The Land of The Midnight Sun cast its colourful spell on Holywood Portfolio's Simon Thomas O’Neill as he cruised the fjords in relaxed splendour as a guest of Hurtigruten.
For many travellers there is no more appealing way to appreciate Norway’s 63,000 miles of stunning coastline than from the deck of a luxury cruise liner, capturing stunning vistas of deep blue fjords, flowing waterfalls and sharp, snow-capped mountains that tower high above the water.
Norway's coastline is one of the longest in the world, with the length recalculated in 2011 to account for complicated features like islets and fjords, so there is always more to discover … and always new views to take your breath away.
With a flight time of only a couple of hours, Norway is easy to reach either for a short, re-energising break or a longer vacation. I flew with SAS (excellent service!) to Bergen, Norway’s second city, staying at the conveniently central Scandic Neptun Hotel before joining Hurtigruten’s recently refurbished MS Kong Harald for my first taste of fjord cruising.
With its backdrop of seven mountains, Bergen has a glorious location and a colourful history that stretches back to the Viking Age. Today it is famous for the UNESCO World Heritage site Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf - a vibrant area of restaurants, pubs, craft shops and museums; its fascinating fish market (yes honestly!), and as the home of one of Norway's biggest cultural events, the annual Bergen International Festival. You may be itching to get started on your holiday afloat but my advice is to make time to enjoy at least some of Bergen’s many and varied attractions, from its traditional vibrantly coloured wooden houses to the up-close-and-personal Shark Tunnel experience in the exciting modern Bergen Aquarium.
The natural wonders of Norway are world famous and, as the MS King Harald slipped gracefully out of port I did wonder how the trip could possibly live up to my sky-high expectations. I needn’t have had any such concerns for nothing quite prepares you for the sheer stunning beauty of what lies ahead. Not only is the scenery stunning beyond description, but many of us had the opportunity to see one of the most sought-after natural sights in the world, the Northern Lights in all their shimmering glory.
On board there was a distinctly Nordic and elegant feel to décor, service and cuisine and I enjoyed some of the freshest and most delicious seafood I have tasted anywhere in the world. Full board is included, with drinks and excursions extra. My top tip therefore is to pre-book a drinks package to get max value – and also pre-book your ‘must-do’ excursions, for those tend to fill up very quickly and you won’t want to lose out opportunities to explore ashore.
Hurtigruten has a fabulous range of cruises in Norway (and elsewhere), with many specialisms targeting people who may want to chase the Northern Lights … enjoy wildlife and exploration … or simply enjoy sightseeing in Norway’s many beautiful coastal towns. Take your time to explore what’s on offer and tailor your Norwegian cruise adventure to your own tastes.
If you’d like to hear more about Norway or other Hurtigruten cruises, please feel free to drop in to see me at Holywood Portfolio or give me a call on 028 9050 8688.