Going on a mid-winter cruise. Those words conjure up images of palm trees, turquoise waters begging for a snorkel, and brilliant warm sunshine. It conveys a feeling of escape from all that is cold, frosty and covered in ice and snow. Such would be the case for any ordinary travelers. But few have ventured to call us typical.
Our packing list includes heavy down jackets, Steger mukluks (the warmest of boots), mittens, hats and scarves. We’re also bringing our cross-country skis, boots and poles for when we disembark from the ship. Clearly, this is no tropical cruise.
We already live in the far north, only 90 miles from Canada. But this cruise starts well above that and travels North. Our vessel is classified as an “ice class 1X ship” suited for expedition voyages. It will ply the waters along a rugged coast and deposit us above the Arctic Circle. Now doesn’t that sound like great winter fun?
Well, if you are an avid outdoor enthusiast, with a passion for the Northern Lights and night time photography, it is a perfect fit. This voyage of the MS Midnatsol along the coast of Norway is titled “In Search of the Northern Lights,” and is Rich’s pick for his 60th birthday present. By virtue of marriage, I get to go along.
This ship is in perfect keeping with our unconventional travel theme. It is part of the Hurtigruten fleet and is a working vessel, which provides the ferry service for cars and passengers up and down the coast. It also delivers cargo and mail to coastal villages. And it takes some cruising passengers. With a capacity of 500 people, we won’t be among the cast of thousands that typify large cruise ships. In place of glitzy shows, we might learn to fillet halibut out on deck. While many cruises boast an everlasting feast, we will partake of typical Norwegian fare. Dinner is what they serve, no menu choices. Fish are frequently featured. There is no casino on board, instead we will cash in on the gorgeous scenery passing by. It sounds perfect to me.
Daylight hours will be about what we experience at Christmas time in Duluth – sunrise about 8:00am, sunset at 4:00pm. That still leaves plenty of illuminated hours in which to take in the fjords and ports along the way. But it’s actually the darkness that attracted Rich to this voyage. He took great care to book this trip during a new moon, to ensure the darkest skies possible. Scoring clear skies and solar activity to activate the Northern Lights is out of his control, but just being that far north will enhance our likelihood of witnessing a display.
Sleep will not be a priority on this adventure – if there is any chance of an aurora, Rich will be out on deck. And I will be there right beside him. After all, that’s the whole point of the trip, to see and photograph the Northern Lights. As we cruise the frigid waters.