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Exploring Torvik, Alesund & Molde with Hurtigruten
I started my first morning aboard Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol by watching as we sailed past the Western Cape of Norway, which is at the same rough geographic parallel as Marseilles, France. By the time we reach Kirkenes next Tuesday, we’ll be on the same equivalent east as Istanbul, Turkey. Norway, it seems, is far more sprawling than at first glance.
The same could be said about the comfortable Midnatsol. She’s a gorgeous ship, and almost whisper-quiet when in operation. Indeed, there’s little outward signs that we’re sailing along at a steady 15.6 knots. She doesn’t shake or rattle and is almost vibration-less, even on the lower decks. Up on Deck 7, I don’t feel a thing.
One of my long-time readers asked last night if the somewhat Spartan appearance of my stateroom was a detriment to the experience onboard. It’s a fair question, but I have to admit that I love my stateroom. Sure, it’s different – but this is a totally different kind of cruise experience. To compare it with, say, a Princess or a Holland America cruise would be unfair.
Hurtigruten have been sailing these waters for 120 years and counting. If Midnatsol was on the Caribbean run, it would be a different story. But she’s here off the coast of Norway where she sails year-round. To me, this is more of an expedition voyage than a cruise, and the differences in things like stateroom layout are all a part of that experience. But as Hurtigruten taketh away, Hurtigruten giveth: bathroom floors are heated!
For those who do like a bit more space, Deck 8 is Suite Country, home to some rather sprawling suites and mini-suites that have a bit more in the “Bells and Whistles” department than standard staterooms. Personally, I rarely – if ever – watch television in my stateroom onboard a regular cruise ship, so I don’t miss it here. I also don’t gamble, so the lack of a casino doesn’t concern me in the least. If these things are important to you, fair warning.
Along those lines, the coffee/tea situation onboard is worth noting: coffee, tea and juice are available complementary at breakfast, with coffee and tea returning again for lunch and dinner. Outside of dining hours, coffee and tea will cost you 27 and 20 NOK, respectively (about $4). I can’t say I’m a fan of that policy, as it means that outside mealtimes there are no free beverage options without the purchase of the coffee/tea package.
Still, an excellent example of the adventurous and different nature of this Hurtigruten cruise was apparent early this morning. At 10am, I was relaxing comfortably in the two-story Panorama Lounge situated all the way forward on Deck 8, with additional seating on Deck 9. Out the windows, I watched as we approached the small town of Torvik, a quaint fishing community nestled in the rugged, wind-swept mountains.
We were only scheduled to dock here for 30 minutes, yet the announcement was made that anyone wishing to go ashore should meet at the gangway on Deck 4. So I hurried back to my stateroom to grab my jacket and gloves so I could put my feet on Torvik for the better part of that!
Now, half an hour may not sound like a lot of time, but this is a small town; guests aren’t exactly stopping off here to do some duty-free shopping. Instead, it allowed me to stroll around a few streets and get some photographs of the imposing Midnatsol and her surroundings. Plus, how else would I be able to visit Torvik if not for Hurtigruten? That’s what attracted me to this voyage in the first place: the plethora of off-the-beaten-path experiences and ports of call that are present on this voyage to Kirkenes.
Here’s a look at today’s Daily Program:
- 04:30 – Arrive Floro. Depart Floro 04:45
- 06:30 – We meet the southbound Hurtigruten MS Versteralen
- 07:00 – 10:00 – Breakfast in the Midnatsol Restaurant (Open Seating)
- 08:00 – We start crossing the Stadhavet, one of the many stretches of open sea that the coastal steamer will cross (about two hours).
- 09:00 – Deadline to sign up for tours in Alesund, Norway.
- 10:15 – Arrive Torvik. Depart 10:45.
- 11:30 – 14:30 – Lunch in the Midnatsol Restaurant (Open Seating)
- 12:00 – 15:00 – Midnatsol docks in Alesund, Norway
- 15:00 – 18:00 – Refreshment of the Day in the Mysterier Bar, Deck 8
- 17:30 – Arrive Molde, Norway. Depart 18:30
- 18:30 – First Sitting Dinner in the Midnatsol Restaurant
- 19:30 – We pass the southbound Hurtigruten MS Nordkapp
- 20:30 – Second Sitting Dinner in the Midnatsol Restaurant
- 22:15 – Arrive Kristiansund, Norway. Depart 23:00.
At noon sharp, Midnatsol arrived in one of my favorite Norwegian ports of call: Alesund.
The capital of the Sunmore district, Alesund (pronounced oh-lesund) suffered a devastating fire in 1904 that burnt most of the city to the ground. But out of that misfortune came Alesund’s claim to fame: the remarkable Art Nouveau architecture that is prevalent throughout the city.
While I didn’t climb the 418 steps to the lookout point on Mount Aksla, I did take a walk through this fine city. I was first here in 2009 so I knew where I was going and what I wanted to see and do.
Like Bergen yesterday, the crowds that normally jam the streets during the summer months are absent during February, making it remarkably easy to walk nearly everywhere you might want to go. You can’t really get lost, and interesting and unique cafes and shops linger down every street. Many of the more touristy shops are closed for the winter, but no one onboard Midnatsol seems to mind: the guests here (who are from the UK, Germany and elsewhere in Europe, primarily) are onboard for the true Norwegian experience.
For those who aren’t familiar with Alesund, Hurtigruten offers two tours during the winter months: a two-hour guided walk of the city’s Art Nouveau architecture (Tour 2C), or a two-hour excursion to Mount Aksla and the Atlanterhavsparken Aquarium (Tour 2D). These go for 250 and 380 NOK per person, respectively and can be booked prior to your voyage or onboard, though I notice that some of the most popular excursions (namely, the snowmobiling and dogsledding options offered later in the voyage) were sold out upon boarding. It’s always best to book early!
This afternoon, I sat in the Paradis Bar on Deck 8 starboard and watched the Norwegian coast slip past the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Norway is a deeply mysterious country, and perhaps this is most true of the winter months. I watched as small clusters of houses would rise up and fall astern, existing in the shadow of an imposing, wind-swept cliff face or perhaps on a barren island. The occasional car can be seen driving along the sections of highway that hug the coast, but even this far south the scenery still speaks to the remoteness of these places, and the hearty character of the people that live here year-round.
We arrived at one such town at 5:30pm as darkness began to fall on the coast, leaving us to explore Molde, Norway under the cover of streetlights. Most shops were packing up their outdoor signs and closing for the evening, but I was there to explore and take photographs. One hour turned out to be plenty of time!
Guests that feel like staying up a little bit later can hop off Midnatsol at 10:30pm tonight as she spends 30 minutes docked in Kristiansund. However, I think the lull of the live music being played in the Mysterier Bar – not to mention the soothing, blogger-friendly atmosphere of the Hamsum Room – might entice me to stay onboard where it’s nice and warm and the Aquavit is flowing!
Our Live Voyage Report continues tomorrow aboard Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol as we dock in Trondheim, Norway and set off on an excursion to see the imposing Nidaros Cathedral! You can also view other Arctic cruises on offer from our friends at Cruise Experts Travel!
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