Hurtigruten Coastal Steamer

Aug 30 - Sept 3, 2000

 Our Travel Experience

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Our Travel Experience

Our initial reason for taking the Hurtigruten was to reach North Cape! The Northernmost point in Europe is the North Cape in Norway and after traveling North in steps to reach Tromso, we decided not to stop our Northward journey, but instead to make a goal of the Cape.

We didn't want to take the bus up to the North Cape since it would take way too many hours. We couldn't fly direct from Tromso, so we decided to get on board the Hurtigruten Coastal Steamer. Tara had seen the Hurtigruten web site months before and had even ordered a brochure. Unfortunately, the Hurtigruten cruise is expensive. Since being on the boat was well over our budget, we committed ourselves to one night only between Tromso and North Cape. But, we ended up enjoying our first night so much that we stayed for five more!

We easily reached our goal of the North Cape by taking a Hurtigruten arranged bus trip up to the Cape for three hours of exploring. Three hours was more than enough time at the Northernmost point in Europe. It was August 31st and the temperature was only 5.8 degrees Celsius. The landscape at the Cape was different than anything we'd seen. We were above the tree line, so there were no trees.  We figure we were in tundra since there were so many rocks and the land was barren except for small plants and tiny flowers. 

We were on an organized tour, so we heard all about the local area. Being on this tour was actually nice. The most interesting fact our tour guide told us was about how the reindeer came to the Cape in the Summer to feed, but spent the Winter South on the mainland. Since the North Cape is actually on an island, the army would load up thousands of reindeers into boats in the Spring and ship them across to their Summer grazing grounds. The reindeers would get fat during the summer eating all day and all night (they never sleep). Then, when it was time to return South, they'd just swim across the channel themselves! This was something like 100 kilometers - so a long way. People would follow behind in boats she said and watch especially for any baby deer who was having trouble swimming!
Our favorite place on the ship was the Library. Nearly every night, the Library was our own private room where Seth played computer games while Tara read her book and then fell asleep. The Library on our ship, M/S NordNorge, was a gorgeous room. On the walls there were built in wood and glass bookcases. Tara organized all the books in these bookcases our first night since she likes to organize things. 
There were also two high-backed, blue leather chairs each with their own reading lamp. Plus, four wood tables with at chess board patter on their tops. These tables also had leather chairs (these made nice footrests for the high-backed chairs!) And, best of all, the Library had four big windows so you could see the coastal scenery passing by. We don't understand why hardly anyone spent time in the Library. We saw a lot of turnover in the Library books during our five days, but we only had to share the Library once with a couple who were playing cards. We felt that we'd found the perfect home for the 14 books we'd already read but were still carrying with us. We wrote inside of each book we left behind and hopefully many people will get to enjoy them. 

Tara's second favorite place on the boat was the Sauna. The Sauna was also unused. Tara tried to visit at least once a day (sometimes twice!) and only once did she see another lady in the dressing room. Since the Sauna was not in constant use, Tara had to turn it on herself and wait 20 minutes while it warmed up. Luckily, there was a nice reading bench in the dressing room. The first time Tara went to the sauna, she couldn't put down her book after 20 minutes and took it into the Sauna with her. The glue binding of the book did not hold up too well. The message in this book which we left in the Library warns against taking it into the Sauna again!

Since the Hurtigruten was well over our budget anyway, we paid for the cheapest inside cabin. Therefore, we were very happily surprised when we got an outside cabin with a lifeboat obstructing most of the view. The cabin worked well for two people. We each had our own bunk at night and during the day, the one bunk folded up while the other bunk converted into a couch. We also had our own private shower and toilet. This is something we haven't had in a while! It was a bit cramped if we were both up and walking around, yet it was bigger than we expected and played a part in us deciding to stay more than 1 night. Plus, staying put in one place was easier than trying to arrange a different place to stay every two or so nights.

Seth had one night in particular that was rough since he gets seasick. He never actually lost his lunch, but he was not feeling too good on the third night at sea. We were sailing in open water instead of through Fjords, so it was rough.
We had another night that was not particularly restful as well since we needed to be up on deck at 5am in order to see Solberg Fjord. Solberg is close enough to Tara's maiden name of Soberg to justify getting up that early. We did decide to bypass visiting the town near the Fjord since getting there would have meant disembarking at Fineses and then taking a local bus that ran at inconvenient times only once a day. Plus, we had no idea if Solberg would be large enough to have accommodations. So, we instead stayed on the Hurtigruten longer and were up on deck for an hour pointing at any house along the shore saying "That could be Solberg." "Oh, wait. Maybe THAT is Solberg". It was well worth the early start since the weather was clear, the view was pretty and the sunrise was magnificent. 

All along the coastal route we saw houses where people lived. We remembered being surprised in 1998 when we took the Norway in a Nutshell Tour and saw towns comprised of only 3 or 10 or 100 houses. We were even MORE surprised now when we saw this interesting phenomenon for FIVE DAYS all along the coast of Northern Norway. There were houses all alone in the wilderness with no roads leading to them that we could see. There were maybe 5 houses strung out in a row along a mile of coast and again, we could see no roads leading to them. We wonder what living in such a remote location would be like. Especially in winter! But, at least you always have your boat since the Gulf Stream brings warm water and the waters are never iced over.

In addition to the solitary houses, we saw many SMALL towns. These towns were all very cute since in Northern Norway all the houses are painted bright, primary colors. Seth's favorite houses were blue, bright blue. In addition to all the towns having brightly colored houses, they were all basically nestled between the base of tall hills and the water. Plus, all the houses in the far north have been built since the 1950's because the Germans burned every building when they pulled out of Northern Norway. After World War II, the Norwegian government implemented strict building codes across the North that has resulted in most houses looking similar. It was nice to stay on board long enough to get a feel for these similarities between towns.

We also hopped off in many small towns - usually to get some food. Since we wanted to save money, we didn't eat in the ship's dining room. We instead dined at the small snack bar on board. The lasagna was actually very, very tasty - the first four times we had it! After a while, we wanted something different and would pop off whenever we docked for food. The best surprise was in the Lofoten islands - when we found a mexican restaurant that made us take away burittos. Yum Yum.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our Hurtigruten Coastal Steamer trip. We loved the natural wood and the nautical feel about the whole ship. It was so pleasant inside that we didn't mind the cold wind out on deck. 

Category Rating Comments
Overall Experience 7 This is our third cruise ship experience. In general, we don't care much for cruises, but we did enjoy our time on the Hurtigruten. 
Ease of Journey 8 Having one room where all of our belongings stayed for six nights was a real treat after the frequent moving we'd been doing. Seth felt really sea sick only one night since we were not in a Fjord, but crossing open sea. 
Accommodation  8 We very much enjoyed our room. We paid for the cheapest inside cabin, but were actually given an outide cabin with a lifeboat obstructing most of the view. We felt lucky. 
Activities 6 The tour to the North Cape was good. We didn't join any other organized trips off the ship. 
Coolness 8 Being on the same ship that was delivering mail to very tiny Northern towns was very unique and neat. 
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