4th February 2019 - 17th February 2019
The trip from Costa Rica to Bergen was as expected awful. It is a long way causing two breaks and a long 24 hours. We were lucky all our luggage went in the baggage all the way from San Jose to Bergen, brilliant we did not have to worry about suitcases.
We got off the train in central Bergen to rain, not much fun with suitcases. We found our hotel, we had to enter through the supermarket which threw us a little. The hotel was lovely and very close to the center of town. A quick bite in the restaurant attached and sleep after being awake for 24 hours. The next day we had a walk around in the cold and checked out Bergen. A tapas meal and another early night.all then.
A short taxi ride saw us at the ship. A little more chaos than the Queen Mary before we found our self in our Superior but very small cabin. Thank goodness we up graded as it was Ross could only just get around the bed. We watched Bergen disappear and went off to purchase a couple of alcohol packages. I looked at the excursion packages they were very expensive for the cheapest, so we decided to walk around the towns we stopped in by ourselves.
The scenery was stunning and more snow as we moved North. Our first stop was to say the least cold Ross decided to go back to the ship and I slipped and slithered to the cathedral and was lucky enough to catch an organ recital in a very warm church. Back on the ship we decided more clothes were needed for other stops.
The Hurtigruten cruise is attached to the postal delivery system for the west coast of Norway and is deemed the most beautiful cruise in the world. I did feel it lived up to its name. The first night we did see a smear of Northern lights and the second night a little green patch in the distance and that my friends was the end of my lights experience. After that we had cloudy weather with snow and rain.
Meals were buffet for breakfast and lunch, more food than anyone could eat, lots of fish, fish roe (yummy I pigged out), snow crab and other deliciousness. Dinner was a set 3 course menu which used the food of the region we were in so predominantly fish, we also had a vegetarian night (Ross was not impressed but I enjoyed it), a reindeer steak night, lamb and some very tough beef!! I had a few laughs at the signs on the food except when my potatoes dauphinoise turned out to be fish!! One of the dishes was labelled butter and was a vegetable of some kind and the red cabbage was usually white!! The people serving on board were very busy, serving breakfast, then cleaning cabins, serving lunch, cleaning cabins and then serving dinner. I got to know some of them (when they were not so busy) the lovely young man cleaning our cabin, told me to keep warm by having wool next to my skin first, then my layers. He also told me to put moisturiser on my face a few hours before going out as it builds an extra layer of fat under the skin and keeps me warm. He did warn not to do it before going out as the skin then would get colder due to the moisture on it freezing. all then.
I booked myself on to a Husky sledge adventure, Ross said he was not interested enough at the price and the cold!! I decided to trial my keep warm advice a few days before on a trip around a little town. It worked I was as warm as toast. The only other thing I did was change my sneakers for my slippers!! Well my slippers have soles, they are wool lined and cork on the outside (waterproof) and were as warm as toast. Not a great fashion statement but I did not care.
We rounded the Arctic circle and Nord the Norse god of the sea honoured us with his presence and put ice down everyone neck!!! I was soaked and very cold. Ross stayed well back and took photos.
The weather did not get much better and so we missed a few village walks in favour of staying warm and dry.
We arrived at Kirkenes and my sledge trip. We awoke to sunshine - hurrah. I layered up, face cream applied early and jumped on the bus. We went to the Ice Hotel, I was excited about that too. The group was split into three, our group visited the reindeer first. There was 4 of them hired from local Sami people - the original Norwegians. The top reindeer was Gabba which means white in Sami, then Dotcom because of his dots, then Lonesome as he was picked on due to his poorly formed antlers, the youngest was Dortjaund (or something!!). We were told Sami children are given a white reindeer when they come of age. The Sami’s are the only people allowed to own reindeer. We had passed a reindeer island early in the cruise and been told the reindeer swim to the mainland at the end of summer (or are taken by truck under the Fjord!!). We fed the reindeer and went on to the Husky area. We had been encouraged to pet the huskies as they like that, we dutifully petted the huskies, and a few jumped up they were powerfully strong. A few decided my cork slippers would make a good meal I had to walk away from them. When the sledges came close the huskies not pulling set up a heck of a racket letting everyone know they also wanted a run. Huskies can each pull up to 80 kilos and can run up to 35 km per hour, seven to a sledge had no difficulties pulling two of us and the musher. A rug and a quick lesson on keeping our feet in and we were away, into a Christmas card. I cannot describe how wonderful it was the swish of the sledge in the snow, the blue sky and snow everywhere. We crossed a frozen fjord and saw fishing holes for crab we were told. We had to stop at one point and the huskies vented their frustration very loudly, they wanted to run. This was an experience I will never forget.
Sidebar: Huskies do poo on the run. It freezes as it leaves their bodies and can be quite a sharp projectile. I was glad to be in the back seat!!!
A warm glass of blueberry juice and then a visit to the ice hotel. People are only allowed to stay one night, as it is very cold -4C. All the rooms are carved with a different theme from polar bears, trolls, Marilyn Monroe to Poo and Piglet. The beds are ice and the bathrooms are in the other part of the hotel, quite a walk in the night. The hotel is built around a large balloon and the ice pushed up against the balloon, which is then deflated and removed. Then the carving was done by Russians, it used to be Chinese. The hotel was amazing but too cold for me to spend the night -4C at all times. I had a wonderful day.
On the return trip to Bergen the weather really changed and we ran into a storm causing many people to miss meals. My ginger helped and I manage to eat everything. I was handing out Ginger tea to the friends we had made. We received Storm certificates for surviving the gale force winds and waves. It was very rough one night and we nearly got rolled out of bed!!! The weather was so rough we did not call into a couple of places as the captain felt it would not be safe for the ship and many excursions were cancelled for safety reasons (snow slides and poor visibility for the buses). We were all glad when we started to see calm seas and much less snow. I will always remember the gorgeous snow-covered peaks and islands as we sailed through so nice to watch them with a hot chocolate or a schnapps.
We both got colds from people who came onboard later in the cruise, Ross in particular was quite effected and spent a bit of time in the cabin sleeping. I was not as bad, but the bed was very nice a couple of afternoons. On arrival in Bergen I sadly got off the ship, but Ross was happy to be leaving. Early night and a trip to the Chemist helped a bit.