Day 5 on the ship and we had settled into sort of a routine. I was usually up fairly early, as I am a morning person. I love to be part of the quiet and slow stirrings of another new day, full of promise. I would immediately head out to deck 6 and after watching the scenery for awhile would make a few trips around the deck, nodding hello to fellow morning people doing the very same thing.
Most mornings breakfast was served open seating, between 7am and 10am. Breakfast was always buffet style, and one could choose from:
- Fresh loaves of bread, still warm from the oven that you slice yourself
- Bowls of raspberry jam, strawberry jam and orange marmalade
- Corn flakes or granola or oatmeal with little dishes of prunes, nuts, dried apricots, etc. to sprinkle on top
- Liquid yogurt or buttermilk to top your cereal with
- A selection of sliced cheeses and thinly sliced meats and sausage
- A variety of raw, smoked or pickled fish
- Pork & beans
- Soft boiled eggs with egg cups and special little spoons
- Crepes, freshly made while you wait, or sometimes waffles
- Little sausages
- Occasionally there were scrambled eggs or a fried egg, sunny side up with a piece of crisp bacon
- A fruit platter with grapes, sliced apples, sliced melons, strawberries and orange slices
- A milk machine with skim or 1% milk, apple juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, hot chocolate, coffee or tea
You did NOT find doughnuts or sweet rolls or omelets or pancakes or any kind of cereal besides corn flakes or granola. Everything was delicious, freshly made and beautifully presented. In the morning, we often chose one of the tables on the left, opposite the gentleman in the photo who is helping himself to some oatmeal. In the evening, we had an assigned table, where we sat every night with the same companions, who happened to be from Australia. Our table was the one on the right, that you see in the immediate foreground.
After breakfast we stopped in Harstad, a town with a population of about 23,000. Harstad is the headquarters for oil exploration in the area. It also has dairy farming , the most northernmost strawberry fields in Norway and sheep, as well as a sheltered harbor. The immense candle, lit up in the distance, caught everyone’s eye and was a unique holiday decoration.
As we continued north, the next stop, just before lunch, was Finnsnes (FINCE-ness), a little trading center with a population of about 5,000. This photo is a good illustration of what polar night is like. We arrived here a little after 11am and you can see that it is light enough to walk around, but street lights are still on. The day was overcast, so if the clouds cleared off, it might get just a bit lighter than this. In the polar night, this is referred to as “blue twilight” and it is beautiful.Notice the little candelabrum in the windows. Nearly every house in Norway had these in their windows, casting a cheerful, welcoming light to all passersby.
We arrived in Tromsø (TRUME-suh) about 3pm, and as this was New Year’s Eve, the schedule was adjusted so that we could stay here until midnight, to ring in the New Year, before resuming our voyage north.
Tromsø, with a population of about 69,000 is the capital of arctic Norway and the gateway to the Arctic Ocean. It is a vibrant, lively town with a busy airport and bustling university and is one of the most accessible places to find the Northern Lights.
As far north as we were, it was already full dark when we went ashore. The streets and shops were still decked out in their holiday decorations.In the middle of the town square was the Tromsø Lutheran Cathedral, Norway’s only wooden cathedral. Inside, it was also still decorated for Christmas.On the ship, they served a special four-course dinner and the mood was very festive. Around 11pm people began to gather out on Deck 9, with a panoramic view of the city, spread before us on both sides of the water and the restaurant lit up on Mount Storsteinen, which is accessible by cable car. Sporadic bursts of fireworks turned into an unending display in all directions, as it neared midnight. Out on deck, waiters passed out glasses of champagne in preparation for the finale. At midnight the ships sounded their horns and all pandemonium broke loose with fireworks bursting in the air in every direction. Fireworks burst from the top of our ship and our sister ship, the Trollfjord, and everyone toasting each other and the New Year. It was the most memorable New Years Eve I have ever experienced.
At last we cast off and the ship sailed slowly past the Arctic cathedral and under the bridge as we continued our journey north between islands and skerries. Clouds had moved in and ice pellets stung our cheeks. There would be no Northern Lights to be seen tonight, but what a fabulous start to 2015.