I'm now back from Norway. Used the new ferry from Eemshaven to Kristiansand on Thursday, April 21. They had been in service for only two weeks.
Overall it was a great experience on a nice ship. The crew was clearly still finding their way, but they were friendly, helpful and eager to improve. It was only some little things that still went wrong, like the steaks in the grill house restaurant arriving before guests had finished their starters. I would say the enthusiasm of the crew more than compensated for that.
Checking in at Eemshaven was quick and easy, using the QR code in the booking confirmation. I arrived exactly the recommended 90 minutes before departure, and I was on the ship within ten minutes. On a weekday in April the ship was not full, so this might be different in high season. Getting off in Kristiansand and passing through customs was equally efficient, getting me parked up in the city within twenty minutes. What helps here is that there is only one car deck, with space for about 300 cars apparently. This car deck also accommodates trucks and buses, so lanes are wide and high.
While leaving Kristiansand around 13:00 I noticed the vessel crossing to the container harbour to make space for one of the other ferries. So I would imagine that boarding in Kristiansand you do have to wait on the quai for the ferry to return, unless you are there really early. I have no experience of the service in that direction.
For most of the crossings in the summer the car deck seems already sold out. Since the car deck is relatively small, the ferry itself should never get too busy. The ship is built for a maximum of 2500 day passengers, which has been capped to 1500 for this route. With a sold-out car deck, I have heard of passengers being left behind if their car exceeds the booked dimensions. Also I would avoid being the last one to check in in that case, just in case things don't fit.
Coming back I travelled on Color Line Kiel–Oslo. Entertainment, food etcetera is on a different level there, but it was also almost twice as expensive. For the single trip Eemshaven–Kristiansand I paid EUR 205 (low season) including Cali and 1 passenger in an inside cabin.
The ferry and loading ramp at Eemshaven:
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The car deck, starboard side:
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