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Review of the Midnatsol
Cruise Date: November 2007
Review of our Hurtigruten 17 Day Grand Norway Trip 17 May - 2 June,2005
17 DAY GRAND NORWAY
17 MAY 2 JUNE, 2005
The documents we received included the following:
1. An itinerary showing all flights, hotels, ship, cabin number, tours already selected and train schedules.
2. Airline e tickets with times and seat assignments for all flights.
3. A booklet with train transfers and a map from the Oslo Airport to the National Theater Station in Oslo, Voucher for the Hotel Bristol in Oslo, MS Midnatsol voucher with the dates of the cruise and our cabin number, vouchers for the 4 tours we had prepaid for, voucher for the Neptun Hotel in Bergen, voucher for 325K each for dinner at any one of four restaurants in Bergen the night we disembarked the ship.
4. Train tickets from Oslo to Bergen with the car number and our seat numbers.
5. 24 hour city cards for Oslo and Bergen with books explaining what free transportation and tourist attractions they were good for including maps of all the attractions.
DAYS 1 AND 2
Flew from Tampa to Copenhagen to Oslo 0600 17 May to 0920 18 May.
Had to show our passports in Copenhagen Airport to be stamped and pass thru security again. Arrived Oslo, both suitcases made it, we went thru the nothing to declare side in the airport. No one to check our passports and no security. Just walked into the airport and asked where the train to Oslo was. Used our voucher to get on the train, arrived at the National Theater Station downtown and got off with our luggage. Figured out where the hotel was and started walking carrying and pulling our bags. After about a third of a mile over cobble stoned streets uphill, we made it to the Hotel Bristol. Checked in using our voucher with no problem. Found our room and was welcomed with my name on the TV. Comfortable medium sized room. My wife thought it was great as the bathroom floor was heated.
Since we arrived in the morning, we had planned on taking a one hour double decker bus tour to get an idea where thing were. Bought a Sprite at the 7-11 before getting on the bus. Good tour at 110K each. Walked back to the hotel window shopping on the way. Ate at the sandwich/salad buffet table at the hotel. Good food and great desserts. Collapsed into bed.
Breakfast buffet included for all staying at the hotel. Good variety of food, no one went hungry.
Full day in Oslo. We had already planned everything we wanted to see today, so walked to the harbor, used our Oslo card to take the ferry to the Kon Tiki, Fram and Maritime Museums across the harbor. All free with the card. Took the ferry back and walked to the National Theater Station to catch the subway to the Botanical Gardens and Museums at the University. Browsed there a while and took the subway back to downtown. Took a bus to the other side of town to the Oslo City Museum and the Vigeland Gardens. We had hot tea and an excellent brownie each in the Oslo City Museum snack bar. All free again with the card except for the food. Took the bus back and walked thru the City Hall and some shops back to the hotel.
Ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, my wife had a goose liver pate and I had an asparagus appetizer. We both had reindeer for the entre which was very tender and flavorful. I had a dessert of various fruits, ice creams and chocolate cheese cake. It was an excellent meal. Cost 1013K or 160+USD.
Tax and tip are included in all meals in Norway.
Took cab to Central Train Station (65K). Huge station with many tracks, but it was easy to find the track for our train to Bergen. We were worried about what we would be able to do with all our luggage as there was no luggage car on the train. We didnt need to as there was plenty of storage in each car and large overhead shelves that accommodated the largest suitcases. The seats were large and comfortable with plenty of leg room. It was 7 hours from Oslo to Bergen (1043 to 1750) with many stops along the way and many tunnels some of which were very long. There was a dining car with meals, sandwiches, snacks and drinks available for a fee.
Arrived Bergen, took a taxi to the port (65K) boarded and found our cabin #748 with a large porthole. Judy was happy as the bathroom floor was again heated. The cabin was small with limited storage, but we managed 12 days with no problem. We were on deck or in one of the large lounges most of the time anyway.
The first night was open seating with a many item buffet. There was always free coffee and hot tea in the Mysterier Lounge each night after dinner. Any other time there was a cost for the coffee and tea.
There is a water program available where you can get your choice of either plain or sparkling water for 300K (50 USD) for the entire 12 days. You hand them your bottle and you get a new cold one. Otherwise, you get a bottle of tap water on your table for the meal if you want one that you cant take with you. If you buy water by the bottle it is 18K. We signed up for the program and figure we averaged between 3 and 4 bottles a day. We used it to fill the bottles we took on tours and used it in our room at night. The tap water is perfectly safe to drink, but we felt the water program was worth the convenience.
There is an information area across from the internet caf next to the Cruise Directors desk. The daily schedules, port arrival/departure times, excursion request forms and other items of interest.
There are also maps of the major cities available at the Reception Desk. There are no safes in the cabins, but you can store valuables in the ships safe at the Reception Desk for free.
First full day onboard ship. Breakfast was always an open seating buffet from 0730 to 1000 and always included lunchmeat, cheese, many kinds of wonderful bread, hot & cold cereal, beans & bacon, sausage, bacon alone, meatballs, various jellies & jams. Eggs were served either softboiled/hardboiled, scrambled or fried.
We signed up for two more excursions, one to the North Cape and one to the Russian Border.
We were assigned the first seating for lunch at 1130, second seating was 1330. The food was very good with too many items to list. There was always soup, salad, seafood, lunch meats, hot dishes, vegetables, cheeses, the same wonderful breads and half a dozen or more desserts. There was always coffee and hot tea for breakfast and lunch. However, Norway does not know iced tea. Some days lunch was open seating and others were at your assigned table and time.
This day it was warm and sunny enough we could be on deck in just our shirtsleeves.
Today we traveled thru the beautiful and long Geirangerfjord and took our first excursion that we had prebooked. A tender took us from the ship to the buses in Gerainger for the overland trip to Alesund where we would reboard the ship. It was fun watching the ship steam away from us as we were getting on the buses. Each bus was clearly marked as to language; English, Nordsk, Deutsch, Etc,
The trip was 5 hours long over the mountain with one rest stop where you could buy sweaters and other souvenirs along with snacks and drinks. We were lucky enough to get the first 2 seats on the bus, so we had an excellent view of the beautiful scenery. Arrived at Alesund and reboarded the ship as it continued north.
There were 5 seatings for dinner each night with assigned tables. The seatings were 1800, 1830, 1900, 1945 and 2015. We were assigned 1900 at a table for 4. Our tablemates were a lovely couple from South Carolina on their first cruise. We had many interesting conversations covering many topics during the cruise and felt very lucky having them at the same table.
The evening meal was a no choice 3 course dinner of an appetizer, entre and dessert. No entre was repeated during the 12 days of the voyage. Some of the meals included chicken, salmon, cod, halibut, pork, beef, goose, lamb, etc. We did not keep track of every evening meal, but there was nothing we did not eat. It was all prepared very well with enough to satisfy most appetites and was presented beautifully. We did not go hungry.
Today we arrived at Trondheim. We had signed up for the Ringve Museum (Music Museum) tour precruise. It turned out to be a city tour along with the Museum. The guides in the Music Museum were very knowledgeable and played some of the instruments during the tour.
Continued sailing north. It is no longer warm and if you were on deck, you needed jackets.
We crossed the Arctic Circle today about 0700. There was a tour today to the Svartisen Glacier that we did not take as we have walked on glaciers in Alaska. The folks who did take it said they enjoyed it. We docked at Bodo for 2 hours, so we got off and walked around town for a while. The information center near the ship had an internet caf that charged 1K per minute. As that was cheaper than on the ship (50K for 30 min) we checked our email and left a short message for our Cruise Critic friends. Reboarded the ship and continued north.
There was a film in the conference room today on the Lofoten Islands which was very good.
We are now in the land of the midnight sun. For the next few days, the sun never set so we had 24 hour sunlight.
We entered the Trollfjord late this evening and were treated to music and Troll Soup on deck as we traversed the Fjord. As we left the Fjord a couple of Trolls were on shore jumping up and down and waving goodbye.
Today they had the Arctic Circle Ceremony where they poured ice water down your back. As it was not mandatory, we opted out and just took pictures of King Neptune doing the honors.
Today we docked at Tromso for 4 hours. We got off and walked around town. We bought some souvenirs and returned to the ship.
Today we took the excursion to the North Cape (Nordkap) which is the northernmost point in Europe. We were within 2000 Kilometers of the North Pole. It was very cold and windy with snow everywhere. The Visitor Center was excellent and included a movie of the Cape along with shopping and snacks. We sent a postcard to ourselves from here to get the postmark and stamp. We had an excellent cup of hot chocolate (it was not Ovaltine stirred into milk).
On the way back to the ship, we stopped to see a representative on the Sami People (formerly called Lapps) and his reindeer.
Today we arrived in Kirkenes (pronounced Shirkenes) which is the turnaround for the roundtrippers. The folks that were only doing the oneway from Bergen to here departed today and the ones doing Kirkenes to Bergen boarded.
We did the Russian Border tour today as Kirkenes is very close to Russia. We were warned not to step across the border as we would be arrested and it would be $1000 USD to be released. Luckily, all of our group stayed in Norway. On the way back to the ship, we stopped at a huge open pit mine that has been inactive since 1998 because it was not competitive with other countries. There is some discussion the it may now be profitable to reopen the mine in 2008.
Left Kirkenes and are now southbound back to Bergen.
Today we stopped at Hammerfest, the worlds northernmost town. (We had stopped there on the way up, but it was in the wee hours of the night. Today we were there from 1110 to 1245. We got off and walked around for a while. You can visit the Polar Bear Club Museum for a fee and also join the Polar Bear Club for 350K. We did not do either one.
Arrived at Tromso at 2345 and boarded buses to the midnight concert at the Church. The concert included a horn player, a pianist and two young lady singers. The acoustics in the church were excellent and the concert was just as good. We would recommend this to anyone.
We had no more tours scheduled, so we just spent most of the time in the forward lounges of the ship watching the amazing scenery and got off and walked around ports if there was enough time to make it worthwhile.
We passed the mountain with a hole in it again today. Forgot to mention that on the way up. The mountain is called Torg-hatten and the hole is 480 feet long, 115 feet high and 80 feet wide.
We saw 3 killer whales (orcas) in the harbor at Rorvik.
Walked around Trondheim and Molde today. Just watched the scenery go by.
Arrived in Bergen at 1430, disembarked and caught a taxi to the Hotel Neptun. Very nice hotel
Downtown close to everything we wanted to see. Checked in and walked to the fish market and the Bryggen area. We had a voucher for dinner at any one of four restaurants and picked the To Kokkers for our evening meal. We again had an excellent reindeer dinner and crme broule for dessert.
Returned to the hotel. Judy was again happy as the bathroom floor was heated.
Our last day in Norway. Walked to the Floibanen Funicular for the ride to top of Mount Floyen (1050 ft) for a birdseye view of Bergen. As we had the Bergen City Card, the ride was free as were all the attractions we later went to. Rode back to the city and walked to St Marys Church. As it wasnt opened yet, just walked around the outside. Just a short distance from there was Rosenkrantz Tower and Hakons Hall. Hakons Hall was closed for repairs so we walked thru, up and down Rosenkrantz
Tower. Very narrow passageways and steep, narrow and spiral steps to negotiate. You could walk around the outside of the top of the tower for a good view of the harbor and the Bryggen area.
From there we went thru the Bryggens Museum which has archeological findings from the area.
From there we just walked thru the area stopping at various shops and also for a quick lunch. We then wandered back thru the fish market and the vendor/souvenir stalls. After that, we then found our way to the huge town square and the Galleria Mall where we browsed thru the many shops. There was also an internet caf where we checked our email one last time for 1K/min.
Back to the hotel to get ready to go home. Ate dinner in the hotel bistro which was again very good. This time we had lamb.
Up at 0400 to catch a cab to the airport for our 0655 flight to Copenhagen to start our 25 hour day home. The only glitch was a 1 hour delay getting out of Dulles to Tampa as the plane was late arriving from Ft Lauderdale. We figured if that was the only problem on a 17 day trip, it was a success.
Everything about the trip was first class. The Norwegian Coastal Voyage folks have their act together. The MS Midnatsol (the newest ship in the fleet) was beautiful and very well designed. The hotels selected were about 4 Star and the service and staff were all very good. The food on the ship was much better than we expected and the variety was exceptional.The tours we took were well managed and the guides were relatively fluent in English. We had no problems communicating with anyone about anything on the trip and felt completely safe wherever we walked.
Two things to be aware of: The cruise director we had was not the best at dispensing timely information (sometimes no information), so you have the responsibility to be ready for your tours and pay attention to where the buses are as they leave right on time. The other thing is, the ship leaves every port right on the time shown in the daily information sheet. They dont check if everyone is back, they just leave. Be sure you are on board at least 5 minutes before the departure time.
We would take this trip again and would recommend it to anyone. It is in the top three of all trips we have taken.
We took over 1700 digital pictures and put about 300 on Webshots for anyone interested. We hope the folks that take the time to view them enjoy them. The address is:
http://community.webshots.com/user/rcicruisers - http://community.webshots.com/user/rcicruisers
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