Hurtigruten: Monday (Day 12 – Day 6 for us) – Farewell Hurtigruten

Comment 1 Standard

We are docking in Bergen today.

But first have a few hours of scenery to reflect on our trip.

Last Day

We have really enjoyed this ship.  We like big cruise ships, too – the Queen Mary 2 is one of our favorites.  But this was the perfect style for us.  We loved the independence of being able to get off and on without fuss and how we could follow along by map and guidebook with every little town.  We also liked the small size, so you got to know people easily – from all over the world.

Hurtigruten - Sail

One fun tradition they have us to greet the other Hurtigruten ferries up and down the coast when we pass.  They gave us a schedule, and everyone gathers outside and waves, while the ships blow their horns to each other.


This is the MS Lofoten – which they call the “Grand Dame” of the Hurtigruten fleet.


She is the oldest currently sailing Hurtigruten.  She was launched in 1964 and holds 400 passengers.  And believe it or not, she is the most popular ship by far and books up years in advance with passengers wanting to experience a bit of history.  So we were particularly excited when she passed by.

Farewell Luncheon

Sometimes the last day on a ship is super hectic, and you almost feel cast out before you’ve docked.  But on the Hurtigruten, they treated us to one last farewell 3-course lunch with our set table – so we could all trade emails and say good-bye.  A very nice touch.

Today’s Menu

Bergen Meat Stew

Poached Norwegian Salmon

Caramel Pudding

Last Day End

Next Up:  A Bit of Bergen

Hurtigruten: Sunday (Day 11 – Day 5 for us) – Trondheim

Leave a comment Standard

Lesson learned on Hurtigruten:

When you book a tour, you should check the time.

I did not pay attention to this detail, and we had one tour at midnight and the one this morning at 7:45 a.m. The ferry runs all night long, so the tour goes when you happen to be in that town.

So I admit that we did grumble a bit as we had to set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. in order to have breakfast before the tour.

But boy, was it worth it.

We docked in Trondheim, Norway’s 3rd largest city.


It was beautiful, full of old wooden houses along with modern apartment buildings. (Apologies for the pictures – taken from the bus by a sleepy photographer!)

Trondheim 2

But the reason for our tour – Niardos Cathedral.

Nidaros Flowers

Simply spectacular – considered one of the great cathedrals of Europe.

Nidaros Front

The story goes that a boy named Olaf was just 12 years old in 1007 (over 1,000 years ago) when he joined Viking chieftains on raids from Finland to Ireland.  In England, he was introduced to Christianity (Norway at that time believed in Norse Gods).  At age 20, Olaf brought Christianity back to Norway and built a small church on this site.

But Olaf was a bit of a tyrant and executed anyone who didn’t follow Christianity and was eventually killed in battle.  However, pilgrims still flocked to his grave on the banks of the river and swore that miracles happened there.  The church investigated and opened Olaf’s grave to find his body was perfectly intact after all those years – even continuing to grow his long red beard.  So the Catholics canonized him as St. Olaf and built a silver shrine to him in the Cathedral.  Pilgrims continued to come from all over to pay their respects.

Then the Protestants came . . . and wanted nothing of this Saint and the pilgrims who traveled to honor him.  In 1537, they melted down the silver shrine for coins and let the cathedral fall into ruin.  St. Olafs’s supporters moved his body to a secret place on the grounds – no one knows where.

Nidaros Full

Eventually, Norway recognized the importance of the Cathedral and restored it.  Today it is the site of royal coronations and is considered an ecumenical house of worship – meaning it is open to all faiths and is a working church.

Nidaros Organ

(No pictures were allowed inside, so I took these from the Internet. )

Highlights are the huge stained glass rose window (which had to be repaired a few years ago after a local boy kicked a soccer ball through it – how terrible would that be?!).

Nidaros Rose 2

And two pipe organs – one with 10,000 pipes!

Nidaros Organ 2

Back on the Boat

The afternoon turned out to be rainy and chilly with rolly seas, so we happily just stayed in our cabin and alternated between watching World Cup –

TV - World Cup

And the Bridge Cam –

Bridge Cam

This is the life!

Today’s Menu

Lobster Soup

Pork Shank

Norwegian Cheesecake with raspberry sorbet – sourced from raspberries grown by a lady named Astrid at one of the stops along the way (I loved that little detail!)


Day 11 Menu

Prayers with Annapolis

Comment 1 Standard

Note: There is a slight delay on the blog – yesterday, I just didn’t have the heart to post after hearing about the shooting at the Annapolis Capital Gazette offices.

As far as we know right now, we did not know any of the victims personally, but do have some indirect connections and friends who knew victims.  And we have been in that building several times, as there are other offices there. 

We are praying for everyone in Annapolis. 

Annapolis Strong

Hurtigruten: Saturday (Day 10 – Day 4 for us) – Arctic Circle!

Comment 1 Standard

Arctic Us

A super exciting day because we crossed the Arctic Circle!

Did you know there is a globe marking the line?

Arctic Globe

For first-timers like us, there is an initiation ceremony – you must take a spoonful of cod liver oil!

Arctic CAT

Apparently Norwegians swear by this and take all winter to stay healthy.  It wasn’t so bad, but was fishy.

Arctic Frank

As a souvenir, we did get to keep the spoons, which have the Hurtigruten “H” inscribed.


We also went to “Marinated Salmon School” (taught by the chef himself!) to learn how to cure salmon.

Salmon - Frank

We even get to take our salmon home.

Salmon - CAT

It was so fun that I will write more on a later blog – when we actually EAT our creation!

Salmon - Chef

Today’s Menu

Captain’s Dinner Celebrating Hurtigruten’s 125th Anniversary

Champagne Toast

Cured Meats

Pea Soup

Baked Cod

Selection of Local Cheeses

“Norwegian Omelet” – ice cream cake with cloudberriesDay 10

Day 10 -2

Hurtigruten: Friday (Day 9 – Day 3 for us) – Lofoten & Ice Bar

Leave a comment Standard

After our Midnight concert, we were pretty tired (we are so wild and crazy!).  Frank got up for breakfast, while I burrowed back under the covers.  Thankfully we have no excursions today – a nice day to sit around and enjoy the view.

And what a view it was!

Fjord - SternWe were sailing through the famous Lofoten Islands, with huge snow-capped mountains, little islands (skerries), isolated houses here and there, and remote fishing villages known world-wide for codfish.


The highlight was a very narrow fjord – Trollfjord. The captain said we could sail up it only if the weather was good.  Since it was very foggy and misty, we weren’t sure.  But the wind was low, so ok.

Narrow Fjord

We navigated right between two mountains, spun around, and sailed back out – like threading a needle. Everyone clapped.Narrow Fjord 4

Magic Ice

We got off the boat in a town called Svolvaer, where Frank and I had an aperitivo at the local Ice Bar – Magic Ice.

Ice Bar

They have a gallery of ice carvings by Lithuanian artists, who come each year and refresh the tables and sculptures.


The bar is kept at about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so we grabbed ponchos and explored.

Ice Bar FAV

We even had a cocktail – in an ice glass!

Ice Bar Drinks

Tonight’s Menu

The Lofoten Islands are famous for their cod fishing. They dry cod on these racks and preserve for winter.  They also eat all parts of the cod – even the tongue!


So tonight’s menu featured . . .  lots of cod!


Cod tongue – bigger than you would think – kind of creamy like escargot

Stockfish – dried cod made into a casserole

Local lamb

Day 9 menu


Hurtigruten: Thursday (Day 8 – Day 2 for us) – Hammerfest & Tromso

Leave a comment Standard

We had a great night’s sleep on the Hurtigruten – stopping 5 times, but we slept right through it!

There are 8 stops today, ranging from 5 minutes to 2 hours.

People continue to cycle on and off.


Those who are staying onboard a short time can either book a cabin (even for 1 night) or just hang out in the lounges.

Seating 3

There are all kinds of places to sit – with great views –  although it can get a bit crowded between popular stops.

Seating 2

Seating 4

Some seating areas are even outside with heat lamps.

Seat Outside

Docking is pretty interesting.  We usually have to enter a pretty narrow basin and then spin around to dock on our port side.  From the Promenade Deck, you can watch the maneuverings of the bridge:


And also watch as they lower the gangway (for people and cars).


Our first outing off the ship was in Hammerfest (2 hours), which claims to be the most northern city (of any real size) in the world.   We disembarked to explore.Hammerfest Gangway

Hammerfest is also is the home to the Ancient Polar Bear Society and museum.

Hammerfest Polar Bear

It was traditionally a jumping-off point for expeditions to the Arctic to hunt polar bears, and polar bears had been known to roam the streets back in the day.  They are mad about polar bears!

Hammerfest Us

Midnight Sun

Then we had to keep ourselves awake because our next outing wasn’t until MIDNIGHT!

At 11:45 pm, we docked at Tromso, where they have a famous Arctic Cathedral with a magnificent wall of stained glass. During the summer, the Midnight Sun steams through, and they hold concerts to celebrate the light.

Midnight Concert 3

We filed in, and a solo baritone voice from the balcony started with a Norwegian folk song – then joined by cello and organ.  It was almost spooky hearing these words of my ancestors in such a special place.

Midnight Concert 2

They played/sang traditional and classical pieces with a Norwegian connection and then ended very quietly with “Amazing Grace,” which swelled with the cello on the last verse. I was in tears and could feel my family – one by one (from both sides) – all around me whispering.  I was so moved that couldn’t talk the whole way back.  What a night.

Midnight Concert

Today’s Menu:

Salmon Pastrami

Local Beef

DUGA Bygg Crème – similar to rice pudding, made with cereal from 12 select farmers

Day 8 - front

Day 8

Hurtigruten: Wednesday (Day 7 – Day 1 for us)

Leave a comment Standard

Note: The days on the Hurtigruten are counted starting in Bergen. Since we are boarding at Kirkenes (half-way through), we are boarding on Day 7.  (This is good to know to keep track of where we are!)

Cabin Door

We boarded the Hurtigruten and found our cabin – #616.

I had studied the deck plans and online pictures of cabins, which can be quite small (more like a train compartment) and happened upon a “suite” that had an obstructed view – so it had extra room, but a lifeboat in front of the window.  Consequently, it was classified as a plain old outside cabin and a lot cheaper.   I figured that was a good trade-off.

Well – we were delighted to find that our cabin has 2 windows.

One fully obstructed, but the other only partially.  So we have the best of both worlds.

Cabin Window 2

Cabin Window 3

Our cabin is very roomy with lots of closet space, a king-size bed, and sitting area.

Cabin 2

Cabin Bedroom

There is even a curtain to separate the areas, so when Frank takes a nap or watches World Cup, I can pull the curtain and have my own little room.

Cabin - Curtain Drawn

And even tea-making facilities – perfect for me!

Cabin Tea

Table #15

There are a few dining options aboard the Hurtigruten.

Dining 4

The main dining room is included in the price – an open-seating buffet for breakfast and lunch – which is gigantic with a wide range of choices and very good.Dining

For supper, which is a 3-course set menu, we have an assigned time and table.  There are no choices like on regular cruise ships, but they post the dinner menu at lunch, so if you don’t care for an item, you can ask for something else.

There is also an a la carte bistro with pizza, salads, and sandwiches (pay extra) –


A bakery with specialty coffees, pastries, and gelato (also extra, except for regular coffee and tea) –


And a fancy restaurant that you have to reserve – also extra – but the food is so good in the main dining room, we haven’t seen many people eat there.

Fancy Dining

We found our table for the 19:30 (7:30 pm) seating and met our tablemates – a couple from California, who have traveled all over the world – and a couple from England – who often visit family in Chevy Chase, Maryland, right down the road from us!  We have all hit it off.


The dining room is famous for using local ingredients the chef picks up at stops along the way.  They pride themselves on the fact that nothing is frozen.  The meals are intended to reflect the culture of the area.

Our meal tonight celebrated the Laplanders – the Sami people who were the original Norwegians.


Today’s Menu:

Soused Herring

Reindeer Steak – Delicious!

Waffle with Pickled Rhubarb


The Hurtigruten

Leave a comment Standard


Lonely Planet describes our next adventure:

“So much more than a means of getting around, the iconic Hurtigruten coastal ferry takes you on one of the most spectacular coastal journeys anywhere on earth.”

Today we board the Hurtigruten mailboat, the daily ferry that sails up and down the western coast of Norway.  Eleven Hurtigruten ships are constantly plying the waters year-round up and back between Bergen and Kirkenes.  Thanks to the Gulf Stream, these waters don’t freeze in winter.


It takes about a week to sail from Bergen, in the South, to Kirkenes, at the Far North Russian Border, stopping at 34 towns along the way.  We are taking the boat South.

H Map 3

This coastal steamer route was started in 1893 and is how locals get mail and supplies.  They also use the ferry to get from town to town, even bringing their cars aboard.  But there also are cabins for those of us who just want to spend some time and sightsee.

Our ship is called NordNorge (Northern Norway).  The passengers are mainly German, Italian, French, and Norwegian – with a handful of Aussies, Brits, and Americans thrown in (we have only met 3 other Americans).

Unlike a regular cruise ship, there are no casinos or shows – other than lectures about Norway and what we are seeing.  And there are run-of-the-mill ferry passengers camped out here and there who are just hopping to the next town.  When we boarded, a school group was getting on as part of their year-end field trip.  They were as excited as we were.  Then they got off at the first stop – their parents meeting them on the quay.


For check in, we just walked up the gangway with about a dozen other folks.

Nordnorge Arrival

They gave us a ferry schedule to keep track – the boat stops all day and night long – some places just a few minutes, some a little longer.  We are welcome to get off and on as we please – and visitors are welcome to come on while in port.  The whistle gives a 5-minute warning to get back onboard and for visitors to disembark.


We also have a detailed map and guidebook to follow along.


I will blog about each day – partly so we can remember, but also in case anyone else is interested in the Hurtigruten – you can get a real sense of life onboard.

We’ll show you our cabin in tomorrow’s blog!

Hurtigruten Promenade

Fishing for Norwegian King Crab

Leave a comment Standard

Crab - Frank.jpg

Today, Frank and I got to try our hand out King Crab fishing – just like on “Deadliest Catch.”  Well, maybe not JUST like that, but we DID catch (and eat!) a lot of crab!

[Warning: LOTS of pictures!!]

I knew we were in for a cool experience when they handed out the thermal suits . . .

Two Fools - Crab

Our boat was a shallow river boat, so we could navigate deep waters as well as rocky shallow places, with slats to hold us in place as we bounced along.

Crab Boat

We suited up, climbed aboard, and were off.

Crab Boat - CAT

Our group, Barents Safari, has a few crab traps that are licensed for tourists to catch.

We pulled up to one set of markers, and the crew reeled in the line.

Crab - Grabbing Marker

They then used a pulley system to haul up the trap. It looked VERY heavy.

Pulling Up Crab

And we could see why – LOTS and LOTS of crabs!

Crabs Caught

They measure them, throwing the small ones back, and even passed them around for us to hold.

Counting Crab

Frank has a tradition that you have to kiss the first fish or crab you catch –

Kiss Crab

The crew re-baited the trap with cod and lowered it back for later.

Baiting Trap

We did this twice and ended up with 24 giant King Crabs!

Then we sailed up the fjord directly to the Russian border (literally) to our own “crab house.”

Boat Ride 2

Crab House

The tee pee serves as the cooking hut.

Steaming Crabs

Crab Legs

While our crabs were steaming, our guide, Hans, took us to the border – which is half-way between these two posts.


Russian Border

We did NOT cross – there are cameras and agents watching, and you will face a huge fine if you stick one finger over. But was fun to see.

Border Sign

Border - Us

Then we sat down to feast – as many king crab legs as we could possibly want. Yum!

Crab Feast

Crab Feast 2

And ingeniously – heavy-duty scissors to cut them open!

Cracking Crab

We made our way back down the fjord with the sun on our faces and our bellies full of crab –  VERY content indeed.

Crab House 2


The Far North: Kirkenes, Norway

Comments 2 Standard


We are starting the next leg of our adventure. We have flown to the northernmost point in Norway, where we will catch the Hurtigruten mailboat and ferry-hop down the coast.

But first – we have a few days in Kirkenes – literally at the top of the world. We are 4 miles from Russia, 22 miles from Finland, and father east than Cairo – smack dab on the Barents Sea.

Thon Hotel

Barents Sea

We are so far North that the sun “sets” at midnight and rises at 1 am.

Here are pictures I took from our hotel window when I woke up at 3:30 am (!) –

Midnight Sun 2

Midnight Sun

This is a big fishing town, with King Crab fleets plying the waters bearing both Norwegian and Russian flags – I guess so they don’t worry about boundaries.

Crab Fishing Boat

Huge crab traps line the water – like from “Deadliest Catch.”  We walked around amazed.

Nets - Frank

Crab Nets

Tomorrow – WE are going to become crab fisherman and join them!!

Stay tuned!

Crab Traps

Nets 3