Yesterday I talked about the fjords, and I mentioned Hurtigruta, or the Coastal Steamer. The Coastal Steamer is part passenger and freight ship, part cruise ship. The route was established in 1893 as a way to provide freight, passenger and postal services along the jagged coast line of western and northern Norway. It runs from Bergen in the west to Kirkenes in the north, the full return trip taking 11 days. While it still serves an important function transporting people and goods, it has also involved into a popular way for tourists to see the coastline in a cruise like setting, and the ships now have comfortable cabins ranging from basic to luxury, swimming pools and a nice restaurant. It is by far one of the most beautiful trips you can take in Norway. It is such a maritime nation with such a sea-centered way of life that it is only right to see it from the water.
You can join Hurtigruta on any of its 35 stops, but foreign tourists often do the entire length from Bergen to Kirkenes (or Kirkenes to Bergen) or the complete 11 day round trip. The sailings are timed so that important sights that might have been during the nighttime on the way north, are during the day on the way south. And with the midnight sun up north, and the very long days further south, it will be pretty much light all night anyway!
There are about 12 ships that travel the route, the oldest from the late 1950s and the newest from 2007. (However, the two ships from the 50s and 60s are only in use in winter.) When traveling the entire round trip, it is important to pay attention to what ship one wants to travel on - do you want the tradition and intimacy of the older ones, or the facilities and luxuries of the newer ones?
I was lucky enough to travel part of the stretch back in 2007. Here are my notes from then:
The highlight of the trip, however, was when we boarded the Hurtigruta, or Coastal Steamer, to go back to Tromsø. We left Svolvær at 10pm and arrived in Tromsø the next day at 2:30pm. The trip was beautiful and it was a gorgeous way of seeing more sights. Plus I love sleeping on boats! The passengers were an interesting mix of lots of nationalities, many slightly on the older side, and local Norwegians going short stretches.
I remember feeling kind of sad that I had to get off - it seemed like a wonderfully slow way of seeing the coast. But it is pricey if you want a nice cabin so it was probably a good choice! The trip is a lot cheaper in the winter, though, but that seems slightly less appealing!
I traveled on one of the newer ships, Finnmarken:
Entering a narrow fjord (around midnight):
Those crossing the artic circle for the first time get baptized by King Neptune - in ice water!
Beautiful views from the ship:
We saw a lot in 16 hours - imagine what you can see in 11 days!