Ship Ahoy Norway

fullsizeoutput_1ac0What a jolt.  Icy water was poured down my back.  Ah! Ouch!  And I volunteered for this? I was on board the MS Nordlys with some 300 other passengers cruising the Norwegian IMG_3117coast. This was our baptism, a rite of passage for crossing the Arctic Circle.   It was a chilling experience, but fun with lots of laughs, shrieks and photos. Participation was not obligatory.   Many, including husband Bob, passed on the baptism.

The Nordlys (northern lights) is part of the Hurtigruten fleet.  “Hurtigruten is not just a cruise ship. It is a unique hybrid, a cruise ship and a ferry,” said David Lam, a member of the expedition team on the MS Nordlys. “It’s a ferry with nice facilities.”

The ship was our home for 11 days as we embarked on a unique voyage exploring the stunning coast of Norway. Our cruise began and ended in Bergen, sailing all the way to Kirkenes on the Russian border and back. Passengers  representing seven different nationalities were onboard during our cruise. Many, like us, were senior citizens.

Days on ship begin with announcements in four languages (Norwegian, English, German and French) about 8:30 am. No sleeping in. If you want breakfast, it is time to get up. The ample buffet of all the usual breakfast goodies, including different kinds of smoked fish, ends at 10 a.m.

 

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Days are filled with interesting lectures, relaxing in comfortable lounges, marveling at the ever-changing scenery, and shore excursions. Announcements alert the passing of noteworthy sights. Passengers gather outdoors on deck7 (the Nordlys has 8 decks) for explanations and photo opps. We were blessed with several warm, sunny days, as well as cool and cloudy days, but only one rainy day.We experienced rough seas once. The boat rocked. We rocked when walking as if we had had one too many — but that would have been costly on the Nordlys.

Norway is very expensive. The cruise was very expensive. Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, not covered in the cruise price, are expensive.KiZfEnLSRYWAfF8GRdJBGQ

When crossing the Arctic Circle and entering the region of the midnight sun and northern lights we were invited to toast the event with a glass of champagne with a strawberry. I naively thought this was gratis. No. That champagne cost 125 NOK (Norwegian krone, about $12.50).

No matter. It was fun minus champagne. The return Arctic circle crossing celebration involved a spoonful of wretched cod liver oil followed by a spoonful of a sweet liqueur. Grimaces and laughs this time. You could keep the spoon. Plus, have a glass of champagne for a price.

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Entering the legendary Troll fjord, a 2-kilometer fjord with a narrow entrance and surrounded with steep-sided mountains, called for another celebration. Most cruise ships are too large to enter the fjord. Smaller Hurtigruten ships, like the Nordlys, can only enter during the summer months. It was amazing  to witness the ship turn around in the tight space.

This feat was celebrated with a cup of troll coffee. Price: 99 NOK ($11) for a cup of coffee with a splash of schnapps. But, you could keep the souvenir fjord cup. I had passed on the champagne, but splurged on the coffee – shared with Bob.

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Troll fjord

“At Hurtigruten we give you the opportunity to travel with meaning. Building on our explorer heritage dating back to 1893, our explorations are grounded in the likings of people who value learning and personal growth over luxury…you won’t find waterslides, casinos or any sort of dress code,” states the Hurtigruten brochure.

We had booked an Arctic superior cabin on deck 6. It had all the necessities, including TV with CNN (important) but was miniscule. Galant Bob took the window side of the double bed. To get in and out, he had to side step.

A German woman from Augsburg told me she had taken four or five luxury cruises. “This is very different. It is not a luxury cruise, but I knew that. I am glad I came. I wanted to see Norway,” she said.

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The cruise is an excellent way to see Norway, especially if one participates in some of the shore excursions. They too are pricey, but offer the opportunity to see and learn about this Nordic land. We especially enjoyed biking in the town of Trondheim, a visit to the indigenous Sami, feasting on King Crab pulled directly from the frigid waters as we watched, and several bus excursions through  spectacular countryside.

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In addition to organizing entertaining celebrations and leading excursions, the friendly and knowledgeable expedition team conduct lectures covering various topics; polar explorations, birds of Norway, Norway and Norwegians, and more. The latter was enlightening. Norway vies with Finland for having the happiest citizens. Dream on, DT, Norwegians do not want to emigrate to the U.S.

While breakfast and lunch were buffet feasts with open seating, we had assigned seats for the three-course dinners. The food was good, innovative and interesting, focusing on local ingredients and Norwegian specialties.

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Tasty reindeer — better than beef, and said to be “sustainable.”

We received a menu with each meal explaining in detail the ingredients and preparation. The salmon was the best I have ever eaten, and the reindeer was a rare and delicious treat.

As mentioned, Hurtigruten is more than a cruise ship. In the late 19th century, services along the 780-mile coastline from Bergen to Kirkenes, a busy route for transportation of goods and people, were unreliable. Shipping companies were invited to submit tenders for operating an express route between Trondheim and Tromsø, or Hammerfest. In 1893, Captain Richard With’s steamer, DS Vesteraalen, established a regular sea link between the towns which was later expanded from Bergen to Kirkenes, a trip of only seven days. The connection was named “hurtigruten” – the fast route. With went on to explore other Nordic destinations.

“This marks the beginning of Hurtigruten’s adventurous and unique explorer operations,” states the company literature. Destinations now include Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Antarctica, as well as ports along the Norwegian coast.

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In addition to cruise passengers, cars, bicycles, motorcycles and some cargo were on board the Nordlys. We met many “walk-in” passengers who used the ship as a ferry from one stop to another. If their transit is less than 24 hours, they can travel without booking a cabin. Some, with backpacks nearby, stretch out on comfortable lounge chairs and sofas. They are free to use all ship facilities, including the jacuzzis.

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Hurtigruten is at the forefront of sustainable tourism. The company is building the first ever hybrid-powered expedition cruise ships and has eliminated single-use plastic from all its ships and hotels. Their “Coastal Kitchen” relies on locally sourced products.

Yes, it is expensive. But, it is a beautiful and enlightening experience (minus the baptism and cod liver oil). And now I have a Polar Arctic certificate.

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If not a talesandtravel follower, sign up, upper right. Your email is not shared. More about Norway to come: the amazing country, its food, photos of the splendid scenery.. I will also be posting on my trip last winter to Costa Rica. And, whatever else inspires me. Don’t miss out.

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22 thoughts on “Ship Ahoy Norway”

  1. I never considered this line before, because I thought it was just a transport ship without the lectures and shore excursions. I’ll definitely consider it for a future trip. But, thanks to your OTHER posts, Sri Lanka will come first.

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    1. Sorry for late reply. If you do Norway, I can definitely recommend Hurtigruten. They are considered the best. After all, it is their territory. Bravo for Sri Lanka. I am sure they are still hurting for tourists since the terrorist attack at Easter. Security will no doubt be significantly beefed up. You will enjoy the beautiful country and it friendly folk.

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  2. I don’t know which was more painful…the idea of the ice water down the back or those prices. Guess I’ll keep Norway at the lower end of my to-see list. Great photos and post, though! :))

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  3. Bill and I will be leaving for Sweden and Norway on August 22. Mostly a land tour but includes a couple days of cruising to view the fjords. I enjoyed hearing about your time on board. always love to see your photos. Crossing the Arctic Circle is on my bucket list, but it won’t be happening for us this time.
    I had lunch with Julie Oldani in Michigan last week on a family visit home. Lots of good memories of our years together.

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  4. Leah, Carol and I just did a similar cruise – Bergen to the Russian border and back again with Hurtigruten. Your description – as always – is much better than I could ever relate. I agree with the astronomical cost of alcohol and optional tours. But the fjords were on my bucket list and I’m glad we did it. Hugs to you and Bob.

    Noel

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  5. I always look forward to your trip descriptions, Leah. This one was exceptionally interesting and I salute you and Bob for continuing your adventures.

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    1. Thank you, Gloria. I am pleased to know that you are still a talesandtravel follower. Pursuing adventures is becoming more difficult with age, but we are not couch potatoes yet.

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    1. Indeed it was an ideal — and enjoyable –escape from the heat. In addition to being beautiful, Norway is impressive. Stay tuned for more on talesandtravel. Thanks for being such a faithful reader, and for all the fabulous comments.

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    1. Ah, bernaise sauce.! How could I forget? This brought back memories and smiles. FYI, foodie friend: The reindeer was from the traditional Sami herd and served with fried mushroom, Savoy cabbage, broccoli pure and lingonberry sauce. Lingonberries are a specialty in Norway. Keep reading talesandtravel, and thanks for this delightful memory.

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  6. As always, I can close my eyes and be there with you, getting wisps of the sounds, smells and sights of Norway via the sea. Oh yes, and tastes too! I love salmon, envy your salmon experience! Thanks, Leah!

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  7. We did the Kirkenes to Bergen portion of this a couple of years ago on the sister ship, Polarlys. Enjoyed it thoroughly, as you seem to have. Great fun reliving that trip through your excellent description. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Leah! Every time I read your blog I want to go there.
    Even the icy water ‘experience wouldn’t put me off.
    Keep traveling please.

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