to find good seats in the top deck observation lounge, which was always warm and comfortable, with easy access to outside for photos or just getting out in the winter air or watching northern lights. The lower decks also, had great seating along large windows where you could always find a nice spot, and the atmosphere everywhere was quiet and relaxing.

 

The crew members were friendly, helpful, and pretty much always willing to do whatever was needed to keep passengers happy. Many of them are from Hurtigruten, so well-experienced, and all seemed very positive about both Havila and Hurtigruten. The PA would announce whenever we were passing either a Havila or Hurtigruten ship.  While passing the Castor, it was almost a contest for the most enthusiastic cheers and waves (usually the Castor won). The Hurtigruten passing was quieter, but there were ships horns and some friendly waves. It was nice to see.

 

We booked a year ahead of time, and had a junior suite forward on deck 7. I was unsure if the balcony was going to be much of a benefit, but we really enjoyed it, using it constantly even though it was mid-winter. I loved going out to watch the activity at stops, or the beautiful scenery along the whole route.  It was nice to be able to be outside at any time, but still be able to head inside to a warm and comfortable cabin.  Of course upstairs in the forward lounge is great, but it was handy having the balcony also.

 

I did see, in older reviews, some reports of shower temperature variation problems, but we had absolutely no problem with that, nor did we hear any other passengers complaining of it. Lighting in the suite could use a little work...it can be very bright if you hit the wrong button, but it was only a minor annoyance, and probably only in the suites (you turn on the bright lights in the sitting area, but the sleeping area  lights go on also, but there are other lighting options). Temperature control in the cabin covered more of a range than we needed, unlike a lot of ships where full warm is barely warm enough at times.

 

Rather than posting a long message, I'll add more in smaller bits, as I know there are a lot of people interested in the Havila trips but not a lot of feedback.

Edited by Flyinby
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Thank you again for giving us all this information on Havila.  I'm waiting anxiously to hear some good news that the Polaris and Pollux are finally sailing where they belong......along the Norwegian coast!

 

Can you tell us about your experience in the evenings after dinner onboard please.  Was the bar up on the top deck lounge open later in the evenings?  Since I'll be onboard in June, there will be lots more scenery viewing opportunities with the midnight sun out basically all night.  I'm guessing the lounge bar will be open late.  

 

~Nancy

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On 3/21/2023 at 12:15 AM, oakridger said:

Thank you again for giving us all this information on Havila.  I'm waiting anxiously to hear some good news that the Polaris and Pollux are finally sailing where they belong......along the Norwegian coast!

 

Can you tell us about your experience in the evenings after dinner onboard please.  Was the bar up on the top deck lounge open later in the evenings?  Since I'll be onboard in June, there will be lots more scenery viewing opportunities with the midnight sun out basically all night.  I'm guessing the lounge bar will be open late.  

 

~Nancy

I don't know the exact times the lounge bar was open, the latest we were up there was probably about 10:30 on northern lights nights, and I was too busy with the lights to do much but go in and warm up.  They were open though, and I think I remember seeing the hours until about midnight, but I'm not positive.  However, for midnight sun times, it would be really odd for them to close early.  The lounge is a great place to relax, night or day, and we never had any trouble finding seats.  The central area seats are up a bit higher than the ones by the window, so the view is good anywhere.

 

There was some talk at the evening info sessions about the Polaris and Pollux, I think they're just dealing with technicalities like they had to do with the Capella after the Russian fiasco.

 

As far as after dinner activities, there's no entertainment or such things; quite a few go up to the lounge, others may go forward on deck 6 where there are fireplaces, some did puzzles there, or read, or chatted.  When the sun goes down at 5 or 6 and having got up early, by 10 or so I wasn't looking for anything to do.  You can choose late mealtimes also, which will free up day hours and take up a good part of the evening.  There are also ports stopped at in evenings, which I thought were interesting even if just to watch and get a few photos.

 

I've seen the midnight sun (almost) in Alaska, which I first didn't think I'd like, but it was great on our land portion of the tour to go out at 11 at night and have it still light.  Then you wake up at 2 and it's light again.  And the sunsets lasted a long time, which is odd to me because the sunsets when we were in Norway in February lasted a very long time, no doubt because of the low sun angles in winter.  But we were around Fairbanks and a couple of weeks before solstice, so we didn't "quite" get the full midnight sun.

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I'll post a bit more about the trip and the excursions, but in the meantime here are some photos from the trip...probably about 1% of what I took 8^).  Most of the photos I've seen of the journey show summer or spring or fall, so I thought I'd put up some from winter.

 

The scenery in winter was beyond belief.  In many ways, it beats Alaska's coastal scenery, though the Alaskan fjords such as the College fjord, Glacier Bay, and Tracy Arm are really amazing but in a different way, and I'm not sure about winter.  I knew we'd return to Norway in spring/summer/fall, but after this trip I know we're going back in winter too.

 

These aren't really a tour of the ship, more of the voyage and before and after, but it gives a general idea of the voyage in winter.

 

https://pbase.com/roberthouse/norway23

Arrow keys on a keyboard will page through the pics, if interested.  Hitting F11 in a web browser will give a fuller screen area to view.

Edited by Flyinby
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@FlyinbyGreat pictures and information. We are booked on the Capella in November. RT Trondheim. Have been to Norway in June last year. Any insight on clothes/shoes? You do not live in Cold country (and neither do we, but have lived in Wyoming years ago) so would like to know what you needed and what you took and didn't need!

 

Thank you again.

Edited by GJCruiser
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21 hours ago, GJCruiser said:

@FlyinbyGreat pictures and information. We are booked on the Capella in November. RT Trondheim. Have been to Norway in June last year. Any insight on clothes/shoes? You do not live in Cold country (and neither do we, but have lived in Wyoming years ago) so would like to know what you needed and what you took and didn't need!

 

Thank you again.

The first thing I learned in Oslo was that a scarf was a necessity.  I never used or even owned a scarf, but fortunately we brought them and they were indispensable when the wind came up.  While we got my wife a nice wool one, I took a fairly thick fleece one, inexpensive and it did the job fine.  Makes a world of difference and it's easy to modify to suit the situation.  Seems like everyone in Norway had a scarf.

 

Another essential was a thick merino wool sweater.  The one I got was called a 'waterfowl sweater' at LLBean and it was very warm yet wearable over a flannel shirt on the ship without getting too warm.  Warm enough to step outside in the wind for a bit, for a photo etc., and a great layer.  My wife thought she might have preferred a zip front version...these were pullover with a short zipper, but I was OK with the pullover.

 

I brought several pairs of gloves...some very nice down-filled ski gloves which were great except not if you had to operate a camera or phone.  I also brought some wool gloves from Amazon that were supposed to be liners for under  mittens etc., but they were pretty warm, compact to put in a jacket pocket, and I used them more than any of the others just because I could slip them in a jacket pocket and still use the pocket.  I also brought some thick wool mittens and some thicker wool-mix gloves that worked with phone screens, but really didn't use either.  The down gloves worked well for serious cold or wet situations, the thinner wool ones for general use and convenience.

 

A nice thick wool knit ski/watchcap was also essential because I could slip it in the other jacket pocket ready as needed.  We found some on Amazon that were thick and warm, and they got a lot of use, and could be used under a hood.  Also, an "Expedition hat", with ear flaps, faux-fur lined and with a buckle got a lot of use when it got colder.  The knit cap would fit under it for a great combination when it got really cold.

 

I brought a medium-weight merino wool base layer, pants and shirt, and used them when we knew we'd be outside a lot.  Also one pair of lined pants...most of the time I'm fine with normal cargo or similar pants so one pair was enough, but these were nice...warm, and had zipper back and side pockets.  Wife brought more than one pair.

 

A small backpack was also an essential, for shore excursions or just walking around in port and carrying any 'layers' you might need.  A couple of good umbrellas...(Repel wind resistant)..were handy now and then.  The rain or sleet is cold and the wind didn't help, so getting wet is not the best idea.

 

Coats/jackets...I brought 2 "heavy duty" jackets...an expensive hooded down jacket, which was very nice, warm, and did the job well.  But also a pretty inexpensive ski jacket that turned out to be my favorite.  It was also warm, but had a good assortment of pockets, a belt that would draw in in to keep wind out, sleeves would tighten up, and it could zip clear up my neck...in fact, I could draw it up to cover my nose, which I did a few times.  The removeable hood was quick to put up and stayed in place, with velcro...much quicker to fasten than the down jacket's hood.  While I started out using the down jacket, once I unpacked the ski jacket and tried it, it was all I used.  I was surprised due to the low price, but it worked great.  It was from Amazon, listed as "Wantdo Men's Mountain Waterproof Ski Jacket".  Both jackets did the job fine, but I didn't need both.

 

For boots, I brought my hiking boots I used in Yosemite...waterproof, and very comfortable along with tested for fit and broken in.  They weren't particularly expensive, I think from Big5, but I was trying on boots to bring and when I slipped them on I knew they had to be the ones.  I had travel shoes that slip on and off easily, so the boots traveled in the suitcase, which took up a lot of room, but they earned their space (and you can always pack stuff inside 8^).  I also used merino wool socks at times, both thick and thin, both seemed fine to me, but one pair would have been OK.

 

Other things:  Bring stretch-over-shoe crampons (like YakTrax etc.), or they sell them on the ship, but streets get slippery.  Take them with you when going ashore, and even the boat decks can get snowy/icy.  Not knowing the snow/ice conditions or if we'd be doing much hiking, I also brought trekking poles for both of us.  While I have tons of them, I wanted aluminum ones that came apart, and I prefer shorter ones.  After looking at everything from hundreds of dollars to 20, I settled on some inexpensive Foxelli poles at Amazon that came in two sizes, came apart for travel, and hardly took any space.  While it turned out we didn't need to use them, I would bring them again, because they can save slips and falls, knees and more, and it was nice having them along if needed.  I also brought a balaklava, that I used a lot in Yosemite, which I didn't need but would bring again, as they replace scarves, neck gaiters, hoods etc. and really work well, besides not taking much room.

 

Didn't mean to make this so long, but hope this helps; everyone's different, but this is just what we found useful and some of what we didn't use.

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Thanks @Flyinby again.  After reading this, on second thought I doubt I'll go in winter after all!! 😁

The new wardrobe required would surpass the cost of the voyage fare!

 

I will take your advice to bring a scarf for my June itinerary as well as the layers and rain jacket I already have planned.  It does actually get HOT on rare occasions in Norway in the summer.  Like here in San Francisco some/most lodging doesn't have air conditioning since it's not usually needed but when it hits 80°F (27°C) you wish they had it.

 

~Nancy

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15 hours ago, Flyinby said:

Didn't mean to make this so long, but hope this helps; everyone's different, but this is just what we found useful and some of what we didn't use.

Thank you for the comprehensive information! We have many of those types of things and planned to add some lined pants and weatherproof shell or similar. Many thanks.

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On 3/24/2023 at 9:32 PM, oakridger said:

Thanks @Flyinby again.  After reading this, on second thought I doubt I'll go in winter after all!! 😁

The new wardrobe required would surpass the cost of the voyage fare!

 

Yes, but then you have a built-in excuse for the next trip.  Now that we have all these nice cold-weather clothes, no sense letting them go to waste!  So besides returning to Norway in winter to re-enjoy the voyage and "fill in" the things we didn't have enough time for, we might have to look into winter trips in Canada, Arctic, Antarctic, Greenland, Iceland and more.  Lots of choices to avoid wasting these nice clothes...8^)

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  • 1 month later...
  • 6 months later...

It depends on what you want to see: Portside you'll be able to watch loading and unloading from your balcony which we liked to do quite often. I also used the balcony to decide if it was possible/worthwhile to leave the ship - sometimes I didn't because the streets etc. were quite icy and slippery. Going north we thought starboard offered nicer views as well as the sun climbing up slowly across the mountain tops.But to be honest we loved every day on our round trip.... The junior suites are similar - one set is nearer to the bridge, the others are more to the aft but very similar ( perhaps a bit nearer to the whirlpools on deck 8...) I can honestly recommend any one. They come with Havila Gold, too, which means better coffee and extra menus to choose from.

By the way, we booked Havila Polaris for a trip in winter 2024 .... Couldn't stay away because of the great experience we had this fall...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello, I understand they do not want you to bring food or wine on board, we are on a cruise that covers Christmas through NYE and wanted to bring our own wine (one bottle) for NYE. Do they actually scan your bags? Also, is check-in like a American cruise ship or more like a ferry? Do we need to be at port a hour or 2 before or show up 30 minutes to departure? Gracias.

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2 hours ago, PTJD said:

Hello, I understand they do not want you to bring food or wine on board, we are on a cruise that covers Christmas through NYE and wanted to bring our own wine (one bottle) for NYE. Do they actually scan your bags? Also, is check-in like an American cruise ship or more like a ferry? Do we need to be at port a hour or 2 before or show up 30 minutes to departure? Gracias.

My bags were ever scanned at any time during my cruise.  I suppose I could have brought wine.  I did bring some food and there was no issue with it.  In Bergen, you check in at a terminal, drop your bags, then head upstairs.  If you’re too early, there’s a lounge you’ll wait in.  If you’re there before cabins are ready, then you can wait in the public areas.  We didn’t arrive until later so we were able to go straight to our cabins.  Looks like the latest is 15 minutes before departure.

 

Here’s the details about checkin.

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In preparation for my first cruise, I have been watching interminable advice videos, vastly most of which cautions are obvious or not appropriate to my lifestyle.  One though was of things not to do while cruising in general, and in particular things which will get one ejected.  Bringing your own liquor was of that class.  I imagine taxation is at the root, beyond mere marketing.  Consider the expense of liquor aboard Havila Lines vessels.

 

I am a bit sensitive to the issue as I usually travel long distances here in the US by AMTRAK, on which liquor is permitted in First Class sleeping car accommodations, but prohibited in coach.  Also cannabis is a sensitive issue, occasionally state legal but still prohibited federally.  

 

‘Scanning’ is a red-herring.  Thanks for the check in details.

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1 hour ago, UDChE89 said:

My bags were ever scanned at any time during my cruise.  I suppose I could have brought wine.  I did bring some food and there was no issue with it.  In Bergen, you check in at a terminal, drop your bags, then head upstairs.  If you’re too early, there’s a lounge you’ll wait in.  If you’re there before cabins are ready, then you can wait in the public areas.  We didn’t arrive until later so we were able to go straight to our cabins.  Looks like the latest is 15 minutes before departure.

 

Here’s the details about checkin.

Thank You! 

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  • 1 month later...

To follow-up. Just finished the trip last week. Great time and cold. Officially no alcohol to be brought on board but we did go to a state liquor store in 2 of the small towns and picked up a bottle of wine , no problem bringing on board. Also I bought cokes, bananas etc.. in most stops as they even told us before stopping that a grocery store is nearby. 

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  • 1 month later...

Thank you all for such brilliant info about cruising with Havila.

My wife and I are just talking to our travel agent about a round trip cruise in April or May 2025 (to celebrate our 60th anniversary) and all these reports and comments have been most useful.

Can anyone please tell us what are the "perks" that come with a booking for a Junior suite.  We're thinking of splashing out.....  I can't find anything on the Havila website but have seen comments in other postings.  I think we get the non-alcoholic package included?  And access to the speciality restaurant?

We would be grateful for any advice.

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On 2/18/2024 at 12:31 PM, Brissle said:

Thank you all for such brilliant info about cruising with Havila.

My wife and I are just talking to our travel agent about a round trip cruise in April or May 2025 (to celebrate our 60th anniversary) and all these reports and comments have been most useful.

Can anyone please tell us what are the "perks" that come with a booking for a Junior suite.  We're thinking of splashing out.....  I can't find anything on the Havila website but have seen comments in other postings.  I think we get the non-alcoholic package included?  And access to the speciality restaurant?

We would be grateful for any advice.

The perks include the Havila Gold package, which covers drinks and food from the Cafe, along with two nights' dining at the Hildring (very nice) and breakfast at the Hildring, also very nice.  You can order additional entrees/desserts from the main dining room without extra charges.  I'm not sure of the limits on drinks since I don't drink alcohol, but it was nice just being able to order what you want...food, drinks, sparkling waters etc., coffees... without having to deal with extra costs.  You get a bottle of champagne and flowers also.  Room service if you're so inclined, and a minibar with an assortment.  The extra space is nice, a somewhat separate room to get up early or stay up late if one likes, without disturbing the other.

 

I think it would be a great 60th anniversary trip.  We enjoyed our trip (February 2023) so much I've booked another next February, in fact the same Junior Suite.  If you like the idea of seeing the port activity on the short stops, book the port side cabins, if you want it a little quieter, maybe less chance of glaring port lights late at night, the right side might be a bit quieter.  I loved watching the port activity, and the balcony got a lot of use even in February.

Edited by Flyinby
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Thank you for this information.  A great help.

We have virtually decided to book Junior Suite 7304 on MV Pollux in late April 2025.

Port side would interest us - we like watching what's going on in port (maybe not in the middle of the night.....).

Our TA has just told us that the Gold package is being changed from April 1st.  No details yet but we'll gamble on similar benefits.  It will include access to the Hildring and tea/coffee maker in the cabin.

Thanks for your help.

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14 hours ago, Brissle said:

Port side would interest us - we like watching what's going on in port (maybe not in the middle of the night.....).

My experience across 35+ cruises on multiple lines (but not Hurtigruten or Havana) is that ships dock with the starboard side facing the port more often than not.  The name 'port' goes back to Viking ships where the steering oar was located on the starboard side, making it impossible to dock with that side to port.  Now it doesn't matter, but for some reason my cruises have usually docked on the starboard side.

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4 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

My experience across 35+ cruises on multiple lines (but not Hurtigruten or Havana) is that ships dock with the starboard side facing the port more often than not.  The name 'port' goes back to Viking ships where the steering oar was located on the starboard side, making it impossible to dock with that side to port.  Now it doesn't matter, but for some reason my cruises have usually docked on the starboard side.

I've had the same experience, either side was used for docking.  With my first Havila trip, I contacted them before booking to see if there was a specific side they docked on, and it is the port side.  The cargo door is aft on the port side, the passenger gangway is midship on the port side, and I don't think there are either on the starboard side so there may not be much choice.

 

I was glad I checked, as I really enjoyed seeing the port activity, passengers boarding, etc., very different than normal cruise ships.

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