Leashia and I had never been on a cruise before and never really fancied it either. All that dressing up for dinner is not really us. The Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage is not like that at all. It is relaxed and informal and the ‘entertainment’ was provided by the constantly evolving view. Our ship, The Midnatsol [now renamed MS Maud] was perfect, we had a small but fine cabin, a spa pool on the upper deck, a spacious bar, a wonderful viewing lounge and it never felt crowded or cramped.
It was in this viewing lounge after dinner, when we had the space completely to ourselves, that I proposed to Leashia! [She said yes!]
We chose the four night trip from Bergen to Tromso which included a 5th night in Tromso. We extended our stay in Tromso by a further two nights and then got a flight home. We booked our own flights and went for the half board option on the ship so we had breakfast and dinner included. This was pretty good value for Norway. There was a cafe on board which was ideal for lunch and was also good value. However, if the ship was in a port at lunch time we grabbed a bite to eat on land. The food served in the restaurant was excellent. The breakfast buffet was varied and tasty. There was a set meal at dinnertime unless you had a dietry requirement. I remember that we had trout, moose and ox which were all superb.
Our cruise was in mid February and of course it was bitterly cold as we headed north towards and into the Arctic Circle. However, the winter months give a greater opportunity of seeing the The Northern Lights. One of the great things about Hurtigruten is that they can buzz your cabin if the Aurora has bothered to make an appearance. We were lucky and we got to see the lights on a couple of nights, (see piccies below).
The Hurtigruten ships are crucial to the towns and communities that line the west coast of Norway. They bring goods and letters and act as a hop on hop off ferry too. Sometimes the ships dock for only 15 minutes. At some ports they stay longer allowing time to get off and explore or take an organised excursion.
The main stops after Bergen are: Alesund, Trondheim, Bodo, Svolvaer and finally Tromso.
I have added more photos on my Pinterest site.
We had time to wander around Bergen prior to our sailing. There is plenty to see and do and the city warrants an extended stay if you can. We returned a few years later. I have written more about Bergen in my blog.
The first major stop is at Alesund which is an incredibly attractive Art Nouveau town and you have plenty of time to explore, visit the old chemist and watch the short film about the town in the basement.
Norway’s third largest city warranted a stop for a few hours which is just enough time to take the walking tour of the city and get a little taste of its treasures. It was a blanket of snow when we arrived to have a look around.
The highlights of the tour were the medieval Nidaros Cathedral and Stiftsgården, a 19th century wooden palace. So much more to see, so little time, I need to return.
The Arctic Circle.
After Trondheim we sailed North towards Bodo crossing the Arctic Circle. The temperature was dropping and the scenery was becoming more bleak and even more beautiful if that was possible.
There is a fun ‘ceremony’ on the top deck to celebrate crossing the Arctic Circle where they pour ice down your back [if your choose to participate]! As a reward you get a free alcoholic drinky, I needed no further encouragement. Everyone gets a certificate to celebrate the fact you have crossed The Arctic Circle which is a nice touch.
There was time to either have a mooch around Bodo, which is not the most attractive of towns and pop into a couple of museums, or take the trip to Salstraumen Maelstrom. We chose the latter which is a natural phenomenon that happens four times a day when one fjord drains into another causing a violent series of churning whirlpools. The fjord was pretty inactive when we visited which was a shame but the views made up for it and it is where I took one of my favouritist photos ever.
Heading north again, we had a brief stop in the evening at Svolvaer on the Lofoten Islands which meant that we could not see the beauty that the town or islands had to offer. [The journey south does address this though as the ship docks in the daytime and stays for a longer period of time]. This was the last major stop before we arrived in Tromso in the afternoon on the next day.
We did the touristy thing and popped into Magic Ice which is a huge freezer once used to freeze fish. However, it now is home to some impressive ice sculptures and an ice bar where your ‘glass’ is made from ice too.
Trollfjord and towards Tromso
Hurtigruten made a big noise and enthusiastically encouraged passengers on to the upper deck to look for Trolls when sailing through this narrow passageway. As it was dark I think some of its majesty was lost. It was fun looking for Trolls with help from the ship’s searchlight, sadly to no avail. I think you may have a better chance of spotting Trolls on the voyage south when it’s daylight.
The Northern Lights
Never guaranteed but most certainly welcome. We were so lucky and the Aurora Borealis was on form for us and appeared on a couple of nights. We were woken by our buzzer in the cabin, inducing a mad scramble to don multiple layers before dashing outside into sub-zero temperatures.
I took photographs of the Aurora on my basic camera but I was not able to capture pictures of the fast moving phenomenon known as a Corona which looked like a chandelier falling out of the sky. It will forever be in my memory.
And then it was on towards Tromso. By that time we were well over 200 miles into the Arctic Circle, Brrrr!
I have a seperate section dedicated to Tromso on my website.