We aren't typically cruise people but Hurtigruten's boat journey from Bergen to Kirkenes, Norway is so much more than a cruise. Considered by many to be the World's Most Beautiful Sea Voyage, it passes more than 100 fjords and stops in 34 charming ports along the country's notoriously rugged coast. Hurtigruten didn't originally begin as a joy ride, but rather as a mail boat, cargo ship, and ferry to connect the wild north with the rest of the country. Hurtigruten has been in service for over 120 years, but in recent decades the boats have also been catering to honeymooners and vacation-goers looking for five-star service on their journey through the fjords. The full route is 12 days but passengers can start or end wherever they'd like. We began in the beautiful city of Bergen and sailed seven days to Kirkenes at the Russian border then disembarked in Tromsø, the capital of the Norwegian Arctic. The incredible scenery, excursions, cuisine and service exceeded our expectations--so much in fact, that we can't even capture it one post! Here is part one of our epic Hurtigruten journey into the Arctic...
There are twelve different Hurtigruten ships and our honeymoon vessel was the fabulous MS Finnmarken. Named and modeled after her 1912 predecessor, the ship is beautifully appointed with Art Nouveau style and enhanced with all the modern-day amenities.
We arrived to our lovely honeymoon suite and we were welcomed with champagne, a fruit basket, and souvenir coffee mugs with unlimited refills (a must for all the Northern Lights watching)! We immediately put on our terrycloth robes, popped the champagne and went on our balcony to see the Bergen skyline and stars twinkle goodnight.
Each day there are multiple destinations and amazing selection of excursions to choose from. Our first trip was through the Hjørund Fjord where we went on the “Taste of Norway.” This excursion took us by bus through country's narrowest valley to this dazzling viewpoint of the mountain pass, Lyngstøl Lake, and its charming stone houses. The tasting culminated at the historic Hotel Union Øye, where we warmed up with some traditional reindeer stew, fresh baked bread and hot drinks.
Back on the boat, the views constantly drew us outside. Being November in the Arctic Circle you'd think it would be frigid, but the Gulf Stream keeps Norway's waters from freezing and the temperature quiet pleasant when dressed appropriately.
Meals on Hurtigruten were not only bountiful, but a culinary delight. We love that they embrace local cuisine, sourcing fresh products from local small-scale producers along the route. At dinner, the chefs come out to prep and serve the food...cod from the Lofoten Islands, leg of lamb from Western Norway, reindeer rump steak from Finnmark and other scrumptious authentic Norwegian fare.
In the mornings we liked to take our coffee on our private balcony and take in the dramatic motion picture that is the Norwegian scenery.
We docked for a few hours in the royal city of Trondheim. With Hurtigruten's expert and efficient guides, it's amazing how much you can do and learn. They gave us a tour of the the 11th-century Naidros Cathedral, showed us Norway's largest wooden building and the royal residence of Stiftsgården. They also taught us about the colorful architecture style of the city, followed by a stop at this beautiful panoramic viewpoint.
On board the activity leader did a great job announcing upcoming points of interest so you wouldn't miss a thing, whether you we were in your room, at the bar or working out (yes, they have a fabulous gym and suana). Without her announcement we may have missed the stunning Kjeungskjær lighthouse island!
The MS Finnmarken has a swimming pool and Jacuzzis on deck. So if you love soaking in the sun or the stars, this boat has your name on it.
As we sailed closer toward the Arctic Circle and the magnetic poles, the aurora borealis started to reveal themselves. When electrically charged particles from the sun collide with earth's atmosphere these dazzling swirls of color occur. We saw faint traces of them in our first few nights and were ecstatic but little did we know the wonderment to come...
Don't miss our next blog for our unforgettable time in the Arctic Circle and our epic encounters with Northern Lights.
Much love from Norway,
Anne & Mike
Note: Hurtigruten invited us to be their guests; however, all opinions are our own.