Polarlys Cruise Review by ILoveScotland
- Sail Date: March 2013
- Destination: Baltic Sea
Arrived a couple of days earlier so was over jet lag. I was part of a tour group so had some options for the cruise that were included in the price of the "tour." If I ever return (and I hope I will, I'll go as an independent traveler.
We boarded the ship MS Polarys at 6:00 pm after a day of sightseeing in Bergen. We were on Deck 5 which is the "promenade" deck. Only OV and Inside Cabins, and we had OV. The cabin was actually bigger than we expected, and we were soon unpacked and deposited our large suitcases with Reception to be stored for the duration of the cruise
Dinner the first night was a buffet with open seating.
Friday, March 8 - 'lesund
We settled into our daily routine. Breakfast and lunch were buffets with open seating. Breakfast items included soft and hard boiled eggs, sometimes a fried egg, a variety of cereals, oatmeal, different breads, several kinds of fruit, salad items (lettuce, tomatoes and other similar things), fish, meat and lots of cheese options plus orange juice, apple juice, coffee and tea.
Lunch included soup, some hot foods such as cooked fish and potatoes, an assortment of salads and fish and meats and caviar, fruit, many kinds of cheeses, breads and different desserts along with coffee and tea.
Dinner was a set menu, and there were two seatings. We had early seating.
Dinner began with bread, a starter, then a main course of meat or fish with vegetables, ending with dessert. Coffee and tea were served in one of the lounges after dinner.
We stopped long enough this first full day for a walking tour of 'lesund.
Dinner: Clipfish bolinhos with ruccola salad, free range chicken with barley risotto and chocolate fondant with pear sorbet.
Saturday, March 9 -- Trondheim
We took a bus tour with a stop at the Nidaros Cathedral. This was part of our tour package. Entrance to the cathedral was extra, but I paid it. Unfortunately I only had about 15 minutes in the cathedral.
Dinner: Cauliflower soup, baked filet of trout with root vegetables and panacotta.
Sunday, March 10 - Arctic Circle and Lofoten Islands
The big event was crossing the Arctic Circle. King Neptune poured ice down down the back (inside clothing) of anyone who was brave enough. I just watched.
Dinner: Selbu Bla on baby-leaf salad with cloudberry syrup, braised ox fillet with vegetable stew and red wine jus, brown betty with caramel sauce.
Monday, March 11 - Troms'
My friend and I went dog sledding while in port at Tromso on a Hurtigruten excursion, and it was just wonderful.
Dinner: Seafood buffet that included reindeer stew. This meal was my only disappointment of the trip, but I did like the reindeer stew.
Tuesday, March 12 - Honningsv'g and the North Cape
We took a Hurtigruten excursion to the North Cape. Stunning snow covered landscape on our 45-60 minute bus ride. I had seen many photos of North Cape and was not disappointed. It was very windy since the cape is at the top of cliffs that plunge 1000 ft. down to the sea. And very cold. But worth it.
Dinner: Green pea soup, grilled stock fish with potato puree and cheesecake.
Wednesday, March 13 - Kirkenes which is the turnaround port.
We took a bus tour which was included in our tour package to a snow hotel that also had a small reindeer park. We had extra time so we went to the nearby Russian border, and I walked about 10 or 15 ft. past the gate. The guard house was another 200 ft. or so away so I dared not go further.
We stopped in Vardo about a hour after we left Kirkenes. Several "crazy" people had a dip in the icy water! I watched from the open deck at the back of the ship.
Dinner: Barents salad with seafood and spicy mayonnaise, venison medallions with sauteed vegetables and potato puree, then raspberries with sour cream for dessert.
We'd seen very faint Northern Lights one night on the journey north, but they were spectacular this night. It was another experience of being outside on a moving ship and freezing while gazing in amazement at the sky. We were told they were seen another night, but we didn't hear the ship's announcement.
Thursday, March 14 - Hammerfest and Troms'
We arrived in Tromso at 11:45 p.m. and were whisked away by bus on a Hurtigruten excursion for a midnight concert in the Arctic Cathedral. One woman played the organ and piano, another played several kinds of flute, and one woman with a beautiful soprano voice sang. The concert included traditional Norwegian and Sami pieces as well as one Bach. It was just lovely.
Dinner (earlier that night): Aquavit-cured reindeer topside with herb salad, Arctic char with asparagus and potatoes, North Norwegian blueberry parfait.
Friday ,March 15 - Vester'len and Lofoten islands
I took another Hurtigruten excursion. We got off the ship in Harstad. First, we visited a lovely medieval stone church and then had about a 2 hour drive across the countryside along a couple of lovely fjords. We rejoined the ship two ports later at Sortland.
Dinner: Potato and leek soup, steamed haddock roulade with steamed vegetables and baked amandine potatoes and then rhubarb and strawberry soup (which was more like a pudding) with puff pastry and sour cream.
Saturday, March 16 - Arctic Circle, Seven Sisters
We did not get off the ship again but enjoyed the comforts of being warm and onboard. Today we crossed the Arctic Circle on our way south.
Dinner: Viking Wraps with marinated and seasoned smoked salmon, sour cream and lettuce, Classic Pepper Steak with Hasselback potatoes, The Ship's Ice Cream Bombe with fresh fruit.
Sunday, March 17 - Trondheim and Kristiansund
Dinner: Hurtigruten's classic fish soup with freshly caught fish, BBQ-marinated Pork Neck with root vegetables and lime posset.
Monday,March 18 - Bergen, disembarkation
Buffet breakfast and lunch. We didn't disembark until 2:30 p.m. but had to be out of our cabins by 10:00 a.m. Disembarkation went well, and we were soon in our hotel for the night before flying home the next day.
First, this was not a traditional cruise. The ship was about 450 ft. long and 65 ft. at the beam. The Hurtigruten ships remain working ships carrying cargo, vehicles and port-to-port passengers. We stopped at 64 ports at all hours with repeats on the way south. Sometimes we were only in port 15 minutes.
There was no entertainment except a guy who played the piano and sang in one of the lounges. The voyage is about the scenery, and it was magnificent. Just when I'd think it couldn't get better, it would. The word I kept using was mystical.
People gathered day and night in one of several lounges, mostly in a large forward lounge on Deck 7 with big windows.
Yes, it was cold -- very cold. But that only added to the experience, plus I went prepared with thermal underwear, heavy socks, snow boots, ski pants, a buff, a knit cap, my new coat lined in fake fur and heavy gloves. I also took disposable hand warmers which I sometimes put underneath the buff on my face. The best buy I made was Yaktrax ice grippers that fit on the bottom of my boots sort of like tire chains. I was still careful walking on the snow and ice, but they gave me good traction. There is nothing formal about these cruises. No dress up clothes needed at all.
I first heard of the Norway Coastal Voyages in the mid 1990s and had wanted to go ever since. The trip was worth the wait.
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