Re: Winter 2013/14 - Page 70

Then the time came to board, neither of us had done a cruise before but we knew that this was not going to be your typical large cruise liner. Hurtigruten was established in 1893 and now runs daily services carrying guests and goods from Bergen to Kirkenes and back in 12 days at an average speed of 15 knots. We have opted for the one way journey from Bergen to Kirkenes which will mean that we call in at 32 ports over the 6 days. Our ship was called MS Polarlys and could carry 619 passengers. It sits in the middle of their fleet of ships. The difference between it and a cruise liner is that there is no cinema, no swimming pool (although in minus temperatures that’s probably a good thing!), no gym and the evening entertainment is a chap on a piano for a couple of hours in the bar. However, what it does have is large outside spaces to enjoy the most beautiful scenery and for those that do not fancy the bracing temperatures a glass lounge area at the front of the ship so you can enjoy the surroundings in warmth and comfort. Our cabin was small, but we had expected that, as we could not stretch to a suite with a balcony but it had everything we needed with a large window which I could not have done without. “ There were waves of green and white lights dancing across the sky. “ The food on board was amazing, especially as I say this is not your traditional cruise liner. All breakfasts and lunches were buffet style and there was so much choice of hot and cold food available, evening meals (apart from the first and last nights) were a set menu, served at your designated table. I could not fault the food at all - my only complaint was that because it all looked so nice, I had to try a bit of everything each day!! Drinking in Norway is not cheap, and we had been warned about this. On land you can only buy wine, spirits and 68 strong beer at a Vinmonopolet, which are state owned shops, lighter beer can be bought in supermarkets but there are time restrictions on this. As a very basic comparison a bottle of wine that you would buy at the supermarket in the UK for £5 was about £12 in a Vinmonopolet but on board a bottle of the cheapest wine worked out to be about £45! And so we set sail, as the ship also delivers/collects goods to each port the schedule shows that we stop at ports during the day and throughout the night, most stops are for only about 15 minutes although you can still get off the ship if you wish but if you wander too far the ship wont wait for you! There was something rather special about getting up early when the sun was coming up and going on deck with a cup of coffee to see where you have docked. Every day there was a stop for a few hours which did give you the opportunity to get off the ship and do some exploring. The first of these longer stops was at Ålesund the next day. It was a beautifully clear day and we decided a walk up the 418 steps to the summit of Aksla mountain. The view was spectacular, the town looked like a little model village below us and our ship a little bath toy! Over the next couple of days we were travelling through some amazing scenery, day and night, there is something strange about lying in bed and watching the dark outlines of the mountains passing your window. The ship glides its way through the fjords,