Nothing can quite prepare you for the shock of inhaling air at a temperature of minus 14 centigrade for a sustained time, whilst facing into the wind as you stand on the deck of your Hurtigruten ship – cruising down the spectacular coastline of Norway in the depths of Winter.

Equally, nothing in my experience (and that’s now forty years in travel), can prepare you for the incredible beauty of the Arctic landscapes, majestic snow-capped mountain ranges, deep fjords with their colours of blues and greys, the ever-changing swirling cloud formations, and the colour of the sky. Wow – that sky! No camera can truly capture what your eye can see and commit to memory.

Standing on deck in the cleanest and coldest of air and in the brightest of sunshine, is both a challenge and a delight to the senses – but then it’s time to go inside, warm a little and enjoy a hearty, healthy and delightful meal, served by attentive and knowledgeable staff.

A one night stay in the Arctic port of Kirkenes preceded our five night stay on board the MS Spitsbergen, taking in numerous ports of call on the southbound voyage to Bergen. Many highlights, but the favourites were Hammerfest (the northern most town in the world), the stunning scenery of the Lofoten Islands, Trondheim and then Tromso – a midnight concert in the Cathedral was a delight. This city is normally one of the very best places to view the Northern Lights, but unfortunately on this occasion our glimpses were hampered by frequent snow showers preventing the spectacle.

On board the vessel, along with the rest of the fleet, there are cruise passengers taking in a five, six or eleven night trip, joined by “locals” ferrying between the various ports en route. It’s a real eclectic mix of nationalities and personalities, a handful of families and a wide ranging age group.

I have to be honest and say I really went with average expectations – we booked a basic outside cabin, were on a Full Board meal basis, knew the weather was always going to be potentially suspect, had to take indirect flights on this occasion, and were aware that “yes – Norway is expensive”, however – we were really delighted with our experience and will treasure the memory……… and maybe with good fortune or a lottery win, then the next Hurtigruten experience will be a voyage south in Antarctica!

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