When we think about romantic getaways, many of us think of posh spas or quaint bed and breakfasts, but what about taking a cruise up the Norwegian coast to hunt for the Northern Lights with your loved one? Probably not the first thing that comes to mind, but while sailing aboard the M.S. Trollfjord, one of the boats in the Hurtigruten fleet, all I could think about was how nice it would’ve been to share the breathtaking Norwegian snow-capped mountain scenery and the charm of the big cities and small towns and villages with someone close to me. I had heard that the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) were a spectacular site to see and even had a positive influence on your mood. In some cultures, they believe it enhances fertility. They are caused by solar wind, electrically charged particles the sun flings across the solar system that are drawn to the Earth’s magnetic fields around the poles. That’s why they are only visible from extreme latitudes. When I had the opportunity to see them while sailing through the fjords of Norway, it was a chance I could not pass up.
There are twelve ships in the Hurtigruten fleet, the M.S. Trollfjord being one of the two newest ships. With boats sailing the same itinerary every day of the week, it’s easy to customize a trip to your schedule. I could not begin the trip at the same time as everyone else, so while I missed seeing the city of Bergen, had I sailed on another ship, I could’ve had the same itinerary. I’ve been on a few cruises lately and I would have to say the food on this boat is terrific! Breakfast and lunch were open seating buffets and for dinner, we had two time choices for eating. With fish being so fresh and abundant in Norway, we always had lox, herring, cod, and caviar at every meal as well as traditional Norwegian meats of reindeer, meatballs, potatoes and pea soup. Dessert were made of cloudberry, huge blocks of icecream, fruits and cakes. The gym and sauna on the ninth deck had the best views with huge ceiling to floor windows. Watching the beautiful coastline made my time on the elliptical peaceful and enjoyable. Outside on the deck, there were two Jacuzzis which were also a magical way to watch for the northern lights and take in the surrounding beauty. There’s nothing like sitting in a hot Jacuzzi while snow is falling around you. When getting out, we made a beeline for the sauna, which felt great.
Throughout the seven day voyage aboard Hurtigruten, you’ll stop in several ports throughout the day and night. Some allow you a few hours, others are a quick stop for the ship to deliver cargo and you may have the opportunity to run off for a half an hour to check out the port. Our main stops were Bergen, a bustling capital of Norway’s fjord region, Alesund, a beautiful Art Noveau town, Trondheim, with its charming streets and Gothic cathedral of Nidaros, where the kings of ancient Norway once received their official blessings. On Day four, we crossed the arctic circle and they did an official baptizing ceremony which I unfortunately slept through (or maybe fortunately since they poured ice down everyone’s back!) and then we stopped in Bodo where we enjoyed a Lofotr Viking feast. In Tromso, known as Norways “Paris of the North,” we had a beer at Olhallen Bar, the northern most brewery in the world, visited the Arctic Cathedral, the Northern most Catholic Church, with its beautiful stainglass windows, and walked through Polaria, home of the bearded seals, and watched them being fed and trained. On Day 6, we arrived in Honningsvag, where we were greeted by a huge snow storm, so unfortunately the road was closed up to the North Cape, but we explored the northern most town and had the opportunity to hold some huge king crabs (there are king crab safaris available) and learn about their mating rituals. My favorite part of the trip began in Kjollefjord where we took a snowmobile trip in Lapland from the trading fishing village of Kjolleford over the mountains to Mehamn. This was a beautiful ride along the Finland coast under the starry winter sky. On Day seven, we stayed overnight in Kirkenes at the Sollia Lodge, the perfect spot on the Russian border to see the northern lights. In Kirkenes, we took a snowmobile safari and dog sledding trip under a crystal clear starry sky. These two activities were so much fun and I would highly recommend doing both. We couldn’t have had a better ending to our day. Right after the dog sledding adventure, the beautiful green hues started appearing in the sky. They transformed themselves into different shapes, came and went and then appeared again. A few of us stayed up until 3am observing their movement and patterns. It was a truly amazing experience.
After the cruise up the coast, you have the option to continue aboard for the southbound journey and experience additional activities and ports or you may want to fly to Oslo, as we did for the last two days of the trip. It’s a great way to get a taste of the urban as well as the arctic life of Norway. The city of Oslo is a beautiful one consisting of great museums, monuments, a beautifully constructed opera house, the world’s most modern ski jump, which will be used in the 2011 world championships, cross country skiing, and a great mix of restaurants and nightlife. The Oslo Ice Bar is a must stop for a cloudberry mixed drink in a frozen ice glass.
Norway is a spectacular country with great people and beautiful landscape and there’s no better way of seeing the fjords than with Hurtigruten. Be sure to ask for a mid-ship cabin for minimal vibration and one with an unobstructed view, as there’s no better feeling than waking up to a view of the sun glistening off of the coastal snow-clad mountains. Go to Hurtigruten’s and Norway’s websites for all the information you’ll need to plan your magical voyage. Thanks to Jeffrey Sobolow for his outstanding photography!