Booking an 11 day cruise up the Norwegian coast in January seemed like a great adventure. But to be honest, neither of us were quite sure how it was going to work out. We just couldn’t imagine what our first cruise together was going to be like. We have spent the last 6 days going north from Bergen to see the Northern Lights. As we have now turned south, we thought it was time to buy some ridiculously expensive wifi and tell the story.
Our adventure began as we flew into Bergen and had our first glimpse of this extraordinary country. As we left the airport, even the large”Bergen” sign had a question mark after it. We hoped that we were in the right place, even if the locals were not certain!
We boarded our ship “MS Nordlys” at about 4 o’clock but we had to wait until 6 o’clock to be allowed into our cabin. It is small but has a decent sized window and as we unpacked, there was a place for everything and we soon settled in. Setting sail at 10.30 at night into the darkness just seemed to sum up the adventure. We stood on deck with huge smiles and a slight tinge of anxiety.
MS Nordlys is, in essence a ferry. It calls into some 30 or so ports as you sail up the coast. Most of these are short 30 minute stops to drop off and pick up supplies and people. But one stop each day is a little longer with a few hours to explore the town. Of course the ship offers a range of expensive excursions or you are free to do your own thing. You can guess what our style is, I’m sure!
After a rather bumpy night, Alesund is our first port of call. We had 3 hours to explore or the ship would go without us. We need not have worried. It was enough to have a look around and pop into the tourist information centre to use their free wifi.
The food on board is surprisingly good. So a walk in the snow and fresh air was a very good idea because we had not yet mastered the art of not overeating and our stomachs were a bit full to say the least!
As you head north, the days start to shorten. So, although we arrived in Trondheim at 6am, sunrise was not until about 9.30. We had time for breakfast before the Cathedral and the old docks tempted us our into the gloom.
Crossing the Arctic Circle
Early in the morning we crossed over the Arctic Circle. The Nordic God Thor arrived on board in the morning to bless our voyage at the crossing ceremony. Now it is time to really brave the cold on the back deck and look for the Northern Lights.
Bodo (pronounced Budah) was our port of call on day 3. Driving snow and the lack of afternoon light kept our exploration of the town murals rather short. Unfortunately, one of our fellow guests fell over on an icy patch leaving the ship and broke her wrist. We were very thankful that a friend, who had done the trip before, had advised us to buy some spikes to strap onto our shoes. These spikes have proved to be one of our best pieces of kit.
Today the time between sunrise and sunset was less than an hour. But night time Tromso did not let us down. With temperatures of -5C, the snow was crisp and the walk around town to see the modern architecture was great fun.
This was the day that actually was not a day at all. We were in Arctic night. But that did not deter the people of Honningsvag. They were having a Sun Festival to welcome back the sun! Ski races for young and old and even jumping into the icy water were all part of the festivities. Although we were told later that only one person had been brave enough to take on the water!
Later after dinner, we saw our first Northern Lights. And, just for a few seconds, they put on a real show.
Kirkenes is our turn around point and we decided to go on our first organised tour to the Snow Hotel. It was spectacular, even if the the temperatures were down to -22C. Our guide was very excited because it was the first time that he had seen the sun this year.
And so now we start to head south. We have a couple more days above the Arctic Circle. So hopefully the Northern Lights will put on another show for us before we get too far south…….