Mid­night sun, but for­get the mid­night buf­fet

Bar­bara Lantin chose a no-frills trip to Nor­way as her in­tro­duc­tion to cruis­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life/travel -

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

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