Family and friends thought that Travels With Sheila was beyond insane when I announced plans to spend my 70th Birthday cruising winter Norway. “Why in this big, wide world would any normal person choose to cruise in the cold with infinite destinations available? Cruise the Caribbean. Head to South America, Asia. Plant yourself in an overwater bungalow somewhere in the South Seas. Take an African safari. What a pathetic decision!”
Why? I wanted to experience the series of unique adventures offered on this particular Winter, Norwegian Coastal Voyage. Winter is a special time to explore Norway’s north, deep within the Arctic Circle, in comfort. The coast of Norway is one of few places in the world where this is possible, due to the Gulf Stream that keeps ports ice free. I was surprised to discover there would be no ice bergs or bergy bits floating around thanks to the Gulf Stream. And it wasn’t until we neared Kirkenes that we even saw a few chunks of ice floating in the sea.
- We would search for the Northern Lights. A Hurtigruten cruise is the ideal place to see the Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis while sailing through sheltered, coastal waters free from artificial light.
- There were great shore excursions offered: Visit the North Cape; Dog sledding in Tromso or Kirkenes; Snowmobiling over the frozen fjords of Lapland; A King Crab Safari where you actually go out with a crab fisherman in the Barents Sea (offered in Kirkenes); and more. Passengers ending their northbound journey in Kirkenes could arrange a night at the SnowHotel/Ice Hotel.
- Sail aboard any of the Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Voyages for 6, 7, 11 or 12 days. A Ship leaves every single day of the year calling on 34 ports. Your only decisions are: What day to begin; what ship to sail on; and which direction works best for you.
- King Neptune conducts an unusual ceremony when crossing the Arctic Circle. A King Red Crab Fisherman came onboard in Honningsvag with behemoth crabs for a show-and-tell. Lectures given about the Northern Lights, Tromso, Sami History, along with a Captain’s talk.
- The omnipresent twilight, and extreme darkness, made it impossible to tell what time of day it was. You may call what there was of each day dreary. I call it stunning. The dramatic sunrises, and sunsets hovering around the horizon while the moon remained fixed in one spot during Polar Nights, was beyond description. Winter does have its blessings.
- Last, but not least, think about the all-important food! A Hurtigruten passenger will not starve with so many delicious choices…
I thought picking this particular Winter Cruise to celebrate a milestone was absolute genius, and then discovered that I was not the only genius. There were many others on board celebrating special anniversaries, and birthdays.
Give cruising in the winter some thought, dress warm and have the time of your life. My 70th birthday trip was perfect in every way, days filled with the “unusual” I had hoped for. And, how often can a person say that?
Coincidentally, and completely unplanned, today’s article is appearing on January 10, 2012, my 71st Birthday! (Lordy, lordy…where did this last year go?) I am still embracing the cold, but in Chicago rather than Norway. You win some, you lose some… Happy Birthday to all of Travels With Sheila’s fellow Capricorns. Let’s celebrate!