When you decide to go on a journey to the breathtaking landscapes of Antarctica, you’re probably not dreaming of gourmet cuisine. The allure of this icy wonderland lies in its awe-inspiring scenery, pristine wilderness, and the thrilling promise of unparalleled wildlife encounters. Yet, there’s something undeniably comforting about enjoying a delicious meal as a respite from the frozen expanses of the Southern Ocean. While nobody goes to Antarctica for the dining experience, having the opportunity to savour delectable dishes between explorations can add a touch of warmth and luxury to the adventure.
Hurtigruten, a pioneer in polar expedition cruises, provided us with an unforgettable journey to Antarctica aboard the MS Fridtjof Nansen. This remarkable vessel, equipped with state-of-the-art amenities and designed to minimize its environmental impact, provides a unique opportunity to experience the White Continent. In this article, we’ll delve into the dining venues aboard the MS Fridtjof Nansen, explore how meals are fitted into a busy itinerary and even share a secret on where to find a tasty snack on the ship. Lastly, with no ports and the ability to restock fresh produce, is the food on the Antarctic expedition good?
While the primary focus of an expedition to Antarctica is undoubtedly the exploration of its magnificent landscapes, Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen aimed to ensure that dining becomes an integral part of our polar adventure. Here are a variety of dining options available on board:
1. Aune Main Dining Room. The main dining venue on the ship – Aune Restaurant – is a spacious spot at the aft of the ship. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it switches between a buffet-style venue for breakfast and lunch to a la carte dinner.
You will find a range of dishes from different cuisines at Aune. We were told, that the Head Chef adjusts the menus based on the composition of nationalities on board on every expedition so that everyone can find something to enjoy.
Soft drinks, house beer and wine are complimentary with lunch and dinner. To avoid queueing, dinner reservations could be made on the Hurtigruten app, or by speaking to the maître d’. There was no option to make a reservation for breakfast or lunch though.
2. Fredheim Restaurant. A relaxed and informal venue that serves burgers, tacos, skewers, bao buns and other world-famous street foods. It is typically open for early-risers continental breakfast, as well between 12-9 p.m. You can also place an order over the phone to pick up and take it to your cabin. The venue is also very popular for milkshakes (they were delicious!).
3. Lindstrom Restaurant. A speciality restaurant on MS Fridtjof Nansen, that’s available for suite guests only for breakfast and lunch. It is, however, open for all passengers for an extra charge for dinner. It cost 25 euros per person in December 2022. The restaurant serves delicious and beautifully presented Nordic-style dishes for dinner.
How is dining organised?
Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, whilst dinner was mostly a la carte. However, we had two themed buffet-style dinners at Aune (a Vegetarian/ Vegan Feast and a South American Banquet).
Depending on the itinerary, activities and landings planned, the opening times change day by day for lunch and dinner so that everyone has enough time to have a meal amid all the adventures.
On particularly busy days, crew members serve quick South American delicacies in the outdoor area by the pools. So if you have an activity over lunch, you can grab a quick bite before you go. We enjoyed Chupin de Pescado and Empanadas at the Pool Bar before two landings, and then had a late lunch.
Generally speaking, breakfast is served at the same time every day. You can find the opening times on the Hurtigruten App, or pick up a copy of the printed daily programme at Guest Services.
Fredheim typically has continental breakfast for early risers between 6:30-7.30 a.m. Grab a buffet-style breakfast at Aune between 7-9 a.m. You will find anything from pastries, porridge and smoothies to bacon and eggs every morning. Whilst selection was great for such a small ship, it stayed the same every day throughout the whole trip.
Lindstrom is also open for breakfast for suite guests.
A huge variety of food was offered for buffet-style lunch in Aune. The selection always included a meat, fish and a vegetarian/vegan option. Soup, salad bar (some fresh vegetables were always available (even on day 9 coming back from Antarctica)), cold cuts and a range of cheeses were also there to choose from. There were 4-5 different mini desserts at lunch too, typically including cookies, cake, mousse and panna cotta. If there was one thing that did let us down in terms of the dining experience on MS Fridtjof Nansen, it was the pastry department. The cakes were brand and panna cotta had far too much gelatine in it (but hey, we were in Antarctica, overly gelatinous Panna Cotta really didn’t matter…).
Fredheim was also open from 12 p.m. every day.
Four-course a la carte dinner was served at Aune restaurant almost every night, offering an appetizer, soup, main dish and a dessert (each has 2-3 options to choose from, always including a vegan option). Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks were also served. The menu changed every night, and whilst the portions didn’t look huge, 3 or 4 courses were more than enough to make us feel very full.
Fredheim was open for dinner as well (same menu for lunch and dinner, menus stayed the same throughout the trip). However, we found that Fredheim often didn’t have various items on the menu, or the ingredients were swapped for something else (it wasn’t a problem for us, but it may be for picky eaters).
For 25 euros, you could also book a table at a speciality restaurant, Lindstrom, too.
What about snacks?
Many people associate cruising with a never-ending supply of food. And I have to admit, this expedition cruise with Hurtigruten was slightly different in that respect. Food was not available 24/7.
Whilst Fredheim was open 12-9 p.m. most days, the food there is freshly prepared (and delicious), so it would take at least 30 minutes to get something to eat, as no quick grab-and-go options were available.
It’s worth mentioning that most afternoons, there was cake served at the Explorers Lounge between 3-4 p.m.
Moreover, if you found yourself a little peckish between breakfast and lunch, or after 9 pm, there was nowhere to go for any food.
We found ourselves storing an apple, a banana or a couple of cookies from lunch/ dinner in our room for when hunger hits.
What is more, I found that if you go to the Explorer Lounger and ask nicely, they always find a few biscuits to give to you 🙂
If you are lucky enough to stay in one of the beautiful expedition suites on MS Fridtjof Nanse, you will have room service included in the cruise fare. However, it was not available to other passengers (not even for an extra charge) on our cruise to Antarctica in December of 2022. I am sure there would have been many people taking advantage of it though, especially when crossing the Drake Passage, as the seas can get extremely rough, and many fellow travellers didn’t feel well enough to leave their cabins.
Having said that, travellers are welcome to take food away from the restaurants into their cabins. You can even order from Fredheim over the phone. They will call your cabin when the food is ready, and you can usually pick it up within 30 minutes.
FAQs: dining on Hurtigruten Antarctic cruise
Our understanding is that you are allowed to bring packaged food on board, like granola bars, snacks and crisps. But always check Hurtigruten policies before travelling.
Taking any food ashore whilst on an Antarctica Expedition is prohibited. This is to protect the Antarctic ecosystem and biodiversity.
Tea and coffee machine was available to use 24/7 next to customer service, by the library. You can also get hot drinks from the restaurants and bars onboard during their opening hours.
Final thoughts: was the food good on MS Fridtjof Nansen?
On our expedition cruise, we were pleasantly surprised by the ship’s ability to provide a diverse range of food, even in the challenging environment of Antarctica. Particularly, fresh veggies were always available, a true testament to the ship’s planning and preparation, given that restocking fresh produce in Antarctica is not an option.
The variety of dishes available on this relatively small vessel was impressive, with options to please a wide range of palates and dietary requirements. However, if there was one aspect that didn’t quite live up to our expectations, it was the desserts. While the pastry department left something to be desired, it’s essential to keep in mind that the real star of the show here is the awe-inspiring Antarctic landscape, not the sweets. And if desserts at Aune are not quite up to your standards, we highly recommend indulging in a milkshake at the Fredheim Restaurant. It’s a delightful experience, and you might even find yourself going back for seconds later in the day…