Midnight sun, but forget the midnight buffet
Barbara Lantin chose a no-frills trip to Norway as her introduction to cruising
ANY SHIPPING line that brands a cruise “the world’s most beautiful voyage” issurely inviting con-tradiction. As a cruise virgin, I can neither verify nor refute the claim made by Hurtigruten for its round voyage up and down the Norwegian coast. But if there is a lovelier boat trip than this, I’d certainly like to hear about it.
From the moment we left Bergen on the MS Nordkapp, the spectacle that is Norway’s coastline unravelled before us. For 12 days, a continuous reel of stunning scenery played past our cabin window — tiny uninhabited islands suspended in a sea of improbable blue, sheer cliffs spouting lavish waterfalls, brightly-coloured houses dotted along a sparkling seashore.
Unlike most other cruises, it is not the destination that matters on these voyages — though there were delightful surprises at some of the 69 stops — but the journey. At no point as we plied our way to and from Kirkenes, inside the Arctic Circle and just 10 miles from the Russian border, were we out of sight of land, and much of the time it was on both sides of the ship and looked close enough to touch.
One of the 14-strong fleet belonging to Hurtigruten — a shipping line founded more than a century ago — leaves Bergen for the north almost every day of the year, carrying not only 100-650 cruise passengers but also cars, post, freight and casual travellers nipping up the coast. For these are working ships, delivering cargo to 37 ports.
While the level of comfort is high and the cuisine excellent (with plenty of fish), you will find no hairdresser or beauty salon here, no tuxedo dinners, cabaret or balconied suites. If it’s a floating hotel you are after, stay away.
The entertainment takes the form of an ever-changing landscape and frequent stops, all through the night in fact: though the concept of “night” is
almost meaningless in the land of the midnight sun.
The first night on board, we were up and buzzing until late, astonished by the absence of darkness. After that we slept deeply, barely aware whether we were at sea or in port.
Stops ranged from 15 minutes — just long enough to catch a glimpse of fish drying on wooden racks or a trawler putting out to sea — to several hours. Passengers were told early on that they are responsible for returning to the ship in time, though a swipe card system ensures that the crew knows if anybody has not made the deadline.
We arrived in Trondheim, just as the city was waking up, strolled the elegant streets in the early morning sunshine and took coffee on the prettily
MS Nordkapp: the spectacle that is