Tonje's Travelogue 12: A 40-hour adventure on the Hurtigruten
When Captain Richard With (whom our boat was named after) established the Norwegian Coastal Express in 1893, he made an enormous impact on life along the Norwegian coastline. The Express would later evolve into the established Hurtigruten ships we know today which have become a hallmark of the Norwegian coast
CORONA OUTBREAK ON HURTIGRUTEN was the headline a few days prior to our departure from Kristiansund to Lofoten. This was particularly alarming because the 40-hour ferry trip was supposed to save us a 1000km drive and give us a couple of days more relaxed traveling.
Although we agreed that if the worst came to the worst, we would drive to Lofoten luckily we didn’t have to. Our planned departure on MS Richard With was not affected by the expedition ship quarantined in Tromsø.
We arrived in Kristiansund in plenty of time and managed to find a book shop to stock up on reading material before our ferry trip. We also had time to meet up with a friend for a tasty fish and chips in one of the harbor restaurants. It was a bleak and blowy grey evening but apparently, this is kinda the norm here. The slightly eerie tribute to the hard-working women of the fishing industry from the ’50s, the Klippfiskkjerringa Statue, stood resolute and undeterred by the inclement weather but he seagulls struggled to hold a course as the winds swirled around the harbor with the boats swaying side to side, an ominous sign for our ferry we thought.
Kritiansund is a relatively new stopping point for the Hurtigruten ferry, and a distinct lack of signage or indeed any other vehicles had us concerned that we were in the wrong place. With the boat not due before 0215hrs, we tried to get some sleep as the local teens cruised laps of the harbor trying to impress with their drifting skills. Kristiansund is known throughout Norway as a town where this is commonplace.
After some frantic last-minute searching as no other cars or passengers appeared to be waiting on the ferry, we found the telephone number of customer services on board who assured us that everything was under control and that we were indeed in the correct place.
A few minutes before our scheduled departure, a huge gate was slid open at the side of the building behind us. Two men appeared with fluorescent jackets and waved us through. Even as we sat on the side of the harbor, a stone throw from the water, we did not fully believe we were in the right place until the huge ferry ship seemed to appear out of nowhere. As the boat pulled alongside the port and the side opened up to allow us to board, a lot of hand signaling and cautious driving allowed us to board safely and depart on time.
We were welcomed on board and briefed on the routines for socially distancing and mealtime protocols. We were so tired that I am not sure how much actually registered with us as we retreated below deck to find our beds for the next two nights.
Our cabin had no frills attached but it was en-suite and the beds were perfectly comfortable. We definitely enjoyed crawling back into them after an early rise for breakfast on the first morning.
In the restaurant, we were greeted by an iPad which would scan our faces and read our temperatures. As long as we got a green bar and our temperature was not too high, we were allowed to eat. I am really not sure how the alternative scenario would have played out, but luckily we would never know.
The meals and breakfasts we ate were all tasty and filling, and there is a pretty good bakery on board that kept us going in between. The bakery seemed to produce a lot of extra cakes both days, which were sold off cheaply before they closed, a good tip for those with a sweet tooth.
We enjoyed the ship's panorama lounges taking in the unforgettable views of remarkable coastal scenery, much of it the same as when the first Hurtigruten boats sailed by more than a century ago. Beautiful art throughout the ship's interior added contemporary elegance to the vessel's maritime ambiance. At the back of the ship, we even found two outdoor hot tubs but sadly we were a little unprepared for this and couldn't make use of them.
Although we were only on board the ship for two nights, you can spend as long as you want to travel from Bergen to North Cape and any of the 32 other ports in between. The ships are popular with stargazers and astronomers, and of course, everyone has heard of the Northern Lights, right? Onboard expedition teams are on hand to help plan your activities in each port to maximize your time spent on land. For us, the ship was a great chance to relax and save around 1,000km of driving so we opted out of any excursions until it was our time to disembark in Svolvær.
See you in Lofoten!
Douglas and Tonje
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