Norwegian Adventure

Norwegian Adventure

Simon Willmore was invited by Hurtigruten and Visit Norway to experience the cruise company’s new seasonal product ‘Autumn Gold’, which runs from 1 September to 15 October. Here are his thoughts from his time onboard…

Simon Willmore was invited by Hurtigruten and Visit Norway to experience the cruise company’s new seasonal product ‘Autumn Gold’, which runs from 1 September to 15 October. Here are his thoughts from his time onboard…

Norway has been on my bucket list for many years now – and not just because I missed out on a trip there three years ago when I had to go to Yorkshire instead. The almost-unearthly scenery of the Norwegian fjords, illuminated by the enigmatic Northern Lights, is within three hours’ flight and yet has been until now out of reach – and this has bothered me immensely.

So as I look out over the city of Bergen while the MS Kong Harald sets sail for the Hjørundfjord – and then on to the Arctic Circle – I can already feel my excitement being justified. In addition, this is the first new fjord destination that Hurtigruten Cruises has added in two decades, and we’ll be experiencing a brand new seasonal itinerary for the company. This feels special and we haven’t left port yet.

London had one, too, but it’s now underneath Cannon Street station…

Bergen, the second largest city in Norway with a population of almost 400,000, is most famous for its Hanseatic wharf. The brightly coloured wooden buildings of the Bryggen area, built up in the 1100s as Bergen became an important trading post, is now preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the only surviving ‘kontor’, or trading post, of the Hanseatic League of merchant guilds – London had one, too, but it’s now underneath Cannon Street station…

The cruise took in Hurtigruten's new autumn offering
The cruise took in Hurtigruten’s new autumn offering

Once we moved out from port, en route to the first stretch of open sea Stadhavet, it was time for the first meal onboard. The main restaurant on the Kong Harald, serves the common cold table or ‘koldtbord’ (the Norwegian equivalent of the Swedish ‘smorgasbord’) on this first night and for all the lunches on the itinerary. Fish – fresh and pickled – plus salads and breads are always available with a varying range of hot dishes such as reindeer burgers that vary as you move into different regions of Norway.

After dinner, guests can retire to the Bar Fridtjof Nansen (named after the Nobel Peace Laureate), the café Roald Amundesen (the polar explorer) or the Panorama Lounge. But the recreation facilities are a tiny fraction of the Hurtigruten experience. The headline act is the selection of daytrips and excursions – including our first one of the week, a venture into the Hjørundfjord itself. The ship, easily the largest object in sight for the duration of the trip so far, becomes dwarfed by the landscape as we cruise closer to the shoreline, the hazy grey covering making the mountainside even more imperious.

The coastline is known for its beauty
The coastline is known for its beauty

A timely reminder of the reason why this landscape is so dramatic – the sheer force of snow during an avalanche – soon shows itself. This can mean the difference between one still-standing summer house – where farmers stay as they tend cows in the summer – and one flattened one just next-door. Fortunately, however, the region is only snow-covered in winter, so our coach winds its way up into the immeasurable mountainside, the road criss-crossing the river like two strands of DNA.

Later that evening, we dock briefly at the art nouveau town of Ålesund. It feels like a modernised version of Bergen’s wharf with its brightly coloured buildings, again with triangular rooftops, decorating the waterside – this time the buildings are concrete, although no less attractive. The enchanting town nearly cost us our bed for the night as we lost track of time and ended up running for the ship…

Part two of Simon’s Norwegian Adventure will be in next week’s Cruise News