Here we are on our way back down the Norwegian coastline. And sitting in our cabin nursing a Hurtigruten cold, I thought I would amuse you with some of our Norwegian cruising highlights.
What have we loved? Well, we both adore Norway, and the Norwegian people are a friendly welcoming bunch. Whilst I have relished seeing this beautiful country covered in a thick icing of snow, I would love to see it green. And sail up some of the many fjords which are closed in winter due to the risk of avalanche.
The Northern Lights made a couple of brief appearances. The camera saw more colour than I did but chose to blur on me when I clicked the shutter. This is probably the only time I have ever envied those people with big smart cameras with magnificent lens. But hey ho, as the leader of the Expedition Team on the ship said, tapping his head, “see it up here first”. A good lesson for us all there.
The townships along the way have been magical. Okay, add a covering of the white stuff and most landscapes look pretty incredible. But seriously because it is so dark and dingy for so long here the locals put pretty lamps in their windows, paint their buildings jolly colours and keep their fairy lights up beyond Christmas. And this all makes it look like a winter wonderland to this Aussie.
What has not lit our fire? Norway is, as expected, a very expensive country. And if you like a tipple (like we do) you will weep when you see the bar prices, think AUS$16 for a TINY GLASS of ordinary wine. So my advice to you would be to do as James and I did, go on a Dry January (or May or June or whenever) that way you do not look like a meanie when the wine waiter arrives at your table and you ask for water. Also it will go some small way to keeping your waistline in check because the food is seriously excellent on our Hurtigruten ship.
Okay as I’ve mentioned food, I might just go with it. Breakfast and lunch are sumptuous buffets and dinner is a beautifully presented set three course affair. As expected, fish, especially my beloved salmon, feature heavily. Our doctor friends would be nodding their heads approvingly at all the fish we are devouring. But, and it is a huge but, the chefs absolutely excel in the dessert department. OMG, if you have a sweet tooth you will be in utter heaven with the lunchtime pudding line up and then bang next door to it is the cheese selection. I have found cheeses here I have never seen before!
I might not be a huge fan of the short days the further north you get, but on the plus side it is good for a sneaky afternoon nap!
My top tips for sailing up the Norwegian Coast line in Winter
- We are not big plush cruise boat people, so we would recommend a smaller ship like the Hurtigruten line as their ships are smaller, more ferry like. I would go on to recommend our ship the MS Nordlys but I heard yesterday it is going to be totally refurbished in a couple of months so I can’t vouch for how it will come out. I love it just the way it is!
- Norway is expensive. Expect to pay through the nose for tours, gift shopping, alcohol, basically everything. So be choosy with the tours you do, and decide to be kind to your liver and have a “Dry” cruise.
- Have an outside cabin. There speaks the claustrophobic, but really it is lovely to wake up and look out of your own window and watch Norway go by.
- The Expedition team put out maps of where they are stopping the night before. So if like us you didn’t want to do all the expensive excursions (eg. a two hour trip to see the Snow Hotel was AUS$165pp* for example, two hours dog sledding was AUS$365pp*) you can grab a map and do your own little tour of town. The ships always dock in town or easy walking distance to town.
- Buy yourself some spikes which you can strap onto your shoes. If you are going with the Expedition Team they will lend you some for excursions, but we found we needed ours to walk on the decks up north with all the snow. And they were great for walking around town.
- Wifi is not free on the ship. So we used to take our laptops to the Tourist Info centre, usually situated on the pier and use their free wifi when we docked.
- Thermal underwear is a must! James bought some. I thought warm trousers and waterproof trousers on top of those would suffice, they didn’t I froze! Invest in some, not sexy but neither is being cold!
- Take lots of reading material, or download a couple of books onto your Kindle because there is a lot of sailing through darkness.
- Whilst we did the 11 day return cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes. I would recommend, on reflection, just doing the northwards passage because we didn’t stop that much on the way back.
- And I must add if you do suffer from seasickness bring some tablets as it does get quite rough when we get out to sea.