1. Home
  2. Planning
  3. Cruise Policies and Inside Info
  4. A Night at the Ice Hotel in Norway With Saga Cruises

A Night at the Ice Hotel in Norway With Saga Cruises

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel (Photo: Sorrisniva Hotel)
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel (Photo: Sorrisniva Hotel)

Find a Cruise

Updated November 1, 2017

I’m drinking a warming vodka cocktail in the most fairytale-like setting imaginable; a vast, blue-white ice palace, filled with intricately carved mythical ice figures of goblins, Norse gods and mythical creatures, lit in different colours from the inside. It feels like a scene from "Frozen". Outside is an endless wintery landscape of iced-over rivers, dense forest and deep snow. If the sky is clear, we’re hoping for a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Inside, though, deeper into this giant igloo, is where I’m going to sleep, swaddled in fleeces and woolly gloves, a long way from my toasty cabin on Saga Sapphire, which is overnighting in the Norwegian port of Alta.

What it is

Only a handful of cruise lines operate in Norway in winter so this overnight tour offered by Saga Cruises is a pretty rare opportunity (P&O Cruises does it, too). You leave the ship behind and spend the night, including dinner and breakfast, at the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, half an hour’s drive from Alta, deep inside the Arctic Circle.

Like other ice hotels, the Igloo Hotel is built in autumn and allowed to melt away in spring. The actual ice structure, where you sleep, is joined by a corridor to a wooden lodge, where there’s a restaurant, a lounge area, the reception and, importantly, a roaring fire.

The excursion includes a tour of the Igloo with a vodka cocktail in a glass made of ice, dinner, overnight and breakfast. We were told to bring thermals -- but everything else is provided.

Our experience

The igloo itself is a phenomenal piece of engineering; at 2,500 square metres, it’s the largest in Norway and the northernmost in the world. There was a sense of excitement as we marvelled at the sculptures, which change every year, and the ice wedding chapel. The bedrooms, such as they are, are 30 enchanting little caves off a corridor of ice, each one with a curtain instead of a door and a sleeping platform made of ice and strewn with reindeer pelts. There are no windows. You don’t clutter up your bedroom with possessions, mainly because things would freeze; they go in a locker instead.
Dinner is in the main lodge, which is built to resemble a Sami tent, with a roaring fire under a high, pointed ceiling. Most people had reindeer stew, which received effusive praise, although I opted for salmon, which was excellent. Vegetarian dishes are available on request.

There was a strange sense of anticipation over dinner; it’s odd, being on a tour where the main part of the experience is sleeping. I didn’t want to go to bed early and I certainly didn’t want to drink much as it was a long, cold schlep from the ‘bedroom’ to the loo, which is in the main lodge.
A few of us went for a walk under the moonlight, tramping down through snowy fields to the Alta river, which gushed along under a thick layer of ice, dark forest on the other side. The aurora didn’t appear for us but the crisp snow, the cold air, the glittering stars and the monochrome, moonlit landscape were magical in themselves. But the moment of bed time could be put off no longer. Thermals, hats and gloves on, into the sleeping bags and onto the ice platform, with its rather smelly reindeer skins.

First problem: the light in our little cave was embedded inside a column of ice so I couldn’t turn it off. I need total blackout to sleep. Second problem: it was so still. The air didn’t move. The ice walls muffled all sound. I could hear my own heartbeat. I wasn’t cold, as such, just uncomfortable. Every time I shuffled around in my sleeping bag, my hat came off. I tried every trick to get to sleep (meditating, counting reindeer), gave my poor partner an angry kick for gentle snoring, raged quietly for a bit and in the end, resorted to a sleeping tablet.

I woke at 6 a.m., toasty but stiff and bleary eyed. I pulled on my boots and walked past the goblins and ice squirrels into the main building, where it was warm and cosy, the fire still crackling, the blue dawn just beginning to break outside. I had to laugh; every armchair in the lounge was occupied with a rather grumpy Saga guest; clearly, a lot had not lasted the course in the igloo. We fell on the hot breakfast buffet like a pack of hungry wolves, probably all longing for the same thing: the hot showers back onboard the ship and a soft bed.

Worth a try?

If you have £299 to spare and really want to say you’ve done it, yes, and even more so if the aurora forecast is good as you’re a fair way inland, where the skies tend to be clearer. But day visits are offered, too, at £59, on which you’d still see the ice hall with the sculptures and enjoy the vodka cocktail. Without doubt, this is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but it is expensive. I don’t mind paying extra for drinks but there was a fee to use the hot tubs, too, which seems excessive.

Things to note

Expect an experience but not necessarily a comfortable night’s sleep. A thermal hat and gloves are essential. If you’re allergic to animal hair, sleeping on a reindeer skin might be uncomfortable. They smell a bit, too. If you’re claustrophobic, I’d say, just do the afternoon visit as you’re sleeping in a smallish, enclosed space with very still air and complete silence, which I found disconcerting (and I’m not claustrophobic at all). Some of our fellow passengers were quite elderly and, I thought, pretty brave to attempt this. I don’t think they enjoyed the sleeping part, although everybody agreed that the overall experience was a real adventure.

Find a Cruise

Popular on Cruise Critic

What Not to Forget On a Cruise: 10 Things to Remember to Pack
We all know that sinking feeling when you realize you've left something important behind, whether it's your phone in the car or your wallet at the restaurant you just left. That feeling is much worse when you're on a cruise and discover that you've forgotten something at home. While not every "oops" will upend your cruise, some will, while others can prove to be enough of headache to put a dent in an otherwise great vacation. From A to Z, we list a few critical things not to forget the next time you cruise.
How to Find the Best Cruise Bargains in 2019
It's the end of a decade, 2019, and a lot has changed in the world of cruising -- race cars, haute cuisine, digital everything -- but some tips on how to save on your next sailing stay tried and true. To uncover the best ways to land a cruise bargain this year, we spoke to travel agent experts and consulted industry surveys. What we found is that cruising shows no signs of slowing down, but getting on the right ship to the right destination might mean taking quick action. We've narrowed down the who, what, where and when of finding the best cruise deals in 2019 so you can spend less money and more time enjoying the seas.
7 Ways to Outsmart Deck Chair Hogs
In the wee hours of the morning, under the cover of darkness, they creep. Their flip-flops smack across the pool decks of cruise ships everywhere as they shuffle like a horde of zombies armed with towels, sunscreen and books. If it sounds like a scene from a horror movie, you're on the right track. We're talking about deck chair hogs -- those inconsiderate fellow passengers who rise before the sun to stake out prime poolside real estate, mark it with personal belongings and then abandon it, rendering it useless to others. If you've had enough, we urge you to stand up to these selfish sunbathers and claim the deck chair that's rightfully yours. Join the peaceful revolution by employing the following seven tips for outsmarting deck chair hogs.

Find a Cruise