The atmosphere on the coast liner is informal and relaxed
NORWAY: The name is to some extent misleading. Hurtigruten means the speedy liner, but time is something you have plenty of when travelling with Hurtigruten, The pace of the tour is charming leisurely Most of it goes in slow motion that is 18 knots cruising on each of the 11 ships that sail along the coast between Bergen and Kirkenes in Norway. That means you have plenty of time to catch countryside glides past and constantly gets more dramatic the further north the ship arrives.
Hurtigruten is a stress-free zone. You have plenty of time to help yourself with food, from generous buffets and hot meals in the restaurant, but also to visit towns with colourful buildings, places that remind me of houses in Legoland. The most intriguing, however, the sea, the coast and the midnight sun. Yes, even the gray weather has so many shades it seems a bit ghostly.
On board 11-days
“A journey in Norway’s beautiful scenery,” writes Hurtigruten on its website, and asks for 2.000 Euro in May for the 11-day voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. Included in the price are a cabin and three daily meals. The cheapest round trips available in December cost 1.500 Euro. Most expensive is the peak season from June to August when tourists from around the world come to experience this classic ride, the scenery and the midnight sun, which hopefully shines from May to the first week in August.
But you don’t need to book the big round trip to experience Hurtigruten. It is possible to join for a short trip somewhere in Norway and travel north or south. It is also possible to leave the ship anywhere and then take the next. This is the voyage of opportunities – the narrow fjords, spectacular mountains and islands plus calls at 34 ports, including cities like Trondheim, Bodø, Harstad and Tromsø.
Taste of the Coast
The philosophy behind the food served is “Taste the Coast”, ingredients of local origin, such as dried cod, Pollock, crab, Arctic char, reindeer and fresh cod. It is said that Americans are not so thrilled about whale meat. “Local food ties Hurtigruten even closer to the coastal culture,” one chef said.
The atmosphere is informal and relaxed. This is not a cruise where you change for dinner. The passengers are a mix of tourists and the local population that is on board a few hours and then leave at one of the following ports. You meet either in the dining room, in one of the lounges with panoramic views or on the deck to watch the sky and sea, rock formations and grand entrance to next port. The bar is also open until late at night. Actually, it is also interesting to observe each call – to meet the locals at the port area or just experience what happens on the dock people swarms around like busy bees to load, unload, lift and move. Many port calls at night is quietly.
The Arctic Circle
Most of the journey take place north of the Arctic Circle, or about the city of Mo i Rana in Nordland county. It is here north of the Arctic Circle the midnight sun occurs. On board the Neptune ritual take place as the ship passes the Circle, basically for those who cross the Circle for the first time. Be prepared for some freezing water over your head before you receive a certificate and a hot aperitif.
The journey may punctuated with excursions and sightseeing along the coast, or a trip by speedboat on Saltraumen south of Bodø, a nature experience out of the ordinary. This is the world’s strongest tidal stream. During six hours a massive 372 million cubic meters of seawater through a passage which is 150 meters wide and 31 meters deep. The power that looks like a river rapids flowing both ways. You may also experience the majestic eagle in the air.
Trollfjord and the mountains
Hardly any place in Northern Norway is as photographed, filmed and painted as the entrance to Trollfjord in Vesteralen. The fjord is three kilometres long, but it is the opening and steep mountains on both sides that turns heads as opening is only 70-80 meters wide. Trollfjord is visited daily by the southbound ship, weather permitting. One of the ships that sail along the coast is named after this attraction.
Lofoten consists of seven large and a dozen small islands connected by bridges and roads, almost like a necklace. The area has a special nature with mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered coves and untouched areas – in six municipalities that together have just under 25,000 inhabitants. Many use the opportunity to leave the ship and get a few days to experience what its like to live in apartments and warehouses, such as in Kabelvåg which has both a nice coastline and a beach. It should be said that Lofoten is more suitable for fishing than for swimming.
Birds and Midnight Sun
When you get as far north as North Cape in Finnmark, there are two things to experience – either a trip to the mountain of North Cape, hoping to experience the midnight sun, or go bird watching Nordkapp is often referred to as the northernmost point in Europe and here come the tourists from all over the world to watch the spectacular sunset taking place at midnight. Its here the midnight sun first week of August says goodbye to Norway.
Lot of birds come to the small fishing village of Gjesvar. From here it’s a short boat ride to the mountain Gjesvaerstappan that has Finnmark’s largest tribe with puffins, the bird with the colourful beak. Puffins come here to nest in the period from April to August. The rest of the year these birds live at sea.
Art and History
Nature performs the entertainment along the coast and from the deck of the ship “Finnmarken” I enjoy the view from a heated pool. The new ship has a lot of original art, paintings, cartoons and even some sculptures, mostly made by Norwegian artists. Notice also the statue edge of the harbour in Svolvaer. On a small isle off the pier stands the statue “Fishing Wife”, made by Per Ung. Lofotmuseet in Kabelvag have collected tools and equipment used in the old days and shows how the nets, longlines and handlines works out at sea – and in additional many historical photographs.
When the ship arrives at Stokmarknes, it’s a short distance to the Hurtigruten Museum offering a journey since the start in 1893. Look into the dark side with shipwreck and loss of life – part of the history of Hurtigruten’s 120 years long journey along the coast of Norway.
More inspiration: Like living on the Wild Side
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Hurtigruten coastal voyage is an 11-day round-trip from Bergen, Norway’s second city, to Kirkenes near the Russian border, and back again. The fleet has many of the facilities you would expect of a cruise liner.
Stay: The exact route changes with the seasons. April to late May the ships take in Lyngenfjord, to a dramatic landscape of rugged cliffs and deep glacial canyons. Between June and September, ships are routed via Geirangerfjord. September and October the ships visit Hjørundfjord.
Eat: Taste King Crab and Salmon Roe with blini and sour cream Vodka-marinated Reindeer from Finnmark - with pelmeni and celery purée Pavlova - served with forest berries. Local fishermen often come on board and offer tastings of Lyngenfjord prawns, straight from the clear waters.
Play: Honningsvåg: Get up early to have breakfast at the North Cape often referred as the northernmost point on the European continent, before heading to Hammerfest, the world’s northernmost town.
Mini Guide: Tromsø is "The capital of the Arctic" packed with culture and history and surrounded by mountains, fjords and islands.