This Gallery is slightly different to what I usually post but I'm going to give you a brief rundown of each day of the most fantastic holiday I've ever had. Hi-lites of which were in abundance from seeing the Aurora Borealis, the dramatic unpopulated landscape, the Ice Hotel and a myriad of other things that had me awe struck.
When I mentioned to hubby that I'd like to do something different to celebrate my 60th Birthday and he suggested an Arctic Cruise I never thought it would be so incredibly fulfilling, with adventure, fun and a little relaxation.
Day 1. The trials and tribulations of the M25 and planes delayed by fog meant we eventually arrived in Bergen and boarded the MS Midnatol around 8pm. Rain and low cloud didn't dampen the spirits though.
Day 2. Maloy to Alesund and beyond with our first sight of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis. Maloy, Torvik were the typical little fishing hamlet whilst Alesund had some striking architecture and an obvious upmarket gathering of expensive yachts in the harbour. The Eider Ducks diving in the clear clean waters of the harbour did hold our attention for some time. The evening display of the Aurora was unexpected as the forecast was for rain/snow but this turned out to be one of the better displays of the holiday.
Day 3. After getting to bed at 4am it was a job to get out of bed at 8am but we managed, just. We had docked at Trondheim and after an excellent breakfast went ashore for a brief walk. Monk Island is just offshore and during the 1660's the fort became a prison, today its privately owned. That afternoon we passed close too a few of Norway's beautiful Lighthouses then crossed the first open stretch of water, the Folda. Rorvik is the final docking of the day and we head further north towards the Arctic Circle.
Day 4. We crossed into the Arctic Circle at 7.23am and despite the early morning we were on deck to capture the moment and King Neptune paid us a visit. I didn't take part in the 'Crossing Ceremony' as this consisted of ice cubes being poured down your back (I may be daft but not that daft). Had a short walk round Bodo but as it was Sunday, everything was closed except for the fast food shops. Crossing the Vestfjord we arrived that evening at Stamsund then on to Svolvaer, where not only did we see a section of the town on fire but also 'Magic Ice'. A chilled warehouse at -10C with ice carvings made by sculptors from across Norway. Not to easy to photograph though but I tried. Out on deck again until 1.30am and ominously the crew are laying salt on the deck.
Day 5.We depart early morning from Harstad and we pass the Trondenes Church which was built in 1250. A quick stop at Finnsnes to drop of supplies and onto Tromso (known as The Capital of the Arctic) and the Planetarium. Then for something totally unexpected as we traveled back to the ship by coach. We enter a long tunnel hewn into the rock and are confronted by a roundabout. The engineering needed to accomplish this is astounding but the Norwegians seem to be spending more or less everything they make from there oil fields on roads and bridges to unite the island communities.
Day 6. Heavy snow showers and as we approach Honningsvag we spot Porpoises swimming about 200yds of the port side. Most of the ship disembark for various coach trips to the North Cape at 71', the most northerly point. We took a walk round the town where the shops were all decorated to welcome the 'Arctic Awakening' and when we returned to the ship a full scale lifeboat drill was being carried out. I must say this was very reassuring. ;-) And if you want to know how to cut out a Cod's tongue, just ask when you next see me as this was one of the demo's on deck. Dinner that night was EPIC, and if you like seafood as much as I do you'll understand why. A Seafood buffet with Lobster, King Crab, Spider Crab, Langoustines, Mussels and the largest pile of Prawns you could possibly imagine. Help yourself and then encouraged by the Crew to go back for more. Exquisite. Northern Lights again this evening although not that strong.
Day 7. And what a day. Husky Sledging, Ice Hotel, Reindeer enclosure. Kirkenes and as close to the Russian Border that I dared to get. I've got bruises to prove that I acted my shoe size and not my age but it was fun with a capital F, exhilarating with a capital E, cold with a capital C and oh boy would I love to do it all again. Then in the afternoon the ship stopped at Varda and we raced up the road to the Star Fort which was built in 1737.
Day 8. Awake early once again to clear blue skies and the promise of visiting the Polar Bear Museum at Hammerfest the worlds most northern town. However the blue skies didn't last and as we left Hammerfest visibility became very poor with low cloud and flurries of snow. The flurries culminated in a full scale blizzard as we crossed the Lopphavet open stretch of sea. Oh yes, nearly forgot to mention we were taught 'how to peel a prawn', and met some wonderful people on board. A couple were nearly as mad as we are as they are Morris Dancers, so we got along really well. Thanks Pam and Andy. ;-)
Day 9. Being gluttons for punishment after a late night watching the Northern Lights we had yet another early morning and boarded a coach for a trip from Harstad to Sortland and the island of Vesteralen. First stop the viking age church at Trondenes where we listened to a very brief service in a dozen different languages. A few crude stained glass windows but with a resting place for the departed that looks over the fjord. Plenty of frozen lakes and streams and a ferry across a stretch of water and then onto Sortland and as the coach goes over the bridge our ship passes underneath. Next stop is Stockmarknes where a 19thC ship is undergoing restoration in the car park. I liked the quaint frontage for the local Specsavers. Keeping a promise to myself that night I went into the Jacuzzi, under the stars inside the Arctic Circle.
Day 10. Mid-morning we cross the Arctic Circle heading south and are treated to another Norwegian delicacy of Cod Liver Oil followed by a spoonful of Cloudberry Wine. The wine was moreish then Cod Liver Oil certainly wasn't. A quick stop in Sandnessjoen and the last chance of some retail therapy, saw the purchase of a Norwegian Jersey and a memento for the home. On south past the Seven Sisters mountains and then to view the Torghatten mountain with its 115ft high x 80ft wide x 180ft long hole caused by thousands of years of inclement weather. ;-) Some great views of this feature as the ship sailed past, then turned and pasted again. On our final night on board we were lucky enough to see once again the Aurora Borealis.
Day 11. Time to say goodbye. ;-( Teddy took the opportunity to fraternize with the Captain over breakfast and then onto a coach for a trip round Trondheim. The impressive architecture of the Cathedral to the unique bicycle lift and the modern sculpture representing a Viking Longboat. Just a few final photos as we flew from Trondheim to Oslo and then a brief stop to take one final photo of the Moon in close alignment with Venus and Saturn just of the M1, and of course the children's emblem for the Hurtigruten fleet of ships just crept in.
A fantastic holiday and certainly something I would love to do again. Special thanks must go to Tom for organising such a wonderful birthday present, thanks also to Dr John Mason, the Astronomer who gave us such an insight into the stars, planets, moons and galaxies of the Universe and thanks also to the other travellers, Pam, Andy, Caroline and many others who made this trip so very special.