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I expected the roof of Europe to be cold. After all, this is the
Arctic Circle, and the world’s northernmost city, Hammer-fest, is a
stone’s throw away. I was in the North Cape of Norway overlooking
the Arctic Ocean. The scenery is beautiful: rolling hills and
jagged mountains, polished by glaciers jutting into hundreds of
fjords lining Norway’s coast.
Norwegian Coastal Voyage offers trips here year-round. The fleet
of 12 ships journey up and down Norway’s coast rain or shine, sun
or darkness. My six-day southbound trip aboard the MS Nordkapp took
me from Kirkenes to Bergen.
I made the trip during the summer, the season known as the “land
of the midnight sun.” The long days of sunlight physically and
emotionally warm the scenery, and it’s hard to complain when it’s a
bright, sunny day. While the summer is a beautiful time to visit
the weather is warm, the wild flowers are in bloom and the reindeer
are easy to spot winter offers the special magic of the Northern
Norway boasts one of the highest standards of living in Europe,
and yet this country is not well known to Americans. It is the
world’s third top oil-producing nation, which means its
unemployment is low (less than 3 percent) and its social services
high. It is also an eco-traveler’s dream, with miles of hiking,
biking and kayaking opportunities.
Aboard the MS Nordkapp, the scenery is the entertainment. The
Panorama Lounge is always packed with travelers Germans, Americans,
Norwegians, Italians enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of wine as
the ship slowly passes small hillside towns, Sami villages (the
indigenous people of Norway) and coastal fishing areas. Hundreds of
islands and fjords of all sizes became a familiar sight.
The unique, authentic Norwegian experience has made Norwegian
Coastal Voyage the cruise line of choice for many travelers. All
ships are registered in Norway and have a Norwegian crew. The line
stays true to its original vision, which was to carry local
residents and cargo along Norway’s west coast.
Even today, more than 100 years after the first vessel made its
journey, the line is still a popular means of regional
transportation. There are 34 ports of call on each itinerary,
although the stops vary in length. Sometimes, the port call
consisted of a 10-minute layover to collect cargo in the middle of
As an avid people watcher, it wa s nice to see Norwegian
families, complete with baby carriages and picnic hampers, onboard
for a day excursion. The MS Nordkapp was small enough to navigate
many of the fjords in the region, as well as cross some of the
narrow straights between the islands and the coasts.
One of the things I enjoyed most: NCLV offers a range of
excursions designed to maximize the interaction with nature and
Norwegian life. Those excursions included a riverboat safari to the
Russian border (we were a stone’s throw from Russian land), visits
to the world’s northernmost medieval church, stops at fishing
villages and historic towns, boat trips to view the glaciers up
close, bird-watching tours, museum and art-gallery tours and visits
to the indigenous Sami people.
When we weren’t taking excursions or absorbed in
scenery-watching, we had time to explore the rest of the ship. The
vessel featured a sauna and gym, conference rooms that hold up to
70 people, a library with books in Norwegian and English, a bar
with a broad selection of wines and beers, a cafe for snacks and
water, gift shop, nursery and laundromat.
The dining room offered buffets for breakfast and lunch. We had
our choice of Norwegian specialties, such as salmon, herring,
stews, cold cuts, salads, soup, vegetables and an array of hot
dishes. Dinner is a sit-down affair at an assigned table. Guests
sign up for the 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. seating. The dinner menu changes
each night, and includes soup, entree (such as chicken, venison or
salmon) and dessert. Water and coffee are included, but soft drinks
and spirits cost extra.
The dining room is where I got to know my fellow passengers. At
lunch one day, a German couple explained how they love the beauty
of Norway, the fjords, the open wilderness and the stark scenery.
Many Germans cruise along the coast for a week, and then spend more
time in Oslo and the South.
This was the first cruise I’ve taken where Americans aren’t the
majority, and I must say that I enjoyed it. Germans, Norwegians and
other nationalities make up a large percentage of the ship’s
Norway, I discovered, is a popular destination among Europeans,
and Americans should take note.
Vessel: MS NordkappYear Built: 1996Passenger Capacity: 490Itineraries: Three different itineraries: 12-day
roundtrip voyage from Bergen to Bergen, seven-day northbound from
Bergen to Kirkenes and six-day southbound from Kirkenes to
Bergen.Commission: Starts at 10 percent, but may be
increased, depending on the package (cruise and land packages are