Is a cruise along the Norwegian coast on your boomer adventure list? Alan and I will never forget our voyage on Regent Seven Seas Voyager that not only included the lovely fjords but also introduced us to adventure above the Arctic Circle. In today’s guest post, boomer travel writer Pat Woods writes about her experience on a Hurtigruten cruise, the quintessential Norwegian coastal experience.
Perhaps you’ve seen ads touting the scenery on Norway Coastal Voyages. Picture thousands of charming islands and islets strung like pearls along 1,250 miles of Norway’s strikingly beautiful west coast. That’s the route 11 Hurtigruten ships ply year round carrying passengers (cruise and local), mail, cars and cargo to 34 unique ports.
On these ships nature provides the entertainment. Puffy gray, white and pink cumulus clouds continually form and reform as if molded by gifted hands. Dramatic precipitous mountains, quiet sapphire blue bays, sheltered fjords, white sandy beaches and expansive green agricultural areas create a memorable mosaic.
An adventure-filled itinerary along Norway’s coast
My six-day Ms Nordlys southbound voyage began in Kirkenes, a tiny Norwegian town on the Russian border. The northernmost point in Europe, North Cape rises 1,000 feet above the icy Arctic Ocean. En route to a breakfast excursion at North Cape, we saw scores of reindeer grazing on the sub-Arctic tundra. After breakfast, guests posed for photos under the outdoor globe monument.
In Finnmark, a sub-Alpine region, pretty red and white wildflowers brightened the sparsely inhabited tundra. Although we were above the Arctic Circle, the weather was warmer than expected. Our guide said we were blessed with a rare sunny day.
A later excursion to the picturesque Harstad agricultural area yielded dozens of Kodak moments and calendar shots. Cattle, sheep and spring lambs grazed in bright green pastures. Verdant roadsides displayed an array of wildflowers. Brilliant red barns on tidy farms provided a picturesque backdrop for a mussel farm in a pretty fjord.
At a medieval church in Trondenes, guide baby boomer Sigrid Hansen and the local vicar led a short, meaningful ecumenical service that touched even non-religious travelers. On a ferry we enjoyed coffee with dark Norwegian cheese on waffles and lefse cakes.
Fishing is the main industry in the Skaidi area, where three rivers meet. Tourism also sustains the economy. On the rooftops of homes we noticed ladders used by chimney sweeps.
In thriving Hammerfest, oil and natural gas are exported to the U.S. These natural resources have helped Norway become the richest nation in the world with no national debt. Norway also tops the Global Peace list, on which the U.S. ranks 96th. In Norway, where 67 is the customary retirement age, teachers and nurses retire at 62.
As rain tapped a staccato beat on the ship’s large windows, the MS Nordlys slowly navigated the narrow Trollfjord, Norway’s popular attraction. Fog shrouded the lush cliffs soaring hundreds of feet, and sea eagles swooped for fish handouts. A brief burst of sunshine produced a vibrant full-arch rainbow.
The Lofoten Islands excursion brought postcard images of sunset over an archipelago of 320 islands and islets. With a backdrop of steep majestic mountains, farms and small fishing villages are accented with red rorbuer—traditional fishing cabins on stilts.
During the January – March cod season, 3,000 island fishermen and even more guests vie for 35,000 tons of cod. Freshly caught cod are processed locally. Twelve-year-old boys make pocket money removing cod tongues which are fried for appetizers and reportedly taste like fried oysters.
In Henningsvaer, a quaint fishing village on one of the larger islands 42 miles from the Norwegian mainland, I walked the picturesque quay, drinking in nautical scenes as daylight waned.
While in historic Trondheim, a sophisticated coastal education and technology center, we visited the Nidaros Cathedral. Built as a Catholic Church in 1070, it became Lutheran during Europe’s Protestant reformation.
Life on-board Hurtigruten ships
Take a healthy appetite and cholesterol pills for the hearty breakfast and lunch buffets with open seating. Besides typical European items such as cold meats, cheese, and crusty bread, many creamy salads, shell fish, caviar and fish varieties tempted palates. For lunch, chefs also prepared soup, salads, hot entrees and desserts. With assigned seating, dinner was a three-course fixed meal with self-service coffee in the lounge. Dress is casual for all meals.
Public areas (dining room, lounge, 24-hour cafeteria) are befitting a cruise ship. While not luxurious, my starboard-side deck 6 cabin was quiet, clean and compact with adequate storage. The 475-passenger ship has a small library, fitness center, sauna, Internet cafe, coin laundry, two elevators and three handicapped accessible cabins.
Many Hurtigruten passengers are baby boomers or retirees from Europe and the U.S. Boomers Mike and Nona Rathsack from Chicago were enjoying their first cruise. “I absolutely loved the food,” enthused a smiling Nona. The Rathsacks attended a Norwegian folk music concert at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromso and did a post-cruise Bergen visit.
During our last dinner, a dramatic deep-pink sunset provided a fitting climax to a voyage that exceeded expectations for beautiful scenery and fascinating excursions. We disembarked in vibrant, historic Bergen, Norway’s second largest city and gateway to the fjords.