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.
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.
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!