Recapping our Norwegian Adventure aboard Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol

Hurtigruten's Midnatsol on a brilliant winter's evening in Norway. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol on a brilliant winter’s evening in Norway. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It’s been almost two weeks since I flew to Bergen, Norway to embark Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol on a once-in-a-lifetime voyage up Norway’s wintery coast all the way to the remote port of Kirkenes, Norway. Hurtigruten has been sailing the Norwegian coast in all seasons and weather conditions for the past 120 years, and during that time, they’ve learned a thing or two about this fascinating country.

You can book these journeys, known as “The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage” in spring, summer, fall and winter, and each season offers its own unique reasons to go. During the summer months, the “Midnight Sun” is in full force, while in the dead of winter, polar darkness consumes northerly towns and cities like Honningsvag and Kirkenes.

Along my seven-day journey aboard Midnatsol were ports of call that ranged from cities to mere villages. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Along my seven-day journey aboard Midnatsol were ports of call that ranged from cities to mere villages. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

For me, though, the chance to visit Norway in the winter was the main attraction, away from the throngs of tourists that flock to this beautiful country during the summer months. With 11 ships sailing the Norwegian coast year-round on 7-day Northbound journeys, 6-day Southbound journeys, or 12-day roundtrip voyages, there’s sure to be a sailing to fit every schedule. (Note that these are actually six-and-five night sailings.)

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The full Live Voyage Report:

Day 1- Embarkation in Bergen, Norway

Day 2 – Torvik, Alesund & Molde

Day 3 – Trondheim & the Norwegian Coast

Day 4 – Crossing the Arctic Circle

Day 5 – Tromso & the Polar Museum

Day 6 – Honningsvag & the North Cape

Day 7 – Disembarkation in Kirkenes & the Snow Hotel

Day 8 – An Afternoon in Oslo

What I discovered aboard Hurtigruten’s beautiful, 2003-built Midnatsol was a wholly unique cruise experience: part cruise, part coastal transportation link, and part expedition. It’s difficult to categorize, but easy to appreciate. Onboard, I met first-time cruisers and repeat guests with more than four Hurtigruten sailings under their belts.

MS Midnatsol is beautifully decorated on the inside, with plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

MS Midnatsol is beautifully decorated on the inside, with plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

So should you head to Norway aboard Hurtigruten? Here’s my take:

Go If:

  • You want a cruise, but an adventure at the same time. Hurtigruten’s Norway voyages can best be thought of as part cruise, part vital transportation link, part expedition cruise.
  • You want to truly experience Norway. Hurtigruten’s ships go to ports of call that North American lines simply don’t call on. This is their home turf – and no one does Norway better.
  • You want to sail the World’s Most Beautiful Voyage. Hurtigruten’s marketing doesn’t lie: this is one of the most scenic cruises you can take, anywhere.
My stateroom, Category U # 752. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My stateroom, Category U # 752. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Don’t Go If:

  • You need constant entertainment and stimulation. These Hurtigruten voyages focus on the people and places that they visit, not on casinos and flashy production shows.
  • You can’t live without North American-style meals. The food onboard is Norwegian and Scandinavian themed. It’s very, very good and full of choice – but you won’t find a hamburger on the menu, or omelettes at breakfast.
  • You need a balcony stateroom. Many Hurtigruten ships have balcony suites, but they are few and far between and will cost you a pretty penny.
Out on deck late at night, hunting for the Northern Lights. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Out on deck late at night, hunting for the Northern Lights. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

For me, part of the appeal was the chance to visit Norway in the wintertime; to experience places that were remote and still very much isolated from the outside world. There exists a certain way of life in these northerly cities, towns, villages and outposts, and it works on its own independent clock. Talk of things like the European Union bailouts, the Pope’s resignation, and the horse meat scandal doesn’t permeate here like it does in the rest of Europe or the world.

Here, the task seems to be – as it has been for centuries – simply getting through the winter.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

When I stood on that highway just outside of Kirkenes for two hours in the -15 Celsius night, the only thing I could think of – besides how pretty the Northern Lights were – was how troops in the Second World War ever managed to survive out in the cold and the damp, with the wind constantly howling at them. The wind in Kirkenes fills your bones will chill and your ears with a ringing that you think will never stop. It hits you like a slap in the face, taking your breath away.

Beautiful decor surrounds the Midnatsol inside. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Beautiful decor surrounds the Midnatsol inside. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Norway is a nation that has given birth to some of the world’s most influential explorers, people like Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen. They are men I admire for their determination, their quest for exploration and knowledge, and their unstoppable spirit of adventure.

The stark beauty of Norway in Winter. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The stark beauty of Norway in Winter. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I realize, as I get older, that I want to be like these men. I don’t want to do what everyone else is content to do; I want to explore the farthest reaches of this world; to see the things that others miss or overlook. And this journey with Hurtigruten brought me one step closer to achieving that goal.

Nice Touch: even the cigarette disposal units are Norwegian in theme. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Nice Touch: even the cigarette disposal units are Norwegian in theme. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Sure, you can go to the Caribbean any time and have a great vacation. The same goes for the Bahamas, Mexico, Hawaii…the list goes on. But if you want an adventure – a real adventure – consider going to Northern Norway in the winter with Hurtigruten.

You’ll never experience anything quite like it!

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report about Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol has sadly come to a close, but our next Live Voyage Report will begin on March 19, 2013!

 

9 Responses to Midnatsol Live Voyage Report – Recap

  1. Peter says:

    Aaron It was great to follow your trip each day. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into a cruise experience that I did not realize exists. Your photos and commentaries were outstanding. I look forward to your next voyage!

  2. Kalle Id says:

    I can only second what Peter said. Thank you very much for an excellent report, and I very much look forward to reading about your next voyage.

  3. […] Related Live Voyage Report: Norway in Winter aboard Hurtigruten’s Midnatsol […]

  4. […] I’ll be taking eight months from now. Ever since I went to South Africa this past January – then to arctic Norway – then to Vietnam and Cambodia – I have been on a kick to find increasingly more exotic cruises […]

  5. Martin says:

    pretty fun to read about my own country and my own city from a tourist’s perspective. Although I grew up in Kirkenes to still live here today in the winterland of Northen Norway. To be honest as you become used to the lifestyle and the cold up here so I find some of your statemens about the cold funny. Great article. I enjoyed reading it very much!

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Thanks Martin! I’m Canadian, so the cold and I get along well…most of the time. But I really enjoyed Kirkenes and Northern Norway. Can’t wait to go back!

  6. […] Midnatsol still ranks as one of the most spectacular journeys I’ve ever taken – to Norway in the winter. It was cold, wet, and totally cool. In seven days I stepped ashore in nearly 20 different cities, […]

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