A short cab ride from the hotel gets us to the Hurtigruten cruise terminal with time to spare. They registered our credit card and took our luggage then invited us to the upstairs passenger lounge where we are greeted warmly with smiles, chowder, sweets and drinks (non-alcoholic). Our sail time is 8:00 pm.
Why this cruise?
I have always wanted to visit the Arctic and Antarctic. Most normal people would do this in the spring and summer but NO, this chick wants to see the extremes, and so two years ago I booked it. Originally it was to be a solo adventure as Hurtigruten the cruise ship line offers a no single supplement. So wonderful and so rare! Travelling alone can be very expensive. Also, they guarantee you will see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). My friend Yordie loves cold weather so it made sense for her to join me. That was two years ago, and I don’t need to repeat the COVID story.
If you are flying from Canada to Norway you better make the best of the time you have. We booked some extra time in Oslo and then the Norway in a Nutshell tour with an overnight in Bergen. I highlighted that in an earlier post.
This is not your typical cruise. The ship holds 600 passengers and stops at 17 ports northbound Bergen>Kirkenes (north of the Arctic Circle) and 17 stops southbound Kirkenes>Bergen. Some stops are a quick 15 minutes and others are a few hours. It is a ferry service where locals can bring their cars aboard. Local mail is picked up and dropped off. Locals can buy a ticket and travel up and down the coast. The cruise clients have access to excursions at certain ports, onboard educational seminars, locally-sourced food and drink. The Expedition Team is entertaining and we are invited outside on Deck 7 for information on points of interest and celebratory events. I will share shortly the celebration when we crossed the Arctic Circle.
On this trip, there are only 400 cruise clients aboard but every day we meet new people from ports of call. The majority of travellers are from Norway, the U.K., with others from Germany, France, Denmark, Australia and the United States. As far as I can tell, we are the only Canadians.
Every day there is an educational segment (lecture or movie) and later a walkthrough of excursions and key information for the upcoming day. This time of year there is room for last minute bookings. To be honest, the excursions are not cheap. I would research privately if doing this again to save a little money. We unfortunately had our Ålesund kayak adventure cancelled due to high winds but the Kimg Crab Adventure/Ice Hotel was enjoyable and a highlight for me was Nordkapp or the North Cape.
There is nothing formal about life aboard a Hurtigruten coastal ship. We are all in stretch pants, sweats or tees and running shoes. No need to bother with make up. I’ve worn my glitter slippers, even to dinner. No one cares. Each cabin is equipped with a kettle with tea/instant coffee, a hair dryer and the washrooms have shampoo. conditioner and shower gel. Every day there is maid service if you wish.
It is a relaxing, intimate environment and you get close to the ship’s staff. An example, the restaurant manager, a Swede named Mats looks like a smaller version of Mats Sundin from the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey alumni. When I commented on the striking resemblance, we began a fabulous conversation. He brought up the most famous Swede, Börje Salming. He spoke with pride of his love and respect for Salming. When I showed him the picture of Salming and I, tears welled up in his eyes. He could only utter, “A real hero!”
Here’s a layout of the ship and it’s services below (from the top level>down):
Deck 7 – Panoramic Lounge with a bar, a bakery with an assortment of ice cream flavours (including fish) and baked goods. We have the tea and coffee package and can just help ourselves. The cappuccinos, baked goods and ice cream are extra. ☹️ Out on the aft/back deck of the ship is an outside observation deck where we search for Northern Lights and participate in some events. There is a warming area protected from the wind.
Decks 6/5 – Cabins and 2 outdoor hot tubs.
Deck 4 – Expedition team, gift store, Bistro restaurant, an a la carte restaurant and a buffet restaurant. We have free seating for breakfast and lunch but an assigned table number for dinner. We are a table of two and don’t sit at a round table with others.
Deck 3 – Laundry and sauna, more cabins
This particular coastal cruise is 12 days round trip and heads to Kirkenes, north of the Arctic Circle and 15 minutes from the Russian border.
Fast forward to boarding – We are allowed to board the ship (MS Nord Norge) after the safety video. We are given a card that is used to purchase additional item/excursions. It is also used to tap on/off the ship as we come and go and is linked to a credit card. We pre-booked some excursions but who knows what we will do additionally. Once onboard, we have dinner and go to our rooms where our luggage is waiting for us. The room is an upgraded Arctic Superior which is tiny but efficient. Overall, boarding is relaxed and seamless. We will make many stops along our course tonight and our first stop is Ålesund.