The Norwegian Coastal Steamer. "The World's Most Beautiful Voyage"?
The Norwegian Coastal Steamer. "The World's Most Beautiful Voyage"? That's their claim, another 'world's most...' for Norway.
The Kong Harald will be my home for the next 6 days as I travel north from Honningsvag to Kirkeness, then return southwards for the full journey from Kirkeness to Bergen.
As a wedding photographer, I've heard the phrase 'for better or for worse', many times and I guess it applies to me and my love for travel. Sometimes its for worse, but the 'better' times make up for it. My journey on the Hurtigruten was a 'worse'.
Check in didn't get off to a great start as there was no one there at the desk! Turns out all the staff do a safety drill in Honningsvag every northbound journey. Nice to know they practice their drills, unlike a lot of other workplaces.
Located my cabin and was pleasantly surprised by the comfort factor - plenty of room for one, lucky there is not two!
As mentioned in my Lofoten blog, I had intended to meet Justin my hiking buddy from Lofoten, but with travelling you never know.
He WAS on board and we had a couple of beers and caught up on our respective happenings over the last few days.
Justin only bought a seat ticket so had been sleeping on the floor or couches in the panorama lounge. My room is a twin, with couch turning into bed #2, so what they don't know won't hurt them, and Justin appreciated a bed and shower.
The first dinner was buffet with all sorts of goodies including smoked reindeer and a variety of seafood. Except for the salmon, it didn't compare with the quality of seafood back home. We do have it very good in Australia for all sorts of food - all the time.
I should have realised when the boarding point for the boat was called a TERMINAL. Seems that the crowd on board is a LOT older than I anticipated.
I know that the Hurtigruten Norwegina Coastal Steamer is one of those things that people think they 'must do before they die'. It just seems that most people leave it until the last minute!
How many people miss out on things in life because they left something 'until later'. I reckon do what you can when you can in life because you never know what changes may come your way.
We retired to the lounge after dinner and were treated to the woeful live double act who will be with us each night until Bergen. I'm not sure if the keyboard player's jacket was mustard, or babyshit yellow, but either way it was as bad as their musak. The irony of 70 somethings slow dancing to 'staying alive' was not lost on Justin and I as we had a few beers at the bar, the only 30 somethings on board.
Perhaps it adds new meaning to DJ as Difibruator Jockey!
Is that old person on the dancefloor having an epileptic fit, a heart attack or just dancing?
It might be the world's most beautiful voyage, but what about the scenery on board?
Later in the evening we stopped briefly in Kjollifiord. With the grey miserable weather and an Arctic wind ripping through the place I'm not sure what they have to be jolly about. Perhaps they have access to cheap Russian vodka smuggled across the nearby boarder?
Justin and I stayed up way past midnight on the back deck under an overcast sky, waiting in vain for the midnight sun. I think it might be a scam?
As for the sun deck on the back of the boat. I think it has been sponsored by Kelvinator.
Beers on board are only $13 each so we had 4.
No sun still by 1:30 am so called it a night.
Kirkeness. Only 15 km from the Russian border and the end of the journey for Justin. The boat now heads south to Bergen and I will be on board the Herty Gerty, as Justin called it, all the way.
We caught a bus into town and from there Justin enquired about a bus to Finland, also only a short distance away, only to discover it was waiting back at the wharf! No good-bye as he hurridly jumped into a cab!
As you would expect of me, I wandered around Kirkeness, armed with my camera. I didn't think the Norwegians did GREY, but in Kirkeness they have taken their design inspirations from Russia.
Even the street ans shop signs are in both Norwegian and cyrillic.
After a quick wander, and no photos of note, I used the free internet in the bibliotek to catch up on correspondence.
Perhaps we will have a different crowd on board for the next leg?
No such luck. I knew this would not be Club Med - I just didn't expect Club (almost) Dead.
Later in the arvo, we stopped in a town called Vardo.
We were greeted with bleak grey skies, wind, sleet and rain - and this is summer!
"Northam of the North"? (You would only live here if you didn't know better, or could not escape.)
I usually try to go the opposite way to everyone else, so that I get experiences and images that are different. Not on this occasion at least to begin with.......like rats behind the Pied Piper, I followed a big group of people from the ship behind some costumed locals carrying flags, not knowing where we were headed.
(I wouldn't have wanted to miss what they were leading us to.)
It was a military museum, not my cup of tea, though with this weather a cup of tea would have hit the spot.
Instead, I wandered alone, exploring the places around the docks that time had forgotten. Tired back alleys, rusting hardware and crumbling shipyards yielded a wealth of photos for me. My complete involvment in what I was doing was only interrupted by the honk of the ships horn. Rushing back to the boat I was last on board! Won't make that mistake again!
As we departed Vardo, I said a quick prayer, thanking God I don't have to live here.
Dinner tonight was reindeer. Quite strong and gamey. I liked the cherry tomato garnish as it made me think of Rudolf's red nose.
Interesting fact about reindeers. Santa's reindeer must all be pregnant females. They are the only ones that keep their antlers through winter. So, when you next see Santa, you will know that what we really have is group of hard-working females doing all the work while an overweight bloke hitches a ride and takes all the credit!
I felt unwell in the morning and thought it must be the rich food.
Had a small lunch still feeling unwell. By 3pm I was in my cabin VERY unwell with a fever, diahorrea and vomitting. I couldn't leave my cabin as I would get no warning of the need for the loo. Sometimes I would be sitting on the loo while throwing up in the sink. My body went to great efforts over the rest of the day to rid itself of anything and everything inside me.
I have not been this sick from food poisoning since Ethiopia in 1993. Ethiopia maybe, but not something I would have expected from an up-market cruise ship. I resurfaced briefly the next day, but could only make short forays from the safety of having a loo close to hand.
Turns out there are a bunch of us who got sick. Must be my tendency to choose the things on the buffet that aren't tht popular. Seems on board the Hurtigruten they just keep putting stuff out on the buffet again and again until someone eats it or it grows legs and escapes!
The food on this holiday rarely compares with the quality of food served by my team at CBH on a daily basis. Quality, flavour and being cooked correctly. Healthy options to boot. The staff at CBH really have it good, on world scale!
As I used the bathroom facilities I wondered about the sign above the toilet. It said, "Don't throw (up?) strange things in toilet." What if I've been fed strange things by the restaurant? Does that still count?
Went to bed tonight feeling nauseaus but hoping that was the end of it. Woke to discover I would need to continue drinking lots of fluid to replace what I was losing. Another day of short excursions ashore, as the need for the loo preceded the departure time.
It might be "The World's Most Beautiful Voyage", but from the interior of a windowless cabin, I might as well be in prison.
It was Billy Connolly who said, "The only difference between a prison and a cruise ship is that you can jump off a cruise ship." Even without being confined to my cabin, apart from looking at the scenery, there's nothing else to do. I now know why mealtimes in prison are so popular.
On the subject of mealtimes. Breakfast is open times and seating, but lunch and dinner I sit with the same 3 people. A 70 something couple from Sydney and an 80 something biddy from NZ who used to ride horses in her younger days, but now just eats like one. Don't know where she puts it all as she's tiny. She has a habit of interrupting a conversation talking with her mouth full and on a subject last spoken about 5 minutes ago. MMmm! Mealtimes.
The Hurtigruten is the lifeblood of some very remote Norwegian towns. I guess that's why we are travelling on a vessel!
With a daily stop north and southbound with access for passengers and cargo, the Norwegian Coastal Steamer keeps alive some places that would otherwise fall off the map and be consigned to the pages of history.
One northern town was called Batsfjord Havn and I wondered 'Haven' from what? The sun?
I thought being on a boat might be a cause for lethargy, but with all these stairs to climb to the different levels, whether my cabin on 3, restaurant on 4, outside on 5 or panorama lounge on 7, I feel like life has become one long Reebok Step class!
I received a certificate for crossing the Arctic Circle.
I think I should have received a certificate for being the only adult on board under 50 not with their parents.
One benefit of endless hours to while away, either sick, or bored is that I have completed my first ever 5 star Soduku - as hard as they get. I devised a new tactic to solve them and it works!
Mum gave me a stack of sodokus clipped from the newspaper in months gone by. They are perfect for airports, and Herty Gerty cruises! Thanks Mum!
I also finished my second book for this holiday, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Set in Barcelona in the 1940's, it's an excellent read.
Being part of this geriatric brigade had been a travel nightmare for me. I have seen the difference between a TOURist and a traveller. Tourists arrive in a place get off the bus/ship, peruse the souvenir shops and take a quick photo to say they've been there. This has been a journey for tourists. To really experience a place you need to spend at least 2 nights there. That way you can wake up in a place and see its moods right through the day, and if you are prone to wandering, as I am, it doesn't matter if you get back late.
Coming back south through the Lofoten Islands was once again, amazing. The long and narrow Raftsund Channel was interesting, the Trollfiord more so. This one kilometer long fiord was as narrow as 100m in places and turning around at the end was a display of skill by the captain. We went so close to the cliff that a crew member reached from the bow and plucked some grass.
The evening light through the Lofoten was nice - it was clear - but not 'magic' like when I'd stayed there.
Scenery starting to improve as we head south, just as the days are getting noticeably shorter each night.
The sun deck is now living up to its name as the weather has been behaving since day 4.
My last night on the boat and there was what looked like might end up a nice sunset. Many photographers showed up on deck, but one by one they succumbed to the wind and old-age tiredness and went to bed, leaving the magic light all to me! As we exited the fiord and the shadow of the mountains the water went slick, the sky was joy and I had my camera ready! Nice end to the voyage.
We arrived in Bergen at 2:30, as planned. unlike the forecast, the weather was fantastic. Bergen is a beautiful city when sunny. But Bergen Part 2 will be my next blog.
This has been my Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Steamer experience.
"The World's Most Beautiful Voyage"? I hope not.