When I was planning this trip, the main idea was to see the Northern Lights, so I scoured the internet to see what would be the best way to see them. I stumbled upon the Hurtigruten ferry, which is a ferry service connecting Norwegian towns along the coast which also doubles up as cruise. It embarks from Bergen and goes all the way to Kirkenes at the northern tip of Norway, close to the Russian border, stopping at many coastal villages, towns and cities before doing the journey back down again.
Having explored my options on how to get to Tromso (the best place to see the Northern Lights) I decided that the ferry would be one of the better ways to get to Tromso and see the Norwegian coast at the same, and if we were lucky catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, hence the decision to part with our money for the cruise.
Once Raquel and I seen enough of Bergen, we gathered our bags and bought supplies and headed to the MS Vesteralen, our home for the next four days. Even though I booked everything, I wasn’t too sure what to expect as I had never been on this type of ferry/cruise. Needless to say we were quite surprised by what we found. We a private cabin with a bathroom, it was small but more than big enough for us both. The ship too was impressive with a dining room serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; a cafeteria where you could buy food, other bits and bobs and watch TV; and several lounges where you could, well, lounge around (one of which had an internet connection).
However for us the major attraction of the ferry was journey. Despite an iffy first morning where the seasickness overcame us, it was a brilliant experience. The landscapes from the ship were beyond anything we had ever seen; the petroleum blue sea juxtaposing against the White Mountains in the twilight sky is something that my amateur photography cannot convey, but I gave it a shot.
The beauty of this way to travel is that you can see several towns and cities (albeit briefly) quite quickly and not too expensively (post on these to follow). The ferry even has sort-of concierge to tell passengers about the towns the ship is docking at and leads a few free and paid (if overpriced) tours. They also had interesting, if slightly touristy, activities on board such as a crossing the Arctic Circle ceremony; visiting the mouth of the very narrow Trollsfjord; and in our case New Year’s (Post to follow soon) celebrations on board with bubbly wine, sparklers and fireworks.
In the end we didn’t see the Northern Lights from the ferry, however there is no doubt about how much we enjoyed the cruise. From the loud Italian tour group who were on their Northern Lights hunt and their incredulousness at the fact that breakfast was only served until 10am; The elderly South African couple living in Saudi Arabia who shared stories about living in the Middle East; The Chinese students I scared by saying they missed the Northern Lights. We enjoyed the views, the ride and the places we stopped at and would definitely recommend the ferry to anyone who wants to see a bit of Norway, without the hassle of trying to figure how to get there.For more photos from Bergen check out the album on my Facebook papage.