Cruising the Arctic Circle fjords
Cod liver oil shots, kayaking and breweries on an action packed holiday in Norway with Hurtigruten
WATCHING a man wrestle a stuffed fish while I’m knocking back a shot of cod liver oil isn’t something I ever thought I’d do.
I’m aboard the Richard With, one of 13 Hurtigruten ships that sail the Norwegian coastline. We’re leaving the Arctic Circle after four days exploring stunning Norwegian fjords.
Harald, or “The Cod Man”, is wearing a plastic Viking hat, while waving his stuffed fish and handing out cod liver oil, to celebrate another successful Arctic adventure. Although I’m told of its health benefits, I can’t help but quickly wash down the thick, greasy shot with champagne.
I’ve joined 373 other passengers from around the world — Germans, Americans, Swiss, Italians, Australians and Brits — who have flocked to experience what’s known as the world’s most beautiful voyage.
It’s hard to disagree with that. It’s summer and the sun shines constantly, literally, giving picture-postcard views from my cabin 24 hours a day. Plus, the seafood is amazing and there’s plenty to see and do. My Atlantic adventure began in Tromso, a two-hour flight from Oslo, and before embarking on the cruise we visited Mack’s Brewery.
Built in 1928, it brews special beers for famous musicians performing in the town — Iggy Pop is the latest to have one named after him.
The pub below has a staggering 67 ales on tap. I sample just enough before they all begin to taste the same. These adventure cruises are popular with Brits, especially during winter, when activities include husky rides, snowmobiles and gazing at the Northern Lights. Sadly, fellow passengers and I won’t see stars in the sky or, in fact, any darkness at all during this summer trip.
There are plenty of other adventurous things to see and do, however. Hurtigruten’s cruises fall into the category of adventure tourism, dispelling any myths that cruises are only suitable for pensioners.
I’m 29 and have barely felt more alive — I’ve been kayaking on the island of Håkøy, enjoyed a furious RIB-boat safari tour of the Norwegian fjords, taken a breathtaking drive across the iconic Atlantic Road and attended a rock ‘n’ roll festival.
Other less exhilarating, but no less exciting, activities include watching the midnight sun go down, a cathedral concert and the christening of Spitsbergen, the newest of the Hurtigruten fleet. While the cruise liner I’m on feels slightly dated, having been in operation since 1993, the latest vessel is mightily impressive.
It boasts 100 state-of-the-art cabins, accommodating 174 guests. The food on board is all locally sourced and couldn’t be fresher. The chefs are proud of their seafood — they will even treat you to a display of their fish-filleting skills on deck.
Tonight’s dinner is a monstrous 5kg king crab — freshly caught, of course. Although having gorged already today, it’s a struggle even to finish one claw. Meals are never far away on board. Lunch is served just two hours after breakfast ends, with only a few hours to wait for dinner.
The restaurant staff are very friendly — though they will confiscate any alcohol that isn’t bought from the restaurant or bar.
I discovered that the hard way, when my nearly-full bottle of beer was taken from me.
As on the mainland, alcohol on the ship isn’t cheap. My round of four gin and tonics was close to £50.
This type of cruise can be as adventurous or relaxing as you make it. I’ve had a packed few days and having not seen darkness since last week, it’s been hard to get a full night’s sleep on board. I’ve relied heavily on power naps to keep my energy levels up.
A welcome break from activity comes in the form of a coach tour around Trondheim, Norway’s third biggest city, behind the capital Oslo, and our final destination, Bergen.
Here we’re given a guided tour of Nidaros Cathedral, home to the incredible Steinmeyer, one of the world’s largest cathedral organs.
As we wander around the 11th century building, it feels good to be on solid ground for a few hours.
Yesterday’s ocean was choppy and it was the first time all week I had felt I was on water as my cabin did its best to rock me to sleep. Luckily, the seas have since calmed and peace and quiet has been restored inside my room upon our return.
Having set out on this cruise almost a week ago, my body is feeling the effects of the adventure tours. My arms ache from kayaking, my legs are tired from the walking tours and my eyes are tired.
But still I find myself twice looking at the notice board for the next cruise.
As I disembark for the final time, in Bergen, I’m greeted by a beaming Harald, minus the stuffed fish and toy Viking hat, looking fresher now than at the start of the voyage.
I guess those shots of cod liver oil must be good for you after all.