This entire trip was smooth sailing. When we were at open sea, there was some movement but nothing compared to last night. When they said be prepared for a rough ride, they were not kidding!
In my bed, if I slept on my side, the movement would send me onto my back. If I sat up, the vibration would have me sliding down flat. It was hard to get comfortable enough to sleep soundly and I had to keep one arm on the nightstand to keep things from falling off. I was never concerned and thankfully neither of us felt ill. In fact, we were both a little excited for the turbulence. I think it was 4:00 am when Yordie stood looking out the window squealing with delight. She had been wishing for this all trip and she finally got it. I wanted the Northern Lights and she wanted some rough water. Both have beens satisfied.
When it was time for breakfast, there weren’t many people in the dining room. Perhaps it was because we had to have our suitcases out by the elevator before 10:00 am and they were packing or perhaps grabbing a little more sleep. The seas seemed to stabilize through breakfast but once it was done, all hell broke loose again. We sat in the lounge watching the boat ride the swells and the sea spray was hitting the top deck windows. People were trying to walk straight but we all looked a little drunk. Glasses and plates were falling off tables and the occasional giggle or gasp escaped from people’s lips from anxiety and excitement. The outer deck was open and those brave enough to brace themselves against the wind would venture outside to take pictures.
After lunch things seemed to settle down a bit and we had lost some time, approximately 30 minutes. It was a small delay and before you knew it you were asked to come to Deck 5 to leave the ship. For the last time, we tapped our badges as the Hurtigruten voice said, “Goodbye!”
In the Hurtigruten terminal our bags came around the luggage belt in the order of our room number. Now that’s organized! We grabbed our suitcases and headed outside to climb aboard a bus to the Bergen Airport. The bus ride is about 20 minutes. We weren’t flying out tonight so we stayed at the Clarion Airport Hotel across the street from the terminal. It’s a 10 minute walk. As we were walking along, we heard some familiar voices. It was Bev and Nick who sat at the next table throughout our trip. That night, we ended up sharing our table with them for dinner. It was a fitting end.
The next morning we were up at 4:00 am and over to the airport for 5:00 am. Our flight Bergen>Frankfurt was perfect. We slept through most of it. Arriving at Frankfurt was relatively easy. We landed on the tarmac and they bussed us over to Terminal 1. The walk through the terminal was long and tiring when dragging bags. We grabbed a quick snack and a coffee before looking for our gate. When we arrived, we were turned away with no reason given. I think there were too many people by the gate. We had a 4 hour layover and we had already used up 1.5 hours. They changed our gate and then the show began.
Yordie and I couldn’t believe the chaos. They were doing a travel document check in front of the boarding gate. One line was for Canadian passport holders and the aother for Non-Canadians. The Canadian passport holder line was short and the Non-Canadian was incredibly long. It was a great people watching experience with lots of repeating questions and shouting. The airport personnel were confirming documents up to 5 minutes before boarding and we were 30 minutes delayed. An announcement asked if anyone wanted to upgrade to Premium Economy or Business Class at a discount. Yordie and I looked at each other, smiled and nodded the affirmative. It was definitely worth it. Here are some samples of what was on the menu:
I’ve been home for 24 hours and got a terrific night sleep. I did have a short, timed nap this afternoon and hope to stay up until 11:00 am to get the body clock back to normal.
Observations and Reflections
- Hurtigruten – if you are looking for a scaled-down casual cruising experience that is both educational and fun, this is the cruise line. Maximum 600 people on board means it isn’t crowded and the environment is not rushed. If you are looking for nightlife, this is NOT your cruise. Napping is permitted in the lounge while the beautiful land and seascapes roll on by. I will definitely look at the Galapagos and Antarctica expeditions down the road. High recommend! Hurtigruten service from every aspect was perfection. I have never experienced this level of consistency in service. Employees were always smiling, chatting and offering assistance. The Expedition team was talented and made each event fun. The embarkation and disembarkation process was flawless. Tipping is not required but you can if you wish. Grab an envelope at reception. Tips are shared with everyone.
- BONUS – Hurtigruten has a Northern Lights promise from December-March and also waives the single supplement fee.
- We booked with GLP Worldwide (Stephanie Ma) who was helpful with flights and Hurtigruten. We were able to book our excursions in Canadian dollars which was appreciated.
- Excursions are expensive and feedback to Hurtigruten would be to discount them in the winter especially if it is close to dusk. I heard complaints from fellow passengers that you couldn’t see anything but still they charged full price. I’m sure spring, summer and fall isn’t an issue.
- The Northern Lights were amazing to see. I was awestruck and excited to see them as often as we did. Just laying in my bed, I could see them outside my window. Tromsø and north were the best viewing locations.
- Winter travel in the Arctic is less expensive and less congested but be prepared for a lot of darkness and businesses closed for the winter. Brought sunglasses and never wore them.
- Norway has natural beauty. A land of mountains, sea and fjords. You can walk, hike and camp anywhere in Norway free of charge. The parks belong to the people. What a beautiful concept.
- Accessibility – This topic has become of interest since my knee replacements and although on the ship I was not impacted, others were. I spoke with a lady who was travelling with her 97 year old father. Although they had an accessibility cabin, the doors were heavy and didn’t open as expected. She shared that the lip in the shower was removed so you could get a wheelchair in, but then the water would go everywhere when the ship leaned. Water flowed through the cabin into the hallway. There are two elevators at either end of the ship that made moving between floors easy. My overall observation is that Norway has a ways to go with improving accessibility standards. Ice clearing frequented areas could be improved. We saw these cool enclosed scooters in Brønnoysund that allowed disabled to move down streets in the winter.
- Norway is expensive 1 CAD = 7.37503 NOK The service industry is high so Norwegians don’t eat out as often as we would. Cost of living is approximately 27% higher than the U.S. according to Internations.org. Understanding that we were staying at an airport hotel we would expect it to be higher than in town, but we each had a hamburger and beer that equated to 70 $CDN each. Wages are higher. There is no tipping required. Many Swedes come to Norway to work due to these higher wages.
- Drinking alcoholic in Norway is expensive. I think it is to discourage an unhealthy lifestyle.
- I learned it is one of the happiest countries in the world and that it introduced sushi to Japan.
- I didn’t really find a national food. There were a lot of root vegetables (turnip, potatoes, carrots) and cabbage is frequently on the menu. Meatballs, stews, mutton, reindeer and of course fish (white fish and salmon). Smoked salmon was closer to sushi in texture and taste. Every day I indulged. Hurtigruten did an amazing job of presenting dishes in a beautiful way. Ginger shots are huge in Norway. Hotels and the cruise line had them available every morning. Delicious!
- If I was going to repeat the Norway in a Nutshell in the winter again, I would plan for an extra night in Fläm overlooking the fjord. That way you could continue on with the boat, bus and rail in daylight the next day.
- Seeing the Arctic in early winter was beautiful and I can’t imagine only living with 4 hours of daylight. I was surprised it was as mild as it was. Still my packing list didn’t let me down and I was prepared for everything.
I LOVED NORWAY!
Thank you to Yordie for joining me on this adventure. It was fun sharing it with someone; a witness to the experience. She is a sea loving Newfoundlander who couldn’t wait to breathe in the sea air each day. I was on Northern Lights duty and they didn’t disappoint. We have a tendency to travel to warmer climates, especially us Canadians because we have had enough of cold weather, but let me tell you that there is magnificent beauty in the winter and you can’t beat the crowds or lack thereof. Thanks to crew of the MS Nordnorge and Hurtigruten for a tremendous service experience!
Where should I go next? Any recommendations?