At this very moment, Hurtigruten’s Trollfjord is making its way to Bergen, Norway, the ending point of what just may be “The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage.”
Cruising the Norwegian coast year-round, Hurtigruten offers winter packages of 6, 7, 11 or 12 days from November 1 through March 31. Thanks to the warming influences of the Gulf Stream, outdoor temperatures are relatively mild and the waterways are free of ice.
Departing from Bergen, Hurtigruten’s vessels sail roundtrip to Kirkenes, an Arctic outpost near the Russian border, stopping at 34 ports along the way. The journey can also be done one way — seven days northbound or six days southbound.
Significantly, during this time of year, guests are practically guaranteed that they will see the Northern Lights, as Aurora Borealis is particularly visible in the north of Norway during winter.
Love Nature? Norway, A Must See
Boarding in Kirkenes, Norway, my journey was relatively short, only six days, compared to those who cruised for 12 days, Bergen roundtrip.
Yet in six days, I collected sights and experiences that will last a lifetime — an after-midnight excursion on snowmobiles, watching the Aurora Borealis on the upper decks during the evenings, crossing the Polar Circle, and a midnight concert at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø.
The concert had an ethereal quality that complemented the heavenly dance of Aurora Borealis I had seen earlier that night. Performed by a trio — an Enya-like sopranist, accompanied by piano and Flugelhorn — the beautiful Norwegian folk songs and the outstanding acoustics of the Arctic Cathedral clearly moved many of the 300 or so of us who filled the room.
Life On Trollfjord
I found Trollfjord to be comfortable and well-suited for appreciating the beautiful coast of Norway. The vessel features plenty of windowed lounges to enjoy the views.
As I write this, passengers are sitting inside the lounges, reading books and looking up occasionally to view the wintry landscape. I am using the free wireless internet in the lounge to post this story (for those who travel without a wireless device, several computer terminals are available for use free of charge on Deck 8).
Others are walking around the promenade on Deck 6 (four times around, and you can click off a kilometer), some are in the sauna, some are in the Jacuzzi and some are using the fitness area. Trollfjord has most of the features and facilities of the ocean-liners.
Staterooms are basic, but comfortable. Mine, room 652, featured two fold-down single beds, a desk, two closets, bath with shower and an oversize porthole that allowed me to gaze out on the stunning scenery (and conversely allowed those walking the wrap-around promenade deck to gaze in had they wished – it did not happen, however, and I could have simply closed the curtains for privacy).
The Norwegian landscape is so majestic that you’ll find yourself spending little time in your stateroom. Plus, with Trollfjord visiting 34 ports in six days during my voyage, passengers also spent plenty of time ashore.
Wining And Dining On Trollfjord
Meals are included on Trollfjord for those who buy the cruise package (don’t worry, if you’re booking the full journey, starting at around $1,000 per person, you’re likely booking the cruise package). Hurtigruten, and its fleetmates, operate dually as cruise ships and coastal ferries, so you will find that some passengers are on board simply to get from one town to another. Some are even traveling with their cars, which can be transported by the vessels. You may see them paying for their meals with cash or credit cards, something you’d rarely, if ever, find on other cruise ships, except in speciality restaurants.
All meals are buffet style, except for dinner, where an appetizer, main course and dessert are served during two separate seatings. The food was remarkably good during my voyage. Lots of fish dishes to choose from along with chicken, beef, salads and vegetables. Alcohol is not included, nor is coffee or tea. As the tour director jokes, “Use the hand sanitizer. It is the only alcohol we give you for free on board.”
Heavy imbibers will want to note that alcohol in Norway is excruciatingly expensive. A beer, for example, will cost you nearly US$12. If you’re caffeine addicted, you will want to know that coffee’s not cheap either. Hurtigruten offers a special coffee package for NOK295 (about US$53) that includes a souvenir mug and as much drip coffee or tea as you can consume. Specialty coffees are not included but available for an extra charge.
However, don’t let that sway you to believe that you’ll spend a fortune in Norway. If you stick with Hurtigruten’s program, dining in the main dining room and saving your wine consumption for another cruise, or, say, the south of France, you’ll do fine. Excursions are priced comparatively to those on ocean cruisers. And something you won’t get on those big ships: free, and functional, internet.
My Take On Hurtigruten’s Norwegian Winter Voyages: Highly Recommended for those who can appreciate the winter, the natural phenomena of the Northern Lights and the gorgeous Norwegian landscapes. If this sounds like you, a winter cruise in Norway is definitely something that you will want to add to your bucket list. — Ralph Grizzle