Adam Coulter
Cruise Critic UK Managing Editor
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

The food onboard Spitsbergen is, in a word, outstanding. Hurtigruten takes great pride in sourcing ultra-local, so you will more often than not be eating food from the port you've just visited, whether that's the catch of the day caught literally hours before or local meat and vegetables or a pastry typical of the region. And, even though there is only one restaurant -- Torgen -- there's a lot of variety, as the menus change twice daily (for lunch and for dinner) on the entire 11-night journey, so you'll never have the same meal twice. Some of it is challenging (sheep's head, baked reindeer or veal), but there are plenty of alternatives, even if they are not marked (you can always ask for something else). Spitsbergen caters well for all dietary restrictions and even has a substantial, stand-alone menu for vegans. All dishes are marked with symbols to indicate gluten-free, lactose-free, vegetarian or vegan items either in the menu or on signs around the buffet.

The restaurant is light and airy, in typical Scandinavian style, with nice little decorative touches such as old books and binoculars. There are large picture windows right round with sloping ones at the back, and plenty of tables by the windows. Table sizes are in fours or twos, but they are not fixed so you can put them together if you are a bigger group. There are also some oval ones for six at the back of the restaurant. The buffet is at one end rather than in the middle. The restaurant seats 170 people.

Torgen Restaurant (Deck 5): This is the only restaurant onboard, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Breakfast is open seating buffet (and a la carte if you are on the Platinum package) and consists of eggs, bacon, sausages, different breads, smoked salmon, various pickled things like herrings (a Norwegian specialty), cold meats, cheeses, yogurts, juices, cereals, fresh fruit, tea and coffee from a dispenser. There is also a cooking station for "svele," delicious Norwegian pancakes. There is a gluten-free section and also numerous nondairy products available. Breakfast is served from 7 to 10 a.m.

Lunch is also open seating and buffet style. There is always a piping hot soup (carrot or onion), a salad selection, bread, plenty of cold meats, smoked salmon and locally caught shrimp or crayfish, roasted vegetables, baked potatoes and dishes such as pasta and sour cabbage or salted cod and bacon. There are lots of mains to choose from such as halibut, poached salmon, salted lamb and roast pork. Desserts are delicious and include ice cream, various cakes and chocolate parfait. Lunch is served from noon to 2 p.m.

There are two seatings at dinner (6:30 and 8:30 p.m.). Dinner is generally from a set menu, but there are extensive buffet options available. Every fourth day its only buffet style, but with recommended dishes. So, for example, on day 1 out of Bergen it's a buffet, with specialty dishes including pale soup from Bergen, fresh crab from Hitra, hen fricassee and "smalahove," or sheep's head. Then the following day you'll find a set menu with a starter of carpaccio of clipfish, followed by leg of lamb and then a dessert of apples done in various ways. There's a lot of emphasis on local fish and seafood such as clipfish, salmon, shrimp, king crab and Arctic char, which are all delicious (depending, of course, on whether you like fish), as well as lamb. If you look at the menu and you don't like what you see, just ask for an alternative, the kitchen is always quick to oblige. The dessert choices are delicious and unusual -- Russian-style ice cream made from caramelized bread (when you leave Kirkenes), soured milk pudding (tykkmelk) and yogurt cake.

There is a huge wine list (30 pages), with a suggested pairing every night. Unless you have opted for a Platinum package that includes beverages, wine, as in the whole of Norway, is expensive. Glasses start at 95 NOK (about $12); expect to pay upwards of $50 for a bottle. There is also a separate beer menu with a .61-liter (just over 20 ounces) glass starting at around 69 NOK (around $10).

There is no kids' menu as such, but the kitchen is always happy to oblige with serving up a simple pasta, soup, sausages or a burger and fries.

Brygga Bistro (Deck 5): The bistro serves specialty coffees, snacks, crisps and sandwiches for a fee from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Room Service: There is no "official" Room Service, but if you ask nicely you can get food delivered to your room (for example, if you have a small child or you are feeling ill).

MS Spitsbergen Information

MS Spitsbergen Ship Stats

  • Crew: 50
  • Launched: 2009
  • Decks: 8
  • Passengers: 280
  • Registry: Norway

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