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Northern Lights Cruise
Bergen to Kirkeness
15 – 21 December 2014
Onboard the Midnatsol

Midnatsol, Hurtigruten

When I left Durban on Sunday, 14th December 2014, I had no idea what was in store for me. Yes, you can research till you are blue in the face, but no research could have prepared me for the 7-day adventure about to unfold.

We flew Emirates airlines via Dubai to Oslo, where we met up with our family and then connected through to Bergen. With 3 very long flights and over 24-hours of travelling we arrived in a snow covered, Bergen. It was cold (for us Durbanites).

 

Day 1, Bergen – day of arrival.
After sorting out some lost luggage issues, we manage to get the last bus at 18h30 to the port. The bus station is a short walk from the airport building. Quite an adventure pulling your luggage on ice and snow in the darkness and cold…with insufficient clothing…it was refreshing to say the least. There is no one to greet you, so you need to make your own way to the bus. The journey time from the airport to port was about 40 minutes.

With us being last onboard, there were no ques, and we just walked on, and checked-in. We were given our cruise cards and handed in either cash or credit card as ‘guarentee’ against the card. Note: if you use a credit card, they do ‘hold’ a deposit on the card, in addition to ‘charging’ your room bill at the end. So make sure you have sufficient funds, as it takes 10 working days to clear the holding deposit.

We had outside cabins booked with a small port hole. They were small, but very comfortable. No tea / coffee making facilities in the room. The coffee onboard I found horrible (a few guests complained), so take your own if you are a fussy coffee drinker. The water onboard is drinkable.

Once settled into our cabins and quick refresher, we made our way to a fabulous buffet dinner. Fish lovers, you will be in heaven. Fresh fish of all kinds were available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are not a big fish eater, do make the restaurant manager aware, as most dinners were ‘set’ menu’s, and they will serve you alternative options to fish.

After dinner we attended a short ‘cruise introduction’ presentation in the conference hall. We were warned about rough seas that night of 5 meter waves…and they were right. The sea was very rough, and if you get seasick, its advisable to take something or get the wrist bands. If you forgot, not a problem. they have a 24-hour cafeteria, that sells everything from toothpaste, to beer, to seasick tablets.

I was surprised to learn that the ship was a ‘working’ ship ie. ferry. So it carries locals between ports. The ship stops at 2 to 3 ports per day, some days, for 10-15 minutes, so no time to get off and explore. But enough time to let cargo and passengers on and off. What this means is that you may find people sleeping in the lounges and bar early in the morning, as they don’t have cabins. The 24-hour cafeteria, caters for them mostly and serves quick meals, as these passengers don’t eat in the main restaurant with cruising guests (unless off course, they pay a supplement).

 

Jazuzzi time

Jazuzzi time

Day 2, Cruise to Alesund / Geirangerfjord or Jhorundfjord
With all the excitement of being on holiday we arranged to get up early to meet for breakfast, and then relax and watch the world cruise by…however, it was still pitch black dark and stars in the sky! PLUS the sea was still quite rough, and some members of our travelling party had to escape to their cabin to lie down. With it being winter and we were as far North as we were, it only got ‘light’ after 10am in the morning, and it was dark again by 3pm. The days are very short.

Having lost luggage, we took advantage of our first stop to hit the streets in search of warm clothes! We found quite a selection of boutiques, factory and souvenirs shops. In a moment of madness, I even bought a Norwegian flag bikini to venture into the heated jacuzzi onboard. This was an expensive purchase, but well worth it, as we celebrated a birthday, in the warm bubbles of the jacuzzi, while leaving port and sipping on some very expensive ‘sparkling wine’…priceless.
***Did I mention…drinks and everything in Norway is expensive (approx. R150 for a beer)***

Trondheim, Hurtigruten

Trondheim, Hurtigruten

 

Day 3, Cruise to Trodheim, Norway’s first capital
We met for a much later breakfast this morning. The sea was calmer and we enjoyed a leisurely meal.
We got off at the next port, Trodheim, and took a walk on our own to the cathedral. About 1km. The roads were very icy, so watch your step. As the boat was in port very early, shops only opened from 9 am/10am. And the boat left again by 10h00. As we headed back to the ship a small Christmas market in town square and little shops were setting up. Oh, and I found a Starbucks = heaven!
We watched a small video on Trodheim, all about the history of the little fishing village.
The Northern lights made a quick appearance tonight, on and off every 15min etc. We saw very faint green light/s on horizon.

Trondheim Cathedral, Hurtigruten

Trondheim Cathedral, Hurtigruten

We were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, three nights in a row! Our phones and camera’s do not have the special lenses to pick up the spectacular light show, so just enjoy it with the naked eye…and for as long as you can stand the cold. We found the best place to view them was on deck 6, as you didn’t have the lights from the top deck interfering. Note: keep your intercom on in the room, so you are in the know of when the lights appear!

What are the Northern Lights?
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora australis’ in the south..
Click here to read more…

 

Day 4, Cruise across the Arctic Circle to Lofoten

Crossing the Artic Circle, Hurtigruten

Crossing the Artic Circle, Hurtigruten

Early morning wake up call to champers as we sailed accorss the arctic circle…(approx nok86 = ZAR128)
We then had a visit from King Neptune and took part in the arctic crossing celebration  aka have ice thrown down your shirt, and having a shooter…a bit cheesy…but hey, when in Rome….

Tromso, Dog sledding

Tromso, Dog sledding

 

Day 5, Cruise Vesteralen Islands to Tromso
This was the day I was most looking forward to. DOG SLEDDING day! We docked at 14h30, and it was dark already. The transfer from the port to the dogs was approx. 30min. We had a chance to interact with the Alaskan Huskies while their trainer told us all about the breed of dog, and interesting facts eg. they are not pure breads. They are actually a mix of 7 different breeds. Initially its a bit smelly, but you get used to it. And its cold -20, however the huskies were uncomfortable as they like -40 degrees better! Who knew! We were served some tea/coffee and cake, before getting kitted out for our dog sledding. You get given a suite, boots and gloves. What an experience – the light of our driver on our sled ‘lit the snow’ up…the snow ‘sparkled’, it was beautiful and I highly recommend this excursion.

Tromso dog sledding

Tromso dog sledding

Day 6, Cruise to Honningsvag / Optional North Cape Excursions

What a cute little town. Some clothes shops (the ice bar was closed). We found a local pub/cafe aka Corner Cafe and enjoyed some local food ie. raindeer stew, whale steaks etc. We even enjoyed a few games of pool, followed by a very cold and wet snow fight enroute back to the boat!

 

Day 7, Cruise arrives Kirkenss – day of departure.
As our flight was early, we headed straight to the airport once we docked. So we missed out on the Snow hotel.

 

Would I do it again?
Yes, but this time round in summer…and enjoy the midnight sun…to experience the exact opposite of this itinerary, and definitely in a suite!

 

Other notes:

  • Excursions are offered at each port of call. Book & pay prior to departure, expecially the ice hotel and dog sledding.
  • Pre and post cruise accommodation highly recommended
  • Drinks are VERY expensive
  • No tea and coffee making facilities in room
  • Wine and water package offerred onboard
  • Mini-suites have obstructed views
  • Suites / main suites…tv, mini bar and tea coffee making facilities
  • Normally 2 seatings for dinner, but our cruise was quiet so only one dinner seating at 7pm.
  • Cafeteria open 24 hours for light meals, snacks etc
  • Bar open from 10 am to 12 pm. live entertainment (not on every cruise).
  • Sauna and gym very nice, but small.
  • Free wifi onboard, but signal not always strong.
  • In winter – take thermals, waterproof shoes, comfortable walking shoes.
  • Take costume for jacuzzi
  • Not much ‘entertainment’ wise to do on the boat, so take a good book and desk of cards.
Relaxing with some hot chocolate

Relaxing with some hot chocolate

Hunting the light Hurtigruten

 Click here for our latest special for 2015 on the ‘Richard with’, winter cruise.

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