Our vacation began in Amsterdam, where we spent two days, then flew to Bergen aboard a KLM airliner.
We had researched and prepared for our cruise for a long time, watching Norway through available webcams before we left, checking weather forecasts. Nothing could have prepared us for the 9C-13C weather we had for the duration of our trip, July 13 to July 24. In retrospect, our last minute decision to throw a warm winter coat in our luggage was a wise one. Thank God we did.
After arriving in Bergen, we were picked up by the Hurtigruten bus (I bought a transfer) but the driver never bothered to check our vouchers. Check-in at the cruise terminal was very quick and efficient, as is the Northern custom. We received our documentation, cafeteria information, our bags were taken and delivered directly to our cabins. Orientation and safety program upstairs.
We were hoping to go out and see the city, especially the Floyen mountain funicular, but we didn't end up having any time for that.
Our first lunch aboard was excellent: abundant varieties of seafood, smoked fish, salads, etc. Dessert was memorable throughout.
The first thing my husband did was buy Hurtigruten mugs for coffee and tea. We hadn't planned on it, but weather told us what to do, and it turned out to be another wise choice: we used them thoroughly every day of the cruise. The many Germans, few Australians, Norwegians traveling locally--all seemed to use them too.
I had prebooked four excursions: Geiranger fjord, Scenery and Huskies, Bird Safari, and North Cape Southbound. We enjoyed them all, though there turned out to be no visibility in North Cape it was still very much worth it. The husky farm showed an informative film about the dogs, then let us pet them and take pictures. They are surprisingly friendly. The bird safari took us by boat to a cliff where we saw puffins, sea eagles, cormorants. Geiranger fjord was spectacular, even with the wind and rain.
The real highlight, of course, is the fjords. Even in bad weather they are spectacular. Took over a thousand photos on camera and iPhone.
The weather created some choppy moments, especially when the ship goes out into open sea. I had read about it but to experience it is another matter.
On the return trip, southbound, we got lucky. The sun came out and deck 9 became a popular spot to bask in the Northern sun. The scenery turned more green-blue and yellow all around. We crossed the Arctic Circle twice, saw the sun at midnight, and on the way back to Bergen, with nicer, warmer weather at our backs, were able to go ashore more and see some smaller towns, when MS Midnatsol was making stops for an hour, half-an-hour at a time. The towns in these ports are wonderfully picturesque.
The crew works very hard on the ship. A few days into the cruise we realized that the waitresses from the restaurant also clean the cabins during the day, and work 22 days in a row. They came from parts of Europe, nearby Sweden to distant Slovakia. Hilde and Bjorn were in charge of excursions and daily flyers (collect all 35 ports of call). They were very helpful, suggesting what to wear and what to expect on certain excursions. Hilde knew every landmark, making the trip much more informative than a mere pleasure cruise.
At the end, we stayed on for three more days in Bergen. The weather warmed up (24C) without a drop of rain. I booked a one-day Norway In A Nutshell excursion. If you have the chance, go on this one. It takes you to the one-of-a-kind Sonjo fjord , via three trains, bus, and boat. You will not see anything this spectacular. We explored Bergen for two days, visiting Grieg's house in Troldhaugen, a beautiful place to learn more about Norway's Dvorak.
Another wonderful experience was buying a one-way ticket up Mount Floyen, walking down on foot, with its unforgettable views and natural scenery, weather permitting.
The art museums in Bergen are a great place to see first-rate works without the crowds in Amsterdam, for example.
The only negative of the whole trip would have to be the NOK, the Norwegian crona. Everything in Norway is going to be very expensive if you're using dollars.
We just wanted to salute Hurtigruten and MS Midnatsol for the unforgettable cruise and a give a big thank you to everybody who made it a special one for us.