Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hurtigruten Midnight Sun Cruise

Below review with pictures and videos from our trip with the Hurtigruten M/S Kong Harald, three nights from Bodø to Kirkenes, June 10 to 13, 2017. 
The picture to the left is taken at 01 am with sun right north.

At the tabs above in the menu more information about Hurtigruten, M/S Kong Harald with video tour of the ship and detailed reviews of the excursions as well as a 'dinner restaurant' video.

Hurtigruten ("Express Route" or Norwegian Coastal Express) is a Norwegian, ferry and cruise operator. Hurtigruten sails from Bergen to Kirkenes - a 6 day trip north bound and 5 days south bound. In total there are more than 35 stops during the voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes. The majority of stops are for 15 to 30 minutes and also many during nights.
Ships are 'working ships' and can be considered expedition ships rather than ordinary cruise ships.

- we had chosen the northernmost part of the trip from Bodø to Kirkenes for 3 nights in order to experience the Midnight Sun. We had 20 stops during our voyage, most stops were only 15 to 30 minutes. In Tromsø and Honningvåg we stayed at 4 and 3 hours respectively.
We were on two excursions: 'Highlights in Lofoten from Stamsund to Svolvær' and 'Bird Safari in Honningvåg'. 

Read about the trip and see the pictures and videos below. The first day is the furthest down. 
Link to page with 12 videos - highlights from the cruise.

I have also included a post with a link to an ordinary cruise I did in 2013 including Bergen, Ålesund, Geiranger and Flåm.

Below my VLOG from the cruise - a Tour of the Ship' and video from the route:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Norwegian Fjords Cruise - 'Vision of the Seas' in 2013

In addition to the Hurtigruten Midnight Sun Cruise we have also done a 'Vision of the Sea, Norwegian Fjords Cruise from  Copenhagen in 2013. 
Cruising the Magnificent Fjords of Norway through Alesund; Stor Fjord and Geiranger Fjord to Geiranger;  Passing the Seven Sisters Watersfall; Sognefjord and Aurland Fjord to Flam;  Bergen and Oslo Fjord June 2013.
Read the review at Norwegian Fjords Cruise Review.

Day 5 - Kirkenes - On our way home

We had to be out of our cabins at 8 am. It was a good time to have breakfast before we arrived into Kirkenes - located close to the Russian border. 
For the last piece of the trip we sailed to the south after having 'rounded North Cape'. 

We arrived into Kirkenes at 9 am - disembarkation took 15 minutes. 
We had bought a transfer from the port to the airport - a 20 minutes drive. 
Kirkenes is located just south of the tree limit and spring had just come to the area - the first birch trees had just sprung out and the early bulbs were flourishing - and there was still a lot of snow. 
At 11:30 am SK 4473 was ready to leave for Oslo. A flight of 2 hours. Continuing to Copenhagen after 1.5 hours of waiting time with lunch in the SAS lounge before take-off to Copenhagen with SK 1471. 
From Copenhagen Airport Train and Bus home.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Arctic Superior Cabin

We did have the 'Arctic Superior Cabins' with TV and tea / coffee making facilities, and a nice double bed, small table and two chairs. 
Space around the bed was quite narrow.
There were two continental 2-pin 220 volts A. C.  power outlets at each side of the bed.. Hair dryer was provided on request from the reception.
The bath room was well sized.

Other types of cabins are Polar Outside Cabins, and  Polar Inside Cabins. Mostly with twin beds or with upper and lower berths, one of which can be turned into a sofa. 
Few larger and more comfortable Expedition Suites are also available.

Day 4 - Honningsvåg and North Cape

After three days of nice sun, it had been cloudy and much colder. Now it's Finnmarken. The temperature rarely reaches above 10 degrees C in the summer. 
Lunch was already at 10:30 because of the Bird safari excursion out of Honningvåg near North Cape at 11:30 am.
At the excursion we were visiting Gjesværstappan, a bird sanctuary consisting of three islands with 300 m high and steep mountains. Here is a rich bird life with many big colonies of nesting birds. 
By bus we crossed Magerøya, Norway's northernmost island with North Cape, to the town of Gjesvær on the north side of the island. It was a nice trip over the snowy mountains. A somewhat harsh landscape here in the northernmost part of Europe and 300 km north of the tree limit where no trees can grow.
There had been more snow in May than usual and the spring had been cold. Still ice on the lakes and large amounts of snow on the mountain. Spring was not just around the corner.  On the trip we saw some reindeer. 

In Gjesvær a boat was waiting for us to sail out to the bird cliffs, which lies a little west of North Cape. It was cold and windy and my wife immediately spotted the warm coat of the ship. 
The bird watching area was 15 minutes sailing from Gjesvær.
Breeding sites for tens of thousands of seabirds. The cold streams from the north that meet with the warmer streams from the south give plenty of food to the birds. There swam thousands of puffins, and other sea birds on the water and many seabirds in the air. 
On the steep mountainsides there were large gulls and cormorant colonies and on the grassy slopes thousands of holes where puffins grow up. On top of that, the eagles flew - huge birds with a wings of 2.5 meters. White tail feathers indicate that the bird is more than 5 years old. 
There are many eagle nests on the islands. Several times we saw both three and four eagles sitting on the rocks. 
It took an hour to sail around the three islands. A great nice trip and especially interesting to see the many puffins and the big sea eagles. Hard to photograph but managed to get some pictures from the trip. 
A more detailed review with a short video from the excursion at this link.

Provided 'survival suit'
Looking for birds
Nesting birds at the mountain
Birds at the sea
Birds at the sea
Resting eagle

Torget restaurant

At 3 pm we were back in Kirkenes and on the ship were served hot cocoa and blueberry cake - just what we needed. 
At 6 pm the dinner was served. A delicious buffet of fish and crabs from the Arctic Ocean, Norwegian specialties as well as pies and mousse.

Different type of salmon
Norwegian speciality dishes

Video - Midnight Sun

The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle, when the sun remains visible at midnight. 
At the Artic Circle from June 12 to July 1 and at North Cape from May 14 to July 29 the sun is visible for the full 24 hours.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Waving Competition

There are 11 Hurtigruten ships sailing between Bergen and Kirkenes. 
Some of the ships are having Waving competition - a tradition that M/S Kong Harald and M/S Trollfjord challenge each other with high music and flags when they meet north and south bound respectively. 
At 10 pm, passengers and some from the crew gathered on the rear deck 7 to 'train with the flags'. At 10:30 pm M/S Troldfjord appeared at board side,  - flown with flag and played music on both ships. 
An impartial judge committee on our ship decided that we won the competition !! - A video from the event below.

Day 3 - Tromsø

We have come a lot further north. 
Beautiful clear sky with nice sunshine, but the air is cool. After breakfast, we enjoyed the sun on the aft deck, while the snowy mountains slowly slipped. The wildest and most beautiful experience. 
Next stop was Tromsø. Arrival at 2 pm with a stay of 4 hours. We were around to see the city. Back on the ship we sat again on the deck in the sun. 
In the evening we got chicken soup,  Arctic charr (a salmon fish) and Røros yoghurt cake. 
At midnight the ship had arranged an event on the upper deck as we sailed across the 'Loppehavet', a sea area off the west coast of Finnmark in northern Norway. 
A little strange that the sun was so high in the sky at midnight. 

Morning at the Sun Deck - nice weather
At midnight - a bit cold
Midnight Sun over Lopphavet at 01 am

'working ships'

The Hurtigruten ships represent a unique combination of cruise ships, public transport for the people living along the Norwegian coast, and cargo/post ships.

The ships are 'working ships' and can be considered expedition ships rather than ordinary cruise ships.

In total there are more than 35 stops during the voyage - the majority of stops are for 15 to 30 minutes - only the stops in Ålesund, Tronheim, Bodø, Tromsø and Honningsvåg are more that 3 hours.

Some noise and vibration can be expected when docking and when loading of goods . Some of those stops are during night time, so depending on the location of the cabin there might be some noise when loading / unloading goods.

This is a 3 minutes video from our 15 minutes stop at Skjervøy, June 11, 2017  - from 10:30 to 10:45 pm - watch the activities at the quay when unloading and loading M/S Kong Harald in Skjervøy:

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Day 2 - Bodø and Hurtigruten

After a really nice breakfast at the hotel we went for a walk in Bodø. A not very exciting city. At the harbor we enjoyed the good weather while we were waiting for M/S Kong Harald to arrive. 
Once arrived we picked up our suitcases at the hotel and walked the short distance to the ship for check in. We found our outside Arctic Superior Cabin.
At 3 pm we departed from Bodø - a very nice view at departure. 
Crossed the Norwegian Sea, heading towards Stamsund on Lofoten, arriving at 7 pm. 
In the afternoon we went around the ship to see what it was about. At 5:30 pm dinner was served - a herring starter, roast beef and chocolate mousse with rhubarb.

Our Cabin 567 - Arctic Superior Cabin
Departure Bodø
Dinner in preparation

Lofoten islands

Lofoten is an archipelago on the Norwegian west coast consisting of 5 larger and two small main islands. Lofoten is a total of 1,227 km² and there are approx. 24,500 inhabitants.
The main business is fishing (rockfish and dry fish) and tourism. 
North of Lofoten is the archipelago of Vesterålen. 
The Lofoten Islands are today tied together by europe road 10. 
Vi arrived at Stamsund at 7 pm. From here we did an excursion - Lofoten highlights. Traveled by bus from Stamsund on Vestvågøy to Gimsøy, where we saw the old church. Further to Austvågøye and the old fishing village at Kabelvåg, which is today a museum. An interesting and beautiful tour. More detailed review from the excursion at this link.
A short video from the excursion:

At 10 pm the bus met the ship in Svolvær. Then we sailed further north. Pictures are taken at 10pm in the evening.

Arrival into Stamsund, Lofoten
Gimsøy Church
The oldest fishing village in Lofoten
Lofoten Nature

Trollfjord Sailing and Midtnight Sun

We are north of the northern polar circle and at mid summer the sun is shining all day and night.
At 11pm we entered into Raftsundet between Lofoten Islands and Vesterålen Islands - the main road for shipping traffic between the two groups of  islands. 
It was great to see the low sun shine on the high mountains on the southern side of Raftsundet and the mountains that reflected in the clear water. We made a detour into the Trollfjord at 11:20 pm . 
The narrow Trollfjord is a 2 km long sidearm of the Raftsund between Lofoten islands and Vesteralen archipelago. With its narrow entrance and steep mountain sides, the Trollfjord is really exotic and spectacular - see video below.Trollfjord is only 100 meters wide, and widens to a maximum width of 800 meters. The steep mountains surrounding the fjord are between 600 and 1100 metres high Trolltinder (mountains). 
A nice trip between the snowy mountains. At 1 am we crossed the Raftsund Bridge with the low midnight sun just north. An amazing sight, which is actually rare, as it is often cloudy and raining. 

Sun shining at the mountain tops
Nice views passing by
Midnight sun, passing Raftsund Bridge at 01 am

Trollfjord Sailing, Hurtigruten M/S Kong Harald

At 11:20 pm we entered the narrow Trollfjord and did sail through the fjord. 
The narrow Trollfjord is a 2 km long sidearm of the Raftsund between Lofoten islands and Vesteralen archipelago. With its narrow entrance and steep mountain sides, the Trollfjord is really exotic and spectacular. 
Trollfjord is only 100 meters wide, and widens to a maximum width of 800 meters. The steep mountains surrounding the fjord are between 600 and 1100 metres high.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Day 1 - On our way to Bodø

By noon we started our journey towards Norway.  Scandinavian Airlines from Copenhagen Airport to Bodø. After check at Copenhagen Airport iwe got lunch at the Scandinavian Lounge. 3:30 pm flight SK 1460 departed bound for Oslo, where we had to change to the flight bound for Bodø. 
In the past, you had to take our luggage through customs when you switched to domestic flights in Oslo. Now SAS is handling customs clearance, but you can first enter the domestic terminal when clearance has been done and your names was displayed on a screen. A little cumbersome procedure, which means waiting time. At 5:30 pm flight SK 4122 departed for Bodø - a nice flight over the Norwegian mountains and along the west coast of Norway. 
We escaped from Oslo in the rain and landed in nice summer in Bodø. 
Took a taxi to Clarion Hotel Grand. After dinner at the hotel, we went for a walk through Bodø. There were light clouds. 10 pm the sun was still high in the sky to the northwest. 

SK 4122 ready in Oslo, bound for Bodø
Along the west coast of Norway
Landing in Bodø