Is it raining yet?

December 30th, 2016 , 17:14

No, it’s actually dry! Cloudy and we had rain all the way down to Bergen (with small gaps that allowed Joe to get more photos). Finished packing this morning and took the bags out for collection on our way to breakfast. After breakfast, back to the cabin to check it over to make sure didn’t forget anything, grab our small bags and up to deck 7 to sit at the bow and watch the rain. And bounce. It was a bit rough. Top tip for travelling by ship: if you’re susceptible to seasickness or don’t know if you are, do NOT go to the highest part of the ship closest to the bow. If you have small children do NOT go to the highest part of the ship closest to the bow. The best place is as low as you can get, usually as low with windows (on Hurtigruten that was deck 4) and in the centre (on Hurtigruten the very handy lobby with seats!) So yeah, one man, two very small, very unhappy children and a whole group of adults fed up with him.

We got into Bergen about half an hour late, the winds were really slowing us down. But it cleared enough and there was enough light (YAY!) to actually see the scenery. And pretty sure I saw a sea eagle. YAY! So a nice day cruising south, with lunch. Then off the ship, onto the bus and off to the hotel. The bus took just as long as walking did. But got in quickly and got checked in and have a wonderful room with a view out over Bryggen!

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Nearly there

December 29th, 2016 , 21:54

Last full day onboard. Last night we had a stretch of ‘open water’, combined with strong wind and rain so a bouncy couple of hours. So not really enough sleep – but then with it being dark all the time, not enough sleep anyway!

Up early for Trondheim – quick breakfast, though not quite munching toast as hopping down the gangplank pulling on boots! We only had 9 people, plus the guide, on our tour in the pouring rain. I worried that it would be too similar to the bus tour we did on the way north, but it was a good compliment to the bus tour. We saw more of the old town, didn’t go into the cathedral, and walked on the other side of the river from the walk we did the first time. So very nice tour though we did get back to the boat sopping wet. Our stuff is still hung in the bathroom to dry.

The rest of the day was spent up in the deck 7 bar in the seats at the bow watching the rain. Read a bit, but mainly just watched rain. Last dinner onboard and now packing. We have wussed and got the bus transfer to the hotel as the weather will be wet in Bergen!

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Cruising

December 28th, 2016 , 20:40

Today was a cruising day –  no long stops and no excursions. We still got up rather early and had breakfast, then headed out to the bow to see the globe marking the arctic circle. Stepped out on deck to be hit by a wall of wind but managed to creep to the front then around the front and got blown to starboard! Managed to stay onboard – just. Braved the wind and rain to see the globe then headed up to deck 7 to see what the ceremony was only to find out we’d missed it. Apparently it was a really nice cod shaped spoon with ‘Arctic Circle Hurtigruten’ written on it. But you had to swallow a spoonful of cod liver oil to get it.

We have spent the day pretty much watching the horrible weather from the window as it’s not let up all day. Rain, sleet, hail, and strong wind. Joe got out at Brønnøysund for a walk about but said there wasn’t much there. He wandered up the street and back again in a gap in the rain. We sat in the bakery and had hot chocolate and I listened in on conversations. We sat in the bar and had drinks and watched the rain. Just that sort of day.

Dinner was one seating and we got handed a glass of sparkling wine when we went in and had to walk past the senior crew and staff to our tables – it was our farewell dinner. So a toast to everyone and a song from the crew with a very good meal.

We’re up very early tomorrow for a wet (the weather report says heavy rain all day – again) walk around Trondheim.

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Fishing Village

December 27th, 2016 , 22:19

So dinner tonight was early – 17:30 – and we were due on the walking tour of the fishing village at 18:40. So we were a bit stressed as dinner stretched out. We’re sitting in a group of eight, us and three other couples (well, two couples and a pair of women who are travelling together). Two of us were going on the tour and the other two tables were not. We were suppose to be getting our food quickly so we could make the tour, so the two tables were eating while the others were making comments about being hungry. Then one of the people not going said ‘well, I’m going to enjoy my dinner nice and slow. And take my time over pudding’. Ha! We docked at Svolvær while we were having dinner.

After quickly eating, frantic back to the room to put on outwear and dash back down to deck 3 (we’re on deck 5) to disembark and find the minibus. We all made it and headed out, just over the bridge. Our guide pointed out the mayor’s house and then talked about the growth of Svolvær as a fishing town. We got a lot of information in our tour. Got to see the drying racks up close, the inside of an old fishing hut (kept as it was as a museum), Joe tried dried stock fish, and we saw the old shop which is now a reception area for renting out the fishing huts which have been done up as holiday lets. We also were in the art gallery for the grandson of the man who founded the fishing industry – Gunnar Berg. The family have build the gallery and it holds about 15% of his work (if I’m remembering correctly!) Lots of interesting information about the town and people and lots of stories. The tour was well worth it.

It’s been interesting, as we’re out of season we’re pretty much getting private tours. This tour, the guide was unlocking the museum buildings and turning on the lights just for us. With the lack of sunlight here, I’ve completely lost any sense of time; so I keep feeling like we’re being allowed to tour late at night! But it’s been really nice.

We actually made it back to the ship a bit early! So went and got out of our wet clothes (it was snowing off and on while we were out) and headed for the bar on deck 7 where Joe had a whisky and I had hot chocolate. The entertainment tonight was ‘Hurtigruten Lucky Numbers!’ With the tour organiser and hotel manager dressed in their night clothes. Hmmm. Well the tour organiser also had a bright red wig with horns, so probably a troll. Tomorrow morning around 9:30 we cross the arctic circle back into daylight!

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Heading south

December 27th, 2016 , 14:01

And we’re actually getting a bit brighter. Almost had daylight today. We cross back over the arctic circle tomorrow morning.

We went up to the deck 7 bar and had a drink before dinner, had the really good seats at the bow, but couldn’t really see anything in the dark. Still nice drinks and sorted through the photos – the Norway album should be up to date, more of less! Then dinner and then a nap before getting up around half 11 to get dressed and ready for the concert in the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø. Loads of announcements that when we came into Tromsø, the concert goers were to leave first and those with bags should wait. So I thought we needed to be on time due to other people attending. But nope, the group from the ship were the only ones there – so it was a concert just for us!

Lovely concert, really good music, and we really enjoyed it all. The cathedral is small and lovely, but unfortunately not a lot of time for photos! And when we left it was snowing heavily.

I forgot to say that Christmas day the tour organiser had organised that a group from the ship could attend the Christmas service in Vardø – the minister agreed to hold the service until they arrived. The group that went said it was really nice, they were made to feel very welcome and the service was done in Norwegian and English, and the minister kept it within time for everyone to get back to the ship. As the Captain, Chief Engineer, and Hotel Manager were all at the service as well the group figured the ship would wait! The Captain and Chief Engineer made sure they were the last to leave so they knew everyone was back on board. Put this in because the entire trip has been like that – special effort made to make sure we see and do things. So a private concert for us is becoming normal!

So we slept in today having not got to bed until gone 2am. The weather has been pretty awful – strong winds, snow and sleet squalls, and generally bleugh. But we had some light! And more tomorrow! We also went through Risøyrenna today, which is very narrow, Joe stood out on the bow and took photos. And coming into Sortland we went under a bridge where we ‘met’ the bus from the morning excursion crossing the bridge. Now that was timing! Tonight we’re doing a fishing village walk somewhere in Lofoten!

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Boxing Day

December 26th, 2016 , 18:04

So we got off atVardø last night and watched the mad people who went ice dipping. There is a little wooden box thing with steps down and you’d go down into that and then dip yourself up to your neck to get the certificate. Not for us! But I did ask our tour operator where the fort was and got directions – at which point everyone standing on the dock headed off in the general direction (they actually headed in a slightly different direction, but still heading for where they though the fort was). We  waded through the snow to the fort and part of the way around the fort. It was too dark to do much else. At 4pm. I’m really struggling with time in the dark and the fact it was Christmas day so everything was closed just adds to my confusion!

Back onboard the ship we did laundry. Nice set up for a ship! And had dinner, which was leftovers, with Norwegian potato juice to finish. Or that’s what Joe called it. Google tells me it’s actually Akevitt (Aquavit) and drinking it told me it’s quite strong!

We headed back to our room and once our shoes were off there was an announcement of the lasso competition on deck 7. Joe and I laughed and thought about going up. So Joe got all kitted up and headed out and as soon as he was gone there was another announcement – northern lights! So I got into my outerwear in record time and out on deck 5 as I thought deck 7 would be crowded. The sky was lit up, but they were pale. Found Joe and we watched then a squall blew in – whale watching weather! We huddled together and watched the blur of the sky. When the squall blew over we saw the lights were still there and as we watched they brightened then started to swirl with red, yellow, and green. It was a wonderful display – huge and bright. We ended up staying out for quite a while watching the lights. And the lasso competition was cancelled because everyone was watching the aurora!

This morning we were up earlyish and had breakfast. At 10:15 they served an ‘energy drink’ on deck 7 as we passed the natural gas plant (the first one to export liquid natural gas in Europe). The drink was coffee, chocolate, and chilli and quite nice though a bit spicy! It was also quite thick and creamy.

We then arrived in Hammerfest where we had a tour. We thought it was a walking tour but it was by bus and only about a dozen people on it. The guide wasn’t the best, but we got a good look around the town, including the Meridianstøtten (Meridian monument), a traditional Sami house, and up to the lookout where we could see the whole town below us. It was worth it for those things alone as we’d never be able to walk to them in the time we had. Also everything in town was closed. However, all along the main street the pavements were completely clear. They were slate and electrically heated to keep them clear of snow and ice. Our guide also told us that the town was surrounded by fencing to keep out the reindeer; however, some do get into town (those must be the flying ones) and when they do the mayor gets on his pink scooter and rounds them up to get them out of town. We were welcomed to come back in summer to watch the mayor round up reindeer!

Back onboard for lunch then I napped while Joe wandered around and got photos. At some point around 4 or 4:30 (I did say it was hard to know what time it is in the dark! And it’s almost always dark, just a brief period of time when the sky is blue, sort of a twilight blue) we got an announcement about northern lights. So up and dressed and outside again to stand on the bow (or as close as we can get) and watch the sky. Another thing about watching the lights – the sky is full of stars!

And just now they announced : “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is for George Michael” and then Last Christmas started playing. So sitting here listening to Last Christmas.

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White Christmas

December 25th, 2016 , 14:07

Up earlyish this morning and definitely a white Christmas. Trying to remember if I’ve ever had a white Christmas and I don’t remember any. Bound to have been somewhere with snow before though. Of course it wouldn’t be Christmas without Slade and Merry Christmas Everybody. So I’m getting dressed and sure enough there’s a loud ‘It’s Christmas!’ Joe had put it on his phone and was playing it.

We docked at Kirkenes and headed out to the bus to go dog sledding. It was a large group so we were split into three groups of 20 and Joe and I were in the last group. It was based at the Snow Hotel, so we had a look inside (but didn’t get to the bar unfortunately) and then went over to see the reindeer (lovely white one), then to see the dogs and finally onto the sleds for a ride around. Very bumpy! But fun. We then had to hurry back onto the bus and back to the ship – so no time to stroll around for a look around. Maybe if we go again!

So Kirkenes is right at the Russian border. So close to the border that Joe got a ‘welcome to Russia’ text on his phone as it picked up a Russian cell tower.

Back onboard with loads of new people doing the southern journey. We’ll have a walk around Vardø around 4pm then do laundry. So an exciting end to Christmas day!

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Christmas Eve

December 24th, 2016 , 22:27

Christmas eve is the big celebration in Norway, so that’s what we did tonight! But last night, after dinner, we gathered in the bar on deck 7 and decorated a Christmas tree and sang carols in several different languages. Norwegian carols are fun and bouncy, English and German less so. We were getting tired so headed back to the cabin only to get the message that there were ‘not very bright’ northern lights. So I went out, without my coat (brr) to have a look. They weren’t as large or bright as the night before so I thought ‘meh, I’m cold’ and headed back in. So Joe says I’m already getting blase about the lights.

Up a bit earlier today but I didn’t bother with lunch – our excursion was 11:15 to 14:45 so they were doing brunch from 10:15. I got coffee then waited for brunch! We got ready to go, had brunch (more like lunch than brunch), then headed out for the bus to the North Cape. We docked in Honningsvåg so it was about a half hour to the North Cape. Except some people got lost so the buses had to turn around to get them. But we got to North Cape – had a very good guide who gave us information on the way. I walked out to the globe had a look then went inside and spent most of the time inside. Mainly because of the wind which really blows strongly. Joe stayed out and got photos, then about 10 minutes before we were due at the bus we met up inside and headed out to the lookout point. Which was a mad move, as the wind had really picked up. It was strong before, but a real fight to get to the lookout, where we really couldn’t see anything anyway because of the wind! Then back on the bus and more info from the guide on the ride back to the ship.

The ship left Honningsvåg and as we left we got a Norwegian traditional Christmas rice pudding which was really nice. Later in the afternoon we sailed past Finnkirka which in the winter is all lit up in different colours. Quite interesting. While we were looking at Finnkirka a small boat pulled up to our ship and a king crab fisherman boarded with some king crab. Joe and I watched the boat leave – he did a large circle and waved to us as he drove off – then headed up to deck 7 to see the king crabs.

We docked at Kjøllefjord at 17:00 and as it’s Christmas eve and the main celebration for Norwegians we’ve stayed here all evening. We don’t leave until 22:45. There was a service at 18:00, but Joe and I skipped that. We also had a huge Christmas meal – buffet dinner with all the traditional Norwegian Christmas foods. About the only thing we didn’t try was the lutefisk, but there really wasn’t any left when I got up there! We even had some king crab! Then up to the bar on deck 7 for more Christmas karoke and Father Christmas.

Tomorrow is dog sledding! Then we head back south.

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Famous last words

December 23rd, 2016 , 19:12

So, remember in the last post I said we’d probably not see any more northern lights. Yeah. Remember that.

So after crossing the arctic circle the ship offered special stamps – the first we knew of this was the announcement tone and then Postman Pat theme song playing. In Norwegian. Joe and I just stared at each other, then I said ‘is that . . . ?’ and Joe nodded. Very surreal. Then they announced the special stamp. Oh, right. Ok then.

So we bundle up to go to the Viking feast which is held at the Lofoten Viking Museum. We all piled onto the bus and waved goodbye to the ship – it sailed on and we met it at a later docking. The bus ride there was about half an hour and we had a tour guide talking about the history and what to expect at the feast – he a bit of an unusual name for a Viking: Christian! The reconstruction of the long house is excellent and we were met at the door with a woman carrying a torch, the house itself was lit with oil lights and candles. They did a reconstruction of a mid-winter ceremony, Jul Blót, to bring back the sun and then we ate. We had a very good mead, not too sweet, and a huge plate of lamb, carrots, swede (rutabaga), barley porridge (lovely flavours), a soured cream type thing, berry compote, and bread (it was a yeast bread but cooked like a shortbread and served cut in pie shapes). It was all good. Then we got to look around the museum before heading back to the ship and getting more information about the area and Vikings from our guide.

On the way out to the Viking feast and the way back it was pouring with snow and sleet. Horrible weather. So we get on the boat and Joe says that his app is showing a good chance of the northern lights. I laughed. But we decided to stand on the deck anyway as we left port we saw the stocks for drying the fish. And right when Joe’s app had said, we saw the best showing of the lights we’ve seen. They were all over the sky and could be seen from all over the ship. They were selling a mug of Trollfjord knert (warm drink – sort of an alcoholic tea!) so we went and got one then watched more northern lights from the stern – leading off with a red/yellow and moving across the sky forming a green bridge. I could see why some ancients said they were the spirit bridge. It was lovely. We then headed to the bow to see the entrance of the Trollfjord which is only 100m wide. It’s pretty impressive even when all you can really see is lit with the ship’s spotlights! During the winter the ships are only allowed to go to the entrance. Then as we moved away from the fjord the northern lights lit up the sky again. So we stood and watched those until around 1am when the clouds moved back in.

So I slept in this morning. Or tried to. Lots of announcements, when we stopped at Harstad and when we left (I got up at 8am to see the medieval church from the ship as we went past), then to announce that there was a presentation, then sales in the shop, and so I finally gave up and got up. While I was trying to sleep, Joe was playing with his app. Which sounds more interesting than it is. Went out on the snowy deck to see cloud and snow, turned around and went back in. Pretty much like that all day to Tromsø (though we did head out to see the tidal current, not that we saw much!) Once in Tromsø we bundled into lots of clothing and headed out for the bus for the silent whale watching tour. It’s on a wooden sailing vessel with electric engines so is almost completely silent. We were given oversuits to wear so I took off my outer layer (I had several layers on) to get into the oversuit. We were also getting a short version of the tour, only about an hour. So we’re all struggling into our oversuits and as we were leaving the dock and getting the safety briefing an ocra passed by the boat. So much for safety briefing! The guide said ‘quickest whale spotting on our tour!’ Then we got hit by a squall, ice squall. It was pretty horrible – in fact we also got from the guide ‘worst whale watching weather ever’. yay. But it did blow over and we saw lots of orca, even in the dark! I saw the blow of humpback and Joe got to see the fluke as it dived. So it was good. And overhead? The northern lights. The silent ship is wonderful, you can hear the whales blow, so were hearing them all around the ship at one point. Then headed back to the dock and into another ice squall. And the entire bus ride back to the boat it was snowing heavily.

So now getting dry and waiting to go to dinner. There is a tree decorating this evening and tomorrow we celebrate with a large Norwegian Christmas dinner – after we go up to North Cape! Christmas eve is the main celebration for Christmas in Norway.

Frog Blog

The Arctic

December 22nd, 2016 , 14:33

So to bed without seeing any other lights. A bit after 7am we got an announcement that we were about to cross the Arctic Circle and the globe marking it would be on starboard. So up and into clothes and out on deck in darkness. There was snow on deck, only a small amount mainly piled by the walls. But still. And we waited watching the rain, until the bridge put out a spotlight and spotlit the globe marking the circle. As the bridge crossed we got a blast of the horn. So in the arctic.

We’ve had lightning, rain, sleet, and snow since crossing the circle. So no lights and probably none the rest of the trip north as it looks like bad weather all the way up! We’ve not got off the ship today – currently sitting in Bodø watching the snow and sleet. So glad we didn’t opt for the nature walk today!  Especially as it’s quite dark. Tonight we’re off for a Viking feast! But until then just updating the photos on Flickr and generally resting.

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