In December 2015, Paul Andrews, one of our Cruise Experts, embarked on a Hurtigruten Arctic Highlights Educational voyage to the far north of Norway. This was his journey…
We met at Birmingham International Airport on a rather chilly December morning, to board our charter flight to Tromso, Norway, operated by Germania Airlines. There were only 56 passengers onboard so there was plenty of room to spread out. Two and three quarter hours later and our arrival in Tromso was even chillier than the UK, and already dark at 2.15pm. In this part of the world, two hours of daylight is the “norm” at this time of year. We collected our luggage and joined our transfer to The Radisson Blu Hotel in the centre of the city.
The following morning, after breakfast, our guide was waiting to take us on our 3-hour walking tour of Tromso, before we embarked MS Richard With. We had a couple of museum visits and learnt a lot about the history of this delightful city. It was also nice to catch a glimpse of the Arctic Cathedral.
Once our tour came to an end, we made our way towards the port so that the cruise could begin.
Check-in was swift and before I knew it I was in my cabin and unpacking. I had a Mid Ship cabin, number 519 which was a Polar Outside Category and perfectly located.
We had our first dinner onboard in the a la carte restaurant which was superb, and included delicious reindeer steaks. Following dinner, it was obligatory drinks at the bar before retiring for the evening.
The North Cape
The next day brought our excursion to The North Cape from the port of Honningsvag. It was very cold and snow covered. On this excursion you have a snow plough convoy in case weather conditions change. We visited a very “state of the art” Visitors Centre where very informative films of the area were shown. There was also an excellent gift shop and café.
Back onboard MS Richard With and it was time for lunch before our first very informative Hurtigruten Seminar at sea, chaired by our lovely host, Maria Ersmarker. Following our seminar, we enjoyed some free time onboard before readying ourselves for dinner in the evening. We dined in the main restaurant this time and sampled a rather delicious seafood buffet. All of the food is of an exceptionally high standard.
The following morning, after breakfast, we arrived in Kirkenes, the turning point of our voyage. This town is lovely, as is all the scenery in this part of the world. We met our German guide who took us to the Russian Border. As alcohol is so expensive in Norway, the locals travel over to Russia to buy alcohol and tobacco. The Russians travel into Norway to buy household goods as these are of a much higher standard in Scandinavia. I found this incredibly interesting.
We then had a short ride to the Snow Hotel, which opened in January 2016. We viewed the site as it was under construction and even that was truly is a marvel to look at. There were a few finished cabins, which are used as accommodation and are beautifully decorated in a typical Norwegian style.
It was then back to MS Richard With for dinner, which tonight was a set menu and include beetroot soup and entrecote steak cooked in vodka. Another superb meal was had before one retired to bed.
Our final port of call was Hammerfest. The main Highlight here was the church, which was built in 1961, so five years older than myself – still very young! The town is a photographer’s dream.
Back onboard in the afternoon and it was time for another Hurtigruten Seminar at Sea focusing on new Itineraries they were offering including Antarctica (UK Winter), Spitsbergen, Greenland, Iceland and Transatlantic crossings. Hurtigruten also have a new ship coming into service called MS Spitsbergen.
MS Richard With docked back in Tromso at 23:45PM. We disembarked and checked back into the Radisson Blu for our final night. The hotel is just across the road from the port, so no transfers are required to be arranged when booking guests. A night-cap was enjoyed as we adjourned to the adjacent bar, which housed a stuffed polar bear at the entrance.
Our final day and one last excursion arrived. Yes, it was the unforgettable dog sledding. Hurtigruten Excursion Cost: Approximately £200.00 Per Person including lunch (Reindeer Soup).
The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
The Northern Lights are the main reason that people do the Arctic Highlights Voyage. Although I did not see lights myself, some of my group did and they said it was incredible. The lights appear in different forms. I did see a white formation. Camera pictures often appear more vivid than looking with just the naked eye. Apparently, they looked a bit like this.
Thank You Hurtigruten
If you ever get the chance to do this then please take – it is amazing! Not only for the stunning scenery, but more for the smell of wet huskies that will not leave you, or your clothes, for days, or possibly even weeks, but watch where you sit on the sledge as the more excitable the hounds get, the more there is a chance of wayward flying brown missiles! A few people on our team have actually had this experience in Norway and they have all raved about it upon their return so please, make sure you give it a go.
We said goodbye to Norway, boarded our flight and before we knew it we were back in Birmingham. Now It was back home to relative normality and no more reindeer!
Thank you Hurtigruten for a trip of a lifetime!
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