Cruise Review - Sailing the coast of Norway, Hurtigruten Cruises
Wow, what an absolutely incredible experience. I honestly don't believe there is any better way to visit this Country, and the spectacular views and scenery that it offers.
We started the trip with the Norway in a Nutshell tour, which is an organised tour that takes you from Oslo to Bergen, a combination of the Flam Railaway, and a Fjord cruise. One of the best railway trips in the world that you can do! The scenery is just spectacular, as you wind your way through the many tunnels in the mountainside, through many a blizzard, at times it's completely white you can't see a thing, and then all of a sudden it clears to reveal a frozen lake, surrounded by mountains, with little farm houses and Barns covered in snow by the sides of the Lakes - just stunning. Definitely not to be missed while you are in this region.
We then boarded our cruise with Hurtigruten, on the MS Nordkapp, on the 6 night voyage north to Kirkenes. Cruisers should note that Hurtigruten offers an authentic expedition experience quite different to big ship cruising. It is really the only option that cruises the Scandinavian area year round however, so if you are wanting to see the scenery beautifully covered in snow, and a chance at seeing the Northern Lights, or even as spring comes into bloom with all the bright flowering plants and trees along the mountain sides, it's well worth looking at taking this option. It also gives you some contrast, as when you begin the cruise in the South, you see the scenery without snow, and then see the gradual change as you head north, and start to see the glaciers and frozen fjord's etc. It also gives you the chance to finish your cruise with a few nights at the Kirkenes Snow Hotel, where the 6 night cruise option finishes. Which is absolutely amazing, and I must admit definitely a highlight of the trip.
Hurtigruten ships, being working vessels - transporting goods, ferrying cars and passengers along the entire coast of Norway, means that you have 34 ports of call during the 7 day trip. Some stops are only a quick 15 minutes, and others are a few hours, so you are really getting to see each and every little quaint town along your journey, rather than just stopping in the main big ports that most other cruise companies do during the summer. While they are working ships, they do have the basic comforts that you need onboard still, such as outdoor jacuzzi's to relax in while watching the scenery pass you by, sauna, small gym, panoramic lounge, bar, as well as the main dining room on board for overnight guests. There is also a cafe that you can purchase any additional treats and snacks from if you get a bit peckish between meals or miss lunch on the ship if you are off exploring.
In regards to the cabins on board, I would definitely recommend one of the larger sized outside cabins for the trip, as it gives you probably 1/3rd extra space in your cabin, which you really need just for storage alone. You need to have the outside window, as it's just wonderful to wake up and look out the window straight away, to see how the scenery has changed overnight, and check the weather as to if it’s raining/snowing to prepare for your days adventure before having to go up on deck to get a chance to see the outside world.
There are many shore excursions that you can take part in at an additional cost, and some of them are just not to be missed - such as the Husky and Reindeer sledding that you can do between Finnsnes to Tromso. You can participate as much as you like, have yourself a go at being the musher driving the dogs, or just sit back and enjoy the ride. You finish the tour in the warmth of one of the cute traditional Sami huts, with a delicious Hot Reindeer stew, and Norwegian treat for dessert. Just the drive from the cruise port to get to the Husky farm is well worth it, passing by gorgeous scenery, Icicles hanging of the cliffs on the roadside, and passing through quite a few little townships by frozen lakes along the way. All warm clothing including shoes will be provided for you to participate in the excursion costs. Definitely not to be missed.
I would also recommend going to see the Salstraumen Maelstrom, just out of Bodø, which is where you can see the World's strongest tidal pull, up nice and close by RIB (Inflatable raft) Safari. They give you all the clothing etc that you need for the trip once again, and you leave right from the cruise port. So it’s a nice and easy tour, and lets you explore the smaller islands off the coast from Bodø. You will be sure to see some of the rare Sea Eagles of this area, and where they nest, and if you are lucky, some seals.
Nordkapp, or North Cape in English is another very monumental visit to include, being the Northern most point of Norway. The view point from here is just incredible. There is also a lovely little cafe at the top to enjoy a drink whilst taking in the amazing scenery surrounding you.
Upon the cruises completion, we had a night in the Kirkenes Snow Hotel, which you simply cannot go to this area, and NOT visit this place. It is simply incredible. It is rebuilt out of snow and ice each year for the cooler season, and beautifully decorated with carved ice sculptures, and every room has its own engravings and sculptures in the wall, giving it its own theme, varying from Marilyn Munroe, to Minnie and Mickey Mouse. There is a bar, completely carved out of ice...words simply cannot give this place justice. While here, you can do Husky/dog sledding trips, if you missed out in doing it in Tromso, they have the biggest Husky farm in the North of Europe. Where the dogs are looked after so well, and it will take you seconds to see the dogs pure love of what they do. There are so many activities that you can join in on while you are here, snow shoe walking/climbing, cross country skiing, visit the Russian Border, or you can simply just relax and take in the beautiful surroundings. The restaurant and activities rooms are just near by the guest rooms in the snow, so you are able to be toasty warm inside with amazing views overlooking the frozen fjord. Everything that you will need to prepare yourself for this incredible experience is all included in the rates, such as sleeping bag, sleeping sheet, snow suite, snow shoes, balaclava, gloves etc. The Snow Hotel Kirkenes is so unique, and offers and experience like no other. I can't speak highly enough of them, not to mention it’s a GREAT spot to see the Northern lights. This is where we managed to catch them on the last night of our trip in Norway, just incredible.
Another important note to prepare you for the trip - is Scandinavia in general is quite an expensive area of the World to visit. So the shops, restaurants, souvenirs and on board beverages etc. are all a little pricey - so just keep that in mind, and set yourself aside enough spending money for the trip.
If you have any further questions or enquiries about visiting Northern Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltics, then please don't hesitate to contact me. Whether it be with Hurtigruten, or travelling in a little more luxury, I look forward to helping you plan your own exciting trip to this beautiful area of the World.
If a Norway cruise with Hurtigruten tickles your fancy, call one of our Cruise Specialists today on 1300 954 661.
Today’s Cruise Specialist:
Pamela Platt – Cruise Specialist from Cruiseabout Burleigh Heads